by Mike Ratliff
3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God, Is it to inquire of me that you come? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you. (Ezekiel 20:3 ESV)
The “visible church” has become largely corrupt and apostate. Some are going the direction of Joel Osteen’s Word of Faith gospel that tells us that God wants to bless us, but cannot because we are not asking Him for it or we are not doing something right. Then there are those denominations and “church” leaders that are affirming same-sex marriage, which is expressly condemned in God’s Word. There are apostasy examples all across the board and there is not room enough or time enough to address them all here. However, these things all have one thing in common. These are people seeking to be seen as “christian,” but on their own terms rather than what the Word of God clearly teaches us.
Apostate Israel and Judah in the Old Testament are prime examples of this. God had clearly given them the right way to worship Him, therefore, they knew the things that were an abomination to Him. This is all contained in the Law. Ezekiel was a captive in Babylon prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. He was a priest. In Ezekiel 20 we are given a very long oracle from God spoken to the prophet to be given to the elders who came to him to hear God’s Word and to inquire or pray to Him. However, God gives them the exact reason why they are under His judgment and why He will not be inquired of by them. In other words, He was not going to listen to their prayers.
In Ezekiel 20 God gives us the truth of Israel’s apostasy starting in the Exodus all through the hundreds of years up to the destruction of both nations, Judah and Israel, as His judgment against them. What was their crime?
18 “And I said to their children in the wilderness, Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor keep their rules, nor defile yourselves with their idols. 19 I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, 20 and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. 21 But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths. “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. 23 Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, 24 because they had not obeyed my rules, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers ‘idols. 25 Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life, 26 and I defiled them through their very gifts in their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it that they might know that I am the Lord. 27 “Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord God:In this also your fathers blasphemed me, by dealing treacherously with me. 28 For when I had brought them into the land that I swore to give them, then wherever they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices and there they presented the provocation of their offering; there they sent up their pleasing aromas, and there they poured out their drink offerings. 29 (I said to them, What is the high place to which you go? So its name is called Bamah to this day.) 30 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your fathers and go whoring after their detestable things? 31 When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you. 32 “What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.’ (Ezekiel 20:18-32 ESV)
Carefully read this summary of the Jew’s rebellion. They sacrificed their first born on the high places. They worshipped idols. They tried to incorporate these things as one part of their religion that also included coming to the Tabernacle and later the Temple to worship God. They insisted on worshipping God on their own terms. Even these exiles in Babylon were still guilty of these things and God told Ezekiel to tell them that He was not going to tell them anything or listen to their prayers. All they would get from Him was the truth about their rebellion and the result, judgment.
What has this got to do with the state of the Visible Church in our time? My goodness, I look at the ecumenical moves going on right now blending elements of Christianity with Eastern mysticism. I read of agreements between so-called Evangelicals and Roman Catholics to fellowship and worship together. I read of what we used to call “victimless crimes” now being sanctioned by the clergy of these apostate churches claiming that Christ’s sacrifice for our sin covers it all and so we are forgiven, therefore, we can live any way we please. Rick Warren is now working very hard to bring both Roman Catholics and Muslims together with “so-called Evangelicalism” as one religion. Does that sound familiar? The Israelites assumed that since they were the children of Abraham and in a covenant relationship with God that they could do whatever they pleased and hey, their neighbor was a pagan and to be in unity with him they joined their families together by marriage and shared each other’s religion.
This is compromise and it is the action that we see that has its roots in rebellion and unbelief. Unbelief is the best man can do without the quickening (regenerating) power of God entering in. There is a story I heard a several years ago of a man who with his drunken friends were making fun of George Whitefield. Whitefield was an open-air preacher of the Gospel in the 18th Century in England and the Colonies now called the United States. Those making fun of him were having a great time in their pub. One fellow stood up, raised his arm over his head, and began to preach the gospel just like Whitefield. When he came to that part about no natural man being able to repent and come to God and that Jesus died to save a people for Himself, he began to weep. Why? He heard the truth of the Gospel and through that, the Holy Spirit regenerated Him, converting Him from spiritual death to spiritual life. He believed, repented, and was saved.
Unbelief is the natural state of men no matter how religious they are. Just because some call themselves a Christian or a Christ follower does mean that they are. Here is a New Testament example.
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash. ’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. (John 9:1-14 ESV)
Jesus heals a man born blind and it was the Sabbath. Now who would be upset with the healing of man born blind? Only those in spiritual blindness of unbelief that was centered in their own dead religiosity would have a problem with that. Carefully read the following passage looking closely at the questions the Pharisees asked and what they stated.
15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. (John 9:15-34 ESV)
These men did not care to know the truth. They were not seeking the truth unless it lined up with their own religiosity. The issue for them was that Jesus did not follow the man-made rules they had added to the Law given to them by Moses. They were in unbelief and proved it by their not listening to the truth given to them by the formerly blind man. He told them exactly what happened and how it happened and they absolutely refused to believe it. Their hearts were hard and they thought that their law keeping was what God was after while our Lord was all about believing God and serving Him from a heart that was full of the knowledge of Him and that had been made alive by His grace. These Pharisees’ hearts were as hard as could be just like the hearts of the Jews who came to visit Ezekiel. Notice that the man born blind has a regenerated heart that knows the truth and loves God. He was cast out of the synagogue because these evil men could not refute the fact that he was healed through a miracle by God which proved who Jesus really was.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:35-39 ESV)
This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Who is it that can inquire of God? It is only those who know Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth. He has opened their eyes and now they know and love Him. Notice that Jesus came into the world as judge. There is a division made by Him here. Those who see are His Church and those who refuse to see are made even more blind. Those in His Church can inquire of God at any time and do so, but those who have been made blind because of their unbelief think they know God and serve Him in their religiosity, but they are these same people in Matthew 7:15-23 who think they are in with the Lord, when they most definitely are not. These claim to be Christians but it is on their own terms and are made even more blind by their rebellion to believe the lie. On the other hand, our Lord is still building His Church and the gates of Hell will never prevail against it. Eventually, these evil people may even persecute or kill us, but that only makes the Genuine Church stronger.
Soli Deo Gloria!