Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the intents of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have proclaimed My words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds. “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has My word speak My word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:16-29 ESV)?”
Sometimes the false prophets and false teachers are so easy to spot. Their outrageous words and actions make it easy to say, “Surely he/she is a false prophet.” But most of the time, it’s insidious and harder to put your finger on whether someone is really a false prophet. What they have to say just sounds so…good! It sounds so CLOSE to what the Lord has said, the minor differences are hidden or glazed over. Did God REALLY mean this…or was it something more like that? It sounds plausible.
As missionaries, we confront both kinds of false teachers in the places where we live and work. From the other world religions claiming to be real gods, to the State churches subtly teaching another kind of Gospel, false teachers and their devastating effects are all around. In Germany, only 2-3% of the population attends church. In the Czech Republic, 54.6% marked other or unspecified for their religion, and 34.2% marked none on the 2011 census (CIA World Factbook). What brings about such a drastic change to historically Christian countries? False teachers and false teachings certainly play a role as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is reduced, worldly values promoted, and atheism in general applauded, even among those who claim to be Christians or pastors. All because they want to speak their words, not God’s words. They want to tell their dreams, not God’s Word.
Ahhh, but so often even we are not so different. There is a sinful, fallen Old Adam in each of us that loves to teach falsely. A little false teacher who whispers, “Well, God meant this, but not for you…only for them.” A little false teacher who pats a friend deep in sin on the back and says, “You have to do what is right for you. God wants you to be happy.” A little false teacher who says, “I can pick and choose which parts of God’s Word I really believe. Jesus’ death and resurrection? I’m good with that. A six day, 24-hour creation…eh, not so much. But it doesn’t matter.” A little false teacher who says, “But this sin isn’t SO bad. At least you’re not like HER. There’s nothing for you to repent of.” A little false teacher who works hard to earn his own salvation, who adds to the Gospel to make no Gospel at all. “Yes, Jesus died, but you still have to do your part!” We stand in the counsel of the world, our sinful flesh, the devil and all the false teachers out there and we proclaim to ourselves and to others a false word, a word that is not of God, just like the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. We do not proclaim the whole counsel of God, all that He has said, both Law and Gospel. We sugarcoat, we pick and choose, we keep some and alter the rest, we add what was not there.
There is one Prophet, though, who did no such thing! One prophet who spoke the whole counsel of God, both Law and Gospel. One prophet who not only proclaims God’s Word, but IS God’s Word in the flesh. From His lips come God’s whole counsel. The condemnation of our little false prophets and teachers. The condemnation of our additions, omissions, and alterations to God’s Word. Then the forgiveness, the sweet forgiveness of our clumsy handling of that Word, comes in rivers of words. “Arise, get up, your sins are forgiven.” “This is My body, broken for you, this is My blood shed for you and for the remission of your sins.” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And even as our Lord Jesus Christ speaks the whole counsel of God to us to bring us to repentance and forgive our sins, so He also speaks the whole counsel of God through us. He drives out the little false prophet, drowns the Old Adam and his alterations, and opens our mouths with the whole Word of God on our lips so that those around us may know His Word of life, peace, pardon and joy. So that others may also speak with tongues undefiled, with lips made clean, the whole counsel of God to a world in need of the Teacher and Prophet and Savior.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Prophet Who stands in the counsel of God and speaks His whole Word; continue to speak both Law and Gospel to us, bringing us ever to repentance and strengthening our witness so that we may speak that same Word to others, in Your name we pray for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Read last week’s devotion here.
- Pray for all missionaries, deaconesses, pastors, and other church workers entrusted with God’s Word that they would faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God.