Ezekiel Sees the Terrible Sins
1Six years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, the leaders of Judah were meeting with me in my house. On the fifth day of the sixth month, the Lord God suddenly took control of me, 2 and I saw something in the shape of a human. This figure was like fire from the waist down, and it was bright as polished metal from the waist up. 3It reached out what seemed to be a hand and grabbed my hair. Then in my vision the Lord's Spirit lifted me into the sky and carried me to Jerusalem.
The Spirit took me to the north gate of the temple's inner courtyard, where there was an idol that disgusted the Lord and made him furious. 4 Then I saw the brightness of the glory of the God of Israel, just as I had seen it near the Chebar River.
5God said to me, “Ezekiel, son of man, look north.” And when I did, I saw that repulsive idol by the altar near the gate.
6God then said, “Do you see the terrible sins of the people of Israel? Their sins are making my holy temple unfit as a place to worship me. Yet you will see even worse things than this.”
7Next, I was taken to the entrance of the courtyard, where I saw a hole in the wall.
8God said, “Make this hole bigger.” And when I did, I realized it was a doorway. 9“Go in,” God said, “and see what horrible and evil things the people are doing.”
10Inside, I saw that the walls were covered with pictures of reptiles and disgusting, unclean animals, as well as with idols that the Israelites were worshiping. 11Seventy Israelite leaders were standing there, including Jaazaniah son of Shaphan. Each of these leaders was holding an incense burner, and the smell of incense filled the room.
12God said, “Ezekiel, do you see what horrible things Israel's leaders are doing in secret? They have filled their rooms with idols. And they say I can't see them, because they think I have already deserted Israel. 13But I will show you something even worse than this.”
14He took me to the north gate of the temple, where I saw women mourning for the god Tammuz. 15God asked me, “Can you believe what these women are doing? But now I want to show you something even worse.”
16I was then led into the temple's inner courtyard, where I saw about 25 men standing near the entrance, between the porch and the altar. Their backs were to the Lord's temple, and they were bowing down to the rising sun.
17God said, “Ezekiel, it's bad enough that the people of Judah are doing these disgusting things. But they have also spread violence and injustice everywhere in Israel and have made me very angry. They have disgraced and insulted me in the worst possible way. 18So in my fierce anger, I will punish them without mercy and refuse to help them when they cry out to me.”
The Lord Gives the Command
1After that, I heard the Lord shout, “Come to Jerusalem, you men chosen to destroy the city. And bring your weapons!”
2I saw six men come through the north gate of the temple, each one holding a deadly weapon. A seventh man dressed in a linen robe was with them, and he was carrying things to write with. The men went into the temple and stood by the bronze altar.
3The brightness of God's glory then left its place above the statues of the winged creatures inside the temple and moved to the entrance. The Lord said to the man in the linen robe, 4 “Walk through the city of Jerusalem and mark the forehead of anyone who is truly upset and sad about the terrible things that are being done here.”
5-6He turned to the other six men and said, “Follow him and put to death everyone who doesn't have a mark on their forehead. Show no mercy or pity! Kill men and women, parents and children. Begin here at my temple, but be sure not to harm those who are marked.”
The men immediately killed the leaders who were standing there.
7Then the Lord said, “Pollute the temple by piling the dead bodies in the courtyards. Now get busy!” They left and started killing the people of Jerusalem.
8I was then alone, so I bowed down and cried out to the Lord, “Why are you doing this? Are you so angry with the people of Jerusalem that everyone must die?”
9The Lord answered, “The people of Israel and Judah have done horrible things. Their country is filled with murderers, and Jerusalem itself is filled with violence. They think that I have deserted them, and that I can't see what they are doing. 10And so I will not have pity on them or forgive them. They will be punished for what they have done.”
11Just then, the man in the linen robe returned and said, “I have done what you commanded.”
In a vision, Ezekiel is transported from Babylonia to Jerusalem. He is shown the idolatrous practices occurring in the Temple (ch 8). The various acts that he sees are probably a collapsing of time. If Ezekiel had actually been in the Temple, not all of the idolatrous practices would have been occurring simultaneously. Rather the vision depicts the various things that had occurred previously and provoked the anger of God.
We should notice three things about what the people were doing. One is that they had not completely abandoned the Lord. Rather they had incorporated the worship of the pagan deities alongside of the worship of the Lord. Second, they saw nothing wrong with what they were doing. We too are tempted to trust and believe in other gods along with God. We continue to worship God, yet we also dedicate our time and energy to the gods of money, possessions, status, popularity, work, intellectual attainment. Third, the people felt that there would not be any consequences to what they were doing. They thought that God was no longer seeing or caring about what they were doing. Yet, God is seeing exactly what they are doing!
As part of the covenant relationship, the people were to worship God alone. God had warned them that if they worshipped other gods, they, like the idols, would be set apart for destruction (Deut 7:25-26). By entering into the covenant relationship with God, the people had agreed to those terms. So, the judgment that Ezekiel sees being carried out in the vision (ch. 9) is the covenant consequence of the people’s sins.
Lord, you desire and deserve my complete loyalty and devotion. Forgive me when I place my trust in things other than you. Help me to realize that you are sufficient for all that I need, and help me to worship you alone, with my whole heart. Amen.