I have recently been working through the Book of Ezekiel in my personal seeking of the Lord in scripture. Although there is much in his prophecy which begs for further understanding, I have always been drawn to God’s disposition in dealing with Israel, through this man.
Ezekiel is a book filled with fantastic visions of the throne of God (Ezekiel 1), the rebirth of Israel in the vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37), and the end times war of Gog of Magog (Ezekiel 38-39).
Perhaps the most meaningful revelation to me, in the midst of all the outlandish things the prophet is called to do, is what the LORD admonishes Ezekiel with not once but twice, in this book (Ezekiel 3:16-21, Ezekiel 33:7-11).
Ezekiel 33:7-9 7 “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
It is for this reason, that I am writing today about Ezekiel 14:1-11 and the “Idol of Me, Myself and I”. We Christians must heed the warning in God’s dealing with Israel, or potentially suffer a similar falling away.
THE PROPHET AND CERTAIN ELDERS
Ezekiel 14:1-3 1 Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 3 “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?
It is important to note that these men are not the full compliment of the elders of the nation of Israel. Even though these elders were no pagan in their practice, the LORD reveals they had set up idols in their own heart, causing them to profess trust in God, but walk in unbelief.
This is important for earlier in Ezekiel, the LORD carries the prophet in the Spirit, to the temple in Jerusalem, where he witnesses the priests and elders of Israel, doing abominable worship rituals to a multiplicity of false gods (Ezekiel 8). Those who were responsible for the religious and civil life of the nation, were almost completely corrupted in idol worship of pagan deities.
The result is that the glory of the LORD would depart the temple, God’s city and the nation itself. Imagine how disheartening the revelation in Ezekiel 14, concerning these elders must have been.
The elders in Ezekiel 14 were not involved in the abominable rituals of Chapter 8, but still had a problem. What were these idols?
We can identify them, by understanding what idols are used for. Remember that idols represent a false god, machinated by the fallen angelic watchers. These created beings that left their first estate, used their God given authority to fool the people and become false gods the people could serve, instead of the God they knew but were no longer thankful for.
The idols of Ezekiel 8 provided shortcuts to gaining what God promised, only with the added bondages of pagan ritualism of varying abomination. In that understanding, we can look at the god mammon, so called in Israel (same Chinese god called Fortune or Hotei).
Our Lord Jesus declares in Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters. One cannot serve God, while performing worship rituals to mammon. In Matthew 6 our Lord explains the reason people would confess following YHWH, while serving mammon is anxiety over needed provision… what we will eat, drink, and cloth ourselves with.
We Christians must be concerned about this anxiety ourselves. We may not go to China and throw a penny in the water at a shrine of the god Fortune, believing we will gain necessary provision, but the want of more and faster, may still be and idol pulling us away from our Provider.
Although God will supply our needs through the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19), His supplying our needs does not satisfy our want, of more than our daily bread. Therefore, an idol can be anything which we run to for the purpose of gaining the upper hand on anxiety or fear, when we need provision or protection, or feel the need for more.
Idols are tied to more, faster and that which makes “Me, Myself and I” feel in control and safe. That is why, idols are not always wood, hay, stubble or stone. The elders of Ezekiel 14 were in a deception, believing themself followers of YHWH, while being in bondage to iniquity. Perhaps their idol was self-righteous religion.
God, also declared everyday, ordinary, average guys, had the same idols.
Ezekiel 14:4-5 4 “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”‘
Before we move into the product of a person with idols in their heart, let us consider that the definition of an idol, in a society like America, may literally be a religious relic of some sort, or even a statue of a false deity.
Although this example may seem innocuous to some, consider one of the Chinese god’s Hotei, or the god of good luck and fortune. In China he is placed around bodies of water, where devotee’s looking for the luck of wealth, drop money into the water. Hotei in return for the payment is to pass along the material blessing.
Only ten miles from my house is a Chinese restaurant where a fountain serves as a whishing well for Hotei, represented by a three foot high idol, like the one to the right (he is also the first piggy bank).
