And He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary?…” (8:6).
Ezekiel is taken up in the hand of the Lord and brought to the temple in Jerusalem.
He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located, (8:3).
And there Ezekiel is shown the abominations committed against Holy God, the idolatrous worship happening in God’s Sanctuary, idolatry that provoked God to jealousy.
Jealously: “7065. קָנָא qānāʾ: A verb meaning to be jealous, to be envious, to be zealous…The point of the verb is to express a strong emotion in which the subject is desirous of some aspect or possession of the object…” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
Let’s let God’s choice of words sink in. He was provoked to jealousy because of His passionate desire for His people. Again we need to remind ourselves that God’s emotions are not to be equated with the flawed jealous fervor we see in humanity. He is perfect in His righteousness and holiness, and because He created us for a love relationship, He jealously guards that relationship.
And I found myself wondering what kind of man Ezekiel must have been, that God would share feelings of His Hurt and His jealousy with a man. But then I was reminded that God shares His secret counsel with His servants, the prophets, that they would proclaim His Word. Almost two decades before the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel to Assyria, and some one-hundred-and-fifty years before Babylon conquered Jerusalem, the prophet Amos was given this Word:
Surely the Lord God does nothing
Unless He reveals His secret counsel
To His servants the prophets, (Amos 3:7).
And God reveals His secrets meant to be shared, that His people would obey His Word.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law,” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
But time and time again, His people refused to listen.
And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, (Jeremiah 25:4).
And now, He revealed what should have absolutely broken their hearts and given them great cause for alarm. For rather than the temple being the place of His dwelling, He would be Far From His Sanctuary.
Consider Him Far From His Sanctuary
“Ezekiel had been directed to prophesy stern judgments on Jerusalem (chs. 1-7). Now he was transported to Jerusalem in “visions of God” …and shown the reason for the judgments… idol that provokes to jealousy. Any idol in the temple provoked the Lord to jealousy (Exodus 20:5), but this one seems to be a statue of Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of fertility, which Josiah had removed some 30 years previously (2 Kings 23:6),” NIV Study Bible.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments,” (Exodus 20:4-6).
He [Josiah] brought out the Asherah from the house of the Lord outside Jerusalem to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and ground it to dust, and threw its dust on the graves of the common people, (2 Kings 23:6).
And though God had commanded that His people were to worship Him alone and make no idols for themselves, and though He had sent His prophets time and time again, and had sent godly kings to bring about reform, His people persisted in their abominations in the very place set apart for His Glory.
And Ezekiel, so privileged to be miraculously transported to Jerusalem, once again beheld His Indescribable Glory.
And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the appearance which I saw in the plain, (8:4).
And in this place where the Indescribable Glory of Holy, Almighty God dwelt, His people who had been called to be a witness of the Glorious God of Israel, turned their backs on Him and turned to worship the detestable idols of the surrounding nations.
And He said to me, “Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here.” 10 So I entered and looked, and behold, every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel, were carved on the wall all around, (8:9-10).
Then He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun, (8:16).
And as a result of their idolatry and their bowing in worship before the demonic pagan gods, He would be Far From His Sanctuary, sin would become their way of life, and violence would overtake their entire land.
He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they have committed here, that they have filled the land with violence and provoked Me repeatedly? For behold, they are putting the twig to their nose, (8:17).
How do we respond to Him Far From His Sanctuary?
The people who were left in Jerusalem after the first siege, decided that God had left the land. Their faith in Holy God was replaced by their own assessment of the situation. And rather than wait on the Lord, they continued their abominations in idolatry that provoked Him to jealousy, resulting in Him withdrawing Far From His Sanctuary.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land,’” (8:13).
But before we point the accusatory finger at the nation of Israel, we would do well to examine our own hearts.
In closing today, let us take to heart the words of Matthew Henry, beloved minister and author from the 17th century.
“The yearly lamenting for Tammuz was attended with infamous practices; and the worshippers of the sun here described, are supposed to have been priests. The Lord appeals to the prophet concerning the heinousness of the crime; and lo, they put the branch to their nose, denoting some custom used by idolaters in honour of the idols they served. The more we examine human nature and our own hearts, the more abominations we shall discover; and the longer the believer searches himself, the more he will humble himself before God, and the more will he value the fountain open for sin, and seek to wash therein,” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary.
When we place our faith in Christ, we become the temple, His Sanctuary, the place of His Holy Spirit’s dwelling.
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16).
The Spirit of God dwells in us! Let us not fall into the sin of pride so as to delude ourselves to think we can have our secret sins and presume upon His grace and forgiveness that we have so generously received through the shed blood of Christ for our sins.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence, (Psalm 90:8).
Oh, that we would humble ourselves before God as we acknowledge that if not for His grace, we are capable of the vilest of abominations.
But by the grace of God I am what I am… (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Oh, that we would never provoke Him to jealousy. Let us seek to glorify Him with all that we are, that we would live in His assurance that we are His temple, and in His peace that comes from knowing He is never Far From His Sanctuary.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).