Just as there are true and genuine prophets of God as we saw last week, there are equally false and fake prophets whose vision, though opaque and terribly blurred, pretend to see tomorrow like Nostradamus or like the Oracle at Ile-Ife that usually gazes into the dark bowels of Mother Future to pronounce the next Ooni to be. The Holy Bible had envisaged and warned us against these “kalokalo” gamblers who disguise themselves in the sacred cassocks of prophets to deceive unwary people and elevate Christianity to a business of money-spinning machines. Didn’t the Bible tell us “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)?
Thus, the Bible in Matthew 7:15-23 warned us of “false prophets which come to you in sheep clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves”.
Some fake and false prophets in the Bible
Ahab: This was the seventh king of Israel since Jeroboam I, the son and successor of Omri, and the husband of Jezebel of Sidon. The Bible presents Ahab as an extremely wicked king who followed the iniquitous ways of his equally wicked and sadistic wife, Jezebel. Ahab killed his subject, Naboth, seized his vineyard, and led Israel into idolatry (1 Kings 21). He was punished in Jeremiah 29:21 thus, “behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes.”
Elymas: In Acts of the Apostles 13:6-12, Paul and Barnabas encountered a false prophet, a sorcerer Jew named Elymas Bar-Jesus, on the island of Cyprus. He was with the Deputy of the country, named Sergius Paulus, a prudent man, who had desired to hear the word of God from Barnabas and Paul. But Elymas the sorcerer, sought to turn away the Deputy from the faith. Saul (who also is called Paul), filled with the Holy Ghost, set and cursed Elymas, calling him, “child of the devil,” “enemy of all righteousness.” He cursed him with blindness, never to see the sun for a season. And immediately, a mist and darkness enveloped Elymas who went about seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Of course the Deputy, who saw what had just happened, “believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.”
Hananiah: In Jeremiah 28:15, the prophet Jeremiah told Hananiah the prophet pointedly that, “the LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie.”
Shemaiah: In Jeremiah 29: 24-32, we are told how Shemaiah the Nehelamite was punished for false prophesies with the following words: “therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people, neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.”
Balaam: Balaam was a diviner in the Old Testament, especially in Numbers 22. Balaam is reviled as a “wicked man” in both the Old and the New Testament (2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11, Revelation 2:14). Balaam refused to speak what God forbade him not to. He would not curse the Israelites, even though King Balak of Moab offered him money to do so (Numbers 22–24). But Balaam’s great historic error and the source of his wickedness emanated from sabotaging the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. He was rebuked for his iniquity and in 2 Peter 2:15-16, we saw the “dumb ass speaking with man’s voice which forbade the madness of the prophet.”
In 1 Kings 18:19-20, we saw the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah who were gathered unto Mount Carmel. They were called 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves which “eat at Jezebel’s table”.
There are also other false prophets like Zedekia, Pashhum, etc.
Things synonymous with both genuine and fake prophets: There are common threads that run through the fabric of both genuine and prophets. These are:
Foretelling the future: These prophets foretell the future, for good or for bad (e.g in 1 Samuel 28:7-20), where the witch of Endor predicted the fate of King Saul. This witch communicated directly with a demonic spirit, which already knew that Saul was to die in the coming battle with the Philistines. See also Acts 16:16-19, where a woman possessed by the Devil was seen revealing secrets and foretelling the future.
Miracles, signs and wonders: The prophets claim to be possessed of powers to cause miracles, signs and wonders. But we are warned in Matthew 24:2, that “there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect”. Indeed, these prophets could really perform miracles, at times, using demonic powers. Thus, in Revelations 13:13-14, the Bible foretells: “And he does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceives them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”
It is clear, therefore, that miracles, signs and wonders do not a genuine or false prophet make. Be warned.
Examining the Nigerian terrain
The Nigerian space has been ravaged by prophets and prophesies, some genuine, many fake. Some claim to know the entrails of Nigeria’s chequered future. Some of the predictions are banal, puerile and easily predictable, even by non-cassocked laymen and women like me. How does a prophet tell an audience of over 20,000 people at a night vigil that “there is a man here battling with a severe backache and who has been bedridden for over a year”? Of course, in a crowd of over 20,000 blind worshippers, there will even be more than 10 people with such a condition. But each adherent stupidly believes the prophet is addressing him or her. Or take the following: “two well-known politicians will die in the next one year” (only two?); “there will be mass protests in some states after the presidential election” (of course, there will be); “two former governors should pray to avert death”(when they do not die, it is because they prayed); “Nigeria will not have bumper harvest in the northern states this year” (yes, without rain, there will be none); “there is a young lady in this place whose stepmother wants to voodoo her” (oh, there would be many of course).
Anyone can say these, but, they are really not predictions. They are mere reasoned guess work and educated reading of the Nigerian situation.
Many of the prophets and pastors mistake their political beliefs and personal prediction as words of God. They are not. Such clergy are nothing but social and political activists. We need them, though.
Bishop Kukah and Rev. Fr. Mbaka: The Nexus
Both of these clerics are men of God, preaching from the exalted pulpit of the Body of Christ. Let us look at some similarities and differences.
One very genuine man of God, rights activist, social justice crusader and a pulpit rebel of some sort is Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. This is a man of God in every respect. He is fiery, fecund and intellectually grounded. He speaks truth to power and authority. He questions the answers and answers the questions. He bares his patriotic knuckles on major national issues, leaving no stone unturned and no turn unstoned.
But Kukah does not masquerade his anger, concern, pains and pangs (in wailing over Nigeria’s pitiable problems) in the garb of prophesies. He proffers human answers and solutions. He does not pretend that he heard such from God. When I was kidnapped on August 22, 2013, this dear friend of mine came out smoking, with a powerful public press release that tormented my kidnappers to no end. They told me so. I was told that Mbaka also specifically prayed for my release. Prophet T.B. Joshua that I have never met till now drove to my Lagos home, specifically to pray with my family. He predicted that I would be released unhurt. That came to pass, like Kukah and Mbaka did. I thank them all.
The beauty of exercising your freedom of speech on sundry issues without it being garnished with divine colours is that your image, reputation and integrity remain intact, untainted. I am, however, worried about Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, the equally fiery spiritual director of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu. He is quite intelligent and full of candour. I also believe he is a prayer warrior. But, more often than not, he taints his spiritual and religious beliefs with clear political leaning and advocacy. I had written about him sometime in 2015. When he was transferred from the Adoration Centre, Enugu, to nearby Emene (after over 20 years at the same venue, having been ordained on July 29, 1995), he cried out publicly:
“I am going to suffer because I have no place to keep the Adoration ministry’s assets. I know I’m going to suffer. Fortunately, it is going to happen in the month of lent. So, I am going to use my exit here as a Lenten observance but Jesus said it all in John 16:20 to his apostles that you will be sorrowful and the world will be rejoicing but very soon I will turn your sorrow to joy….
“The quantum of the assets of the Adoration Ministry is the only thing I am bothered about for now. Where am I going to keep them? I am going to stay in one small room that has only one small bed, one small table, little toilet and bathroom. So, where am I going to keep all the adoration assets? My clothing and books I can keep in the car or somebody’s house but where will I keep these assets that I have given to the Catholic Church of Enugu? But I say may God take the glory and whoever that has offended me, I have forgiven.”
(To be concluded next week)
Thought for the week
“The Bible is full of warnings about false prophets and false messiahs. These satanically inspired people have appeared in almost every generation of history.” (Billy Graham)