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Why does God answer when people come to Him with idols in their hearts (Ezekiel 14:4-5)?

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Ezekiel 14:4-5 “Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.”

Question: Why does it say that if someone of Israel takes his idol and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face and yet come to the prophet, that the LORD will answer him?

In this chapter, the prophet Ezekiel Is speaking to the elders of Israel who were pretending to be spiritual by enquiring of God. Outwardly they seemed to be seeking God for advice through Ezekiel, but inwardly, they were keeping idols on the throne of their hearts as their real God. These elders were double-minded and were practicing pagan rituals and refusing to keep to the mosaic covenant.

When we read Ezekiel 8, God showed prophet Ezekiel that the elders had hidden idols in the temple in Jerusalem. They tried to rationalize such acts by saying that the Lord did not see them nor was present anymore (Ezekiel 8:12). Therefore God tells Ezekiel to tell the people, “anyone” who takes his idol into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face and yet comes to the Lord then God will lay hold of their hearts, of all who are estranged from God through their idols (Ezekiel 14:4-5). What does it mean that the Lord will lay hold of their hearts if these people also want to hold on to their idols?

As the people inquire of the Lord, then God will answer them. The answering of their request does not mean that it is going to be a favorable response; instead, it is going to be a response of judgment. When they come before God in this manner, they become trapped and drawn to their own ruin. The judgment is that they will be given up to their delusions to believe a lie rather than the truth, and in turn, God will respond with righteous judgment exposing the wickedness of their heart. This is why it says in Romans 1:24 that God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. Likewise, in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-23, it says that God will send on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false so that they all may be judged who did not believe in the truth but took pleasure and wickedness.

To such people, God sets his face against them to make it a sign and a byword and cut such people from among His people so that they may know that He is God and His righteous requirements (Ezekiel 14:8). Not only that, but if a prophet is deceived and speaks a word, then God’s judgment on that prophet is that God will deceive him to speak a lie, and God will stretch out His hand and destroy Him from the midst of His people (Ezekiel 14:9). So the prophet and the people likewise who love their idols and come to inquire of God with a deceitful heart will be punished. The reason for this is so that the house of Israel would no longer go astray and defile themselves with their transgressions rather that they would be the people of God and that Jehovah would be their God (Ezekiel 14:10-11). 

Friends, let us take a moment to examine our lives compared to the idolatrous elders and people of Israel. Are we hiding idols within us yet coming to inquire of the Lord? Are we acting as a Christian on the outside, yet our hearts are full of idols taking the place of God. Do we want some of the desires of the world and some of God at the same time? Anything in your life that takes the place of God is an idol. Whatever you respect more than God, whatever you love more than God, whatever consumes most of your thinking and time more than God, whatever you put your trust in more than God are all idols dethroning God from being on the throne of your heart and mind. 

When we come before God in this manner, it is not because of our love for God but because we want to use God to fulfill some other purpose in our life. It is self-seeking. Even leaders in the church, like the idolatrous elders of Israel, are they coming with deceptive words for self-seeking goals rather than the extension of the kingdom of God? Do they speak deceptive words rather than the pure word of God and the truth of the gospel? If so, then there will be strong discipline from God so that we might be saved and purified to follow the example of Christ and be His disciple, a true lover of Christ. 

Ultimately, God wants us to be His people and for Him to be our God. Thanks to the death and resurrection of Christ, those who are in Christ by the grace of God are not just His people, but His children, part of His family, and the temple of His Holy Spirit. Amen! This is all the more reason to put away anything in your life that takes the place of Christ. If you willfully continue to harbor sin and then come to the Lord to inquire of Him to fulfill your selfish desires, then you can expect a willful judgment of God and painful discipline so that you might not be lost; instead, produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).

So I urge you, whether you are someone claiming to be a Christian or a leader of Christ’s people, please take this as a warning to turn away from deceptive man-centered teaching and turn to the accurate word of God so that His sheep are fed on the truth that they may draw closer to God and love Him more each day. If you are a believer, do not follow teachings that suit your own passions. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” When people do not turn, then it will become a stumbling block for them. 

Instead, seek the truth and seek to glorify God, both in your heart and in your actions. Allow nothing to take the place of Christ in your life. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37) so that you may be His people and that He may be your God. Amen!

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