Ezekiel Bible Study (A New Heart)

Ezekiel 12-14, Broken


So I’m telling you this, and I insist on it in the Lord: you shouldn’t live your life like the Gentiles anymore. They base their lives on pointless thinking, and they are in the dark in their reasoning. They are disconnected from God’s life because of their ignorance and their closed hearts. (Ephesians 4:17–18 CEB)

The apostle Paul speaks to a great problem: people who are in the dark because of the way they reason about life. Their lives are based on pointless, futile thinking. It is because of this that they are disconnected from God. They are in the dark and thus their hearts are closed and they lack understanding. This might be a surprising assessment to you when speaking about people in the world. But imagine if this was how Paul described the people of God! You do not have to imagine it because, amazingly, the prophet Ezekiel said this about God’s people. Open your Bibles to Ezekiel 12. In the first two verses of Ezekiel 12 the Lord says that his people have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear. They are in the dark. They cannot see. They cannot hear. They cannot reason properly. Their lives are based on pointless thinking and their hearts are closed. How can it be that God’s people would no longer be able to see and hear? What happened so that they have become rebellious, unable to see or hear what God is trying to in their lives? We are going to look at the answer to these questions and consider what we can learn so that we do not end up like these who were formerly God’s people but are now called a rebellious house.

Before we move forward, we should stop and consider the opening message in Ezekiel 12:2. The Lord says that they have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear. Jesus will refer to this problem as the reason why he speaks in parables (Matthew 13). Here we see Ezekiel being told to perform parables, acting them out before the people so they can see what God is going to do.

Pictures of Exile (12:1-20)

There are two pictures of the exile that Ezekiel is to act out for the people. The first acted parable has Ezekiel packing his bags, digging through a wall, and carrying his bags out in the darkness with his face covered so that he cannot see (12:3-6). In verses 8-9 we see that the exiles in Babylon ask Ezekiel what this means. Please stop here a moment. This is the intention of parables: to get the people to want to seek the deeper meaning. This is what the people in exile do. They do not look at what Ezekiel is doing and say, “There goes crazy Ezekiel again doing his weird stuff.” Rather, they ask him, “What are you doing?” The explanation is that the king in Jerusalem and the rest of Judah’s leaders are also going into exile, driven out of the land. No one is to think that the remnant are those in Jerusalem. The survivors are not the people in Jerusalem. The parable Ezekiel has acted out represents King Zedekiah, who when he was captured by the Babylonians, had his eyes gouged out and was taken back to Babylon (12:13; 2 Kings 25:4-7). This is why Ezekiel was carrying back with his eyes covered.

The second picture of exile for those who remain in Jerusalem is given in verses 17-20. Ezekiel is told to eat his bread while quaking and drink his water while trembling and with fearfulness. It is a picture of the certain of Jerusalem’s devastation. The inhabited cities will be laid waste and the land will become a desolation.

Breaking Human Wisdom (12:21-28)

We are told there is a proverb of wisdom sweeping through the land of Judah. The message is this: “The days are prolonged and every vision comes to nothing” (12:22). The proverb is that we have a lot of prophets who keep telling us that judgment is coming but nothing ever happens. The days keep passing by and none of the visions ever come to pass. You can imagine that God really loves that proverb in the people’s mouths. So here is God’s response. God says that he will not delay his judgments any longer (12:25). In their days they will see these messages from God fulfilled. The same problem is observed in verse 27. The house of Israel says that the visions is for many more years ahead. God’s response is that his words will no longer be delayed (12:28).

Mocking God’s Patience

The first picture of how thinking becomes futile and distorted so that we become a rebellious people is by thinking that the passing of time means God’s word will not happen or that it is so far from our lifetimes. The people are going around saying, “Yeah, there might be judgment. But if it comes, it is going to be a long time from now and will not affect us.” God’s response is to speed up the judgment. In six years from these words, Jerusalem would fall and the land would be made desolate. Broken thinking and futile living comes when we stop being grateful for God’s delay of judgment. God’s delay does not mean judgment is not happening. God’s delay represents his patience and love for his people to repent.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

Every day that we wake up should not cause us to doubt God’s word but to appreciate God’s love and patience. It is just another day that the Lord has made to try to bring one more person to repentance. Broken thinking mocks God’s patience and leads to living rebellious lives.

False Messages (13:1-23)

In chapter 13 we read condemnations against the false prophets. Listen to how God describes this problem in verses 2-3. They prophesy out of their own imaginations and follow their own spirit. We really need to hear this condemnation. The prophets are created messages from their own thoughts and desires and not from God’s word. They are not saying what God says. But they say they are. They are deceiving the people, giving their sermons to the people that are actually what the people want to hear. They are devising their messages from within themselves and not from God.

God uses a vivid image to explain the problem and what should have happened in verses 4-8. The prophets have behaved like jackals among the ruins. They should have gone and repaired the walls so that the people might stand ready for battle on the day of the Lord. This is not a condemnation that they were not repairing the physical walls of the city. This is a spiritual picture. The prophets should have been restoring the hearts of the people to the Lord through their preaching. They should have been proclaiming God’s word so that the people would have been strong and ready for what was coming next. But they did not do this. Instead, they said, “The Lord declares” when they were simply uttering falsehood and lies (13:7-8). They were supposed to build the people up, repairing the holes of sin that was in the people’s lives.

