“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 thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” — Matthew 7:15-20
The devil is a liar and a sweet talker, that mush is true. As many years as he has been deceiving people, he has become the master at tricking people into thinking this or that is okay when, in reality, it isn’t. That’s why we must be careful with what we do, say, listen to, or even read.
For example, last night as I was looking through a couple of books from the library in hopes of doing another post like the last, I read the introduction to the book “The Oxford History of the Biblical World”. Now, most of us probably skip the introductions to books to ‘get to the good stuff ‘. I do this sometimes myself if it is a work of fiction or a book of instructions (cookbooks, science experiments, etc.).
However, when it comes to things related to the Bible, I read everything in an attempt to not be fooled into believing something about God’s word that isn’t true. Going back to the introduction of this book, the editor said the book held a non-biased upon, only presenting the facts that archeologists were able to confirm through their research, but then proceeded to say the Bible held fictional stories with myths and called the Lord the god (little g) of Israel. I had to stop there — some four pages or so in — because of the disgust I felt at the disrespect they had shown God.
(You know, someone once told me that before the printing press was invented and scholars had to make copies of the scriptures with their own hands, the scholars would stop when they reached His name in the text, clean themselves, and grab a new quill before writing His name. They tried their hardest not to let anything unclean touch His name because of how much respect and awe they had for Him. If this is true, then I have to wonder if today do we even come close to honoring Him or respecting Him in such a way?)
I pray you who read this do not think I am angry with this editor. As Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). I am simply offended, like a child would be if they overheard someone badmouthing the parents they love dearly. I suspect that if I hadn’t read that introduction I might have fallen for something that sounded so amazingly wonderful and factorial without ever realizing how far from the truth it actually was. We need to be grounded in the word of God in such a way as to not be fooled by anything that sounds good to our ears.
The people of Judah had this same issue. In the book of Jeremiah, chapter twenty-eight sees a false prophet stand side-by-side with Jeremiah:
“In the fifth month of that same year, the fourth year, early in reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, who was from Gibeon, said to me in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the Lord’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and all the other exiles from Judah who went to Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon’.” — Jeremiah 28:1-4
The people of Judah might have liked Hananiah because of the things he said. What he spoke was probably what they wanted to hear. It all sounded nice and wonderful; everything Babylon took would be returned, including those in exile. Jeremiah was uncertain if Hananiah was truly of the Lord, replying in his own words that he hoped the Lord would do all of these things. However, Jeremiah also warned Hananiah that all the prophets of the Lord in the past prophesied war, not peace. Only time would prove if Hananiah was truly from God.
Then Hananiah took and broke the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck, telling the people:
” “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years’.” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went on his way. After the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Go and tell Hananiah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals’.” –Jeremiah 28:11-14
Once Jeremiah was away from distractions including Hananiah, he was able to clear his mind and seek the counsel of God. When faced with things we are uncertain about, we should do the same: step away from distractions, pray for the counsel of the Lord, and then make a decision before making a hasty one that could lead to bigger problems. Upon hearing the counsel of God, Jeremiah was able to understand where the truth really was:
“Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the Lord’.” In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.” — Jeremiah 28:15-17
Time did bring the proof needed to discern the truth: Hananiah wasn’t a prophet to listen to. He might have spoke of things that sounded wonderful and good, but his lies brought about his downfall. Unfortunately, there are still false prophets and lies being taught today. Some examples of lies shared daily are ‘you look prettier with make-up’, ‘you should dye your hair; gray isn’t a good hair color’, ‘you found out your co-worker tried to spread an awful rumor about you behind your back; you should do the same to them’, and ‘there are multiple ways to get to Heaven’.
Yet if we cling to the truth of God we can live a more joyful life. No, it doesn’t mean we’ll be without troubles, for trials and temptations are a constant of life. However, knowing and being grounded in God’s truth can keep us from striving continuously after empty things and always longing for more or clinging to false hopes and always suffering disappointment when those hopes don’t ring true. Here are some examples of God’s truths we can remember:
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” — 1 Peter 3:3-4
“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” — Proverbs 16:31
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” — 1 Peter 3:9
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.” — John 14:6
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” — Matthew 7:13-14
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” — Romans 10:9
Knowing the truth will free us from the burdens of this world. The lies will continue to be hurled at us in an attempt to drag us down, but if we cling to the truth, writing His words on our hearts without focusing too much on the lies, there will come a day when these lies can no longer have a hold on us. May we dive deeper into His word each and every day so that we may recognize the lies when we are faced with them and not be fooled by the devil’s ‘wonderful’ illusions. May we run wild in His love and live joyfully in His truth.