photo by Laura Evans
But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people.
Jeremiah 23:22 ESV
Dear ICB family,
On Sunday we saw from Jeremiah 23 what is perhaps the defining characteristic of a false prophet: They were people who, without standing in God's council first, spoke their own thoughts as if they were God's.
Throughout the Old Testament, God is portrayed as a king in a throne room surrounded by his heavenly council (Psalm 82:1; 89:1–5). That council is not there to give God advice. In fact, according to Jeremiah 23:18, people enter the council of God "to see and to hear his word," meaning they're not the ones doing the talking. God talks, and according to Jeremiah, those in his council are to pay attention to his word and listen. Very simply put, true prophets are those who have been counted among God's council, who have paid attention to and have listened to his words, and who then speak what they've heard to God's people.
We might be discouraged by the distance that seems to separate us right now from God's heavenly throne room. How does a person today stand in God's council, hear his word, and with any certainty claim to speak those words to God's people?
Jesus promised his disciples this in John 16:12–15: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
In other words, the Spirit of God takes the words of God, declares them to the followers of the Son of God, and leads those followers into the truth of God. When the Spirit who lives within us speaks and we listen, we are standing in God's council.
The question then becomes, How do we hear the Spirit speak? Second Peter 1:21 says, "[N]o prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." Who put the words in the prophets' hearts that were eventually recorded by the prophets' pens? The Holy Spirit. In other words, if you want to hear the Holy Spirit speak directly, open your Bible. He has spoken, and because his words are alive, he continues to speak through that same word even now. My Bible is printed on over 1300 pages. The Holy Spirit has a lot to tell us.
This is how we enter the council of God today. The Spirit who lives within us speaks to us through the words of the Bible. We can stand in the council of God by listening to and paying attention to the Spirit as he speaks and guides us into all truth, and then—and only then—can we open our mouths and speak to others "as one who speaks oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:10–11).
Just be warned: There are no shortcuts. The person whose heart is not filled with the Spirit of God and whose mind is not steeped in the words of God should not expect to enter into the council of God, meaning such a person should never claim to speak the message of God to the people of God.
Are you filled with the Spirit, and do you know the Bible? Before you ever open your mouth to say a word, you must. Otherwise, you just might just find yourself lumped in with the false prophets of Jeremiah 23.
Longing for God's council,