“I frustrate false prophets and their signs”.
Isa 44:25 NEB
Prophecy is one of the enduring aspects of religion that fascinates people. It has an aura of glamour about it. People can make predictions and claim authenticity without having to prove their genuineness. Clever people can pose as prophets and then disappear when it looks as if their predictions will not come true – or when they have made enough money.
True prophets speak from God’s inspiration. Usually their words are not happy words for people to hear. Prophets see through the superficial ways in which people look at the world, life in it, and God. And they tell it like it is – even when they know that what they are going to say is going to raise a storm of criticism and opposition. John the Baptist was a prophet. He got his head cut off. Isaiah was a genuine prophet. He spoke truly about God and he studied the ways of the world of his day. He could see that the rising Persian Empire was going to overthrow the Israelites’ captors, the Babylonians. False prophets speak their own words and wisdom. They usually speak what they know the people want to hear. Sometimes they are hired by politicians to give a veneer of religious respectability to the politicians’ message or ideology. God couldn’t stand them then. He can’t now.
There are false prophets today. A lot of money is being made by people who use the media to spread their message and then create personality cults. They sell tapes, dvds, books and memorabilia and make a fortune. Beware of the false gospel many of them proclaim – that faith will bring you prosperity. It might. It might not. Jesus said it would bring you a cross.
Lord, help me to sort out the wheat from the chaff.