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Can a prophet lie?

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By Pr Isaiah White

As a Christian, when you read that ‘even true prophets lie’, your mind may delve into the reality of false prophets. The context of this statement, however, is to argue that even true prophets of God can lie.
For a prophet to lie, he/she does not necessarily need to be a false prophet.
This is one of the important lessons that fanatics of the prophetic ministry need to understand. We understand this truth from the narrative in 1Kings 13:1-32.
This passage can be baffling to many Bible readers. Two prophets serve the same God, but one (older prophet) lies to the other (young prophet).
The young prophet makes a mistake due to his trust in the older prophet. The former prophesied against the latter’s rebellion immediately with a statement, ‘thus saith the Lord’.
Later, a lion meets the young prophet on his way and devours him. How could a true prophet of God lie?

An illustration of the old prophet who lied to the young prophet (Illustration/BBC)

The contradiction
We cannot argue that the old prophet was a false one because eventually he spoke on behalf of God. But again we cannot also say that a true prophet of God lies bluntly.
With such, we are left with a conundrum that we need to solve. Can a true prophet of God tell a lie, a lie that could lead to someone’s death?
While the young prophet’s mistake was punished by death, the old prophet’s mistake was not punished. We are left wondering why.

The prophetic office
Christians are taught right away from this Old Testament passage that a prophet is not a permanent identity but a functioning office.
One who is called into this office is not 24/7, 365 days a prophet.
These individuals have a life outside the office and we must understand this before we believe and consider everything they say and do to be prophetic.
Prophets are human beings and not invincible creatures or even mystical as many of their followers think.
When the old prophet lied to the young, the latter never took the initiative to ask for proof.
Him (old man) being a prophet was enough for the young man to take in and do whatever he said. How different is it in our Churches today?

Why the discussion
What is the subject of this story and why does it matter? We should appreciate that in the context of this passage, the young prophet is the subject.
The young prophet in this narrative represents each of us to whom God has spoken directly yet we seek the approval of other people-people like friends, pastor, prophet or even parents.
We must always remember that we are the subject and what God has told us stands. Only God can change what He said. We are to trust the word and interpretation of God, not man.

The lessons
Since the subject is the young prophet, we know the lying old prophet was a test to the faithfulness of the young prophet, who failed.
Today, many of us have failed the test by believing the prosperity Gospel of the false modern teachers.
The old prophet was merely a divine instrument that God chose to test the young prophet to achieve His higher purpose.
Some of these teachers we believe in are but divine instruments to test how greedy we are (2Timothy 4:3-4).
The first lesson we learn is that when true prophets of God say or act otherwise, the Lord is testing our faith to see whether it is placed in them or Him.
The second lesson is that we should test every spirit or prophecy to see if it is from God (1John 4:1-2).
Besides false prophets, even the prophets of God must be tested to prove whether they are speaking what God ordained them to say or they are speaking their mind.
Unlike many spiritual teachers, Apostle Paul was honest when he said:
“I, not the Lord” (1Corinthians 7:12). God’s word (sola Scriptura) must remain the radar and mast for our spiritual journey.
The third lesson; perhaps the young prophet did not know what we know today that our God does not change (Hebrews 13:8).
We need to understand the moral nature of our God, because He does not change His will or purposes to suit our circumstances. He does not contradict Himself (James 1:17). God means what He says and says what He means.

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