Editor’s Note: Thanks to guest blogger David Hundert for continuing the Ezekiel series this week.
In Ezekiel 20, verses 39-44, we read that Israel has a choice. They can go and serve their idols, if they wish. But they need to remember this: God’s purpose in the election of Israel will stand. A time is coming when, in place of the profane worship offered on every high hill and under every leafy tree, there will be pure worship offered in the one true place, God’s holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel! The positive result of the new exodus will be pure worship offered by a purified people, in whom the Lord’s holiness is publicly displayed to the eyes of the nations. There the oath made in Egypt that we read in vs. 5 (“I am the Lord your God”), we see will be fulfilled in vs. 42 (“You will know that I am the Lord”), and there the remnant who survived the desert judgment—not on merit, but by God’s grace—are going to appreciate the immensity of their own sin and the faithfulness of God to his covenant promises that we saw in vs. 44 (“You will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices”).
The future for Israel depends entirely on God and his commitment to his Word. But those who refuse to trust God to fulfill his promises and instead have turned their backs on him will never enter the new Promised Land.
It is hard to imagine a viewpoint more radically different from that of Ezekiel 20. Ezekiel’s prophecy shows is that it isn’t Israel’s choice but the Lord’s choice. Israel in the past had consistently chosen wrong. “Attending the church or synagogue of their choice” had led to worshiping idols in Egypt and the pagan gods and goddesses in the land of Canaan. People voted with their feet and chose the false rather than the true. Yet even though they were unfaithful, God remained faithful to his covenant promises and his own character. The one nonnegotiable for Ezekiel is God’s choice. Israel’s “choice” only occurs in the context of their having been chosen as the covenant community. They can choose to fulfill their calling, to be a blessing and so to receive life. Or they can choose to rebel against that calling, seeking to be free of that calling like the nations around them, and face the consequences. If they choose to be like those nations, according to what we read in verse 33, there will be heck to pay.
What, then, is the point of Ezekiel’s prophecy? There are two important principles God teaches, and we’ll look at them in the next post.