“Certain of the elders of Israel” came to Ezekiel hoping to receive direction from Jehovah. Instead, God confronted them with their wickedness. “These men have taken their idols into their hearts.” They had put their trust in false objects of worship. Even though they were leaders of the Lord’s people, they “set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.” Every time they bowed down in front of some man-made image, they were giving in to serious sin.
The Lord had no intention of being one voice among many within their false pantheon of divinities. His message to them was uncompromising. “Repent and turn away from your idols.” Even if they received some secrets from another world that a messenger claimed to have heard from the God of Israel, it would not actually be a true Word. “I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him.” Both the false ambassador and the idolatrous leaders would suffer because of their rebellion against the one true God.
Why would the Lord not meet them half-way if they claimed to be seeking direction from Him? They needed to turn away from their sinful worship or they would just continue on a road that would surely lead to their destruction. It was the Lord’s love for His people that caused Him to demand that they change their spiritual practices. God disciplined these leaders in the hope that they would not “defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions.” He longed for a far better relationship involving their exclusive devotion, “that they may be My people and I may be their God.”
Perhaps they thought that it was enough for them that Ezekiel would be faithful to the Lord. He could pray for them and give them whatever information they might need from unseen spiritual realms. God insisted that if even “Noah, Daniel, and Job” were interceding for some foreign land filled with idolatry, the Lord would not listen to those great men. How much more would He withhold comforts from His own people in order to gain their attention? He would be willing to bring famine, wild beasts, the sword, and disease upon Jerusalem if such trials were necessary in order to call His children back to a dedicated relationship with Himself.
Yet God would not utterly forget His elect. His discipline would have a good impact upon some. One day “survivors” would come to the community of the faithful, even sons and daughters who had once worshiped forbidden images. These descendants of the godly would come home to the Lord in the fullest way imaginable, not like the elders who wanted to hear from the Almighty and still continue to bow down before idols. The righteous would see some of their children again. They would rejoice to “see their ways and their deeds” as changed men and women, and would be “consoled for the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem.”
God brings discipline upon the elect for His larger saving purposes. Even Jesus, although He was the Son of God, “learned obedience through what He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) Of course our Savior was never engaged in even a moment of idolatry. Nonetheless, He learned the fullness of love through His own experience of the cross. Through His great work “He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Hebrews 5:9)
The Lord God was able to bring blessing even to Jesus through the suffering that He faced. He surely will grant us much grace with the trials that we and our children may desperately need for our eternal good. May we use every painful experience to wake us out of our slumber, not resisting the Holy Spirit, but eagerly abandoning all false worship as we run home again to the only God who can save us.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, we ask that You would give elders to Your church who would truly follow Christ. What will we do if our leaders are worshiping only idols? This is not the way of Your Son. Rid our hearts of false gods. Raise up faithful men to speak the Word of truth to Your people. Be our God. We are Your people. Forgive our sins. We have wandered so far from the pathway of truth. Is there any hope for us? Restore Your church, that we might grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.