Without wishing to sound sensational, a large city-based community had lost their homes and jobs and marshalled to another country nearly 1,500 km away to remain there for almost an entire generation. The ordeal left them hopeful that a return to their homeland was imminent, but in fact their leader’s message corrected this false notion and were made to understand that a much longer period was in sight. The life they once knew would be shelved for the time being.
In an era where temple worship and occupation on a tract of land specifically given to Israel were integral components to their existence and covenant agreement came to mean far more to them than we realize. For one thing, God’s presence in the temple assured them of His continued loyalty and the gift of the land was an expression of His favor. The prophet Ezekiel who was numbered among the captives taken from Jerusalem reported not only the Babylonian occupation of Jerusalem but gave a series of visions, one of which depicted the departure of God from the temple to the Mount of Olives. Things appeared to go from bad to worse for this tiny community of God’s people now exiled from their land. It seems that the tension between their captivity in Babylon to the restoration of their former estate would serve to remind them about certain realities regarding themselves and God.
A Full-Orbed Review of Yourself
The reason for the captivity was clearly set before them. You are not long into the book of Ezekiel when you read about the reason for their deportation. “As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy …. Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. (Eze. 16:48 & 51). The term for sister refers to the close proximity of heathen societies to Jerusalem who were less corrupt than God’s own people at the time! For a moment just think about the condition of Christianity in our own country, the fact that Christians possess greater revelation in our era than previous ones makes us much more liable and therefore more at fault than those who came before us. In Jesus day, He asseverates greater condemnation on cities of His day such as Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethasaida than that of ancient sites like that of Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Gomorra who had they experienced similar miracles and teaching would have repented. I ask if this is not a compelling enough reason to immunize ourselves from sickening God with our hypocrisy! To pretend to know Him, yet not really belong to Him parrots the foolish and self-deceived Pharisees of Jesus day. Be sure that an attitude of self-sufficiency and pride runs opposite to saving faith and is the death-kneel to a genuine spiritual life in Christ. We should steer clear of any independence from God, and be wary over possible loss of real introspection since it can lead to anonymity. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17) In this verse a contrast between a “self-made individual” and a person totally in need of God helps us to peer inwardly and see ourselves. If we insist on seeing and doing things our way and not God’s we willingly choose ignorance over divine knowledge and are at risk of divine wrath.
Object of God’s Wrath
Insofar as the metaphor found in Revelation ch. 3 vv.16 where God desires commitment from us, “would that you were either cold or hot”, there is no other option. If not, the consequence is plain enough: expulsion from His presence. Hypocrisy is nauseating to Him, “I will spit you out of my mouth.” In similar O.T. language 3 X’s the term vomit in Lev. 18:22, 25, 28, all referring to the idea to expel the inhabitants from the land should they pollute it with their sins. You get the picture that a good deal of double dealings stem from those who profess to be His children.
It seems reasonable to say that had God left His people to themselves in exile, that it would have been perfectly justified. Yet, He delivers them. He is merciful to His people and loyal to His promises. You see that in an earlier arrangement with Abraham, He had vowed to maintain each detail of His covenant, the dimensions of which involved land, future posterity, and a blessing to nations. You can see then how, if, any of these components were in doubt, how it would leave Israel in despair. However, the people are reassured that they will be returned to the land and that the temple and Jerusalem will be rebuilt and once again Yahweh’s reputation would be restored before the nations of the world.
The Glory of the Lord
We should take note that 61 times the statement is made that “they would know me.” Ezekiel declares a series of punitive acts against nations who had mocked a crestfallen Israel who in previous dealings had sought her end. But God triumphs again, His judgments (the sword of Yahweh) are levied against the surrounding nations who capitulate, Israel’s land is restored to her, and the Glory of God takes center stage.
What is the future hope for mankind?
In truth, the course set by God for Himself and humanity offers a sound basis of hope for all of us. The very last line recorded by the prophet is short “The Lord is there”. (Ez 48:35) which is much like dotting God’s signature all over the course of history, its trajectory culminates in the creation of a new heaven and earth and a new exilic people — metaphorically speaking, those who find themselves in exile due to being estranged from God on account of sin — who now have been restored and admitted to a land where no death or sin exists. A lasting image in Ezekiel chapter one is the vision of a throne-like-structure that symbolized God’s Glory which appeared to the prophet. Here God gives an apt demonstration of His Glory of which reoccurs throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament where Divine Glory shined fully in the Lord Jesus Christ: He was the incarnation of God’s Glory before all of humanity! Now it should be evident from Ezekiel’s reaction, that when he witnessed Divine Glory “I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking”, or when John testified of His Glory in heaven in Revelation 1:17 he “fell at his feet” what our reaction should be.
I trust that you have seen something of the Glory of God from Ezekiel and that you might consider what it should mean for your life and that you will kneel in confession and adoration before His Son, Jesus Christ, to seek forgiveness for your sins and be given life eternal so that one day you might join the throng of worshippers in heaven to give God the Glory, forever and ever. Amen!