Introduction: After last week’s study ended with one prophet being
eaten by a lion because the other prophet lied, you may wonder why we
are studying the integrity of the prophetic gift. Can true prophets
lie, cheat and steal? What do you remember about the Old Testament
patriarchs: did they lie, cheat and steal? Obviously, the patriarchs
were not perfect. Are prophets to do better? If the prophets don’t do
better, should we strike them off our “true prophet” list? Let’s
jump into our study and see what the Bible says about the integrity
of the prophets!

  1. Another Source?

    1. Read Jeremiah 42:1-3. What are the people asking of
      Jeremiah? (The survivors of the war with Babylon want
      Jeremiah to go to God and find out what they should do and
      where they should go.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 42:4-5. What does Jeremiah promise to do and
      what do the people promise in return? (Jeremiah promises
      to tell them everything God tells him (the whole truth)
      and they promise to obey what God says.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 42:7-11. What instruction does God give to
      Jeremiah? (The people should stay where they are and God
      will protect them from the Babylonians.)

    4. Read Jeremiah 42:19-21. How did the people make a “fatal
      mistake” when they asked Jeremiah to inquire of God? Isn’t
      this a life or death situation? (Jeremiah believes the
      people did not really want to hear what God had to say.
      Apparently, their hearts were set on fleeing to Egypt.)

    5. Read Jeremiah 43:1-3. What did the “arrogant men” accuse
      Jeremiah of doing? (Not telling the truth.)

      1. Who is this Baruch, and why should they think
        Jeremiah would be inclined to lie about his source of
        information? (Read Jeremiah 36:4-6. Baruch was
        Jeremiah’s young helper. He wrote down what Jeremiah
        dictated and he sometimes publicly read the messages
        from God.)

        1. Our lesson is about the integrity of the
          prophetic gift, but should we be just as
          concerned about the integrity of the consumers
          of the prophet gift?

      2. Is there any sense to the charges made against
        Jeremiah? (The people who do not want to follow God’s
        instructions are charging that the young man is
        influencing Jeremiah and the words are not really
        from God.)

    6. Read Jeremiah 23:30-32. According to these verses, is it
      wrong for a prophet to copy the words of someone else?

      1. Is the problem taking the words from other people or
        is it attributing the words of someone else to God?
        (If you look at the entire statement, the problem is
        not so much the source (did the prophet steal?) as
        the false attribution (this came from God, not
        somewhere else). This is the problem Jeremiah faced
        when the people accused him of being influenced by

    7. Assume in modern days someone claims to be a prophet and
      you find that prophet has copied from the writings of
      others. Would that be a problem?

      1. We read this a couple of weeks ago, but let’s look
        again at Luke 1:1-3. Luke tells us that he is using
        other human sources. Is that a problem? (No. He
        discloses his source.)

      2. The United States has had copyright laws since 1790,
        and England had them (the Statue of Anne) before
        that. Assume Luke were limited by one of these
        copyright laws, could he do what he did?

        1. Does the question I just asked miss the real
          issue? (Yes. The readers of Luke and Jeremiah’s
          listeners were not worried about property
          rights, they were worried about truth. Is all-knowing God speaking? Or, is that Babylonian-loving Baruch speaking?)

        2. Last week, did the young prophet care whether
          the old prophet made up his lies or got them
          from his own sons? (No! The issue that got him
          killed was whether they were from God.)

        3. In Jeremiah 23:30, did God care if the false
          prophets stole each others words, or did He care
          whether they attributed false words to Him?
          (Again, the attribution is the problem.)

    8. Let’s get back to the original question: What should you
      do if a prophet copied extensively from other sources, or
      you thought the prophet might have copied extensively from
      other sources? (Although it is not helpful to think your
      prophet is a thief (for example, 2 Samuel 12:1-9) the real
      issue is the constant issue we face with prophets – is
      this message from God? That gets us back to the old test:
      does this person accept Jesus as God and lead followers to
      a life in accord with the Bible?)

    9. Let’s go back to Jeremiah, the arrogant men and Baruch. If
      you could be transported back in time to hear this debate,
      and you did not know any of the parties, would you have
      any clue as to who was giving God’s message? (Yes. The
      message of Jeremiah was to trust in God for protection.
      The message of the arrogant men was to trust in Egypt for

      1. Did the young prophet of last week have any clues
        about the old prophet lying? (Yes. He was being asked
        to trust the integrity of the old prophet as opposed
        to what he knew personally from God.)

  2. Oops, Wrong Message!

    1. Read 2 Samuel 7:1-3. What do you think King David has in

      1. Why didn’t he have that in mind before he built his

      2. How would you understand the words of Nathan? (God is
        leading David, so David should do what he thinks best
        about improving the ark’s circumstances.)

    2. Read 2 Samuel 7:4-7. What tone of voice do you think God
      is using? God makes this personal, as if He were
      personally living in a tent. Is God unhappy about His
      living quarters?

      1. What does this tell us about David building his
        palace before he built a temple?

    3. Read 2 Samuel 7:12-13. What does this teach us about
      trusting the word of Nathan? What does it teach us about
      prophetic integrity? (Nathan changes his opinion about who
      should build the temple. Not everything a prophet says is
      inspired by God. Unless the prophet says the message is
      from God, we should not assume it is from God.)

  3. Oops, Wrong Impulse!

    1. Read 1 Samuel 16:1. What mission has been given to Samuel?
      (To anoint the next king of Israel. The next king would
      be one of Jesse’s sons.)

    2. Read 1 Samuel 16:5-6. Who did Samuel think would be the
      next king? (Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab.)

    3. Read 1 Samuel 16:7. What does this teach us about the
      natural impulses of a prophet? (That they are like those
      of other people.)

      1. What lesson do we learn about the integrity of
        prophets from this story? (We need to be sure that
        the prophet does not confuse his impulses with God’s
        message. The natural inclination of a prophet may be
        just as “human” as the next person.)

    4. Oops, Look Again

      1. Read Daniel 8:27. What do we do when a prophet does
        not understand the vision? (If the prophet is not
        certain what the message from God means, the prophet
        should, like Daniel, declare that.)

      2. Read 1 Peter 1:10-12. What does this suggest about
        the clarity of God’s messages to His prophets? (God
        does not explain all spiritual matters to a prophet.
        The prophet is to give God’s message, but there may
        be things beyond God’s message that the prophet has
        to research from the Bible.)

    5. We have seen that prophets can give wrong advice, have the
      wrong impulses, not understand God’s message, or be
      unclear about spiritual matters surrounding the message.
      The question for us is whether the prophet’s message is
      from God. How should we react if a prophet says, “This is
      what God declares” and then says something that is wrong?
      (Read again Jeremiah 23:31. If a prophet says a statement
      is from God, and the statement really reflects the
      prophet’s own views or impulses, then God is “against”
      that person. If the prophet is not clear on the source of
      the message, the prophet should say that.)

    6. Friend, prophets are like other followers of God, they do
      not always have the right impulses, and they do not always
      have the best advice. However, when they say they are
      speaking for God, they had better be leading people
      towards God and be right. To be safe, test for this

  4. Next week: The Messages of the Prophets.