No net less wide than a man’s whole heart,
nor less fine of mesh than love,
will hold the sacred Fish.
— C. S. Lewis (Reflections on the Psalms)
Something must have happened to the people in exile. Maybe they heard rumors from home. Perhaps they were suffering some new form of humiliation by their captors. Whatever the cause was, we do know their response.
The leaders of the people in exile decided to inquire from Yahweh. Since there was not temple or priests, they decided to get to God through Ezekiel.
It is clear from this passage that the exilic leaders had not realized the seriousness of their sins. They had not decided to repent. They did not desire to develop any type of long-term relationship with Yahweh. They simply expected Yahweh to reveal his secrets like a twenty-five cent fortune cookie after cheap buffet.
. . .
God used interesting words to describe the condition of these inquirers: “these men have taken their idols into their hearts” (v. 3, NRSV). When we think of idolatry and the Old Testament, we typically picture statues and images of foreign gods. Here we see that the condition of the exilic remnant was far worse.
In being taken from their homeland, they would have lost contact with all the tangible idols they were used to. The statues, pictures, and festivals that were so familiar to them in Jerusalem were now a world away. How did they respond? They internalized their idolatry.
Like Dumbo soaring without his feather, they no longer needed statues or pictures. The gods these idols were patterned after were entrenched in their hearts. Interestingly, they still expected Yahweh to answer when they inquired through Ezekiel—as if God would be somehow bound to act because Ezekiel would do the asking.
God can never be manipulated. He is fully sovereign over all. The comprehensiveness of these terms cannot be diluted. God told Ezekiel very clearly that the enquirers would not receive an answer. Indeed, if they insisted on coming to him for answers without repenting, he would deceive them himself!
. . .
Whenever modern preachers pick on idolatry (myself included), they typically harp on the visible and tangible things. What takes more of our time than God? Jobs, television, relationships?
This passage speaks at a deeper level. The exilic leaders could never receive an answer from God because they had taken their idols into their hearts and trusted in them for their security. Yahweh was little more than an additional source of information for them.
The question for us is simple. What do we trust for our security? Do we trust in our financial plan for our security, only to come to God like a supplicant before a fortune teller? Do we trust in our physical strength or good looks to keep us safe in society, or do we have a deep-set understanding that God is all the security we will ever need?
God is not someone we come to for answers when our other sources start to fall apart. God is the one who loves us so desperately he was willing to die to establish a relationship with us. We owe him more than our questions—we owe him ourselves.
. . .
Almighty God, reveal your heart to us. Show us the type of relationship you would like us to have with you, keeping us away from all modern forms of idolatry. In Jesus’ name, Amen.