Yesterday we talked about the first test to know whether or not someone really was a prophet or just shooting off his mouth. If what he predicted didn’t come true 100% of the time, then he was a false prophet, and the Lord had zero tolerance for that. Obviously I don’t believe in the death penalty for anyone falsely claiming to speak for God. In the Age of the Church, our weapons are spiritual, not physical. We confront lies with the truth from the Scriptures, and we pray that the Spirit will open peoples’ eyes. But we should take falsely speaking in God’s name just as seriously as he does.
Now we come to the second test, and it’s one that causes some head-scratching sometimes. Maybe the prophet predicts something, and lo and behold it comes true! Does that establish his bona fides? No. Passing the test of accuracy was necessary but not sufficient to prove he was legitimate.
Now here’s where it gets confusing. According to this passage, it might not be just coincidence that what a false prophet comes true. It might be the Lord himself who brings it to pass. Why? Because he’s testing his people to make sure they truly love him.
This might seem really strange to us, but it's a pattern we see repeatedly in Scripture. It was a similar situation in the incident regarding the prophet Micaiah and King Ahab, which we looked at a couple of years ago. Also, according to Paul, in the Last Days the Lord himself will (in some sense) send the lost world at large "a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness." But please keep this in mind: Even when the Lord allows or (in some sense) "sends" false teachers or false prophets or the Antichrist, he still never leaves himself without a witness to the truth which people can listen to if they choose to. The Jews of Moses' day had the Torah. Ahab had a true prophet of the Lord standing right in front of him. People in the End Times will have God's word and some remnant of God's people to tell them that the Antichrist is not someone to follow. People never have an excuse to follow Satan's lies.
What message is Moses trying to get across to them? Well, from my readings of the Prophets and from my studies, I have an answer to that question. He doesn’t really go into detail in today’s passage, but there are some things we can understand from the whole of his word.
First, we need to understand that the main purpose of a prophet was not to predict the future. He would predict the future, but that wasn’t the primary reason he was talking. He was there to draw God’s people back to the Lord. To the degree he made any predictions, he did that to establish some credibility. But that was only to get people to listen to his message.
So the second test which they had to pass in order to genuine was "Is what they're saying in accord with what we've heard so far? The "god" that they're pointing us towards, is it the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or some other god?"
This addresses a main problem a lot of folks have with the prophetic literature. To the degree they do study it, they do it to get an outline for the future. They want to know who the Anti-Christ is, or what God’s plan for modern Israel is, or whether we need to be Pre-Trib or Post-Trib or something else. You might actually find some clues to those type of questions. But inasmuch as you approach prophetic literature and ask questions like that, you’re missing the main point.
The main point of prophecy for us is twofold: A) Comfort you if you’re experiencing really hard times, letting you know that your Father has it under control and cares about you, or B) Slap you upside the head and let you know that he's not pleased with how you’ve been acting. In the case of the first hearers of these oracles, they were directed back to the God of the Torah, back to the Teachings of Moses. In the case of modern Christians, the prophets are here to bring us back to our Redeemer, to the One who loves us and who died for us.
Have I made it clear? Predictions are a side-issue here. Getting into a right relationship with the Lord is the main thing.
Second, and this goes along with what I said yesterday, we need to carefully examine every word that comes out of every preacher’s or teacher's mouth. If some guy claims that “God told me. . .” then I’m really skeptical. And quite frankly, all the preachers I’ve heard making claims like that also teach something that’s not in accord with the Bible. They might teach that God wants all believers to be rich and healthy, for example. Others have a really skewed view of Jesus or salvation. Once I know that they’re promoting false teaching, why should I listen to anything else they have to say?
But I want to end on a positive note here. the Lord has given us the Scriptures, not just to fill our heads with knowledge (though that’s part of it), but to draw us to himself. That’s the main point of all portions of his word—Not just the prophets, but every word from Genesis 1:1 to the last verse of Revelation. Do you approach the Bible with that purpose in mind?
Father, I want to not only know the word of God, which is important. The reason I love the word of God so much is because it's the way I access the God of the word. That’s what I desire, that’s what I long for.