Ezekiel 14:1-8 (NIV) 1 Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. 2 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 3 “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? 4 Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his faceand then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry. 5 I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’ 6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! 7 “‘When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from me and sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet to inquire of me, I the LORD will answer him myself. 8 I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am theLORD.
On verses 1-8: Ezekiel is sitting with the Jewish elders who have apparently come to see him to get some guidance from the Lord (v1). All of a sudden Ezekiel receives a word from the Lord that actually these elders have set up idols in their hearts. Thus the Lord questions whether He should answer these elders at all (v2). The Lord then instructs Ezekiel to speak a message to the elders which would shed light upon their idolatry and encourage them to return to God (v3-11).
Notice that in these verses the following phrase gets repeated almost word for word in verses 3, 4 and 7: “sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet”. Ezekiel was evidently describing exactly what the elders had done: consult idols before going to him for the Lord’s counsel.
What can we learn from this?
Idolatry is a heart matter. Idolatry is when a person “sets up” (v3, 4, 7) the idol “in his heart” (v3, 4, 7) and treats it as being more important than the Lord.
Idolatry is a stumbling block to others. If I set up an idol in my heart, my idolatry will impact every person within my circle of influence and be “a stumbling block to other people”. More than anyone else, it is my family who is affected when I set up an idol in my heart. So make it your goal not to set up any idol in your heart, lest those you love the most be affected negatively.
God wants to “recapture” (v5) the hearts of those who fall into idolatry. However, if we are stubborn and refuse to turn back to God, the only thing left for God to do is “remove” us (v8 – “cut off”) from His people and His presence. It’s either be recaptured by God’s presence or be removed from God’s presence. The choice is ours. To be recaptured by God, it’s about repenting and renouncing our previous idolatrous practices (v6) and turning to Jesus.
Ezekiel 14:9-11 (NIV) 9 “‘And if the prophet is enticed to utter a prophecy, I the LORD have enticed that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and destroy him from among my people Israel. 10 They will bear their guilt–the prophet will be as guilty as the one who consults him. 11 Then the people of Israel will no longer stray from me, nor will they defile themselves anymore with all their sins. They will be my people, and I will be their God, declares the Sovereign LORD.'”
On verses 9-11: The “prophet” God is referring to in verse 9 is a false prophet. Here God affirms his commitment to hold false prophets accountable (v9-10). Verse 11 conveys the idea that when the false prophet is removed, God’s people will no longer stray or sin (v11). Instead they will truly belong to God and God will truly belong to them (“They will be my people and I will be their God” (v11)).
What can we learn from this? Jesus took on the punishment that a false prophet deserved when He was branded a blasphemer and a heretic by the high priest. He was also crucified as a criminal, though He had done nothing wrong. Jesus went through all of this on our behalf so that through His sacrifice we would no longer stray from God or be involved in sin, that we would truly belong to God and God to us.
Lord Jesus, since idolatry is a heart matter, Holy Spirit please protect me from all idolatry. May I not set up an idol in my heart and keep my heart focused on worshiping You alone. Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for me, for allowing Yourself to be branded as an idol-worshiper and a false prophet, all so that I could be forgiven and belong to Your family. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!