“I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there I will judge you face to face. I will judge you there just as I did your ancestors in the wilderness after bringing them out of Egypt, says the Sovereign Lord. I will examine you carefully and hold you to the terms of the covenant. I will purge you of all those who rebel and revolt against me. I will bring them out of the countries where they are in exile, but they will never enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
“As for you, O people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Go right ahead and worship your idols, but sooner or later you will obey me and will stop bringing shame on my holy name by worshiping idols.” (Ezekiel 20:35-39)
In this passage, the emphasis is on God’s attempts to bring the nation back to himself and on God’s mercy towards his constantly rebellious and disobedient people. Ezekiel gives the message that the people alone are responsible for the troubles and judgments they have experienced. Those who persist in rebellion God will “purge” (Ezekiel 20:38), while he will bring the faithful restore the exiles to their land. The reason: that “you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 20:42).
When the Israelites disobeyed God by refusing to enter the Promised Land the first time, God chose to purify his people by forcing them to wander in the desert until that entire generation died (Numbers 14:26-35). Here he promised to purge the nation of its rebellious people again as they cross the vast desert from their captivity in Babylon. Only those who faithfully followed God would be able to return to their land. The purpose of this “desert judgment” would be to purge all those who worship idols and to restore all those faithful to God.
Sometimes people believe in God and give him “gifts” of church attendance or service, while still holding onto their idols of money, power, or pleasure. They don’t want to miss out on any possible benefits. But God wants our wholehearted devotion; he will not share it, because devotion to anything else is idol worship. Today, honestly assess the items on your list of priorities. How does this show what you value most? Do these items show a desire to please God or yourself?