Have you had a person in your life who screws you over, hurts you, chooses to barely ever talk to you, and yet when they need money, they are so bold to come ask for your help? They haven’t had anything like a good relationship with you for a long time, and suddenly they appear out of the blue asking for help. How does that make you feel? Used. In Ezekiel 14, it seems like God is feeling something like that.
In the previous post, we learned the elders of Ezekiel’s town came to visit him, seeking a prophetic word from God. God, however, says that the elders have set up idols in their hearts and they are committed sinful acts. God calls those sinful acts a stumbling block. This is literally the idea of tripping on something that makes you fall.
Whereas the first concern God has was for their inner being (idolatry in the heart), now he draws attention to what is outside them. It could be committing sin with a prostitute. It could be cheating on someone. It could be stealing from a store.
If the first problem is their corrupted desire, the second problem is the acting out of that desire. Both lead to sin. Both lead to brokenness between God and humanity.
At the end of Ezekiel 14, verse 3 God asks Ezekiel, “Should I let them inquire of me at all?” It’s as if God is saying, “These guys are so far gone. They have chosen to set up idols in their hearts, and they are acting in sin! Yet they come to inquire of me?”
The question is not “How will God respond?”, but “Will he respond at all?” These elders have come to inquire of the Lord, and yet God has revealed that they have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. God has every right to say, “No way. I’m not talking with you.”
How will God respond? Look at verse 4, and prepare to be surprised. God says, “When you act like that, and then come to me looking for answers, I’ll answer you in keeping with how you’ve acted.” What will that look like? Punishment? Judgment? Silent treatment?
No. Read verse 5. Amazingly, God wants to recapture their hearts! They have all deserted him, and yet there he is still longing for relationship with them, still inviting them. That’s how he answers them. That’s what it means to respond to them in keeping with their idolatry. He says, “Before we can talk, we need to deal with your idolatry and sin!” God will not interact with them until he has their hearts. He is saying that there is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with first. He is not going to say, “Oh hey, guys, thanks for stopping by, how can I help you?” ignoring the fact that they have ventured so far from him in their hearts and in their behavior. God is saying to them, “Full stop. Before we can even talk, we need to deal with the idolatry in your heart and your sinful ways.” This shows how he is merciful, gracious and loving, but also that he is concerned with truth and justice.
But how? Look at verse 6. Here’s what they have to do. One word. Repent.
Repent is a powerful word. It’s actually used twice in a row here in verse 6. Repent and Return. They are the same word in the original. The first is an emphatic command. Repent! It means to turn around. It gives the image a person who is going one direction, the wrong direction, and turns around to go back in the right direction. That is the very literal sense. God is using the word in a theological or spiritual sense, saying to the people, “Come back to me! Return to me! Restore relationship with me!”
The second use of the word includes specific details as to what God expects. Those idols they have set up in their hearts? They are to turn away from them. The wicked stumbling block activities? Turn away from them too! When we repent, we turn away from anything that keeps us from God, and we restore our relationship with him.
How is your relationship with God? Do you need to repent?