The AMI QT Devotionals from August 13-19 are provided by Pastor Barry Kang, who heads Symphony Church in Boston. Barry, a graduate of Stanford University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Sunny (an amazing worship leader, chef, and math wizard). They are the proud parents of Caleb and Micah.
Devotional Thought for Today
“Which prophet to believe?”
To Shemaiah of Nehelam you shall say: 25 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26 ‘The Lord has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to have charge in the house of the Lord over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and neck irons. 27 Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you? 28 For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “Your exile will be long; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce.” ’ ” 29 Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 31 “Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, 32 therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the Lord, for he has spoken rebellion against the Lord.’ ”
When we read the Bible, it is fairly easy to discern between the true and false prophets. In this passage, the true prophet is the one that has a book in the Bible named after him. But for the people of Judah, whether exiled in Babylon or scatter elsewhere, it must have been more difficult. Which prophet to believe?
Shemaiah, one of the so-called prophets in Babylon, was scandalized by Jeremiah’s prophesies. Shemaiah wrote to Zephaniah the high priest in Jerusalem, asking why he had not imprisoned Jeremiah yet, for in his mind, Jeremiah was the false prophet. Zephaniah showed Jeremiah this letter, who in turn (at God’s direction) wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon saying that Shemaiah was in fact the false prophet. Who to believe?
This is a dilemma we still face today. When two respected persons of God stand on different sides of an issue, who do you trust? I would suggest three tests:
First, how does their prophecy/teaching align with Scripture? The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself. The Holy Spirit inspired Scripture and also directs prophecy. Jeremiah’s prophecies may have been unwelcome news for the exiles, but it aligned with the greater prophetic narrative that God had been telling through different trusted prophets, such as Isaiah. In Acts 17:11, we see the positive example of the Berean Jews who believed in Paul’s message as they compared it to their examination of Scripture. If you want to know which prophet to believe, begin with knowing your Bible!
Second, what is their fruit? In Deuteronomy 18:21-22, God anticipates the question of how to discern between true and false prophets. He declares:
And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (Deut 18:21-22)
If the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken. For the exiles, it would soon become evident which prophet was true or false. One set of prophets declared that God would bring them out of Babylon within a matter of two years. Jeremiah stood alone saying that it would be much longer. Within two years, it would become apparent that Jeremiah was the true prophet. Sometimes we cannot discern immediately whether a prophet is true or false. It will take patience
Jesus told us in Matthew 7:15-20 that we would recognize false prophets by their fruit. Do their words come to pass? Does their message align with Scripture? Does their character and actions exhibit the Kingdom and gospel values? Do their prophecies and actions advance the Kingdom of God?
Third, pray. This is as important for the would-be prophet as well as the hearer. How do you know that you have heard correctly from the Lord if someone else is speaking the exact opposite message? We need to pray. Prophecy is speaking the words that God commands us to speak. In the book of Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came often to Jeremiah. Unless we are hearing from the Lord, it is not true prophecy. In the book of Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came often to Jeremiah (e.g. Jeremiah 29:30). When you hear from God in times of prayer, you will be able to discern between true and false prophecy.
Prayer: Lord, raise up true prophets for our day in every church. Help us to live in the power and presence of Your Spirit! We want to hear from You and be used by You to speak to others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Esther 9