¨The Spirit of Prophecy: An Examination of the Prophetic Call
# 8 – The Anatomy of False Prophets
(the bolding is not in the original. I bolded areas so as to make it easier for someone to quickly get the import of what he says.
To view the original, click the link above. Other than the bolding, this is an accurate copy)
We need to be jealous for the truth of the prophetic calling. If the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, then we cannot be careful enough in the consideration of this subject. Do our present-day prophets speak out of their own hearts and spirits? Do they draw from each other, or do they come to us out of the secret place of God? Out of what formative relationships in the Body have these prophets come? Has there been an appropriate nurturing, not only of the gift, but also of the character of prophetic men before they minister to the church? How long and how rightly have they been part of a local fellowship? Have they been sent out by the same in a sending that is more than a ceremonial, officious thing? Do we even know what a true sending is?
False prophets validate each other, where the one applauds, affirms and establishes the other, but it is not a fellowship that has validated them. They have not risen up out of the organic work of God itself, like the church in Antioch. Instead they pay tribute to each other and compliment each other, especially as those who are flowing in much the same thing. What is the source of their prophetic speaking? Where does the prophet get his word? If it is not out of the council of God, the secret place, how is it then God’s word? If men do claim to be commissioned, we have a right to look for evidence that they have indeed stood in that place.
In Jeremiah chapter 23, God gives us a powerful statement about true and false prophets. It is one thing to have an indictment against Israel, but when you begin to indict the prophets of Israel, the loftiest, the best and the noblest thing, then that must be a symbol or a statement of the low condition of a nation prior to its judgment.
”For both prophet and priest are polluted; even in My house I have found wickedness,” declares the LORD (v.11).
It is remarkable how self-serving this reciprocal thing is between heads of apostolic and prophetic movements or fellowships and their prophets, and how comfortable they are with one another and how they affirm one another. The people are in an unspoken agreement with their ministers: ”You present a biblical message. We will pay the bill and have a Sunday service that will leave our lives free from any kind of demand that would really touch our true vested interest and values. We don’t want a message that is going to challenge where our heart really is.” As the priest, so also the people. As the pastor/preacher, so also the congregation. Into that situation we have to come prophetically—and likely be stoned!
Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, they will be driven away into the gloom and fall in it;
for I shall bring calamity upon them, the year of their punishment,” declares the LORD (v. 12).
It implies that there is not an immediate judgment, but rather an appointed future time in which God judges those who profane His house—even those who originally had authentic and holy callings. That may well be why the Lord is allowing to continue that which is presently being called prophetic or apostolic and is so popular, but for them, as with the priests and prophets of old, there will be a year of visitation or a time when God calls a halt.
Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: they prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray (v.13).
There is a consequence for false prophecy. It will affect the entire nation and therefore the entire church by the same principle.
Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing:
the committing of adultery and walking in falsehood;
and they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one has turned back from his wickedness.
All of them have become to Me like Sodom, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah. (v. 14).
Their view of truth and God is corrupted by their sensual and ungodly living. Walking in lies and committing adultery (or the frequency of divorce and remarriage) go hand-in-hand. If you are going to commit adultery spiritually or physically, then there is a way in which you have to inwardly justify yourself, and you can only do that at the expense of the truth of God. There is also a consequence in that it strengthens the hands of evildoers. There is nothing about their proclamation that causes repentance and return, but rather a condoning of those who are in a place opposed to God, who Himself hates divorce. It is something like judges today who cannot bring sentence upon transgressors. They cannot bring the severity of the law against the lawbreaker, because their own life personally is itself a transgression.
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets,
‘Behold, I am going to feed them wormwood and make them drink poisonous water,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem pollution has gone forth into all the land.’
Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you…’ (vs. 15-16a).
Notice that God still calls them prophets! It is maybe because the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. They still retain their official title, but what they are performing under that title is in God’s sight an abomination. There is nothing more profane than when the sacred is not authentically sacred. When we take the sacred phrase, ‘Thus says the Lord’ and merely employ it as a device to obtain the attention of our hearers, then we are desecrating the sacred. We are making the sacred profane and once we have done that, what can be hoped for? If we are not as a priestly people setting forth the distinction between the profane and the sacred, what can be hoped for in the world?
They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination,
not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise Me,
‘The LORD has said, ‘You will have peace’;
and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart,
they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’ (v.16b-17).
This must be the very quintessence of what a false prophet is, namely, the giving of a false comfort and a false assurance of peace that does not regard the truth of the conditions that need to be faced. It is an unwillingness to bring a hard word. The things that are prophesied are normally flattering and encouraging to the flesh, rather than challenging or threatening. False prophets have historically prophesied peace when there is no peace. ‘Calamity will not come upon you’ is unhappily the kind of prophetic statement that is coming forth even today, especially in Israel. They are giving a false comfort to those who are not even properly aligned to God. Humanly speaking, we would not see these people as those who despise God. God sees them, however, as despising Him, and we need to see it as God sees it. The false prophets are actually bringing a kind of encouragement to those people who are already out of right relationship with God and give them an assurance that their relationship with God is in order.
