1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ 3 Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! 4 Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. 5 You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord. 6 They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. 7 Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?”
8 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. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. 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. 10 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. 15 Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, 16 the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord God. – Ezekiel 13:1-16 ESV
The citizens of Judah wrongly assumed that nothing bad was going to happen to their great city of Jerusalem. After all, as far as they could tell, none of God’s prophecies had come to fruition, so they had nothing to worry about. He had warned of destruction but the walls still stood and the temple was fully intact. And, even if God’s judgments were to come, the common opinion was that they would happen any time soon. Any destruction that God might bring upon Judah and its capital city was reserved for some future generation. As far as they could tell, there were safe and sound.
But where did the people get their over-confident and somewhat complacent view of God’s judgment? How did they come up with these faulty conclusions concerning the prophecies that God had pronounced? Well, God provides the answers to those questions by calling out the men who were responsible for the nation’s continued disobedience.
“Son of man, prophesy against the false prophets of Israel who are inventing their own prophecies.” – Ezekiel 13:2 NLT
God accused these self-proclaimed prophets of “following their own imaginations” (Ezekiel 13:3 NLT) but claimed to be speaking on behalf of God. Yet, God had neither commissioned them nor given them any message to deliver. They were freelancers, operating in the name of God but without His permission or blessing. And the messages they were sharing were doing far more damage than good.
“They have done nothing to repair the breaks in the walls around the nation. They have not helped it to stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord. Instead, they have told lies and made false predictions.” – Ezekiel 13:5-6 NLT
Judah was in trouble. They were about to experience the righteous wrath of God because of the centuries-worth of rebellion and apostasy that characterized them as a nation. They had a track record of disobedience and had displayed a stubborn resistance to the calls of God’s prophets that they repent and return to Him in humility and brokenness.
And one of the key factors behind their long history of disobedience was the presence of false prophets, and this was not a new problem. For as long as God had been appointing men to speak on His behalf, there had been another group of individuals who claimed membership in that elite group. But they were charlatans and pretenders. God had neither sent them nor spoken to them. And yet…
“They say, ‘This message is from the Lord,’ even though the Lord never sent them. And yet they expect him to fulfill their prophecies! Can your visions be anything but false if you claim, ‘This message is from the Lord,’ when I have not even spoken to you?” – Ezekiel 13:6-7 NLT
What made these men so popular with the people was that their messages were more palatable and acceptable than the ones given by God’s true prophets. While men like Ezekiel were declaring the pending judgment of God, these individuals were promoting a contrary narrative that provided the people with false hope. In a sense, they were telling the people what they wanted to hear. “Everything’s going to be okay,” they claimed. “You’ve got nothing to worry about,” they confidently boasted. And, the citizens of Judah must have found these claims to be like music to their ears when compared with Ezekiel’s messages of doom and gloom.
The apostle Paul warned his young protégé, Timothy, that people will always have a partiality for those who tell them what they want to hear.
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT
While Ezekiel was busy telling the people the truth of God – there were plenty of false prophets happy to provide the people with reassuring words and comforting, yet contradictory messages of hope. These men blatantly repudiated Ezekiel’s prophecies, declaring them to be nothing but lies but God had a different opinion.
“They were lying prophets who claimed peace would come to Jerusalem when there was no peace.” – Ezekiel 13:16 NLT
They were deceiving the people by promoting a false sense of calm and assurance when calamity was right around the corner. They were putting words in God’s mouth when they hadn’t heard from God at all. Rather than call the people to repentance, they promoted a lifestyle of continuing decadence, immorality, and idolatry.
But God’s indictment of them was severe. He was no longer going to tolerate their deceitful masquerade as His messengers. These self-proclaimed prophets of God were going to find themselves on the receiving end of God’s wrath.
“Because what you say is false and your visions are a lie, I will stand against you, says the Sovereign Lord. I will raise my fist against all the prophets who see false visions and make lying predictions, and they will be banished from the community of Israel. I will blot their names from Israel’s record books, and they will never again set foot in their own land.” – Ezekiel 13:9-10 NLT
They would pay dearly for their penchant for popularity and fame. While the people loved to listen to what they had to say, God had heard enough. Their false claims of peace and safety were highly appealing and caused the people to reject Ezekiel’s less-attractive message of pending judgment.
The people had manufactured unstable walls of security based on wishful thinking, and these pseudo-prophets had validated those false hopes with pleasant-sounding words of affirmation. They concealed the lies with white-washed words of false assurance, like pouring white paint on a poorly constructed wall, in the hopes that it would appear more stable and secure. But in the end, they would find their wall of lies destroyed and their 15 minutes of fame brought to an ignominious end.
“At last my anger against the wall and those who covered it with whitewash will be satisfied. Then I will say to you: ‘The wall and those who whitewashed it are both gone.’” – Ezekiel 13:15 NLT
God’s Word can be difficult to understand and even harder to obey. It’s not always easy to comprehend how a loving God can come across as demanding and judgmental. We struggle to deal with the stories in the Old Testament that seem to reveal a God who is quick to anger and not afraid to destroy those who don’t measure up to His high standards. Concepts like hell and judgment seem uncharacteristically unloving and therefore, unacceptable to us. So we try to come up with ways to reject or replace them.
We create our own versions of God’s message. We dumb it down, soften it up, make it more palatable, and in the end, spread a false message that is easy on the ears, but destructive to the soul.
Yes, God is love. But His love does not diminish His holiness. He cannot overlook sin or leave it unpunished. That is why He sent His Son to offer His life as payment for the sins of mankind. But if men ignore God’s call to righteousness and reject the reality of His coming judgment on all mankind, they will miss out on His offer of salvation through faith in Christ. Men who see no need for salvation because there is no judgment will see no need for a savior.
In Ezekiel’s day, there were plenty of false prophets proclaiming that “all is peaceful.” Today, there are those who prefer to claim that “God is love,” while ignoring the truth of His holiness and His hatred for sin. May we never stop speaking the truth of God so that others might receive the grace of God through the free gift of salvation provided by the Son of God.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.