In Ezekiel chapter 20 the “elders” of Israel come to visit the Prophet, for at least the third time now! Chapters 8 (verse 1) and 14 (verse 1) relate the other occasions. But these men (like the Pharisees of Jesus’ Day) were rank hypocrites!
And on each of these visits, God rebuked them for their sins!
They came to “enquire” of the Lord, verse 2. But verse 3 records God’s response: “Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to enquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I WILL NOT be enquired of by you.” No response, nothing positive anyway!
Then God begins a review of Israel’s history, particularly her propensity to sinning. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; in the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God; in the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands.” Verses 5-6, goodness! God “found” the land of Canaan for His people! The verb “tur” means “to explore, to search as does a businessman!” What an “investment” God located!
But, and this I learn for the first time as a Bible student … “Then said I (the Lord) unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the IDOLS of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the ABOMINATIONS of their eyes, NEITHER DID THEY FORSAKE THE IDOLS OF EGYPT: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.” Verses 7-8, the “idols” of Egypt, I had always thought Israel behaved herself pretty well in that foreign Land (Egypt) so long ago!
But God delivered Israel anyway, miraculously extracting them from the clutches of Pharaoh … but WHY? “For His Name’s Sake,” not because of Israel’s faithfulness! Though verse 9 says the same thing, let’s read verse 14 here. “I (God) wrought (worked) for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.” He did this (Passover, Exodus) so the heathen would not blaspheme His Name! God treasures His “Testimony,” His “Glory!”
Israel did not honor God’s Word!
Nor His Sabbaths!
And they gave away His “gifts” (specifically the children, little boys and girls) to the devils, brutal child sacrifice to false gods and goddesses!
The point God is making is that Israel has been idolatrous … from her early days in Egypt then into the Wilderness and then (still) into the Land of Canaan! And such despicable behavior continued through all her time in that God-given Land! AND IT WAS STILL GOING ON (WITH THE CAPTIVES IN BABYLON) AS EZEKIEL WAS SPEAKING TO THIS BUNCH OF “ELDERS!” God had their “number” so to speak!
God even knew where these men would go after they left Ezekiel’s presence, that very day! “Then I (the Lord) said unto them (these elders), What is the high place whereunto ye go? And the name thereof is called Bamah unto this day.” Verse 29, with “Bamah” meaning “a raised place,” where idolatrous worship was held!
Like their forefathers! No better, if not worse. “Wherefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye polluted after the manner of your FATHERS? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations? For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and SHALL I BE ENQUIRED OF YOU, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I WILL NOT BE ENQUIRED OF BY YOU.” Verses 30-31, pretty plain!
When God won’t answer!
The chapter ends with a twofold emphasis.
First, God is going to severely judge these men and the wicked people they represent. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.” Verses 47-48, fire symbolizing judgment.
But also, secondly … the day is coming when God will be able to bless Israel!
But after He has “purged out the rebels!” Verse 38 … “And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.”
Seems like there is “repentance” in Israel’s future, even nationally! Then God promises … “And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I SHALL BRING YOU (BACK) INTO THE LAND OF ISRAEL, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and YE SHALL LOATHE YOURSELVES in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.” Verses 42-44, Revival!
But will these very “elders” repent?
These men sitting before Ezekiel?
They even mock the man of God and the Lord he serves!
The chapter’s last verse: “Then said I (Ezekiel), Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?” Verse 49, where they are accusing Ezekiel of talking in circles! Just being a “story-teller!” A silly babbler! (Some said the very same thing about Paul at Mar’s Hill!)
But, as time has proved and will continue to prove, God is always truthful and faithful and righteous!
— Dr. Mike Bagwell