The makings of a false prophet
By Femi Aribasala
It is silly season again in Nigeria when make-believe prophets put on their most expensive sheep’s clothing to make state-of-the-nation proclamations. Every January, cacophonies of timber-and-calibre pastors broadcast their prophecies for the coming year. We look into our cry-stal balls and declare to lesser mere mortals God’s mind.
This January has been no exception. Many MOG (Men of God) have step-ped up to the pew to pontificate and to “oraculate.” We have declared, procl-aimed and exclaimed. But the question remains: to what extent do these highfalutin prophecies have anything to do with God?
Re-branding the prophet
Jesus says: “You want to see a prophet? Take a look at John the Baptist; he is more than a prophet.” (Mt 11:9). What do we see when we look at John? He is a lone voice crying in the wilderness. He do-es not conform to popular culture. He is not afraid to tell the truth to Herod, and it results in his head being chopped off. Now that is a prophet indeed.
God gave the prophetic mandate to Isaiah, saying: “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isa 58:1).
But when Isaiah told the people the truth, legend has it Manasseh had him sawn into two. When Jeremiah delivered the truth of God to Israel, they thr-ew him in a dungeon. When Stephen declared the counsel of God to the Sanhedrin, they stoned him to death. When Jesus spoke the word of God to Israel, they crucified him.
But today’s prophets in Nigeria are a completely different kettle of fish. Today’s prophets are lo-ved by the people. They are welcome in Aso Rock. They are not inclined to jeremiads. On the contrary, they are prosperity preachers whose proph-ecies are eagerly-awaited and readily received by the multitude. God is contemptuous of this. He says: “If a liar and decei-ver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people!” (Mic 2:11).
In the Israel of old, the prophets were “despised and rejected by men.” (Isa 53:3). But in the Nigeria of today, Pastor Adeboye of the Redeem-ed Christian Church of God is highly esteemed by the people. As a matter of fact, he is probably the most-liked Nigerian. He was the friend of Pre-sident Obasanjo, and he is the friend of President Jonathan.
In January 2011, Adebo-ye gave his annual pro-phecy for Nigeria and declared: “There is no need for panic, all will be well.” However, all was not well in 2011. Jos remained a “killing field” all year long. The April elections ended with riots leading to the slaughter of over a million people and the burning of hundreds of churches. The country also moved closer to the precipice of civil war; with Boko Ha-ram upgrading its terrorist activities from blowing up police stations to bom-bing government offices and churches.
But rather than admit he got it terribly wrong in 2011, Adeboye has gone one step further this year. He now says: “Before this year ends, it will be said of Nigeria ‘all is well that ends well.’” Why should anyone believe this lame apology for last year’s boo-boo?
On the contrary, God counsels through Jerem-iah: “Don’t listen to these false prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for me! They keep saying to these re-bels who despise me, ‘Don’t worry! All is well.”’ (Jer. 23:16-17). Value of false prophecies
God told Pastor Chris Okotie of Household of God that he would be the next President of Nigeria in 2003. Or so he said. If indeed it was God who told him this, he need not have told anybody about it. By declaring this so-called prophecy beforehand, Okotie afforded Nigerians the means to determine the genuineness of his ministry. Oko-tie was not elected President in 2003. Undaunted, he ran for the office again in 2007 and then again in 2011; and he failed woefully every time. But it is remarkable that Okotie’s false prophecy has had no appreciably negative effect on his ministry.
This is because a false prophecy is actually good for today’s church-business. A false prophecy gets the MOG valuable publicity. As a matter of fact, the more outrageous the prophecy: the greater the publicity. Thus, Waz-iri Adio observed that: “Pastor Chris’ prophecy served its purpose. It got him air-time on talk-shows and earned him so-me newspaper interviews. But it also served another purpose: it show-ed that Chris Okotie is a false prophet.”
However, it did not matter that Okotie was shown to be a false prophet beca-use, paradoxically, people love false prophets. Jeremiah marvels that: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by the-ir own power; and my people love to have it so.” (Jer 5:30-31). When a pro-phecy fails, we can always blame it on the lack of faith of our church-members.
Or we can say it was averted because of effectual prayers. Should anyone be so bold as to challenge us pointedly, we can cow him into silence by reference to Jesus’ admonition: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For wi-th what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Mt 7:1-2).
This conveniently ignores the fact that the same Jesus statement contains the harshest injunction in the Bible about exposing false prophets and exercising personal spiritual discernment. Jesus says: “Bewa-re of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Mt 7:15-17).
Alternatively, we can defend our failed pro-phecy by drawing the critic’s attention to the psalm which says: “Do not touch my anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm.” (Ps 105: 15). Never mind that our very anointing has become suspect as a result of the false prophecy itself. Never mind that God does not say “do my false prophets no harm.” We make our opponents believe if they dare expose our duplicity and shenanigans, something terrible will happen to them.
Pastor Tunde Bakare of Latter Rain Assembly is often the John the Baptist of Nigeria, calling public officials to repentance. But in 1999, Baka-re gave a prophecy that confounded his track-record. He declared to Nigerians: “Obasanjo is not your Messiah, he is King Agag and the prophetic axe will come upon his head before May 29, 1999.”
However, Obasanjo was not killed as Bakare predicted. Instead, he went on to rule Nigeria as President for eight years. He even tried, though unsuccessfully, to secure an illegal third term. Obasanjo is still alive to-day. Only one small facet of Bakare’s prophecy had any semblance of truth. By all accounts, Obasanjo was not our Messiah.
What went wrong? Jon-ah was not a false pro-phet. Nevertheless, he gave a failed prophecy. He went to Nineveh and proclaimed that God would destroy the city within 40 days. But that was not Jonah’s brief. God asked Jonah to call the people to repentance. But Jonah did not want them to repent because he was a Jew and the Ninevites were enemies of the Jews. Jonah want-ed the Ninevites destro-yed.
Therefore, he prea-ched a biased message of impending destruction. Unfortunately for him, the Ninevites repe-nted and God did not destroy them. Could this have been what happened to Bakare? Clear-ly, there was no love lost between him and Obas-anjo? Did Bakare’s animosity towards Obasanjo cloud his vision?
You be the judge
“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, O Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD. Their visions are false and their divinati-ons a lie. They say, ‘The LORD declares,’ when the LORD has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled.” (Eze 13:3-6).