Monday, November 25, 2019

Ezekiel 8-11: The Departure of God

"Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim" (Ezekiel 10:18).

Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jerusalem at the beginning of his reign and took select young people back to Babylon to be trained at his court. Among them was Daniel. A few years later, when Jerusalem rebelled, Nebuchadnezzar took many of the nobility of the city to Babylon and resettled them in a comfortable dwelling along the Chebar canal. Among them was a young priest named Ezekiel.

Five years later, God appeared to Ezekiel in a vision of the holy chariot of cherubim (Ezekiel 1). God anointed Ezekiel to be a prophet to the people in exile. Ezekiel’s message was that God was going to destroy Jerusalem. The exiles were not to look back to the old ways, to the old city, but were to look up to God and forward to a new day when God would restore Israel.

For several years Ezekiel preached this message, but the exiles did not listen. Jerusalem continued to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar, and finally Nebuchadnezzar destroyed her. This was the destruction Jeremiah witnessed and lamented.

The most powerful vision Ezekiel communicated to the exiles is found in Ezekiel 8–11. In this vision, Ezekiel was transported to Jerusalem. As he entered the north gate of the city, he saw people committing idolatry there. As he entered the north gate of the temple, he saw more idolatry. He saw the leaders and priests worshiping the gods of Egypt.

All of this was taking place right before God’s face in His temple. God told Ezekiel that He had been pushed to the limit. Ezekiel saw God proclaim judgment on the defiled temple and city. Those who were to be saved were marked out, and the rest were destroyed. Meanwhile, the glory cloud of God ascended from the golden cherubim in the Holy of Holies. God moved to the threshold of the temple and called for fire to be poured out on the city.

Then God’s glory cloud mounted the chariot and flew off to the east, stopping once on the Mount of Olives as if to survey the destruction. Finally, God departed the scene, leaving the city desolate and exposed to Nebuchadnezzar, His unwitting servant.

This vision shows us that there is a limit to what God will endure from His people. If they continue to sin, He will remove His presence from them. When God departs, the enemy comes in because the protection has been removed. Jesus said the same thing to the churches in Revelation 2–3. We may be experiencing this kind of judgment in our Western nations today. Pray for revival in your country.