Ezekiel is recognised by the elders of Israel as a man in touch with God, a true prophet. They are all in captivity because of their godlessness. God knew their hearts. “‘Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and have set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?” (verse 3).

Then the LORD says, “Anyone … who takes his idols into his heart and sets up a stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him … that I may lay hold of the hearts … who are estranged from me through their idols” (verses 4,5).

The principle is clear. We must believe and serve God with our whole heart. Other prophets had the same message, for example Hosea said, “Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt” (10:2). The onus is on us to put out of our minds any ‘idols’ that attract and distract our thinking. This had been the case in previous generations; in the reign of good king Asa, people came to worship “And all Judah rejoiced … for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them …” (2 Chronicles 15:15).

Our prayer should be for help to develop undivided hearts. We do not have prophets today, instead we have God’s word. But those with divided hearts misunderstand it as they look for proof of what they want to believe, or seek to justify their way of life.

Verse 9 is difficult. “If the prophet is deceived, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him … they shall bear their punishment – the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer alike – that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves …” The purpose of God’s action is clear, to correct the straying ways of His people, “that they may be my people and I may be their God …” (verse 11). But prophets with divided hearts are allowed to tread the path they have chosen.

May we not be ashamed, but rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:5).