Today: [Ezekiel 20] Are You Capable of Repentance? In Ezekiel 20 a group of elders come to inquire of Ezekiel. The prophet knows that the leaders before him are convinced that they have done nothing to warrant the rigors of captivity that they have been suffering. They feel they have fulfilled all that God expects and now they want an explanation as to why God hasn’t delivered them yet. Instead Ezekiel recites the history of the people’s disobediences and demands the elders to repent of their own idolatry. In the end, the elders completely don’t understand what is being said because they are absolutely entrenched in their own self-righteousness. The question for us is are we capable of any level of transparency that might lead to a need repentance in our own lives?
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[Eze 20:1-49 KJV] 1 And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth [month], the tenth [day] of the month, [that] certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the LORD, and sat before me. 2 Then came the word of the LORD unto me, saying, 3 Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to enquire of me? [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be enquired of by you. 4 Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge [them]? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers: 5 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I [am] the LORD your God; 6 In the day [that] I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which [is] the glory of all lands: 7 Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I [am] the LORD your God. 8 But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 9 But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they [were], in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt. 10 Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. 11 And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which [if] a man do, he shall even live in them. 12 Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I [am] the LORD that sanctify them. 13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which [if] a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them. 14 But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out. 15 Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given [them], flowing with milk and honey, which [is] the glory of all lands; 16 Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
In chapter 7 we review a prophetic word given to the elders in captivity with Ezekiel at Chebar. The occasion of this word is a time when the elders themselves came to inquire of the Lord through Ezekiel. The apparently requested audience, were accepted and came and sat before him. Now this practice itself is often scoffed at by those in contemporary Christianity who do not allow for the existence of prophets or the place of prophets in the lives of God’s people today. They suggest that to inquire of the Lord by the mouth of someone claiming to be a prophet is tantamount to going to a psychic or a clairvoyant medium. What would such objectors say to the elders at Chebar who came together as asked to speak to Ezekiel?
There are several similarities to Ezekiel’s time and the day we live in. They were in Babylon. Rev. 14:8 tells us that Babylon is alive and well as a spiritual principle in the day we live in long after ancient Babylon ceased to exist. There was also mentioned by John in Revelations that there would be apostles and prophets in the earth at the same time that Babylon as a spiritual principle was present at the end time according to Rev. 18:2-20. We can concluded several things because of this:
1. Babylon is a spiritual principle influencing the world today (Rev. 14:8).
2. Babylon is a spiritual presence in our day and apostles and prophets are contemporary with this condition as well (Rev. 18:20).
3. If Ezekiel was a prophet to be inquired of in ancient Babylon then it follows that it is legitimate and acceptable for God’s people to inquire of the prophets (Eph. 4:11-12) modern times when the spirit of Babylon is present resisting the kingdom of God in their lives.
In verse 3 we see that when the elders came to inquire of Ezekiel that he was to give them the world of the Lord and not just to tell them what they wanted to hear. Many times when people as of God either in prayer or by seeking out spiritual leadership in their lives – the answer God has for them isn’t what they expected or desired. On Ezekiel’s part he begins a recitation of the goodness of God to the chosen people from their deliverance from Egypt to their current day. He challenges the thinking of the elders by pointing out the clear command of God that the people cast away their idols and because they did not judgments came upon them by God’s hand.
Why is Ezekiel going over all these things once again? Because the captives at Chebar were convinced of themselves that they were a righteous people suffering unrighteously by the hand of God. Ezekiel is saying to them “lest you forget – let us review what brought us here…” What brought about the captivity? The destruction of Jerusalem and leveling of the temple came about after 800 years of disobedience and idol worship by the people of God. 8 is a number of new beginnings and 100 is a number speaking to us of God’s fullness. The elders might think that this is the end of a thing but rather it is the beginning of a new era that ultimately would lead to the death, burial and resurrection of God and the establishment of the church.
17 Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness. 18 But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols: 19 I [am] the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; 20 And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I [am] the LORD your God. 21 Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which [if] a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth. 23 I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries; 24 Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols. 25 Wherefore I gave them also statutes [that were] not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; 26 And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through [the fire] all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I [am] the LORD. 27 Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me. 28 [For] when I had brought them into the land, [for] the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savour, and poured out there their drink offerings. 29 Then I said unto them, What [is] the high place whereunto ye go? And the name thereof is called Bamah unto this day.
Verse 17 tells us that though the people refused to put away their idols that God’s eye yet spared them and He would not destroy them utterly. This is very important for us to understand. Just because God accepts us does not mean that He approves of what we are doing. There is a difference between acceptance and approval. As children of God He completely accepts us and because of that He will care of us and provide for us in a measure. Just because your children have been disobedient doesn’t mean you refuse to feed or clothe them. They are your children. You aren’t going to throw them out in the street. Likewise God completely accepts you as His child even at times He may totally reject and disapprove of what you are doing. Many times we make the assumption that what we are doing or lifestyle choices we are making are ok before God because we haven’t been struck with a bolt from the blue. We need to understand and not presume upon the lovingkindess of God that restrains Him from allowing us to experience the consequences of certain things in order to give us room to repent. In the case of Israel in Ezekiel’s prophecy in chapter 20, 800 years have transpired as God lovingly and patiently dealt with them until the time He decided enough was enough and He compelled them by His hand into a new season that would demand without reprieve the old idolatries to be dealt with in order for a new season of restoration to come.
30 Wherefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations? 31 For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be enquired of by you, O house of Israel? [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be enquired of by you. 32 And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone. 33 [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: 34 And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. 35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. 36 Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD. 37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: 38 And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD. 39 As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter [also], if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols. 40 For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things. 41 I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen. 42 And ye shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country [for] the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. 43 And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. 44 And ye shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD. 45 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 46 Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop [thy word] toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field; 47 And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. 48 And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched. 49 Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?
In verse 30 Ezekiel asks the elders a rhetorical question as to whether or not they in their generation are polluted with the same spirit of whoredom and idolatry as their fathers. We know from previous chapters that this generation of captives absolutely did not believe there was any justification for God to deal with them in such a way because they believed they were unimpeachably righteous. The fact is that they were polluted with idols and had sinned after the manner of their fathers – but the idolatry in their lives was so pervasive in their culture they weren’t capable of seeing it. Even after speaking so plainly to these men before Ezekiel at the end of the chapter they throw up their hands and walk out shaking their heads saying “all he does is speak in parables…” because they absolutely refused to see themselves in God’s eyes or to consider for one moment there was anything they actually needed to repent of our change.
In reading this chapter we must pause and take stock of our own lives. Are we capable of being confronted by God’s word? Do we reflexively just hear the word and cluck our tongue, applying the message to those around us instead of ourselves? Was there ever a time that you were closer to God than you are right now? If God pointed to some beloved and cherished aspect or person or situation in your life and made a demand would you be willing to accept it? If there was a blindspot in your character and the word of the Lord exposed it would you be willing to look at yourself honestly and be willing to change? This is the message of Ezekiel chapter 20.
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