No God, No Glory

Posted: June 30, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 8-10, “No God, No Glory”

No guts, no glory.  Such is the sports phrase.  Athletes have to risk much in order to win the prize, and they’ll miss out if they don’t.  Of course, that’s when we think of “glory” in mere human terms.  True glory has nothing to do with earthly fame, and everything to do with heavenly truth.  With that in mind, glory belongs only to God.  So what does it mean if there’s no glory?  That there’s no God.  No God, no glory. 

Ezekiel would learn this lesson on behalf of the Jewish nation.  They had long acted as though they were a nation without God – now they would find out what that entailed.  When they abandoned God, God would abandon them.  His glory would depart, and they would be left alone.  Why?  All because of their idolatry.

Ezekiel 8 – Idolatry is exposed

  • A new vision (1-4)

1 And it came to pass 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, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell upon me there. 2 Then I looked, and there was a likeness, like the appearance of fire—from the appearance of His waist and downward, fire; and from His waist and upward, like the appearance of brightness, like the color of amber. 3 He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my hair; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy. 4 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain.

  • According to some scholars, the date was September 17, 592BC.  When compared to chapter 1, it was precisely 14 months after the 1st vision.  The time of captivity is continuing – two of the three waves of Babylonian conquest have occurred, and the final conquest was just over 6 years away.  Ezekiel is far from Jerusalem, deep in the heart of the Babylonian empire, currently acting out the various signs of God’s soon judgment upon His people, nearing the end of his time lying on the right side of his body (which symbolized God’s judgment upon the southern nation of Judah).  Already his unusual actions and pronouncements have gotten the attention of the local Jewish elders in Babylon, and they’ve come to spend time with Ezekiel, presumably to hear the word of God for their people.  They likely expected some things out of the ordinary – but they got far more than what they bargained for!
  • It was while they met together that God gave Ezekiel a new vision – one that only he could see.  The elders would bear witness to the bodily reaction of Ezekiel as he saw these things, but they did not see them for themselves.  Who knows what was going through their own minds as they watched?  Was Ezekiel obviously in a trance – did he speak out loud or roll around?  We do not know the details apart from what Ezekiel describes, but surely the elders were just as surprised as the prophet himself as they watched him go through it.
  • What Ezekiel saw was amazing, and truly beyond his ability to describe.  As in his original vision from chapter 1, the prophet relies on words like “likeness – appearance – the form of…”  What he wrote were the best words he had to use for what he saw, but all words fell short.  The glory of God is so incredible – so amazing – He is beyond description.  Throw all of the superlatives into a giant mixing bowl together (wonderful, awesome, magnificent, etc.), and we still would fall short of describing the greatness of God no matter what we said.  He is truly indescribable!
    • This is one reason that idolatry is such a terrible sin.  We take the indescribable God and we remake Him into our own description.  We try to whittle God down to a manageable size – one that fits our imaginations or favorite character traits.  Our God cannot be downsized!  He is bigger than our hearts and intellects – He is more moral than our morals, more perfect than our idea of perfection.  God simply is.  To describe Him as any less is to make Him something less, and that is idolatry.
    • Let your God be big!  Allow Him to be huge, as He is!  Let your mind be blown away with the awesomeness that is our Lord and Creator.  The God whom we worship is the God who holds the universe in the palm of His hand.  And yet that same God is the God who knows you intimately, who has loved you since before the foundation of the world, and who has saved you from an eternity of death through the work of His Son Jesus Christ.  The all-amazing huge God saw little old you & me, and loved & chose us as His own.  That makes Him ever more amazing!
  • As for Ezekiel, whatever it was that he saw, the best way he knew to describe it was as a fiery bright Man, who took the prophet by a single lock of hair & that was all that was necessary for the Holy Spirit to spiritually take him away to Jerusalem.  Ezekiel was not physically transported there, but there’s no doubt that was where his mind went & what his eyes saw.  Call it his soul, his consciousness, or whatever – it was a very real experience for the prophet – one that could not be reproduced or faked.
    • Can God give visions?  Yes!  That is one of the specific things Peter affirmed about this age when he spoke to the Jews on the day of Pentecost.  “Young men will see visions…old men shall dream dreams,” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).  Simply because reports of visions are often abused and invented does not mean that God cannot grant them.  The key is to discern between a true vision and that of our own imagination.  How can we tell? (1) A true vision will give glory to God alone, (2) a true vision will not contradict written Scripture.  With that in mind, we’re not to seek visions; we’re to seek God.  Let God grant visions as He sees fit.
  • From Ezekiel’s point-of-view, he may have wished he did not receive the vision, for what he sees is troublesome.  Given a view of Jerusalem and the temple, Ezekiel’s attention is caught by “the image of jealousy…which provokes jealousy.”  IOW, there was some sort of idolatrous image in the door of the temple of God.  This had happened in the past, such as when King Manasseh brought a carved image into the house of the Lord (2 Chr 33:7).  Thankfully he repented (2 Chr 33:12, 15-16) – but this seems to have set a precedent for others to follow.  Apparently a new idolatrous image (perhaps an Asherah pole) was placed in the temple of the Most High God, and it provoked Him to furious jealousy.  This was the place that was supposed to be called after HIS name, in which God’s people worshipped HIM, and yet it was defiled by an idolatrous image.  It was terrible, but as bad as it was, it wasn’t all.  God knew what else was there, and that’s why He gave this vision to Ezekiel.  God needed His prophet to give witness to all of the idolatry among His people in His city.  That way, Ezekiel would understand that the judgment of God was fully justified.
  • Idolatry permeating the temple and city (5-18)

