How Many African Preachers Imitate Israel’s False Prophets

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

God doesn’t blackmail his people into fearing him; however, fearful reverence and awe is appropriate among those who know the true God. Thus, central to the Old Testament prophets’ ministry was the call for repentance. They repeatedly exhorted God’s people to turn from idols back to God. Only the people didn’t. Continuing this loose series of articles, I want to look at one of the three reasons Israel didn’t repent, leading to exile: the false prophets and priests. For in addition to their wayward leaders and hearts, Israel were horribly misled by false prophets and priests. The church in Africa faces a similar threat today.

My hope for this article is twofold. Firstly, I pray that more Christians will turn up and study the writings of the Old Testament prophets. These lessons were written for us as both a warning and an encouragement as we look to Christ our hope of glory (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). Therefore they have so much to teach us, bringing me to the second hope; that we’d learn the lesson they didn’t concerning false prophets. Hear the words of Ezekiel: “False prophets and those who seek their guidance will be punished” (Ezekiel 14:10). We have so much to learn from these true prophets about how dangerous false prophets and teachers are.

Jeremiah Sounds the Warning

“‘From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:13-15; 8:11-12).

In this passage, Jeremiah brings two accusations against Israel’s false prophets, teachers, and priests.

Firstly, “they have healed the wound of God’s people lightly.” This shows that the prophets and the teachers don’t see the wound, the sickness, or the problem that God’s people have as life-threatening. Instead, they consider it a small, insignificant thing, offering superficial treatments. Secondly, “they say ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” That is, they give assurance of peace, life, and prosperity to those that God has condemned (Jeremiah 6:11; 14:13-14; 27:14-16; Ezekiel 13:10, 16).

What is happening in this passage is akin to a doctor giving painkillers to someone that is having a heart attack, saying: “You will live.” In this scenario, death is assured.

We’re Worse Off Than (False) Prophets Admit

Some might be wondering: what is the wound Jeremiah speaks about? The answer comes from the passage’s context and book of Jeremiah as a whole. For example, the prophet says that Israel has nothing but oppression within her borders (Jeremiah 6:6). He then adds, “As a well keeps its water fresh, so she keeps fresh her evil; violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me” (Jeremiah 6:7).

Thus the wound is none other than Israel’s persistent idolatry and injustice. They’re an evil people, far from God. Furthermore, God says that they hate his truth. “The word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it” (Jeremiah 6:10).

Despite this, the false prophets promise peace and prosperity. They either ignore or are woefully ignorant of Israel’s spiritual wellbeing and worship. We know from the remainder of the Old Testament that their ministry led to Israel’s exile, not to mention great suffering (Ezekiel 14:10; Jeremiah 6:11; 14:18).

A Warnings for the African Church

Many modern-day teachers and false prophets are doing the same to those who sit under their ministries and prophecies. They are distracting people from their greatest need; from their great spiritual plight and the need for repentance and faith. Below are two pervasive and dangerous teachings in Africa. Like the prophets Jeremiah rebuked, these men and women proclaim “peace, peace” instead of “repent and believe.”

In misdiagnosing what’s really wrong with us, the prosperity gospel supplies an impotent and ultimately deadly antidote. As we’ve seen in Jeremiah, every single human has a soul threatening wound or sickness. That is, we all harbour hearts that are passionately in rebellion against God (Romans 3:11-12, 18; John 3:19). But sin isn’t something you’ll hear most prosperity gospel preachers proclaim. Why? It doesn’t bring the crowds. It won’t draw the big offerings.

Instead, they tell us our greatest needs are physical and material, rather than identifying our enmity towards God. So they turn Jesus’ work on the cross into a lever for blessings instead of addressing the fundamental sinfulness of mankind (Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 9:28). They twist the word of God into a lie (Jeremiah 8:8), reducing it to a means of becoming wealthy and prosperous. God reconciles sinners by his gospel (Romans 5:8-10); he doesn’t promise them riches. Make no mistake. God will judge his people for their sins (Amos 5:18). Don’t settle for empty earthly promises and an eternity in hell.

Beware Those Declaring “Peace, Peace”

By teaching us these things, false prophets and teachers are proclaiming a false Christianity. The salvation and peace they promise isn’t reconciliation with God. It doesn’t even look past this material world and our short lifespans. They’re saying “peace, peace.” Don’t listen. Be warned. They are offering us painkillers for a heart attack, so death is assured (Ezekiel 13:9-13; 14:7-9; 21:29).

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