Key Question: Why God leaves his people (ch. 10-11): Because of their idolatry (ch. 8) and so that they may be destroyed (ch. 9). What kind of God leaves his people so that they will be ruthlessly slaughtered by their enemies? [Last week was a horrifying message of God's judgment (Ezekiel 4-7).]
"Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them" (Eze 8:18). "So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done" (Eze 9:10).
Ezekiel's Vision of God's Departure from the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8-11)
- Preamble to the First Temple Vision (8:1-4).
- The Abominations in the Temple (8:5-18).
- Yahweh's Response to the Abominations in the Temple (9:1-11).
- The Burning of Jerusalem and God's Departure from the Temple (10:1-22).
- The Pot of Stew (11:1-13).
- The Gospel according to Ezekiel (11:14-21).
- Epilogue to the Temple Vision (11:22-25).
Have you ever felt that:
- I deserve better?
- I’m really not that bad?
- God let me down?
- God is not fair to me?
- God is not listening to me nor answering my prayers?
- God is done with me?
- God will forgive me even though I continue to sin in secret?
- God is not going to bless me, so I'll just go get what I want?
If you do feel in the above ways, what do you think will happen to you?
Ezekiel's first temple vision is profound not only for the vision of God it proclaims, but also for its analysis of the human soul. How might this vision be relevant today?
- Directed by God, his Spirit and the words of the prophet. True religion is demonstrated not only in ethical conduct but also in worship acceptable to God. Authentic worship lets God be God on his own terms, not our terms. Anything else places the worshiper above the deity, which is the essence of idolatry. This is also a delusion. The elders in the dark and the women appear to be sincere in their ritual expression. However they were sincerely misguided. Instead of gaining God's favor, they only provoked his wrath and closed his ears. True worship is driven by God's Spirit and focuses on the reality of his person.
- False worship leads to false morality. When people presume to define the character of God they also tend to redefine their own ethical standards. Abominations in the temple were accompanied by social acts of violence (Eze 8:17). Worship not only offers an opportunity to express one's fundamental relationship with God; it also shapes one's character. Unless the encounter with God produces a firmer determination to doing the will of God, the worship has not been conducted in spirit and in truth.
- It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. The image of judgment in Ezekiel 9 is offensive to the modern reader. How can God decree the elimination of an entire population, including the innocent? But the fury of divine wrath must be perceived against the backdrop of his grace. Instead of responding to their special status as a chosen people (Ex 19:5-6) with gratitude and humility, the Israelites became arrogant, presuming upon the goodwill of their covenant Lord. But God will not be mocked. If he demanded the elimination of the Canaanites because of their depravity, then when the Israelites behave like Canaanites, they can expect no other fate (Dt 8:19-20).
- God is sovereign over his own destiny. When God leaves the temple, he does not depart as a captive of some foreign invader, while trying to prove that he is still God. God abandons the city by his own decision, for his own reasons, in his own time and by his own means. Only the eyes of faith will recognize that the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians was not a sign of God's weakness or demise. Only the eyes of faith recognize that by voluntarily abandoning his temple, he has delivered his people over to the enemy.
- God is not tied to any one place or temple (or church or ministry or methodology). God had indeed chosen Mount Zion as the site for his name to dwell, and for his glory to reside there in the temple as a visible sign of his presence (Ps 132:14). But God will not be boxed in by a house built with human hands. God's true abode is in heaven (1 Ki 8:25, 30, 36, 39, 43, 45, 49). For humans to insist that he reside only in the temple in Zion is deluding. Human rebellion and idolatry may cause him to leave his earthly palace. But he remains enthroned in the heavens, from where he is able to respond to all who call on him.
- When God abandons his people, they lose all right to his favor and his protection. The turning point in Israel's history came not with the accession of Zedekiah or even the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, but the departure of the glory of the King of heaven from his temple. According to Ezekiel's vision, historical events are indeed reflections of realities determined in the heavenly plane. To this day nothing has changed. To Paul the primary battles are still spiritual, and they are waged in the heavenlies (Eph 6:10-20). Once God has decreed the fall of the city and has departed from his temple, neither human strength nor angelic force could defend the city against his agent, the invader.
- Block, Daniel I. The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24, NICOT (New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1997.
- Wright, Christopher J.H. The Message of Ezekiel, BST (Bible Speaks Today). IVP, Downers Grove, IL, 2001.