Bible Study: Ezekiel 14 – Judgment for Idolatry

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.

Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

The fourteenth chapter of Ezekiel is about judgment on Jerusalem for their idolatry. It serves as a warning for today’s nations for their sins.

Idolatry in hearts

Ezek 14:1-5 Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. And the word of the LORD came to me saying, “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. Should I be consulted by them at all? 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.

We often think that idolatry is all about worshiping or bowing down before other gods. But the Lord God was accusing the ancient Israelite people for idolatry in their hearts. We may not have idols like the ancient Israelite people in Protestant Christianity today but we do have things that are equal to idolatry.

1Sam 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” 

Col 3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Bible compares stubbornness of not obeying the Lord to the iniquity of idolatry. Paul further compares fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness to idolatry.

Iniquity of the prophet

Ezek 14:6-11 “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. And I shall set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I shall 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. And 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.”

God wants Israelite people to repent and turn from their idols and away from all their abominations, He then warns of the punishment for not just the Israelite people but also the immigrants who were staying in Israel, regarding their idolatry in their heart and inquiring of God. The punishment also extends to the prophet who is enticed to utter a prophecy which is from the Lord.

Deut 13:1-5 “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’–which you have not known–‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.

It is important to notice that Israelite people not only forsake the law by not punishing the false prophet but failed the test by God and started following the false prophet. Therefore, the Lord had to punish the people and the false prophet Himself.
Today, we see the same pattern. Sinners live in their sins and still call upon the name of the Lord and inquire of Him. False prophets are also flourishing to rip off from sinners giving a false prophecies, false comfort and false hope, doing nothing to warn them of their sins to turn from them. God Himself will set His face against those inquirer and the prophet and make him as a sign and a proverb.

Punishment of Israel

The following are examples of punishments for Countries who used His name and yet sin against Him.

Ezek 14:12-14 Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it, and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,” declares the Lord GOD.

God will send lack of supply of bread and famine.

Ezek 14:15-16 “If I were to cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they depopulated it, and it became desolate so that no one would pass through it because of the beasts, though these three men were in its midst, as I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the country would be desolate.

God will send wild beasts killing the population to make the land desolate.

Ezek 14:17-18 “Or if I should bring a sword on that country and say, ‘Let the sword pass through the country and cut off man and beast from it,’ even though these three men were in its midst, as I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters, but they alone would be delivered.

God will also rise up nations to invade it. 

Ezek 14:19-21 “Or if I should send a plague against that country and pour out My wrath in blood on it, to cut off man and beast from it, even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, as I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “they could not deliver either their son or their daughter. They would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.” 

God will also send plagues to pour out His wrath.

For thus says the Lord GOD, “How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts, and plague to cut off man and beast from it!

The four severe judgments on Jerusalem are an example for today’s judgments on nations.
  • Sword: Invasions, Terror Attacks, Civil wars etc.
  • Famine: Lack of supply of bread, Poverty, Hyper-Inflation etc
  • Beasts: E.g., Shark attacks, Crocodile attacks etc.
  • Plagues: E.g., Zika, Swine Flu, Chikungunya, Cancer (in epidemic scales) etc.

If a nation sins against God, as we are currently experiencing in many western nations, what does God say about escaping? There are only two options.

  1. The country must repent and turn from it’s sins just like Nineveh after hearing Jonah’s preaching.
  2. Be righteous like Noah, Daniel, and Job to save yourself
Hence, to escape from God’s judgment, we are to be righteous like Noah, Daniel, and Job. Today, we have someone more than these godly men, Jesus Christ, who showed the way for us to follow. Therefore, let us obey and follow Him to be righteous and holy like Him.

Not Punished in Vain

Ezek 14:22-23 “Yet, behold, survivors will be left in it who will be brought out, both sons and daughters. Behold, they are going to come forth to you and you will see their conduct and actions; then you will be comforted for the calamity which I have brought against Jerusalem for everything which I have brought upon it. Then they will comfort you when you see their conduct and actions, for you will know that I have not done in vain whatever I did to it,” declares the Lord GOD.

Finally, God declares that His punishment will not be in vain. The survivors will change their conduct and actions and Ezekiel will be comforted.

Conclusion

God will punish nations if they sin. When He punishes and pours out His wrath, if we want to save ourselves, we are to be righteous like Noah, Daniel and Job.

Mark 7:21-23 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Therefore, let us listen to Christ in making sure we have no idolatry in our hearts but serve Him with pure conscience.