By David Wilkerson
Certain elders of Israel came to the prophet Ezekiel seeking direction and guidance from the Lord. These men were not like many of the Israelites, who openly bowed their knees to idols. No, you wouldn’t find these elders in some idol temple, offering sacrifices to the false gods there. They were leaders of the people – and they wanted to appear before everyone as godly men.
But inside, these elders were white as sepulchres! Outwardly, they had the appearance of men who had a heart for God and wanted to know his word for their lives. And that is the manner in which they approached Ezekiel.
Yet God revealed to Ezekiel what was in their hearts. He said to the prophet, “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their heart…” (Ezekiel 14:3). The Lord was saying, “These men have come to you saying they want to hear a word from me – that they want to walk in obedience to my commands. But they are lying. They have secret sins in their life!”
These elders all had a hidden, secret idolatry. Their hearts were in bondage to sins they indulged behind closed doors. No one could tell this by their appearances. On the contrary, they came across not as pagans or idol worshipers, but as respected men of God going about their ministries.
The idol of one elder might have been different from that of another. For some, it might have been a lust for recognition, a drive for power. For others, it might have been some secret pleasure of the flesh. Others might have clung to a compromising relationship – an adulterous affair or homosexual sin. But with each of them, a war raged in their souls. They were caught in two powerful cross-currents: On one side they wanted to hear from God – and on the other, their hidden idol rose up before their eyes.
The book of Malachi tells us that priests wept in God’s house night and day, covering the altar with their tears. But those men had treachery in their hearts against their wives; they were divorcing their spouses left and right. And for that reason God did not hear their cries. Beloved, you can cry a river of tears – but if you hold onto an idol in your heart, the Lord will not hear you!
God asked Ezekiel, “…should I be enquired of at all by them?” (same verse). In other words: “Do these elders really believe they can inquire of me, while holding fast to a secret idol? Do they expect me to ignore what is in their hearts, and answer their requests in truth and righteousness? These idolaters are not prepared to hear my word. They’re not ready to do what I tell them. Why would I speak to them?”
Such a stumbling block is any evil enticement that robs you of a steadfast walk with God. It is any besetting sin that causes you to waver in your faith…any desire that brings shame to your heart and to the name of Christ…any secret thing that excites you, giving you false hope…any sin you cling to as you come to the Lord seeking guidance. You can come to God’s house, raise your hands, worship him loudly – and yet still have a stumbling block of iniquity in your heart!
“(They) have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face…” (Ezekiel 14:3). God was telling Ezekiel, “These men have been captivated in their hearts by a secret sin. And their sin is before their very eyes. It is something known to them. They know clearly what has hold of their heart, because I have dealt with them about it. I have convicted them by my spirit – and they know exactly what is hindering their fellowship with me.
“These are my chosen people, elders of my church – and they know better! They don’t have to have a word from you to figure it all out. They know I hate idolatry. And they know of David’s warning: ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’ But these men are not ready to forsake their sinful addiction. They are not ready to admit they are deceived, and to face correction. Yet, still, they expect me to speak to them!”
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