Beware false prophets…By their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-16)
A week from Sunday we will have to talk more extensively about this metaphor which the Lord uses over and over again, namely: agricultural production. The truth, union with God, trustworthiness—all are judged according to standard of “fruitfulness”–the bearing of good results, results befitting the divine kingdom.
So we will have to come back to that, the ‘fruitfulness’ analogy. A week from Sunday. For now, let’s focus on this: False prophets do come, who look like sweet little sheep, but actually they raven like wolves.
The history of ancient Israel ran with false prophets. At important turning points, the battle grew especially pitched–the battle between true and false prophets of the Lord.
In both the northern and southern kingdoms, false prophets preached comfort and accommodation, even when the people compromised with paganism and effectively abandoned the religion of Israel.
Elijah and Jeremiah both suffered at the hands of false prophets and their palace intrigues. The false prophets ravened like wolves after prestige, after royal favor, and—above all—they ravened after a false and easy peace in which to bask.
The true prophets, on the other hand, declared: We are not in the right. We have betrayed the Lord. If we don’t repent and turn back to Him, the sword of foreigners will beset us, and we will lose everything.
Maybe things look good now. But that does not mean they are good. We have to love God with all we have. If we do, then, no matter what happens to us, we will still have the most important thing, namely our covenant with Him. But if we coast along on the surface and ignore the corruption that has invaded our souls, we will lose even the surface prosperity that we now have.
By their fruits you will know them. The false prophets preached happy-happy-no-problems. Then the Assyrians came. Then the Babylonians came.
On the other hand, the true prophets preached repentance and reconciliation with God. When the people listened, real peace came. Jonah warned the Ninevites. They listened, and the Lord stayed His wrath. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel gave the exiled Israelites a vision of faithful service to God, a picture of a roadway back to the Promised Land of His love. The people believed and followed.
So the Lord Jesus referred to all this history and more when He drew His distinction between true and false prophets. He was drawing the Sermon on the Mount to a close.
The doctrine of Christ requires a lot of us. But the alternative is to listen to shallow advice from self-serving glamor-seekers. Their advice might make us comfortable for the moment. But it leads to ruin in the long run.
Listening to Christ means short-term sacrifice and long-term glory.