Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 1 year ago

Faking Faith

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Ezekiel 14

After fourteen remain standing, if you're able, and we will read some of this, some of this chapter, this first half. So this is versus one. Through eleven, Ezekiel, Fourteen won through eleven. Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me, and the word of the Lord came to me. Son of men, these men have taken their idols into their hearts and set the stumbling block of the iniquity, of their iniquity, before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? 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 a 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. Therefore say to the House of Israel, thus says the Lord God, repent and turn away from your idols and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For anyone then of the House of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him. I, the Lord, will answer him myself and I will set my face against that man. I will make him a sign and a by word and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the Lord. And if the Prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that Prophet and I will stretch out my hand against him...

...and will destroy him from the midst of my people, Israel, and they shall bear their punishment. The punishment of the Prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike. That the House of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord. God, you may be seated. Well, we have here in his equal fourteen as a really, really the sad situation. The elders and other people from the House of Israel were coming to prophets, the Prophets of the Lord, Ezekiel among them, to inquire of the Lord. A good thing, you would think, right to go and seek the will of God, to go learn the word of the Lord. That would you would think, would be a good thing. But it wasn't really the word of the Lord that they were after. Ezekiel doesn't say what they were after exam exactly, but he tell does tell us about the duplicitous nature of these people, halfheartedness and which they were coming to in to come and meet with God. He identifies three things. Are Two things and one summary of the two that will focus on this evening and will think about both what they were doing and the Lord's response to it and the Lord's reason for that response. So first, what were they doing? The Lord reveals to Ezekiel two things. They had taken...

...idols into their hearts, they had set a stumbling block of iniquity before their face and through these things they had separated themselves from him. The first of these things they had taken idols into their heart arts. Now before, you might remember that Ezekiel had been taken to the temple in a vision the temple of God while it was still standing, and he was given a tour of that temple, almost like a spy right with special x Ray Vision, he was able to see what was going on inside this place, and what he saw was abomination after abomination. The House of the Lord was filled with idols. Now here we see where that was coming from in a spiritual sense. They hadn't just accidentally put up a statue here an idol over there. They had brought the idols into their hearts. The internal idolatry had given expression to an external idolatry, and that's, of course, how it always works. They were worshiping these false gods and it wasn't a pretense, and even if it were, it would be of course wrong. They had taken an not taken, these idols into their hearts. A second thing that they did is Ezekiel describes it as they set us stumbling block before their eyes. He said, a stumbling block before there, or they set stumbling block before their eyes. This is another their way of referring to idolatry, but it reframes it in a way, so and say it in the first place. He says it takes them into their hearts. Now he talks about the idols as being like in front of them, which is, of course, how they would...

...have worshiped these idols. That's how we all worshiped idols. We look at this thing, we have, this thing that we're after, this thing that were there worshiping, and they would look at this idol and they would think of this, this or that God and they would say so and so will help me, so and so will make things right. And maybe you can imagine. Some of these idols were maybe beautiful in some way right, covered in gold or silver, perhaps chains, perhaps set in a beautiful place. If you ever seen an actual physical idol that somebody has created, usually there's some care that go that is put into that im you can find them around town and here INTUC son or in people's homes. The places where they're set apart right, maybe in a restaurant or in a hallway in a home, a place where there's a special table in a special covering and a special bowl and things of good quality. They set these things before their eyes. But but God reframes it. He says, you know, take your glasses off, your crooked glasses and and see things rightly. What you'll see is the idol is in fact a stumbling block. That's how the Lord identifies it. It's not some wonderful, beautiful thing that ought to be treasured. It ought to be identified as a stumbling block, something that will make you fall. Now, when we walk around, we are always being careful, usually less we're reading or on our phones or something like that, we are careful about stumbling right it can be very bad in some cases. We try to be it is wise to be aware right where we walk and how we walk, and if there's something in our path, we move it out of the way, we move around it. Perhaps you go on walks in your neighborhood and you're one of those helpful people that kicks the landscrape gravel, you know, back into other people's yards. You know this is something we're just aware of.

