The New Testament teaches us that “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1) From this verse, and the witness of the rest of scripture, we learn that those who lead will be held to account for their leadership. Ezekiel himself is challenged with this truth in chapter 3 and chapter 33 (which we will get to later this week) when God appoints him as a watchman for Israel. In both of those instances, God warns Ezekiel that if he does not fulfill his role in warning the people of their error and sin and they perish, then their blood will be on Ezekiel’s head because he failed to speak. But if he fulfills his role and speaks the warnings and the people ignore him, then he is free of their blood because he did his job.
Leadership in the Bible is not a light task, nor is it one to be entered into lightly. This stands as a warning and a truth for us as well. For some a position of leadership, in the church or otherwise, is a means to an end. An opportunity to push an agenda, a chance to hold power, a possibility to “leave their mark”. We are warned repeatedly in scripture not to take leadership lightly.
These chapters from Ezekiel show us the consequences when leadership refuses to adhere to the responsibility placed on them by God; the responsibility to lead the people in the way and in the path that God desires. The failure of the nation of Israel began with the failure of its leaders. In chapters 13 and 14 we read about the sins of the false prophets and the elders of the nation.
I want to point out one thing in particular from chapter 14. God directs Ezekiel to speak to the elders about the idols that they have set up in their hearts. A lot of the conversation in the Old Testament has to do with physical idols, actual statues that people would construct and then worship. We can have a hard time relating to that concept because our culture is relatively free of actual idols…although more and more idols are showing up as different cultures make up parts of our culture and daily lives. The cats with the swinging paws in Asian places of business, the Indian gods/goddesses that often stand on little shelves.
While God is speaking specifically to the leaders of the people in these verses (and any leaders reading this should be paying special attention because of that fact) we can definitely relate to what God has to say to these elders about idols of the heart. If there is one major sin in our nation it is that we worship idols of the heart. Success, money, power, influence, sexuality, even freedom and individuality have become idols. Anything you sacrifice for is an idol.
God makes an interesting statement to these leaders through Ezekiel. He says: “I will answer him according to his many idols (God will point out our idols to us) so that I may take hold of the house of Israel by their hearts…” First God will talk to us about our idols. Why? Because they are a stumbling block to us (Ezekiel 14:4), they keep us from following him. He want to talk to us about our idols so that he can take hold of our hearts. It always comes back to our heart. God wants complete control over our whole heart and everything that is in it.
In order to do that, sometimes he has to do some housekeeping. Will you let him?
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezekiel Ezekiel 16-17