Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesday, January 8th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 15-16, Psalm 6, Matthew 6
Today's scripture focus is Ezekiel 8-9

Ezekiel 8-9

English Standard Version (ESV)

Abominations in the Temple

In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the valley.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, lift up your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and behold, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see still greater abominations.”
And he brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. 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 Lordbetween 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.”

Idolaters Killed

Then he cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying, “Bring near the executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.” And behold, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his weapon for slaughter in his hand, and with them was a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist. And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar.
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist. And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house. Then he said to them, “Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out.” So they went out and struck in the city. And while they were striking, and I was left alone, I fell upon my face, and cried, “Ah, Lord GodWill you destroy all the remnant of Israel in the outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?”
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.

Rayburn adds....
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.

Those with a mark on their head lost their city just as surely as those who had no mark. They too lost their businesses, suffered deaths in their family, and went through the terrible ordeal of siege, famine, plague, and even, at the very end, witnessed, whether or not they participated in, the despair that led some to cannibalism. In the same way, God’s people who obey him sometimes suffer for their obedience and do not realize some worldly blessing as a consequence. Think of the martyrs.

But there is a fact that looms far above and beyond any temporal or worldly consideration. God’s judgment makes a separation between those who obey, and those who do not; those who mourn sin, and those who make peace with it; those who are so committed to God’s way that they will follow it in defiance of the multitudes going the other direction. I guarantee you, you will want to have the mark on your forehead – the mark placed upon those who are faithful to the Lord – when the angels of God unsheathe their swords to execute God’s wrath upon a sinful world. Better to have an eye gouged out, or an arm cut off, or to lose family, fields, and even one’s very life, than to find yourself without the mark on the day of God’s wrath! There are many reasons to be faithful to the Lord and to his covenant, but this is first among them: those who are will escape his wrath, and only those!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ezekiel 10-11
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 17-18, Psalm 7, Matthew 7


Miriam said...

Excellent post. Particularly the first paragraph where it says "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."

That was a huge realization for me early on in this journey, the first year that we did this blog.

Miriam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miriam said...

Sorry, for some reason it posted my first comment twice, so I deleted the 2nd one.