5 Then He said to me, “Son of man, lift your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance. 6 Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.” 7 So He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was a hole in the wall. 8 Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig into the wall”; and when I dug into the wall, there was a door. 9 And He said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.” 10 So I went in and saw, and there—every sort of creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls. 11 And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and in their midst stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan. Each man had a censer in his hand, and a thick cloud of incense went up.

  • To the north, in the gate, was the idolatrous image.  Inside the temple, the idolatry continued.  God had Ezekiel dig a hole into the wall so that the prophet could see what went on behind closed doors.  What he found was a slew of idolatrous images.  Instead of the inside of the temple showing forth the glory of the Creator God, it was covered in graffiti of the false gods of creation.  The images reflected the worst of the worst – not only false gods, but gods in the form of unclean animals.  The very last kinds of gods the Hebrews ought to have worshipped were exactly what they did worship – all in God’s own house!  To top things off, it wasn’t even the vagabonds of the land who did it.  It wasn’t the uneducated, who did it under the pretense of ignorance.  It was the elders of Jerusalem!  The precise identity of “Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan” is debated.  There is a Jaazaniah listed among the remaining leaders of Jerusalem after its final conquest & when Gedaliah is made governor (2 Kings 25:23), but it’s uncertain that the man Ezekiel saw would have lived to see that day, especially after the judgment God pronounces.  Whoever he was, Ezekiel recognized him immediately, and knew that he of all people ought to have remained faithful to the Lord God.  Yet he too raised a censer of incense in worship of the false gods portrayed within the temple.
  • The point?  Although Ezekiel is going to see even more, this is about as bad as things can get for the people who are supposed to be called by God’s name.  Idolatry was literally everywhere within the temple.  The house of God was completely defiled.  The people had given up on God, and given themselves over to nothingness.
    • Keep in mind that is exactly what idolatry is: nothingness.  When people worship false gods, they worship either demons or their own imaginations.  They worship things utterly unworthy of worship because they can do nothing.  God gives us life & breath; not demons.  God makes our heart beat; not ourselves.  Whatever the idol is that we most often choose, it cannot do the things for us that only God can do.  We might love our intellect, our hobbies, our families, our jobs, our sports, or whatever – but none of that stuff grants life.  Certainly none of it grants forgiveness from sin and eternal life.  That is only given by the true God, and He alone is worthy of our worship.  Be careful that you do not give your love to nothingness!
  • Just as bad as the fact that they did these things, was the fact they believed they could get away with them…

