Vision of God’s Glory Departing from the Temple
10 Then I looked, and behold, in the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim something like a sapphire stone, in appearance resembling a throne, appeared above them. 2 And He spoke to the man clothed in linen and said, “Enter between the whirling wheels under the cherubim and fill your hands with coals of fire from between the cherubim and scatter them over the city.” And he entered in my sight.
3 Now the cherubim were standing on the right side of the temple when the man entered, and the cloud filled the inner court. 4 Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord. 5 Moreover, the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks.
6 It came about when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, “Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim,” he entered and stood beside a wheel. 7 Then the cherub stretched out his hand from between the cherubim to the fire which was between the cherubim, took some and put it into the hands of the one clothed in linen, who took it and went out. 8 The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings.
9 Then I looked, and behold, four wheels beside the cherubim, one wheel beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like the gleam of a Tarshish stone. 10 As for their appearance, all four of them had the same likeness, as if one wheel were within another wheel. 11 When they moved, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went; but they followed in the direction which they faced, without turning as they went. 12 Their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all around, the wheels belonging to all four of them. 13 The wheels were called in my hearing, the whirling wheels. 14 And each one had four faces. The first face was the face of a cherub, the second face was the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
15 Then the cherubim rose up. They are the living beings that I saw by the river Chebar. 16 Now when the cherubim moved, the wheels would go beside them; also when the cherubim lifted up their wings to rise from the ground, the wheels would not turn from beside them. 17 When the cherubim stood still, the wheels would stand still; and when they rose up, the wheels would rise with them, for the spirit of the living beings was in them.
18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. 19 When the cherubim departed, they lifted their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight with the wheels beside them; and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.
20 These are the living beings that I saw beneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; so I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath their wings was the form of human hands. 22 As for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar. Each one went straight ahead.
Evil Rulers to Be Judged
11 Moreover, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the east gate of the Lord’s house which faced eastward. And behold, there were twenty-five men at the entrance of the gate, and among them I saw Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people. 2 He said to me, “Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and give evil advice in this city, 3 who say, ‘The time is not near to build houses. This city is the pot and we are the flesh.’ 4 Therefore, prophesy against them, son of man, prophesy!”
5 Then the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and He said to me, “Say, ‘Thus says the Lord, “So you think, house of Israel, for I know your thoughts. 6 You have multiplied your slain in this city, filling its streets with them.” 7 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Your slain whom you have laid in the midst of the city are the flesh and this city is the pot; but I will bring you out of it. 8 You have feared a sword; so I will bring a sword upon you,” the Lord God declares. 9 “And I will bring you out of the midst of the city and deliver you into the hands of strangers and execute judgments against you. 10 You will fall by the sword. I will judge you to the border of Israel; so you shall know that I am the Lord. 11 This city will not be a pot for you, nor will you be flesh in the midst of it, but I will judge you to the border of Israel. 12 Thus you will know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor have you executed My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you.”’”
13 Now it came about as I prophesied, that Pelatiah son of Benaiah died. Then I fell on my face and cried out with a loud voice and said, “Alas, Lord God! Will You bring the remnant of Israel to a complete end?”
Promise of Restoration
14 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 15 “Son of man, your brothers, your relatives, your fellow exiles and the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Go far from the Lord; this land has been given us as a possession.’ 16 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Though I had removed them far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them a little while in the countries where they had gone.”’ 17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ 18 When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. 19 And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads,” declares the Lord God.
22 Then the cherubim lifted up their wings with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them. 23 The glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city. 24 And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God to the exiles in Chaldea. So the vision that I had seen left me. 25 Then I told the exiles all the things that the Lord had shown me.
The exiles, at least those who then or who would eventually have a humble and submissive mind toward God and who trusted in him as Ezekiel did, who thought themselves castaways were, in fact, at the very center of God’s will for the future of the world and the church. The leaders in Jerusalem, then congratulating themselves on their good fortune, were in reality the castaways. [Stuart, 105] For their sins against God and his covenant their days were numbered and catastrophe was, unbeknownst to them, hastening on its way to Jerusalem. They did not reckon with their sin or with the judgment of God. Far better, in fact, to have God one’s friend and sanctuary in a foreign land than to have him your enemy in your own capital city!
All of this is suggested by the arresting vision of the departure of Yahweh’s glory from the temple. The presence of God is a sign of his favor; his absence the sign of his rejection. Israel and the population of Jerusalem were counting on the fact that Yahweh would not desert his sanctuary or his city. He would defend them at all costs. The fact that Babylon had entered the Promised Land and carted off the cream of her population – not once but twice – did not register with them. They were counting on their being part of the people of God, on their living in the Land, on their possession of the sanctuary of Yahweh, and were utterly unaware that, in his judgment of their faithlessness and disobedience, he had left sanctuary, city, and land!
It is certainly an interesting and important fact that most of the Bible’s proclamation of the impending judgment of the Lord is directed to the church. You find this in the OT prophets; you find it prominently in the preaching of Jesus himself. His parables of judgment, preached at the most solemn moment during his ministry, the last few days before his crucifixion, deal specifically with the condemnation and damnation of those in the church who imagine themselves, like Ezekiel’s contemporaries in Jerusalem, safe and secure because they belong to the right people, go to the right temple, and invoke the name of the right God. No matter that they have no living loyalty to the Lord; no matter that their lives are the public demonstration of their contempt for God’s laws.
A Christian seeking out an astrologer? An Israelite counting on Yahweh’s presence in the Temple but also bowing down to the animal deities of the ANE? How does that happen? It happens all the time. As utterly preposterous as it may seem to us, as utterly inconsistent as one would think it must have seemed to those who were doing these contradictory things, such is the power of sin and the influence of the Devil. He can make a man or woman who knows the Word of God and has heard the gospel bow down to birds and trees and beetles and think he is doing the right thing.
We may not bow down to beetles, surely, but we break God’s law and we live in open defiance of his will and somehow still expect that his presence in the Temple will be our protection. These are precisely the things that were happening in Jerusalem and, in similar ways, have happened in the history of the church more times than we can bear to recollect and they are happening everywhere today. Are they happening here? Christ is not the Lord, not in the hearts of these people; not in their lives. He may be in their words but not in their hearts and not in their lives. They do not love the Lord and they are not serving him. Their so-called faith leaves an almost imperceptible mark upon their lives. They live, in fact, according to the standards of the nations around them, not according to the covenant and not for the love of the God and not out of gratitude for his great salvation. They mix the Christian faith with the views of their culture and they ignore God’s law in order to live as they please.
Anyone else squirming a little in discomfort? Happy Thursday!
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ezekiel 12-13