“Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?” (Ezekiel 14:3 ESV)
Idols are not only things “out there” that we attach our love and trust to, but they also reside in our hearts. Repentance is an essential element of true faith. When we come to God, to trust in him as the only true God, through his Son, Jesus Christ, it means that we turn our backs on all other gods, all other claimants for our heart, all other gods set in opposition to him. We see them as untrue, untrustworthy, and ultimately unfulfilling. Living by faith means we transfer our loyalty and love to God first and foremost.
“And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 14:8 ESV)
Over 70 times in Ezekiel the Lord says that they [or, you] will “know that I am the Lord.” Many of these statements are in context of coming judgment. The true knowledge of God is revealed not only through his mercy, but through his judgment, as well. Coming to him for mercy and grace involves knowing the wrongfulness of our sin and coming (or, turning, or returning) to God in repentance. If we know nothing of this, then we surely do not know the God of the Bible, the Holy One who calls us to himself.
Here’s a summary of this chapter from the Family Worship Bible Guide (recommended!)…
“Chapter 14 We must flee from idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14; 1 John 5:21). Yet this is subtler than we may realize. Although idolatry revolves around objects and images, it is rooted in the human heart (Ezek. 14:3–4, 7). Therefore it is not enough to get rid of the physical thing we have made into an idol, although this must often be done (Matt. 5:28–29). As John Calvin said, the human heart is an idol factory. To put idolatry to death, we must deal with fears and desires that have grown far larger than any created thing deserves (Col. 3:5). Whenever we love something or someone in a way that is not dominated by love for God, that love has degenerated into a proud and idolatrous lust (1 John 2:15–16). At the heart of the gospel is the call to turn away from all such idols and to give our obedience and hope to the living God (1 Thess. 1:9–10). That is the only way to escape God’s wrath. Trusting in Christ requires us to turn from our deepest idolatry: the false god of our self-righteousness. Why is this so hard? Why is it so beneficial?”
~ Michael Barrett, Joel Beeke, Jerry Bilkes, and Paul Smalley in Family Worship Bible Guide (Reformation Heritage Books, 2017)