“Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The Lord saith it; albeit I have not spoken? Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God.” — Ezekiel 13:7-8
You may have heard the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” While trickery and duplicity have been around since the fall of man, advances in digital communication have multiplied the ways perpetrators of fraud can target us. Perhaps answering a knock at the door subjected you to the lengthy speech of a door-to-door solicitor. Maybe you received an email plea from someone claiming to be the surviving spouse of a wealthy foreign official, or a phone call from an individual supposedly representing the federal government or your bank. Whatever the approach, the person likely wanted money, account numbers, and/or personal information from you in exchange for something — maybe a monetary windfall, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or inside knowledge about a bargain no one would want to miss. However, just because proposals appear to be legitimate does not mean they are! In nearly every case, the gain promised is nothing but fantasy — an outcome that has no chance of coming to fruition.
In our text today, the false prophets of Ezekiel’s day promised an outcome for the people of Jerusalem that would never come to fruition because God had ordained otherwise. While these prophets claimed to speak in the name of the Lord, their pronouncements were deceitful and were not made innocently. According to our key verse, their words were a “lying” divination — they were purposely misleading the people.
The message of the counterfeit prophets was filled with optimism. In essence, they were saying, “Yes, the Babylonians are coming, but don’t despair! God will deliver us!” Their words offered a vain hope because the people were continuing in sin and the nation was on the brink of destruction. However, the people chose to believe this duplicity because it was what they wanted to hear.
God commanded Ezekiel to speak out against the lying prophets and declare that their phony assurances were like erecting a defective wall and whitewashing it to make it look good. Such an unsafe structure was doomed to collapse when God’s storm of judgment, which would arrive at the hands of the Babylonian invaders, swept over them.
Ezekiel’s warning in our focus verses applies to deceivers of our day as well. God never changes. He abhors lies and dishonesty, and He will judge those who teach falsely in His name. He will also judge those who accept false teachings that seem pleasing while rejecting the truth God sets before them.
At times, God’s truth may hurt. For example, it may cause us pain to think of the judgment that is coming against those who do not believe. Still, we must always hold fast to the truth. That is the only real place of security.
“The word of the Lord came unto me” in Ezekiel 12:21 indicates the beginning of a new message, which continues through chapter 13. In verses 21-28 of chapter 12, God revealed that judgment on Jerusalem and the land of Judah was imminent. There was such apathy among the people regarding God’s warnings that a proverbial saying had arisen stating that revelations would come to nothing. However, God proclaimed through Ezekiel, “In your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it” (verse 25). Inevitable judgment was coming. Chapter 13 pronounces judgment against the false prophets. Because they spoke against God’s warnings, they would be damned, both male (verses 1-16) and female (verses 17-23).
The counterfeit prophets had declared what would appeal to the people and what they themselves wanted to be true, using God’s name to claim their sayings were divine. In chapter 13 verse 4, Ezekiel compared them to “foxes in the deserts” — scavengers who lived off the fear of the people and did nothing to improve Israel’s condition.
Verses 8-16 relate God’s verdict against these false prophets. God would no longer consider them part of His chosen people. According to verse 9, their names would no longer be “written in the writing of the house of Israel.” The “wall” in verse 10 referred to the weak moral structure of the people who had separated themselves from God. The “untempered morter” daubed on it represented the false hope the prophets gave to the people. This inadequate structure would wash entirely away in the coming violent “storm,” which represented the armies of Babylon.
Verses 17-23 were addressed to the false prophetesses who were using occult practices forbidden to the people of Israel. The word translated pillows in verse 18 also means “covering” and referred to wristbands and full-length veils believed to have protective properties. Hunt meant “to lure for the purpose of ensnaring.” Like the false prophets, these women were preying on the fears of the people and peddling false security in the face of God’s coming judgment. They profaned God’s righteousness and distorted His judgments for the payment of a simple handful of barley. They falsely foretold disaster to the righteous, but redemption and life to the ungodly.
II. The condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem
C. The cause of Judah’s destruction
2. Messages of Judah’s condemnation
a. The message against despising prophecy (12:21-28)
(1) The certainty of judgment (12:21-25)
(2) The imminence of judgment (12:26-28)
b. The message against false prophets (13:1-23)
(1) The judgment of false prophets (13:1-16)
(a) Their character (13:1-7)
(b) Their condemnation (13:8-16)
(2) The judgment of false prophetesses (13:17-23)
(a) Their lies (13:17-19)
(b) Their condemnation (13:20-23)
God hated the work of the false prophets and decreed that they would be judged and destroyed. The lesson for us is that we must always seek for God’s truth and adhere to it faithfully in order to avoid the condemnation of God.