"Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me: “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? 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, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.
“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. 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. And I will set my face against that man; 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."
We find ourselves in the book of Ezekiel where the elders of the Jews in exile are sitting before him. They came hoping for a word from the Lord through the prophet. These weren’t the same leaders that they had in Israel. If you remember, Ezekiel had a vision that was documented in chapter 8-11 about what those leaders left behind were doing and it grieved God’s heart. These leaders we see here heard that vision and may have even thought, “Wow, I’m so glad that isn’t us. How horrible are those guys? Can you believe how they would defile the temple?” This is part of the problem we have as humans, we like to compare ourselves to others.
Comparing yourself to another human makes for a problem. The problem is that I’m broken. You are broken. We are all broken and our hearts deceive us. As we look at other people’s sin and tell ourselves how much better off we are, we need to realize our hearts are just as corrupt. We’ve just gotten better at hiding it. Or we just haven’t been caught. We may camouflage our hypocrisy with external religious orthodoxy, but nothing can conceal the pagan secrets of our heart from God. This is true in Ezekiel’s time and it is true for today. We can sum up our text for today in one sentence: Nothing is hidden before God.
God wants our heart
You would think that the leaders of Israel have done the right thing by coming to hear from God through Ezekiel. They have questions that need answers and are recognizing that Ezekiel as God’s prophet could give them an answer from God. Yet, God doesn’t even want to answer them because of their hearts. If their hearts aren’t in the right place, what good is the correct answer? One can seek truth all day long, but if our motivations aren’t in the right place why would one want the truth, what good is it?
It would be interesting to know if the elders thought they could hide the sin in their hearts from God or if they thought God just wouldn’t care? Did they think that because their outward sin wasn’t as glaring as those in Jerusalem that God wouldn’t notice? We all tend to do the same thing when we live our own lives, chasing our own idols for fulfillment and answers, only to come to God as a last resort. Hoping He will save us without calling out how corrupt our hearts really are. We should always seek God, but only on His terms.
Our hearts fool us and our pride blinds us. God has sent us a way out through Jesus. Scripture is clear that “whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame” (Rom 10:11). Christ’s work on the cross is what gives us freedom from our idols. Nothing is hidden from God.
God is merciful when we repent
In verse 6 he tells them to “Repent and turn away from your idols…” The only way to deal with our idols is to come to God in the simple act of repentance. Repentance is not just being sorry, but it is a turning and going the other way. An idol in your life will tell you this will fulfill you, give you self-worth, and help solve your problems. God says, “I will supply all your needs.”
We are called to turn from whatever we are looking to give us what only God will provide. We can’t do this alone. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do this in our lives. We need the Spirit’s minute-by-minute, day-by-day, constant conviction and direction in our lives. We need to wake up every morning and commit ourselves to God’s work and His way in our life. We need Him!
He calls you today, just as He called the elders in chapter 14, to repent and turn away. We may think we are managing or hiding it well, but nothing is hidden from God.
God works in us for His glory and our good
God convicts us of the idols in our lives and gives us the ability to repent through the power of His Holy Spirit. When you were saved by Jesus, He placed His Spirit within you to convict you of sin, guide you into truth and glorify the Father (John 16:8-14). Ezekiel spoke in chapter 11 about how God will remove the heart of stone and place a heart of flesh within His people, to walk in His ways. He is saving us. Ultimately, saving us from ourselves. He has done what we are unable to do, helping us to release the lifeless idols we are clutching with our hands and storing in our hearts, so that we don’t lay our lives down beside them.
May we learn to trust that for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom 8:28). May we not attempt to hide idols in our lives and fool ourselves that God can’t see them or doesn’t care. And may we know that He is working on our behalf through the power of His Spirit to show us and free us from these idols that have overtaken us. God, do your work in and through us we pray.
He will make our idols known
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?