Chapter 14 starts with “some of the elders of Israel” coming to Ezekiel and sitting down before him. The impression seems to be that they are coming to the prophet to hear what the Lord has to tell them, but that is clearly not the case. The Lord tells Ezekiel that “these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces.” He says this three times in the first seven verses. The implication is that idols of the heart will always reflect themselves in worship of the idols of our lives. In other words, what is in our hearts will be apparent in our lives. And idolatry will always be punished because it treats as gods things that are in fact not God. As Paul says in Romans 1, they exchange the glory of the immortal God for images.
What’s strange about these verses, though, is that the Lord says he will use the their idolatry “to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.” Judgement will come to both the idolater and the false prophet who feeds their idolatry, but amidst the judgement, as we’ve seen over and over again, there will be salvation. First their guilt is addressed:
10 They will bear their guilt—the prophet will be as guilty as the one who consults him.
The word “guilt” is actually used three times in this sentence. The Hebrew word is translated differently in various translations. Of all the times it’s used in the OT, according to the NASB translators it means: blame (1), guilt (21), guilty (1), iniquities (46), iniquity (143), punishment (12), punishment for the iniquity (3), punishment for their iniquity (3).
After addressing their guilt he uses the word to start verse 11, “Then.” There seems to be come kind of causal relationship between the Lord punishing the guilt of sin, and salvation from it:
11 Then the people of Israel will no longer stray from me, nor will they defile themselves anymore with all their sins. They will be my people, and I will be their God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”
I think the NKJV gets at the meaning best:
10 And they shall bear their iniquity; the punishment of the prophet shall be the same as the punishment of the one who inquired, 11 that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me, nor be profaned anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be My people and I may be their God,“ says the Lord God.’”
The guilt of sin must be punished so that we can be God’s people. But if we pay for our own guilt we can’t be God’s people because we will be dead! So this recapturing of the hearts of his people goes right through Isiah 53, and specifically:
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
The Hebrew word אָשָׁם (asham) is translated here “guilt offering.” From a concordance: “The Messianic servant offers himself as an אשׁם in compensation for the sins of the people, interposing for them as their substitute.” The compensation must be made, and the Lord made it himself in the person of Christ! All I can continue so say is, Wow!
This connection is even more apparent when you read the last 12 verses of the chapter. At first it made no sense. For the four plagues to come (sword, famine, wild beasts, and plague) he says the same thing:
14 Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord God.
Even these three great men of faith (they all believed, or trusted God despite the circumstances) could do nothing to stay God’s righteous judgment against the sin of his people. As the Lord says in the final verse:
for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign Lord.
God’s just judgment must come, but only one can save us from it, he who was lifted up that any who look to him and trust shall be saved from God’s wrath.