Jeremiah 23 is one of the longest treatments in the Bible on false prophets. I think anyone who is delivering God’s “word” in a corporate or personal way should read through this chapter before delivering any message. This creates fear and trembling in speaking God’s word instead of the cavalier attitude often displayed. In verse 9 of chapter 23, we see that Jeremiah is broken because of the false prophets and what they are doing to the nation – “My heart within me is broken because of the prophets;”. While there is much in the chapter, there are a few main points about why God hates false prophesy.
- False prophets are profane (v. 11). According to the Century Dictionary, profane means: not sacred, unholy, wicked, impious, unconsecrated or secular. In other words, ungodly and immoral. The end of verse 11 tells us, “Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness”. So these unholy, immoral and ungodly prophets were in God’s house!
- They prophesied by Baal and caused God’s people to err (v. 13). To us this would mean serving up idolatry and false gods, such as self, money, power or sexual immorality.
- They walk in lies (v. 14). Walking in lies means pretense. They were living a lie, pretending to be holy servants of God, when in fact they were the opposite of holy. Verse 14 goes on to say that they strengthened the hands of evil doers and that no one turns back from evil. This is always the effect of false prophecy, no repentance and justice perverted.
- Speak their own heart and not God’s word (v. 16). This is like the difference between psychology or emotional “Christianity” and the powerful, crushing word of the Lord. God’s word does not always crush, but the truth does divide between the soul and spirit.
- They are not sent by God (nor has he spoken to them) –v. 21. This is scary and why we must be watchful. Jesus said, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” (Matt. 24:11)
- They do not stand in the counsel of God (v. 22). If the false prophets had stood in the counsel of God and spoken his word, then the people would have repented. Truth washes us in the light, while lies cover us in darkness.
- They lie in God’s name (v. 25). Verse 26 goes on to tell us, “they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart”. Lying is always serious, but to lie in God’s name to his people is treacherous. This is equal to manipulating people for your own benefit by using the name of God. I hate to say it, but many leaders do this. They use God as a club, beat people to death with lies and trample on God’s people. Judgment always follows this type of behavior. God is very serious about his holy name.
- They cause God’s people to err by their lies and recklessness (v. 32). You see similar ideas repeatedly throughout the chapter. This shows how important these things are to God. He cares for his people and will remove false prophecy.
I am the Lord,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself,
who foils the signs of false prophets
and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
and turns it into nonsense,
All the above things are part of speaking falsely for God. But I want to turn very specifically to prophesying for Baal or fleshly prophesy. If I am speaking rightly for God, then he will have sent me with a specific word. But it is also possible that I will take this word and muck it up with the flesh. The god of self is the worst culprit. If we think as deliverers of God’s word we need to lift ourselves up, then we have missed most of the Bible. If I draw others to me instead of Christ, I am preaching another gospel. Here is what I mean very practically. It has become very in vogue to use very little Bible and a lot of storytelling in modern preaching and teaching. But when you pull that apart it stinks of the flesh. Here is what I mean, we are to be in community with other Christians and share our testimony and stories with each other to have strong relationships. However, in a corporate environment this plays out much differently and really in any environment we must be careful to always point to Christ. It is very typical to see pictures of the pastor and their kids, or hear a heartfelt story from their personal lives. But this really isn’t preaching God’s word, it lacks the power of the word and points people to “us”. This may not be purposeful but it does not matter, the effect is that people are drawn to the speaker, not the Christ! I know some of you do not believe me, but I challenge you. Go ahead and listen to all your stories next week, but then the following week go to a Church (just for 1 week) and listen to the power of God’s word preached and see the difference. How it affects you differently. I just heard a teaching dripping with God’s word and there was power and I felt it. It does not compare to modernistic storytelling. We have been lulled to sleep by preaching that is trying to please and show us how soft God is, when really it is false prophecy. If those “speaking for God” would stand in his counsel, then they would give the people God’s word and lives would be changed.
What is most sad is that most of us do not realize how much we focus on ourselves or others, while God left the building and went down the road to where he is honored and welcomed! False teaching is destroying our culture just as the false prophets destroyed Judah during the time of Jeremiah. Wake up and ask for God’s deliverance. Demand more from leaders and measure everything against what the Bible actually teaches (Acts 17:11).