Hearing the Word and praying are two great ordinances of God, in which we are to give honor to Him; and therein, we may hope to find favor and acceptance with Him. And yet in this chapter, to our great surprise, we find some who were waiting upon God in the one, and some in the other; and yet neither met with success as they expected.
This chapter opens with a statement that “certain of the elders of Israel came to the prophet and sat before” him. It is uncertain whether these elders were persons holding that kind of dignity among the exiles by the Chebar River, or whether they were delegates from the Jews who were still residing in Judah. It is also unclear whether they came to ask counsel from the prophet regarding some point of difficulty that had occurred to themselves, or whether they came to hear some seasonable instruction from the Holy Spirit. But it is certain that they came in the character of inquirers, because in verse 3, the Lord repudiates the idea of being inquired of by persons of such a character as they were – persons who had “set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face.” However much they might wish to be regarded as having a different spirit from the false prophets and their deluded followers, who were mentioned in the preceding chapter; they were, in reality, of the same spirit with them. And they were pursuing the same wicked course, only under another form. Therefore, when the Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel – describing them as persons who were setting up their idols in their heart, and putting the stumblingblock of iniquity before their faces – then their hypocrisy was immediately unmasked. The prophet discerned, through the Holy Spirit, the real state and purposes of their heart; and he essentially said to them, “You also are living in idolatry, and differ only outwardly from those who are openly pursuing idolatrous practices! You have not yet returned in truth to the living God. Each of you are bent upon the love and pursuit of things which are utterly opposed to His mind and will. In such a state, how presumptuous it is for you to expect any friendly communications from God?”
For such persons to come and inquire of Jehovah, at the mouth of His servant, was plainly nothing except a mockery of the Lord. It was professing to have a desire to know God’s will, and claiming to have a heart ready to fall in with its requirements; but in reality, their minds were made up to a plan and purpose of their own, which rebelled against the Divine authority. No wonder, then, that the Lord would immediately repel the thought of being inquired at by such persons. And since the prophet saw these elders as representatives of an even bigger number of such persons among the Jews, both in Judah and in Babylon; the prophet proceeded to inform them that if they persisted in their obstinate ways, they might expect to be dealt with accordingly.
Yet these ruinous consequences were not what the Lord desired for His people. This is why He again charged His prophet to tell these people, “Thus saith the Lord God, Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols, and turn away your faces from your abominations!” (verse 6) He wished them to distinctly understand that if they truly sought to be on terms of friendship with God, and to obtain answers of peace to their inquiries; then there was one essential thing that must be done – namely, they must thoroughly reform their ways, and abandon the polluted objects upon which they had set their hearts. On this condition alone, they could expect to be graciously dealt with by God. But if they refused to comply with these terms, both they and their false prophets – being subjects of a common delusion – would at last become the victims of a common ruin.
The second part of this chapter (beginning in verse 12) deals with the question as to whether the existence of a few righteous persons among the Jews would cause the Lord to call off His plans of judgment and spare the whole nation for their sakes. The Lord had already told the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 14:2; 15:1) that the guilt of the people was too great to be pardoned, despite his intercession for them; and that even if Moses and Samuel were present to plead on their behalf, it would be entirely in vain. And now Ezekiel seconds that statement. He declared that even the presence of Noah, Daniel, and Job among these wicked people could not keep God’s judgment from proceeding against them, nor alter His determination to inflict His sore judgments which were impending over the king and people of Judah. Truly, by nature, we are no less guilty than these people in Ezekiel’s day; and we need a righteousness greater than that of Noah, Daniel, or Job to shelter us from Divine wrath! And where else can we find this righteousness to cover us, except in the Person and work of Jesus?
Even when God makes the greatest desolations by His judgments, He always reserves a few to be monuments of His mercy (verses 22-23). Jerusalem was marked for utter ruin; yet even there, a small remnant would be left. They would be carried away into captivity in Babylon, where they would be able to reunite with many of their friends and family who had gone into captivity before them. And when they arrived at their new home there, they would make a free and willing confession of the sins that they had formerly been guilty of; and they would make a humble profession of repentance for them, with promises of reformation. Then it would be plain to see the good that their afflictions had done for them; their narrow escape would have a good effect upon them.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your amazing grace and mercy in bringing us out from sin’s destruction, as the remnant of Your sons and daughters! Amen.
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