KNOWING GOD IN HIS GLORY
Do You Have A Bad Heart
Jerry A Collins
P What does it mean to have an idol in your heart?
P Why do we have idols in our hearts?
P What do we hope these idols will do for us?
Why do people exchange their worship of the true God for the worship of gods that do not exist? Pagan gods exist to serve the people so they worship a god of their own creation. The God of scripture created people to serve and worship Him. Most of our expectations are fulfilled with the aid of others so we can naturally perceive others as objects to aid us in achieving what we want. So powerful people use others for their own ends. When God places limits on how we treat others, we want to ignore those limits and in the process appetites become more important than God, and He is forsaken for gods that are not gods.
While idolatry in Jerusalem was overt and obvious, the idolatry in Babylon, amongst the exiles, was not. That idolatry, we learn, was internal not external. It was a matter of the heart not stone. In† either case their false god was the object of their confidence, one outward, one inward, both idolaters. What does it mean to set up idols in your heart? Ezekiel takes up this question as a group of elders of Israel, who are suppose to be the spiritual leaders of the nation in exile, anxious about the future of Jerusalem, approach him about this vs 1. God delivers a surprising message to them in vs 2.
1. IDOLATRY DOES NOT REQUIRE A PHYSICAL OBJECT BUT ONLY A HEART DESIRE 3-7
The phrase these men have set up idols in their hearts vs 3 refers to these particular elders but it also includes anyone of Israel (vs 4) and even immigrants who took on Jewish ways and practices (vs 7). Idols in their hearts were† gods who gave them what they wanted to have. These idols of the hearts can be applied to having our hearts desire set on what it is WE want instead of what GOD wants which is any private goal that is not Gods. For instance, a private goal† could include wanting to get wealthy, competing for recognition, wanting to have an affair, desiring to get even, or satisfying gluttony and drunkenness. Each of these are idols of the heart because they give me what I want instead of what God wants in my life. When we harbor these kinds of private goals we have another god in our heart, one we have created to give us what we want to have. Idolatry is a heart desire.
2. †IDOLATRY OF THE HEART MOTIVATES US TO USE WHAT FULFILLS THAT DESIRE 3-7
In three instances the prophet uses the phrase puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity (3, 4, 7). The idolater places in his path that which will cause him to stumble and fall by fulfilling that which his heart desires. The idea is that whatever it is that I want to do, I will find the means to accomplish it. So it would include things like buying pornography if I have set my hearts desire lustfully or going to the tavern or drinking excessively if a drunkard or alcoholic or buying fattening food or being around it if you are overweight. Israels idolatry is the major cause for Godís judgment on His people. They had competitive desires to obeying God. God knew this about these elders and asked the question in vs 3, Should I be consulted by them at all? These hypocritical elders came to the true God for answers while having another god in their hearts and God was not obligated to answer them when they refused to acknowledge His sovereignty in their lives. The answers God gives is not the information they desired but the information they needed, which was Godís attitude toward their idolatry.
Idolatry was a special category of sin for the OT people of God. In a way that He did not for any other people in the world, God revealed Himself to Israel. Having seen the hand of God throughout their history, they had no excuse for worshipping other gods of the heart. Changing the worship of the true God for gods that are not gods gave them the autonomy they craved. You dare not argue with your creator, but you can establish your own standards with the gods you create in His place. When our hearts desire is set against Gods we lose the motivation to obey God and instead become motivated to fulfill the our† hearts† desire.† 3. GODS SOLUTION TO IDOLS OF THE HEART IS REPENTANCE OR ELSE CERTAIN JUDGMENT 6, 8-23
Gods objective is to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols vs 5. Gods solution is Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations vs 6. God wants to recapture the hearts of His people. He wants to recapture yours too. You cannot practice sin and then decide to change any more than the leopard can change its spots. Good habits are hard to establish and easy to lose. Bad habits are easy to establish and hard to break. The reason has to do with our depravity, our natural inclination is to sin not be righteous. Bad habits, sinful patterns, firmly established in your life, does not make an easy thing. Like a brick wall, it comes down the same way it went up--one brick at a time. It begins with repenting and continues with the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life to effect the change we now desire to have.
God says without this solution all you have left is judgment. He begins this message in vs 8 I shall set My face against that man. Here God is saying He will cut off the Israelite or alien by killing him when he wants answers from God while harboring idols in his heart. This kind of judgment will promote the knowledge of God. Another form of judgment will be false prophets giving false messages the people want to hear (vs 9-11). Sometimes Gods judgment includes letting us have what it is we want even though it is not what God wants for us. So just because there are prophetic utterances or signs & wonders from God does not mean God intends them to be followed. He does expect us to follow His written Word. The will of God is known only from obeying the Word of God. To look to anything but Gods Word amounts to determining His will by our own or someone elseís imagination. Besides, why would you want more revelation when we have more than a lifetimeís worth to study, learn, apply and obey? God goes on with His 4 severe judgments against Jerusalem (vs 21) (sword 17, famine 13, wild beasts 15, plague 19) He will execute because of their idolatrous hearts. In each case God says that even the 3 most righteous men collectively would make no difference for the nation (vs 14,16,18,20). Other righteous people Ďsaintsí cannot save you from judgment. Only by repentance can you be saved. Even with this severe judgment their would be a remnant who survive (vs 22) and their only testimony will be that the people, city and nation deserved its judgment you will see their (evil) conduct and actions (vs 22-23). The exiles will recognize its justice when they observe the evil character of the new captives. They will know that God of Israel is in control vs 23.
1. Sin gives us less control of our future.
2. Will either conform desires to the truth of conform the truth to fit your desires.
3. To walk with God is a choice (Enoch).
4. Our sin/idolatry has far-reaching cons