Jeremiah 27:1–28:17, Romans 5:1–21, Proverbs 20:1–12, Acts 21:10–13
A prophet is one who hears God speak and declares what God says to others. Even though many claim to be prophets, God established a test. Jeremiah told the people that God would bring them into tough times, but other ‘prophets’ said that was not true. God said, “The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.” (Jeremiah 28:8–9)
This test remains the same, even today. It is needed because some claim they have a “prophetic ministry” and make proclamations like, “God told me to tell you that . . . .”
Discerning the will of God for others might be from God, but the danger of personal desire and inaccurate interpretation can bring these ‘prophesies’ into question. In the book of Acts, a prophet named Agabus came to Paul as he prepared to go to Jerusalem. He took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”
Paul’s fellow workers were upset and all urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:10–13)
Agabus might have got the prophecy right, but the people missed the will of God in the application because they didn’t want that to happen to Paul. For them, personal comfort was a priority.
It was the same in Jeremiah’s day. He told the people they would be in bondage in Babylon according to the will of God. A false prophet said otherwise. From God, Jeremiah answered, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. I have not sent them, declares the Lord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you.” (Jeremiah 27:14–15)
Then Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’ ” In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died. (Jeremiah 28:15–17)
Reading in Proverbs, I am still thinking if we humans love peace and comfort far too much, we will suffer. Solomon wrote, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4) Laziness is one example of a love for comfort.
While God blesses and protects us, most Christians know that God has a purpose for discomfort and suffering. He says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5)
I’ve often prayed for increased faith, increased endurance, a life that is more Christ-like, and actually forget that all these things do not come easily. For character to deepen, I must experience trials and suffering. How foolish to ask God to “fix it” when it is me that He is trying to fix.