I think we may have misunderstood what God meant by false prophets in the Bible. We’ve had the idea that all false prophets were demon-possessed liars, bent on stubbornly rejecting the true prophets and killing them.
The problem with this thinking is that it places them in a realm of unreality, and makes them special creatures which seem to have vanished, along with true prophets. And today I want to see if, perhaps, there are true false prophets today – just as there were in the days of Jeremiah and Elijah.
Up front, I have to say that there are many false prophets in the Bible who WERE working directly for Satan the Devil, and who had his help. Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses (2 Timothy 3:8) and who evidently had Satan’s power backing them up to work miracles and make their walking sticks become snakes, (Exodus 7:11-12), etc. But there is another huge class, which makes up the vast majority of false prophets…
Ezekiel 13:17 Likewise, thou son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, which prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them,
Notice that these false prophets prophesy out of their OWN heart. Not necessarily out of Satan’s heart.
Jeremiah 14:14 Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.
Here too, it is the deceit of THEIR heart that they prophesy. But what could this mean? Remember, these were real people; not that different from you and I, except that they didn’t have indoor plumbing. We, in this enlightened age tend to picture the past as a bunch of naked savages or people with inferior intelligence who worshiped rocks and stuff. But obviously, this wasn’t the case. They were real, intelligent people, just as our great-grandparents were, just without technology.
The point of this is that if one of them were to get on a table and grunt “Ugh, God, he give Grog a dream, we be big happy now!”, no one would believe him then any more than they would now! No, these false prophets were dignified, respected men in the community as a rule.
Before we can go any farther, we have to find out what a false prophet did with his time. What were his goals?
Lamentations 2:14 Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.
The false prophets’ job is to make people feel good about themselves! Never to find their sins and turn away God’s anger from them, as a true prophet does, but to make up fake reasons for God’s anger that aren’t the people’s fault. Things like “God is just testing us!” is a FALSE reason for God’s punishment – but a great way to take the blame away from the people and make them comfortable with their righteousness!
Jeremiah 8:11 For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
These false prophets healed the hurt of Judah SLIGHTLY by saying “Peace, Peace!” They made them feel better about themselves! But they never healed the ROOT of the problem by making the people aware of their sins, as Jeremiah did!
Luke 6:26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
And why wouldn’t the people prefer false prophets! They say good things about them, and make them feel good – a true prophet is always nit-picking and nagging about toeing the line and following the rules – who WOULDN’T prefer a false prophet, all things being equal?!
But surely, you say, these attitudes no longer exist today. We are not like the fathers in the old time, who hate false prophets. We just love truth!
Matthew 23:30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
I don’t know a person in the church today who doesn’t believe that THEY wouldn’t have killed the prophets, and THEY wouldn’t have killed Christ. Oh, a lot of people have been browbeaten by the ministry into SAYING that they would have, but they have just adopted a false humility and deep down, they don’t believe they would have.
And now it’s time to fast-forward to the twenty-first century and see if there are any false prophets in the world today. Have you ever heard the phrase “God laid it on my heart!” or “God told me…”? Mind you, I’m not saying that God doesn’t talk to people today – I’m just saying that He isn’t talking to most of the people who make those statements. I know that for a fact because I’ve talked to quite a few of them and without fail they say things that are contrary to the law and the word of God.
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
So by that simple test, God isn’t speaking to most people who make statements like that. So where do those feelings come from? Why do they believe that “the Lord put it in their heart” to say these things? I’m sure that in some of the more extreme cases there is direct demonic influence, but I think that is the exception rather than the rule. The Bible says that they are dreaming these things up out of the imagination of their own heart.
