“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.“
Revelation 2:20 NLT
A few more thoughts about this Jezebel. Firstly, how can anyone lead another person astray? It can only be by presenting a series of ideas and suggestions that connect with what another person is already doing or thinking, confirming their thoughts and leading them into situations that are wrong. Or introducing into their thinking an alternative or totally different way or course of action. But however the process is completed, there is a synergistic connection, and thoughts are translated into deeds. What might be festering in the back of someone’s mind can be brought into the light of day by the right catalysts. Now, every society has issues with sexual sin. What God designed sex to be can become distorted and abused because our enemy, the devil, knows humanity’s weaknesses and he knows that he can quite easily bring about sexual sin. So if this Jezebel plays to generic weaknesses, perhaps by packaging her prophecies into plausible arguments for immorality, then people with such tendencies will be led astray. Easily and willingly.
But who or what is a Jezebel? The Jezebel of the Old Testament was a controlling, evil, idol-worshiping woman who was determined to get her own way, regardless of the consequences. She even set herself up against a man of God, Elijah, who fled from her in fear (1 Kings 19:3), in spite of the fact that he had just performed an amazing miracle at Mount Carmel. She was a formidable woman.
There are some Christians who speak about a Jezebel spirit. They refer to someone who wants to be in control of their local church or fellowship and cause disruption and problems to try and get their own way. They make things difficult for everyone else in the church, particularly the leadership. They use all sorts of techniques to try and get other people on their side, perhaps by a whispering campaign, or spreading lies about others, or by playing a persecuted role, inviting sympathy, encouraging people to take sides. But they can be very clever in the way they go about their nefarious business, packaging what they say innocuously, chipping away with a steady drip, drip, drip, until their objectives are realised. Some may not even fully realise what they are doing. But it needs a strong leader to discern and call out such a person and deal with their evil ways.
As pilgrims, we need to be aware of other people’s agendas, particularly when they are different to ours. And if we are uncomfortable about what someone is saying about another person or leader in the church, we should gently and graciously close down the conversation. We must never let our thinking or talking become corrupted by another person, no matter how plausible it may seem. The Apostle Paul gave some good advice in Ephesians 4:29, “… Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them“. And in Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone”. But how do we deal with the Jezebel figure trying to lead others astray in the church? The temptation would be to make an appointment with the church leaders to warn them, or start telling other people to beware of such a person. But this would be a wrong course of action. The church in Thyatira was guilty of permitting the sinful woman to spread her falsehoods unchecked. Jesus gave us guidance about how to deal with people who seem to be walking a sinful path, particularly one that is at variance with the purity of the Word. He said, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17). But having said that, I have only rarely seen an issue resolved by the Matthew 18 process. Prayer is the most effective way of dealing with a wrong spirit. It may take time and patience, love and grace, but in 1 John 4:4 we read, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world“. And as we read in the rest of the message to the angel of the church at Thyatira, Jesus will ultimately bring about a solution for a failure to repent.
One last thought. If in our local fellowships we find that our vision is at variance with that of the leaders. Or if the denomination of which we are a part is considering or allowing sinful or worldly practices into our churches. Or if we cannot agree or endorse the direction the leaders are taking us, then we must prayerfully consider our membership of that body of believers. And if, after a serious and prayerful period of reflection, we are still having problems, then we should move on to somewhere more in line with what we believe. What we mustn’t do is to become a root of bitterness, becoming a Jezebel. We won’t of course find a perfect church but we must find one that upholds the purity of God’s Word.
Dear Lord. Please help us to maintain the purity of Your Word and Your Spirit in our churches. Please give us discernment and wisdom in our daily walk with You and our fellow pilgrims. Amen.