Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Dangers of Ear Tickling

We've all seen them on television, read about them on the Internet, perhaps even sat on a pew under their tutelage.  Whatever the circumstance, there is never a shortage of eccentric people claiming to be God's mouthpiece.

Some achieve notoriety, warning that the end of the world is coming on such and such a date.  Then, there are those self-appointed prophets who either twist the Word of God beyond recognition or lay it on the chopping block, choosing a positive self-help gospel of love and peace while discarding those hard passages that are perceived as "not pertaining to modern society" or just too judgmental.

Although many find humor in the ridiculousness of some of the prophesies, a false word of God is nothing to laugh about.

In the book of Ezekiel, God condemns Israel's false prophets for leading a nation of exiles astray.  The prophets would "prophesy from their own inspiration," saying "Listen to the word of the Lord!"; yet, it would be their own words, not God's, that would flow forth (Ez. 13:2).

Nobody wanted to hear of a seventy year exile.  Nobody wanted to hear about repentance and having to deny their flesh to change their hearts.  So, these prophesies chose to tickle the people's ears,weaving false words of hope and the quick restoration of Israel to her homeland. 

While it may initially seem almost harmless for these men and women to speak a false prophecy that would not come true, nothing could be further from the truth.

Ezekiel gives two reasons why false prophecies are so destructive.  First, he says, "You [prophets] have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the LORD" (Ez. 13:5).

Simply put--God's prophets did not stand in the "breaches," the gaps in the spiritual wall surrounding Israel's people.  They failed to protect Israel, failed to fill in those gaps with the truth of God's Word and, thus, "build a wall," thereby shoring up the spiritual defenses the Israelites needed to face God's judgment to come.

Instead, the false prophets plastered over those gaps in the people's spiritual defenses with pretty whitewashed falsehoods of peace, hope, and a quick end to their sufferings.  The problem was that when the floods of God's wrath would come, the gaps would again be revealed, exposing how unprotected God's people truly were (Ez. 13:10-13).

The only way to prepare God's people for His judgement was by preparing their hearts, strengthening their spiritual defenses.  To accomplish this preparation, the people first needed to repent of their sin and accept the justice of God's judgment.  Yet, the prophets failed to encourage repentance.

As such, Ezekiel condemns them because they "have encouraged the wicked not to turn from his wicked way and preserve his life" (Ez. 13:22).  Without being presented with the truth of God, the wicked saw no need to repent and continued in their sin, which led to their eternal death.

While the prophet's falsehoods were devastating for the wicked, Ezekiel also states they were devastating for the righteous as well, condemning the prophets "Because you disheartened the righteous with falsehood when I did not cause him grief" (Ez. 13:22).

God's truth, then, is needed both for the unrighteous and the righteous.  

While we may want to discard these passages with the thought that prophets are merely those who look into the future, who receive visions or special revelation from the Lord, the various definitions of prophet imply that a modern-day prophet can be anyone who claims to speak for God, anyone who claims to proclaim the truths of God.

In the New Testament, Paul charged Timothy to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

From Ezekiel's day through the time of Jesus until now--people would rather hear messages that are encouraging versus ones that ask them to examine their own lives and turn from their sin.  The time period may be different, but human nature remains unchanged.

This is why we Christians must be so very careful in what we attribute to God, in how we use Scripture from God's Holy Bible. Otherwise, we, too, can be guilty of not preparing the people for God's wrath to come so they don't feel a need to repent and of discouraging the righteous.  

He's looking for just one person to stand firm.  For you, for speak the truth of His word in and out of season.  To speak the truth of His word in love even if it's not politically correct, even if it costs us our lives.

May God not say of our world what He said of Israel: "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one" (22:30).

We must expose the falsehoods that exist in our culture, find the places where the gospel is needed, and stand there in the gap with the truth of God's word.

Image: C. Jeremy Price on Flick'r

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