Idols and Stumbling Blocks

One of the “advantages” of reading through the Old Testament prophets, I find, is the language the Spirit gives through them for identifying and describing sin. If you want to expand your vocabulary regarding transgression against God, just hang out with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Not that I enjoy meandering in the muck of iniquity, but honestly it’s kind of helpful to have some context for recognizing it when you see it. Can’t repent of what you don’t recognize.

Case in point? A thrice repeated characterization of a particular type of sin from Ezekiel 14 this morning.

Background? Certain elders of the Israel have come to Ezekiel wanting him to bring them a word from the Lord. Men of standing. I’m thinking reputable men. Perhaps self-professed holy men. But, as quickly becomes apparent, severely compromised men.

“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 14:3 ESV)

Though they present themselves as devout and religious, though they approach Ezekiel with a façade of apparent sincerity and seeking, these leaders among the peoples had taken idols into their hearts and had put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. (To emphasize the point, the LORD will repeat His assessment of their condition two more times in verses 4 and 7.)

Before any graven image had been set on the mantel in their home, it had already found residence within their thoughts and desires. Before starting to divert their energies towards that physical carving overlaid with silver and gold, they had already placed pursuing the creation above the Creator at the top of their spiritual priorities list. The idols were at first thoughts, and intents, and values, and desires in their inner being before they ever manifested themselves as physical stumbling blocks set before their eyes.

Beware of idols taken into the heart. That’s what I’m picking up this morning.

Taken into the heart. Literally, allowed to ascend, caused to go up. The battle against the material idol in our house begins with what we entertain in our hearts. It’s there that we can grow weary of seeking first the things of the kingdom and thus opt to divert first energies to the things of the world. Before material possessions ever fill our spaces, setting fleshing desires above our God overtakes our affections.

“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 any one 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.”

(Ezekiel 14:6-7 EV)

To allow idols to ascend within the seat of our being is to separate ourselves from the One who demands the throne of our lives alone. When the external evidence of stumbling blocks appear, which distract us from following in the Spirit, it’s but a tangible indicator of a battle which has already been ceded internally to follow after the flesh. Guard your heart.

O, that Christ would so fill my heart there is no room for anything else. That my face would be so fixed on things above that I would not trip over things below.

Only through the cross. Only by His grace. Always for His glory.

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