Ezekiel 14 (ESV)
Idolatrous Elders Condemned
Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me.
These men were the rulers of the Israelite community in exile. They came pretending to want to know what a prophet of the Lord has to say, but God has seen their true allegiance.
2 And the word of the Lord came to me: 3 “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?
“Can these men seriously consult me? Is it fit I should give counsel to obstinate, resolved sinners, who come to inquire, but will not hearken? Should I help them in their distress, who depend on idols which I hate?”
–Matthew Poole (1624–1679, English Nonconformist theologian)
4 Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.
“No oracle will be given, but I the Lord will answer him myself, in actions and not in words. The words have a sinister ring about them.”
–John B. Taylor (Ezekiel: Tyndale Old Testament Commentary)
6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
7 For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the Lord will answer him myself. 8 And I will set my face against that man;
The answer will be judgment, not words. “I will look him to death.”
–John Trapp (1601-1669, English Anglican Bible commentator)
I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the Lord. 9 And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
God’s ultimate response to that false prophet would be to destroy him.
Christopher J. H. Wright saw in this a warning to those who have a gift and are unfaithful with it. “If we have some great gift and are being used in the ·service of God, and then try to use it in our own interests, or divorce it from the requirements of Christian living, God may turn the gift against us. A theologian, who abandons revealed truth for clever ideas of his own, first deceives himself, and then, by divine rule, becomes blind to the truth.”
10 And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike— 11 that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God.”
This declared purpose of God was fulfilled in history. When Israel came back into the land in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, they did not have the same problem with idolatry as before. In some sense, the Babylonian conquest and captivity “cured” Israel of idolatry.
Jerusalem Will Not Be Spared
12 And the word of the Lord came to me: 13 “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, 14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God.
Noah, Daniel, and Job: The choice of these three men is fascinating. All three were men who were tested and proven faithful, men of faith who were rescued by their trust in God.
· Noah was a righteous and obedient man (though later shown to be flawed), yet his righteousness did not save his world, only himself and his immediate family.
· Daniel was alive and in Babylon in Ezekiel’s day. His leadership and godliness was so evident to everyone that God could cite him as an example of great righteousness even in his own lifetime.
· Job was not, properly, even an Israelite (the same could be said of Noah). The reality of his relationship with God was demonstrated through the most difficult of testing and misery.
This text teaches us “the prayers of the greatest intercessors cannot avail if men persist in their unbelief.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892, English “Prince of Preachers”)
15 “If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it be made desolate, so that no one may pass through because of the beasts, 16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord God, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate.
17 “Or if I bring a sword upon that land and say, Let a sword pass through the land, and I cut off from it man and beast, 18 though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord God, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered.
19 “Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast, 20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord God, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.
21 “For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! 22 But behold, some survivors will be left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out; behold, when they come out to you, and you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, for all that I have brought upon it. 23 They will console you, when you see their ways and their deeds, and you shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, declares the Lord God.”
Even in bringing severe judgments, God is righteous in all that he does.
“All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to His blood.”
–Isaac Watts (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
HERE is another hymn of surrender to Jesus — “O for a closer walk with God.” William Cowper wrote the lyrics in 1772; Cowper was friends with John Newton, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.