Elon, North Carolina
What does God think about false religion? What does he think of Islam? What does he think of Hinduism or Buddhism? What does He think of Mormonism? What does he think of people who claim to represent Him but do not? What does He think of religions that completely contradict His Word? We find out in this chapter. This chapter is extremely important. In this chapter, we will see God’s attitude toward false religion.
Last week, we saw Ezekiel perform another prophetic act in front of people. He knocked a hole in his house and carried out bags of deportation. He carried them on his shoulders. God said that they would not get the message if he just told them what would happen.
He had to act it out. He had to dramatize the exile through symbolic actions. Ezekiel spoke to people who were not open at all to what he had to say. They had eyes but they didn’t see and ears but they didn’t hear. God said that the whole country was a nation of rebels.
Our topic for last week was false proverbs. One of the reasons that Ezekiel’s message was rejected was because of false proverbs, which were going around at the time. We looked at two of them. We saw that the proverbs in Ezekiel’s day can still be found in modern society. People still believe them to this today. Today, we are going to be looking, not at false proverbs, but at false prophets. That is our topic for today. This chapter is very interesting.
False Prophet Defined
First, we need to understand what a false prophet is. What is the difference between a false prophet and a false teacher? Both prophecy and teaching give you a message from God but they are not the same thing. They are separate gifts. What’s the difference? Prophecy is spontaneous. It is a spontaneous message from God to people (cf. I Corinthians 14:29-30).
Teaching is not spontaneous. It requires hours of preparation and study. Prophets can predict the future. Teachers have no special insight into future events, apart from what is predicted in Scripture. The bottom line is this. False prophets pretend to give a message God never gave. False teachers misinterpret the message God already gave.
We have both false prophets and false teachers in the church today. This chapter is very relevant today. Jesus said so. He said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15 ESV).
Bad preachers were a problem in Ezekiel’s day and are a problem in our own day. We have plenty of them. False prophets not only existed in ancient Israel, they exist in the church today and occupy some pulpits. Jesus predicted false prophets in the future.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time, many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people…
If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. (24:9-11, 22-25 NIV).
Judgment on False Prophets
This chapter shows God’s attitude on false prophets. He hates false prophecy and judges the prophets. There are two WOES in this chapter. Ezekiel prophesied against the male prophets in the first part of the chapter (Ezekiel 13:1-16). There is a woe to the male prophets. Notice Ezekiel 13:3. Thus says the Lord God, WOE TO THE FOOLISH PROPHETS who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! (ESV).
God was against these people. He says it twice. Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am AGAINST you, declares the Lord God. My hand will be AGAINST the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations” (13:8-9 ESV).
We want God to be for us but he is against some people. He is against false religious leaders. It is pretty bad if God is against you or against your whole church or your whole denomination. God said that these false prophets would perish (13:14). He said that He would bring His wrath down on these prophets (13:15). Three things were going to happen to them.
They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God (13:9 ESV).
They are pictured like a wall in this chapter made of un-tempered mortar or cement. It is like using flower instead of cement. It is plastered over with whitewash. It looks good but when a storm comes, it will get knocked over.
Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, 11 say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. 12 And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’
13 Therefore thus says the Lord God: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. 14 And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord. (13:10-14 ESV).
There is a second woe in the chapter. It is not directed to the male prophets but to the female prophets. There is complete equality in judgment. Ezekiel prophesied against the female prophets or prophetesses in the second half of the chapter (Ezekiel 13:17-23).
Not all prophets were men. Some were women. There was a whole class of female prophets in Israel, like Miriam (Exodus 15:20) or Deborah (Judges 4:4-5). Women in ancient Israel could not be priests or elders but could be prophets. You say that is just OT. There were even female prophets in the NT. Anna was a female prophet (Luke 2:36). Philip’s daughters in the NT were prophetesses. Philip had four daughters. They were single and were all preachers (Acts 21:8-9).
Ezekiel does not condemn these female prophets because they are woman preachers. He does not condemn them because they are prophets. Ezekiel was a prophet. He condemns them because they are FALSE prophets. They acted more like witches or psychics than prophets. They cast spells and used magical charms.
Thus says the Lord God: WOE TO THE WOMEN who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, IN THE HUNT OR SOULS! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? 19 You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies. (13:18-19 ESV)
God describes false religious leaders as people who hunt for souls. They hunt them as prey (13:21). False religious leaders are soul hunters. They are out to get your soul. People hunt all kinds of animals. False religions hunt souls. They go door-to-door hunting souls.
God told Ezekiel to set his face against these soul hunters (13:17). God told Ezekiel not only to set his face against these people, He told him to PREACH against them. He told him to prophesy against the prophets. The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying (13:1-2 ESV). He was not told to prophesy to the people but to other prophets.
He was told to preach to other preachers. Sometimes, it is the preachers need to be preached to, not the congregation. This sermon was against the clergy. Ezekiel was called to REBUKE the religious leaders of his day. He was called to DENOUNCE them.
If you dare say a word against religious leaders today, you are considered intolerant and hateful. These leaders were completely worthless. God called them jackals or foxes (13:4). They are scavengers. They are only interested in their own survival. Scavengers live off of dead things.
