In Ezekiel 20, the leaders of Israel came to Ezekiel during their exile to inquire of the Lord. God tells them through the prophet, “How dare you come to ask me for a message?  As surely as I live… I will tell you nothing” (20:3 NLT).  Ezekiel brought instead a message of judgment and condemnation: “Make them realize how loathsome the actions of their ancestors really were” (v. 4). Through Ezekiel, God reminded the leaders of their ancestors’ behavior in Egypt, during their wilderness journey, and in the Promised Land:  “Their hearts were given to their idols” (v. 17). When they came into the Promised Land, they “continued to blaspheme and betray me “(v. 27). Sinful habits and attitudes were being passed  on through the generations. 

 Ezekiel warned the younger generation not to emulate their parents, “Then I warned their children and told them not to follow in their parents’ footsteps, defiling themselves with their idols” (Ezk. 20:18).  But they did not listen. “They refuse to keep my laws and follow my instructions, even though obeying them would have given them life” (Ezk. 20:21). They somehow thought they knew better than God.   

Each generation had rebelled against the Lord, refusing to obey the commandments given to them. God threatened to pour out his anger on them, but he relented. He withheld judgment “to protect the honor of my name among the nations who had seen my power in bringing them out of Egypt” (Ezk. 20:21). God withheld  his wrath out of concern for his reputation in faithfully leading his Israel and because he had pity on them:  “I pitied them and held back from destroying them in the wilderness” (Ezk. 20:7). Does God hold back his Judgment out of concern for his reputation and his loving kindness and  pity in our day.  I wonder!

God then told the people what he is doing in their day: “I gave them over to worthless customs and laws that would not lead to life.  I let them pollute themselves with the very gifts I had given them, and I allowed them to give their firstborn children as offerings to their gods – so I might devastate them to show them that I alone am the Lord” (Ezk. 20:25-26).  “Israel had turned God’s law upside down and rejected it, so that it became… a source of death, not life.  They had gone in for child sacrifice as if God had required it, perhaps even portrayed it as part of God’s law.  So Ezekiel portrays God as letting them do so – ending up in their own defilement and destruction” (Bible Speaks Today).  God gave them up to their persistent inversion of his law, resulting in their self-destruction.  

Paul describes something  similar in the New Testament, which should stand as a warning for our present generation.  In Romans 1, he speaks of God giving people over to “the sinful desires of their hearts” (v. 21), “to shameful lusts” (v. 26) and “to a depraved mind” (v. 28).  He concludes by saying, “They are fully aware of God’s death penalty for those who do these things, yet they go right ahead and do them anyway” (v. 32).  In II Thessalonians 2:10-11, Paul tells us, “He (Satan) will use every kind of wicked deception because they refuse to believe the truth that would save them. So God will send great deception upon them, and they will believe all these lies.”

My questions are these: Have we reached this point in our day?  Has God given us over and allowed a great deception? How long will God allow evil to spread as a cancer throughout our culture?  Ezekiel gives us a warning.  Men, we must defend against the lies of the enemy.