Yesterday we discovered that Ezekiel preached some interesting sermons; yet not with words. Yes, he acted out the messages that God wanted delivered. He shaved his beard, then shaved himself bald in an attempt to get God's point across. That wasn't all, he lay on his right side for many days before turning over to his left to do the same thing. Then, his wife died and he was forbidden to mourn. What a calling! The first part I mentioned would be hard enough for me. Every once in a while (and I do stress every once in a while) I look in the mirror and say to myself: "Self, you might as well shave it all off!" But, when I get to my hairdresser (yes, I still go to a hairdresser) I simply say, "Give me a trim please."
Today I want to back up a bit to chapters 8-11. "Son of man, do you see what they are doing-the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable. (Ezekiel 8:6) Ezekiel is transported back to the temple in Jerusalem where he witnesses a variety of improper activities. What is happening? For one thing the leaders of Jerusalem were secretly worshipping foreign gods in the temple compound. Ezekiel saw "all over the walls all kinds of crawling things and detestable animals and all the idols of the house of Israel." (Ez. 8:10) As of that was enough, God showed him more. It's as though God says to Ezekiel, "You ain't seen nothing yet!" "Then he brought me to the entrance to the north gate of the house of the Lord, and I saw women sitting there, mourning for Tammuz." (Ez. 8:14) The women were apparently devoted to Tammuz, the Babylonian fertility god.
Well, there is great violence that follows with the killing of "old men, young men and maidens, women and children." (Ez. 9:5) Some scriptures are very difficult to digest. I have been watching the new Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War. It is a well done documentary. However, some of it is difficult to handle. Photos and videos were shown of old men, women and children who were killed. God is angry with his people. "The sin of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great: the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice...I will not look on them with pity or spare them..." (Ez. 9:9a,10) I would suggest that God is even more angry here than he was before the Flood. Could it be that what we see here is a purging?
"Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim." (Ez. 10:18) What is happening here, and in the verse before and after? Chapter ten paints a picture of God rising to leave his temple of residence. The description follows the imagery we found in the first chapter. God leaves the temple in stages. He stops at certain places as though he is reluctant to leave. It is as though he stops to count all the memories before he goes. This will be the final time God is in this temple. When we moved from our home in Calhoun County where I was appointed the Mt. Zion Charge it was difficult (each move is). We had lived longer in Calhoun County than any where else during our marriage. My sons grew up in this house. Zander was born while we lived here. Perhaps you have been in a situation just like this. If so, you can picture God taking his time. He hovers over Jerusalem, then over the Mt. of Olives, then he finally disappears out of sight.
God could not stay in the temple due to the impurities of the people. But, who do you suppose the people blamed for their behavior? Well, anyone but themselves. Yes, they blamed the trouble with the Babylonians and their own weaknesses on the sins of their fathers. Yep, old Dad made me do it! This is not the first time the buck has been passed, and won't be the last. But, as it didn't work in the past, it sure does not work here.
"For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son-both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die." (Ez. 18:4) God will now hold each individual responsible. God knows each one personally. In the past the corporate community had to accept moral accountability. This is no longer the case. Each person will now answer for themselves.
Tomorrow we will look at the message of hope found in Ezekiel. God Bless! -Pastor RIck