Man is incurably religious, and if he does not know the true God, he is susceptible to all the delusions of false prophets. As Paul says at Mars Hill in Athens, where there were many altars, including one to the “unknown” God, Acts 17: 22, Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious. It could be translated “very superstitious.” The sinful mind produces many false religions, cults, and heresies, and these are enabled by false prophets. We read about it here in Ezekiel, but also in the New Testament in II Peter 2: 1-3 Christians are warned about false prophets, But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. Peter is echoing the teaching of the Lord Jesus who often spoke of the dangers of false prophets. So let us turn to the characteristics of false prophecy beginning with its derivation and then: dereliction, deception, divination, desertion, and destruction.
The false prophets lie and deceive even themselves in verses 1-6 because according to verse 2 their prophecies come out of their own imagination and not from the Lord, The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, O Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD.’ Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, ‘The LORD declares,’ when the LORD has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, ‘The LORD declares,’ though I have not spoken?” Genesis 9:5 tells us that all the imagination or inclination of the thoughts of men’s hearts is only evil all the time. Thus they speak and believe lies. Either God has spoken or he has not. The first principle of true religion is authority. If we do not have that, all we have is imagination. Modern man-centered views of religion say that the truth is merely what works. There are no absolutes. If it helps, we are told, then it is true “for you” and that is all the truth there is. Lies always appear to help in the short run, but in the long run they destroy us.
According to verse 4 Their prophets... are like jackals among ruins, who have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD. Notice also the warning to the false prophets in verse 22 as they are condemned, Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives. The jackals were useless pests, and so are the false prophets. Their words produce no worthwhile fruit. True prophecy always carries with it a moral imperative from the Lord. When Peter speaks of false prophets in II Peter 3 he concludes in verse 11, Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives. If false prophecy moves people to action, it is never profitable action. Also, when Christian leaders tickle our fancy with speculative notions about the future they are neglecting the most important thing about true prophecy. It is given to move us to action.
In 3:10-12 we see that false prophets bring a false sense of security, Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?” Israel was God’s possession. Would He protect them in peace and safety. The false prophets say that He will, but Ezekiel says He will not. The beautifully ironic metaphor for false prophecy is white wash. When the walls come down, the whitewash is gone. The lies of the false prophets are nothing more than whitewash. The people will say that they made it look good, but it was not.
The divinations are first mentioned in verse 6, but we read more in verses 18-20, This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “Woe to the women who sew magic charms on all their wrists and make veils of various lengths for their heads in order to ensnare people. Will you ensnare the lives of my people but preserve your own? You have profaned me among my people for a few handfuls of barley and scraps of bread. By lying to my people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live.” Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds and I will tear them from your arms; I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds.” Oracles, fortune tellers, horoscopes, tarot, these are all part of our culture too. As Paul said in Acts 17:22 people are very religious, or superstitious. But they want their ears tickled with the things they wish to hear. We hear what we want. The occult always abounds when the Word of the living God is rejected. As Paul says in I Timothy 4:1 and 2, The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
In Chapter 14:1-5 we see that Israel deserted the true and living God to serve dead idols, Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me.Then the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’” The false prophets facilitate the idolatry with their lies, but the people prefer the lies to the ominous warnings of the true prophet. As Paul says in II Thessalonians 2: 10 and 11, They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.
The remainder of chapter 14, verses 12-23 recounts the awfulness of God’s judgment on both the false prophets and the people. God recounts the four plagues which he sends upon nations in judgment: sword, famine, wild beasts and plagues. If He has done this to other nations, how much worse will it be when he is compelled to judge His own people. He describes it in verses 21-23, For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments-sword and famine and wild beasts and plague-to kill its men and their animals! Yet there will be some survivors-sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought upon Jerusalem-every disaster I have brought upon it. You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign LORD.” Such judgments were listed in the Pentateuch, for example in Leviticus 26, so that every time the law was read they were heard and just as frequently disregarded. The reference to three righteous men of antiquity, Noah, Daniel and Job points up that they will not be preserved even though there are righteous men among them. Such men will be saved and that without their families, so there will be survivors, but the nation is doomed, and Jerusalem condemned. In Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” he says of satan, “For lo! his doom is sure.” So is the doom of all who follow the devil and his false prophets. But Luther also writes “One little word will fell him, that word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth” This is the Word we must hear, the true Word of God. It must drown out the lies of this present age