12 Then He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.’ ”

  • Did the Lord forsake the land?  Yes & no.  Yes, He had certainly removed His hand of protection from the people, and it certainly would have felt to them as if God had forsaken them.  But no, God never blinded Himself to His people.  He knew exactly what it was they endured during the years of the Babylonian siege.  He knew precisely how they suffered, and that their suffering wasn’t even close to being finished.  Yet these were sufferings the people had brought upon themselves.  The fact that they suffered was proof that God still honored His covenant commitment to them, because their suffering was part of the covenant promise!  They were told what would happen if they fell into sin – they just chose to ignore that part of God’s promise.  Thus they believed God was ignoring them.
  • God never ignores His people!  He may not answer us in the way that we prefer, or even in the way that we expect, but we can be certain that His eye is ever on us.  He is neither blind to us, nor blinded to our sin.  There is nothing that can be hidden from Him, so there’s no point in even trying to do so.  The elders of Jerusalem were engaging in futility, and so is everyone else who tries to keep their sin hidden in the dark away from God.
    • The best way to deal with sin is actually the opposite: disclosure.  Where sin grabs such a slavish hold on people is when we try to keep things secret.  The worse something is, the more afraid we are of its exposure, so we go deeper and deeper, hoping that it will never be brought to light.  Yet that’s precisely what needs to happen.  That’s one reason why James associates confession with healing (Jas 5:15-16).  Confession is cleansing.  It is bringing your dark sins into the light of God, agreeing with Him that sin is sinful.  It’s at that point that we can seek forgiveness, because it’s at that point that we seek God more than our sin.  (And the good news is that God promises forgiveness!  1 Jn 1:9)

13 And He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing.” 14 So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.” 16 So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.

  • Idolatrous sin didn’t happen only within the temple, but outside it as well.  The description of “weeping for Tammuz” is a reference to a worship ritual for the Akkadian god known as Dumuzi.  Like Baal, Dumuzi was a fertility god, who supposedly “died” in the summer, and revived every spring, accompanying the agricultural seasons.  Those who worshipped him would mourn his “death” – and apparently examples of this false worship was found among the Jewish woman at the gate of the temple.
  • It wasn’t only the women – there were men outside the temple doing something similar as they worshipped the sun.  The picture here actually worsens, in that there is some indication that these 25 men are priests (or Levites), and they’ve actually turned their back to the temple in order to engage in their idolatrous sun-worship.  They turned their back on the Living God to worship the stuff of creation. 
  • Idolatry simply permeated the land – it was found in every corner of Jerusalem.  It’s no wonder the Lord was so upset!

17 And He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore I also will act in fury. 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.”

  • Truly God was “provoked” to anger!  Scholars are uncertain regarding the meaning of “putting the branch to the nose,” but it seems to be another idolatrous practice, which added further insult to Almighty God.  It’s as if the Jews could not find any more ways to engage in idolatry if they tried.  They had insulted their covenant God in every way possible.
  • Thus God would respond.  He would give them the full judgment that they were due.  At this point, even if they repented, God would not hear them.  They earned their judgment, and they would receive it.
    • Question: is there ever a point where it’s too late to receive God’s forgiveness?  Yes.  We don’t like to believe there is, but absolutely the answer is “yes.”  When?  The moment we draw our last breath.  The moment our heart stops is the moment we’ve lost all opportunity to receive the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ.  God is incredibly patient with us all our lives, but His patience does have an end, and it can be reached.
    • For some, they don’t even wait that long.  They harden their heart more and more until they would not cry out for forgiveness even if God was right under their noses.  Such was the case with Pharaoh of Egypt.  He continually hardened his heart against God until finally God gave him over to it, and then God Himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  So yes, there is a point of no return.  The key is not to reach it!  Don’t harden your heart against God!  Respond to Him while you hear His voice.  As we’ve seen before, the more we say “no” to God, the easier it becomes – so much so to the point you don’t realize you’re doing it any longer.  Thankfully, the reverse is true as well.  The more we say “yes” to God, the easier that becomes as well.

Ezekiel 9 – Idolators are judged

  • God’s command to judge and to seal (1-7)

1 Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, “Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.” 2 And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar.

  • To see “six men” (likely angels) with battle-axes in their hands show up at the command of God is an intimidating sight!  The time had come for God’s judgment of Jerusalem, and these were the beings He called upon to execute it.  A single angel was responsible for killing 185,000 Assyrians outside of Jerusalem in one night (2 Kings 25:23) – now six would have their attention turned to inside the city itself.  The people had reached the end of God’s patience with them, and now it was time to pay the piper.
  • One man among them was unique, being “clothed with linen, and [having] a writer’s inkhorn at his side.”  This particular angel will be described further by Ezekiel in a moment, but for now he’s noted as one ready to make markings.

3 Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; 4 and the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” 5 To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. 6 Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple. 7 Then He said to them, “Defile the temple, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” And they went out and killed in the city.

