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.
They keep saying to those who despise me
The Lord says: You will have peace.
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
No harm will come to you.
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? . . .
I did not send these prophets
Yet they have run with their message
I did not speak to them
Yet they have prophesied.
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 their evil deeds.
Am I only a God nearby, declares the Lord
And not a God far away?
Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord.
Do not I fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.
I have heard what the prophets say
Who prophesy lies in my name.
They say, I had a dream! I had a dream!
How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets
Who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? …
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? declares the Lord.
Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord
And like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
Therefore, declares the Lord
I am against the prophets who steal from one another
Words supposedly from me.
Yes, declares the Lord
I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues
And yet declare, the Lord declares.
Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams, declares the Lord.
They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies
Yet I did not send or appoint them. . . .
-Jeremiah 23:16-18; 23:21-26; 23:28-29; 23:30-32
The words recorded in Jeremiah are usually interpreted as belonging only to the age in which Judah was sent in exile to Babylon for 70 years. However, there are basic truths in these passages from Jeremiah about prophets and prophecy not just relegated to a specific point in history but span the ages:
1. God’s word always trumps ‘prophesy’
2. Nothing is stronger than God’s word
3. Self-appointed prophets can and will lie
4. God “sends” and “appoints” prophets
5. God’s prophets speak God’s word
6. Self-appointed prophets can deceive people as to their true condition
7. God’s word always tells people the truth of their condition
As these are those days beyond which Jeremiah (23:7-8) prophesied:
So then, the days are coming, declares the Lord
When people will no longer say
As surely as the Lord lives
Who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt
But they say
As surely as the Lord lives
Who brought the descendants of Israel
Up out of the land of the north
And out of all the countries where he had banished them.
Then they will live in their own land.
we know it is possible we live in the days of Joel’s (Joel 2:28-29) prophecy:
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy
Your old men will dream dreams
Your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
However, the basic truths concerning prophecy learned from Jeremiah are still applicable today.
I have met a few ‘prophets’ in my time, both true and false. The distinction I found between them was indeed between speaking God’s ‘word’ and speaking their ‘own’ word. One humble prophet spoke about the ‘gray’ society we live in today, where it is so easy to straddle two worlds and learn to live that way, so much so that he almost wished he was back in the prison, where for thirteen years he was tortured daily for being a Christian and everyday was a battle between his faith in the truth of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, and death. He said at least in prison he knew exactly where he stood everyday but since being released and living in the land of the ‘gray’ – dealing with the apathy, collusion and collision between the earthly and heavenly – things were not clear and people didn’t seem to know what was happening to them. His call was a call of return to God and His word, so that our eyes might be opened to see what was going on around us, so that we might not be deceived.
Another ‘prophet’ I knew used to use ‘spiritual words and phrases’ in a ‘heavenly’ language that only they could interpret (while the possibility for this type of prophecy does exist, the message conveyed is usually always confirmed/interpreted by another). This ‘prophet’ held great sway over the young and gullible in the congregation and had a large following. However, in the context of my experience, this ‘prophet’ became angry at someone and spewed out one of their regular ‘heavenly phrases’ in anger like some kind of magical mantra. This ‘prophet’ was confronted as a false prophet and the pedestal upon which they stood was pulled out from underneath them as a result of their own behaviour. This event not only caused deep division in the congregation, it caused great disillusionment among many young people concerning how to walk with the Lord.
There also exists today what have been called ‘prophetic ministries’ in evangelical quarters. In fact, congregational ‘prophetic’ experiences are so frequent, that congregants write slews of books detailing these ‘prophecies’ and then sell them in their own bookstores. While in search of certain bible study material, I visited such a congregation, which claimed to house a ‘Christian bookstore’. Search as I might I couldn’t find a single bible study – not one. I asked the attendant for some help and they ran around the store and backroom, sure they could find what I was looking for, but returned empty-handed. I then made the comment that it was interesting to see so many books by so many different people writing ‘about’ the Lord and their personal experience, but not one single book dealing with a study of God’s actual word. The look on the attendant’s face was one of shock at the truth of what they had themselves investigated.
If you are wondering about prophecy and its function and purpose among believers these days, it helps to start with what Paul said:
… keep on seeking the things of the Spirit; and especially seek to be able to prophesy. … someone prophesying is speaking to people, edifying, encouraging and comforting them (CJB, 1 Corinthians 14:1, 3).
… prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. . . . But if you all prophesy, and some unbeliever or uninstructed person enters [the congregation], he is convicted of sin by all, he is brought under judgement by all, and the secrets of his heart are laid bare, so he falls on his face and worships God, saying, “God is really here among you!” (CJB, 1 Corinthians 14:22b, 24-25)
The Lord is coming!