We know that God sent prophets to His people from time to time in order to give them messages about their unfaithfulness and His promise, based on the covenant that they already knew so well. But do you realize that the people had prophets even when God didn't send them?
The Old Testament talks quite a bit about false prophets, which means the people - even the people of God - were always looking for others to tell them what God wanted to say to them. They were always filtering their experience of God through the words of others, taking as authority what humans had to say and pretending that it was God all along.
We're not that different, really.
We are a people who filter our experience of God through what others have to say about Him. We listen to our pastors, our preachers, our teachers. We listen to our musicians, our artists, our writers. When we have questions or when we want to learn something or when we want to know more, we turn to those who seem to have more experience in the area or a more direct line or more authority, somehow, in their voice and we ask them to tell us what God says...or what God means.
The problem, of course, is that even those who speak of what seems to be God can easily be false prophets. They can be men and women who are leading us astray, not because they have set out necessarily to deceive us, but because they understand that as human beings, we are constantly seeking that kind of understanding and insight into what God has to say to us. Many are earnestly trying to meet the needs of our flesh, though they consider not the longing of our hearts.
That's the hallmark of a false prophet. He tells you what you want to hear, but not necessarily what you need to hear. He soothes your discomfort, but doesn't quiet your spirit. He convinces you that God is near and on the same page and everything's going well, but the only person you actually feel nearer to in that moment...is the prophet.
There's a reason we see so much of this in the Old Testament. It's because the people of God had a faith that was set up to keep them at a distance. Everything about their faith ran through a mediator, so of course they depended upon their prophets - even false ones. They were cut off from the holy place, especially from the Most Holy Place. The priests offered their sacrifices for them. Time and again, we see that they require someone to step in for them.
But in the New Covenant, there's no excuse for that. The moment that Jesus is born in a manger and these human hands have to - and get to - hold Him, all that need for a mediator is gone; Jesus is our mediator. Because of Him, we don't have to have someone tell us what it all means any more; He has told us what it means.
What we need is to be a people who take Him at His Word and let Him speak it. Who turn to Him when we have questions or need understanding. Instead, what we've done is we have stopped asking our prophets about the Most Holy Place and started asking them about Jesus, as though we haven't got a clue or any way to figure out. We took the curtain that He tore in two and sewed it back together and then claimed that we needed a way in when we already have a way in - we just have to take it.
We need to be a people who can interpret our own faith. Who can know what it means. Who can ask our questions and hear His answer. Who can trust in the threads that dangle between us and Him, frayed by love, torn by passion. We need to stop looking for mediators and realize that we already have One, the best one. For all of these others are false prophets.
False prophets in the time of the New Covenant. Who ever could have fathomed it? Who ever could have thought...?