  • Here’s the reason for the markings: some among the inhabitants of Jerusalem were to be set apart.  Although idolatry ran rampant throughout the city, not everyone had given themselves over to it.  Some of them mourned the way their neighbors abandoned the true God, and they “sighed & cried” over the “abominations” that had been done there.  God knew who these people were, and He wanted them specially marked & set aside.  Why?  Because they were to be spared from the judgment.  This was God’s own seal upon them, preserving them from the wrath that would befall the rest of the city.  The same idea was seen on the night of the Egyptian Passover, as the blood of the sacrificial lamb marked homes set aside from God’s judgment.  It’s seen again in the book of Revelation, as 140,000 of the nation of Israel are sealed by the angels of God, specifically so that they would not be harmed by the judgments that fall upon the earth (Rev 7).  God knows His own – He knows who belongs to Him, and He keeps them from His wrath.
    • Such is the case with us as well!  We are sealed with a far better seal: the Holy Spirit Himself! (Eph 1:13, 4:30)  The Spirit of God indwells us at the very moment of our salvation, marking us as belonging to God, sealing us for His eternal inheritance.  And likewise, we are forever saved from His wrath.  That’s not to say we escape all troubles in this world.  Not even the sealed Jews were able to escape the reality of the Babylonian conquest.  They had front-row seats to the whole thing, though they lived through it.  Likewise, we still experience the troubles of this world, but we can be certain that we will never face the wrath of God.  Our eternity is sure in Christ, and the guarantee of it is that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, marked as His own.
    • Of course, that begs the question if we are certain that we are sealed.  Do you know with 100% certainty that you belong to Jesus, having been marked by the Holy Spirit?  If you aren’t, you can be…
  • As for the rest of the people, they would face certain destruction.  No one was exempt from judgment.  Age didn’t save them, nor gender, nor social status, nor religious role.  Those who had given themselves over to idolatry, who did not weep over the idolatry in their midst – those who did not seek the One True God in worship would experience the judgment and wrath of the One True God in their destruction.
    • In the same way, all are equal at the Judgment Seat of God.  When people stand before His great white throne, it won’t matter what social status they had, what gender they are, what political positions they held, what wealth they possessed, or anything of the like.  All that will matter will be whether or not their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Do they belong to Jesus, worshipping the One True God?  Until that question is answered affirmatively, nothing else matters.
  • BTW – why does God command the temple to be defiled? (9:7)  It would be defiled by the dead bodies lying everywhere, and the killing would start at the temple & go out from there.  Yet the temple was already defiled, having been desecrated by the myriad of idolatrous images and rituals taking place there.  For God to further defile the temple was simply for Him to confirm what had already been done.  His final command would ensure that the choice made by the Jews would be firm unto utter destruction.
    • Interestingly, the death that took place on the temple grounds is specifically mentioned in 2 Chronicles 36:17-19.  It was defiled, exactly according to the command of God & prophecy of Ezekiel.  God’s word is always true.

 

  • God’s judgment questioned & defended (8-11)

8 So it was, that while they were killing them, I was left alone; and I fell on my face and cried out, and said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?”

  • Ezekiel’s dismay is understandable & should not be thought of as rebellion.  Witnessing this kind of carnage in his vision, Ezekiel throws himself upon the mercies of God, asking for lives to be spared.  Like Abraham interceding for Sodom, knowing that the Judge of all the earth will do what is right (Gen 18:25), so did Ezekiel ask on behalf of Jerusalem.  The Jews certainly deserved their judgment, but what about “the remnant of Israel” – would they be lost?
  • Ezekiel’s only mistake here is believing the remnant to be bigger than what it was.  In his mind, it seemed that all of Jerusalem consisted of the remnant.  After all, the northern kingdom had already fallen years ago to the Assyrians.  The Jews had seen city after city fall to the Babylonians, and they had already endured two conquests.  In Ezekiel’s mind, those who survived were the remnant.  In that, he was sadly mistaken.  The true remnant was even a small minority of those who remained.  To Abraham, God promised to spare the entire city of Sodom if only 10 righteous people could be found (Gen 18:32).  In the end, there weren’t even that many, and even the 1 righteous man found there (Lot) had be dragged out of the city by God’s angels.  God does save His people, but there are often far fewer true believers than we might imagine.  Churches of all denominations and non-denominations are filled with false-converts, and we can never take the issue of salvation for granted.

