Ezekiel is a bizarre book. Some of the visions this particular prophet relays are nearly impossible to comprehend, and wading through the doomsday prophecies can be overwhelming. But, then there are other passages that are plain as day and simply cannot be ignored.
The prophet Ezekiel was among the priests carried off with the first wave of exiles from Judah. Unable to perform his priestly duties in Babylon, Ezekiel is given a new set of responsibilities. A series of visions set him apart as a prophet, and many of the elders began to seek him out that he might inquire of the Lord on their behalf.
But, there is a problem with these inquiries. Take a look at these verses.
Now in the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month, certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the Lord, and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Do you come to inquire of Me? As I live,” declares the Lord God, “I will not be inquired of by you.”’” Ezekiel 20:1-3
Every time the elders came to Ezekiel, the answer was always the same: the sins of God’s people were not hidden from God. His people were not willing to be repentant. Therefore, judgment would come upon them.
You would think that the elders would listen to this message, change their ways, and stand before God in repentance. But no. They just kept coming back as if a different inquiry would result in a different answer. Maybe one more in their favor.
The thing about God, though, is that His demand of holiness does not change. It is constant, and it is firm. And if we ignore this demand, there is nothing new for us to hear. He has no new word for us. There is no comfort, and there is no reassurance. There is simply a reiteration of what He has already told us. The frightening thing is that the elders refused to acknowledge this truth. They consequently ended up in a place where God’s only response to them was, “I will not be inquired of by you.” Ouch!
We are often not so far removed from the behavior of these elders as we would like to be. Frequently we, too, come before God hoping for something new. We come perhaps remembering what He last told us, but whatever it was is not what we want to do. We think if we come back maybe He’ll soften it. Or maybe He’ll even give us something different.
But He doesn’t soften it. He doesn’t make it easier. You see, following God is not necessarily easy. It’s just plain hard. It’s so hard, in fact, that we cannot do it on our own. We can only accomplish His will through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. But the truth is that His will is the only thing that is good for us. That’s why He gave us His Spirit – that we might accomplish the only thing that will truly open for us the life for which we were created.
It still isn’t easy. In order to live by the Spirit, we have to continually kill the natural sinful life. And, that is often where we get caught. That is the message we hear but do not want to obey. So we, like the elders, keep coming back and asking for a new word from the Lord.
He will not give it. Not because He is cruel, but because He is holy, perfect, and right. What He has told us already is the only way of life. That truth will never change!
May we never be so stubborn in our clinging to this life that we hear the words the elders heard. May we never be told that our inquiries fall on deaf ears. Instead, may we always hunger to take what He has given us and grow! May we move forward! And may our inquiries be ever answered and ever used to draw us closer to the heart of such an amazing, unchanging God.