“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not…And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” – Isaiah 30:15 & 18
“Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 14:13-14
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” – Acts 3:19
We went for a walk and came home with a pet. I wanted to take Joey to see some local waterfalls, and now I have the neverending waterfall of a ReptoFilter™ in my house. Yes, Joey has a little painted turtle. This baby girl (Google told me it was a girl), who Joey currently calls “Weefy”, was sitting smack dab in the middle of a trail that must have seemed about the size of Kansas to her. She looked lost and way too vulnerable, so we scooped her up and took her home. Weefy most likely just needed to turn around and go back where she came from, but now she seems to have settled into her new life in captivity.
In Ezekiel 14, the prophet is approached by a group of lying leaders who have settled into all the worst parts of their new life in Babylon.
But first, a little about Ezekiel. He was an exile, trained to be a priest, but called to be a prophet, and taken away from Jerusalem with the second wave of captives (Ezekiel 1:1-3). In Babylon, Ezekiel would continue to prophesy God’s judgment against His rebellious people, as they continued to rebel. His visions were vividly detailed – the wheel within a wheel (Ezekiel 1), the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37) – but the message behind them was simple – repent.
As for the lying leaders, God sees their malicious hearts a mile away (Ezekiel 14:3-5). Though they come asking for a word from the Lord, they spend just as much time, if not more, consulting and consorting with the pagan gods of Babylon. The whole point of captivity was to rid the Israelites of their idols, but these men have simply embraced a new set of idols (Verses 4-13).
Knowing the darkness of their hearts, God pulls no punches. He tells these men that even Noah, Job, and Daniel couldn’t pray them out of the spiritual hole that they’ve dug for themselves (Verses 14-20). And He says it no less than three times. Noah, the solitary man from his generation who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and preached repentance until the day God shut the door of the ark (Genesis 6:7-9, 9:18-22, II Peter 2:5). Job, the perfect and upright man, who prayed for his children, and refused to sin, even when unexplained tragedy drove him to the brink of his sanity (Job 1, 42:10). And Daniel, the man who refused to be defiled by Babylonian life and refused to stop praying and pleading for his nation, even when the price was a night in the lion’s den (Daniel 1, 6, 10:11-12).
These three men each had a special place in the heart of God. They were intercessors and spiritual warriors, and yet, their prayers could not have turned the tide of captivity, because the hearts of the people refused to turn back to God.
The lying leaders wanted rescue, even though they had no interest in repenting. They wanted assurances that God was going to turn their time in captivity. But rescue without repentance is a short reprieve at best. Without a heart change, it’s only a matter of time before our deceitful and desperately wicked hearts find their way into another mess (II Chronicles 24:18-20, Psalm 51, Jeremiah 17:5-10, 18:8, 29:19, I John 1:9). And while it’s easy to simply ask God to remove the obstacles that we see in our path, His greater goal is always to remove the obstacles to His work in our hearts (Deuteronomy 30:19, Ezekiel 14:6, 18:30, 36:22-32, Hosea 14:4, II Corinthians 7:9-10, James 1:21-25).
If you are lost, alone, and all too vulnerable to sin today, you need only do one thing – turn around. God longs to forgive and be gracious to you, but true, eternal rescue begins with repentance. God can fix everything that’s been broken, and the blood of Jesus can cleanse you, but you have to turn around and take it all back to God.
Oh my friend, be a turner. Be teachable. Be clay and not stone. Be like a little turtle that can be plucked off a dangerous, exposed path before it’s too late. Rescue and safety lie in a heart captivated by God and God alone. It’s your time to turn.
Is there something God is asking you to turn away from? Something that seems harmless, but is slowly taking His place in your heart? Be a turner. Never lose the ability to turn from anything that can turn you away from Him.