When you offer your gifts, sacrificing your sons in the fire, you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. So should I be consulted by you, O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the Lord GOD, I will not be consulted by you!
I. THE SINS OF WICKED ANCESTORS PRACTISED BY THEIR SUCCESSORS.
1. The idolatry of the fathers continued by their children. "Say unto the house of Israel, Thus salts the Lord God; Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations?" The whoredom spoken of is spiritual - unfaithfulness to God, in the worship of idols. Even the exile in Babylon did not for some time cure the people of this sin. As their fathers had done, so did they. Parental example is very powerful for several reasons.
(1) It is the example of those who are most looked up to and imitated by the young.
(2) It influences the young in the most impressionable season of their life. "As the twig is bent the tree inclines."
(3) It is most continuous in its influence upon the young. "The characters of living parents are constantly presented for the imitation of their children. Their example is continually sending forth a silent power to mould young hearts for good or ill; not for a single mouth or year, but through the whole impressionable period of childhood and youth, the influence of parental example is thus felt. If it be constituted of the highest and purest elements, the results will be unspeakably precious. Sons and daughters will" almost certainly become patterns of propriety and goodness, because their parents are such. If, on the other hand, their example be evil, most injurious will be its effects upon their children. A solemn consideration is this for parents, and one that should be laid to heart by them. It is difficult, moreover, to break away from sins which have obtained a firm hold upon family life and practice.
2. Idolatry practised even in its most cruel rites. "For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day" (see our notes on ch. 16:20, 21).
3. The practice of idolatry defiling the idolater. "Ye pollute yourselves with all your idols" Worship either elevates or degrades the worshipper, according to the character of the object thereof. Genuine adoration is transforming in its influence upon him who offers it, We become like unto the object or objects of our supreme love and reverence. Hence the worship of the true God purifies, exalts, enriches, ennobles, sanctifies, the worshipper; while the worship of any idol or idols - e.g. riches, rank, popularity, power, pleasure - defiles, degrades, and impoverishes the worshipper. Moreover, sin of any kind pollutes the sinner; it stains and defiles his soul (see our notes on ver. 7).
II. THE INQUIRIES OF HYPOCRITES REJECTED BY THE LOUD GOD. "Shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you." (We have already considered this topic in our homilies on vers. 1-4 and Ezekiel 14:1-11.)
III. THE DARK DESIGNS OF SINNERS DEFEATED BY THE LORD GOD.
1. Here is a deliberate design formed by man to conform to idolatrous usages. "That which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone." Thus the house of Israel, the people of the only living and true God, inwardly resolved to conform to heathenish customs, hoping in some way to improve their condition by so doing. And in our day there are those who, while manifesting some respect for religion, yet conform to this world in its questionable and even sinful usages. And some "regard an irreligious condition as preferable to the struggles of a religious life."
2. Here is man's design to conform to idolatrous usages discovered by the Lord God. It was in vain for these insincere inquirers of the Lord to think that they could conceal any design from him. And elders of Israel should have known this so well as to be in no danger of overlooking it. But the practice of sin misleads and deceives sinners, and had probably deceived them. God is perfectly acquainted with every thought of the mind of man (Ezekiel 11:5; Psalm 139:1-5; Matthew 9:4; John 2:24, 25; Hebrews 4:13).
3. Here is man's design to conform to idolatrous usages defeated by the Lord God. "That which cometh into your mind shall not be at all." Their inward purpose he would frustrate. They might attempt to carry it out, but it would not succeed. "That Israel should become like the heathen," says Schroder," would be repugnant to the nature of God, especially to his name Jehovah. The very reverse would be much more in harmony with it, namely, that the heathen should become like Israel." The Church of God is not to be conformed to and lost in the world; but the world is to be conformed to the Church and to be included therein. The kingdoms of the world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ (Revelation 11:15). And so the Lord declares that the evil designs of his sinful people should fail. He can utterly foil the deepest, subtlest schemes of man; and he will do so when those schemes are exposed to his holy will (cf. Job 5:12-14; Psalm 33:10, 11; Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 8:10; Acts 5:38, 39). - W.J.
I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live.
1. It has been supposed by some that the statutes and judgments here alluded to were those of the Mosaic Law, and that in describing them as statutes not good, the Almighty designed to express their deficiency, as contrasted with the Gospel system, in future times to be made known. A short consideration, however, of the context will show that this theory is unsound, and at the same time explain the real meaning of the text. God having first promulgated to the Israelites laws of life, upon their indifference to these gave them laws of death; and the general principle here involved is, that the punishment of transgressing or refusing holy laws is to have unholy laws assigned us. If we will reject truth we shall be caused to take falsehood for our guide. If a man have truth proposed for his acceptance, and reject it; if he turn away through carelessness, or shut his heart through perverseness of will to the truth as it is in Jesus, what we should most fear for such an one is not famine, or pestilence, or sword. There is a more terrible vial still than these in the treasury of God. Of those who having ears hear not, the punishment would appear to be, that eventually the capacity of understanding shall be taken from them. We cannot, of course, in any particular case pronounce whether the curse of invincible ignorance has been poured out, and the veil drawn finally over the heart; but we urge it upon yea as strong ground for never playing with your convictions, or shutting your souls against the voice of instruction.
2. But now we can imagine that many and great objections present themselves to your minds in connection with the foregoing doctrine. Is this, you ask, agreeable to the goodness and justice of the Deity? Can it be reconciled with His attributes, that He should thus, at any period of human life, take away the power of belief, and Himself blind the soul and make dull the heart? Now let us pause for a moment upon the nature of God's punishment, so far as we may discover it. We may trace one grand principle pervading and colouring all the visitations of Divine vengeance; the principle is this, that the punishment should in its quality bear a resemblance to the sin. Adam and Eve, presuming to eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil, were debarred access to the tree of life. Jacob, deceiving his father Isaac, was in his turn deceived by his own sons. And it is not difficult to perceive why this should be. The punishment of sin is to preach against sin. How much more striking this preaching becomes when the penalty inflicted is of a sort to call to remembrance the precise iniquity of which it is the penalty. Now, if this be correct, the particular judgment spoken of in the text is just what we might expect would overtake those who will not when they may amend their opinions and embrace the truth. If the sin be to resist truth, what should the penalty be but the being incapacitated from embracing truth?
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