There are many sad incidents in the pages of scripture. One of the saddest in my view is what Ezekiel recorded in chapters 10 and 11 of his vision.
In chapter 8 Ezekiel was taken in a vision to Jerusalem to the temple of the Lord. There he saw worship of almost anything but the worship of God.
“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing – the utterly detestable things the Israelites are doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.’” (Ezekiel 8:6 NIV)
In the temple dedicated by Solomon to the worship of YHVH, the God of Israel and only true God, the elders were worshipping every kind of creature made, the women were worshipping the false god Tammuz, and the priests were worshipping the sun (Ezekiel 8:7-18). There were almost none left in the city of Jerusalem who were still faithful to God.
In chapter 9 God had the people who were faithful marked for protection while the rest would be slaughtered.
It is when we get to chapter 10 that we see that God is forsaking his city. God is depicted in what many refer to as his war chariot, a scene very similar to God’s throne room in Revelation 4 only this one moves. God slowly left the temple and the city.
“Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord…Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them…Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.” (Ezekiel 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23 NIV)
There was no hope left for those in the city. They refused to listen to God’s word given through his prophets. God’s glory left the temple and the city, leaving it open for destruction.
But there was still hope. Although they would be sent far away into other nations to be in exile, God would gather them, bring them back and give them the land of Israel once again.
“They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:18-20 NIV)
Although it was sad that it reached the point that God forsook the temple and his people, he would bring them back. But notice that there had to be a change. They needed an undivided heart and a new spirit. They had to be obedient to God and be careful to obey him.
Isn’t it the same for us? When we sin and refuse to change we withdraw from God. Because of our sin the fellowship is broken. In order to resume a relationship with God we must give up the sin so we can have an undivided heart. We must allow God’s Spirit to once again reside in us. And we must once again be obedient to what God has asked of us.
May we all seek to be faithful followers of our Lord and Saviour.
Illustration by Matthaeus Merian (1593-1650). Public Domain.
Readings for next week: Ezekiel 7-15