Summary: Some of the exiled elders come and sit before Ezekiel as if they are ready to hear from God and God shows Ezekiel that these people aren't really ready to hear His voice and pronounces more judgement, while calling for repentance.
VERSES 1-5: “Are you talking to ME?” -- God
Some of the elders come and place themselves before Ezekiel. This is symbolic of a desire to be instructed by a rabbi. It indicates a desire to hear from God, even if it is half-hearted as we will see in this study.
For a moment, Ezekiel must have been excited. The elders of Israel—some of the most prominent men were coming to him, a lowly prophet, seeking to be taught. His ministry was finally looking up, at least based on the fact that these men came and sat down before him.
God tells Ezekiel not to get too excited, though. He tells Ezekiel that these men are not really ready to hear from Almighty God. They have established idols in their hearts and chosen ways that cause them to stumble. In fact, God asks a pointed question, “Should I let them inquire of me at all?” They have set up the worst kind of idols, Ezekiel calls them gillulim which is Hebrew for dung pellets. God tells Ezekiel to declare that when people who have chosen evil come to seek blessing from God that he responds by answering them in the manner that they deserve. God is not fooled by those who are stumbling around and lacking faith to trust, follow, and commit to him. God is not fooled by the Easter Sunday attendees who do not darken the door of the church the rest of the year. When people who are not following God make an effort to seek God, His first message to them is about their sin. It would be no different with these elders.
God also declares that He will recapture their attention. It was the remnant in captivity in Babylon that God would raise up, deliver, and return to the land. Therefore God was attempting to recapture their hearts. A battle was being waged for the minds of these people and God was intent on demolishing their false religious ideas.
VERSES 6-11 When God Gives You Over to A Reprobate Mind
The key to this passage is God’s call for the people to repent. The concept used is a double imperative (a double command) which literally translated would read “turn back and cause to turn back.” In other words, repent yourself and thereby encourage others to repent. God’s call is turn back.
Further, God declares that the false idols can’t answer, but that God will answer and make an example of those who continually call out to idols. God says that when a person who isn’t really ready to hear from Him comes before Him—He will hear from God.
Finally, the idea of God enticing a person to prophecy falsely seems unfair. What God is saying is that He will allow, in his permissive will, a person to choose the direction He will go, but that God Himself will respond with judgment.
Through the doom and gloom of this passage we see that God still has the intention of drawing that remnant back to Himself. He sees the day when they will turn from their sins and stop defiling themselves and God and His people experience a restored relationship where He is honored as God.
God always deals with our sin before commissioning us to His service. When God called Isaiah (see Isaiah 6) God dealt with his unclean lips before calling him to service. These prophets wanted the blessing of being able to say that they spoke for the Lord, but God would need to deal with their sin and therefore when they came before God looking for a message that message would be about their own personal sin.
God ALWAYS deals with sin first. God doesn't call missionaries from people who aren't committed to him. Paul had settled into the Christian life and demonstrated his salvation before God called him to go to the mission field. Commitment to God comes before he calls us to advanced service.
VERSES 12-23 A few Good Men
God now leads Ezekiel to declare that any nation, be it an Israel, a Babylon or even a United States, and sins in such a way that God has to bring judgment against it—it cannot be saved by a few good men. The examples of Good men offered here at Noah, Daniel, and Job. God will judge the nation as a whole, but redeem only the few men. The message here is clear that God can judge a nation or a people, but preserve righteous. Some would suggest that this would be how it will be during the tribulation, that believers are not removed from the world, but redeemed from the judgment that takes place during that time. This might be a worthwhile example, but in its context that’s not really what this verse is about.