Prophetic Forgery

Scripture Focus: Zechariah 13.4-6
4 “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of their prophetic vision. They will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive. 5 Each will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ 6 If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’”

Reflection: Prophetic Forgery
By Erin Newton

Zechariah foresees a time when prophets who speak in the name of God—but not in the Spirit of God—would openly admit their fraudulent ways and renounce their forged positions as prophets.

So many times, we see messages about the end of false prophets: “A sword will flash in their cities; it will devour their false prophets and put an end to their plans” (Hosea 11.6). “In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets like a ravenous lion” (Jeremiah 2.30).

Rarely do we see the regeneration of a false prophet. It is easier to wish for their demise than for their redemption.

The false prophets in Zechariah’s vision have changed careers—from a position of power wielded to hurt others to a life-giving position of a farmer who sows seeds that bear real fruit. The self-inflicted wounds from the ecstatic rituals (like what we saw on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18.28) are admitted to be the wounds of “friends”—false prophets like themselves.

We have false prophets in our midst today. They speak of God, but the deity is not like the God of the Bible. Self-proclaimed pastors or theologians warp the message of the Bible for their gain—financial, political, or spiritual power, or even some form of self-preservation. True prophets speak the message of God and call out abuses, corruption, and unabashed sin. False prophets deny wrong-doing, cover up sins, and call evil “good.” They are idolaters without realizing it.

We like to think of idols as representing a completely different god than our God. Truth is these false prophets aren’t merely speaking about other gods—they are preaching false words in the forged name of our God. As M. Daniel Carroll R. points out in The Lion Roars, “Israel and Judah were supremely active religious nations, but the quantity of rituals did not qualify the worship as acceptable…. These activities were directed at another god constructed according to the worshipers’ tastes and needs.” Carroll defines false prophecy in the ancient world and points toward the false prophets of our own day.

Prophetic forgery is claiming to speak on God’s behalf when the words sound nothing like the God of the Bible.

The greatest hope we have for the false prophets is that people would see the deceit, name it for what it is, and denounce that behavior once and for all.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are the Lord, most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. — Psalm 97.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings

Zechariah 13.2-9 (Listen 1:40)
Luke 22 (Listen 7:58)

​This Weekend’s Readings
Zechariah 14 (Listen 3:52), Luke 23 (Listen 6:39)
Malachi 1 (Listen 2:47), Luke 24 (Listen 6:16)

Read more about What is a False Prophet?
When every religious leader claims to be speaking truth…what will be the litmus test for all these words?

Read more about Tortured Prophets Department
Many who speak out against abuses in the church…of power and sexual abuse, found the track “Cassandra,” from Taylor Swift’s new album, devastatingly relatable

Cut and Run from False Prophets

Scripture Focus: Zechariah 13.3
3 And if anyone still prophesies, their father and mother, to whom they were born, will say to them, “You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord’s name…”

Jeremiah 6.13-14
13 “From the least to the greatest, 
all are greedy for gain; 
prophets and priests alike, 
all practice deceit. 
14 They dress the wound of my people 
as though it were not serious. 
‘Peace, peace,’ they say, 
when there is no peace.

Reflection: Cut and Run from False Prophets
By John Tillman

This tiny chapter of Zechariah contains a difficult to read, strange vision of the death of “prophets” who tell lies in the name of the Lord.

Stabbing false prophets to death is out of the question today. Even in Zechariah’s day this was a vision and probably not intended for literal interpretation. However, Zechariah’s audience knew that lying prophets were deadly. Their lies killed.

The previous generation of prophets enriched themselves through politically popular messages. Jeremiah called them “greedy for gain” and repeated this description of them twice:  “They say, ‘Peace, peace” when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6.13-14; 8.11) These prophets had the ears of the kings and most of the people. “We are God’s special nation,” they said. “God loves us too much to allow us to suffer,” they said. These lies led people to their deaths. 

It may be hard for us to understand how prevalent these false prophets were because the Bible contains the writings of the good prophets. However, we need to remember that the voices we hear from scripture are the voices of the remnant—the faithful minority. The voices of the majority looked at sin and corruption in Judah or Israel and said, “Nothing to see here. Cost of doing business.”

The exile and suffering Israel and Judah endured is due to their choice to believe and trust in false prophets. The faithful suffered along with the guilty, however, God used this suffering to refine his faithful ones. Zechariah speaks of the remnant as being purified like fine metals.

There are few who dare to call themselves “prophets” today but there are many making false promises or claims in the name of God. Part of the crisis of abuse within the church is that powerful leaders, in God’s name, shamed their victims into silence. Part of the idolization of politics in the church involves leaders, in God’s name, demanding followers vote for a particular party or person. By this, they make God a liar.

Rather than stabbing false prophets (which is out of the question and antithetical to everything Jesus taught), it would be wise for us to cut their influence out of our lives.

Listen carefully to “prophets” in your life. When leaders say something that makes God a liar, it is a red flag. When they consistently do so, cut and run. Shake the dust from your feet and leave them to God’s wrath.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us saying: “Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.” — Matthew 7.15-20

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 13:2-9 (Listen – 1:40)
Matthew 10 (Listen – 5:07)

Read more about The Losers Who Write History
Not one of those glowingly positive, king-praising prophets’ writings are in our Bible. Instead we have the writings of the losers. The cries of the oppressed.

Read more about Balaams and Balaks
These modern Balaams do their best to put words in God’s mouth that are pleasing to the powerful.