But who has stood in the council of the LORD, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? (v.18)
Here is the key verse. Everything in God, in the last analysis, comes down to the issue of relationship. He will never give anything independent of relationship. When He called Moses up to the Mount to receive the tablets of the law in order that he might teach them, Moses was first to come up and be there. How dare we say, ”Thus says the Lord,” who have not stood in the council of the Lord and heard His word? I think it is impossible for a flamboyant, gainsaying, gain-seeking minister to even be in that place. To be in the council of the Lord requires a certain humility, a certain brokenness, a certain utter dependency upon God, a certain capacity to wait and a certain separation from self-interest, fame, fortune and recognition. Men given to those things cannot be in the council of the Lord, and yet they are the first ones to so readily say, ”Thus says the Lord!”
The characteristic of ministries today is toward the separation of ministry from relationship. We have made ministry a thing in itself. We talk about worship and the Lord, but somehow we are able to perform it out of an independent, virtuoso ability. Relationship is not only the key to the bestowing of the gift or the tablets of the Law, but the ongoing ability to rightly teach them. Once you sever relationship from ministry, you are on exceedingly dangerous ground. The ministry flows out of the life and the life out of the relationships, and if we break that connection and have a ministry independent of that, then it is not going to be a ministry that God recognizes, employs or honors.
But who has stood in the council of the LORD…?
This phrase implies a closeness to God. How is it, then, that these prophets who were speaking prolifically and influencing the nation toward evil were not in this place? Why did they not get the word of the Lord out of His council and out of His presence? That there should even be a moment’s hesitation about answering this question is a real statement about us! They were adulterers and walking in lies, and therefore, how can such men be in the council of God? This God is holy and you cannot come into that presence in that condition. You do not even desire to come into that place in that condition. That is why you get your words from others, or out of your own skull. Standing before God requires sanctification. It requires something about our own condition that permits that kind of relationship, particularly as it is in abiding.
It is being in the council of God and being in the presence of God that the word may come, but if you make the word and the attainment of it the condition for entering the presence, then you have already stepped off holy ground. You are coming in the spirit of utility and not in the spirit of devotion to God for His own sake. Moses was told to come up the Mount and be there, not for the benefit that was going to accrue to him for coming, even the ministerial benefit, but simply because God is God!
He is the Creator and we are the creation. We are simply to be there, and if no word comes, then no word comes. If we come looking for a word in that expedient, utilitarian sense that we have, then it is no longer the holy ground. It is the spirit of the world that has the underlying premise that one must do this in order to obtain that. We simply do not know what it means ‘to do’ or ‘to be’ for its own sake. If we have never come to that place first with God, then how shall we come to it with men? There is, therefore, a warp in all that we do and say that does not have its true place out of the presence of God, which place cannot be entered in the spirit of utility.
Seeking the Lord is an extraordinarily difficult thing and few there be that have the incentive. It itself is a suffering, and in fact, just to be more ruthlessly honest, it is a dying. Living on the earth, in the flesh, in the world and in time, and to confide and to commune with God, is an extraordinary and ultimate attainment. If you attain it, then maintain it, because you do not want to have to do it all over again. We are talking about something very critical. What then shall we say for the whole rash of popular and sought-out prophets that have arisen in recent years? Are they speaking from the council of God? God’s judgment about the failure to obtain His word in that place is severe:
Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest;
it will swirl down on the head of the wicked (v. 19).
The word ‘wicked’ is almost exclusively used for those who should know better. It is those who profess or should have every reason to know God and are yet, by intent, acting wrongly. That is wickedness.
The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart;
in the last days you will clearly understand it (v. 20).
Notice that the judgment is deferred. It is not immediate, but it will come later for something now that is an offense to God, namely, the whole compromise of His prophets and the way it has affected the nation.
I did not send these prophets, but they ran;
I did not speak to them, but they prophesied.
But if they had stood in My council,
then they would have announced My words to My people,
and would have turned them back from their evil way and
from the evil of their deeds (vs. 21-22).
We can know when the word is out of the council of God because it has this salutary effect. It will affect the nation or fellowship in turning it toward God, rather than away from Him and from their evil ways and their practices. Generally speaking, when men will invoke the phrase, ”Thus says the Lord,” it is almost a testimony to the fact that the Lord is not saying. If He is saying, then we do not have to embellish the statement by legitimating it. The statement itself will ring with the truth of God and the sense of God. Is it a quickened statement of God of an original kind that we need to hear in the crisis place that we are, or is it just some kind of an embellishment to give a charismatic endorsement to our meeting? If it is the latter it will have the effect of cheapening the whole integrity of that which is prophetic and make it a shamelessly light kind of thing that anyone almost at will can offer¾ and does!
When Israel’s prophets said, ”Thus says the Lord,” then you know that what is following is going to be a judgment that is so horrific that God validates even the words that bear His resonance, because they are words of ultimate judgment. It must, therefore, be clear from the inception that this is not the prophet speaking out of himself. We have it passed down to us as written prophecy of a kind that has affected the history of Israel. But in contemporary spoken prophecy we need to discern whether it is the Lord speaking authenticated by what is being said in terms of the anointing and the authority it bears, rather than in having it labeled for us.
