In God’s Name: Dealing With Presumptuous Prophecies
What are we to do with unfounded “prophetic” predictions concerning Israel?
Yesterday’s headline “Israel Declares End to Corona Crisis” may raise a question or two for some. Can this be true? Aren’t the vaccines dangerous? And what about those predictions of doom?
Green passport or green light?
How are people going to explain their warnings that Israel’s so-called “Green Passport” would divide the country into first- and second-class citizens? “It’s like what the Nazis did!” Yep, that’s what some of them said. Like the multi-millionaire CEO of a pillow company who compares the vaccine that Israelis lined up to receive to the “mark of the beast.” When Mark Lindell attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s vaccination drive, that was enough. We contacted Lindell who refused to be interviewed for this article: Mike Lindell Criticizes Israel Over COVID Vaccination Drive.
What will these prophets of doom say now that our government has given a green light for everyone in the nation (btw Jew and Arab) to come and go as they please, with or without the vaccine? Don’t hold your breath, literally.
Sure, some Messianic Jewish leaders have tried to speak up about these “prophecies” and bring some sanity. Like Mike Brown wrote: “Today, in light of the failed Trump prophecies, which received widespread media attention, and which followed on the heels of the failed end-of-COVID prophecies, prophetic ministry has a bad name. Not only so, but many believers have become spiritually disoriented while many pastors are asking, ‘Who cleans up the mess now?’”
From where I’m sitting (my office in Jerusalem) it doesn’t sound like anybody’s listening.
What do these prophecies sound like to Israelis?
Uhm, you don’t want to know. Instead, let us consider some of the classical ways Jews think about prophets, prophecies, and “thus saith the Lord.”
In Judaism there is just no way an immoral, unjust, “worldly” person can receive any kind of prophetic insight. That’s because in order to “hear God’s voice” you can’t be affected by things like envy, jealousy, fame or fortune. A prophet, or someone who claims to have “heavenly insights,” can never, ever, be influenced by these kinds of emotions. He certainly can’t be out to please man.
And what about money? You tell me. Is it possible for someone to say the “in God’s name” with hidden financial motives? Such things should be obvious for both Jews and Christians.
I don’t even want to try and imagine Isaiah promoting his newest ”End Times Prophecy” book on some Christian television program. “Live from Jerusalem”? Please. It was their commitment to remain unencumbered by the temptations of the flesh that prepared the prophets of Israel to even consider being able to communicate a single word in God’s name. (see Isaiah 6: 1-8)
Prophets and seers were men and women who “went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—wandering in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground [without a pillow]– of whom the world is not worthy” (Hebrews 11).
In the Jewish world, you don’t listen to someone who has not demonstrated spiritual maturity by living sacrificially for the will of God over time. You had to be a certain age and old enough to have lived a well-rounded life and learned to handle all the ups and downs, ins and outs and incomprehensible bits of life on this earth. How else could these men communicate with such beauty and depth as we find in Scripture, touching on every area of life, past, present and future?
One of the Jewish people’s greatest Torah teachers, Maimonides, points out that it wasn’t until Our Teacher Moses that anyone in Scripture was given the responsibility to speak “in God’s name.” Moses is considered the greatest prophet because he “saw God face-to-face,” who then revealed to him His unique name, YHWH.
Consider that Moses endured wanderings and desert exiles before he was willing to utter a single word about the Most High. Do not forget, of Moses it is written that he is “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). We could all use some of that when thinking about the Creator of the Universe. My Bible professor used to say, “write theology in pencil.”
Maimonides further notes that Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son is an example of the devotion to God needed to hear His “voice.” Abraham was willing to deny himself the deepest, most profound human emotion of a parent’s love for his child in order to fully obey God. To deny our most natural instincts in obedience to God, that’s quite an ask. Abraham became a visionary for the tribes of Israel, and a blessing to the nations. (Rambam deals with, “O that all my people would be prophets,” but I’ll leave that for another time)
The path to spiritual confusion
This above is just a brief scratch on the surface of some of the qualities required to be considered someone we should trust with the words “thus saith the Lord” on his lips.
It should now be clear that money, fame, or other worldly gains cannot be mixed-up with God’s voice. I fear that much of modern Christianity has the idea that just about anyone can hear God’s voice. As though there are no rules or consequences for speaking in the “name of God.” Read the punishments in Scripture for false prophets and teachers. They are severe, and rightfully so, as this is no small matter.
In Jewish learning, just saying you know what God is saying is strictly forbidden. It is dangerous and leads to spiritual confusion. Should we allow leaders to declare “in the name of God” carelessly or as a commodity in the marketplace?
Which brings us back to today’s events in Israel and “The End of Corona.” Over here we are used to just about any event concerning Israel, large or small, being followed by a chorus of prophetic utterances.
This time around there is a phenomenon that I’m not quite sure what to call. What is it when someone makes a prediction, and when it doesn’t come to pass, subsequent events are then interpreted as a fulfillment? For example, some are still saying that Israel’s successful vaccination campaign against COVID is leading the country to disaster. Now that Israel is dealing really well with that (thank you very much), we do have plenty of other problems (no surprise there) like Hamas rockets, Netanyahu’s legal woes, and Arab-Jewish strife. So what do these “prophets” do? They say these troubles are the result of Israel’s sinful submission to the vaccine! Now that is a wily manipulation of reality. Perhaps we should call it “self-filling prophecy,” because you get to fill-in the blanks for yourself.
If anyone can come up with a better name for moving the goal post to allow for anything to confirm prophetic fulfillment, let me know. It is time we use our God-given common sense and call out these false prophecies and prophets for what they truly are.
For further reading:
Apocalypse Now? Navigating News, Prophecy & Israel – A biblical precedent for interpretation in relation to current events
Prophecy — Who Needs It? Coronavirus has rekindled End Times prophecy. How should we relate to this?