How would you describe your relationship with God? Close? Distant?
In Ezekiel 14, verse 7, God describes the status of his relationship with his people. He says that they separated themselves from him. They chose to separate themselves from God, and they showed this choice by setting up idols in their hearts and putting the wicked stumbling blocks in front of them.
God’s indictment is strong. He says that they are no longer in relationship with him, because they have willfully chosen to be separate from him. When we talk about separation in marriage relationships, it is serious. Divorce is often not far away. That’s why we only rarely advise separation.
In this case, though, it is not God who has agreed to the separation. It is the people who have chosen it. They did it, not God. They walked away from him.
Now when these elders show up at Ezekiel’s house asking Ezekiel to give them a message from God, they still have idolatry in their hearts, and they are still doing wicked sinful actions. They have not repented. They are still in a separated state, still in rebellion, and yet they have the audacity to show up and ask God for help. They don’t really want to be in relationship with God. They just want him to do their bidding. It is very selfish on their part. Imagine being God in this situation. In verse 5 he uses a vivid word to describe how he feels. He says, “You deserted me.”
So in verse 7 God says, “So now you’ve come to my prophet to inquire of me? Guess what? I’m going to answer you myself.” Woah. That’s new. This is direct communication from God. God talking straight to you sounds intimate and personal, but there is a big problem. Because the people have not repented, because they are still in rebellion, God’s direct communication to the elders might not be what they are hoping to hear.
Look at verse 8. God says “I will set my face against them.” Yikes. Remember the Prophetic Stare from chapters 6 and 13? That’s when God told Ezekiel to set his face against the mountains of Israel, and then against the false prophets. Now God says, “I will be the one to stare at you.” The Prophetic Stare was like a judgement, shining the light of God’s truth on a situation. You do not want God to unleash the Prophetic Stare on you. If Ezekiel stared at you, Ezekiel was just a person. People might say, “Stop staring at me. Weirdo.” But when God stares at you, I think we are safe in believing it would be very different. Look at how he describes it in verse 8. God will stare at them and make them an example and a byword. That’s a way of saying that they will become a proverb, and it is not going to be a proverb about what to do. It will be a proverb of what not to do. A cautionary tale. “Don’t be like those guys who set up idols in their hearts and committed wicked sinful acts.” Worse, in verse 8 God says, “I will cut you off.”
It’s almost as if God has said, “So you separated yourself from me? OK, I divorce you.” You don’t want God to say, “I divorce you.” Divorce is always painful and awful. But when God divorces you, you will experience an aloneness and bleakness and a despair that you cannot imagine. But you will know one thing, God says. You will know that he is the Lord. You will know that the idols you set up in your hearts were false, empty promises. And you will know that God is the one true God.
This is why God says emphatically in verse 6, “Repent! Turn away from the false gods. Come back to me! Let me be your desire.” God doesn’t want this separation, and he doesn’t want divorce. He wants to be in close relationship with his people.
But will they return? Check back to the next post to learn what happens next.
For now, though, ask yourself: do I need to return to God?