9 Then He said to me, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of bloodshed, and the city full of perversity; for they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see!’ 10 And as for Me also, My eye will neither spare, nor will I have pity, but I will recompense their deeds on their own head.” 11 Just then, the man clothed with linen, who had the inkhorn at his side, reported back and said, “I have done as You commanded me.”

  • God affirms the justice of His decision.  He already demonstrated how the true remnant would be saved – they were marked especially by the angel with inkhorn.  As for the rest, they had fully earned their judgment.  They claimed God had abandoned them, when in reality it was they who abandoned God.  Thus God would treat them as He would treat a nation abandoned by God: He would pour out His wrath upon them.
  • As the inkhorn-angel returns to God, he reports on the completed mission, and that’s when Ezekiel sees one final disturbing thing…

Ezekiel 10 – Idolatry’s results

  • The glory of God revealed (1-5)

1 And I looked, and there in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne. 2 Then He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, “Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in as I watched. 3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court. 4 Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory. 5 And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.

  • Things start out well enough.  Ezekiel once more sees the throne of God, as he saw in his earlier vision in Chapter 1.  A sapphire throne-like object appeared, just as it did earlier, and it seemed that from this came the voice of God to the cherubim.  These cherubim were commanded to get “coals of fire,” presumably from the bronze altar, though the cherubim themselves were fiery.  These coals were to be spread “over the city,” being another picture of God’s judgment falling upon Jerusalem. 
  • But before that happened, a point needed to be made, which happened as the glory of God filled the temple.  The word for “glory” comes from a root word referring to weight or heaviness, and this is often associated with a cloud, such as is seen filling the temple.  The cloud of God’s glory fell upon Mt. Sinai – the cloud of God’s glory initially filled the Tabernacle – the cloud of God’s glory initially filled the temple when first built by Solomon.  Here in Ezekiel’s vision, it fills it again.  The temple inside and court outside are filled with the weighty presence of God, visually overwhelming everything else.  Audibly, things were overwhelming as well with the sound of the cherubim wings being “like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.
  • The whole idea is that God is there.  Being omnipresent, there is no physical location from which God is absent.  At the same time, there are certain places and times when God makes His presence known.  This was one.  The overwhelming presence of God was in the temple, exactly the way God had desired it to be.  It wouldn’t last long, as Ezekiel will soon find out.
    • Where is the temple of God today?  The Church.  WE are the temple of the Holy Spirit, both corporately and individually (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19).  The Holy Spirit indwells us, and we too can be filled to overflowing with His power & presence.  He is ever available to us, and ever with us.  How do we experience more of His presence?  Simply ask!  Luke 11:13, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"  So many Christians wonder why they feel powerless to live a life pleasing to God.  They wonder why they fail so often, tripping up over persistent sin & temptation.  One reason is that we are not living in the fullness of the power of God.  Because we are born-again Christians, the Spirit IS with us, but that does not mean He cannot be with us any MORE than He is.  Surely He can!  The record of the early church shows them being repeatedly filled with the Holy Spirit, and we can experience the same thing.  We too can be overwhelmed by the power and glory of God.  All we need do is ask.
  • Because there was so much going on, Ezekiel’s attention bounces around a bit, and he looks beyond the glory of God in the temple, again to the cherubim…
  • The cherubim used by God (6-17)

6 Then it happened, when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” that he went in and stood beside the wheels. 7 And the cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, and took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed with linen, who took it and went out. 8 The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings. 9 And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone. 10 As for their appearance, all four looked alike—as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 11 When they went, they went toward any of their four directions; they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing. They did not turn aside when they went. 12 And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around. 13 As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing, “Wheel.” 14 Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. 15 And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar. 16 When the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also did not turn from beside them. 17 When the cherubim stood still, the wheels stood still, and when one was lifted up, the other lifted itself up, for the spirit of the living creature was in them.

