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In Ezekiel 14 we are given, in effect, a Supreme Court ruling to clarify the law of Moses (i.e., the will of God). The Mosaic legislation was not specific enough to tell us if God would actually speak to those who inquired of Him with idols in their hearts. If someone were to come to me and ask my opinion on a matter, and if I knew that this person had already made up his mind and was only seeking additional confirmation to what he already intended to do, I might tell him to "take a hike," as we say in America.
God is not impressed with people who do that to Him either, and so God chose to clarify this matter to Ezekiel and give him a Supreme Court ruling on it. The ruling said that God would indeed speak to such people, but that He would answer them according to the idols of their heart, so that the answer itself would cause them to stumble and fall.
Such a divine response is obviously a judgment or discipline upon the inquirer. But the law's intent is to correct men through judgment. This judgment in Ezekiel 14 is no different, and so, as Jer. 2:19 tells us, "your own wickedness will correct you." When the inquirer stumbles, he will learn by hard experience that he must deal with the idols of his heart in order to hear the word of the Lord and know His will. This is the mercy factor. Some learn, some teach others by negative example, but eventually all are corrected at the Great White Throne when every knee bows before Him.
To say more about this would probably not be helpful. It is only as we experience these things personally over a period of time that we can begin to understand how this works. In the 25 years since I began hearing God's voice, I have gone through all of these things. I can only say that I appreciate how God has worked in my life to overthrow idols so that I might hear Him better and without stumbling as often.
Getting back to our study in Deut. 13, we find in verses 9 and 10 that those prophets should be stoned. Yet keep in mind that Deut. 13 was not speaking of prophets whose prophecies failed. This chapter is about prophets whose prophecies may be true and who come with signs and wonders to confirm their word. The penalty is for teaching rebellion and lawlessness while prophesying TRUE things with miraculous signs. This is an aspect of biblical law that few really understand, and if they do, they often do not realize just how strongly God feels about it.
Deut. 18, on the other hand, speaks more specifically of those prophets whose word fails to come to pass. These are called "presumptuous" prophets, and verse 20 says,
"But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die."
The priests in Jerusalem were too quick to apply this law, and they ended up stoning the true prophets of God as false prophets. Jesus said in Luke 13:33, "it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem." This alone should make us cautious today about judging prophets. Paul gives us some very good advice in 1 Cor. 4:5 in the context of the Church having to judge its own members. He says,
"Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God."
In practice, there are some matters that are best left to God for judgment. Because the law makes provision for appealing to the Divine Court, this ought to be our approach, rather than attempt to pass judgment ourselves. Secondly, in matters where we do have to judge--such as the case in 1 Cor. 5:1, where there was incest going on in that Church--judgment should not be rendered "until the Lord comes" into their midst with a revelation-word. That way, it is not really the Church leaders rendering judgment, but God Himself who is working through the leadership.
Of course, once again, this works only if the leaders have been chosen because of their relationship with God, rather than their ability to raise money, or their eloquence, or their ability to do miracles. If the elders are afflicted with heart idolatry, it would not be helpful for them to inquire of God for an answer to the court case. In my view, one of the biggest problems with judgment is the presumption of the judge that he or she has no hidden idols of the heart. By their very nature, heart-idols are hidden from one's view until God reveals them at the time of their overthrow.
When judges know this by experience, they have a level of humility and love that reflects it. They are not so quick to judge anyone, including false prophets. They also recognize the mercy factor inherent in the law, and so they seek to bring repentance in order to avoid the full physical application of the death penalty. Repentance itself is part of the crucifixion of the old man, the death of the flesh. While mortality is the first death brought about by Adam's sin, the second death, pictured as "fire" in Rev. 20:14, is the death of the carnal mind--a second manner of death that is designed to purify and correct mankind.
As I have shown in earlier studies, King David committed sins worthy of death as well, but his sincere repentance gave God reason to modify his sentence by redefining death. Ultimately, of course, "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23), and "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). That means everyone in the world is guilty of death for every sin, because all sin is rebellion and idolatry. Yet God in His mercy has given us TIME to repent, even after the sentence of death was upon us. This shows the reluctance of God to impose the death penalty, and we ourselves ought to follow His example, if we claim to have the mind of Christ.
In my book, Secrets of Time, I show how "Cursed Time" is a period of 414 years (or a multiple of 414), between the time of the sinner's sentence to the time that sentence is executed. The interim is a grace period to give the person time to repent. Cursed Time is not applied for every sin, however. It is just one of God's time cycles that seems to have more to do with someone being in a calling that is not his. It makes people responsible (liable) to fulfill a calling that is not theirs and which they cannot possibly fulfill. At least, that has been my own experience, and I see this also in the biblical examples.
If the priestly judges and kings in Jerusalem had been free of heart idolatry, they would have been able to hear the word of the Lord through the Lord's prophets. But their heart idols gave them a contrary opinion and convinced them that the prophets were false. No doubt they felt that the prophet was undermining their God-given authority. Little has changed today, except that in recent years the Church has been restricted from imposing the death penalty, even as was done under the Romans in the first century.
Though the priests in Jerusalem grumbled at this restriction, it was actually an act of God's mercy, because the priests were too quick to judge, and they had too many idols in the heart to be qualified as God's judges. So God hired the Romans to restrict them, even as He has hired Mystery Babylon today to restrict the power of the Church after centuries of their abuse of power. If Jerusalem stoned its thousands, Rome burned and tortured its millions. So while many chafe at Mystery Babylon and its own abuses, keep in mind that our modern rulers are in power because of God's judgment and God's mercy.