Summary: Jesus warns of false prophets. What is a prophet? What is a false prophet? How can I tell one apart from the rest of sheep?

Series on the Mount

Profit or Prophet

Matthew 7:15-16

November 4, 2007

As Jesus winds up his teachings, he gives his followers a warning: Watch out. Beware. Be wary of false prophets. Take a close look and examination at the lives of those who speak for God. Not that they have to be perfect (at least not any more than every disciple is expected to be perfect in love). Turn to Matthew 7:15.

Speaking of being loving. I received an email that describes one father’s way of disciplining his son. He said that he doesn’t believe in spanking a child since it really just teaches kids that hitting is acceptable. He has chosen a more loving approach rather than hitting. Whenever these is conflict and disagreement with his son, he takes his son for a ride in the car. Here they have a chance to calm down, think about their actions, and after the ride the child is considerably calmer and doesn’t take that much time. “By removing the child, his son, from the immediate situation and providing a change of scenery, the child is allowed to focus on something different. Once the child has the opportunity to change perspective, things get better quickly and the child has better understanding of his place within the family and begins to understand the families concept of acceptable behavior.”

This amazed his friends who wanted more details and the opportunity to observe this phenomenon. Here is a photo that gives you a clearer picture of how this father lovingly corrects his son.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

Ok, there are a lot of ideas about what a prophet is (some of which may not be very biblical or may be more about the sensational than about doing God’s work). So let’s start by quickly understanding what a prophet is not and then what a prophet is.

What a prophet is not?

• A fortune teller

Because the prophet operates on the basis of God’s agenda and God’s timetable, the prophet cannot be called upon to summon a proclamation on one’s future. This is called divination. One needs faith to be a prophet and to hear what the prophet says.

• A future predictor

While prophets in the bible sometimes foretell future events usually to warn or so that people will believe the prophet’s credibility, prophets generally look at what is happening currently and bring God’s word to bear on it. Sometimes this means simply declaring what the obvious consequences of a course of action.

• A disagreeable antagonist

A prophet is not necessarily an angry, frustrated individual proclaiming judgment on everyone and everything. This picture is more of a cultural caricature than an accurate depiction. Really, a prophet speaks the truth in love and it often pains the prophet immensely to see and say things. Paul says that people ought to desire the greater gifts such as prophecy but seeing what others cannot perceive often is an incredible burden.

So what is a prophet?

What is a prophet?

• Speaks on God’s behalf

The Old Testament prophets usually said, “Thus saith the Lord” (in the KJV). These are God’s words not mine. This is what the Spirit is saying through me to you. Preaching can be part proclamation (of the good news of the Kingdom) and partly prophetic as God’s ways are highlighted along with the consequences of not following them.

• Reveals God’s intentions

The prophet attempts to let the light of Christ shine a little brighter revealing more of what God is doing and saying and where God is working and which direction God is intending to move His people. It is kind of like slowly turning the dimmer of a light so that things get a little more clear. Or giving a word to describe what others can’t quite yet see or are having a hard time understanding what it is that they almost see.

• Reads the “signs of the times”

The prophet interacts with the state of affairs around them and reveals what God is doing in the current situations and the culture. Sometimes the prophet makes connections that others hadn’t seen. Sometimes the prophet actually sees so far ahead that the prophet’s peers think that the prophet is a little (or a lot) “off his or her rocker.”

• Seeks to right current wrongs

One of the crucial roles of the prophet is to point out when injustice systems and situations exist especially as they may contradict the ways of God. The prophet tells what is wrong and therefore can be unpopular often revealing truths that are painful and uncomfortable for those with privilege and especially for those with power. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke prophetically calling America to right the wrongs of racial discrimination.

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