There is a Fountain Filled with Blood — Lenten Hymns

Scripture Focus: Luke 22:39-44
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Zechariah 13:1
On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Reflection: There is a Fountain Filled with Blood — Lenten Hymns
By Jon Polk

The hymn, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” can be difficult to sing. Not because of a challenging rhythm or melody, but because of vivid and gratuitous language. This hymn would likely receive a PG-13 rating for violent content.

William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”), born in England in 1731, wrote “There is a Fountain” after a significant period of depression, something he battled all his life.

Cowper’s mother died in childbirth when he was six. He and his brother were the only two out of seven siblings to survive past infancy. His mother’s death affected him significantly and began his life-long battle with mental illness.

Cowper attended Westminster, where he took an interest in writing poetry. However, after graduation, he became apprenticed to an attorney, but never practiced law.

This led to an offer of a clerkship in the House of Lords, but Cowper suffered a mental breakdown due to the stress of the interview. After attempting to take his own life, he was admitted to St. Alban’s Hospital. He was treated by a Christian therapist who encouraged him to read the Bible. In so doing, Cowper began to find peace of mind and recovered after eighteen months.

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though as vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

Upon release from St. Alban’s, Cowper moved in with a retired clergyman who introduced him to minister and hymn writer, John Newton. Newton invited Cowper to assist with pastoral duties and encouraged him to contribute to a hymnbook. Cowper wrote sixty-eight hymns for the collection, including “There is a Fountain” and he flourished under Newton’s care.

The season of Lent reminds us that when we are at our lowest of lows, Jesus extends his hand to rescue us. He has been there. He has sweat blood in a moment of distress and agony. He has shed blood in the ultimate sacrifice for our rescue and redemption.

William Cowper became a successful hymn writer and renowned secular poet. However, he was a troubled soul most of his life. The death of his brother and several close friends agitated his depression. Cowper claimed God protected him from taking his own life on several occasions.

While the hymn’s imagery may be violent and difficult, so too are the pressures and tragedies we face in life. Our faith in the Fountain redeems even our most tragic wounds.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.

Music: There is a Fountain by Russ Taff
Lyrics: “Praise for the Fountain Opened” (original title) – from 

From John: Mental illness should be taken to God in prayer just like cancer, heart disease, Covid-19, or any other illness. Also, just like those other illnesses, one should seek professional help for mental illness. If you struggle with mental illness, especially if you have thoughts of harming yourself, seek help immediately. Contact one of the organizations listed below or local organizations in your community.

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resources: 
Mental Health Grace Alliance
Not A Day Promised Resource Page
Life Recovered (Resources for Ministers)
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.” — Psalm 12.5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Exodus 19 (Listen – 4:04)
Luke 22 (Listen – 7:58)

Read more about Treatment of Mercy
May we seek to treat the mentally ill medically, spiritually, and relationally, as we support them within our communities as treasured ones, loved by Christ.

Read more about Discipline for the Anxious

The psalmist writes of being “too troubled to speak,” yet he cries to God. He writes of insomnia, yet he rests in God.

In a World of Trouble, Peace :: A Guided Prayer

John 16.33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Reflection: In a World of Trouble, Peace :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

John’s gospel, throughout Advent has been revealing to us many gifts from Jesus. Gifts of hope, love, joy, and peace.

As Advent moves into the twelve days of Christmas, we participate in the revealing, the epiphany, the manifestation of Christ. Through the end of this year, we will read and pray through some of Christ’s most revealing teaching to his followers.

The synoptic gospels spend much time on what Jesus taught the crowds. John draws us close—making a seat for us at the last Seder. He places us in Christ’s inner circle for the longest passages in the gospels of Christ teaching and ministering to his closest followers.

We belong here. We, the disciples of the future were in Christ’s thoughts at this time. Christ was preparing his disciples for the immediate trouble of his betrayal, arrest, and death, but the peace he offered and the victory he declared is for us today, in our equally troubled times.

In a World of Trouble, Peace

Lord, our hearts and our times are troubled. Immediately after celebrating “Peace on Earth” we are still troubled by all that is happening around us.

The aftertaste of our culture’s saccharin, Christ-less Christmas, is unsatisfying and cannot soothe the schisms, the divisions, the brokenness of our relationships on every level.

Lord, we are scattered and broken.

“Strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered — Zechariah 13.7

A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered. — John 16.32

Confess ways we have allowed this world and it’s systems to scatter us, moving us away from community and Christ.

Lord, you sacrificed being with us physically in order to send the Holy Spirit to us. Help us to value him accordingly.

Ask the Holy Spirit to be with you. Listen. Sit with him. Walk with him.

You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices…but your grief will turn to joy…I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. — John 16.20 22

There is much in our world for us to mourn, Lord. May we not neglect weeping in prayer. But thank you, Lord, that we have joy that no one can take away in your presence.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. — John 16.28, 33

Rest in Christ’s promise. Walk with Christ’s presence. Carry Christ’s peace with you into a world that is rightly his.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. — Psalm 31:1

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 13.2-9 (Listen – 1:40)
John 16 (Listen – 4:14)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Prince of Peace, and we are his heirs. Yet, how many Christ-Followers have come to fully understand the divine reality that peace is our inheritance?

Read More about Silent Night :: Advent’s Peace
Silence and stillness were not present that night for the reasons the affluent find them, but because God’s presence filled our barren world with radiant sufficiency.

Support our Work
At The Park Forum, we produce over 100,000 words of free devotional content every year.
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who fund our ministry.
End of Year giving and monthly giving each play a large part in keeping The Park Forum ad-free and helping us to be able to continue producing fresh content.
Support the spiritual development of thousands of readers by making a donation today or joining our monthly donors.