As Covid-19 continues to spread around the world as the pandemic that it is, I can’t help but think, this is your time to shine, faith healer. Surely, we don’t need quarantines or sheltering in place if the faith healers are on the move and expressing dominion over the Coronavirus. This is what you were born for, is it not? You need not hide, oily-fingered, behind the confines of the television screen. Why not drive the virus out, say, from Italy or Spain? Why not walk the streets of New York City with outstretched hands and cast out that sneaky, little sickness? Perhaps, and this is just a hair-brained idea here—because far be it from me to suggest how one such as yourself ought to handle these types of things—but perhaps you can rebuke the unclean spirits of sickness with some pomp and circumstance by casting them—hear me out—into a horde bats. You can really get creative here. Jesus cast demons into a herd of swine, who then went headlong over the cliffside and into the sea. Think of what you can do with bats! Yet I must admit my skepticism that you can actually do anything at all, besides fleece the flock and devour widow’s houses. This is, after all, what false prophets do best.
In all of this, I can’t help but think of a wonderful example from the Minor Prophets for us from the book of Micah. The book of Micah deals with widespread corruption in Israel; from the greatest to the least—from the princes, rulers, judges, prophets, and even every man, woman, and child—wholesale corruption of Israel has taken place. Micah comes to deliver a message of divine judgment from Yahweh; the Lord is no longer going to abide in patience with this people, but He will come as a Judge from His chambers and pronounce an edict upon them for their wickedness. At the same time, the book is filled with incredible hope, as the prophet depicts a day when Israel’s Messiah will not only come to be born of a virgin, but He will return to the earth at the end of all days to set all things right. In other words, Micah pronounces both a cursing and a blessing to these people. His message is one of judgment and salvation. Judgment is to be poured out upon the household of Israel for her wickedness, yet out of this judgment God inspires hope in His future salvation.
As we drill into the specifics of the book of Micah, we see some general commonalities that carry over to our modern context quite easily. People in positions of power and influence exercise their power corruptly—yet wickedness on a national level is not only practiced, but actively celebrated. Obviously the comparison is not one-to-one. The United States is not Israel, nor are we being invaded by the Assyrians, and subsequently the Babylonians, so that they might bring us into exile and bondage. However, there are some underlying themes which quite easily carry through to us today. One such theme is that of the false prophets depicted in chapter 3.
We find out in verse five that the false prophets are using their position to line their pockets with the money of the corrupt rulers, who have taken the money from the common Israelite. The false prophets go from region to region to pronounce one of two things upon Israel’s rulers: blessing or cursing. Of course we see here that these pronouncements are tied to what they can get out of it through extortion. They give a pronouncement of blessing and peace to the one who gives them what they want and keeps them fed; to the one who gives them nothing, the declare gloom and doom.
At the same time, the rulers of Israel had so hardened their hearts against God that they have their own personal team of prophets on the bankroll. So in one sense you have these wicked rulers who are biting and devouring their own people so they can live a life of affluence and ease, and then the prophets are standing behind the rulers muttering threats of war sent by God if they don’t get a cut. There’s really no message of doom, and when the message of doom comes from the mouth of one of the false prophets, you slip Zedekiah a handful of shekels and ol’ Zed suddenly calms down a little bit. He promises that with the seed of faith you sowed, you’ve just bought yourself some peace of God. They have this whole scheme set up together; the rulers rip off their own countrymen, the prophets rip off the rulers, and neither call one another out for their sin.
As a result of the wickedness of the prophets, we see in vv. 6-7 that God will judge them equally as harshly as the rulers (v. 4). Verse six speaks to the fact that in the very near future, they are going to turn to the Lord with an earnest desire to hear from Him. They’re going to cry out to the Lord, yet they will experience a deafening silence and darkness will be brought upon them. The darkness brought upon them is speaking to the idea that though these men were once guides to the people, there would now be a complete blackout for them. They will see no visions, dream no dreams, and hear nothing. One of the things I find interesting in the Bible is that even though there are false prophets mentioned all over the place, whether it’s the corrupt prophets of Israel, a man like Balaam, or even the magicians in Pharaoh’s court—the Bible never once assumes that they couldn’t actually do what they said they could. The Scriptures instead focus largely upon the message of the prophet, and they are judged accordingly (Deut. 13:13-16; 18:14-22).
The thing to keep in mind here is that Micah is prophesying against these corrupt rulers and prophets telling of a judgement to come—and they don’t believe him. They have been making a practice of ignoring the Law of God, both on how they are to rule, and how they are to speak for God, and God has been seemingly absent with retribution for over a hundred years. It’s not simply that these men have gotten away with it, but their fathers and their father’s fathers have gotten away with it. Thus, Micah preaches judgement and lady wisdom is crying out in the gates with him, pleading for repentance—and they will not listen. Yet on the day of their calamity, they will cry out and no one will respond. Verse 7 then lays out this reality all the more clearly; these false prophets will be seen for precisely who they were the whole time and they will cover their mouths in abject shame. There will be no mistaking their corruption; there will be no mistaking their blame. They cried for peace as they lined their pockets—yet the Lord will raise a ferocious people to utterly wipe them out.
