(Deuteronomy 18:21) And if thou say in thy heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? (18:22) when a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken: the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him.
Recently I received a forwarded email from a dear sister in Christ. It was a “word” sent to her by someone else. The name of the original author was not passed along with it so I don’t know who wrote it. Because of hard-earned past experience I am justifiably cautious about reading and/or accepting at face value prophetic words claimed to have been received from God, especially when I don’t have a clue about the person’s track record. But there are certain types of compositions that scream out to me as blatantly false. Heretofore I had not considered that I have a built in criteria that a supposed word of God should measure up to but apparently I do have and so I thought I’d delineate and present these guidelines as a word to the wise.
While I am the first to grant that God speaks to us in the way we can hear, I am instantly put off by a long, rambling, ranting tirade that sounds more like the person delivering it than the Almighty Sovereign God. Anyone can say, well, God is just speaking in modern language. Fair enough, but what about content? What if the content, regardless of the elocution does not align with the best source we have for testing a Word from God, i.e., the Bible?
After volume and choice of words is questioned, the next big test is identifying what is known in the writing world as Omnipotent Point of View. When a writer wishes to empower a concept, he/she will present it through an all seeing, authoritative voice. From this vantage point all manner of wise words can be unleashed without much fear of being challenged. But it’s just a gimmick and a smokey way to hide lack of credibility and if you test any of it and find it wanting, then you have to assume none of it is coming from God. Quoting from the email from the end of the first paragraph:
“There is much knowledge in the world today. But not too much because there are enough truly wise men able to handle it. But the wise have not stepped up and out. They are beaten back by the foolish, unwise and evil. I am about to change that. Many will find themselves elevated without effort – thrust into positions of leadership that they are well able to handle. They will not all be followers of My Son even as not all of the founders of America were. But they will be true and honest, gifted by Me for the hour. I want to purge government in this hour. All governments. Much is happening in every country. It is an active time.”
Sounds pretty wise, and, well, godlike, doesn’t it? But let’s hold up the comment about purging government to Romans 13:1-4 (13:1) Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the [powers] that be are ordained of God. (13:2) Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment. (13:3) For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same:
So, I’m thinking that even though God would be more than justified to be angry about what is going on in government today, I also know that His Gospel points to us being more focused on our own behaviors. Look to our own dirty skirts. Government has largely been corrupt throughout history, has it not? But I am supposed to accept that God is now sharing His imminent plans to purge all governments, “this hour” with this person. That’s not to say I would be shocked if He did, I’m just sensing that the words are more a revelation of the writer’s personal knowledge of what is happening in current events than what God would be saying to prepare His people for imminent desolation of all government. It just seems there is something missing, a large chunk of what prophecy has always been about, i.e., REPENTANCE.
Feet of Clay
Before I get too far along I have to address the lack of attribution of the author in the email. On several occasions I have questioned a word sent to me and done a web search for the writer. When I have found additional commentary written by a self-proclaimed prophet, using only a small amount of discernment and applied criteria, I usually can spot the cracks. What I have found is that it is common for someone to get so comfortable with the elevated position of anointing, whether real or imagined, that he/she begins to believe in his/her own spiritual mandated wisdom and authority and unchallengeable invincibility and then stumbles from boldness. This, then, leads to the inevitable spouting of absurdities, prophecies that do not come about, and ultimately cracks in the clay feet. I don’t always need to know who wrote something to discern whether it holds up to Scripture or not but if given a larger body of work to examine, a false prophet will always reveal him/herself sooner or later.
What’s the Big Deal?
If, after failing the first tests, I still have questions about the veracity of a word presented as prophetic, I ask one last question: What is the harm if it isn’t really coming from God if it sounds good?
This can be identified as Deception by Spiritual Arrogance. Those who anoint and appoint themselves as prophets of God are wide open for familiar spirits to take over. If they are able to attract a following their overt good words are an enticement to believe other things. Not so good. When someone claims to be a spokesman for God, where is the accountability when dreams, visions and prophecies are not fulfilled? How easy it is to justify and make excuses for someone just because you have a sense of loyalty to him or her. Their authority and false teachings then become distractions away from the Gospel, which then pull followers away from what we are supposed to be focused on. But more often than not, even when the truth is plain as day, people stay mired in false teachings, continue to believe the wildest prophecies, make excuse when they fail, and never ask the hard questions because it’s just too hard to admit that they have been deceived. Many fall away in despair and lose whatever faith they began with.
This, then, is the harm false prophets do to the Body as a whole, when parts are damaged.
No doubt we do live in precarious times. Technology has made it possible like never before for humans to be able to communicate with so many so quickly. Ideas, religions, doctrines and self-proclaimed leaders rise and garner to themselves willing followers both in bonafide denominational organized religions and errant off-the-path cults. Wounded, disillusioned Christians often leave denominational churches only to reattach themselves to some other kind of religious bondage sooner or later. Many are attracted by the excitement of signs and wonders and “thus sayeth the Lord” prophecies. Unfortunately spiritually emotional people are vulnerable because they prefer to believe and trust someone else, even in the stark face of real undeniable evidence of wrong-doing, than hold that person’s words and behaviors up to the hard light of Scripture. What they want is what has always been a snare for seekers/believers, they want a flesh and blood leader to tell them what and how to believe. They want a prophet who is God’s spokesperson to herd them rather than take the scarier lonely road to study and humble themselves to hear from the Lord themselves.
I have often thought that it boils down to not really believing that God can and will speak to us individually.
Well, apparently it’s easy to find a leader. All one has to do is pick one of hundreds presented on the web and through forwarded emails. The wolves are out there prowling for prey. All you have to do is find the one that is saying what you want to hear and you’ve got yourself someone and some thing to believe in.
Warning: Do so at your own peril.
(Jeremiah 23:16) Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they teach you vanity; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.
(Deuteronomy 13:1) If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he give thee a sign or a wonder, (13:2) and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; (13:3) thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (13:4) Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
(Matthew 7:15) Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. (7:16) By their fruits ye shall know them. Do [men] gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (7:17) Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.