God Isn’t Always Going to Say What You Want to Hear

This blog was originally written by Lucky Mogakane and posted on TGC Africa.

In a recent article, I reflected on the ministry of false prophets in Israel’s history. By highlighting how together with the priests they misled Israel, eventually resulting in exile, my aim was to warn against the very real danger of false prophets today. However, in this article I want to look at that danger, from the other side: Israel contributed to her own exile by choosing those prophets. Why? Because they made better sounding promises than the likes of Isaiah or Jeremiah.

Likewise, today, in Africa many of us are pursuing prophets and powerful men of God. Ministries promising peace and prosperity, health and wealth are far more appealing. But, in the long run, beware preachers and teachers who offer short term fixes to eternal solutions. I fear that at Christ’s return many people will be exiled from God’s presence forever, because they followed after men and women preaching a “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). So I hope that by reflecting on the false prophets of the Old Testament I’ll be able to alert readers to the real danger of their counterparts on our continent today.

Israel Chose Desirable Messages

One of God’s most damning accusations against Judah was that they didn’t want to hear about God. Instead, they wanted to hear “smooth things.” As one prophet puts it, “They are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel’” (Isaiah 30:9-11).

A closer look at those verses shows that God’s people didn’t want to hear messages pointing them back to God.

Firstly, “they are unwilling to hear the instructions of God,” or his words. Secondly, they rejected sound doctrine, saying to the prophets “do not prophecy to us what is right.” Thirdly, they rejected content focusing on God, encouraging the prophets not to speak to them about God at all. Finally, they wanted to hear “smooth things,” messages tuned to their hearts’ desires (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

All in all, Israel rejected messages that would point them back to God. They rather favoured preaching that demanded nothing from them.

Riches Sound Better Than Repentance

Jeremiah’s accusation against Judah adds to the above list. He says that they rejected prophets who called them to repentance. Through Jeremiah God says, “I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.’ But you did not incline your ear or listen to me.” (Jeremiah 35:15).

They preferred what other prophets promised them. Turning back to God sounded like hard work. And the empty promises of peace always have a greater allure than exhortations to repentance. However, this attitude would result in exile for God’s people (Jeremiah 30:18). Thus, the prophet adds, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (Jeremiah 5:30-31).

In Choosing False Prophets They Chose Exile

Unfortunately, this attitude resulted in Israel going into exile. For 70 years.

Daniel, praying in exile, confessed on behalf of the nation, “We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land…and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets” (Daniel 9:5-6, 10).

God’s people were exiled because they sinned against God. They turned away from God’s word, to empty and more desirable messages. When God sent his prophets to call them back to repentance they refused, choosing for themselves false prophets who promised peace when there was no peace (Jeremiah 8:11).

A Warning for the African Church

The church in Africa reflects much of what was happening in Judah, before God sent her into exile. Regardless of the various warnings in the Bible against false prophets, many still flock to them. The reason for this is because, like Judah, many African Christians love the works of false prophets and teachers. That is, they love their impressive ministriesanointing, and miracles.

Therefore, when they’re warned about such and such a man of God, they rush to defend him. A recent, and hugely tragic example of this is how people responded to the T. B. Joshua scandal, showing that they love T. B. Joshua more than they love the truth of God. Put another way, many of them respect the ministry of this supposed man of God more than they respect the authority of God’s word.

Today, African believers flock to these men and women of God for every reason other than their ability to teach the word of God truthfully. Crusades, revivals, conferences and countless ministries are arranged around and centred on some powerful prophetic figure. People don’t come to hear from God, but to see miracles and bathe in the anointing. More so, they come to hear about promises for a prosperity and peace-filled future. They’re chasing after everything but God himself. As Jeremiah asks, “What will you do when the end comes?”

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