Chapter 20:27-32 (ESV) - “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. 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. (I said to them, ‘What is the high place to which you go?’ So its name is called Bamah to this day.)
“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? 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.
“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.’
Question to consider: What is the big deal about Israel making sacrifices to God outside of His temple?
The Lord gave specific instructions to Moses on what sacrifices He would accept and where. When Israel inherited the land, the God who dwelt among them in the tabernacle allowed Solomon, the son of David, to erect a temple made of stone to recognize Jerusalem as His holy city. Rather than remaining faithful to God’s statutes and worshiping Him alone, the people of Israel sought to increase their worldly wealth by joining in the other nations in the worship of their gods.
In order to convince themselves they were not practicing an abomination, the Israelites still followed portions of the Law in how they offered their sacrifices and drink offerings, but God called them out in today’s passage because of where they offered them– on any high hill or leafy tree other than the temple of God.
Of course, once someone starts down a path of idolatry, it’s only a matter of time before they are willing to do detestable things like sacrificing their children to Molech. As evidence of the strong delusion in which they were caught, they had the audacity to come to Ezekiel and ask him to inquire of God on their behalf. If they wanted to worship wood and stone, they could look to them for a response instead of God.
People today will call themselves spiritual but not religious saying that they worship God in their own way and in the place of their choosing. That only works if there is no God. Christ loved the church and died for her. Christ described her as His Bride, commanded us to love one another, equipped each believer with talents and treasures, and gives to us His word and sacrament in order to build and sustain the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we set aside His word, withhold our talents and treasures, ignore His body and blood and reject His baptism for the forgiveness of sins, we are not worshiping Christ but an idol of our own making.
Dear heavenly father, stir up in us a desire to worship You according to the means in which You have provided. Thank You for Your word which points us to Christ and our need for Your everlasting mercy. Amen.