Ezekiel 14 has the elders of Israel coming to the prophet for advice. And he does, but it isn’t what they are looking for. God tells him “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity”. Idolatry is a big deal to God. He is not ok when we let anything push Him off the throne of our life, when we put anything ahead of Him. And to add insult to that injury, we often put those idols of our heart right there front and center in a way they continue to keep us worshipping the wrong things. These men were outwardly loyal to God but inwardly they were attracted to the Babylonian gods. They were leaders leading people astray.
God makes it clear that he would not speak to such people through his prophet, but would speak directly. He would speak in a decisive act of judgment that would remove this tendency towards idolatry from the hearts of his people. God’s intent was to “lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols”. He’s going to get their attention and bring them back. He wants them cleansed from idolatry. “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations”. Repentance is the way to get right with God.
There were false prophets giving out lies and bad information and God is going to deal with them as well. “I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from among My people. So you will know that I am the Lord”. He won’t tolerate idols or false prophets. And the sin of idolatry can extend far beyond an individual. Nations can be guilty. “Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it”. We must be careful in realizing the impact of idolatry as a nation – it can lead to our destruction by a just God.
There might be some thought that God wouldn’t destroy a nation because there are some good people somewhere. We’ve seen that to not necessarily be the case – think Sodom and Gomorrah – but God addresses that here as well. He makes a point of three great men in scripture – “even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves”. God isn’t going to give us a pass because there are some righteous among us. Sin carries a penalty – scripture tells us the wages of sin is death – and we have to realize God is a holy God who will not tolerate it. He makes it clear through Ezekiel that ther is coming “four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast”.