“Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin. Why should I listen to their requests? (Ezekiel 14:3)
Relate: Translation can sometimes be a tricky thing. Sometimes the idea or thought just simply cannot be translated properly. In Turkish there is a phrase “afiyet olsun” that has no English equivalent. Most of my students will translate it as “enjoy your meal” but that doesn’t do it justice. I think the closest we can come would actually be the French “bon apetit”. While I have learned that the Eskimos having fifty-seven words for snow is a myth, they do have more than one. In Istanbul (the second worst place in the world for traffic) there are actually a bunch of different ways to describe a traffic jam. There is frozen traffic, stutter traffic, trickle traffic, walking traffic, etc. You get the idea.
In the Old Testament there are actually four words that we in English translate “idol”. The first of these is is Pesel and it refers to a carved image. In the Ten Commandments we are commanded not to make and “pesel”. The second one is Teraphim. It refers to a household image or also to the shrine similar to ancestral shrines we might still see in traditional far east homes. Rachel steals her father’s teraphim when Jacob flees with his family. The third word has multiple variants we would translate atseb/etseb/otseb. These refer to an unholy vessel. It doesn’t so much refer to the image itself as to what it contains. God says in Isaiah, “I told you beforehand what is going to happen so that you cannot say my idols [otseb] did it.” The word used here in Ezekiel is none of these. This prophet uses the word Gillul. This word comes from the root galal which means to roll or to wallow. Gillul, although always translated “idol” more literally means “round things”, “shapeless things” or as one translator puts it “dungy things”. Yes, dungy is exactly the image the prophet is trying to convey when he says Israel’s leaders have set up idols in their hearts. In the original languages our Bible is very often a bit more, um, earthy than we would like to admit. No word for word translation really does it justice when what God is really saying is, “Why should I listen to your leaders? They are full of…
React: What is in my heart? It is easy to point to our leaders, whether that be Erdogan or May or Merkel or Trudeau or Turnbull or Putin or Obama/Clinton/Trump and say it is good God is giving them what they deserve rather than what they want. It is easy to lean back and gleefully rub our hands and grin when we hear God saying of the corrupt leaders, “They have it in their hearts so I’m going to give them it until it is coming out their ears and finally stop worshiping it and turn back to me.” That is the fun part.But then in verse six, Ezekiel isn’t speaking of the leaders anymore but to all of us. Why do you keep asking for God’s help when your hearts are full of it? I am not going to answer you until you have turned back to me.
Does God seem silent in our lives? Does it seem as though our prayers don’t even make it to the ceiling let alone Heaven’s Gates? There is one prayer God will always answer. “Clean out my heart, oh God.” Perhaps it is time we need to get out a shovel and ask God for the strength to do a proper cleaning. This it has got to go.
I am so sorry for trying to show the world an image of purity and cleanliness and godliness when inside my life is full of… idolatry. Please forgive me. Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Make me clean from the inside out. Let the world see me for who I am… washed by Your blood. Even more let my life, let my heart live out the purity You have so dearly purchased on my behalf.