By Russ Ramsey
If there was ever a passage to help us cultivate the practice of discernment, and if ever there was a text to highlight the importance of Biblical literacy (knowing what the Bible says because we’ve read it), this one certainly ranks up there.
This passage speaks to false prophets who prophesy from their own hearts. They presume the way they see and experience the world is as God does, and speak as though their perspective is also His.
Read the passage and look at how the Lord describes the message of the false prophets. They lie about being sent by God, but seem convinced that the world needs to listen to them as though they possess the mind of God. In doing this, they mislead people. The Lord says they are like “jackals”—scavengers who take others down to fill themselves up (Ezekiel 13:4).
The Lord describes their message as being like a “whitewash” (v.10)—a thin veneer spread to make their words seem right, but there’s nothing behind them. Jesus used a similar metaphor for the righteousness of the Pharisees when He called them whitewashed tombs—they looked pretty on the outside, but inside they were filled with all kinds of death and decay (Matthew 23:27).
Here is the lesson in discernment. In our culture, we are inundated with a million voices trying to tell us how to think, what to value, what to be angry about, and how to judge other people according to those standards. Their messages can be passionate, loud, and carry with them a tone of righteous anger. They may even insist that theirs is the only perspective you are permitted to accept. But that doesn’t mean those are the voices of God.
Often the voice of God is a still small voice—a call to humility and faithfulness. It is a call to be willing to live in obscurity in this life, caring well for the people in our path and not seeking celebrity. It is a life of love for neighbor, even love for enemy. It is a call to a life that includes suffering, and sometimes even rejection because of our devotion to Christ expressed through a life of obedience to His word.
During this Lenten season, this passage invites us to practice and develop the skill of discernment through deepening our Biblical literacy. To know the word and voice of God is to spend time in His Word. If we don’t, we may fall victim to believing the loudest, angriest, or most culturally prevalent voices are the voice of God Himself, when in fact they might be a million miles away from how He would have us live. But how would we know? How could we if we do not have the knowledge of His Word as our foundation?