Tuesday, February 07, 2012

False prophecies 

(Book excerpt)

False Prophecies
In Ezekiel 13, Jehovah addresses the false prophets of Israel directly, through the prophet.

The first kind of prophet mentioned here is the one who masquerades as a traditional prophet of Jehovah, but who invents his messages order to please his audience.  Such prophets do not tackle the difficult or unpleasant topics (13:5), but instead behave as “jackals in the ruins,” that is, they look to disaster as an opportunity to enrich themselves.  These prophets have benefited a great deal by soothing the anxieties of the people, telling them what they want to hear.  But in doing so, they actually increase the misery of the people, by encouraging them not to repent.

A great curse comes on those who claim to proclaim the word of God in order to enrich themselves.  This angers God greatly.  Those who do this always distort that word and appeal to man’s sinful desires, since these tactics will always be more profitable than telling people the uncomfortable truth about sin and repentance.  God uses the example of a city that is under siege, when  the wall is breached and the enemy starts to come into the gap.  This is the point at which the best and bravest of the city must rush to the gap to defend the city and heal the breach.  Once they have repulsed the enemy, they can  rebuild the wall with a temporary barrier.  The prophets of Israel were supposed to warn Israel of danger, and that is just what men like Ezekiel and Jeremiah were doing, at great cost to themselves. These false prophets, however, were simply keeping themselves safe by telling people what they wanted to hear instead of the truth.

Ezekiel extends the analogy with the discussion of “untempered mortar” or possibly “whitewash.”  The idea here is a wall that is built to look good superficially, but isn’t really solid.  The word of the false prophets is like that untempered mortar that people think is a solid wall, and trust, but when the time of trial comes that wall collapses and ruins them.

Those who claim to teach God’s word are asking people to trust them with some of the most important issues in life.  A teacher is claiming to have true information about what kind of behavior and belief pleases God and what kind of choices will lead to life or death.  One who teaches those truths had better be very sure that he actually teaches the word of God.  Otherwise God’s wrath will undoubtedly be upon him for misleading people and profiting from the disaster that follows.  Imagine how angry you would be if you paid a man a great deal of money to build a house for you, but after it was built and the man paid, you discovered that his work was shoddy and only looked good, and the house started to fall apart the first time the wind blew.  Your money was wasted and your life very nearly lost as a result.  Yet people entrust the far more important matters of the truth of God’s word to liars and charlatans all the time.  The damage will not be as immediately evident as the damage done by a deceitful builder, but will in the end be far worse.

The result, God says, is that these evil prophets will be utterly excluded from God’s people (verse 9).  They have deluded the people into thinking they have peace when they do not.  God will expose these prophets’ falsehood by destroying their shoddy work so that all can see what frauds they are.  The Babylonians will destroy the temple just as the true prophets have foretold, and one result of this will be that everyone will know the false prophets are liars and charlatans.

(This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book on the book of Ezekiel.  You can preorder a copy of the book on my Kickstarter page.  By backing this project for $10 or more, you will receive a signed copy of the book when it is published in a month or so.)

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