They came to Ezekiel because he was a prophet of God. And they came because they were the elders of Israel. They were to lead and so they came to listen. But rather than being provided with some insight, the corruption of their inner man was identified as the problem. A big problem. Idols in their hearts led to stumbling blocks of iniquity before their faces.
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 man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?”
(Ezekiel 14:1-3 ESV)
The sin to beware of jumps off the page. Idols in the heart and stumbling blocks of iniquity before the face is repeated three times in the first seven verses of Ezekiel 14. Kind of hard to miss it.
And the consequences are huge! Not only does it restrain the voice of God (v.3b), but even if that voice is heard the sinful filter of having a “multitude of idols” corrupts and distorts the voice of God. Thus, through their idols, the idolater is estranged from God (v.4). Estranged from God because, in bowing before their idols, they have separated themselves from God (v.7). Sin to beware of indeed!
But here’s what I’m noodling on this morning. Before the idol ever shows up on the mantle in the home (or as shiny new objects in the garage) it’s first taken into the heart. Before the carved image or the metal cast figure is ever put on display, the object is first revered worthy of commanding one’s allegiance in the inner person–what they think about, what they talk about, what they long for, what they think will satisfy their appetites. Before it becomes a stumbling block of iniquity before their faces, it first is set up as an idol in their heart.
How important then is it to guard the heart? I’m thinkin’ pretty important!
Though, as believers, we have been given a new heart, we can still clutter it up. Allow in things to compete for its affections. Desire things that dilute its desire for the new heart Maker. Pursue things that distract from seeking first the kingdom of God. Things that, while they may be permissible, when allowed to infect the heart foster infidelity. Things that, even if they’re beneficial, when bowed down to act as a Benedict Arnold leading us into traitorous betrayal of the One who gave Himself to redeem our hearts.
Though, as believers, we have been given hearts of flesh, idol storage has a way of hardening hearts. Darkening our understanding. Distancing us from our God. Desensitizing us to what life–real life, abundant life, life to the full–is actually all about.
Allowing idols to take up resident in our hearts can’t help but lead to setting up stumbling blocks of iniquity before our faces.
O’, be on guard, O heart!
By His grace. For His glory.