In yesterday’s blog we talked about the hope we have in Christ and how we are set free from not only our past sins but the expectations, good or bad, which others place upon us. As we come to chapter 20 it appears at first glance as though Ezekiel is saying something contradictory.
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Chapter 20 begins by telling us how the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel to enquire of the Lord. We might think this is a good thing. They have learnt their lesson; understood why they are in exile and so they have come before the Lord. The shock comes when we realise that God will not answer them.
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: have you come to enquire of me? As surely as I live, I will not let you enquire of me, declares the Sovereign Lord.Ezekiel 20:3
Ezekiel reminds the elders of all Israel did in their past, how they rebelled against God time and time again. He describes in detail the terrible lengths Israel wen to in their rebellion. The depth and extent of their rebellion. The question we should be asking at this point is why? Why if our hope in Christ frees us from the sins of our fathers did God refuse to let Israel enquire of him?
It appears that Israel had failed to repent. By repent we mean they had failed to turn away from what they were doing. There was no sign of remorse. When they came before God there was no sense of acknowledging the hurt they’d caused, or the damage they’d inflicted on the world around them.
It was because of this lack of contrition; integrity or honesty in coming before God that he turned his face away and would not let them enquire of him. How do we come before God? Are we two faced in our dealings with God? Do we say one thing, but our actions say another.
In Ezekiel 24:15 a strange real-life drama is played out to show the seriousness of Israel’s situation. Ezekiel’s wife dies and Ezekiel is not allowed to openly mourn her death. The reason for this drama was to show how God was going to take away everything that was precious to Israel, everything they loved. Their city; temple; land – everything God had blessed them with and set them apart as being special.
We cannot expect God to hear and respond to us when we are still engaging in sinful rebellion. Sin always has and always will separate us from God. There is good news in Ezekiel’s message from God. He whole reason God turns his face away from Israel is to draw them back.
But afterwards you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols.Ezekiel 20:39
We need to be clear; our sin may separate us from God, but God does everything to overcome that gap – even turning his face away from us. Has God gone silent? Does God seem distant? Could it be that God is saying quite clearly there is something he wants us to repent of, to turn away from and actually it is not that he is punishing us, or turning away from us but he wants us to turn back to him?
Prayer Father forgive my two-faced approach to you. Forgive my prayers of confession and cries for deliverance when I still look to those things that come between us. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace. Amen
A brief history of Ezekiel