By what spirit were many of the prophets speaking in the American election?
I began writing this article around the time of the riots on Capitol Hill in January 2021. It is part of a wider attempt to discern what was of God within the context of the many political pronouncements and predictions that were made at the time by sincere Christians at that time, and which sounded as though they were coming from the throne room of God, and which in some cases continue to be made to this day but which have the effect of undermining the very foundations of democracy.
These are thorny issues, but it is important to grasp the nettle, (to slightly change the metaphor) and to reflect a little more on some of them and to recognise what lies behind them.
We in the West are fortunate to live under democratically elected governments which, with all their faults and failings, nevertheless bring a broad spread of opinion and experience to bear on the decisions made. Most of us accept that not every decision they take is right, but we are also generally willing to heed Paul’s command to obey our (secular) leaders whether or not we like their rulings. (Rom. 13:1-2ff) During the pandemic, we tuned in on a more less daily basis to hear Boris Johnson and his advisors were telling us what we should and should not do, in ways that profoundly affected even the most intimate aspects of our lives. I wonder how many were also seeking to tune in spiritually so as to discern some of the influences at work in the decision making process?
If we are to understand our times, we also need to understand by what spirit things are being done, especially when those speaking claim to have heard God’s word on a matter. Years ago, as I listened to the then President of South Africa declaring that apartheid was God’s plan and order for the world, I knew that I was hearing not just a prejudiced politician speaking, but an actual demonic spirit. Another senior African political leader grossly misinformed the people of his country by claiming that using toothpaste would keep them from catching AIDS. The death rate in his country was appalling. What could that have been but the voice of an evil spirit speaking?
The Kingdom of Heaven is not democratically elected(!), but it is still a place of discussion and conference. You will remember that we took a look recently at how the Chronicler of the Old Testament lifts the curtain beyond our world in order to witness a discussion in the courts of Heaven concerning the plans the kings of Israel and Judah were hatching to launch a campaign against Ramoth Gilead. Ezekiel ‘overheard’ what was being said hundred of miles away back in Jerusalem, but Micaiah was seeing and hearing something from a different realm altogether as he saw a huge assembly of four hundred ‘prophets’ (400!!!) telling King Ahab in no uncertain manner that the Lord would deliver the city into his hands.(See 2 Chronicles 18)
From this passage we are reminded that kings and rulers can be subject to all manner of deceptive counsel, in addition to their own misguided desires and expectations.
Given that Ramoth Gilead was a Levitical city of refuge, one might well ask what they were was doing in planning to attack it in the first place. King Jehoshaphat of Judah, by far the more godly of the two kings, was plainly not convinced. Well-enough acquainted with the ways of God, he doubtless felt saw through the spirit behind these so-called prophets and felt uncomfortable with their predictions. It was at his insistence that Micaiah was (reluctantly) brought forward. Here was one who was genuinely able to ‘tune in’ to what was really happening gong on – although what he discerned will stretch many people’s theology: he saw a spirit offering to lure Ahab to his death by becoming ‘a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.’ (2 Chronicles 18:16-22, cf Kings 22:22-23)
Rather remarkably, the kings took Micaiah’s perspective on board, rather than the outright flattery of the four hundred, but Ahab’s heart had not been changed, and in his arrogance, he tried to outmaneuver the sentence God had pronounced by dint of a simple disguise, trusting that their opponents would not expend much effort trying to kill a common soldier. He was wrong. The simple fact is that noone can ultimately outwit the Lord God of Hosts. It is utterly foolish even to try to do so.
Whilst we must be careful not to be too quick to draw hard and fast principles from this one example, it is worth pondering where we would be today had not a lying spirit led Hitler to make the monumental miscalculation of attempting to invade Russia? This did not happen without the participation of God’s chosen agents: people such as Rees Howells and the combined force of the staff and students under his leadership in the Bible College of Wales in Swansea, who prayed fervently day by day as the Lord instructed them. You can read something of this remarkable story in chapter 36 of Norman Grubb’s book ‘Rees Howells, Intercessor’, especially pages 286-7.
True prophets often find themselves out of synch with the voice of popular opinion, but how we need those like Micaiah who are prepared to stand out from the crowd, and to speak out the true perspective of God, both in highly charged political situations and within the four walls of church life.
Following the 2020 election in the USA, one highly respected author who is regarded by very many as an intercessor-prophet, refused to accept the result, and went so far as to declare that the Lord would send the Angel Gabriel to Capitol Hill. Many believed this utter nonsense. Other sincere believers started pushing the idea of certain states seceding from the Union. We can trace the spirit behind such things to being the fruit of an ultra- nationalistic belief in America’s divinely appointed role to the nations.
We will looking at some of the unhealthy aspects of nationalism in another edition; suffice to say for now that it presents a lop-sided and dangerously narrow perspective on the Kingdom of God.
It is important to pin down and be clear about what many prophesied. For example, that Donald Trump would win the 2020 election. Some even went on prophesying this fallacy after the election. Others prophesied a ‘red wave’ in the recent mid-term elections. No matter who the prophet, such pronouncements must be weighed, and where they are wrong be declared as such – as is also the case for the many who spoke of COVID-19 being over by April 2020, or at the least by Pentecost of that year. Anyone can see that that just wasn’t the case – and yet i cannot recall a single prophet repenting of getting that wrong.
In a future edition we hope to explain why there is a genuine place for the prophetic within the heart of a nation, as well as within church circles, Not only must prophets be willing to give an account for their words, they must also be prepared to name sin as sin, and to confront political leaders when they fall into it, even as Nathan did David. By contrast, false prophets sycophantically pile on the flattery. It was so sad to see so many Christians drawn toward the light of Trump’s flame, as if he was the one who could put the world to rights. It reminded me of the false prophet Zedekiah in 1 Kings 22:11-12.
Tragically, and astonishingly, the lines became blurred between Trumpism and Jesus and, as is the nature of idolatry, instead of Trump becoming more like the Messiah, people became more like Trump. It is heart-breaking to see such a thing happening amongst genuine – but woefully gullible – Republican believers. Worse still, his words and example have served to greatly strengthen other populist leaders in places such as the Philippines, Hungary Brazil and Poland.
This idolising of Donald Trump has brought about a distortion in the spiritual and political psyche of the nation, even as extreme earthquakes can affect the axis of the globe. Every year multitudes fall out of the orbit of church for failing to distinguish between the Lord, who is perfect, and His people who are not. Sadly, many never come back. I believe many will have likewise been scarred, scared or hardened by the battering that occurred in recent elections in America and lost faith in the whole concept of the prophetic. (Even though it dates from January 2021, this article from Christianity Today is well worth reading in this context.)
What we must not is that the ground has been ploughed and made ready for further deception to be sown, leaving the way open for the rise of someone else who appears to offer the strong ‘nationalist’ leadership they believe America needs.
It is so important not to confuse and conflate the kingdoms of this world with the Kingdom of God. Serious muddying of the waters occurs when what is rightly ‘political’ (and therefore a matter of personal or party conviction) is mistaken for that which is truly ‘spiritual and godly.’ The fact that this confusion has entered mainstream thinking in many prophetic and charismatic circles is intensely concerning.
This article, about Pastor Caleb Campbell in Phoenix, who is trying to bring evangelical Christians back into balance in the face of entrenched ultra nationalist views makes for extremely interesting reading.
May the Lord find ways to set people free in their hearts and minds where they have become caught up in what amounts to a delusional infatuation.