One of the things that might slip by here though is that the second half of verse 7 plays off of the first half of verse 4; the rulers are going to come to the prophets and inquire of the Lord, but neither will receive an answer back, which is to the complete shame of the prophet. Micah isn’t talking about some small measure of shame here either; he is saying that whatever honor they felt from their role will be stripped away because they won’t have a word from God to deliver. On the day when the Assyrians and Babylonians invade Jerusalem and Samaria, the false prophets will seek Him in earnest, and all they will find in return is a deafening silence. At the time where they presumed they would be able to plead upon the Lord’s mercy and grace, and intercede for their country, the only answer they will get is silence; the calm before the storm. That brings us, in one sense, full circle to where we are today.
I must admit, the palpable, forced silence of purported faith healers, or perhaps better called false prophets, has been a not-so-secret delight of mine. By this, I certainly don’t mean that they have actually been silent, but that their cries have not even gone beyond the stratosphere. They don the pretense of one who sees and hears from God, yet their fledgling screams fall deaf before the God they claim to follow, yet invariably misrepresent and blaspheme in the grossest of ways. I delight in the fact that the faith healer will be brought to silence and open shame, because my great hope is that those who are deceived by them, willfully or no, will finally wake up to the disgusting antics of these “prophets” and recognize their own complicit foolishness in supporting them. In one sense, this is an alarmingly frightful thing. It is a terrifying notion for one to fall into the hands of the living God when He is wroth with them. Yet at the same time, it is a comforting thing, as God’s retribution will one day come upon those who have so zealously testified to the glories of their father, Satan. I am hopeful to see the justice of God upheld and the frauds exposed. My genuine desire is to see the Word of Faith movement spasm and die an ugly death; that the death-rattle which grows with every breath would finally cease, and all that would be left of it is the desecrated remains of a heretical movement that deserves no proper burial.If it isn’t clear: I loathe everything the prosperity gospel peddler stands for. Everything. They are, as Jude puts it, “…men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” (Jd. 1:12-13). They are the dogs that return to their own vomit; the swine that wallows in their own filth (2 Pet. 2:22). False prophets are swindlers, con-artists, revilers, backbiters, liars, thieves, gluttons, and bloated wolves who feast upon the flesh of the naïve, the double-minded, and the easily deceived. They deserve every bit of mockery they receive and the one who downplays the severity of what these false prophets do, knowing full-well what the Scriptures condemn, likewise shares in their guilt (2 Jn. 1:7-11).
These faith healers are the ones who are causing divisions in the church. They are spoiling the unity of the body and undermining the authority of those whom God has appointed to care for the flock. They are worldly, or naturally-minded, meaning they embrace the system of beliefs that is opposed to God and therefore, everything that flows from them is carnal. These false prophets are devoid of the Spirit. They profess the Christian faith; they even designate themselves as this type of super-spiritual Christian, yet there is not one ounce of their hearts reserved for worship and adoration of Christ. They claim to have dreams and visions; they claim to have direct communication with God by the power of the Spirit, yet they do not even possess the Spirit of God, as any true believer would. Everything they do is defined by sacrilege and rebellion and all of it is with the intent to pull people away from the faith. It is my great hope that not only will these men be exposed during this time for the complete hacks they are, but that the genuine church would rise up and, “…have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jd. 1:22-23). If even just a handful are brought out of the Word of Faith movement as a result of seeing these false prophets as they are, let God be praised.
To say more to this point, the ultimate message of Micah is one in which we see the Messiah presented ever so clearly. Jesus Christ is not only depicted in His first coming, but also in His return. The message of Micah then, though laden with the fierce message of God’s judgment, is also laced with the hope of Jesus Christ in all its fullness. What this displays to the reader is that God’s ultimate purposes are not simply to condemn and destroy in holy wrath, but to save and redeem a people for Himself. In this, Micah draws us to see that God’s justice is a restorative justice; He will cleanse the land and the people, and then promises to reserve a remnant of faithful Hebrews who stand to inherit the promises to the great patriarch Abraham.
In much the same way, we can apply the theme to our circumstances today. God is not vacant. He sees the abuse of His people through charlatans whose only desire is sordid gain. The wickedness of these men and women rises to the throne room of the Great Judge, and He shall once more come out of His chambers as the true and righteous Judge of all the earth. The justice and judgment pictured in Micah then stands as a microcosm of what is to come: God will judge the whole earth and dispatch with wickedness forever, as He sets Christ before the people as King. Here then is where we find the most direct one-to-one comparison with respect to false teachers; not only will they incur the strictest of judgment for perverting the justice of God, but the true and righteous King will reign forever and there will no more be this grand sense of injustice that permeates the land.
What’s more than this is that He will reign over all tongues, tribes, and nations. All the people of the earth will flock to Him and submit themselves to His reign, yet part and parcel to this is the final judgment that is to come. Thus, we are to take every opportunity to call people to repentance now before the Day comes where they will bow the knee, regardless of choice. As those who know these things, let us be bold in proclaiming the gospel with the greatest fervor and urgency, so that even those deceived by the false prophet might come to see the truth. May we give them good news, not of prosperity in the here and now; not of God being a magic genie who grants the wishes and desires of our wayward hearts, but of the God who saves His people from their sins and removes the impurities of their hearts, including the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). Let us tell them of the impossibly rich God, whose delight in extending grace and every spiritual blessing to His children never runs dry or exhausts Him. Yet may we also express to those deceived by the prosperity teacher that their god cannot possibly live up to the false expectations, nor be a balm to them as they suffer, and indeed, as they must suffer (Jn. 13:16). Why? Their god doesn’t exist.