“Therefore say to the Israelites: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Will you defile yourselves the way your ancestors did and lust after their vile images? When you offer your gifts—the sacrifice of your children in the fire—you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. Am I to let you inquire of me, you Israelites? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will not let you inquire of me.’”
~ Ezekiel 20:30-31
I’m reading through the heartbreaking saga of Ezekiel in my devotions, which is a book about Israel being incredibly unfaithful to God and God sending his prophet to entreaty with his people to turn back before it’s too late. Just a couple chapters earlier, God defends his fairness, explains patiently how the sinful people were bringing doom upon their head, and calls them to repent.
In Chapter 20, it’s almost like God’s at the end of his patience as the elders come to Ezekiel with more questions of God. At first that kind of seems like it makes sense and is honorable — they want to know about God, so why not talk to his prophet? But it’s been a year or so since Ezekiel has been about his mission here, and none of the people, including the elders, are listening and responding. They’re still in full-fledged rebellion, and God delivers these strong words to them when they dare to try to question him even as they are doing despicable things such as child sacrifice and worshiping other gods.
Their attitude is arrogant and even a bit blasphemous, and if there’s something I’ve picked up in my reading of Scripture, it’s that God does NOT respond well to arrogant people. It also reminded me a bit of how Job had all of these questions for God in the midst of suffering and God’s answer was to basically state his resume as an all-powerful creator and remind Job that he doesn’t ever have to answer anything to anyone. If he does, that’s his mercy and generosity in action, but at all times does God keep the fullness of his council to himself.
I think sometimes we presume too much on God’s mercy, assuming that we are entitled to a neverending flow of it. We are, of course, neither entitled nor deserving of unending mercy. Mercy is at God’s discretion, and sometimes he allows that mercy to end in order to bring about his justice. The point is that the elders kept pushing God too far with their stubbornness and arrogance, and they and the country ended up paying for it. The point is that the elders didn’t hear the merciful warning to turn back, and so were treated to the fair justice that lay ahead for their crimes against an Almighty God.
Don’t push God or presume upon his mercy. Don’t ignore his warnings in scripture and through the Spirit to turn from your sins and repent. Instead, follow God’s guidance in humility and find a new and better path that he desires you to follow.