Jeremiah 23:16 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
Let me give you a few examples. I know a certain young man and I was talking to him once and somehow the subject of casinos came up. And he was telling me that God didn’t want him to go to casinos. Now while I tend to agree with the principle, his way of saying it aroused my curiosity so I asked him how he knew this. He informed me levelly that God told him so. I responded something to the effect of “Oh, did He now? Does He have a deep voice like in the movies?” At that I think he got a bit defensive, although I can’t imagine why, and said well, no, God didn’t actually speak to him. I then asked him again how he knew that God didn’t want him to go to a casino. He said that he and his family had gone to a casino and he had taken 40 dollars to gamble, and lost it all. He said that as he was walking away he spotted 40 dollars in the bushes. He said that God was showing him that he would give him the money he needed, he didn’t need to gamble.
Hm. Whether or not God was really doing this or not, this is a far cry from what actually happened to the original “God told me not to”. What really happened was that his own heart was looking for a way to rationalize losing the money; and somewhere he had probably heard that gambling is wrong, so his conscience was troubling him a bit as well. Then when he saw the money laying there he thought “God might not want me to do this.” Then his heart expanded on that idea and, because of his religious background, he interpreted that as God laying something on his heart (when in reality he doesn’t know WHO laid WHAT on his heart, or if he made it up himself). This then is interpreted yet a step more as “God speaking to him”.
This is a rather obscure example of a false prophet; someone who says God said something that God didn’t say, and makes up dreams, visions, and advice out of their own heart. Not necessarily a demon-inspired maniac. But I have another good example too:
I know a woman – a rather pushy, rebellious woman, who is on intimate terms with “the Lord” to hear her tell it. God apparently talks to her all the time. And she, her husband and young son were outside doing yard work and her husband was driving the tractor with a bushhog behind it, mowing some heavy brush. He shouted to her from the tractor to take their son inside. She pretty much never listens to her husband by her own admission and so she was going to ignore him. Then “the Lord told her” to listen to him this time. So she grabbed their son to take him inside and then a few minutes later a rock was thrown “right where he was”.
How does she know that “the Lord told her” this? She said she just suddenly thought that he was her husband and maybe she should listen to him. Isn’t this what is commanded in the Bible? If she knew anything about the Bible at all, her OWN conscience should have been pricking her to do this anyway! The fact that it did, and she listened to it, doesn’t at all mean that God miraculously “told her” something. Again, I’m not saying that God CAN’T and DOESN’T routinely help people – but every errant thought that you have isn’t God “laying something on your heart” and shouldn’t be used as proof that God is happy with your obedience and is working with you!
When you try to “listen” for the Lord to say something to you, and when your religion and your self-esteem depends desperately on hearing from him constantly, then you are going to be likely to ascribe every random thought that you agree with to something “the Lord said”! And when you say that “God said” something that God DIDN’T say, you are bearing false witness against God! If you say that God healed you (if He didn’t!) then you are bearing false witness against God! Saying that God did something that God didn’t do! Which is the 9th commandment, and disobedience to that command will prevent God from talking to you again, even if He WAS talking with you to begin with!
Jeremiah 23:26 How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
A false prophet is nothing more than someone affirming that GOD said something that THEY imagined – however well intentioned they might be! It is someone who says that God feels a certain way because THEY feel a certain way!
Ezekiel 22:28 And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.
Of course most prophets are far more sinister than the two relatively innocent examples I quoted; but only in that they are talking about subjects that are more foundational and more important to God! The attitude and the way by which they arrive at their conclusions remains the same!
They may not even say that “God told me to tell you this”, but just something like “The Bible plainly teaches that you go to heaven when you die!” That’s something that the Bible, the written word of God, does not say! So saying that it DOES say that makes that person a false prophet! But it doesn’t necessarily make them a demon-possessed liar – although there are a fair share of those out there too.
The bottom line is that false prophets don’t always teach a vision out of Satan’s heart – they often merely teach a vision out of their own heart. But since their heart is carnal and desperately wicked, just like the Devil’s, their views will always be on the same side of the fence – and the opposite side from God’s.
And their teachings – that even though you have sinned, “you shall not surely die” for that sin (Genesis 3:4) will always be the same whether directly inspired by the devil or not – because that is what the carnal heart desperately desires, and out of the abundance of that heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34)
Jeremiah 23:17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
But that’s not what God said. That’s what the false prophets in the world today say.