My wife, Michelle, and I recently celebrated our 25th anniversary by going out for dinner. As a bonus, we had a gift card! We made a reservation, arrived a few minutes early, and sat down in the lobby, waiting for the hostess to call us for our table. I pulled out my phone to check notifications, and as I did so, I felt something funny. The gift card came out of my pocket along with my phone and fell to the ground. Whew, right? Don’t want to lose that! I grabbed the card off the floor, put it back in my pocket and eventually we got our table and ate our meal.
About an hour later, the time came to pay the bill, so I reached into my pocket for the gift card, but it wasn’t there. I double-checked all my pockets. No card. I looked on my seat, and I looked on the ground under the table. No card. I started getting nervous. You know how the emotion builds up inside you when something goes missing? On the one hand we didn’t actually need the gift card. But on the other hand, it would sure be nice to have money come off the bill! Michelle suggested that I look in the lobby. I thought to myself, “Impossible. There’s no way, having once already fallen out in the lobby, the card would have fallen out again in the short time we were called to our table.” But I knew it was possible. What if the card did fall out, and now it was gone? I was growing concerned and unhappy, suspecting the card was gone. I retraced my steps, walked into the lobby, and there, to my surprise, sitting on the bench was the card! About an hour had gone by since we had been in the lobby, and no one had swiped it. I was elated! I hate wasting money. If I had lost the gift card, bitter thoughts would have churned inside me long into the night.
As we continue studying Ezekiel 7, learning about what caused God to say “The end has come,” what we will hear about is very similar to the idea of losing gift cards. In the previous post, I mentioned that Israel had been tempted by something. We read about this temptation in Ezekiel 7, verses 10-14.
Did you hear the temptation? Israel, it seems, fell hard for it.
Verse 10 is basically a repeat of what we’ve already heard so far. The day of doom is here. Watch out!
But in verse 11, after starting with more of judgment, the message from God concludes with a hint about the temptation that Israel fell for. “No wealth, nothing of value,” will be left. God brings up money.
Then in verses 12-13 he continues talking about it, referring to buyers and sellers. While it is true that he says his wrath is coming upon the whole crowd, what is his purpose in singling out the buyers and the sellers? What is it about buying, selling and wealth that God is addressing? Clearly, it has God concerned!
In fact, God is so concerned that he says in verse 14, that there is nothing they can do about overturning his judgment. No amount of military preparation will save them from onslaught that is coming. Let’s see how he continues with this already brutal message. Read verses 15-22.
Verses 15-18 are a callback to what we have been hearing now in chapters 4-6. In chapter 4, through a 430-day long skit, God said that an enemy army was going to attack Jerusalem and put up siege works around it. Then in chapter 5, he said that the siege would affect the people of Jerusalem in one of three ways, which was symbolized by Ezekiel cutting his hair into thirds. This same theme was repeated in chapter six, when God gives a three-part judgment about Israel’s religious idolatry. The three parts are the same each time. The people will die by sword, famine and plague. It will be awful. Notice verse 17, where the image is quite vivid. In the old NIV it says, “every knee will become as weak as water.” What does the new NIV say? “Every leg will be wet with urine.” You know what that means, right? People will be so upset, so scared, so beside themselves, they will not be able to control their bladder. Why? What was the reason, or one of the reasons for this soon-coming devastation?
In verse 19, God returns to the theme of the passage, making clear the reason. The people will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. You and I both know that you don’t throw money in the garbage. Have you ever had one of those scares where you are a digging through a trash bag full of nasty, smelly food and trash because you suspect that a missing check got tossed with the mail? Yeah, I can describe that so vibrantly because I’ve had to do some of that digging. Very similar to my walk of shame back to restaurant lobby to look for the missing gift card.
Yet there in verse 19, we read that the people are throwing money out like it is garbage. Worthless. Even unclean. Why? God says that silver and gold will not be able to save them from God’s judgment. That is an interesting phrase. Silver and gold will not be able to save them. Why would God say that unless the people were looking to their silver and gold to save them?
They were looking at their silver and gold as their salvation! For evidence of this, read the final sentence of verse 19, where God describes how their trust in money will turn out to fail them. It will not satisfy their hunger, it will not fill their stomachs, because it made them stumble into sin.
So last week we learned in chapter six that the people had worshiped idols, including the detestable practices that were part of pagan worship. Now this week we learn that they were trusting in money to save them. Look how God describes their love of money in verse 20. They used jewelry to make detestable idols. That brings both issues together. But it was more than just using jewelry to make idols. God’s words in verses 19-20 show how much the Israelites had trusted in their money to save them. They were practicing economic idolatry.
God reveals what is most important in this discussion of economic idolatry. The heart. Our motivation. Our desire. As Paul would write to Timothy, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Money itself is not the problem. Gold and silver are just metals. But when our hearts become entranced by what money can do for us, we can be tempted into idolatry. For Israel, God is saying that they moved their allegiance from trust in God to trust in money. Rather than see God as their savior, they saw money as their savior.
It makes sense, because money can buy us what we need. We need food. Money buys the food. We need clothing. Money buys the clothing. We need shelter, and money pays the rent or the mortgage.
Often, though, our hearts become enthralled by the promise of money, that it will provide our hopes, our dreams, our care, our peace, our joy. God lays bare how the Israelites were doing just that. Trusting in their money and possessions, rather than him. They even crafted it into idols, which shows how far their allegiance had traveled away from him.
So what will happen? In verses 21-22, he says that he will turn over all their money and possessions to foreign oppressors and robbers. And God himself will turn away from them. God will allow them to experience what it means to trust in their money. That will reveal to them that money is not actually able to protect them. Then they will know the truth about where the real power, the real security, the real hope lies. That phrase, “I will turn my face away from them,” is the worst thing that could happen to them.
I know that you and I don’t see God’s face right in front of us. God doesn’t actually have a face. What he is doing here is using a literary device called anthropomorphism, which is when you explain a concept by giving it a human characteristic. In this case, a face. What God means is that he is watching out for, protecting, providing for his people. But because they are putting their trust in money, which is tantamount to them saying they don’t trust him; they are saying to him, “Lord, we don’t need you because we have money.” So God says he will stop supporting them. And then what will happen? If God turns his face away from us, if he stops caring for us, we are finished. And you might as well throw the money out with the garbage because it will not care for you.
And then what? God says things get really bleak. Check back to the next post to learn more.