During the days of Ezekiel, as Jerusalem was about to fall to the Babylonians, God expressed great anger against false prophets. Men and women were still in Israel, still speaking as though from God, and still misleading people. The nation was being misled by people who used their authoritative-sounding speech to make money.
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ 3 Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! 4 Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. 5 You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord. 6 They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. 7 Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?”
In the Pentateuch, God made it clear that a person who was a false prophet in Israel was to be put to death. Here, we see that, though such was the law, many people still found the idea of declaring a false statement to be from the Lord too tempting. And God will bring judgment on such people.
And here we are, it is around 2600 years later. Is there something to learn? Yes. God hates false prophets still. God will still not tolerate it when a person claims to speak for him but does not. God still knows it is utterly wrong to comfort the guilty or to condemn the innocent in the name of the Lord. And God will move to protect his word.
Think about that as you consider what you listen to as teaching from the Lord. Think about that as you consider what you hear people say who claim to have knowledge of what God wants. Think about that, and be very careful with how you allow your ears to take in something with God’s name attached.
The true prophet in the Old Testament only communicated to the people what God had really said. In most cases, that was less a prediction of the future and more a proclamation of what God’s written word had already promised.
Now, in our world, we live in a very new era. The Holy Spirit now personally indwells believers. And the Holy Spirit has inspired a completed canon of Scripture. What then will a prophet have to do? The answer should be that a man or woman who wants to tell you what God has said should be telling you what is clearly written and taught in the Scripture. God has indeed spoken. We have his word written down. And we need to be called to obey that word, to be convicted by that word, and to be encouraged by that word.
The Holy Spirit does not live in us to give us mystical visions of the future. The Holy Spirit will work with the written word of God to help us be illumined, allowing us to understand and apply the word of God to our lives and circumstances. And a person who wants to tell you or me what God says needs to be rightly handling the word of God aided by the Spirit of God.
IF you have a person tell you that they know God is telling them something, be very careful. Is what God is telling them what he wrote down? Is what the person claims consistent with the word of God? If it is in violation of the word, it is clearly false. If it is in keeping with the word, then you know that extrabiblical revelation was not needed for you to have that word.
When we see God speak strongly against false prophets, we should be drawn strongly to the word of god. Pray a lot. Love the word. Be constant in Scripture. Listen to faithful, biblical teaching. But be very wary of a person who tells you that God is telling them something not in the word.