I received the following question:

“Can you please explain Ekl 20:25?”

I would be happy to explain this passage as best as I can. Let us consider the passage in context, starting in Ezekiel 20:1.

1. It came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me. 2. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 3. “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Have you come to inquire of Me? As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will not be inquired of by you.”‘ 4. Will you judge them, son of man, will you judge them? Then make known to them the abominations of their fathers.

So this is the context in which this verse is spoken. The elders of Israel have come to inquire of the LORD, and yet because of their sin and unfaithfulness to Him, the LORD refused to answer their inquiry. The following verses give a recitation of what His complaint against them was, and why He refused to answer their inquiry.

5. “Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day when I chose Israel and raised My hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I raised My hand in an oath to them, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God.’ 6. On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands. 7. Then I said to them, ‘Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ 8. But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’ 9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

In these verses, the LORD recites how angry He had been with them when they refused to cast away all their idols in the land of Egypt. Yet, He reveals, He did not pour out His fury against them for His Own name’s sake, instead mercifully bringing them out of the land of Egypt.

10. “Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11. And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them.’

Now, the LORD not only reminds them how He had brought them out of the land of Egypt, but also how He had given them His statutes and judgments. These were a great gift, for they were able to bring life to the one who does them. This, of course, does not refer to life in this world, (which they already possessed,) but rather life in the world to come, the coming Government of God, and the world He will set up then. Adherence to these statutes and judgments would secure one a place there. (This does not destroy the principle of salvation only by faith, by the way, because to keep these commandments believing what God had said about them would be an act of faith. Yet God gave these to Israel, never to us today. For us to keep them, then, is not an act of faith at all, but rather of unbelief.)

12. Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

The LORD reveals that He did not just give them His statutes and judgments. He also gave them His Sabbaths. Notice that there is no indication here that these were mankind’s Sabbaths, or that everyone was supposed to keep these since Adam. The LORD claims that these are His Sabbaths, and so they are. Since He owned them, and had until this time given them to no one, no one else had the right to keep them. Now, He has given that right to the people whom He called out of Egypt. They now have the right to keep these Sabbaths. Yet you and I were never given such a right. This was only given to the people of Israel.

13. Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them. 14. But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out. 15. So I also raised My hand in an oath to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands, 16. because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned My Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols. 17. Nevertheless My eye spared them from destruction. I did not make an end of them in the wilderness.

The LORD recalls how the house of Israel rebelled against Him in the wilderness. These precious statutes, judgments, and Sabbaths that He had given them were despised. Yet He did not destroy them in the wilderness, acting again for His name’s sake. Yet He did, as we know, stop any of that generation from entering the land He had promised them. It would wait for the next generation for any of them to be able to enter the land.
 
18 “But I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. 19. I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them; 20. hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.’

The LORD recites how He encouraged the children of the destroyed rebels not to do as their fathers had done. They are not to choose the statutes of their fathers, notice, nor to observe their judgments, nor to defile themselves with their idols. They are to choose instead the statutes, judgments, and Sabbaths the LORD had given them. Thus we see two types of statutes and judgments contrasted: those of the rebellious fathers whom the LORD destroyed, and those of the LORD Himself which would bring life to the one who did them.
 
21. “Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; but they profaned My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the wilderness. 22. Nevertheless I withdrew My hand and acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out. 23. Also I raised My hand in an oath to those in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, 24 because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers’ idols.

In spite of the LORD’s warning, the children rebelled against the LORD just as their fathers had done. They ignored the statutes and judgments He had given them and profaned His Sabbaths. Thus, He promised that someday He would scatter them throughout the countries around them for their sin. This was mostly accomplished by the days of Ezekiel, for few were still living in the land at this time.

25. “Therefore I also gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live;

This is the verse that you had the question about. Your question seems to assume that the LORD gave them these statutes that were not good and judgments by which they could not live. You then wonder why the LORD would give bad statutes and judgments? But this is not actually what the LORD was saying, as our examination of the verses before clearly indicates. Notice that the LORD does not say that He gave them these statutes and judgments, but rather that He “gave them up to” these statutes and judgments. These were not things He gave them, but rather things He allowed them to go off to when they refused to stay with what He had given them.

So, what were these bad statutes and judgments that He gave them up to? Earlier, we saw an example of bad statutes and judgments. Those were the statutes and judgments that the Israelites who died in the wilderness used when they forsook the LORD and worshipped idols and profaned the Sabbath. These statutes and judgments were contrasted with the LORD’s statutes and judgments back in verses 18-20. He had warned them against using these statutes and judgments, but they had used them anyway, and so now He was just giving them up to these and allowing them to follow them if they so wished. This was part of His attitude and policy towards them since they had done this.

So, this verse is not talking about bad statutes and judgments that the LORD made. Rather, it is talking about the bad statutes and judgments that the people chose to follow when they turned their backs upon God. Therefore this is nothing that God did wrong, and certainly not a mistake on His part. The mistake is on the part of those who traded in His righteous judgments for corrupt ones of their own!

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