Answers to "Ask Mike" Questions
49. If God never tempts anyone, why in Ezekiel does it say about a false prophet, in 14:9, "...I the LORD have enticed that prophet,..." (from Ezekiel 14:9 NIV)
The questioner asks, "If God does not tempt, why does Ezekiel 14:9 say, 'And if the [false - context] prophet is enticed to utter a prophecy, I the LORD have enticed that prophet,...' (Ezekiel 14:9a NIV)?" At first glance, it does appear that God removes free will from the false prophet and is alone responsible for the prophet's actions. The New Century version puts it this way, "But the prophet may be tricked into giving a prophecy. Then it is because I, the Lord, have tricked that prophet to speak." (Ezekiel 14:9a EB)
I am not sure I could give any better response than which Dr. Jim Smith gives in his comments on this passage. Smith reminds us that false prophets would not exist without people willing to to heed them. In this passage, Ezekiel turns his attention to those who wanted to hear nothing but pious platitudes and flattery. Separated from their homeland and from the temple, the people of God found plenty of temptation to hear false teaching from false prophets. This sort of teaching caused confusion and created difficulties for those who stood for the truth. Smith writes,
"The prophets who were causing such confusion in Jerusalem and Babylon had been enticed. God declares here that He had enticed that prophet, i.e., He had permitted the enticement to take place. This does not mean that the prophet who spoke falsely was not a free moral agent. He bore complete responsibility for his actions. The idea here is that men who reject the truth of God have opened their mind for such judicial enticement to false teaching. One must distinguish here between the permissive and active will of God. Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and yet the Scripture declares that God hardened his heart as well. Part of the punishment which God metes out to sinners is that He permits them to be led into ever greater sin. When men obstinately refuse the truth, God gives them over to falsehood."
I might add that there are times when we knowingly permit an individual to do the wrong thing in order to expose their true intent. By our own inaction, it could be said that "we enticed them" to act. The truth is, however, that they had already succumbed to the enticement to do wrong. Our permissive silence allowed them to go to the point where their nefarious schemes are revealed for what they are. Under such circumstances we say "they were hoist on their own petard." In other words, they were caught in their own actions. God's silence permitted these false prophets to move farther and farther into false teaching. God did not make them do so, he permitted them to make their own choices and in that sense enticed them. Yet it is clear from the passage that the result of their choices brings them to judgment. Not only that, but those who willingly hear such teaching stand equally guilty. Speaking of the false prophet and his willing disciple, the New Century Version says they "...both will be responsible for their guilt." (from Ezekiel 14:10b EB).
Ezekiel, speaking by the inspiration (not the enticement) of God points out that when such false teaching becomes abundantly clear, God's people will leave idol worship behind never to return to it (Ezekiel 14:11). God, in his foreknowledge, declared what later became truth. Following the Babylonian Captivity, Israel never returned to idol worship.
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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scriptures marked (EB) quoted from The Everyday Bible, New Century Version, copyright (c) 1987, 1988 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.