There are a number of things in life that we typically have a different perspective on than God. One of them is sins. One man recently figured that if we do 80% things that God wants and 20% what we want, then we can still be happy.
Two things go contrary to this. Firstly, sin always has its bitter fruit. It might sound nice to have immoral thoughts and relationships at times, until one looks at how sour it is compared to a real and beautiful godly marriage. The immoral person lives selfish lives with no pure joy of love.
Secondly, God meets all sin with His judgment. This judgment arrives at all levels. Lust gratification withdrawal always follows immoral sex play. A person feels lonely, used and disgusted with himself. Then there are physical repercussions such as STDs. Often there is social rejection. Sin always results in the lack of true and honest relationships. Lastly, if these warnings are not heeded, a final judgment comes of which Sodom and the flood are just mere pictures of the real movie.
Ezekiel 14 highlights the way looks at five common misunderstandings.
God only cares when we hurt someone else. (Ezekiel 14:1-5) Study Questions
Most people define sin as those crimes in which we have actually hurt other people. This mentality makes them usually feel good about themselves. They think God actually is not troubled with their lifestyle. Actually, most people don't care about how God really thinks about them. They are content with their thoughts about what they think God thinks about them.
God told Ezekiel that God actually cares about what a man's inner heart is focused on.
We would normally applaud those people who come and seek out God. Doesn't God like a full church?! We draw the natural conclusion that nobody has really hurt anyone else and God is happy with a church filled with worshippers. God wasn't happy with these elders, though. He didn't even want them to ask Him about some matter.
God pointed out that the culprit was not even what those men did in their lives as much as the 'idols of their hearts.' God not only looked at man's heart and understood them, but He also held them accountable. From our accounting tables, these religious men were impressive. They even took time out to visit the prophet and see what God had to say.
God wasn't about to answer them. They had idols of the heart. Moreover, God said that these heart idols brought up iniquity every time God looked at them. In other words, their heart shaped their view of life. Does it really matter to God? He tells us in 14:4 how important it is to God.
God is going to judge him accord to the number of idols that are stored in his heart.
Application Idols of the heart
The idols might be lust for sex, money, position or other things, but no matter how well we dress, God is offended by our coming just as we are (as one popular song goes) before Him. The lust has to be turned back. We must recognize that the idols of the heart are as bad as the resulting action. Religious service and even big donations doesn't excuse anyone. God holds us accountable for our willingness to hold other things more important than obedience to His Word.
Name five 'idols of the heart'. Which one do you struggle with most? If you ignore this idol, do you think it will be easy to understand God's will? How will it affect your time with God?
Transparency1 is greatly valued in the relativistic age. The preacher is suppose to hang out his dirty laundry for everyone to see. This makes everyone feel more comfortable with their sins. If the preacher sins, then they can. Everybody can. For most people, confession simply means to tell how weak they were at some vulnerable point. The only problem with this concept is that it doesn't meet God's standards!
God wanted to get His message across not only to these few elders there, but whoever else was around. So Ezekiel had to get the message out to everyone. What was this message?
God starts off by telling them three associated items to add to their "to do" list.
When confession is defined merely as telling our sins to someone else, be it a priest or another, God is not at all pleased. True confession must have these three items. Only when a person gains God's perspective of their sins and agrees with His perspective is it truly confession. In other words, as a person sees the wretchedness of their sins, he turns away from them.
To think that we only have to state our weakness is totally inadequate. We must repent. We must identify the idol or inner sinful craving and reject all such attempts to satisfy those cravings. What happens when God's people don't turn away from their sins? We should not want to be in such a situation.
We will find that God will judge His people rather rigorously for their sins. We might be surprised at the number of Christian leaders running away with their secretaries, but in a real way God is simply judging them as He said He would. He doesn't do it right away necessarily, but if repentance is not sought, then God will sooner or later expose it. This is not only true for leaders but for all of God's people.
Application Phone is off the hook
List one sin that you have. What idol of the heart does that sin depend upon? Repentance means that one would not only stop at that one sin but address the 'adulterous' love of ones heart. Show how you have actually not only tried not to sin but have addressed the heart issue. (Examples of idols might be pleasure, leisure (laziness), independence, lust, etc.).
When was the last time you confessed your sin? What was it? Did you repent from it? How so? Does your church teach repentance or merely transparency? List a few examples?
If we think that no one is expected to be perfect, then surely we do not expect leaders to treat their people as if they are to be perfect. In other words, they are expected to soften their message.
This is like modern man's preoccupation of making foods look nice and yet have all their nutrition removed! White bread and rice became popular because it was first associated with prosperity. Now people mostly eat just this white bread from which the nutrients have been taken away and only a small percentage replaced. Equally worse are the diseases that are directly related to the lack of fiber people are getting in their diets which are based on impoverished fods. But it tastes good they say! They have missed the point.
God is very conscious of the temptations of elders and pastors to reduce the essentials from His message. The people will come demanding that they 'be more understanding.' Of course, we can speak eloquently, but we must be real. God's leaders are required to bring the message that God Himself desires to bring. This is the integrity of God's servant. He does not tamper with God's message.
Softening the message of God is usurping God's authority. This is like telling the people that their message is better than God's. They are essentially telling them that they ought to go by their word rather than God's Word. One can see the 'heart idol' set up in the heart of these leaders. This is the reason the judgment is so severe.
Three times the word iniquity is used. They are guilty of impure decisions. These leaders have compromised their duties because of the fear of man. Unless the leader fears God, then he will always fear man and compromise the message. What is the result of this? God says that because of 'mushy' preaching, God's people both stray from Him and defile themselves.
