God’s Word is a gift. It has always been so. It was by His Word that all things were created. It was by hearing His Word that faith in the gospel comes. It was by His Word that someday Jesus, the Living Word, will come back as the rightful Ruler of the cosmos. God’s Word is powerful… and precious. The Lord is protective of His Word, and it is not a light and trivial thing to stand and declare, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”
But that is precisely the function of a prophet. The prophets, in the Old Testament, were the mouthpieces of God. They would hear the precious, life-giving, truth-defining, reality-setting Word of the Lord and then deliver that word to God’s people. In Deuteronomy 18, the Lord Himself spoke these prophets, and ultimately, the true prophet who was also priest and king:
““The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. This is what you requested from the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the Lord our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’ Then the Lordsaid to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to My words that he speaks in My name'” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
But there’s a flipside to this coin. There would be those who, though having not received God’s message, would nonetheless presume upon His name. They, too, would stand before the people and purport to speak the Word of the Lord:
“But the prophet who dares to speak a message in My name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods—that prophet must die” (Deuteronomy 18:20).
Oh yes, the Word of God is precious. So precious that the punishment for the false prophet is death. It is a weighty claim to make when one assumes to speak on behalf of the Almighty. And at least part of the reason it is so weighty, so serious, is because of the nature of God’s Word:
Does God’s Word tell us what to do? Certainly.
Does God’s Word tell us the meaning of life? Yes indeed.
Does God’s Word tell us our purpose in it all? Absolutely.
But in addition to those things, the Word of God reveals who God is. This is at least part of the reason why Jesus is called the Word, for in Him all the fullness of God lives in bodily form. And if we have seen Jesus, then we have surely seen the Father. The punishment for those who presume upon this Word is death because, then, they are essentially corrupting our vision of who God is. They aren’t just telling lies; they are telling lies about Him.
Today, then, thousands of years beyond when this edict was issued, we still are confronted with false prophets. But who are these false prophets now? Surely there are some who preach and teach purely for financial gain or their own renown, but perhaps there is another “false prophet” that we encounter much more often. This false prophet, like the ones of old, commits the same sin of false testimony about the character of God, and yet does so in a far more palatable way.
That’s the false prophet of worry. Of anxiety. Of doubt.
When we choose the pathway of worry, we are willingly giving ourselves over to this false prophet, and we would do well to consider just what lies worry is telling us about God. For at their essence, our worries are not really about our jobs, or our relationships, or about the economy, or about our kids. Our worries are about God. And when we choose to give into anxiety, we are choosing to believe that God is not sovereign. Or He is not loving. Or He is unable to provide. Or that His ways are not best.
Our worries and anxiety reveal the lies we have believed about our Father.
And what must we do with this false prophet of worry? We must put him to death. We do so with the knowledge that God is good. That He is sovereign. That He is powerful. And that He is loving. And we know this because of the cross of Jesus. The crucified Christ is the ammunition for the death of anxiety and the reaffirmation of the truth of who God is.