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HEART IDOLATRY CONDEMNED
Ezekiel 14:4. Thus saith the Lord God: Every man of the house of Israel that setteth tip 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.
IT is gratifying to see the ordinances of religion well attended — — — but it is painful to reflect how few there are who derive any saving benefit from them; or rather, how many there are who find them, not a savour of life unto life, but rather a savour of death unto their deeper condemnation — — — If we inquire into the reason of this, we must trace it, not to the word itself, (for that, if dispensed aright, is quick and powerful, as in the days of old,) but to the manner in which the ordinances are attended. Men come up to the House of God, just as the Elders of Israel came before the Prophet Ezekiel, with idols in their hearts; and, being unwilling to part with them, they provoke God to withhold from them his blessing, without which not the ministry of Paul himself could be of any avail.
In the case of Ezekiel’s hearers, we see,
What inconsistencies are found in the Church of God—
One would have supposed that these Elders of Israel would either have renounced Jehovah altogether, or have put away the idols which estranged their hearts from him. But they wished to keep up an appearance of godliness in the midst of all their impiety; and therefore came to the prophet for instruction, at the very time that they addicted themselves to the worship of their idols.
Thus it is that men come up to the house of God at this day: they cannot altogether renounce their profession of regard for God; but,
They set up idols in their hearts—
[The cares and pleasures of this world are as dominant in the hearts of the generality as in the heathen themselves. And a love to these is declared by God himself to he idolatry [Note: Col 3:5 and Philippians 3:19.] — — — And shall I say that these “idols are set up in their hearts?” Yes, verily, and in their houses also: for you may live for years in the houses of the generality of Christians, and hear nothing, and see nothing, but what tends to exalt the creature above the Creator, and proves, that Mammon, rather than Jehovah, is the god whom they serve — — —]
Yet they wish to be thought the Lord’s people—
[They would be indignant if they were accounted heathens. They suppose themselves to be Christians, notwithstanding they have not one real mark of Christianity about them. If a mere attendance on public ordinances would suffice, all were well: but if an inquiry be made, who or what stands highest in their regards, not the worshippers of Baal, with their vestments on, can shew more clearly “whose they are, and whom they serve.” The inconsistency of the elders who came to Ezekiel, is apparent to all; but, if candidly examined, it is a perfect representation of that which is found in the great mass of Christians at the present day. In truth, the prophet himself marks the correspondence, when he says, “They came to him, as Gods people came; and sat before him as God’s people, and heard his words, but would not do them: for with their mouth they shewed much love; but their heart went after their covetousness [Note: Ezekiel 33:31-32.].” A juster description of the great mass, even of the better sort of Christians, is not to be found in all the book of God.]
That we may guard you against these inconsistencies, we proceed to shew,
The fearful disappointment in which they will surely issue—
They cannot but be highly displeasing to a God of truth and holiness. Indeed he tells us, in our text, how such inquirers shall fare. He will answer them,
In a way of silent contempt—
[Amongst men, silence is often the severest answer: and such an answer shall all such worshippers receive. God even puts the question to us, “Shall I be inquired of by them? As I live, saith the Lord, I will not be inquired of by them [Note: ver. 3. with Ezekiel 20:3.].” Of this indignant contempt we see an instance in Saul; whom “God answered not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets [Note: 1 Samuel 28:6.].” And this exactly accords with the experience of multitudes, who, though they have attended the house of God ten thousand times, have never received one answer to their prayers; and, though they have as often sat before the prophets of the Lord, have never found any efficacy in the word, to convert and save their souls — — —]
In a way of infatuating delusion—
[They come with their prejudices and vain conceits, no one of which do they desire to have rectified and removed. God therefore gives them over to blindness and hardness of heart, and to the very delusions which they have chosen [Note: Isaiah 66:4.]. He has plainly declared, that he will do this “to those who love not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness: he will give them over to strong delusion, that they may believe a lie, and perish in their sins [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.].” In fact, these people prefer the prophets that will deceive them [Note: Isaiah 30:9-11.Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 5:31.]; and they will either be given up to the guidance which they affect [Note: ver. 9. with Jeremiah 23:17-18.], or be left under the influence of eyes that cannot see, and ears that cannot hear [Note: Isaiah 6:9-10. 2 Corinthians 4:4.] — — —]
In a way of just and indignant reprehension—
[Against persons of this description, our blessed Lord himself, meek and lowly as he was, spake in the severest terms [Note: Matthew 23:13-33.]. And, verily, God will answer them “according to the multitude of their idols;” “setting his face against them, and consigning them over to the judgments which their hypocrisy has deserved [Note: ver. 8. Matthew 24:31.]. His word to them is the very reverse of that which will be uttered to his obedient people: “Say to the righteous, that it shall be well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings: but woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given unto him [Note: Isaiah 3:10-11.].”]
Examine, I pray you, with what dispositions you have come hither at this time—
[In coming hither, to inquire of the Lord, have ye been sincerely desirous to know his will; and fully determined, through grace, to obey it without reserve? O! judge yourselves; for God knoweth your hearts, and his judgment will be according to truth — — —]
Look to it, that this message from God produce in your hearts its due effect—
[If you will approve yourselves to God, you must “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own souls [Note: James 1:22-25.]” — — —]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ezekiel 14". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany