Q: Why should the promise, “I will cut off the names of the idols” be familiar to those raised on the Mosaic Law?
A: In the course of prohibiting the worship of false gods, one of the stipulations was “do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth”. (Ex. 23:13)
Q: Why is the specific use of “cut off” particularly powerful?
A: It is an action described in Scripture as something which is tantamount to total and complete destruction, not just in this life, but also consigning it to hell. For example, this is what happened to Achan and company (Josh. 7) where the destruction was not just limited to him personally, but to his family as co-conspirators, all of their possessions and property, and all that remained was a burial mound for posterity. This resulted in their name being removed, or “cut off”, from the roles of God’s people so that they had no inheritance or standing in this life or the next.
Q: And how would this be additionally familiar to students of the rest of God’s Word?
A: This spiritual cleansing of idolatry has been previously spoken by God through prophets.
“They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.
— Ezekiel 37:23
“For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth,
So that they will be mentioned by their names no more.
— Hosea 2:17
Point: The Hebrew word for “mentioned” in Hosea could be literally translated “re-mentioned” to show that what is being addressed is a continual, repeated action rather than a one-time slip of the tongue.
Q: How do we know that “the prophets” God is going to remove is referring to just the false prophets and not all prophets?
A: Because it is said of them in v.3 following this, “for you have spoken falsely in the name of the Lord”, and in v.4 that they will finally put off the deception where they have been wearing “a hairy robe to deceive”.
Q: What is significant about this feature of “a hairy robe to deceive”?
A: This alludes to both Elijah (2 Ki. 1:8) and John the Baptist (Mt. 3:4) who came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk. 1:17). In other words, they were claiming to be the messianic forerunner predicted in Scripture, not just another ordinary, everyday false prophet.
Q: What is remarkable about the end result of how God will deal with the false prophets?
A: They “will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies”—that is come to confess the deception of their own message, confess the deception of making themselves to look like a prophet, and publicly admit their true identity. “…but he will say, ‘I am not a prophet’”. (v.5)
Q: What is v.6 describing? Is this suddenly speaking of Jesus’ crucifixion?
A: Something false prophets engage in, and still seen today, is “false charismata”—that is, making it look like there is bleeding coming from the hands or head or other physical signs, claiming this has happened supernaturally as a sign from god. What the false prophet is admitting is that his buddies did this to him at his request so he could make a false claim. Such will not only admit their false message, but their false signs as well.
Q: In addition to the removal of idolatry and false prophets, what is the third thing which God will remove on Israel’s behalf?
A: “…the unclean spirit from the land”. (v.2)
Q: What is this referring to?
A: It is the primary cause and motivator of both idolatry and the false prophets. They are not simply an error or mistake, but the result of a concerted effort animated by a false spiritual influence.
Q: What is the greater working of God that is being described here?
A: It is what we would call “consecration”, the process by which someone is spiritually purified according to God’s standard to be qualified to come into His presence to worship and serve Him.
Q: Has Israel ever been consecrated to this degree and in this manner?
A: No. While we might attribute a partial fulfillment to the work of John the Baptist in the First Coming in preparing some of them for the Messiah, we know that someone in that same character will spearhead this complete work in the same but more complete way in the course of the Second Coming. (Mt. 17:9-13)
Application: Before the final and last divine signs and wonders bringing all things to a close in the Last Days, there will be the precursor of the greatest spiritual consecration of God’s people. False spirituality will be replaced with authentic spirituality.