The Bible is not a romantic or utopian book. Sweet talk is absent (except The Song of Songs). Because of the fall and the perennial and perpetual presence of sin, men and women lie to deceive themselves and to deceive others. Worse yet, people lie in the name of God. Untruth sweetly drips from dirty mouths; their deceitful hearts lead them on the wide path that leads to destruction.
These are hard words, even impolite or impolitic. But without hard, true, and necessary words, untruths are left to breed, infest, and infect the church and the world.
Micah, the true prophet of the living God, knew the power of lies; he knew the pleasing form that lies can take when cloaked in religious talk and dress. The Book of Micah begins:
The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Hear, you peoples, all of you,
listen, earth and all who live in it,
that the Sovereign Lord may bear witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple (1:1-2).
Micah then faithfully proclaims hard and true words to God’s rebellious people. They will be judged for their sins. Micah weeps and wails, howls, and moans in lament for his beloved people.
Because of this I will weep and wail;
I will go about barefoot and naked.
I will howl like a jackal
and moan like an owl.
For Samaria’s plague is incurable;
it has spread to Judah.
It has reached the very gate of my people,
even to Jerusalem itself (1:8-9).
He faced facts that made his heart fail. The truth could not be swept aside by positive thinking or creative visualization or by claiming a promise God never made.
Yet in the face of religious and national crisis, those of Judah and Jerusalem turn to “the pillow prophets” (as David Wilkerson called them)—the prophets of the lie whose words flatter and sooth a bad conscience:
“Do not prophesy,” their prophets say.
“Do not prophesy about these things;
disgrace will not overtake us.”
You descendants of Jacob, should it be said,
“Does the Lord become impatient?
Does he do such things?”
“Do not my words do good
to the one whose ways are upright?
Lately my people have risen up
like an enemy.
You strip off the rich robe
from those who pass by without a care,
like men returning from battle.
You drive the women of my people
from their pleasant homes.
You take away my blessing
from their children forever.
Get up, go away!
For this is not your resting place,
because it is defiled,
it is ruined, beyond all remedy.
If a liar and deceiver comes and says,
‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’
that would be just the prophet for this people! (2:6-11).
These prognosticators turn to the occult, which God condemns. The occult is the practice of contacting and using the spiritual world in ways that reject the God of the Bible. God’s people were warned:
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
God brings judgment on those who want power and knowledge apart from what he has revealed through his prophets.
I will destroy your witchcraft
and you will no longer cast spells.
I will destroy your idols
and your sacred stones from among you;
you will no longer bow down
to the work of your hands.
I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles
when I demolish your cities.
I will take vengeance in anger and wrath
on the nations that have not obeyed me (12-15).
The false prophets wanted nothing of negativity and doom. They cover their ears at the voice of God’s mouthpiece. The people of Samaria and Jerusalem took the god of their imagination to be the one true God of the Covenant. But that Covenant threated punishment for disobedience as well as blessing for obedience (Deuteronomy 8:28). With their cities under judgment, their lives hanging by a thread, and their children about to be cursed beyond cure, they preferred prophesies about plenteous wine and bear. They would not imbibe. God declares of the pillow prophets:
The seers will be ashamed
and the diviners disgraced.
They will all cover their faces
because there is no answer from God (3:7).
Lies fail in the end. Liars reap shame. Truth triumphs; but we are caught in between the truth and the lie, stretched in both directions. What, then, can be done?
Micah offers hope founded on truth—the truth of God himself. The book speaks of the restoration of God’s people in the near and long-term future. The key to individual repentance and renewal is to heed God and live in his presence and according to his commands and promises. Micah sums this up memorably:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God (6:8).
God has made known what is good and what opposes his well. We are without excuse.
Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;
but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction (Proverbs 29:17).
The knowledge of God and his ways is not optional; it is mandatory. How can we stand in the truth, stand for the truth, and stand against false prophets?
This cannot be done on the cheap. Liars can be persuasive. They may be starter than you are. To be lazy concerning truth means that you will become deceived and a deceiver. As Blaise Pascal wrote in Pensées:
Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.
Paul warned us:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2; see also 1 John 2:15-17).
A Christian offers herself as a “living sacrifice” by setting her mind on heavenly things, the things of God (Colossians 3:1-2). Ultimate reference for us is not the fallen world but the risen Christ. To build up one’s faith in the truth of God, one needs godly priorities.
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Romans 10:17).
If you want to unmask and confront false prophets, false teachings, and false Bibles, then take heed to the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12). Without the standard, you cannot discern the counterfeit. Read the Bible regularly; attend a Bible-believing and teaching church; meditate and memorize passage of holy writ. Take other things out of your life to make space for truth.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1).
Let truth guide and shape your emotions. Hebrews exhorts those who were underachievers in the truth in this way:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Hebrew 5:11-14).
Until the end, false prophets will speak enticing words of error in the name of God, the Bible, truth, love, and goodness. The people of God must be discerning. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11; see also Proverbs 1:10).
For more on how the Old Testament prophets speak today, see Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City and Abraham Heschel, The Prophets.