False Shepherds Discourage the Righteous and Encourage the Wicked
Ezekiel 13:21-23 Your veils also I will tear off and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as prey, and you shall know that I am the LORD. (22) Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, (23) therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the LORD.
The Lord does not discourage His people. He does not, in that sense, “grieve them,” as Ezekiel puts it. The Good Shepherd encourages His flock. Not so the wicked, false shepherd who allies with the wicked man and encourages him in his evil. Listen to Ezekiel talk about these evil shepherds again:
Ezekiel 13:8-10 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD. (9) My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. (10) Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash…
I find the matter of this “whitewashing” particularly interesting. Jesus must have had this passage in mind when he told the Jewish leaders that they were like whitewashed tombs. Among other characteristics, false pastors/shepherds deal in falsehood, not truth. They tell the wicked that they have peace with God when in fact God’s judgment is upon them. They build their own “churches” that are full of the wicked, but cover it all up with the whitewash of their lying words. It becomes a den of thieves, a sanctuary for the wicked. Abusers who wear a facade of whitewashed religion love such places. In “churches” like this, the wicked are encouraged in their abuse of their victims, and the victims are discouraged and rendered injustice.
Thus, church leaders who effect injustice upon victims are demonstrating a key characteristic of false shepherds whom the Lord is against. Listen to the following comment on Ezekiel 13 by Wilhelm Walther, a Lutheran theologian from the 1800’s. Walther points out that a false shepherd refuses to apply the Law of God to the wicked, and he withholds God’s good news from the oppressed:
Here you see how the preacher is cursed who knows that his congregation needs an application of the Law, yet for a piece of bread [ie, for his own personal gain] he keeps silent. Woe to everyone who pampers secure sinners with soft pillows and cushions! These preachers lull to sleep with the Gospel those who ought to be awakened from their sleep by the Law. It is a wrong application of the Gospel to preach it to people who are not afraid of sinning. On the other hand, it is even more horrible if a pastor is a legalistic teacher, refusing to preach the Gospel to his congregation because he says, “These people will just misuse it anyway.” Should poor sinners therefore be deprived of the Gospel? Let the wicked perish! On the other hand, the children of God should know how near at hand help is and how easily it can be obtained. But anyone withholding the Gospel from those in need of consolation fails to distinguish Law and Gospel. Woe, and again woe, to such people!
Ferdinand, Carl; Wilhelm Walther (1905-07-02). Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible (Kindle Locations 2442-2449). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
Bullseye, Dr. Walther!