We live in a world and age where most evangelical Christians are aware that there are some serious false prophets and teachers out there. However, this is not a new or Twenty-First Century phenomenon. As you read our Father’s Holy Word, He tells us of fake spiritual leaders and teachers that abounded in the days of Israel as a united nation and then as two states as in Israel (the Northern Province) and Judah [the Southern Province). We have seen from the First Century onwards how counterfeit teachers and leaders wooed people … especially Christian people resulting in many sects of Christianity appearing to be the real deal but once you have access to their doctrine and theology you quickly become aware they are counterfeit. If you are able please read Jeremiah 23. Remember God is speaking through His prophet … which includes the prophet using his own emotions and feelings to be exposed … and this is with God’s permission and is part of the Divine Word to us, His people.
Prophets Dream. The basic method of God communicating to His spokesmen (prophets) was through dreams. False prophets came with messages that were not God inspired. Jeremiah was God’s man. He knew God spoke to him and through him … yet as he delivered his message the people rejected him and his message, yet they listened to and followed the fake prophets and their teaching. He is so staggered and emotionally distort that his heart is broken!
Jer 23:9 “Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and his holy words.”
Jeremiah had a high view of God and His Word. God and His Word are rejected and ignored and this pains the prophet so much so that he is bewildered … like someone so drunk that he is overcome to the point of physical shaking and a broken heart. The prophetic landscape had deteriorated to the point where the prophets and priest are both godless and evil (v11) that they use their power (authority) for evil purposes as they themselves live in spiritual adultery and have led the people into the same abomination. But this will not last forever because the Lord will bring disaster their way, punishing them to the point where they fall from their high positions and are banished to darkness. (v12) In verses 12-15 we see the lie of their spiritual adultery, exchanging God for “idol gods” coupled to sexual immorality … and their end is near (v15).
Prophets have visions. As an example, the basis to the New Testament Book, Revelation, is John the Apostle having visions. God enabled His prophets to see visions … dramatic pictures of what God intended to do … things that would come to pass. Yet the false prophets made up their own visions!
Jer 23:16 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.”
Why does God speak through Jeremiah saying the people must not listen to the prophets? Because their visions are concocted in their minds … their visions are not from God … so their visions give people false hope! Like today, the fake prophets then gave people messages they wanted to hear. People who are unhappy with God’s True Word resort to
2Ti 4:3 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Even though Paul spoke to Timothy (and us) many, many years later … the point is the same … people don’t want the wisdom of God, they want to hear lies. God through Jeremiah promised an exile punishment … the fake prophets said … ‘The LORD says: You will have peace.’ … and … ‘No harm will come to you.’ (v17). Is that not the message so many flock to hear today?
Because God did not appoint these fakes to be His spokesmen (v21), God’s wrath will be poured out with passion. (v18-20)
True prophets have Truth. Look at verse 18 and see two profound, searching questions
Jer 23:18 “But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?”
The answer is … none of the false prophets and priests … because it they did
Jer 23:22 “But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.”
When the preacher and teacher … the proclaimer who says … “Listen to the Word of God” … is fed by the Spirit through being in God’s holy presence, around God’s holy Word, he will speak the holy Words of God. But when he is not called and appointed He cannot stand in God’s holy presence and he therefore cannot hear God’s holy instructions and he then cannot speak for God to the people. It is then that they are delusional and speak lies
Jer 23:25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?”
Right there we have the key to this passage. “For what has straw to do with grain?” These fakes give straw to eat in place of grain. The false prophets speak their “dreams” but those who have God’s Word need to speak it faithfully. God’s Word is a fire that burns … it is a hammer that breaks (v29). Wow to them who speak lies … for God is against them. (v30-32) The way we test truth from error today is by judging what is said through the pulpit by comparing it with the Word of God. You need to have an open Bible as you listen to a sermon or a Bible Study. If there is a contradiction, challenge the preacher! If you don’t and you are led astray spiritually … it will be your own fault!
Dear Lord, please grant us wisdom to discern Truth from error. Give us the ability to sift through all the spiritual messages we receive so that the evil one does not trick us with false teaching. For Jesus’ sake we pray. Amen.