In all the Bible, I don’t think there is very much that is worse than a false prophet. In fact, I am pretty sure the Lord abhors it for the tongue of a false prophet is a lying tongue. It is especially disturbing to think that a man, whom God abhors, is spoken well of by all. However, this thing happened in ancient Israel, it was happening during the time of Jesus, after Jesus and all the way to today. It does not take much to find a man who claims to have a message from God, but when checked with Scripture, is evident it is not. And men speak well of such a man. Notice the words of Jesus:
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.”
Israel loved the false prophets so much and spoke well of them because the false prophet carried a good message. While the true prophets (Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc.) were prophecy gloom and doom, death and destruction, the false prophets were saying that none of this was going to happen, in fact, carry on as though it is business as usual. Jeremiah had a direct message from God and a powerful illustration to go with it: he had to wear a yoke around his neck, pointing to the yoke Israel would wear in captivity. Hananiah the false prophet got the clever idea to prophecy in the name of Jehovah, God Almighty, that the yoke would be broken. (see Jer 28.1ff). He even went so far as to take the yoke off of Jeremiah and break it. And the crowd praised Hananiah and spoke well of him…except God. Because of what Hananiah had done, God would not bring a wooden yoke upon Israel – he was bringing a yoke of iron (Jer 28.14).
This is just one example of the kinds of things false prophets do: they rally the people together, preach a message not from God of prosperity, and ultimately lead the people into a situation worse than that which they were in. Their path leads only to death and destruction (see Jer 28.17). This is why Jesus’ words are so important. One commentator remarked that “a true prophet is too uncomfortable to be popular.” The true prophet (i.e. spokesman for God) is one whose message is not always pleasant and good to hear but it is what the people need to hear. John the Baptists message was direct and to the point, second only in directness and poignancy to Jesus. And he ended up with his head cut off and Jesus’ own people crucified him. Nevertheless, if the true prophet fails to proclaim the word of the Lord, woe to him.
Christians carry a message that is not always pleasant. Because God and Jesus deal in the realm of absolutes, man has a hard time accepting the facts. It is absolutely true that Jesus is the way, the only way to the Father; no one goes to the Father but through Jesus. This is ungetaroundable. But the false prophet will say, “Yes, jesus said that, but he did not really mean that. Surely there are other ways to the Father.” And the crowd will cheer, unaware that this false prophet has just signed all their death warrants. It may not be kosher or PC, but Jesus is the only way to the Father any way you cut it. And as God’s representatives on earth, carrying with us the message of the King, we must proclaim this truth lest Jesus’ woe fall upon our ears on the day of judgment.