For the Love of God, Volume 2/September 11
From Gospel Translations
2 Samuel 6; 1 Corinthians 16; Ezekiel 14; Psalm 55
THREE OBSERVATIONS FROM Ezekiel 14:
First, the peculiar expression “set up idols in their hearts,” repeated several times with minor variations in 14:1-8, reeks of duplicity. Publicly there may be a fair bit of covenantal allegiance, but heart loyalty simply isn’t there. To set up idols in the heart is to separate oneself from the living God (14:7).
That danger is no less treacherous today than in Ezekiel’s time. Somehow we manage to adhere to our creedal profession, but if anything goes wrong our undisciplined rage shows that we maintain little real trust in the living God: our secret idol is comfort and physical well-being. We attend church, but rarely do we pray in private or thoughtfully read the Word of God. We sing lustily at missionary conventions, but have not shared the Gospel with anyone for years. And deep down we are more interested in our reputation, or in sex, or in holidays, than we are in basking in the awesome radiance and majesty of God. Meditate on 14:8, and ask for forgiveness and grace to become more consistent.
Second, those who set up idols in their hearts are the very people most likely to seek out a prophet or a preacher to keep up appearances and secure a little help along the way. But God says, “I the LORD will answer [them] myself in keeping with [their] great idolatry” (14:4). He will “entice” the prophets (14:9-11)—the word might better here be rendered “deceive.” God’s “deception” of the prophets is part of his judicial sentence. Yet it is a peculiar “deception,” for God’s revelation is already there in public Scriptures to be read and studied; moreover, he now openly tells the prophets of his judicial hand upon them. If they had an iota of spiritual sensibility, the warning would drive them to self-examination and repentance. But no: the sentence is pronounced, and they are deceived. Such prophets lie to the people, and the people like the lies and listen to them (cf. 13:19).
Third, sometimes judgment becomes so inevitable that not even the presence of the most righteous would delay it any longer (14:12-23). The reasoning presupposes the theology of Genesis 18: God may spare a wicked city or nation for the sake of the just who reside there. But where wickedness overflows, not even the presence of Noah (spared from the Flood), Job (declared “blameless” and “upright,” Job 1:1), and Daniel (Ezekiel’s contemporary, serving in the Babylonian courts, renowned for his piety) will stay the disaster that God ordains. Indeed, when the exiles see the revolting conduct of the new refugees, they will realize how right God was (14:22-23).