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Too Late For Intercession
We are told in the book of Proverbs that if men refuse to heed the voice of God when He speaks in grace, calling to repentance, the day will come when they shall call on Him for mercy and He will refuse to heed their cry. This is what we have emphasized in the present chapter.
It was very evident that the Jews’ case had become extremely critical. Those who had counted on the withdrawal of the Chaldean armies and the fulfilment of the predictions of peace made by their false prophets, were beginning to feel that, after all, they were in a far worse case than they had supposed; and so a deputation of the leaders called on Ezekiel to confer with him as to whether there might be any hope of Jehovah’s intervention on their behalf.
“Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Every man of the house of Israel that taketh his idols into his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I Jehovah will answer him therein according to the multitude of his idols; that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from Me through their idols”-vers. 1-5.
Before any of these elders uttered a word, God Himself spoke to Ezekiel, declaring that He who seeth not as man seeth but discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart, had already judged these men as those who had set up their idols in their own hearts and put the stumblingblock of their iniquities before their faces. Why, then, should they come to a prophet of God to inquire of him? They had no desire to do the will of God; therefore they had no title to seek relief from Him. As long as conditions continued as they were, there could be no answer of peace. Jehovah declared that all those of the house of Israel who had set up idols in their hearts and who persisted in their iniquities, which had thus become a national stumbling-block, deserved no answer, save an answer in judgment in accordance with the idolatry that they had pursued. God would deal with them as He saw them to be inwardly, not in accordance with their lip profession as they pretended to reverence Him.
He commanded that Ezekiel simply confirm the prophecies of judgment that had already gone forth.
“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Return ye, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that separateth himself from Me, and taketh his idols into his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet to inquire for himself of Me; I Jehovah will answer him by Myself: and I will set My face against that man, and will make him an astonishment, for a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. And if the prophet be deceived and speak a word, I, Jehovah, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of My people Israel. And they shall bear their iniquity:, the iniquity of the prophet shall be even as the iniquity of him that seeketh unto him; that the house of Israel may go no more astray from Me, neither defile themselves any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be My people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 6-11.
In his mercy He called upon the people to turn again to Him, to put away their idols, to judge all these abominations after which they had gone for so long. If they were prepared to do this, He would still heed their cry. In fact, wherever there was an individual of the house of Israel or of the strangers who were dwelling among the people of Israel, God would hear in mercy if they turned to Him in truth, but where they persisted in their idolatry He could only set His face against them and pour out His wrath upon them.
He declared that those who went on in their sins would become an astonishment, a sign, and a proverb to the nations, and would be cut off from She midst of Israel. Thus by His judgments they should know it was Jehovah with whom they had to do.
As for the false prophets who were misleading them, the Lord Himself took the responsibility for having permitted this; for it is a principle in Scripture that when men refuse the truth, God Himself often gives them up to falsehood. Even as in the last days of the great tribulation, those who receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved, will be given up to strong delusion that they might believe the lie of the Antichrist, and so all be judged which obey not the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
We may think it is just a matter of chance when one man receives the testimony of the Lord and turns to Him in repentance and faith and seeks to walk in His truth, while others are carried away by false systems, many of which have become most popular in our own days. In the first instance it is the Spirit of God Himself who reveals to man his need, and then shows how Christ has met that need; whereas, in the other case, when people have refused the truth of God and resisted the Holy Spirit, He allows their minds to be blinded and permits them to be deluded by false teachings which, if followed to the end, result in their everlasting doom.
Our Lord Jesus warned against blind leaders of the blind, both of whom fall into the ditch at last. To Ezekiel God declared that the people who followed after that which was false should bear their iniquities, and the punishment of the pretended prophet should be even as that of those who trusted in his messages.
In order that the house of Israel might realize the folly of turning away from Jehovah, and might learn from His judgments the importance of walking in His truth, and so might not go farther astray nor be defiled any more with the things that had rendered them so unclean in His sight, there is more than a suggestion in verse 11, that there was still hope if they would turn to God. In that case He would again acknowledge them as His people, and He would manifest Himself as their God. But alas, there was no response! They persisted in their evil way; therefore God declared that they must be given up to judgment.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, when a land sinneth against Me by committing a trespass, and I stretch out My hand upon it, and break the staff of the bread thereof, and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast; though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord Jehovah. If I cause evil beasts to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it be made desolate, so that no man may pass through because of the beasts; though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only should be delivered, but the land should be desolate. Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off from it man and beast; though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only should be delivered themselves. Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out My wrath upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast; though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither son nor daughter; they should but deliver their own souls by their righteousness”-vers. 12-20.
While the hypocritical elders waited, hoping for an answer that might promise deliverance from their present awful plight, God commanded Ezekiel to tell them that they had gone beyond the place where He would listen to intercession on their behalf. The people of the land had so thoroughly committed themselves to iniquity and had been so unfaithful to the covenant which God had made with them that He was now stretching out His hand against them and would give them over to famine in addition to the other troubles that had come upon them. Even though such godly and devoted men as Noah, the outstanding witness for God before the flood; Daniel, who at this very time was in Babylon being prepared of God for a remarkable ministry in future days; or Job the patriarch who had been so severely tested and come through so triumphantly, should all be together in the land and should make intercession on its behalf, still they would deliver but their own souls by their righteousness. Their pleadings could not avail for the apostate nation.
If conditions in the land became so evil that wild and savage beasts increased to such an extent as to endanger the lives of the few who were left in it so that no one dared appear on the highway because of these beasts, even then, though these three men should be among the remnant and should plead on their behalf, still God declared they should deliver neither sons nor daughters but only themselves, and the land should be left to desolation. Or if the sword of the en- emy were allowed to prevail, as it would very soon, when God Himself should command the sword to go through the land to cut off man and beast from it, if these three men should be in it and should stand before Jehovah and plead for the people, still He would not answer. He would recognize their own righteousness, but their prayer would avail for no one else. Or if pestilence, which so often follows bloody warfare, should take its terrible toll of those who remained, cutting off man and beast, Noah, Daniel, and Job would be unable to avert the judgment, let them plead as they might.
“For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: How much more when I send My four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the evil beasts, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be carried forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings; and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it. And they shall comfort you, when ye see their way and their doings; and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 21-23.
We may notice a very close connection between the threatened evils mentioned here and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. In Ezekiel we read of warfare, famine, evil beasts, and pestilence. These are called Jehovah’s “four sore judgments.” In the Apocalypse we have, first, the white horse of peace, then the red horse of war, followed by the black horse of famine, and the corpse-colored horse of pestilence. These are all providential judgments which God sends upon the nations when they turn away from Him.
But there is a rainbow of hope seen even in the dark clouds of judgment, as we notice in verses 22 and 23, wherein God speaks of a remnant that shall be carried forth and shall learn from what has come upon them and the rest, and as a result, will turn to the Lord and be comforted concerning the evil that He was bringing upon Jerusalem. These were to be the witnesses of God’s loving care over all who, in their hearts, turned back to Him, and so made it possible for Him in righteousness to act for their blessing. Realizing the sinfulness of the nation to which they belonged they would recognize the fact that God had not acted arbitrarily, but had good reasons for dealing with them in the manner in which He did.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 14". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27