Here is, 1. The occasion of the message which we have in this chapter. That sermon which we had Ezek. 18:1-32 was occasioned by their presumptuous reflections upon God; this was occasioned by their hypocritical enquiries after him. Each shall have his own. This prophecy is exactly dated, in the seventh year of the captivity, about two years after Ezekiel began to prophesy. God would have them to keep account how long their captivity lasted, that they might see how the years went on towards their deliverance, though very slowly. Certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the Lord, not statedly (as those Ezek. 8:1), but, as it should seem, occasionally, and upon a particular emergency. Whether they were of those that were now in captivity, or elders lately come from Jerusalem upon business to Babylon, is not certain; but, by what the prophet says to them (Ezek. 20:32), it should seem, their enquiry was whether now that they were captives in Babylon, at a distance from their own country, where they had not only no temple, but no synagogue, for the worship of God, it was not lawful for them, that they might ingratiate themselves with their lords and masters, to join with them in their worship and do as the families of these countries do, that serve wood and stone. This matter was palliated as well as it would bear, like Naaman’s pleading with Elisha for leave to bow in the house of Rimmon, in compliment to the king; but we have reason to suspect that their enquiry drove at this. Note, Those hearts are wretchedly hardened which ask God leave to go on in sin, and that when they are suffering for it. They came and sat very demurely and with a show of devotion before the prophet, Ezek. 33:31. 2. The purport of this message. (1.) They must be made to know that God is angry with them; he takes it as an affront that they come to enquire of him when they are resolved to go on still in their trespasses: As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not be enquired of by you, Ezek. 20:3. Their shows of devotion shall be neither acceptable to God nor advantageous to themselves. God will not take notice of their enquiries, nor give them any satisfactory answers. Note, A hypocritical attendance on God and his ordinances is so far from being pleasing to him that it is provoking. (2.) They must be made to know that God is justly angry with them (Ezek. 20:4): “Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? Thou art a prophet, surely thou wilt not plead for them, as an intercessor with God; but surely thou wilt pass sentence on them as a judge for God. See, I have set thee over the nation; wilt thou not declare to them the judgments of the Lord? Cause them therefore to know the abominations of their fathers.” So the orders run now, as before (Ezek. 16:2) he must cause them to know their own abominations. Though their own abominations were sufficient to justify God in the severest of his proceedings against them, yet it would be of use for them to know the abominations of their fathers, that they might see what a righteous thing it was with God now at last to cut them off from being a people, who from the first were such a provoking people.
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