Ezekiel 14: 1-5 (MSG) Some of the leaders of Israel approached me and sat down with me. GOD’s Message came to me: “Son of Man, these people have installed idols in their hearts. They have embraced the wickedness that will ruin them. Why should I even bother with their prayers? Therefore tell them, ‘The Message of GOD, the Master: All in Israel who install idols in their hearts and embrace the wickedness that will ruin them and still have the gall to come to a prophet, be on notice: I, GOD, will step in and personally answer them as they come dragging along their mob of idols. I am ready to go to work on the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom have left me for their idols.’
The new hearts we have in Christ are yet-to-be-perfected hearts, and when God is functionally “not enough for us,” our anxieties and fears take over; then we go on the hunt for designer gods and imitation saviors. What does this look like?
At the beginning of Ezekiel 14, we get to eavesdrop on a fascinating conversation that took place between the prophet and God. Here’s the back drop: Instead of showing and telling God’s story of redemption to the nations, Israel had progressively been drawn into the worship of the gods of the surrounding nations.
Israel’s drift into idolatry didn’t happen because the people became bored with the liturgy of their temple, enamored with the music of the worship bands in pagan temples, or impressed with the oratory of the new Canaanite prophet who had just moved into the neighborhood. No one in Israel went looking for a new worship service, but for new gods to service them. The center of their worship shifted from God to themselves. They began to worship the worship more than they worshiped their God, that is, their relationship with God became utilitarian rather than doxological. (meaning their worship was directed horizontal and self serving to themselves rather than vertical and relational to God )
When the glory of the one true living God is no longer our principal passion in life, worship becomes a pragmatic vehicle for fulfilling two basic quests in life: provision and protection. Instead of living for God’s glory and looking to Him to meet our needs, we exist for our glory and look for gods who will meet our demands.
How does God respond? Three phrases jump out at me in this pivotal passage—each of which highlights just how tenaciously God loves us in Christ and how relentlessly He pursues our hearts’ affection.
As I have been led, and at times dragged, into the process of Godly transformation, few words of hope have meant more to me than these. Why does God make life painful for us at times? Why does God often write stories we would never pen; observe a time line we would never choose; and answer our prayers in ways that feel like He is rejecting us? He gives us His answer: “I will do this to recapture the hearts of My people, who have all deserted Me for their idols.” No one loves us like God does in Jesus, even if it takes a Babylonian captivity to convince us.
God’s jealousy for our love is the greatest compliment He could ever pay us, but it’s also the costliest gift He could ever give us. It was costly to God because it required the life and death of His Son; it is costly to us because it means God’s love will never let us go. That can get very disruptive and messy. Sometimes we proclaim, “Nothing will ever separate me from the love of God,” not fully realizing everything implied. The God of love will not tolerate our love of idols. Glory Hallelujah we really have to get ourselves together family!
Quote “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Augustine, Confessions).
Quote “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus” (Blaise Pascal, Pensées).
In His Love,
Pastor James Baker, Jr.