3 Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! 4 O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. 5 You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. 6 They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed.
A short time ago, my family received a ministry letter in the mail. The writer told stories of how he had observed an unintentional breakdown of Scriptural authority in various people and contexts in recent months. I could relate 100% to much of what he was describing: people chipping away at God’s Word (but without any malicious intent), and teaching that it really didn’t matter how you interpret certain parts. The Church, he pointed out, is much lacking in clarity.
I’ve seen it myself. About a year ago I had some discussions with both a pastor and a former pastor, whom I found to be lacking clarity in theological areas that I personally find centrally important. Their willingness to entertain different perspectives without any commitment, their hesitancy to thoroughly explore those different perspectives, and their near-condemnation of my own strongly-held position (mainly because it is strongly held), was surprising to me. I felt as though they were trying to persuade me that I didn’t need to put as much faith in God’s Word as I do!
Now, to be fair, I know that’s not how either of them look at it. To them, this isn’t a battle over the authority of God’s Word, but rather a disagreement over its interpretation. I see it as a matter of black-and-white truth versus falsehood that must be sifted until the falsehoods fall to the wayside like so many grains of sand and the truth shows bright and clear. But other people are quite content to wade in the murky gray waters of non-committal and call themselves open-minded.
I will admit I have become more understanding of those who hold that philosophy. I know that their intentions aren’t bad. But I do believe the fruits of their beliefs can be dangerous.
Ezekiel 13 gives us a reason why:
In this chapter, God calls down judgment on the false prophets of the day. Notice how they are described:
3 Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
They are Foolish
They are lacking in wisdom and discernment. They either don’t know the truth, or they are choosing to ignore it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
They Follow Their Own Spirit
Part of their foolishness is that they do what they want to do and believe what they want to believe, regardless of what’s actually true and right. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise” (Pro. 12:15). “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Pro. 18:2).
They Have Seen Nothing
The false prophets would “see” what God had not revealed to them, and ignore what He had shown them clearly. They saw what they wanted to see and listened to what they wanted to listen to, instead of accepting what the Bible says plain and simple. “. . . Untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction [Paul’s letters], as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pet 3:16b). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
10 “Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar”
They Say There is Peace When There Is None
The lying prophets told the people of Israel that everything was going to be okay, that their enemies weren’t going to conquer them, and that there would be peace. But this was contrary to what God was telling them through the true prophets. Judgment was going to come. There would not be peace.
Much as they said there would be peace when there really wouldn’t be, many today try to reconcile their own false beliefs with the Bible. They claim that there can be consistency between the two – but can truth be consistent with falsehood?
5 You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. . . one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar— 11 say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. 12 Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?'”
They Have Not Filled the Gaps
Like the house on the sand, Israel would fall. Metaphorically speaking, the prophets had either left the gaps in their crumbling society wide open, or had tried to fill them in with unfinished plaster that could not resist the elements.
Those who do not have clarity in their beliefs, or are believing in the wrong thing, do not just hurt themselves – they hurt those who listen to them. Why? Because as they leave the gaps in their theology open, or try to stuff them full of half-truths, there will be those around who will either fall into the same beliefs, or see the wishy-washiness for what it is and end up walking away from the faith because it seems the world can offer more concrete and consistent answers than the Church.
“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (Jam. 3:1).
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,’ says the Lord God” (Eze. 13:8).
The Bad Shepherds
Several chapters later, in Ezekiel 34, we see a similar message. This time, God rebukes the “shepherds” of Israel. Whether He was referring to the government officials or the spiritual leaders of the day (or both), I don’t know. But I think His accusations could equally apply to both.
One of His charges against these leaders was that they had not strengthened the weak (34:4), and that because of this and numerous other allegations, the “flock” had been scattered because there really was no shepherd. As a result, they had become food for the beasts of the field.
And to add to the list, the shepherds didn’t seem to care! They didn’t go out looking for the lost sheep – they sat home and fed themselves (v. 9).
Where there’s no shepherd, the sheep scatter. Where there’s no guiding counsel, the people perish (Pro. 29:18). Where there’s no clarity, there is confusion.
The book Already Gone shows the statistics – two-thirds of American youth are leaving the church. And why? Because Christianity seems irrelevant. It doesn’t seem to provide answers to the questions that they are asking.
Where are the shepherds who could have given them the truth? Where are the leaders who could bring them back?
Are they too busy fattening themselves on head knowledge, neither knowing nor providing concrete answers in the name of open-mindedness?
And don’t think this blog post just applies to pastors and ministry leaders. What about the rest of us? Do we really know what the Scripture says? Are we prepared to defend our beliefs, in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2)? Have we grown in wisdom and discernment to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)?
And if our answer to those questions is “yes,” are we using that knowledge to help others stay their course? Or are we focused merely on ourselves, fattening ourselves on knowledge like a tick that’s swelling with blood till it’s nearly ready to burst?
Everything in Balance
I do want to clarify that open-mindedness is not a bad thing in and of itself. If we’re completely lacking any, that’s a sign of pride and demonstrates an unwillingness to see other points of view and acknowledge when you’re wrong.
But if you’re “open-minded” too much, that means you have a lack of conviction and discernment. You should not, especially in issues that are deemed by you or those around to be important, be content to flounder forever in indecision. If you don’t know the truth, don’t just ask the questions and leave it a mystery like Pilate did. Search out the answers as best you can! Seek out what the Lord has to say! “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jam. 1:5).
God promised that, since He saw no shepherds for His people, He Himself would be their Shepherd. He would seek the sheep who had wandered and bring them back to the fold. But the fat and the strong, the shepherds who didn’t lead, would face His wrath and judgment. Those who hadn’t filled in the gaps would watch the walls fall down.
What might have changed had they filled in the gaps, and stood their ground firmly for truth?
What lives could have been saved had they stopped feeding themselves and started searching out those who needed the truth?
Don’t leave the gaps open. Don’t fill them with fluff.
Seek the truth. Stand on the truth. Share the truth.
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine . . .