“Certain of the elders of Israel” came to Ezekiel “to inquire of the Lord.” The Almighty knew all that was in their hearts and He was not impressed. His response? “I will not be inquired of by you.”
The Lord went on to review the history of Israel from the days of their bondage in Egypt up to the present time of exile in Babylon. Though there appeared to be high and low points in this survey of nearly 1000 years, the story of the entire millennium was remarkably consistent. God had always commanded that they “cast away the detestable things that their eyes feasted upon,” yet they stubbornly continued in idolatry. He gave to them His statutes “by which, if a person does them, he shall live,” but they would not obey. He provided them with the gift of His Sabbaths for their growth in holiness, but they refused to rest in Him.
Throughout this entire era the Lord disciplined His people for their sins, yet ultimately, His “eye spared them.” They continued to resist His commandments. Now they pretended to desire His direction for living, but they would not sincerely repent of their disobedience. God revealed to Ezekiel what these elders really wanted: “Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.”
The plan of the Almighty was far better, though it would involve much suffering. He would “enter into judgment” with them “face to face.” Though He would eventually bring them back into the land, He made this solemn promise: “I will purge out the rebels from among you.”
As God had earlier revealed both to Ezekiel and to other prophets, He would one day change His people inside and out. The Lord would manifest His holiness among His beloved children “in the sight of the nations.” They would hate their former lawlessness in that future glorious era. “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for My Name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel.”
The reaction of the elders of Israel to this very sobering message was most alarming. Ezekiel said, “Ah, Lord God! They are saying of me, ‘Is he not a maker of parables?’” They loved the entertainment provided by the prophet, but the seriousness of his message seemed to be lost upon them.
James 4 suggests that this odd reaction to the Word of the Lord was not limited to the Old Covenant people. The church also claims to want to inquire of the Lord, yet we have not entirely made our peace with the truth that we cannot seek God for the satisfaction of our own selfish “passions.” James writes, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” Yet James also assures us that God will glorify His own Name and will give us more grace. As followers of Jesus, we must do what was required of Israel in every era: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10)
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Sovereign Lord, Your Word is true and good. We want to hear the truth. What is wrong with our hearts that we would ever resist You? You have given us so many good things, and have warned us concerning the detestable nature of idolatry. Nonetheless we have been attracted to what is wrong and foolish. Lord, we would rest in Your Son Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. He has accomplished our redemption through His death. We are the ones who have violated Your commandments, but He has paid the great debt that we incurred. He never rebelled against You, but we have profaned Your Name and Your Law throughout all the nations where we live. You are the Lord. Speak to us now in great power and love. Draw us near again by Your Spirit. We hate all our false worship, and we turn away from our defiling spiritual adultery. We repent. We hate our desire to be imitators of the world, rather than imitators of Your Son. If You punished us as our sins deserved we could never have survived, but You have seen Your beloved Son face to face in judgment for our sake. Once we were scattered, but now we have been gathered. Once we were rejected, but now in Him we have been accepted forever. You have not dealt with us according to our evil hearts and our arrogant ways. You have granted us mercy, according to the righteousness of Your Son, our atoning sacrifice.