And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain.
Ezekiel 8:4 (NIV)
Read: Ezekiel 8:1-18
Consider: While the people of Israel were in captivity in Babylon the prophet Ezekiel had a number of visions concerning God, the exiled people of Israel, Jerusalem and the temple, God’s judgement and Israel’s hope. Today’s reading in Ezekiel 8 concerns a number of abominations in the temple in Jerusalem that reveal how far away the people were from God.
Ezekiel sees what he describes as ‘… a figure like that of a man’ (Ezekiel 8:2-3), and he is taken up by the Spirit to the entrance of the temple in Jerusalem where he says: And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain (8:4). Here Ezekiel is referring to the vision of God that is recounted in Ezekiel 1 and where the glory of God is specifically mentioned (1:28). In Ezekiel 8 we will see the contrast between the glory of God and the abominations that were taking place in the temple in Jerusalem.
There are four abominations mentioned in Ezekiel 8:
- the idol of jealousy that stood at the north entrance. As if things couldn’t get any worse Ezekiel is told: Son of man, do you see what they are doing … But you will see things that are even more detestable (8:6);
- Ezekiel is taken to the ‘entrance of the court’ where he is told to break through a wall and this reveals idolatrous images. Additionally he sees seventy elders of Israel whose reason for the idolatry was that they believed The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land (8:12). Again God tells Ezekiel that there is worse to come: You will see them doing things that are even more detestable (8:13);
- Ezekiel is brought to the north gate of the temple where women were mourning the god Tammuz ( a Phoenician fertility god). Again God tells Ezekiel: Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this (8:15);
- Ezekiel is brought into the inner court of the temple where he sees twenty-five men bowing down and worshipping the sun. Having their backs to the temple shows their complete contempt for God.
What are we in our time to glean from this passage? Firstly, it is clear that God disapproved of the abominations that were taking place in the temple, a place where he should have been worshipped and glorified. The same is true today because there are some churches that no longer adhere to the authority of the Bible and instead adopt worldly wisdom and standards. Secondly, despite the abominations getting worse and worse, God stayed his hand and did not immediately punish the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness. God is enormously patient with mankind, but a day of judgement will come, at a time set by God. Thirdly, the elders thought God could not see them and their wickedness. God is still there, in control, despite what our own thoughts might tell us. Fourthly, we should not despair when we see sinfulness and idolatry increasing. It is important to remember: The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20-21).
Pray: Father, in today’s passage we see evidence of your patience with mankind, despite our deserving of immediate punishment. We pray for any churches where you are no longer worshipped and glorified – may your Holy Spirit stir people’s hearts, bringing about revival around the world. Amen
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