Ezekiel 20:1
In the seventh year, on the tenth day of the fifth month, some of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and they sat down before me.
Sermons
A Rejected ApplicationJ.R. Thomson Ezekiel 20:1-4
Cherished Sin Disqualifies for PrayerEzekiel 20:1-4
On Inquiring of the LordW. Jones Ezekiel 20:1-4
The Elders Before EzekielBp. Harvey Goodwin.Ezekiel 20:1-4
Unacceptable PrayerJ.D. Davies Ezekiel 20:1-32
It is evident that Ezekiel held a position of honour and of some kind of moral authority among his fellow captives. Although he was not given to prophesying smooth things, his countrymen still resorted to him, evincing a certain confidence in his mission. On the occasion here described, an application made to the prophet was upon Divine authority rejected - with reason given. So unusual an incident leads to further consideration.

I. MAN'S NEED OF A DIVINE ORACLE. The elders of Israel may be taken as representatives of mankind generally. They approached the prophet in order to inquire of the Lord. And in this they were right.

1. For human ignorance needs Divine enlightenment and teaching.

2. Human uncertainty and perplexity need Divine guidance, wise and authoritative.

3. Human sinfulness, clouding, as it does, the spiritual vision, needs authoritative precept as to the path of duty.

4. Human fear and foreboding need the consolation of Divine kindness and the promise of Divine support.

II. GOD'S WILLINGNESS TO REPLY FULLY AND GRACIOUSLY TO THE APPLICATION OF EARNEST INQUIRERS. if there is one lesson more than another inculcated with frequency and constancy in the pages of Scripture, it is this - that the eternal Father is accessible to his children, that there is no need which they can bring unto him which he is not ready to supply from his infinite fulness and according to his infinite compassion. Revelation itself is a proof of this. The commission given to prophets and apostles was with a view to a suitable and sufficient response to the inquiries of men. The supreme Gift of God, his own Son, is just a provision intended to meet the wants, the deep spiritual cravings, of the human heart; he is "God with us." To question God's willingness to receive those who inquire of him is to cast a doubt upon the genuine: hess of the economies alike of the Law and of the gospel.

III. THE MORAL CONDITIONS INDISPENSABLY NECESSARY IN ORDER TO RECEIVING A RESPONSE FROM THE ORACLE OF GOD. Two such conditions may especially be mentioned.

1. Teachableness and humility; the disposition of the little child, without which none can enter the kingdom of heaven; the new birth, which is the entrance upon the new life.

2. Repentance. Whilst living in sin and loving sin men cannot receive the righteousness, the blessing, which the heavenly Father waits to bestow. "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God." Sin is as a cloud which hides the sunlight from shining upon the soul; it is like certain conditions of atmosphere, it hinders the sound of God's voice from reaching the spiritual ear. This is the action, not of arbitrary will, but of moral law.

IV. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS TO BE LEARNT BY APPLICANTS.

1. Here, many, in the same position as that occupied by the elders of Israel who came to Ezekiel, may learn the reason of their rejection. "As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you!"

2. Here all suppliants may learn a lesson of encouragement. It is not in God's ill will that the obstacle to our reception is to be sought; lot there is no ill wilt in him. "Wash you, make you clean!" Draw near with a sense of need, with confessions of unworthiness, with requests based upon the revealed loving kindness of the heavenly Father; draw near in the name of him who has himself shown the vastness of the obstacle of sin, and who has himself removed that obstacle; and be assured of a gracious reception and a free and sufficient response. In Christ, the Eternal addresses the sons of men, saying, "Seek ye my face!" and in Christ the lowly and penitent may approach the throne of grace with the exclamation, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek!" - T.







Certain of the elders...sat before me.
1. True religion is emphatically a walking with God, not a mere occasional coming to Him. The precise manner in which the date is given may possibly be taken as conveying a reproof to those who, instead of making it their constant business to know God's will, were contented to let a year elapse between two successive visits to the prophet.

2. The need of leaving our sins behind us when we come to inquire of God. The severe answer which the elders received was due chiefly to the fact that they canto without first repenting and bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance

3. Prayer, or indeed coming to God in any way, must not be made a mere matter of convenience, but must be regarded as a matter of constant spiritual necessity. These elders came when they thought it would answer their purpose; they forgot God when all went well, they sought Him when they were at their wits' end; they did not look upon communion with God as the one great spiritual need of their souls. Were they singular in this? The habitual lives of nine out of ten persons in this Christian country would rise up and contradict us if we said that they were. I am not now contemplating the case of notoriously evil men, but only that of easy-going worldly persons who live without church, prayer, Scriptures, passing a quiet animal kind of life, with no cares except those of getting daily bread. These persons will, many of them, cry to the Lord in trouble; put them upon a sickbed, and they will say their prayers for the most part vigorously enough, and the prayers so offered up may possibly be the beginning of a more Christian life, yet I do not at all the less maintain that this is no right use of prayer, but a most egregious and unchristian abuse.

(Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)

Manton says, "Empty the bucket before you go to the fountain." Wise advice. If the pail be full of the best and cleanest water it is idle to carry it to the well, for its fulness disqualifies it for being a receiver. Those who think themselves full of grace are not likely to pray aright, for prayer is a beggar's trade, and supposes the existence of need. What does a full bucket want with the well? Let it stay where it is. Fitness for mercy is not found in self-sufficiency, but in emptiness and want. He can and will receive most of the Lord who has least of his own. If the bucket is full of foul water, it is wise to throw it away as we go to the crystal spring. We must not come to the Lord with our minds full of vanity, lust, covetousness, and pride. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." He will not make His grace the medium of floating our unclean desires.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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