FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY SILENCES ANY MOCKING OF DELAY IN GOD’S TIMETABLE
Scoffers have always made fun of God’s prophetic word – charging God with long delays in fulfillment – essentially mocking the veracity of God’s promises. But God is neither threatened or amused by such arrogant challenges. He continues to sovereignly direct the course of history according to His timetable and faithfully executes every threat of judgment and pledge of blessing. Examining His track record in the past gives us confidence that He will continue to fulfill every prophecy that still remains.
The Apostle Peter exposed the mockers who continue to operate in these last days of the Church Age:
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their
mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of
His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was
from the beginning of creation . . . But do not let this one fact escape your
notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a
thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some
count slowness . . .” (2 Peter 3:3-9)
This approach to God’s promise of coming judgment is nothing new. It began back in the Garden where the serpent contradicted God’s warning of death for disobedience.
Ezekiel dealt with the same mentality back in his day. The false prophets were painting a pleasant picture of peace and prosperity when God had promised impending doom. Ezekiel pointed to the near term fulfillment of prophecy as the compelling vindication of the faithfulness of God to His promises. We can point back to that historical example as we respond to the critics of today who would like to imagine that they are not accountable to the God who is sending Jesus Christ back to judge the living and the dead.
Morgan: The heart of man, set upon evil courses, constantly adopts one of these two expedients to comfort itself. Either it mocks at the prophetic word, or says that fulfillment is postponed.
Douglas Stuart: It might seem that we could hardly blame people for wondering why it had taken so long for the prophets’ words to come true if they were really speaking for God. This skepticism had a point. But we cannot ultimately sympathize with them because in fact they were severely underestimating and misunderstanding the power of God to do what He was doing. They mistook His mercy and patience for His inability or disinterest. He was waiting, giving them another chance, calling them to change. They were taking it all as evidence that He was not a force to be reckoned with.
Daniel Block: Ezekiel 12:21–25 is the first of a couplet of prophecies closely related in both substance and form. Each is a short disputation oracle dealing with popular cynicism arising out of apparent nonfulfillment of prophetic pronouncements. The limits of this unit are set by the word-event formula in v. 21 and the signatory formula at the end of v. 25. Within this framework the passage follows the normal pattern of a disputation speech.
TWO DIVINE MUZZLINGS OF THE MOCKERS OF GOD’S PROMISES OF JUDGMENT
God exercises incredible forbearance in allowing false prophets to propagate their messages of deceit. But there comes a time when He dramatically intervenes to shut up the mockers and scoffers and vindicate the truthfulness of His Word.
I. (:21-25) FIRST DIVINE MUZZLING – DIRECTED AGAINST THE SPECIFIC PROVERB MOCKING THE CERTAINTY OF GOD’S PROMISE OF JUDGMENT
A. (:21) Introductory Refrain — Authoritative Source of the Refutation
“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying”
B. (:22) Arrogant Sarcasm of the Specific Proverb Mocking God’s Promise of Judgment
“Son of man, what is this proverb you people have concerning the land of Israel,
Expectation of a proverb = it should hold true (except for the isolate exception);
We are talking about what God says about His own people and His own land;
certainly He should be on target regarding what he says on this subject
They had come up with a short, pithy, witty expression to mock God
1. Charging God with Delayed Promises – Unexpected / Incomprehensible
“The days are long”
2. Charging God with False Promises
“and every vision fails”
MacArthur: Delay had given the people the false impression that the stroke of judgment would never come. In fact, a saying had become popular, no doubt developed by false prophets who caused the people to reject Ezekiel’s visions and prophecies.
Peter Pett: The proverb is literally, ‘The days, they lengthen and every vision, it dies.’ The point being made is that time goes by but none of the prophecies come to fulfilment. Thus when the people hear a prophecy they shrug their shoulders and say, ‘it has never happened, it will not happen now.’ Proverbs can be very valuable, but they can become stilted and meaningless, resulting in apathy.
C. (:23-25) Almighty Sentence of Imminent Fulfillment
1. Nullifying the Mocking Proverb
“Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord God, ‘I will make this
proverb cease so that they will no longer use it as a proverb in Israel.’”
2. No More Delay in Fulfillment of God’s Prophecy
“But say to them, ‘The days draw near as well as the fulfillment of every vision.’”
3. No More False Promises of Peace and Security
“For there will no longer be any false vision or flattering divination
within the house of Israel.”
