“When the LORD has not sent them”

There is a parallel between today’s readings which complete 2 Kings and what we read in Ezekiel: they are both about the same period, the end and destruction of the wonderful kingdom David and Solomon had established; but it is written from two different aspects.

The people of God’s kingdom had descended into spiritual depravity and we cannot help but see parallels with today. Ezekiel was a priest who went into captivity with King Jehoiachin in the year 597 BC (2 Kings 24:14-16). Eleven years later Jerusalem was destroyed (25:2). It was during this period that Ezekiel is sending messages back to those still in Jerusalem, and telling those who were with him in exile that their dreams of Jerusalem’s return to prosperity and of returning would not be fulfilled – and why!

His messages are to counteract the misleading pronouncements of those who falsely claim to be prophets of the Lord. Yesterday’s reading (Ezekiel 12) finished with the message “say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord GOD’”.

Chapter 13 starts with Ezekiel being told to “say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD’” (verse 2), then, that the Lord says, “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!” (verse 3). The ‘punch line’ that follows is they say “declares the LORD, when the LORD has not sent them and yet they expect him to fulfil their word” (verse 6).

We fear there is a parallel with preaching today – that God is totally loving and forgiving regardless of behaviour and their future in heaven is assured, yet such who preach this do so “from their own hearts”.

We have one big advantage today, the whole world has God’s word in their own language and those who are not satisfied with the messages they hear (if they choose to hear them at all) can check up and read God’s words for themselves. It is a gold mine of God’s messages that all can ‘dig’ and bring to the surface – providing nourishing daily food for human minds. Those who ‘dig’ with the aim of becoming teachers of others need to heed the warning of James, “Not many of you should become teachers … for … we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1).