It's a part of our life. We avoid stumbling, but then sometimes we don't. Sometimes we put the stumbling block right in our path, close our eyes and then start walking, and that's essentially what the people were doing with these idols. This was the idols as God wants us to see them or not some good thing. Nor are they even a neutral thing. They are a stumbling block thing, a thing that will make us fall, and indeed it did make them fall. And this is one of the great and very sad things about this passage. Israel had just these people that were coming to Esequel, were coming to him in Babylon, the elders of Israel and others that were coming to him and to false prophets to seek who word of the Lord, who had idols in their hearts and idols before their eyes, are people who had just been cast out of Israel for idolatry. It shows you how idols capture our hearts, enslave us, how dangerous they are. Will come back and think about that a little bit more in a moment. Now. One of the things that's really important to remember about idolatry is that it really can be everywhere or anywhere. It can be attached to anything. Perhaps you've you can notice this by thinking about all the names of Gods that are out there. I'm even within a particular system of religion, you might have dozens, hundreds, thousands of God's, named and unnamed. I think that's one it's one way that we can remind ourselves of how keen we are to make idols. It's not just a threat here or there, but we can make them out of anything, and that's important to remember. That idolatry...

...in any place you find it, and any false religion, and then time is religion is expressed falsely. That idolatry is is not ultimately about the object. Idolatry is about getting things you want or think you need. Right, we have a god, supposedly, a God for the harvest and a God for the moon and a God for the sun and a God for this slithering thing and a god for fertility and a God for an on and on and on it goes, because these are the things that we think we need, these are the things that we think we need to have, to obtain, and so when we go and we seek them out, it's not so much about the thing that's there, it's it's what's in our heart as the thing we're after. And when you remember that, none of us are left off the hook. None of us can look at the idols of other people in their homes and their places of business and go huh, such rubes right. We can't look at that and say well, good thing, I don't do that well, I am glad you don't do that, if you don't do if you don't do that, but we're not off the hook because ultimately they're doing the exact same thing we do when we covet things, which is idolatry. The scriptures say covetousness, when we when we are discon tent about things, when we think there's something that we need to have an order for us to be okay. And, as I've said, idolatry can come in so many shapes and forms, just to list a few, to kind of get your minds and your hearts going a little bit, your consciences, think about the opportunities that we crave. Sometimes, maybe it's a particular job or an opportunity to travel or living in a certain place, that that is just the...

...thing that we feel like we need, the thing that we're driving for, the thing we obsess about, the thing we think about in research and spend all of our time and energy on. And maybe you would say, well, I don't spend all my time on it, but you know, you know when too much is too much. You know when your heart is going after the wrong things and inordinate ways. Maybe if it's an opportunities. Maybe it's particular achievements, a particular degree or a particular promotion, or maybe even just the appreciation of someone. How many people have gone to great lengths just to get a ad a boy, from their dad or their mom? How many people have done even really despicable things to get the affirmation of someone else? This reminds us that sometimes that are idols are also relationships, a particular type of friend that I must have, a particular kind of spouse or or something else. Then, of course, there's things, possessions, houses, Gadgets, deals, harvests, whatever. There are things that are related to our bodies that we think that we must have, that we must need, a physical touch, cure from a disease or being able to look a particular way or not look a particular way. These things that we be crave, these things that we cove at, these things that we say, if I don't get this, I'm not going to be okay. Whenever we're thinking those kinds of thoughts, you know that you're slipping into idolatry, but God wants a hundred percent of you. He doesn't want just a little bit of you...

...or some of your time or some of your love or some of your trust. He doesn't want to be the source of most of your joy or most of your hope. God desires to be everything to you and he wants everything of you. He wants you to love him with all of your mind, with all of your soul, with all of your strength. But in I am this idolatry and idolatry that was in their hearts, and idolatry a stumbling block that they put there before their eyes. They were separating themselves for God, from God, as he says here, and that's what happens. You can't serve two masters, and this is a lesson that the scriptures teach us over and over and over again. A lot of times we tend to think, well, I can, I can serve God in this way. I'll go inquire of the prophet, I'll I'll go to church, I'll read my Bible, I'll do this or that good thing. And indeed those are good things. Not Want to discourage you from them, but to go from them and go to them in in a hypocritical way or in a way that is not actually trusting the Lord, is not good. And when we do that we separate ourselves from God, we separate ourselves from the only sorts of the things that we need, the things that we desire, the things that he wants us even to have. So this is what these people were doing. They were going to these prophets with idols and their hearts, a kind of a fake faith, a pretense of religion. How does God respond? Well, the first thing he does, or one of the things he does, is he shows them that he, he and not they're idols, is the one true God, and he does that in a number of ways. He says he will do that in a number of ways. One is his power...