Peter Pett: The great problem for Israel was that of conflicting voices. There were the prophets who prophesied peace and security, words pleasing to men’s ears (Jeremiah 28:2-4; Jeremiah 28:11). And there were those like Jeremiah and Ezekiel who spoke dire warnings of what was shortly to come. And the people as a whole preferred the former.
But now, said Yahweh, this would cease. Once the horror came on them, prophecies of peace and security would be in vain. They would be obviously untrue. Those who spoke with meaningless promises, and flattered with pleasant words through divination, would be shown up and would cease. For what Yahweh had said, He would do. He had spoken, and He would bring it about. Indeed in the very days of Ezekiel’s listeners all he had warned about would come about. Yahweh would perform it.
4. Near-Term, Complete, Certain Fulfillment of Every Promise
“’For I the Lord will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed.
It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house,
I will speak the word and perform it,’ declares the Lord God.”
MacArthur: “in your days” – The prophet is explicit about the present time for fulfillment, i.e., in their lifetime.
II. (:26-28) SECOND DIVINE MUZZLING – DIRECTED AGAINST THE GENERAL CONSENSUS MOCKING THE NEARNESS OF GOD’S PROMISE OF JUDGMENT
A. (:26) Introductory Refrain — Authoritative Source of the Refutation
“Furthermore, the word of the Lord came to me, saying”
Daniel Block: Rather than challenging a proverb circulating in Jerusalem, this address appears to be directed at the exiles who have become disillusioned with Ezekiel. But the problem here differs slightly from the issue addressed in the previous text. Whereas the Jerusalemites had charged the prophets with uttering empty and powerless words, Ezekiel’s fellow exiles seem to have dismissed his utterances as of no consequence to them. The quotation is cast in the form of two chiastically structured cola, both of which raise the issue of the remoteness of the fulfillment of the divine pronouncements. This renders them both unverifiable and irrelevant for the present generation. Which predictions are envisioned here are not specified, but they probably involved Ezekiel’s announcements of Jerusalem’s imminent fall. The cynical response of the exilic community demonstrates that they were as much a part of this rebellious household of Israel as were their compatriots back home.
B. (:27) Arrogant Sarcasm of the General Consensus Mocking God’s Promise of Judgment
“Son of man, behold, the house of Israel is saying, ‘The vision that he sees is for
many years from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’”
C. (:28) Almighty Sentence of Imminent Fulfillment
“Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’”
1. No More Delay (from human perspective; there was never any delay
according to God’s timetable)
“None of My words will be delayed any longer.”
2. Imminent and Complete Fulfillment
“’Whatever word I speak will be performed.’ declares the Lord God.”
Douglas Stuart: People always manage to come up with excuses for not taking God’s Word seriously. They remain unconvinced of what it says, either because it can’t be proved to their satisfaction (e.g., prophecies don’t come true fast enough), or because they think it can’t apply to them, or because they don’t trust the one who speaks the Word, or whatever. Rebelliousness (v. 25) can take many forms, some of them even quite pious (“How do I know which preacher to believe, which church is right?”). In Ezekiel’s day it was “How do I know which prophet is correct (v. 24), which prophecy applies to me (v. 27)?” A true commitment to God does not allow such convenient shrugging off of duty and faith. If God is God, His Word is true. If He has said it, it will come to pass (v. 28). We can never hide behind “timing” or “interpretational problems” or any other device to avoid taking seriously God’s commands and promises. God does what He says He will do.
Iain Duguid: The Lord’s commitment to fulfill whatever he has spoken (12:25, 28) brings us to the crux of the issue between the true and the false prophets—the source of their words. Not every word spoken by someone claiming to be a prophet would be fulfilled, for not all spoke the word of the Lord. In order for every prophetic word to be fulfilled, it was necessary that judgment should come to silence the self-proclaimed prophets. This idea, mentioned in passing in 12:24, is unfolded throughout chapter 13 in two halves that show considerable symmetry. Ezekiel first addresses the false prophets (“the prophets of Israel,” 13:1–16) and then the false prophetesses (“the daughters of your people who prophesy out of their own imagination,” 13:17–23).
Daniel Block: The certainty of the fulfillment of the divine word is based on the person and character of God. The challenges of arrogant and rebellious people will not change the fact that when God speaks he acts. Within a few years of this utterance the cynics would be silenced by the terrible truth of his word.