Ezekiel has shared his visions of God with the exiles in Babylon where he lives. Evidently they didn’t get the message God intended, which was to repent for their idolatry. The people want more information–different information–than what Ezekiel’s shared. So the elders come to see him to “inquire of the Lord,” 14:1-3.
Rather than being moved by the story of God’s leaving town, rather than being grateful for the news that they’re the remnant he’s promised he’ll bring back, rather than falling on their faces with thanks for being spared the judgment that’s coming to Jerusalem, and of course, rather than repenting, the elders come to Ezekiel to ask God for something more. (for the story of God’s leaving town, see the “Ezekiel” section of iwantmore.blog/2020/11/04/november-4/).
Why do they want more information? Maybe because they think “knowledge is power” and as leaders, they want to feel like they’ve got it all. Maybe they want to know what to do about Babylon. Maybe they’re just wanting news about their homeland because they have loved ones left behind. In any case, they’ve missed the reason God’s given Ezekiel the visions in the first place: so they will know that God is God and there is no other, so “they will know that I am the Lord,” 12:15-16. After all, if they believe that Jehovah God is truly God, they’ll drop their idols like the dead wood they really are.
Regardless of why they think they want to “inquire of the Lord,” God says the reason is because they’re rebellious. They don’t want to listen to what God has to say–they never have. “They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people,” 12:2. This is the complaint God’s had with the “house of Israel” for generations. Even though they’re now exiled in a foreign land, somehow they’ve missed the obvious: they’re there because of idolatry.
When the elders come to Ezekiel in chapter 14, God’s not glad to see them. He tells Ezekiel, “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?” 14:3. They say they want to hear from him, but they sure have a funny way of showing it.
It’s like this: a group of city planners want to have another meeting with their consultant. Though they’ve ignored what he said in the last one; this time they want to knock around ideas of revitalizing the community. But he looks at them and says, “Men, stop stealing your neighbor’s newspaper. Stop sleeping with his wife. Stop drinking yourself into a stupor every night. These are the issues undermining your city. If you want to know what I’ve got to say, listen to what I’ve already said!”
Rather than turn the elders away when they come, God tells them that since they’ve come with idols in their hearts, this is the subject he’ll discuss with them, and only this. “Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” 14:4-6. There’s no news from God other than what he’s been saying for weeks and months and years. As far as he’s concerned, until the idolatry issue is dealt with, there’s no need to move on to any others.
There’s a delusion that sets in with idolatry. Since idol worship can be done in the heart where no one sees, the delusion is that God can’t see it either. It’s so powerful, a person can hide it even from themselves and still expect God to bless their business or resolve a conflict without any idea that there’s something between them and God. This is where the elders are.
Idolatry blinds and deafens the idolater, turning us into what we worship. This is another power it has, to turn us into zombies with empty heads and hearts, with eyes and ears that don’t see or hear what’s happening inside us, much less what God says. “Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?'” Is 44:20. (See also Ps 115:8; Ps 135:18; Jer 10:8; Hab 2:18.)
At the end of chapter 14, God says why he wants his people to get rid of their idols. It’s so they can be freed from sin and enjoy him again, so “They will be my people, and I will be their God,” 14:11. God’s not a killjoy. He created joy. And he longs for intimate relationship with us. The reason to deal with idolatry is so that our relationship with him can be connected–unhindered and joyful again.
This is what God’s always been about. It’s why he called Abraham and blessed him with Isaac, why through Jacob he birthed a nation, why he gave Moses the law at Mt. Sinai, why he sent Jesus to suffer and die. Relationship is why he made Adam and Eve in the first place and is why he was so grieved when they listened to the serpent instead. They preferred connecting with his enemy more than they did with him.
But God’s created us for fellowship with himself, for intimacy, for connection. He gives us pleasures and delights thrown in besides. In fact, he gives them to us in the only way they can be enjoyed, as gifts of his love, not as life sources. Only he knows best how life works.
But we’re modern people. We know there’s no power in idols of wood and stone. How many of us really struggle with bowing down to a carved piece of wood? This is the tricky part, because idols of the heart are sneakier.
