And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?
—Ezekiel 14:2, 3
A group of elders from Israel came to Ezekiel for what reason we are not told. Apparently they had a request for God and wanted to plead that the prophet Ezekiel would carry their request to God’s throne for them. However, God spoke before the Scriptures tell us what their petition might have been.
God said, “these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face…” Then God asks Ezekiel why God should be obligated to listen to these men who think they have a better way to worship God than the way He has designed.
Idols and the 10 Commandments
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
God’s first command in Exodus 20 was that God’s people should not have any gods before the one true God. God did not want to take second priority to anyone or anything. God does not want us worshiping false gods. Yet so often we do set up other gods with higher priority in our life the God of the Bible. Or, as many religions have done, we can be guilty of replacing God completely with our own ideas.
When we create our own view of God that is contrary to the Bible, then we have rejected the God of the Bible and established an idol in our heart that does not place Jehovah God in His right place. This is done any time we think, “I know what the Bible says, but I just can’t believe God would do…” We have probably all heard words like those. Sometimes we begin to believe them ourselves.
In the next couple of verses God says that He does not want us making graven images. He does not want us bowing down to them. He does not want us worshiping them.
Though we may not go out and carve an idol from a block of wood or stone, we can conveniently buy them in stores today. They have clever names like Ford, Panasonic and Apple. Anything that causes you to place God in second place or that we would prefer to worship on a Sunday morning instead of spending time with Him and His people have become the idols that God warned us against.
God Answers According to the Idols in Their Heart
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself: And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
God tells Ezekiel that He will respond to the people. He says in verse 5 that the people have estranged themselves from God. They have walked away from Him. What obligation does He have to answer them?
But God says that He will answer. He response is that He will set His face against them. He will cut them off as they have cut Him off from their lives. He will be known as God.
And if you don’t agree with Him, then you are guilty of the point of making your own god. Don’t try and claim that you are worshiping the God of the Bible if you don’t want to agree with Him about what He says about Himself or the way He chooses to do things.
Tearing Down Idols in the Heart
God says to repent and return to Him. You can tear down these idols of the heart and return to God. He says that it is the elders who have estranged themselves from Him. They can return. They can repent.
You and I too can tear down the physical idols that we have in our lives and return to God. The god that we have built in our own minds and with our own beliefs can be destroyed as we look to the Bible and see what God has to teach about His own character.
Certainly God is not saying that owning a car or a computer is wrong. But when your stuff begins to own and control you, then you are setting up idols and stumblingblocks in your heart.
Besides the physical items which can become idols, there are many thoughts and character traits that the Bible speaks against which can become idols. Pride, lust, entertainment and religion are just a few of these.
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.