In the previous study we saw the words of the Lord through Ezekiel that tell us he is a God who will do what her says he will do. That when he gives a vision or a prophecy, you can be assured that it will happen. We also looked at possible reasons for delay – the fact that there is a preparation for the vision to come into effect. There is much about this that sends us to the Lord in prayer…
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, Israel, are like jackals among the ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battles on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, ‘The Lord declares’, and expect him to fulfil their words. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, ‘The Lord declares’, though I have not spoken?
Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’
There is one and only one time when Jesus said it was OK to make a judgement about others. This was in regard to false prophets. ‘Wolves in sheeps clothing’ is what Jesus called them. Of them he said, ‘By their fruits you will know them.’
Of course, there can be many people and many Christians whose ‘fruits’ leave a lot to be desired. But exceedingly few of those people claim to be prophets, or the ‘mouthpiece of God.’ Therefore there is no scriptural justification, from Jesus at least, for the heavy judgement that people often face. As I often say clearly: context holds the true meaning and interpretation for many things. An examination of context can often clean up bad or dirty doctrine. This includes the belief that, as a Christian, you have a right to pass judgement on anyone.
Many Christians are struggling with or participating in sin, and often their conscience is already burning and they want to do something about it. What they do not need is error, bad doctrine, divisive teaching, judgement and many other things. It will come across and be received as unloving. The ‘fruit’ of this will often crush a person, and not lead to deliverance at all.
Good behaviour, good doctrine, should be preached, and then should be left to the Lord, the Holy Spirit, to convict the heart of guilt and to bring sorrow and repentance. There is only one example of someone being placed ‘outside the fold’ in scripture for behaviour that is wrong. But in this case there was blatant opposition to the leadership in addition to bringing the flock into disrepute.
99% of the judging that goes on today is the love of judging, wanting to feel superior, and is not dealing with anything so serious as that particular scriptural case.
There is also the old nut that people quote about ‘telling the truth in love.’ The context has little or nothing to do with judgement. Yes, the context does mention the evil of the days, and the sin that is in the world, but this ‘telling the truth’ is an encouragement to each other so that we have the strength to stay strong in the faith in a world that is opposed to the good of the Lord. Rather a different application to what we see all too often among Christians in this day and age.
Back to Ezekiel, and remember what the Lord told him at the time of his commission as a prophet. The Lord would not allow Ezekiel to criticise or judge his own people. The Lord would make his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth so that he would be unable to rebuke people (ch.3).
So how is the sinner to learn that he is in sin and needs to be rescued? There are three main ways:
The first is the availability of and the reading of scriptures. This includes in it the Law – which in Ezekiel’s time had the standards that God expected from his people. But even in those times they saw that all the Law and the Prophets could be summed up by just two laws: to love the Lord with all your heart and mind and soul and strength; to love your neighbour as yourself. Since then we have the records of the life of Jesus, the life that is an example to us all, and the gift freely given for us all.
The second is the preaching of the gospel and the teaching from the scriptures. This will declare the standards expected, and the way to reach them (clue: it’s NOT by works!). From this, expect the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of people. It is the Lord who will bring conviction of sin. It is the Lord who will do the work of changing the hardened heart and replacing it with a heart of flesh, full of sorrow for sin and love for the Lord, and with gratitude for all that has been done.
The third is prophecy, which is spoken mostly to a people, a group, and very very rarely also to individuals. Prophecy can name the person and name the sin. Prophecy can happen in private or in public – but public can bring with it the public disgrace and shaming of the person addressed, and can make it difficult for that person to be received by others or even to feel comfortable ever again to return to that particular group of believers.
Here is a sign of fruits to look for. If a prophet bears the fruit of believers who live in fear, and only the arrogant and ‘spiritual bullies’ are their close friends, then something is not right. I know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but the Lord is our God and Father. He is the good shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to seek the one sheep that was lost. Our God is about restoration and building up.
So look at the fruit of the prophet. What is built? Fear? That is not what God wants. God desires a relationship with him, a relationship of love. And perfect love casts out fear. And guess what? WE are not capable of that perfect love. But I know someone who is… And who has already revealed that love perfectly on that wooden cross of Calvary. He did not stop loving perfectly at that time, but continues with such strong love every single day – even today!
Praise God – He knew that false prophets bring the wrong results and that the end is even worse than before the false prophets spoke. The false prophets do not free the people, but place more chains on them. The false prophets spoil and endanger the faith of people, because what they say either is not true or will not happen. So confusion is sowed.
Brothers and sisters, love one another. Encourage one another. Let’s move forward into good works and exploits as the holy spirit moves in us and through us!