“Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and have put sinful stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I be consulted by them at all?'”
– Ezekiel 14:1-3 [HCSB]
We should beware of guarding ourselves against self-corruption. We spend a great deal of time protecting ourselves against the vices of this world. This is good, for Scripture admonishes us not to “love the world, neither the things that are in the world. For if any love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Many enemies belie and beset themselves against our commitment to God. The adversary is wise to plant and infiltrate our jobs, homes, and social media lodgings with influences contrary to our development in Christ. And much time, energy, and focus are spent looking outward when, if truth be told, the devil has a greater weapon that he uses- ourselves. A bodybuilder may be useful against a burglar or another outward threat and still die from a viral infection. How can he wrestle a virus? Or, instead, what can be said of a man who willingly puts himself in a position where he can be easily infected? Such is said of the Christians who corrupt themselves by following their selfish and sinful desires.
It often amazes me that the Lord had to constantly rebuke the children of Israel, not the nation in general, but particularly the elders. It’s easier to fault those unaccustomed and unknowledgeable about the ways of the Lord. However, it’s harder to fault those once enlightened that willfully blind themselves. And we witness this command trend displayed in the Scriptures: as church leaders go, so goes the church; as the church goes, so goes society. Unfortunately, it can always be darker if the present light is placed under a bushel and the city established on the hill pollutes itself, making its influence ineffective. Yes, this directly correlates to the ministry of the elders. The elders were to keep the lamp of God burning bright. Their task was to keep the people of God aware of their responsibility to God. Though idolatry at times crept in, the elders, because of their knowledge and experience, led the wavering nation back into a right relationship with the Lord. However, we see how the adage “Physician, heal thyself” develops. For if the doctor refuses his own treatment, who’s left to doctor him? If the salt loses its savor, wherewith can it be salted? Sadly, the elders in Ezekiel’s time and many throughout history reneged on their responsibility by allowing themselves to become idolatrous within their own hearts.
Take note, these idols weren’t carved from the available wood of the day, nor were they hewn from stone mason’s quarries. These idols were created within the very sinews and membranes of their hearts which resulted in hindering their lives. Typically, idols were placed in specific locations and often visited for times of worship and reflection. But these idols of the heart are carried with the idolater wherever they go and thus were brought even into the presence of the Almighty. Therefore God would not be intreated by them, nor did they qualify to lead the nation, lest due to their blindness, they all fell into the ditch.
Dear child of God, what we can learn from these idolatrous elders is whatever affects our hearts also affects our faces, for we will direct our lives in the direction of our desires. If we allow anything to muddle our fellowship with God and obscure our vision of the Holy One, we will not be able to see clearly to order our steps. We must take care not to pollute our own passions for God by treasuring anything above Him. If anyone knew the historic danger of idolatry, it should’ve been the elders; however, instead of learning from history, they repeated it. Possibly, due to their idols lounging within their chests, their infidelity went undetected.
But not so with us, for God has fully expressed His will in the Word of God, and if we allow it to search our hearts. Nevertheless, let us do what these elders should’ve done and allow God to purge our affections from these dumb idols because, in the end, He alone should be the object and desire of our hearts.