Question: According to Ezekiel 20:25, God intentionally gave Israel some “bad laws through which they could not live.” Why would God do that, and how does that encourage people to trust Him?
When God formed Israel into a nation during their forty years in the Wilderness, He established laws and statutes for them to live by. Consequences for breaking this covenant with God were established at the outset, to which Israel willingly agreed, included the following:
Deut. 28:64 Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known.
Rejecting God’s laws and statutes—established for their benefit—would result in their becoming like the nations around them. This, in fact, became a repeated historical reality. By rejecting God and His commandments the people of Israel chose by default to come under the laws and statutes of the their enemies—laws and statutes they eventually found repulsive and impossible to live by.
So when the Lord says in Ezekiel 20:25, “So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live…,” He is simply fulfilling His promise to subject them to the ‘bad laws’ and statutes of the cultures they have preferred in their rejection of God. They are not God’s ‘bad laws’ at all, but rather the laws and customs of this world that is so often at enmity with God.
If anything, this goes to demonstrate how amazingly good and patient God is in the face of human willfulness and stubbornness. He could force us to do His will. Instead, He allows us follow our stubborn, rebellious determination to do ‘our own thing:’
Ps. 81:12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
God lets us break free from the leash, so to speak, with the intent that we will see the error of our ways and willingly return to Him with a new measure of humility and desire to live in a right relationship with Him. This is what is meant in the conclusion of the sentence from Ezekiel 20:25 that ends in verse twenty-six:
Ezek. 20:26 I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD.
Among the horrible customs practiced by some ancient nations was that of child sacrifice—placing living infants in the searing hot arms of a huge metallic statue of the idol Molech, where they would roll down into a blazing furnace in its belly (2Chron. 28:3).
It is Israel, not God that chose to go the ways of the cultures around them. God “defiled them” (v. 26) by letting them reject His way of life—a healthy relationship of love with their Creator—for the ways of the corrupt world around them. God will not force us to love Him. He will, however, show us the way back:
Rom. 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?