I needed to stop and ponder what I had just read. What does it mean? What does it mean for me? I could just as easily gloss over, put the mind in neutral and somehow miss the significance of these words. “Son of man, these people have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity.” (Ezekiel 14:3) It’s that next sentence that got me. “Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?”
It seems like God is telling Ezekiel that He is tone deaf to those who refuse to deal with the issues of the heart, who create objects of worship, not in physical form but within the heart. The implication is that these heart idols are seductive and deadly, “causing them to stumble into iniquity”.
I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matt.15:19, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man/woman. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications (sexual sin), thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” These, and similar things (see Gal. 5:19-21) will not only defile us as individuals but if left unchecked or undealt with, can easily trip us up (stumble into iniquity). What so often is hidden in the heart, at least humanly speaking, will often find its way out in expressed behaviour and action.
My mother, in response to my use of rather expressive words in my youth, would get the bar of soap and wash out my mouth. The external cleansing, though quite distasteful, did nothing to remove what was in my heart. I just made sure not to get caught the next time.
In Ezekiel God is telling these people, who in this case are leaders in Israel, that they can hide these things from others but not from God. He sees what’s in the heart, knows what is said and done, even when they may think that others are not looking. And yet, as one reads on in Ezekiel, it seems these leaders got to the place where they no longer checked their behaviour or cared who saw them. What were merely “slip ups” became ingrained behaviour, causing them to stumble into iniquity.
The crux of the matter is again found back in vs.3, “Should I let myself be inquired by them at all?” If I don’t care about my heart issues, then why should God even listen to me? If I am not willing to “deal”. even find myself moving into self-justification (“this is just the way I am”), then why should I expect an audience with God? Why should He listen, let alone respond to my prayers?
No, the way forward into a deep and meaningful relationship with God is to be honest, open and transparent. Jesus elsewhere frames it this way, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed and nothing concealed that will not be made known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17). Ouch! Better to “deal” now with God, than have these things exposed and have to deal later. It will come out in the wash.
Stay tuned for the series, “Praying With Results”