What Ezekiel does here, was done by many other people in the Bible. John the Baptist called the Pharisees “a generation of vipers” (Matthew 3:7). He called them a bunch of poisonous snakes. He called them children of serpents. That was not very nice. Jesus called the Pharisees a long list of names in Matthew 23.
He called them serpents (Matthew 23:33). He also called them “hypocrites” (Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). He called them “blind” (Matthew 23:19, 26). He called “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24). He called them “fools” (Matthew 23:17). He called them “blind fools” (Matthew 23:17). He called them “children of hell” (Matthew 23:15). He called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27), a term that comes right out of Ezekiel 13. This raises an interesting question.
Does Jesus advocate name-calling? Isn’t it wrong to call people names? No. All name-calling is not a sin, because Jesus did it and He was perfect but not all name-calling is justified. It is not wrong to call someone a false teacher or dangerous or unbiblical or cultic or some teaching as even demonic, if it really is. Much name-calling is unbiblical. If you saw a real poisonous snake, you would warn someone. We should also warn people of spiritual snakes.
1) Name-calling done in anger
When you get angry, start yelling and then call people names, you are sinning. Jesus did not say these things out of anger or because He had lost his temper.
2) Name-calling done in arrogance
It is wrong to look down on people and to mock and ridicule them with slurs and insults. Jesus condemned people who call their own brother raca (Matthew 5:22). Raca is an Aramaic word. Jesus spoke Aramaic. If you wanted to insult someone in Aramaic you would call him “raca”. It means “stupid.”
3) Name-calling done in ignorance
We cannot judge people’s motives. We do not know what is inside a person’s heart. Jesus could read people’s hearts. He said the Pharisees were full of greed and self-indulgence on the inside (Matthew 23:25). He said on the inside they were full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).
Tests of a False Prophet
What are some signs of a false prophet? How would you identify one? What do you look for? They are hard to spot. They look very much like true prophets. They do not look like false prophets with signs saying what they are. They seem sincere.
They look like genuine prophets. They sound like them. Jesus said that they come in sheep’s clothing. They say some of the same words. Both of them say, “Thus says the Lord.” Both say, “I have a word from God for you. God has a message for you” but not all of them are true prophets. How do you tell the true prophets from the false prophets?
1. The Honesty Test
The ministry of a false prophet is all based on deception. Joseph Parker said that “the whole chapter is a denunciation of lying; the worst kind of lying is religious lying.” From beginning to end, the Bible is against lying. Parker says, “False balances, false measures, false tongues, false prophets go down in one common unmitigated condemnation”
These false prophets claim to be sent by God but that is a lie. God says, “I never sent them but they ran.” (Jeremiah 23:21). They are self-appointed. They claim to have a word from God. They claim that he spoke to them personally but He never did. That is a lie. God says, “I have not spoken” (13:7). They do not speak God’s word. They speak their own word.
They claim to have seen a vision but that is lie. They saw NOTHING (13:3). It is a ministry based on complete lies. They say peace when there is no peace. In this chapter, we see both men and women lying. Where did they get their revelation? They got it from two places, according to this chapter.
One source of these revelations is the prophets themselves. They invented them. They come from their own heart (13:2) and their own spirit (13:4). They do not come from God’s Spirit. They come from their spirit. It is important to distinguish between the two. How many times have we told people that God’s Spirit was telling them something when it was just our spirit telling them?
These false prophets have vivid imaginations. They do not have a vision and they know they do not have a vision, so they make one up. They invent one. People are dumb enough to believe them. It is not wrong to have a word from God. Ezekiel had a word from the Lord. It is wrong to claim to have a word from God when you don’t. God takes that very seriously.
There is another source of this revelation. The other source is the occult. That is what the women used. They had magic bands on their wrists (13:18). Much of this is cultic. The source of false religion is demonic. The Apostle Paul said, “What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God” (I Corinthians 10:20).
2. The Scripture Test
This is a big test. Does the revelation contradict what God has already said on the subject? It is a doctrinal test. God does not contradict Himself. A billion and a half people in the world today are followers of a man who claimed to be a prophet. He claimed to speak for God. He claimed to have a vision from God but that vision contradicted what Scripture teaches. That makes him a false prophet.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (I John 4:1-3 ESV).
3. The Accuracy Test
The first sign of a false prophet is a prophecy that does not come true. They speak lies (13:19). They utter falsehoods and have seen lying visions (13:8). That is not the only sign of a false prophet but it is one sign. Many claim to have a word from God and make a prediction. Before the election, many said they had a word from God that Hillary would be elected president.
Harold Camping predicted when Jesus would return. He gave a date three times and three times he was wrong. He was publicly embarrassed and humiliated. He finally admitted that he was wrong and said what he did was sinful. After three strikes, you are out.
When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18:22 ESV).
On the other hand, one of the signs of a true prophet is that his prophecy comes true. What a true prophet says comes to pass. He does not lie, because God does not lie. That is how they know that a prophet has been among them. “When all this comes true–and it surely will–then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (33:33 NIV). Next week, we will look at some other tests of a false teacher from this chapter.