I realize that means little to the ignorant American parent’s and children who toss money into the water, but to the Chinese owners, who have placed the idol there, it is in an effort to gain the false deity’s patronage and blessing.
It is for the same reason, Roman Catholics display a grotesque crucifix with a dead Christ on it, on their bedroom wall, or an idol of Mary in their yard, in an effort to gain the false deity’s patronage and blessing.
Yes there are actual idols of false God’s being worshipped in America, as well as things like job and career, sports and entertainment, people, politicians and programs, that are also idols, as well.
What ties them all together is the place in us, which the enemy tempts and tricks, for the purpose of looking to and idol, rather than trusting the Living God… “Me, Myself and I”.
In considering “Me, Myself and I” in relation to idols, we look no further than to the “I” which is the first letter in the word “iniquity”.
“Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity,…”
Once again let us remember that iniquity, which means “depravity and perverseness” in the Hebrews of the Old Testament, refers to the depravity and perverseness in all humanity. How did we get this “iniquity”?
Iniquity has been passed on from Adam, through all fathers, to all of their offspring. It is the spiritual genetic trait all mankind is affected with (Romans 5:12-21). This inward crookedness, a bent towards “Me, Myself and I”, is what leads us until we are awakened by grace to consider sin, righteousness and judgment, as we hear the Gospel.
The only person, not having this iniquity, is Christ, as He was born in THE miraculous conception, without a human father (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-24; Luke 1:26-38).
In Ezekiel 14 the LORD declares that the person with idols in his heart, or “go too” strongholds rather than seeking God, will stumble in iniquity. That is because iniquity is the inward and crooked bent towards “Me, Myself and I”. In this understanding let us consider the one idol we see every day, when we look in the mirror.
This is not a stretch, when we consider, that although our old man of sin (with transgression, iniquity and missing the mark) was crucified with Christ and is perishing, that old rascal dies very harder than Bruce Willis (Romans 6:4-8). It is for this reason we are commanded to actively put our old sinful tendencies to death and refuse to follow them.
Colossians 3:5-10 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him
If we do not, then the LORD Himself will bring affliction, so we are forced to choose His will or continue to be a half-hearted, carnal professing Christian.
I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart
The Elders of Ezekiel 14 as well as the majority of the nation’s population, were riding the fence of God’s will and pursuing their own desires. I should not have to say, but we have the same proclivity hanging on to us (Romans 7). We are called in Christ to put to death our will, for the sake of pursuing the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
In many Christians communities we have turned God’s will, into affirming us personally and providing for what we think is right in our own sight. This is what the leaders and people of Israel were doing. We should not need a history lesson to understand the many times God brought affliction, to get their heart back to Himself. He will do the same in our life, to seize back our heart.
James 4:1-5 1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
In considering the truth that the LORD demands our devotion, for that is what the word “jealously” means, we understand it falls in line with God’s love, through chastening us. This is important, for not only does Hebrews 12:5-17 discuss this truth at length, but David gives us the blessedness of God’s chastening.
Psalms 119:67-68 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. 68 You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes.
Psalms 119:71 71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
In closing, it is important to ask “How does one know they have the potential to set an idol in front of themselves?”
In the first place, we all have the potential. Secondly we must remember that the appeal of an idol to one person, may not have the same appeal to another. Although we all have the iniquitous “Me, Myself and I”, our differing anxieties, fears and inordinate desires, will set us to search for idols to meet those differences.
Simply put, the best way to combat this problem, is to seek the LORD asking Him to reveal what are the areas of life your are most prone to be anxious, fearful, and pulled into excess by temptation. Once discovered, seek the LORD for understanding in patterns in your life, which lead you away from seeking the LORD to meet your anxieties, fears, and temptations to excess.
Finally, commit to daily seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, daily. Much of our falling to “Me, Myself and I” begins, when we desire to be secure in tomorrow or next week. Remember we are given grace for provision, protection and presence, for today not tomorrow.