In the previous study we had the subject of building a wall that represents our works in life. We saw how it is possible to build a wall that is flimsy and will not withstand any onslaught. It is flimsy because we do not build with the right materials.
The right materials are those which comes through working with the Lord and seeing his fruit born in our lives. And so, when put on display, this wall that is built of the bricks made by the works of our lives is a bit embarrassing. It is not what it could be. It is a public display of how we did not live our lives as we ought. And so we will have the desire is to cover it up – to paint on the whitewash. Then the people will only see a wall that looks nice because of the whitewash. But you know, and God knows, what is really underneath that whitewash.
We know, in our hearts, how true this is and to what degree it talks into our own lives. We need to walk in Christ, clothed in His righteousness, and to ask our Lord to guide our steps. He will do that. But that is only half of it. We also must go where he shows and not to shrink from this.
Sometimes a step may be scary. I think many of us have seen the nature films where the adult birds are pecking the backs of the chicks to force them to fly. This is a scary step for the chick to take. It has not flown before, and it looks scary when you see the ground so far away… But without this step, the chick will not become an adult, will not be able to hunt or forage for food, and will die – because the parent birds will not always supply the chicks.
‘Now, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people who prophesy out of their own imagination. Prophesy against them and say: “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. I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power. Then you will know that I am the Lord. 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 lies, therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination. I will save my people from your hands. And then you will know that I am the Lord.”’
This is one of those passages that takes very little in the way of interpretation as the meaning is quite obvious. What is interesting is to do a study of the history and the cultures of the time, to see the significance of some of the things here in addition to the obvious. From this to see that the women, who were part of god’s people were influenced by the worldly culture that also includes many elements of religions that have nothing to do with our god.
There are very many parallels to be drawn with many things that we see in the world today. Without God, the culture of our modern society needs to draw its morality and its spirituality from somewhere. This results in a mixture of superstitions and practices that come from a mixture of pagan religions and traditions that began so long ago that the origins are genuinely lost in time.
And so we find that people are drawn to the horoscopes, or Tarot. We find that people ‘touch wood’ over things that they have said that they also have a hope about, or they toss salt over the shoulder, avoid walking under ladders, or are even confused about what to do should they see a black cat.
Men talk together about how to attract women, and then more than that – how to bed them. And women do all kinds of strange things to ‘bewitch’ a man to be so besotted with her that he would do anything. And so some men may fall prey to the sort of woman that will take advantage of the unlocked generosity, play games and lead the poor man to provide her with all kinds of gift, and then find some excuse why the relationship ‘just isn’t working’ when she has the things she wants.
And from that kind of behaviour (and it is not only women – I have seen men do the same) we realise the sad truth that many have noticed and stated: things are meant to be used and people are meant to be loved. But in this modern world, all too often we see that the opposite is the case all too often. People enter into relationships not to give love and have companionship, but rather to see what they can get to their own benefit from this new situation.
There is a spiritual vacuum, and even if you are a person born into a Christian family, or who considers yourself Christian, and who goes to church regularly – even so it is possible to be so influenced by the world that you live in that some of these features enter in. This is so common that people do not even realise it is happening.
Even the fact that predictive astrology is popular feeds into many, and there is the love of trying to predict what will happen in the future.
Without a proper spirituality, and without a real salvation, there is the danger for many strange things to manifest. And sadly we see many of them. It is born out of lack of knowledge of the truths of the gospel, poor teaching in some churches. It can be from being in a church where the leadership shows lack of character and spiritual fortitude by exerting heavy control in a restrictive and repugnant manner.
The results are often seen in many ways that you will recognise. There are false judgements and false prophecies.
People want to be seen to be spiritual, even to have spiritual gifts, and so they let their imaginations run away with them, or they simply tell lies in the meeting about having heard god’s voice. Some can do worse and resort to spiritism or divination. In ancient times there was nothing like the kind of stigma that now exists about taking certain mushrooms for the sake of ‘spiritual clarity’ about a situation. These things were often used in a spiritual setting, and even the ancient Jews used it to aid ‘closeness to god’ and especially in the early groups that eventually evolved the sects from which the kabbalah arose.
The point here is that the visions came from a desire to have them – for the sake of improving status, maybe, or wanting power over others, or simply to be noticed and having others things they are more spiritual than they really are. But the result is not from god – and in certain times, societies and cultures, this kind of practice can result in dire consequences.
As it says in our passage, some died who should not have, and some were still living who should not be.
Real prophecy and divine judgement does not come only because you want it. The ministry of prophet is actually quite rare, and those who are commissioned by god for it are often appalled to be chosen for one reason or another, or may even run away from it. We have those things happening in our examples in scripture. And, if you remember from early in this book of Ezekiel, the prophet was not best pleased at his calling and it came as a real shock to him.
The ministry of prophet is not the same as the gift of prophecy for the church meeting. And the way I have seen this used and abused makes me urge caution, not least because I have seen that there is commonly a confusion between words of knowledge and prophecy. They are not the same.
The prophet speaks as the mouthpiece of god, whether in the ministry or only with the practising of the gift in the meeting. The latter will usually be about encouragement, revealing the feelings of god to his people. It will rarely speak of individuals in the church.
But we read that these false prophets were saying that they hear god about situations with people, and that god revealed things to them about people, and the results of all this was life and death judgement.
Read what it says – God was NOT pleased with this!
Judgement is the Lord’s. Always. Except in the case of false prophets – who will be known by their fruit.
So is there ‘death’ in the fellowship or church after a certain person has spoken out in a meeting, or in fellowship time, claiming that they were speaking for the Lord? Then you have a false prophet!