LIKE the rest of the Christian flock across the globe Zambian believers are bitterly divided over controversial prophecies by men and women claiming to be Godâ€™s prophets.
The latest storm is over the failed â€˜prophecyâ€™ by a named West African preacher and businessman that Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton would win the recent presidential election in the United States with a slender margin.
The Church in Zambia is polarised on whether some of the predictions and practices of these â€˜men and women of Godâ€™ such as over-dramatised faith healing, planting the seed (giving the prophet money), omen interpretation and sale of â€˜anointedâ€™ materials are Christian.
But God has not left His people without guidance.
In Isaiah 8:20 He says, â€œTo the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word (the Bible) it is because there is no light in them.â€
In short if any prophet utters a prophecy or engages in conduct that is not supported by Scripture, or has no biblical precedent then there is no light (truth) in him or her.
In biblical and pre-biblical times prophets served as Godâ€™s mouthpieces through whom He communicated messages of warning, encouragement, promises and future events to His people. They were his link with His people.
It is the same today.
Through these faithful messengers God has for generations revealed His thoughts and positions concerning His relationship with His people.
â€œI will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth: and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him,â€ God tells the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 18:18.
But one person recently wondered why God would raise a prophet to specialise in predicting fatal accidents, results of football matches and political elections; or which president will die next without giving reasons.
The hallmark of true prophecy from God is that it will always come to pass. But false prophets alternate accurate predictions with false ones which never come to pass.
â€œAnd if thou say in thine heart, how shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass (if it does not happen), that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.â€
These words are found in verses 19 to 22.
Any prophecy that cannot be defended with the Bible or does not come to pass is not from God.
Todayâ€™s self-anointed prophets seldom quote the Bible to back their â€˜propheciesâ€™ and bizarre practices.
They are aware that many believers and non-believers are haunted by serious social, economic and spiritual problems such as poverty, barrenness, illness, stagnation at work, failure to find a marriage partner, matrimonial conflict and many more and are desperately looking for quick-fix solutions.
In Zambia the situation has been compounded by the â€˜importationâ€™ into the country of the West African and Congolese brand of liberal and materialistic Christianity in which earthly happiness is primary and salvation secondary.
It blends Christian teachings and practices with ancient African mysticism and spiritualism (belief that the dead are conscious).
The flamboyant foreign â€˜prophetsâ€™ and their Zambian copycats are having a field day preying on these vulnerable citizens and netizens.
Most of the utterances and practices of these diviners, magicians, fortune tellers and spirit mediums passing for prophets are what God has sternly condemned and forbidden as â€œabominationsâ€ in Deuteronomy 17 and 18 and Isaiah 8:19.
Whereas the biblical prophets worked within or closely with the established religious structures of their time the â€˜men and women of Godâ€™ of today prefer to be autonomous.
To insulate themselves from scrutiny, accountability and transparency which are tenets of true Christianity they register their own pseudo-Christian business trusts with catchy names.
In these ministries, churches, synagogues and â€˜embassiesâ€™ they enjoy total allegiance from their meek followers.
Any attempt to put their absurd prophecies and activities to the biblical test (Isaiah 8:20; Deut 18:22; Ezekiel 13:1-10; Jeremiah 29:8; Jer 28:9; 1John 4:1) is regarded as insulting the â€˜anointed of Godâ€™.
Whatever they say, no matter how unChristian and unbiblical, must not be questioned for fear of retribution from above.
What is even worse is the fact that their sycophantic followers are not willing to make any genuine effort to study the Bible on their own and discover the divine truth and be liberated.
They do not know that Godâ€™s word offers them protection from deception. The Creator commands everyone not to believe prophecy at its face value but subject it to the biblical test (Isaiah 8:20).
In 1 John 4:1 He warns believers through the apostle and prophet, â€œBeloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out in the world.â€
And the apostle Paul pulls the masks off the faces of these fraudsters saying â€œfor such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
â€œAnd no marvel [donâ€™t be surprised], for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.â€ 2 Corinthians 11:11-15
He was just confirming the prophecy by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:24 on such false prophets.
Miracles are not a yard stick for knowing a true prophet. Those who are under the delusion that anyone who is able to perform miracles is a prophet should read about Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24.
These are but only a few of the many Bible references that Christians can use to protect themselves from the the fake prophets.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail deputy news editor.