The Law of False Prophets--Part 3
Feb 28, 2008
The idea that God takes credit for sending prophets to the nation to test their hearts by teaching lawlessness is not easy to understand. It really does require an indepth knowledge of the mind of God. Those who do not really know God very well are likely to dismiss this idea. I have found that most people simplify it by attributing such tests to the devil.
But the prophets expound upon it, for this was something that was of great interest and wonder to them as well. As prophets themselves, they had a personal stake in it, for no true prophet wanted to become a vessel of dishonor.
Ezekiel was well aware of the issue and confronted it as well in chapter 14:
" (1) Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. (2) And the word of the Lord came to me saying, (3) Son of man, these men have set up their idols [gillul] in the hearts, and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?"
Ezekiel's favorite term for "idols" is gillul, which means "a log, round, DUNG." Heart idolatry is a preconceived, strong opinion that men believe whether or not God tells them differently. In Matt. 15 Jesus gave a commentary on heart idolatry in terms of "dung," identifying it with the "traditions of men." There He applied it to the disciples' belief that the Canaanite woman was incapable of faith, as I showed in an earlier web log.
God has given us His Word, and any time we reject it or interpret it in a way that is contrary to the mind of God, our opinions and understanding are self-generated dung after we have processed the word. In Ezekiel's case, the elders of Israel had come with "idols in their hearts." These are called "stumbling blocks." We are not told any details about this, but we may presume that these elders had been seduced by the traditions of men or by lawless prophets who had come to them teaching rebellion against the law of God. When they adopted those lawless ideas, they put the stumbling block in front of them and fell over it.
The question posed to Ezekiel is this: "Should I be consulted by them at all?" It is a legal question. Do people have the right to inquire of God and expect an answer, if they come with idols in their heart? Whatever their question was, God apparently had already given the answer, but the elders had rejected it.
Ezekiel was primarily a prophet to the rebellious House of Israel, which had just been deported to Assyria (Ez. 3:15) for its continual violation of the law (Ez. 3:5). These were the elders who had come to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord. So Ez. 14:4 gives the legal ruling that clarifies the mind of God concerning this question:
" (4) Therefore speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God: Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, (5) in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols'."
So God affirms that He will indeed speak to such people, but He will give them an answer that will cause them to fall. In other words, it is guaranteed that they will misunderstand the word. When they act upon it, or when they explain it to others, it will cause them to fall. We read further,
" (8) And I shall set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I shall cut him off from among My people. So you will know that I am the Lord. (9) But if the prophet is prevailed upon to speak a word, it is I, the Lord, who have prevailed upon that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel.(10) And they will bear the punishment of their iniquity; as the iniquity of the inquirer is, so the iniquity of the prophet will be."
This ruling, of course, calls into question the value, validity, and trustworthiness of a prophetic word--even from a true prophet--if the inquirer's heart is not right. It numbs the mind. This is absolutely astonishing. No one preaches on Ezekiel 14, for it is too frightening. Most are content to stone the "false prophets," without understanding that the rebellious heart of the people is the reason God sends false prophets among them. And even if they inquire of a true prophet, the word they receive will deceive them because of their own heart idolatry. In such cases, they may stone true prophets--as happened regularly in the Old Testament--but God will hold the rebellious people accountable as well.
I have wrestled with this concept for many years, as I have observed prophets and others who simply seek to hear the voice of God. I devoted an entire chapter to this subject in my book, Hearing God's Voice, chapter 2. Only too well do I recall receiving a true word from the Lord in July of 1986 to leave the intercessory organization that God had joined me with in 1981. The word came through 12 people. But I did not want to hear that word and searched for another word that would contradict it and allow me to stay. I inquired of a prophet, who gave me the word that I wanted to hear, and I acted accordingly.
I did not realize at the time that I was simply following the pattern set by Balaam, who did not like the word of the Lord received on the first mountain, so he went to a second mountain to see if he could get the word he wanted (Num. 23:13). By the way, Balaam, the classic "false prophet," never seems to have prophesied anything except the true word of the Lord. In fact, his prophecies form part of Scripture in Numbers 23 and 24. The problem was that he was submitted to Balak, king of Moab, and was thus the king's prophet and no longer the Lord's prophet. As such, he sought to prophesy the will of the king, rather than the will of God.
In my disobedience in 1986, God let me go for three years. In His mercy, God put me into "Cursed Time" for 3 x 414 days. Toward the end of that time God arranged circumstances that made me know that there was a serious problem, but I could not figure out what it was, because I had long assumed that I had made the right decision in 1986. So I finally prayed and fasted to know what it was, and at last God revealed the idol in my heart. The revelation came through the same prophet who had answered me according to the idol of my heart earlier.
The idol came crashing down, I resigned from the organization of intercessors, and then my Cursed Time training period ended. So I understand something about heart idolatry and how common the problem is. I know now that God put me through this in order to humble me and make me merciful to others who are going through the same problem. Those who are too willing to cast stones at "false prophets" have not yet had their own heart idolatry revealed to them, and God must still deal with a certain spiritual pride in them before they come to know the mind of God in this matter.
Heart idolatry is primarily a violation of the second commandment about setting up "graven images," that is, counterfeit reproductions of God based upon man's idea of God's word and character. In other words, in order to really understand the law of false prophets, one has to have a working knowledge of the second commandment dealing with graven images. We usually think of graven images as physical idols made of stone or gold, but the Bible is more concerned with heart idolatry and the traditions of men.
This is the third part of a series titled "The Law of False Prophets." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones