Saturday, 15 November 2014

(320) November 16: Ezekiel 10-12 & Hebrews 11:1-19

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

To discover:­
As you read consider the significance of God’s glory leaving the temple.

To ponder:
From his chariot-throne God now tells the man in linen to take coals from amongst its wheels and scatter them over the city (10v1-2). If the coals represent coals used in burnt offerings, they stress the penalty of sin being paid in judgement. What follows is the presence and glory of God moving from the south of the temple to its threshold, whilst filling the inner court with a sort of radiant cloud (as chapter 1). The note that the wings of the cherubim could be heard at the outer court implies the LORD moving away (10v3-5). Again, God tells the man to take the fire (presumably the coals), and one of the cherubim gives it to him with what looks like a man’s hand (10v6-8). This detail might be to highlight the role of angels in judgement.
            10v9-17 repeat the description of the cherubim and chariot from chapter 1. The substitution of a face of a cherub for the initial face of an ox, may therefore a scribal error in copying. The mention of the cherubim and wheels being covered in eyes probably stresses the fact that God moves and acts according to what he sees throughout the earth. The repeat of the description emphasizes what follows: God’s glory departed from the threshold and sort of alighted upon the chariot-throne. The chariot was then carried by the cherubim to the east gate (10v18-21), ready to continue east to a mountain (see 11v23). The sense is that having dispensed judgement, God is going to leave. One might consider here how Jesus walks amongst his lampstands (churches) in Revelation, but threatens to remove those who don’t repent of their sin (Rev 2v5).
            After this, the Spirit took Ezekiel to the temple gate that faces East, where he sees 25 men including some prominent leaders (11v1-2) who God says are plotting evil and giving wicked advice. 10v3 suggests this advice was to urge the people to fight the Babylonians in contradiction of his word through Jeremiah to surrender. The footnote shows the uncertainties with the verse. The reference to “meat” probably implies the men saw themselves as the best part of the inhabitants of the city, who could be protected from the fires of war as the meat is by the cauldron. Advice that seems sensible is wicked if it contravenes God’s word.
            God calls Ezekiel to prophesy against these people, declaring that the good meat is actually the people these leaders have killed within the city. So for breaching his laws and conforming to the standards of the nations, God is going to drive them out to face the sword at the borders of Israel, where they will then know he is the LORD (11v4-12). As this is all a vision, and Ezekiel is still in Babylon, this prophesying was not heard by the people, but significant in explaining the destruction of Jerusalem to the exiles and later readers.
            As he prophesied, one of the leaders died and Ezekiel again cried out over whether God would destroy all that remained of Israel. God replied that the people of Jerusalem say that Ezekiel’s family and the others with him in exile are far from the LORD, and so by implication, rejected, whereas God has given the land to those in Jerusalem. Yet Ezekiel is to declare that God has actually been a sanctuary to those in these foreign countries – implying that they are not rejected. The LORD adds that it is these people who will be given back the land as he will bring them back to it. So he will not destroy everyone. Indeed, these Israelites will remove all the land’s idolatrous items. By his Spirit, God will then give them a heart that is singly devoted to him, rather than being hardened against him. And they will therefore keep his covenant by obeying his laws, so that they will be God’s people and he will be their God. By contrast, those who are devoted to their images and idols will suffer for what they’ve done (11v13-21). This obviously compacts the return from exile with the work of Christ, looking to the new covenant work of the Spirit (see Heb 8). We should be thankful that in him we are kept from falling into such sin. But the event also reminds us that church leaders may pronounce self-righteously that they are the ones who have God’s favour, perhaps because they are part of establishment Christianity. But this is simply untrue if they are not obeying the Lord. Rather, his favour is with those who seek to do his will.
             With this clarified, God’s glory finally leaves Jerusalem and stops over the mountain in the east, which is on route to Babylon. The Spirit then returned Ezekiel in his vision to the exiles, to whom he told everything. The removal of God’s glory from the city is hugely significant, demonstrating how utterly he had rejected the people. It also reassures the exiles that God’s presence is mobile, and so he is still with them, as long as they look to him. This is the key purpose to the whole vision, which began in 8v1.
            In chapter 12 Ezekiel is told that in exile he is nevertheless living amongst a rebellious people who do not see or hear what God is speaking about. So the prophet is to act it out. In the daytime, whilst seen, he is to bring out his belongings packed for exile, and then in the evening leave through a hole he digs in the wall, covering his face so he cannot see the land. After doing it, the LORD asked him whether the rebellious Israelites asked what he was doing, telling him to explain it is a sign of what will happen to the prince of Jerusalem and the whole house of Israel who are still in Judah. He adds that the prince will be brought to Babylonia but die before seeing it, whilst his staff and troops will be scattered throughout the nations, pursued by the LORD. God says they will then know he is the LORD, and he will spare some so that amongst the nations they will acknowledge him and the detestable things they have done. Next, he told Ezekiel to tremble as he ate and drank as a picture of the anxiety that will accompany meals in Jerusalem when the land is stripped bare. Here he corrects two sayings: Of one that states prophetic visions are not fulfilled, he says his words will be fulfilled – implying his words of judgement will come to pass. And with respect to another that says Ezekiel’s vision is of the distant future, God says it will not be delayed any longer (12v1-28). We should remember that because some of what is to be fulfilled in Christ has not yet occurred, this doesn’t mean it will not. God acts according to his perfect timing (2 Pet 3v1-9).

Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God that he is with those who love him wherever they are and whatever they face. Pray that those suffering hardship would be comforted by this.

Thinking further:
None today.

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