Understanding the Old Testament: Is it still relevant?
We take a look at Ezekiel 13, and discover a timeless message.
Can you spot a fake?
It’s important that you know how to spot a fake. I heard the story of a bunch of people who bought new iPads from a computer shop in Canada ... only to take them home and discover they were made of clay!
But I also heard a more tragic story about medicines in Pakistan. 109 patients took heart medications that were fake. Tragically, they all died.
If you knew that a doctor was dodgy and giving out false medicine, you’d expect the government to lock them up. People might die. But when you hear that a person is preaching false sermons, are you outraged?
Why the truth matters
Ezekiel says that false news about God can kill.
In Ezekiel’s day, he wasn’t the only person who was claiming to have a message from God. His message was that the people had sinned, and so the city was going to be destroyed. Other prophets had a more attractive message: “don’t worry, God is totally fine with you all, and everything is going to be okay!”
Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 13:8)
The metaphor Ezekiel uses for this type of teaching is a dodgy brick wall. Instead of fixing the problem, some people are tempted to give it a new coat of paint.
Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?” (Ezek 13:10-12)
Painting over a shaky wall might make it look okay, but next time it rains, the whole wall will collapse. In a similar way, telling people that they have peace with God when they don’t, is going to cause them trouble when they actually meet their maker.
Jesus agreed with Ezekiel on this. He described the false teachers of his day as like a tomb painted white: pretty on the outside, but rotting dead people on the inside (Matt 23:27).
Reminds me of some country boys I heard of, who took some female friends to see a movie. That day they collected sheep dung from the paddock, and rolled it into smooth balls. Then they dipped the 'dung balls' in cooking chocolate, let them set, and put them into a packet of Maltesers. It’s what’s on the inside that counts: beware of fakes!
Big Tip: What the Old Testament says about the world and humanity is still relevant today
When we read the Old Testament, many of the same characters are involved: there is God, then there is humanity. And some things never change.
To this day, people prefer wishful thinking to the truth. So many people I know get conned by fake messages about God: like a dodgy wall, like sheep dung Maltesers, they look good but aren’t.
The big one today is ‘pluralism’, which says that it doesn’t matter if you reject Jesus, every religion is right in its own funny way, and as long as you sincerely believe what you believe, you’ll be okay.
Jesus wouldn’t have a bar of it:
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6).
What would Jesus have had to say to make it clearer?
I remember a talk show host who did a segment on religion. She declared that all religions lead to God. When someone in her audience pointed out that Jesus said he was the only way, the host said this view was ‘arrogant’ (definition of irony: a talk show host telling Jesus he’s arrogant for disagreeing with her.)
As much as I might want to tell my friends who have decided Jesus is a liar (or a lunatic) that they’ll be okay when they meet their maker, it’s not true. Just like the dodgy prophets of his day, Ezekiel would kick my bottom for saying ‘peace’ where there is no peace.