How God Answers Idolatry (Ezekiel 14)
By Benjamin H. Liles
Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you" (Romans 2:21-24, New Living Translation).
By teaching on this subject of what God condemns I feel I ought to bring this to light myself. Before I started following Jesus Christ, I was the worst kind of man to my wife. I loved her, for sure, but in my heart I still lusted. Christ said, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28, Berean Study). I stumble at times still, but I don't mean to and I do my best to keep my adulterous ways covered by the blood of Jesus. How is that accomplished?
It is quite simple. "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:13-15, New American Standard).
Solomon most likely penned these words, "Genuine righteousness leads to life, but pursuing evil leads to death" (Proverbs 11:19, Holman Christian Standard). So, in other words, we have to become masters over our flesh. With our faith in who Jesus Christ is, and the fact He went to the cross willingly to pay for our punishment we are no longer enslaved by sin. We can put it off and its effects. It all starts with having a changed heart and mind. Having faith in the fact Jesus is God's Son.
For those who willingly and steadfastly remain in their sins to consult with a prophet of God, however, means they most likely want to know if God "loves them enough to allow them." God says otherwise in Ezekiel 14.
"Tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin, and then they go to a prophet asking for a message. So I, the Lord, will give them the kind of answer their great idolatry deserves. I will do this to capture the minds and hearts of all my people who have turned from me to worship their detestable idols.’ Therefore, tell the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins. I, the Lord, will answer all those, both Israelites and foreigners, who reject me and set up idols in their hearts and so fall into sin, and who then come to a prophet asking for my advice. I will turn against such people and make a terrible example of them, eliminating them from among my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 14:4-8, New Living Translation).
That's God's answer. He opposes those who are so proud, thinking they can come get an easy answer for their sin and still go back to continuing in their sins. It's like having a behavioral problem, and instead of dealing with the issue of it you gloss over it and pretend it doesn't exist. If you see a snake in the grass and you hear its rattle you know death will come. Do you think by ignoring it and choosing to remain there you will be safe? You're not. You stay away if you see a snake. You don't dance with the flame if you have built a bonfire. You will get burned.
And that's another thing. If you think by consulting a false prophet you can excuse your sins you're asking not only for God's wrath on you but also the prophet who speaks falsely. "And if a prophet is deceived into giving a message, it is because I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet. I will lift my fist against such prophets and cut them off from the community of Israel. False prophets and those who seek their guidance will all be punished for their sins. In this way, the people of Israel will learn not to stray from me, polluting themselves with sin. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!" (Ezekiel 14:9-11, New Living Translation).
It is best, when you feel God tugging at your heart, asking you like a gentleman does, to come and deal with what you wrestle with, to deal with it then and there. Jesus gave an illustration of a man who made it into the Great Banquet but had filthy clothes on. "Those servants went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:10-14, World English).
Do you believe you can get into the kingdom of God without having righteousness on? That's how the Christian is clothed. This man, who is called by God, is being dealt with in his heart and mind. He sees his wickedness, and like the Prodigal Son, comes to his senses. He reckons within himself, "I have sinned! I will go beg forgiveness and ask to be made a servant for I am unworthy of being called a son." But what does God do in His compassion? He sees that sinner coming running, willing to make himself a servant for his misdeeds, and he weeps holy tears, kissing his child, saying, "It will be okay. I will give you the finest of robes. Give you the best sandals. And after that we will feast."
We all sin. I'm not perfect by any means and I never will be so long as I live. But I reckon my flesh as dead and as I belong to Christ, all that's behind me remains there. I am clothed with and in Christ, He is the fine robes that are given to the child who returns to God. Once you are clothed with Christ, do you truly believe you can take Him off and go back to unrighteous ways? Those who claim they have seen and been with God, and yet have gone their own way were never truly His to begin with. They need Jesus just as much as the rest of us. We share and show our weakness so that the strength of Jesus is revealed.
It's like Paul said, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27, Berean Study). James said the same thing as well: "Listen, my dear brothers: Didn't God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?" (James 2:5, Holman Christian Standard).
Rather, it is best to put off the filth that corrupts. Put it off while it is still day. Have faith in Jesus Christ to do what He said He can. Allow Him to fill you with His light and love. And in that light and love He's given you, do what He says to do by going out and telling others of His goodness and love. This is the gospel message. But at the same time, don't just speak of His love, but also what happens when others choose to disobey God. No one can fully come to Christ without full knowledge of the severity of their sons caused. In this way God answers idolatry with a resounding "No, not ever in my house." It's best to put it off and all forms of what idolatry are. I pray this finds everyone well in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.