  • We’ve seen this description before, as Ezekiel himself notes regarding the earlier vision he had received “by the River Chebar” in Chapter 1.  The whole picture seems to be one of a kind of heavenly chariot – a platform upon which God’s throne rest which is driven by these cherubim & their wheels within wheels.  As we saw earlier, these things simply boggle the mind, and were beyond Ezekiel’s ability to totally describe.  No doubt every picture is wrong to some extent, because not even Ezekiel could describe it completely.
    • BTW – this tells us something glorious about heaven: it’s going to be better than we can imagine!  Human language can be beautiful, but it is inherently limited.  How can the infinite be described by 26 letters?  For all that is written in the Scripture about the glory of God & the eternity which we will spend with Him, know that it only touches the surface.  We need an eternity with God, because that’s how long it will take us to know Him!
  • There is one prominent difference with the description of chapter 1: the four-fold faces of the cherubim.  In Ezekiel’s 1st vision, he describes the faces this way: Ezekiel 1:10, "As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle."  The difference between Ch 1 & Ch 10 is the face of an ox vs. the face of a cherub.  Some have suggested that this indicates a scribal error – that some ancient scribe meant to write “ox,” but ended up writing “cherub” and that his error was unfortunately passed along.  Others believe (which seems to be more likely) that the face of a cherub IS the face of an ox.  Either way, these are the exact same creatures as Ezekiel saw earlier – that much is affirmed at the end of the chapter.
  • It is what the cherubim received that is far more important – which is what Ezekiel sees next…
  • The results of idolatry: abandonment (18-19)

18 Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

  • Don’t miss this.  What was the result of Israel’s abandonment of God?  God abandoned them.  His glory, which once filled the temple to overflowing, departed.  God’s glory was no longer among His people.  When God leaves, what happens?  Life leaves – blessing leaves – everything is over and gone.  When God is not present, we’re left with nothing.  Centuries earlier in Israel’s history, the ark of God was captured by the Philistines and the ancient judge Eli died when hearing the news of that & his sons’ deaths.  His pregnant daughter-in-law (now a widow) immediately went into tumultuous labor & gave birth to a son, naming him “Ichabod,” because the glory had departed from Israel (1 Sam 4:21).  When God’s glory leaves, it’s Ichabod.
  • God’s glory does not leave us as individual born-again believers (praise God!), but it can leave nations, cultures, and churches.  When people forsake God, why should the glory of God remain?  Why should the blessing of God remain upon people who have abandoned Him?  Whole denominations have experienced Ichabod as they have left their Biblical roots, and no church movement is exempt from the danger.  Those who abandon God’s truth abandon God, and are thus left Ichabod.  They may have buildings and wealth, but they have none of God’s Spirit and glory.
  • Again, we as individuals cannot experience the total departure of God, but we can experience some level of this.  We can miss out on fellowship.  We can miss out on intimacy with God.  He will sometimes give us over to the consequences of our sin, so that we will wake up & realize that we have walked away from Him.  Thankfully, our return only takes one single step: repentance.
  • Confirmation of the vision (20-22)

20 This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim. 21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. 22 And the likeness of their faces was the same as the faces which I had seen by the River Chebar, their appearance and their persons. They each went straight forward.

  • In case there were doubts, Ezekiel affirms that this was the same thing he saw earlier.  At that time, there was no question he had seen the glory of God.  Here too, he witnessed God’s glory…only he saw it leaving.  For all the tragedies that befell the Jews, this was by far the worst – and they didn’t even realize it as it happened.

Conclusion:
Ichabod.  Surely no word can be worse for the people of God.  To have experienced the glory and presence of God, only to have it taken away…the thought ought to make us shudder!  Thankfully, we live under a different covenant than the Jews of ancient Jerusalem, one that is based solely upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet our own culture is not exempt from similar experiences.  Our nation once prided itself on its Christian foundation, but has given itself over to the gods of secularism and hedonism.  Evangelicalism as a whole has slowly but steadily moved away from Biblical truth to accommodate the preferences of the times.  Churches that once boldly preached the gospel have now turned themselves into entertainment complexes.  Surely Ichabod is not far away!  God is under no obligation to remain in church that has already left Him.  He will give people over to their own devices, no question.

What are we to do?  Raise the alarm!  Ezekiel wasn’t given this vision to be terrified – he was given it to pass along.  The elders who were with him needed to know the declared judgment of God, in order that they would not engage in the same thing.  People who were caught in sin needed to stop.  People who were tempted by idolatry needed to sober up.  And Ezekiel was the one to tell them.  Likewise we are the ones to tell our nation & our churches of the truth of God.  We are to tell non-believers of the coming judgment, and we are to call professing believers back to humility and repentance.  If we have seen the vision, how can we remain silent?

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