Listening to Self to Our Own Destruction

The second picture of how thinking becomes futile and distorted is by following our own hearts and listening to our own desires. This is what the prophets were doing to their own destruction and to the destruction of others. Please think about verse 3 where it says the prophets followed their own spirits. They said that wisdom was found inside of them. They would follow what their heart said and told everyone else to do likewise. This is exactly what our culture is doing today. But friends, this is also what the religious world and “Christianity” is doing today. So much today is built on telling people what they want to hear. Just tell them about God’s love. Tell them judgment is far away. Tell them they are going to be fine. Do not tell them about sin and judgment because they might not give money and they might not return. You might think that money is not the factor. But even in Ezekiel’s day it was. Look at verse 19. You made these false messages so that you could have handfuls of barley and bread. Make people happy so they keep your paycheck coming. Preach for the pay. Only say things so the people are happy and you do not get in trouble.

Notice that God calls this whitewashing the wall in verses 10, 11, 14, and 15. He says that he will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash. You covered over the problem, trying to make the wall look new, when it was in need of repairs. Do not put up a veneer. How many sermons are built on the creativity of the preacher and not a full dependence on the word of God! How many sermons are just whitewashing to make the walls look good when really the people and the church are defiled by immorality! We need to say, “The Lord declares” and then we need to show that this is what God says in his word and that it does not come from our own spirits. Listening and following our own opinions or the opinions of others will lead to our spiritual destruction. If you cannot see it from God’s word, then it must not be accepted. We are to be a people who speak the very words of God (cf. 1 Peter 4:11). Otherwise what we are doing is encouraging the wicked and disheartening the righteous (13:22). Futile thinking comes from listening to ourselves and others rather than God.

Idols in the Heart (14:1-23)

The final problem is described in the first three verses of chapter 14 in depicting what leads to futile thinking and broken understanding. Notice that God says in verse 3 that the leaders of Israel had taken idols into their hearts and put sin as a stumbling blocks in front of themselves. The problem is that they have idols in their hearts. Idols can be identified as where our greatest affections and interests lie. Anything we put our trust in is an idol. Anything we put our hope in is an idol. Anything we depend on is an idol. Anything we need is an idol.

Now here is what is interesting that we need to see. The people, who have idols in their hearts, are coming to inquire of the Lord (14:3). So in their minds they think that they can seek the Lord while at the same time keeping their idols in their hearts. God asks, “Should I let myself be consulted by them?” (14:3). Now we might wonder what the problem is. Look at verse 7. Verse 7 says that we separate ourselves from God when we set up idols in our hearts. We have cut ourselves off from God. We are darkening our minds and becoming futile in our understanding because we have allowed our hearts to be captured by the world rather than being captured by the glory and love of God.

But I want you to see something shocking. What do you think God would answer when he asks the question, “Should I be consulted by people who have taken idols in their hearts?” We would think that God will answer with a resounding NO! But look at verse 4. God says he will answer those who come to him with a multitude of idols. Why would God do this? Look at verse 5. God will answer because he wants to recapture the hearts of the people. God wants to take hold of the hearts and minds of his people. God is fighting for your heart. God will let you inquire of him so that he can show you that he alone is the true God and your hope, love, desire, and trust should be in him alone!

This is God’s very call in verse 6. “Repent and turn away from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.” But if we do not repent and keep inquiring of the Lord, God says he will set his face against you and remove you from his midst so you will know that he is the Lord (14:7-8). God will cut off the hypocritical heart. God cuts off the double minded.

Now I want us to see how serious this picture is. Notice what God says in verses 12-14. Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the city of Jerusalem, they would only save their own lives and could not intercede on behalf of this people. Not even three great righteous figures are enough to rescue this people because their sinning is so great. God desires repentance. Idols in the heart cut us off from God and darken our way of thinking.


At the end of the day, the problem is idolatry. The effect of idolatry is futile thinking and darkened understanding. God’s people now cannot see or hear. They have separated themselves from God. They are double-minded and double-hearted because of their idolatry in their hearts. The essence of idolatry is that they are listening to their own thoughts and desires. They follow their own spirit rather than God’s spirit. They follow their desires and not God’s desires. This is what idolatry in the heart does to us. God then declares the evaluation of idolatry. God loses priority in our lives. We seek after other things and God comes an afterthought. God is only followed when we are not tired or when it is convenient for us. We make God serve us and we expect him to accept what we give him when we choose to give it. The only way to end idolatry to see that God is trying to recapture our hearts for him. See his mercy and see his goodness. Time is to show us how badly he wants you to turn from idolatry and come back to him. This can only happen through Jesus. Noah, Job, and Daniel are not enough to intercede for an idolatrous people. But Jesus is enough. Jesus gave his life and paid the price for our sins so that we can come back. Do not allow the darkened thinking of the world to override this wonderful truth. You need Jesus. Listen to him and let him rip those idols out of your heart.

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