The language is Deuteronomy 18 may be harsh, but Moses clearly conveys God’s unwillingness to tolerate His name being used inappropriately. That isn’t only about adding His name to curses for emphasis. That is never appropriate, but it isn’t the biggest misuse of God’s name. Prophets, preachers, messengers, and all Christians must be mindful of using God for our purposes rather than His. When we do that, we become false prophets.
Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you yourselves requested of the Lord your God when you were assembled at Mount Sinai. You said, ‘Don’t let us hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore or see this blazing fire, for we will die.’
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘What they have said is right. I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf. But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’ (Deuteronomy 18:15-20 NLT)
The best way to discern false prophecy is to put the words of the prophet into God’s mouth and see how they sound. When I’m confused by false teaching, I ask the Holy Spirit for help. God quietly asks, “Does that sound like Me?” I almost always grin and say, “No, it doesn’t, Lord.”
The times I don’t grin and see the truth are times when I’m trying to convince myself. I want to be right. I want to retaliate. I want revenge. I want others to see my point. I want others to know how hard I work. God waits patiently for me to hear His truth; but His voice is the soft one, so the other voices must die down before I can hear His.
Moses knew the difficulty of hearing God, and he knew it was even harder to get the Israelites to hear God’s message from Him. The work of a prophet is the most difficult in the world. It’s tempting to use the position for personal gain, power, or sympathy. The false gods are powerful ones that are easy to hear. Satan always agrees and and says exactly what we want to hear. False prophets do the same.
Prophets are human. They make mistakes and feel the same emotions we all feel. God’s messengers make a beautiful difference in the world by giving hope to His children. They feed His sheep. When prophets do anything else, they are treading in very dangerous waters. God knows false gods are tempting, but He also knows their message will hurt His children. He doesn’t like for His children to be hurt, and that is especially true when the harm done is in His name. Every parent can relate to that. We know the dangers our children face, and we worry about the temptations in their paths.
God will not be used or abused by false prophets and teachers. I don’t believe verse 20 means God will strike down and kill those who use His name falsely. Otherwise, there would be no humans left on this planet. I think it means the words of false prophets must die before I can hear His truth.
I can’t discern false prophets without the help of the Holy Spirit. Evil’s greatest power is disguising itself as good. The truth isn’t always easy to hear, but the words of those who say what I want to hear is like sweet honey until it finds its way into my heart. There it becomes a bitter pill. False prophets hide the resentment and jealousy in their own hearts. Their messages are their messages, and they leave me as depleted as they are.
God’s messengers love Him and speak His truth with a love that makes me want to love Him too. Their messages feed and fill me with a sense of wonder that nudges me a little nearer to God.
A close relationship with Christ helps me see the wolf lurking under the sheep’s clothing of a false prophet, and it also helps me flush out any wolves who may be roaming around in my own heart.