If God still speaks today and uses people to do so, why is there so much false prophecy? The critics of modern prophecy routinely make this valid point. And while we all know a prophetic word given today cannot in any way be compared to the words of the Bible, the question still remains, what does true prophecy look like and why do we have false prophecy? Jeremiah 23 is the most extensive treatment of false prophets in the Bible. Below is a summary of what this chapter says about false prophets:
- False prophets are profane (unholy, wicked, impious, unconsecrated, immoral)
- They cause God’s people to err through lies and recklessness
- They speak their own heart and not God’s word
- They are not sent by God (nor did he speak to them)
- They lie in God’s name
When someone claims to speak for God and it turns out to be false, that does not mean the person is not a Christian, but it does mean something is very wrong. James 3 tells us the difference between true and false wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:14-17
A common problem is jealousy and selfish ambition, the very things James mentions. With these in your heart you will not speak the truth for God. I also think people speak their own heart and not God’s word. Because of the nature of how God speaks about false prophecy we shrink away from the reality of what it really is. The Bible describes false prophecy clearly, we just don’t accept it. The good news is that while true prophecy is rare, the sign posts are clear – pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and goodness, impartial and sincere.