The Word Made Fresh
1Some of the elders of Israel came and sat down with me. Then the LORD said to me, “Son of man, these men have taken their idols to heart. Their sins are stumbling blocks to them. Should I let them consult with me? 4Tell them that the LORD God says that any member of the family of Israel who takes their idols to heart and allows their sins be their stumbling blocks but still come to the prophet, then I the LORD will answer these who come here with all their false gods. 5I will capture the hearts of those families of Israel who are separated from me because of their idols.
6“So, tell the families of Israel that the LORD God says they must repent and turn away from their idols and all their sins. 7Any of the family of Israel, or any of the foreigners who now live in Israel, who separate themselves from me and take the idols into their hearts so that their idols become a stumbling block, and then come to a prophet to ask him to inquire on their behalf, I will answer them myself. 8I will set myself as an enemy. I will make of them a sign and a byword that will cut them off from my people, and you will know that I am the LORD.
9“If a prophet is tricked into speaking a word, it will be because I, the LORD, have tricked that prophet. I will stretch out my arm against him and destroy him in the midst of my people Israel. 10They will suffer their punishment. Those who inquire and those who prophesy will receive the same punishment 11so that the family of Israel will no longer go away from me or make themselves guilty with all their sins. Then they will indeed be my people, and I will be their God,” says the LORD God.
12Again the LORD’s word came to me: 13“Son of man, when a people sin against me and are without faith and I stretch out my hand against them; if I ruin their staff of bread and send them famine and separate them from people and animals, 14then even if Noah, Daniel, and Job lived in that land, they would be able to save only their own lives by their righteousness, says the LORD. 15If I fill the land with wild beasts and send them to devastate it, and allow them to prevent everyone from passing through that land, 16then even if these three men were in the land, says the LORD God, they would have neither sons nor daughters. They themselves may be rescued, but the land would be left desolate.
17“Or, if I bring a sword against that land and say, ‘Let a sword sweep through the land,’ but I separate people and animals from it, 18then even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they would be able to save neither their sons nor their daughters because only they would be saved.
19“Or, if I send a plague in the land and pour out my anger with blood upon that land to keep people and animals away from it; 20then even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were there, they would save neither their sons nor their daughters, but their righteousness would save only their own lives.”
21This is what the LORD says: “When I send my four deadly judgments upon Jerusalem – sword, hunger, wild animals, and disease – cutting off people and animals from it, 22even so, there will be survivors left, sons and daughters who will be spared and will come seeking you. When you see how they have lived you will be comforted. When you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for all the punishment I have brought upon Jerusalem. 23When you see how they have lived you will be consoled, and you will understand that I did not do these things without reason,” says the LORD God.
1-8: Some of the elders approach Ezekiel to seek a word from the LORD, but these are people who have also been consulting idols. This is the syncretism of which we spoke earlier — it’s as if they aren’t sure which religion holds the truth, so they dabble in all of them. They are living in difficult times when fears and anxieties are high, and the situation makes them desperate to “cover all the bases” religiously. God wants to make it clear that they must turn away from the idols they worship and depend on God alone. Otherwise, God will do nothing to help them.
9-11: God is determined to nullify the effect of so-called prophets speaking false words which they have been deceived into thinking is the truth. In that way God hopes to bring the “house of Israel” back.
12-20: God is perhaps acknowledging here that there are at least some among the house of Israel who are righteous, but not enough to constitute a critical mass that would dissuade God from judgment. Three legendary paragons of faith, Noah, Job, and Daniel are mentioned. Even the presence of these three would not halt the coming destruction. The assertion is much like that in Jeremiah 15:1 where Moses and Samuel are named as examples of righteous ones. We remember also the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 where God agrees to not destroy the cities if as few as ten are found there.
21-23: Thus, God justifies the total destruction that will befall Jerusalem. However, there will be survivors. This is insisted upon over and over. Somehow God will see to it that the righteous, though few in number, will survive.
Woe to us if ever we think we need other ‘gods’ to help us. The one God, first introduced in Genesis 1:1, is the only help we need.