They often look like your husband or wife. They can live in the love of your children, a pet, a peeve. They can assume the shape of your workouts and work, your best friend’s opinion, your own opinions. The striving for cool, your son’s grades at school, anything that gives you greater joy and stability than God is an idol. He’s to be our only source, our fountain, our rock.
To find out what yours are, you might pay attention to where you turn when trouble comes. Or what you turn to, to prevent trouble–a nap, an app, a snack. Idols are often the good things God gives that we’ve turned into gotta-haves. He insists on being our one and only go-to.
The only way I know to deal with idolatry is to ask God to show me, to confess what I see, and to believe the good news of the gospel–that I need my Savior to live life God’s way. It’s only God’s enabling grace and love that give me what I need to get rid of the idols I lug around and run to him instead.
How do we deal with idolatry? God tells us 184 times in the book of Ezekiel, “…know that I am the Lord,” 12:16.
The book of Hebrews has been telling us about Jesus, our High Priest. In every chapter, the writer gives us reasons why Jesus is qualified to be our priest. In chapter 7, he focuses on Jesus as “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek,” 7:17.
I’ve been going ’round and ’round tonight, trying to write about Melchizedek and how he relates to Jesus, and it’s truly fascinating. But you know what? I’ve already written this post once today and lost it when I was trying to publish it, just before my grandbuddies walked in at 10:53 a.m. It’s been a wonderfully exhausting day, and I just cannot for the life of me think, much less write it all out again.
I’ve gotten this far, but the wall I’m about to hit is only a few feet away.
But maybe the main thing I have to say about Hebrews 7 isn’t the academic stuff. What I really want to tell you is that for me, what matters here is that Jesus is a priest forever. And because he’s priest forever, I never have to come to God, hemming and hawing with my hat in my hand, hoping he’ll help me and wondering if I’ll ask him rightly.
My priest has done all the hard work to make my relationship with God as intimate as Father and child. I’m not the one taking a number and hoping I’ll get served today. I’m the beloved daughter who skips into the throne room and runs up to her Daddy-King and jumps up in his lap, cutting in front of everyone else because she knows she’s his pride and joy, his greatest delight. (Don’t worry, there’s enough of God to go ’round. We all get to cut in line and be delightful.)
Jesus will never die. Jesus’ blood doesn’t expire. Jesus as “high priest forever” is wonderful news because it means that my connection with God will never end. While human priests come and go, Jesus won’t. He’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and he’s the lion of Judah who roared back to life. He lives to connect me to the Father. He’s my High Priest.
And he loves it.
These verses tell how God provided for his people when he rescued them from Egypt. They were given silver and gold from the Egyptians, a cloud to protect them from the sun in the desert, fire to guide them at night, quail and manna to eat, water from rocks, and in the end, a land already cultivated and producing food they didn’t have to work for.
All this from God, and for what reason? The very last verse says, “…that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws,”45. And the psalm ends with praise.
God’s goodness is so dependably consistent, it’s easy to take for granted. The sun comes up everyday? Gravity holds? There’s water from the faucet and food in the pantry? Everything added up would bring me to my knees if I had the energy to actually add it all up tonight.
He provided everything his people needed, then and now, so that we might obey his words. Simple and straightforward and not too much to ask. Before they became adults, I expected the same from my kids, too.
God, thank you for your goodness, so rich, I take it for granted. Forgive me for receiving all your good gifts as if they’re deserved, as if I can earn them and do. Who can earn gravity?
My take away today is God’s provision. I see him providing the exiles with his words through Ezekiel, telling them clearly what is needed–repentance–so they can have relationship with him. In Hebrews, I see him providing Jesus, the priest forever who connects me to the Father forever. And in Psalm 105, I see how he provides for all our physical needs while giving us his words to live by. Both essential.
Thank you, God, for the lesson that losing this post provided, reminding me that what connects me to you isn’t my words, it’s yours. It’s Jesus, the word made flesh, and the Bible, the word of God. Neither of which can ever be lost to me.