Thursday, September 8, 2011

False Prophets = Captivity

Photo courtesy of shadgross
In the Bible there seem to be some books that get far more attention than others. For us Christians we lean heavily on the Gospels and books like Romans or Philippians. If we are going to focus on the Old Testament then it often means we're looking into the Psalms. I mean think about those little "Testaments" that the Gideons pass out, it is the New Testament plus the Psalms. Don't get me wrong, I am not ragging on the Gideons. They have an amazing ministry and one day we will find out just how many millions of people came to know Christ because they were given, or had access to, a Gideons Bible. My point is (and I am guilty as charged) that we often lose sight of some of the smaller books in the Bible. I'm not sure why this is. It may simply be a product of the fact that when we flip through the Bible we pass right over books like Titus or Joel.

The reason I bring this up is that while preparing for Bible study yesterday I nearly passed right over Lamentations because I was so excited about getting to Ezekiel. Shame on me, because for a moment I was disappointed that we weren't to Ezekiel yet. Thanks be to God, my disappointment was short lived!

Lamentations, as the title suggests, is one of the saddest books of the Bible. In it we have five poems that Jeremiah wrote in mourning over the desolation of Jerusalem and the captivity to Babylon. At this point in their history the Jews were made to sleep in the bed that they had made for themselves. The curses that God promised to His people in Deuteronomy 28 were coming to fruition. In the midst of this eulogy for the Holy City we find a multitude of lessons that we can apply to our lives and world today.

One of the most poignant of these lessons comes in Lamentations 2:14 which says;

Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; and they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity, but they have seen for you false and misleading oracles. 

Apparently, the Jews at this time had fallen prey to the same thing that Paul would warn Timothy about in 2 Timothy 4:3-4;

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

It seems that at this time these false prophets were telling the people everything that they wanted to hear but not the truth of the situation. It could very well have been that they were saying to the people, "Everything is okay, God is going to send blessings and victory to us." The problem was, everything was not "okay." The spiritual train of Israel had come off the track and these false prophets were not exposing it. The result was that the people did end up in captivity and Jerusalem would end up desolate and destroyed.

The point of application for us is that true prophetic voices will not shy away from addressing the issue of sin. The question that flows from that is this, "Do people who claim to be prophetic voices today expose sin for what it is?" Sadly, the majority of those who claim to be "prophets" in our day have a message that is far removed from that of the Biblical prophets. All too often we see self-proclaimed prophets engaging in wild shows that are centered around alleged "miracles," healing or blessings. People come to the show in order to get something from God, thereby turning Him into nothing more than a "blessing bank" from which they can make a withdrawal whenever they please. Let me be very clear on this point, this is using God and nothing more.

People are encouraged to come to the prophet with the faith that they will receive a healing or a blessing without ever having to come to terms with the root problem of sin and their part in it. It is about coming to God for a free handout, and the handout is not salvation. It is a temporal, fleshly gift. The focus comes off of God and is put on a mortal human being. Either it is on the prophet himself or on the faith that a person has. If they receive no healing or blessing then it is their own fault for not having enough faith. Never is the sovereign will, and larger plan of God mentioned.

One thing is certain about the prophets of the Bible, it was never about them. Their entire mission was to point people to God, His righteous judgment and His perfect compassion. Sure, many miracles took place in the ministry of the Biblical prophets. Elijah and Elisha were famous for the amazing things that took place under their ministries. However, those miracles were never an end to themselves. They served the larger purpose of a) confirming that the prophet was from God, and because of that should be listened to; and b) to point people to the One who did the miracle. In a sense the miracles performed by the prophets were the warm-up act to get people to pay attention to meat of the message which was repentance from sin.

This lesson need not only be applied to the obvious false prophets in our culture. It can also be applied to anyone who stands in the pulpit claiming to have a message from God who glosses over, or ignores completely, the issue of sin. Seminaries across our land are filled with professors who are teaching future pastors that there is no such thing as sin, or that what we once labeled as sin is nothing more than a cultural misunderstanding. Though it is not always the case, there is no doubt that this will sometimes filter down into churches. This leads to a one dimensional concept of God as being a fluffy, teddy bear who is overflowing with compassion. It is true that God's compassion is endless but it is also true that His justice and righteousness must inform His compassion and visa versa.

Jeremiah is clear in this verse from Lamentations that if our sin is not exposed and dealt with then we will remain in captivity. The other side of that token is that if our sin is exposed and dealt with we will be freed from the captivity that sin has us in. Here is the bottom line, false prophets are serving only to keep people in captivity. Freedom does not come by explaining away, or justifying sin. It comes only from having it dealt with once and for all by Christ and the Cross.

Jesus has warned us about false prophets rising up in the end times in Matthew 24:24;

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

I pray that we will neither be led astray by these false prophets and that we will not find ourselves among their number. The true prophet knows that God abhors sin and that He offers compassion and freedom to those trapped in it. Will we proclaim that message?

Godspeed,

Christian

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