At noon on September 21, 1938, a young meteorologist warned the U.S. Weather Bureau of two fronts forcing a hurricane northward toward New England. But the chief of forecasting scoffed at Charles Pierce’s prediction. Surely a tropical storm wouldn’t strike so far north.
Two hours later, the 1938 New England Hurricane made landfall on Long Island. By 4:00 p.m. it had reached New England, tossing ships onto land as homes crumbled into the sea. More than six hundred people died. Had the victims received Pierce’s warning—based on solid data and his detailed maps—they likely would have survived.
The concept of knowing whose word to heed has precedent in Scripture. In Jeremiah’s day, God warned His people against false prophets. “Do not listen [to them],” He said. “They fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the
“False prophets” are still with us. “Experts” dispense advice while ignoring God altogether or twisting His words to suit their purposes. But through His Word and Spirit, God has given us what we need to begin to discern the false from the true. As we gauge everything by the truth of His Word, our own words and lives will increasingly reflect that truth to others.
In Jeremiah 23, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah against the “shepherds” (kings and priests, vv. 1–2) and prophets (vv. 9–40) for their continued disobedience and for leading the people astray. The shepherds were called to be godly leaders who guided and protected; instead, they’d destroyed and scattered “the sheep of [God’s] pasture” (v. 1). And rather than speaking God’s truths, the prophets “prophesied by Baal and led [God’s] people Israel astray” (v. 13). They “live[d] a lie” and strengthened “the hands of evildoers” so that they didn’t turn back “from their wickedness” (v. 14). God warned the people not to listen to the false prophets who weren’t speaking for God and offered only “false hopes” (v. 16). Because of their refusal to listen, Judah would be exiled at the hands of the Babylonians. Yet God wouldn’t forsake them forever (vv. 3–8).