Abominations in the Temple
7 And he brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. 8 Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. 9 And he said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” 10 So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. 11 And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. 12 Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’”13 He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”
14 Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these.”
16 And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of theLord, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east. 17 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”
9 Then he said to me, “The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice. For they say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see.’ 10 As for me, my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will bring their deeds upon their heads.”
11 And behold, the man clothed in linen, with the writing case at his waist, brought back word, saying, “I have done as you commanded me.”
So far in Ezekiel we've been constructing a doctrine of divine judgement. We've seen that wrath is one of the features of God's character. He is a God of vengeance just as surely as He is a God of love. We dare not preach one at the expense of the other. We've seen that wrath is a feature of God because it is the result of God's holy justice. When God's wrath comes down, it comes down deservedly. They are getting nothing less than what they deserve. We have been on the receiving end of God's mercy for so long that we've forgotten that mercy is what we don't deserve, and wrath is what we do deserve. To presume upon the grace and mercy of God is a grave mistake. We've seen that God's wrath is delayed in coming because of His loving patience and the fact that He does not want anyone to perish, and is giving every opportunity for repentance. But when we mistake His patience for the non-existence of His wrath we are playing with fire. It is a grave mistake indeed to presume that because God's wrath has not fallen yet, that it will not fall at all. History has proved that to be wrong time and again, and we ignore it at our peril.
Now we come to another subsection of Ezekiel that covers 4 chapters, the first two of which we're dealing with today. Ezekiel is given another vision about the destruction of Jerusalem and how thoroughly idolatry had permeated every facet of Israelite society. From the outer court to the inner court; from the women to the male leaders; from worshiping the gods of Egypt to the gods of animals, plants, and stars; idolatry was absolutely rampant in Israel.
When we remember that our relationship to God is pictured as relationship between a man and his bride, it is easy to see how defiled the relationship was. Just as a man has no intention of sharing his wife with other men (nor women sharing their husband with other women), God has no intention of sharing us with other gods. God is absolutely faithful. When we are unfaithful it is a violation of our covenant with Him and not something He takes lightly.
Indeed, this wrath, so slow in coming, is well deserved. And it is clearly directed at Israel's leaders first.
At first glance, the name Jaazaniah probably didn't mean much when we read this passage. But Legge and Rayburn both point out who this is. In 2 Kings 22, a man names Shaman was secretary of state for King Josiah. The high priest Hilkiah found the Book of the Law and it was Shaman who read it to King Josiah. It was Shaman who was in charge of the godly reforms brought as a result of the finding and reading of the Book of the Law. Shaman had a son named Ahikam, and he was a defender of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 26), but Shaman had another son, and his name was Jaazaniah. One of Shaman's son, an idol worshiper in the house of the Lord. How tragic!
And what a reminder that our salvation is a personal responsibility. It is not inherited from our parents (though there are many spiritual blessings and advantages to having godly parents). We each need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
We see this as well further in our passage, as Ezekiel sees 6 agents of God's wrath, as well as a 7th who is commanded to mark the faithful who will be spared in the judgement. This is, of course, reminiscent of the Passover when the angel of death passed over the homes marked by blood. But now God's wrath is not focused on the Egyptians, it is focused on the Israelites, His own chosen people.
If we were to generalize we might say that Ezekiel will prove to be the prophet of individual responsibility. There is so much of this in the Bible, of course. Joshua and Caleb alone saved out of the corrupt generation in the wilderness. There were 7,000 in Ahab’s day who had not bowed the knee to Baal. The Lord speaks of his little flock, and so on. It is essential to a life of faithfulness that a believer know that his or her faithfulness matters no matter that the church or the world around him or her has gone over to the other side. And the Bible is constantly reminding us of this very fact: the Lord knows those who are his.
The righteous still did (and still do!) suffer loss because of the wicked. Their city still fell. They still starved. They suffered along with the wicked, just like today.
But they were marked. God knows who are His. And He will spare them, if not in this present day judgment, then in the final judgment to come.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ezekiel 10-11