Do you watch the news or read articles online and wonder, “Who is right? Who can I trust?” If you’re like me, you’ve probably had conversations about Covid and treatment options, and your conversation partners were adamant about their views. But as you listened to them promoting one view or the other, you thought to yourself, “How can they be so sure?” The same goes for the recent US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Good decision or bad decision? It depends who you talk to. It seems to me that what we might call a basic common trust has been eroded to the point of near extinction in our society. Who is our authority, when we feel like we can’t trust anyone? Keep reading, as I will try to make the case that there is an answer in the ancient prophetic book of Ezekie.
In this five-part blog series on Ezekiel 13, which started here, we are learning about prophets who promoted ideas they made up. Normally a prophet hears from God, and then conveys that message from God to other people. These other prophets in Ezekiel 13 were apparently not concerned about God’s word. Instead they said whatever they wanted to say. How do you think God feels about that?
In verse 3, God says, “Woe to them.” A woe is a powerful word that means, “May destructive judgment come upon you!” Imagine God saying that to you. It is game over when you hear that. You don’t ever want to hear God say, “Woe to you.”
Why does he declare this woe oracle against these false prophets? Notice how he describes them in verse 3 and following. First, he says they are foolish, and the specific word here is for a wicked kind of foolishness. Next, he says they follow their own spirit and have seen nothing. That means that even though they self-identify as prophets, they are not hearing from God. They are not following God’s Spirit. They are following their own spirit. Their authority rests in themselves. That is very dangerous.
Have you ever been in a conversation in which you ask a person, “Why do you believe _________?” They respond, “Because it seems right to me.” When they answer like that, they reveal that they have become their own authority. Do we get to be our own authority? Do we get to declare what is right and wrong? Not Christians. As Christians we follow not our own spirit; we follow the Spirit of God. The false prophets in Ezekiel’s day were acting authoritative, but their authority was only in their minds.
Next in verse 4, God likens the false to jackals among ruins, animals which would have been scavenging for the dead. Basically God is saying the false prophets are roadkill eaters, which is disgusting in and of itself, but doubly so for Jews, as dead flesh was considered ritually unclean.
These so-called prophets are foolish, wicked, not following the Spirit, and they are unclean. But God isn’t done describing them.
In verse 5 God evokes the image of the wall around the city of Jerusalem, and it needs repair. God isn’t saying that these prophets are supposed to be stone masons. God is speaking symbolically. A prophet is one who repairs what is broken spiritually. Just as a wall was designed to stand firm in the day of a military battle, God wanted his prophets to help his people to be spiritually strong. How would they do this? Just like a stone mason says, “There is a break in the wall, and it needs to be fixed,” the prophet says, “There is sin in your life, and you need to repent.”
But in verse 6, instead of preparing the people spiritually, instead of pointing out their sin, God says that the false prophets have visions that are false and divinations that are lies. What is so evil about the prophets and their false visions and divinations is that the prophets claim they are from God. We’re talking about a situation that is more than error or mistake. The prophets meant to deceive, to mislead God’s people.
God says in verses 6-7, “Don’t believe them when they say, ‘The Lord declares’. I have no part of their visions. I have not spoken to them.” In response to the false prophets and their folk theology, God says he is going to take action. We read about his response in verses 8-16.
God bluntly says in verses 8-9, “I am against you. You’re not on the list. You’re out. You’re done.” And at the end of verse 9, God says what has become one of the most important phrases we have seen repeated over and over in the book: “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” That’s his heart. God wants to be known. The false prophets, though they claimed to know him and speak for him, did not know him, and did not hear from him.
That is a quandary. It’s nearly identical to Matthew 7:21-23 when people say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord” as if they knew him, but he says that only those who do the will of his father will enter the Kingdom. As if to assure Jesus that they have done the will of his father, the people respond, “We drove out demons in your name, we performed miracles. We prophesied!” His response? “Depart from me, I never knew you.” It is a harsh reality to assume that you are in relationship with God, only to be shocked when he says to you, “Relationship? What relationship?” Could that be said of us? It could be said of these false prophets.
Is there hope? Check back to the next post!