Friday, 14 November 2014

(319) November 15: Ezekiel 7-9 & Hebrews 10:24-39

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read note what has so provoked God.

To ponder:
God’s word now comes to Ezekiel, declaring the end of the land under God’s anger, and his judgement without pity at the practices conducted there – again, so that the people will know he is the LORD (7v1-9). Here God pictures a rod, which would be used for punishing children, budding with arrogance and violence. This may refer to how these sins have led to the punishment, or how God will use the arrogance and violence of Babylon against the people. God’s promise is that the time for punishment has arrived, no people or wealth will be left, and those who have sold land will not be able to recover it as they will die. And so even though the people may prepare for battle, it is pointless as they will not be able to fight (7v10-14).
            Once more we see the division between famine and plague in Jerusalem, and the sword outside it. What is added is a description of those escaping to the mountains moaning in terror at what their sins have brought on them, and acting as those who are in mourning. Their silver and gold is described as unclean because they used it to make idols and images. But they are told that on the day of God’s wrath they will discard it as useless as it won’t be able to save them. Rather, the foreigners attacking them will take it as loot and defile it, and most serious of all, they will desecrate God’s treasured place – the temple (7v15-22).
            What we are seeing, is just how utterly God’s judgement destroys all the false securities of this world. Only his word, and our relationship with him that is based on it, endures forever.
            At this point Ezekiel is told to prepare chains as a symbol of the people being taken into exile. Because of the violence in the land and in Jerusalem, God says he will bring the most wicked nation against Israel, taking their houses, humbling the mighty, and desecrating their sanctuaries – presumably their places of false worship. The people are told that they will seek peace but will receive only calamity and rumour – perhaps rumours of more to come that will leave them constantly unsettled. They will be without God’s word or wisdom by prophet, priest or elder, and so without guidance or hope. So the king, prince and people will despair and tremble, as God judges them by their conduct. And only then, on experiencing God’s wrath at their sin in fulfilment of his word, will they know he is the LORD (7v23-27). We should note here, that a lack of those who teach God’s word in the church today implies it is a church under judgement.
            Chapter 8 begins a new section. By noting the date of what follows, Ezekiel stresses its importance. Whilst sitting in his house with some elders God’s hand came upon him and he was transported in a vision to the temple in Jerusalem. He describes a figure matching the one in the earlier chariot. This is God himself, which is why he is careful to say the figure had an “appearance” of a man and “what looked like” a hand, for God is spirit and only embodied in the Lord Jesus. Ezekiel records God lifting him by the hair and the Spirit lifting him between heaven and earth – probably meaning that he was up high in the air. He is taken to the temple gate the king would pass through, where God tells him to look north and see an idol that had been set up (8v1-4). It is “of jealousy” presumably because it provoked righteous jealousy in God for inhabiting his temple and drawing the affections of his people. There is a sense in which all idols can therefore take this title. God asks Ezekiel if he sees the detestable things being done here, no doubt in worship of this idol, and explains it is this that will send him far from his sanctuary. He then gets Ezekiel to dig through a wall where he sees what seems to be a secret doorway to a room. There 70 elders and a prominent leader offer incense in front of idols and carvings of detestable animals, which may have been the snake-gods of surrounding pagan cultures (8v5-11). God notes that these people each have their own idol and assume the LORD doesn’t see and has forsaken the land. Returning Ezekiel to the north gate, he then points out women engaging in the cultic practice of mourning Tammuz, a Sumerian god. The note with each scene that Ezekiel will see even more detestable things, highlights just how bad Israel’s idolatry was. And so, Ezekiel is finally brought to the inner court where he sees 25 men with their backs to the temple, the place of God’s presence, bowing to the east in worship of the sun (8v12-16).
            Even in the church of today, the gods of other religions are worshipped and prayed to in so called multi-faith services. Although it is considered intolerance in our pluralistic culture, we should note that this too is detestable to the Lord.
            In the light of all this, God asks Ezekiel if it is trivial that Judah are doing these things, adding that they also fill the land with violence. It is for these reasons, he says he will act in anger towards then, not showing pity even if they shout in his ears (8v17-18). The meaning of “putting a branch to their nose” is uncertain. Perhaps it refers to them bringing harm upon themselves. Whatever the case, we are being shown that the terrible destruction of Jerusalem that we have read of, was a just punishment for the most appalling idolatry and evil.
            At this point God calls 6 guards to come from the north with deadly weapons. With them is a man in linen, the priestly garment. God’s glory then moves from above the cherubim (as in chapter 1) to the threshold of the temple. The sense is that he is about to leave as he tells the man to put a mark on the foreheads of all in the city who grieve over the idolatry, calling the guards to kill everyone else without pity, starting with the elders in the sanctuary, and fill the temple courts with the slain, so defiling it. This idea applies to the final judgement too (see Rev 7v3, 1 Pet 4v17). In response Ezekiel cries out, asking God whether he is going to kill all those remaining from the once significant Israel, and the LORD replies that he will not show pity because of how great the people’s sin is (9v1-11).

Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God that he is a jealous God, loving his people that intently. Pray that the church in the west would be clear in its rejection of other religions and gods.

Thinking further:
None today.

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