...over people. Unlike the false gods, which can't really do anything because ultimately they're just expressions of our covetousness and our false worship. They can't provide the things that we want, but he can. He is powerful and he says he will even send a lying prophets to go speak to those who desire lying prophets, those who go with halfhearted hearts and those who go on to the prophets not really seeking after God. He will. He will confuse them, he will give them over to their own selfdeception. We also see his power over Providence. He says, I will cut you off from my people, perhaps meaning a kind of excommunication, a dismemberment of a person from the body, and perhaps he means even death there. Either way, he promises to cut off these people who go to him in this way and to make them a by word. You know what a by word is? It's a, you know, sort of a everybody knows that kind of person. Or like one example I came across and thinking about this passage was lot's wife, right, the sort of symbol. Or Sodom and go more is another one. You know, you just say Sodom and go more and everybody knows what you mean. Right. That's what God will make you if you go after him in these ways. He's that powerful. He's powerful over what people think, about how they act. He's powerful over Providence. He's powerful to judge these people go to God in this sinful way. They bring idols into their hearts, they bring idols into the temples, thinking that God doesn't see, thinking...

...that God is like the idols that they serve, incapable. But it's not true, is it? We read in First Samuel Sixteen seven. The Lord sees not as man sees. Man Looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Psalm seventy nine and other places like Jeremiah Eleven, talk about God is the one who tests the heart and the mind. He's a tester of hearts and minds. First, excuse me. First, chronicles twenty eight nine says the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and every thought. You can't hide from that kind of God. He's not a god of wood and stone, he's not a god of gold and silver. He's a God who can penetrate past every pretense, past every show, into the depths of your heart and know exactly what is going on there. God is going to show that he is the one true God in his control over events and people and his power to judge, in his power to discern. We're going to see that even in these actions, as these men, these elders of Israel, these men who are supposed to be leading, who are supposed to be overseeing, guarding, protecting the people. Instead they're going with idols in their hearts, idols before their eyes, going to a prophet saying, tell me a word of the Lord, but God knows what is going on and he will punish them. He will also punish, he says, the ones that speak these false words. Remember, Ezekiel is one among many prophets, and many of those prophets, as we've seen in other places, where false prophets, bad prophets, lying prophets. The people of Israel had...

...set up a whole false system of religion, false places of worship, false priests, false laws fall and, of course, false idols. There were people everywhere who are willing to say anything for a buck, who are willing to cat hurt those who are downcast. I'm not protect those who are innocent but take bribes and these kind of things for their own gain. The whole system is going to come crashing down. It already has, which is the shame of all this. Right, it already has in Israel and now here they are in Babylanche with the same sorts of things. They have separated themselves from God, they have put a stumbling block before their face, and he responds by saying, I will set my face against you and I will separate myself from you. And in these ways, in these parallel ways, that God is responding to their actions. We see his perfect justice. They set a stumbling block before their face, so he sets his face against them. They separate themselves from him, he separates himself from them. They seek after other gods. He shows by his power and his putting them down that he is the one true God. But God does something that they don't do. In other words, it's we have a we have a way in which there isn't a parallel in this passage, and that's the call to repentance. The people are hard hearted, the people are acting in the all these ways. God responds in his Justice, but he also calls them to repentance, and that's an amazing thing. They're thinking again about these people being in Babylon. I think it's worth spending a moment to observe that sometimes, when judgment and...

...discipline comes into our lives, we tend to say things, where we can say things like, well, might as well just give up. It's all over, the worst is happened, I've been abandoned by God. I might as well just give myself over to the world, to my flesh, to the devil. We have a way of, instead of learning from our discipline, doubling down on our disobedience. Instead of noticing our losses, we we double down on them. Instead of noticing our defilement and seeking cleansing, we cover ourselves with more filth and we sin, on and on and on. But here are these people, cast out of the presence of God and Israel, cast out into this foreign land, and yet God is still speaking to them. God is still calling them to repentance. Isn't that amazing? He is still calling them to repentance. On the one hand, he's saying you think the worst has come, it hasn't. You keep going this direction. There is still more judgment to be had. But there's this other thing that's also true. You may think there's no more hope. You think that God has left his people, that you are abandoned, that you are in this foreign place, that you are no longer with him, but that's not true either. God is not so he's not like their idols, which are tied down to stupid blocks and stone. He can move anywhere, he can do anything and he can give hope. And even the darkest places, the most isolated places, the most disorienting places, when we think we are so far gone, God is still calling us to repentance, at least while we're still...