When the pastors and teachers, the prophets and evangelists, compromise on God's Word, the people will go further away from God. If God's people would again start faithfully preaching His Word, then the people would stop straying and no longer wander in their sins. They would come back to God. Revival comes when leaders start preaching God's whole word, for then the people hear it, confess their sins, repent and are restored to God. The leaders are very responsible for the hearts of the people. It is hard to be a faithful preacher, but even harder to be an unfaithful one for the Lord will severely judge him.
Application No light from God
Have you at all compromised the message of God? Where exactly? If you are in leadership, why not start by telling God that you have compromised His message and now repent from it. Then go to the other leaders on your level within the church, and tell them what you have done. Perhaps God would be so gracious to bring people back to Himself. But they might not want your confession. Be prepared to stand strong and be rejected. Just be humble. You have failed God as much as they have.
The implications of a soft message are very clear. If God will overlook sin in the lives of His people, then surely He will overlook the sins in the lives of those who never heard His Word. This is the heathen or distant people that might never have heard of God's Word. What do you believe about this matter? Why?
We can see that God is speaking no longer about His people or leaders but just some country or nation in some part of the world. God has not spoken clearly to these people, but they clear enough are held accountable for their deeds. Note what God says.
Unfaithfulness is not the best translation because it hints at the covenant God only has with His people. 'Trespassing' is a more accurate translation. We see that God holds that country liable for all its deeds against God's laws. The country has to some degree understood its obligations but failed God her Maker.
When nations are judged and wiped out, we see that God takes full charge of this operation. God is Judge of all the nations. He deals with hidden heart sins, people's sins, leaders' sins and national sins.
Many people think that God only judges His people. We see this is not the case. He does judge His people more severely because they have received more light, but he Himself still judges the pagan nations. There might be some righteous men like Noah, Daniel and Job inside a wicked nation, but that doesn't change God's determination to judge that nation.
The statement seems obvious the first time God said it, but we note that the LORD repeatedly states that what might most incline Him to spare a nation the presence of His righteous people would still not get that nation off the hook. He repeats this in verse 14, 16, 18, and 20. His righteous people 'would only deliver themselves.'
So we see that God uses all sorts of hardships as judgments. Famine (13), wild beasts (15), sword (17) and a plague (19) are all used to judge the peoples. We should train ourselves to connect the these national disasters with God's judgments. When God send an earthquake to disturb the oil supply, we are to pay close attention. It might be minor, but God is speaking through His actions. These things should cause us to repent.
We should be most silly to say that God does not judge the heathen. They are responsible for their sins. God will sooner or later begin a whole sequence of judgments which except for the last final judgment are serve as reminders to turn to God while they have a chance.
What disasters has your nation experienced as of late? Would it be called a nation who generally knows God's Word or not? Have you ever heard the newspaper calling these national disasters as God's judgments? Have you thought of them? Do you act contritely when they occur or just ignore them?
The greatest hoax is saved for last. Here God destroys any hope that God's own people will not be spared if they sin against Him. I suppose we should know better, but still down deep God's people think that because of the covenant, because of His special love for them, because they are called Christians, etc., God simply won't judge them.
Christians get rather indignant at times when they hear God will judge them. Let's see what God's Words says here. In fact He is rather brief - only three verses. He in fact has already said it all in the previous verses but just in case they don't get the message He states it clearly.
God is no longer speaking about the nations in general. He is addressing Judah and her capital Jerusalem. The exact four hardships that the nations would face are those things that they themselves would face. So much for the argument that because we are God's people, He will treat us better! The sword, famine, wild beasts and plagues would also be visited upon His own nation.
We see only one different thing that happens, and this is repeatedly heard and seen throughout the Old Testament. God promises a remnant. In other words, God will preserve a small group of loyalists through the great judgments. Everything else will go: the temple, the government buildings, the army destroyed, the city gates demolished, but the remnant will be preserved for His greater purposes.
God will not have mercy on them except that He will make sure His promises are completed. Comfort will not come to these wicked people, but to a future generation.
The message is clear. God's people will receive the same judgment as the heathen because their deeds were equally hideous, fully deserving judgment. God will never let sin stand no matter where it is, even right smack in the middle of a big church sanctuary. God will eventually judge it.
Instead of excusing or overlooking their sins, God's people in the spirit of Revelations 2-3 confess and repent from their sins.
In section 1 God judges individuals.
Will God spare His judgment? No. We must refuse to insist that God will overlook our sins depending on who we are, big or small, black or white, clergy or laymen. God will judge all.
We should have no comfort except in the fact that we repent from our sins and live righteously like Noah, Daniel and Job. They stood like bright lights in a very dark and gloomy world.
Do we think that God would judge churches? What about your own church? What sins have we allowed to go on without repenting from? Can you name or think of three dead churches? What happened to them? If God would revive the nation of Israel, do you think He would tolerate sin in that nation? What should we expect if He did?
God cannot overlook sin. Sometimes He postpones judgment. Final judgment is coming and yet little warnings come forth which actually bring the death of many. Is it not time for us to uncover the idols of the heart, repent from them and live righteous lives after His standard? Can we not strive to join the 'righteous club' and be partners in living according to God's 100% standard like Noah, Daniel and Job? They lived in difficult times, but they persevered. We, now have more light than ever. We need to obey the Lord to be spared from His judgment.
God's love does not mean that He will spare any sinner from judgment. God's love only means that He has provided a means repentant sinners can escape that judgment through belief in Jesus Christ. All sin must be judged, either sooner or later.