The call to the prophet is the call to the Cross. It is a frequent, if not, continual form of suffering of an exquisite and ultimate kind. Can we say, ”Thus says the Lord” without actually articulating those words or implying those words in our statement, except that our word has indeed come through the Cross? It is out of a death. It is not our own word, but His, which can only come from that Cross-centered place. That was true for the prophets before the advent of the Cross. Elijah preceded the Cross historically, but he knew the death of it when he said, ”…there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Jesus knew the Cross before He became crucified on it. The Cross only exemplified and made visible the thing to which His life was all along submitted.
‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him?’
declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’
declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who
prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ (vs.24-25).
The heart of the offense in being false before God is that all of this takes place as if He is not seeing and does not understand and is not aware of what is being done. It is an enormous presumption, one that God notes. It is, in effect, a complete absence of the fear of God or the reverence for God as God. Those that do so really believe they are hearing from God and that what they are communicating is the council of God! They have reached such a place of deceit, that they have persuaded themselves of it, and that when they say, ”Thus says the Lord,” it is in fact the Lord saying. We can come to that condition by a gradual erosion, a little day-by-day, slight kind of a thing, that when the process is finished, one is not only false, but one thinks that one is still true. Thus there is a daily vigilance required over the issues of the heart in order that deception does not have its ultimate work, where the man deceived thinks that he is in the right while leading many to their doom. That is why God urges us to exhort one another daily while it is yet today, because tomorrow is already too late.
…who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another…(v.27a).
That is to say, to communicate a sense of God that is not God and allow those listening to think that it is God because they have attached the name of Jesus to it. False prophetic things and things that are deceitful will affect how people perceive and understand God, especially if it affirms them in their shallowness or a certain lightness and frivolity is communicated. God cannot help but suffer loss. They are prophesying ”in the name of the Lord,” but because it is false, the effect of it is to get people to ”forget His name,” which is to say, to lose the sense of God as God, of what He is fearfully and majestically in Himself.
We can know that it is God’s word because it is likely to be the word that is expressed in verse 29:
‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD; ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’
In other words, ”My word breaks up the deeps; it demolishes and it burns.” If you want to distinguish between a prophetic word that is God’s word and a prophetic word that is assumed by man, conjured out of his own mind and imagination and that is false, then here is the distinction: God’s word is like a fire. His word burns and is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. It is devastating and brings an effect and contains a power that breaks in or burns through. It will never be some innocuous, syrupy thing that confirms us in what we already are, especially when our lives are slovenly and slack. His word should burn in our heart and reveal its true condition and not as we presumptuously thought it to be.
Every true word requires, and if we do not respond, then it means that we have not really heard. ”Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb. 4:7b).” If we have heard, then it should evoke a response in us. Not to respond is to harden. There is no such thing as neutrality. The word of God when it is the word of God has to have consequence for ill or good. We can never ignore it or allow it to pass and nod our heads by saying, ”Yes, that was a good and interesting word. I enjoyed that.” It requires or we harden, and that is why we find so many people in a hardened condition, and then God’s last appeals would be a prophetic cry, but it has got to be like a hammer upon a rock that breaks through until the necessary repentance and release.
”Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, ”who steal My words from each other. Behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, ”who use their tongues and declare, ‘The LORD declares.’ Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the LORD, ”and related them, and led My people astray by their falsehoods and their reckless boasting (‘and by their lightness’- King James Version); yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the LORD (vs. 30-32).
There is a certain levity, a certain kind of air of casualness that seems to prevail in conferences and sessions where men who have not been sent of God have had opportunity to speak as if they had been sent of God. The unhappy thing is that great numbers of Christians in the world have never heard a true prophetic word spoken in the authority of God, and all they hear they assume to be normative. They have no basis for comparison. But to hear such a true word once is to be ruined forever for anything less. There is, therefore, a great cry and need for that word and that authority to come into the earth, that the church might be rightly ‘ruined’ and made candidates for the truth. It is the word that has become ‘event.’
False prophets steal God’s words from each other and often speak the identical kind of word. If we were to survey the last thirty-five years, has there not been a succession of fads, panaceas, gimmicks and things that we latch onto? There is a way in which one can test by a raised finger: “Which way is the wind blowing? What is current? What is now popular? I know that if I speak on ‘prosperity and faith,’ the people will love it; or prayer, or worship, or church growth, or power evangelism.” We seem to go through periods where certain themes have found a place of popularity and then you just move in that; and you pick up what others are saying, and then you begin to say it. It is easier to hear the word from other men and to imitate and repeat that, knowing that it has already found approval and acceptance. We desperately need to hear all the more, therefore, what is on God’s heart; and the only one who can communicate that is that one who is close to His heart through a consistent communing. There is a door of dying to reputation, name and acceptance to find your way into the place of the secret council of God; but it is in that place alone that the word of the Lord will be given.
PUBLISHED IN: ART KATZ