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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Ezekiel 14

Verse 3

INSINCERE PRAYERS

‘Should I be enquired of at all by them?’

Ezekiel 14:3

I. Certain elders of Israel came seeking the prophet of Jehovah.—They wanted him to inquire for them of God concerning some matter of grave public importance. Now, at first sight, all looks well. They ought to come thus to the prophet, for he was the proper medium of communication in that day between God and His people. So far as appears in the narrative, they came reverently, and they sat patiently to hear what God the Lord should say unto them. Now nothing could look better than this, and we seem to feel quite sure that kindly answers will be returned to them. But God ‘searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins of the sons of men,’ and these elders cannot stand the operation.

II. They are found out, and the secrets of their hearts are revealed, and it is made quite plain to them, that they are themselves putting hindrances in the way of the acceptance of their own prayers. This is the message that comes from God to them, through His prophet: ‘Therefore speak unto them and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols.’ ‘Should I be enquired of at all by them?’

III. We all agree that open sin must make prayer unacceptable.—But do we take due count of the fact that cherished heart-sin is even a more effective hindrance to prayer? The Psalmist saw this clearly, for he said, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’

It may be that here is one of the great secrets of our unanswered prayers. Some of us prayed with our idols in our hearts. There was that ‘pleasure loving’; it must have been an idol to us, for we set it before Christ. There was that ‘pride of intellect’; it must have been our heart idol, for we made more of it than of Christ.

Can we read Christian experience and find out some of the subtle forms of evil, some of the soul-idolatries, which, almost unknown to us, may have set themselves up in our hearts, and become stumbling-blocks to our prayer? Shall we take due account of unsuitable habits, which have become so familiar that their mischievous influence is unrecognised? Or of easily besetting sins, which we have confessed so long and yet have failed to overcome, so that the confession of them has now become a mere formality, and the sin is eating into the soul’s life, as doth a cancer? Or the ‘infirmities,’ as we call them, of which we really are somewhat proud?—half feeling that these ‘infirmities’ of temper and relationship are the marks of our individuality. Or the secret untrustfulnesses which are practical unbeliefs? Or the secret self-willedness, which persuades us that God’s way is exactly the way in which we wish to go?

Illustration

‘The man who sets up idols, always separates himself from God. It is the separation of things and people from God that makes them idols. Very often those who apparently are most devout, are most deeply under the spell of idolatry. There is room, therefore, for us all to ask that God would search us, and cast the dragons down before His ark.

The dearest idol I have known,

Whate’er that idol be,

Help me to tear it from Thy Throne,

And worship only Thee.’

Verse 14

THE PERSONAL CHARACTER OF RELIGION

‘Though these three men, Aoab, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.’

Ezekiel 14:14

The three men here mentioned were eminent for piety, which they maintained in the midst of prevailing corruption. They were delivered, as individuals, from the ruin by which many were overtaken. But Noah did not save the world from drowning, nor Daniel the Jews from captivity, nor Job his irreligious family from destruction. And we are here reminded that God’s rule is righteous, that He deals with individuals, and that He will not impute the merits of the virtuous to the sinful.

I. Privileges are personal.—If the just Ruler of all judges His subjects according to the opportunities and advantages accorded them, the same principle will have many and various applications. The servant who knows his Lord’s will and does it not will be beaten with many stripes. Those who enjoy the advantages of a Christian country, of the Christian Church, must not shelter themselves behind great and honoured names of their own land or age. The privileges are theirs individually; and the responsibility is theirs likewise.

II. Faith and piety are personal.—There is a natural tendency in men to think of their associations and their associates in estimating their religious position. But such a proceeding is unjust. The principle of Christianity is personal, is experienced by the individual. However much we owe to others, we cannot put others forward as our substitutes. They ‘only shall be delivered themselves.’ It is for every man to cultivate the nature with which he has been endowed, and to fulfil the responsibilities which have been laid upon him.

III. Judgment is personal.—It is so in this life, to a large extent, though not altogether. But in the final account to be rendered, each shall stand alone. Every one must take his station at the tribunal of infinite justice. Every man shall bear his own burden. And then shall every man—i.e. every faithful Christian, have praise of God.

Illustration

‘The repeated classification of Daniel with Noah and Job is very remarkable. He was still comparatively young, perhaps between twenty and thirty years of age. But such was the sanctity of his life, and the noted power of his prayer, that he is classed with two of the greatest names of Scripture. Each of these three men by intercessory prayer had warded off peril from those who were closely allied to them; but even their prayer could not avail to deliver their people from imminent destruction.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ezekiel 14". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/ezekiel-14.html. 1876.