...here, while we still have breath to breathe, while the Lord has not yet returned in judgment. And this called repentance is a wonderful thing. When Jesus comes to inaugurate the new covenant, we see many of these things in him, and I want to think about just one story with you where I think we see a lot of these elements all together, and that's a story of the woman at the well. You remember the secrets in her heart, right, her five husbands. I believe it was these things which she was known by, These things which she had begotten a reputation for, and she comes to the well, she meets Jesus there, the Prophet Greater Than Moses, right, the very son of God, right, and she tries to have this like theological conversation with him. Well, I don't know this mountain or that mountain. We worship here, we worshiped there, and Jesus cuts through it all right, just like he does here in Ezekiel Fourteen, when he speaks to these these prophets, these false prophets, and he speaks to these people who were coming and Oh seek a word of the Lord will have a discussion about theology. Yada, Yada. I know. No, I know what you're doing, I know what's going on in your life. He says to them, he says to her, he shows his power in this and and he reveals himself in this way and he calls her to repentance and she goes away and she says, he said things that I write, he knew these things about me. And she goes and she tells people about him.

The Lord calling people even when they are sort of at the brink or far past where we think there's any hope of return. There are many examples of this. Peter after his three denials of the Lord, after being told that he would do these things, after saying that he would not do these things, and the Lord calling him back to himself. Many, many, many examples. As long as we are breathing, as long as the final Jay of judgment has not come, as long as the Lord is still calling, there's time. Even the harshest of disciplines that we face in this life are not necessarily the end. Even excommunication, even being cut off from the church and from God's people, it's meant to lead US toward repentance. If we have your seer, if we wake up from our stupors, if we wake up from our covetousness and idolatry and see our God who is at work. Jesus, of course, not only revealed himself to this woman at the well and to Peter, he not only revealed that he, as God, was the seer of hearts, the forgiver of sins, the one calling to repentance, but he's the one that actually secured these things for us. Our idolatry, as we see from Ezekiel Fourteen, as we experience in our lives, as a way of capturing our hearts, doesn't it? It holds US fast, it holds US down. There's only one power, only one person who has the power to break that. Who in the world can break the power of idolatry? Who can change a human heart from exchanging the glory of...

God for creeping things and man made things? The only one who can break that powers, of course, God himself. And that's what the Lord does. The promise here in Isekiel is not only seen in the called repentance, but in the promise of God. He says, I will do these things, that they will know me that they will defile themselves no more. That probably would be a prayer worth praying. Lord, help me to stop defiling myself. They would defile themselves no more, that they would love him, that I would be their God and they would be my people. That's what he secures for us in Jesus, when he comes and he takes on the punishment that we deserve, when he is cut off for our sins, for Ir Idolatry. It's a great sadness that when Jesus was crucified, he was mocked as though he were a false god, king of kings. Right, they put over his king of the Jews, they put over his cross, but Jesus was the king of the Jews and the King of the gentiles, the King of Heaven and the Lord Yahwey. He is the one who came to reveal himself as the one who has the power to do all of these things, and it's that God who is come in love. It's that God who has given himself up for you, that wants all of you. So, when God says I don't want idols in your heart, I don't want idols before your eyes, I want all of you think about what a blessing it is to hear that if you got your dream job, your dream relationship,...

...your dream school, you don't say, well, I'm sorry that I got these things right. If you, let's say you're trying to apply and get into a school and then they you get into the school, you don't say, how selfish of them to want me right now. If that's true for these things that we have, think about how much more this ought to be true of our desire for God, for God to speak of us and say I want all of you, I want you to belong to me. I am going you have my attention, you have all my love, you have all my blessing in my life, you will have everything you need. What higher thing could we possibly want? And this is what God wants to give us. The God whom we've offended, the God whom we've broken his laws, the God whom we've replaced with false gods. That God is expressing his love towards these people, even in this moment, even in their idolatry, even in their false religion, even in Babylon. And if you can do that for them, they're surely he can do that for us here. And he does. He promises to you tonight His grace. He promises to you his himself, when you repent of your sins and turn away from your idols and toward him. May God grant us to do just that. Let's pray.

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