Reading through the Bible together
Ezekiel 20 begins with the elders of Judah coming to Ezekiel to inquire of God, but God refused to be inquired of by them because of their willful refusal to walk in His ways (vv. 1-4). Instead of answering the question for which they sought Him for, God gave them a message He wanted them to hear which constitutes the rest of the chapter (vv. 5-44).
The first part of the message is a revision of Israel's history from the Egyptian period to their stay in the Promised Land; it highlights Israel's rebellious ways and God's faithfulness and goodness towards her in spite of it (vv. 5-31). The history is traced in four stages: (1) in Egypt (vv. 5-9), (2) adult generation in the wilderness (vv. 10-17), (3) second generation in the wilderness (vv. 18-26), (4) and in Canaan (vv. 27-29). Israel has been constantly rebelling against God from its conception as a nation onward. Two of the sins that stand out are the sins of idolatry and the desecration of God's Sabbaths. Israel has been unfaithful, defiling herself with idols instead of devoting herself wholly to God. She profanes the Sabbath of God by not understanding that it is to serve as a sign that she belongs to God (v. 12).
The second section of the message speaks of Israel's apostasy in Ezekiel’s time which includes purging and restoration (vv. 30-44). God's people were no less idolatrous than their forefathers; they were repeating the same sins including "the sacrifice of your sons in the fire" (v. 31). But God is going to bring them back from their captivity and plead with them face to face as He once confronted their forefathers in the wilderness. He will purge the nation of its idolaters and rebels and then renew His covenant with the remnant (vv. 32-38). After the period of chastisement and cleansing, God will bring others back from the various countries where they have been scattered to a restored land where true worship will be reestablished and no idols will be worshiped again (vv. 40-44).
In spite of Israel's repeated apostasy in the past as well as in the present situation, God still remains faithful to her. In fact, He has great plans for her future restoration. The longsuffering and patience of God with human beings is clearly seen in His dealing with rebellious Israel. He does not deal with us as we deserve, but instead deals with us with love because that is who He is.
Spicer Adventist University