Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Untempered Mortar

In Ezekiel chapter 13 we read that God told Ezekiel to prophesy against certain other prophets of his day.

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!

Ezekiel 13: 1 - 3

Some of the prophets had been attributing to God their own thoughts and ideas, and God was none too pleased to say the least.

At this point we need to understand just what a prophet was, and is, in order to fully appreciate this passage. Most people tend to think of a prophet as a forecaster, a predictor of future events. And it is certainly true that prophets sometimes foretell things that will happen in the future. But that's not what makes them prophets.

Similarly, most people think a prophecy is a prediction of some future event. And likewise, many prophecies predict future events, but that's not what make them prophecies.

There are two kinds of people who provide communication between man and God, specifically prophets and priests. Priests pass on men's' prayers and petitions to God, and prophets pass on God's messages to men. As a man, if you want to get a message to God you need a priest. If God wants to get a message to man He needs a prophet.

So a prophecy doesn't need to predict future events to be a prophecy. It only needs to be a message from God. It's the source, not the content, that makes it a prophecy.

On a completely tangential side note, you might also be interested to know that a prophecy (pro·feh·see) is a noun, a message, whereas prophesy (pro·feh·sigh) is a verb, the act of declaring a prophecy. Now back to our regularly scheduled subject.

Today we have no need for priests. Jesus is our high priest, and through Him we have direct access to God. But, we do still have people who declare God's Word. We call them preachers. Moreover, when it comes to the lost, we are all to proclaim God's Word. So really, all Christians are prophets today.

So what did these prophets of old do that so displeased God? Well, as we just read, they made up whatever they wanted to proclaim instead of sticking to proclaiming what God told them.

They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made [others] to hope that they would confirm the word.

Ezekiel 13: 6

Notice the phrase, "... they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word." In other words, they tried to convince themselves that they were true by means of self-fulfilling prophecies. In Deuteronomy 18: 22 God told us how to spot a false prophet, specifically that their proclamations would be found false. Here we read that these prophets were trying to gin up the confidence of the people they deceived in order to confirm their proclamations.

It's kind of like something I heard on one of those reality tattoo shows. The tattoo artist said that people never complain about their tattoos because once you've tattooed them they have a vested interest in protecting your reputation. It's really just another twist on the old adage that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it, or in the parlance of modern Hollywood and inside-the-Beltway Washington D.C., perception is truth.

So what did God tell Ezekiel to tell these false prophets?

Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and [there was] no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered [morter]: Say unto them which daub [it] with untempered [morter], that it shall fall:

Ezekiel 13: 10, 11a

What is untempered mortar? Well, "tempered" means "made strong." Think of steel. It can be quite malleable. But once you have it fashioned like you want it, you can heat it up and cool it down, a process called tempering, which makes the steel very hard and strong. Mortar too has to be tempered, hard and strong, in order for walls to be sound. Imagine using drywall compound to set bricks. That would be using untempered mortar.

Notice that He said "one" built up a wall. In Hebrew it would be more like "someone" built up a wall, meaning someone who came before the ones in question. It doesn't necessarily mean only one, as in quantity, but just that others who came before. In our case, the someone who came before us are the Apostles, and the generations of Christians who preceded us. In other words, Jesus laid the foundation (I Corinthians 3: 11), and Christians have been building on that foundation since.

And what will become of the works of their labors? Those who daubed with untempered mortar shall see their works destroyed. It will be for God to judge who was saved and who was lost, but that is not based on the works of their hands. Clearly some are saved who will see their works destroyed and suffer loss (I Corinthians 3: 12 - 15). But others are not.

So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered [morter], and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD. Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered [morter], and will say unto you, The wall [is] no [more], neither they that daubed it;

Ezekiel 13: 14, 15

But note that the foundation is not destroyed. Instead the foundation will be "discovered" in this translation, "uncovered" in more modern translations, "revealed" however you translate it.

Did that ring a bell? Did mentioning the revealing, or the Revelation if you prefer, of the foundation, of Jesus the Christ make you think? It should. In the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Revelation we read about the Seven Churches of Prophecy. And like most prophecies they have multiple meanings. Obviously they each refer to a real 1st Century church. They  also have metaphoric meaning in that each describes potential spiritual conditions in which every congregation and individual can find themselves. Finally, and of interest to out topic, they have prophetic meaning in that they foreshadow the history of the Church, that is Christendom as a whole.

And at the end of that history you will find two churches named, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Philadelphia represents the body of believers who are genuinely saved, whereas Laodicea represents the churches final state of apostasy, tepid and without conviction, judging themselves by the standards of their own perception rather than by the standard of God's Word.

So how does your church judge itself? Do you take consolation in the size of your congregation? If so, do you ever question whether you've had to compromise God's Word in order to appease that congregation? Do you think your church is strong because you have enough people to make the payments on a million dollar mortgage, or are you concerned that you may be forced to appease all of those itching ears in order to make your next month's budget (II Timothy 4: 3)?

Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life: Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD.

Ezekiel 13: 22, 23

You do no one any favors, not yourself, not your church and certainly not your neighbor, when you appease the sinner's itching ears. Oh, to be sure, God will forgive any sin. He will forgive every sin and all sins. And He will forgive any sinner, except an unrepentant one (see I John 1: 8 - 10; Jude 22, 23).

So at least we now know why the Laodiceans were so tepid. "Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations:" They have no strong conviction because God doesn't show them His Word. How else could anyone be so complacent about the Word except that when they read it they feel nothing.

What about you? When you study scripture does it excite you to see the wonderful tapestry that is God's Word? Does your heart soar when you discover the synergy of one passage fitting so harmoniously with another and another and another until the whole of Scripture is so intertwined that you can't tug any one part that it doesn't pull throughout the whole? Or is reading Scripture a kind of chore, something that you trudge through or procrastinate doing at all?

When you proclaim the Word, do you speak the uncompromised Word of God, or do you leave people with a false sense of security about their need to repent? Do you daub with untempered mortar?

And what about your church? Does your pastor teach you scripture? Or does he teach you philosophies and platitudes that would be equally at home on a bumper sticker as a pulpit?

Honestly deliberate these questions, and remember what Jesus told the Laodiceans, ...

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Revelation 3: 19