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Idols in the heart 3

on Oct 22, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

Idols in the heart 3

By Ivan Ho   22 Oct 2016

 

Introduction
Idols in the heart 2

 

FIRST THE BAD NEWS

Certain elders of Israel came to Ezekiel for prophetic consultation, maybe with the intention to seek his words of wisdom and guidance about certain matters.

What would you do if someone in a position of leadership comes to you for advice and God tells you that the person is actually carrying idols in his or her heart? That was the kind of situation Ezekiel faced when the elders of Israel came to him for consultation.

 

God said to Ezekiel:

Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God , “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols.”‘

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God , “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me for himself, I the Lord will be brought to answer him in My own person. 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 .  “But if the prophet is prevailed upon to speak a word, it is I, the Lord , who have prevailed upon that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel. They will bear the punishment of their iniquity; as the iniquity of the inquirer is, so the iniquity of the prophet will be, in order that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me and no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions.

Thus they will be My people, and I shall be their God,”‘ declares the Lord God .”
Ezekiel 14:4‭-‬11 NASB

 

God revealed to Ezekiel the heart conditions of the elders, that they had set up idols in their hearts, then instructed him to speak boldly the words of God with the purpose to bring them to repentance and restoration.

Let us look at God’s word to Ezekiel in more details:

 

1. God exposes the idols in the heart

Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God , “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols.”‘ (Ezekiel 14;4-5)

If there are idols in a person’s heart, the last thing he needs is for someone to tell him that he is right with God when he is not. If you try to avoid the issue for fear of offending him, you are doing him no favours whatsoever.

God says that anyone who sets up idols in his heart is “estranged from God through all his idols.” I would like to think that God still loves him and wants him to come to repentance, but as long as idols remain in his heart, God is no longer in friendly terms with him.

Often times, people having idols within may not even be aware of it themselves. That was why God used Ezekiel the prophet to expose the idols in the hearts of His people.

 

2. God warns of exposing the idolatrous publicly as a warning sign

Not only did God expose the idolatrous conditions in their hearts, He warned them that He would make them “a sign and a proverb” as a public warning sign to His people. (Ezekiel 14:8)

If one remains stubborn in his idolatrous attitudes, Ezekiel tells us that not only will God expose what is hidden in his heart, He will also make that person a sign and a proverb so that others will take heed not to follow their examples.

Some of you out there might be thinking: “That’s not God’s way, He never exposes people’s sins!” I’d wish you would think again and consider the biblical characters whose sins were exposed and their stories of failures being included in the scriptures, not to mention the number of contemporary prophets, pastors and leaders whose sins have been made public with their stories all over the internet. They have been exposed as warning signs to all of us so that we would take heed.

God is gracious and patient with us but if we take His grace for granted and persist in our sinful ways, we could be exposed. In other words, you don’t want to be “caught with your pants down” on a public stage!

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
Ephesians 5:6‭-‬13 NASB

 

3. God warns of isolating the idolatrous from His people

God said to Ezekiel concerning those who had idols in their hearts: “I will cut him off from among My people.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.” (Ezekiel 14:8)

To cut off someone from God’s people is really a drastic measure, a last resort that should not be taken lightly.

 

Prior to God cutting off someone from God’s community (v.8), He called upon the idolatrous to repentance (v.6), and if he doesn’t repent leading to God’s decision to cut him off from the community, it would be a God decision with the purpose to make Himself known to His people – “So you will know that I am the Lord” (v.8). The cutting off would only take place if the elders remained unrepentant and continued to keep the idols in their heart, and God would do it so that people would know that He is the Lord.

Everything that God does is just and always with a higher purpose in mind.

 

God said: “I will cut him off from My people”, a God decision rather than Ezekiel’s decision to cut the elders off from God’s community. If someone ends up being isolated from the community, it is God’s decision alone and we must hear Him clearly. We must not take matters into our own hands.

 

Recently, a football coach made the decision not to include a well known footballer in his team for complaining to the media through his personal manager about the coach not playing him. The football coach added that if the footballer apologised, he would be back in the team. This is a disciplinary action for the overall good of the whole team. That’s how we should view any decision God makes to isolate someone from the body as a disciplinary punishment.

 

A person with idols in his heart is like a cancerous cell that needs to be cut off lest his ungodly spirit will spread to the rest of the body. Unless the person repents and cuts off the idols, God might cut him off for the overall good of the community.

 

Notice the sequence of events here: the man separates himself from God first, then sets up idols in his heart (v.7), before God disciplines him by cutting him off His people (v.8) if he remains unrepentant. So causally it is not God separating him but him separating himself from God. If one separates himself from God by setting idols in his heart, he already alienates himself from the family of God (unless the community conforms to his sinful ways). He is like a sore thumb that needs to be cut off sooner or later. Again, I emphasis that it is God’s last resort if he remains unrepentant.

 

4. The prophet must deliver the word of the Lord without compromise.

“But if the prophet is prevailed upon to speak a word, it is I, the Lord , who have prevailed upon that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel.They will bear the punishment of their iniquity; as the iniquity of the inquirer is, so the iniquity of the prophet will be, (Ezekiel 14:9-10)

 

When a man or a woman with an idolatrous heart comes to approach the prophet for counselling, the latter must be careful to deliver the word of the Lord without compromise (rather than say things to try to appease the person who seeks counsel), with the purpose to bring him to repentance. The prophet must speak the truth in love and be firm in his words from the Lord even if it may offend the hearer.

He must not water down the message and tell the idolatrous man that everything is fine, that “God still loves him the same“. If he does that, he becomes a false prophet who tries to paper over the cracks.

If the prophet delivers the message that the idolatrous person wants to hear instead of the word of the Lord he receives, God warns that He will judge the false prophet.

They will bear the punishment of their iniquity; as the iniquity of the inquirer is, so the iniquity of the prophet will be, in order that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me and no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. (Ezekiel 14:8‭-‬16)

 

NOW THE GOOD NEWS

When we have people in the family of God carrying idols in their hearts, it is really bad news. But it’s not the end of the world and the story does not end there. To be honest, we all have personal idols we need to deal with. We have to let the Holy Spirit reveal those dark areas in our life so that we will allow God to empower us to demolish the strongholds in our lives.

The good news is that, after all the rebukes and warnings, God’s ultimate purpose is to demonstrate His love and mercy by leading His people to repentance and restoration. He wants us to repent and remove the idols in our heart so that we may “love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul,  and with all our strength, and with all our mind.” (Luke 10:27)

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God , “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations.

…. in order that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me and no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. Thus they will be My people, and I shall be their God,”‘ declares the Lord God .”
Ezekiel 14:610,11a

 

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