Twice in today’s Bible reading* we read of someone delivering news from the Lord. And both times, it was wrong. They were false prophets.
In 2 Samuel 16:21, Ahithophel told Absalom to rape David’s concubines to demonstrate his contempt for David. Ahithophel also encouraged Absalom to pursue David to kill him. Hushai warned Absalom that Ahithophel’s advise was not wise, reminding him that David and his men were skilled warriors. But Absalom wouldn’t hear it. (2 Samuel 17:7)
Now the advice Ahithophel gave in those days was like someone asking about a word from God—such was the regard that both David and Absalom had for Ahithophel’s advice.
(2 Samuel 16:23 CSB)
After Joab kills Absalom, two runners carry the message to David. Both messengers credit Absalom’s death to the work of the Lord. (2 Samuel 18:28, 31) Both of these messengers were false prophets.
We need more people to be discerning, weighing what is said when someone claims to be speaking for God. 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 tells us that spiritual gifts like prophecy will end when the “perfect” comes. Some say that the “perfect” has been fulfilled now that we have God’s perfect Word, the Bible. They say that God doesn’t speak this way anymore; He doesn’t need to.
But Paul himself clarifies what he means by the “perfect”: when we see Jesus face-to-face. (1 Corinthians 13:12) Prophecy is a spiritual gift, given to the church to build it up to be more like Jesus. And until we see Him face-to-face, we need spiritual gifts like prophecy.
Not everyone who claims to speak for God actually is, even when they’re teaching and preaching God’s Word. Many who claim to speak for God are like Ahithophel; they are false prophets. Prophecy is a spiritual gift. So is the discernment of spirits.
We are commanded to test prophecies. (1 Corinthians 14:29–32) We test prophecies by listening to God in prayer and knowing God’s Word. God will never contradict what He has revealed in His Word. When those with discernment speak, we need to listen and test the prophecy against God’s Word, lest we be deceived by false prophets.
“Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing
but inwardly are ravaging wolves.”
Matthew 7:15 (CSB)
But not all false prophets are wolves. Sometimes they are simply immature or misled. It’s up to the church to work with these to help them develop their gift and listen more clearly.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
2 Samuel 16
2 Samuel 17
2 Samuel 18