Is there any way you might be heading in the wrong direction? Maybe it is obvious and you know it, but you are plowing ahead anyway. Maybe it is not so obvious, and you suspect it, and in your moments of quietness you long for something different, but you don’t really believe it is possible to make a change. We can feel trapped. Is it possible to make a change?
What we have been learning in our five-part series on Ezekiel 14 is God’s message to the people of Israel, that they needed a U-turn, in their hearts’ desires and in their actions. They were headed for deep trouble, and he calls them to repent, which is a theological way of saying, “Turn around! There’s disaster ahead.” Read Ezekiel 14, verses 12-23, and you’ll hear him talk about the disaster ahead.
Did you hear the names of three men: Noah, Daniel and Job. It seems like God is referring to the famous Noah, who built the ark, and the famous Job, whose story is in a book of the Bible. The Daniel, though…we’re not sure. The famous Daniel from the book of Daniel, was likely alive at the same time as Ezekiel and starting his famous career in Babylon. The point of this section is not so much the identity of these three guys, but how they would react to the situation God describes. You heard how the pattern is repeated four times over in verses 13-20. God says if he sends disastrous judgment to a nation because they have been sinful and unfaithful, even if those three men were alive, they could only save themselves. The rest of the nation would face judgement.
So God says, this will happen to Jerusalem. Four dreadful judgements, and it will be awful. With that in mind, notice verse 22. There will be a remnant that will come to Babylon where Ezekiel and the 10,000 exiles now live. Here’s where it gets interesting. Ezekiel and the 10,000 exiles will observe the newbies when they arrive, and they will see how wicked their conduct will be. What they see will tell Ezekiel and the exiles that God was justified in allowing Jerusalem to be destroyed. God’s judgment isn’t random, and it isn’t unjust. It is instead a response to the fact that the people had set up idols in their hearts and committed wickedness.
The focus of the chapter, however, is not God’s judgment, but his invitation to repentance! God is separated from his people, and he is not at all happy about that. They chose to leave him, and now he invites them to return to him.
God is passionate about being in relationship with his people. So have you allowed anything to capture the desire of your heart? Ezekiel chapter 14 is a clarion call for us to examine our hearts. What do you desire? Is God your desire?
Or better yet, how does your desire for a vibrant relationship with God stack up to your other desires? For example, I can eagerly desire to be done with my dissertation, to have my dissertation published as a book, for it to make the New York Times best-seller list, etc. But do I desire God like that?
Is the God the ruler and focus of your desires?
This is why we so often talk about inner transformation, so that our desires, which we all have, are being transformed by God, to be in line with his heart. Do your desires match up with God’s desires? This is what Paul describes in Galatians 5 as walking in step with the Spirit.
So often our desires are different from God’s desires. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. We live in a world that feeds our desires, and often not because it truly cares about us. Think about how businesses tap into our desires, making us desire their products. While they say that their products will change our lives and give us the good life, the reality is that they want our money. They want our money more than they have our best interest in mind.
God, however, has our best interest in mind. When he told the Jews in Ezekiel’s day that they should repent and return to him, it was because that was the best possible situation for them. They would be far better off if they were in a vibrant relationship with God, then if they continued down the pathway of setting up idols in their hearts and performing wicked deeds. God is trying to give them a vision for a better reality, for a world where the true good life is reality.
So I ask, what idols have you set up in your hearts? More than likely those idols have promised the good life. But those idols make promises they cannot keep. They are not telling the truth about the good life. Where then is the truth to be found? God’s message to the elders in Ezekiel 14 is the truth.
In Ezekiel 14, God gives us an important reminder to examine our hearts, our desires, and to evaluate if they are aligned with God’s heart and desires. This can require vulnerable work on our part. Sometimes hard work. Sometimes uncomfortable work. This can require that we include people in our lives who speak honestly to us, asking us the tough questions about our heart’s desires. Perhaps the best thing for us is to have our lives placed under that kind of examination, to see if we do in fact have godly desire or not. If we do, then we should do what God asks of the people in Ezekiel 14, repent! Turn back to him. Make a U-turn. Restore your relationship with him. Repentance brings renewal.