February 25

Text: Matthew 7:15, 16

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? (NASB)

Sheep are the symbol of innocence in need of guidance.  Wolves are the symbol of cunning that destroys the unsuspecting.  Sheep knew that wolves were destructive.  The objective of wolves: get close enough to unsuspecting sheep to destroy them.  Wolves camouflaged as sheep was a frightening thought!

The objective of camouflage is deception.  The military and hunters primarily use camouflage to hide their presence.  They want the surroundings to indicate a totally absence of danger.  Though they are a life-and-death presence, each wishes the victims to think all is well, there is no threat, and relax because no harm is present.  The victims safely can be unsuspecting because danger is nonexistent.

Some who are extremely dangerous wish to appear to be quite harmless.  Of these people, the righteous need to be quite cautious.  Why?  Basically, the righteous want to be encouragers of good.  The same qualities that make them effective encouragers also can make them gullible.  This is especially true in the realm of spiritual focus.  Tolerant people can be too easily deceived.

Jesus targeted false prophets as such people.   False prophets were nothing new.  These were (are) people skilled in telling the deceived what they want to hear.  Jesus’ admonition was not to become skeptics who withdrew.  Doubting everyone and everything was no solution! 

The solution: Incorporate more than one skill in evaluating others’ intents.  Do not merely observe claims, but also examine what the person actually produces.  Recognize things that are out of place.  Make expectations realistic.

Spiritual encouragement’s foundation is not blind stupidity—evil is unconcerned about God’s purposes!

Suggestion for reflective prayer: “God, give me the courage to be righteous and the wisdom to avoid destructive deception.  May I find balance in You.”  (Read Ezekiel 22:26-31.)

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