Sunday, May 11, 2014

God Departs But Promises A Future - Ezekiel 11

Chapter 11 winds up this vision of Ezekiel and talks about what comes afterward.

The Leading Men

The Spirit now moves Ezekiel from the inner court ((8:16) to the east gate of the temple. The temple faced east and this was the gate leading out of the temple grounds. So, it was a sort of front door to the temple grounds. There at the gate were 25 men who were leaders. Ezekiel even names some of them, giving great detail to the vision. These men sat at the gate because they were important.

The Spirit told Ezekiel that the men “devised iniquity” and gave “wicked counsel”. Micah 2:1, written a century or more before Ezekiel, said “Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds”. They seem to be afraid for themselves in the attack to come. But they think they are special. They say the city is the cauldron and they are the meat. This means they think the Babylonians are coming for them because they are the best of the city.

God’s Message to the Leading Men

The Sprit gave Ezekiel a message for these men. He accused them of violence, including murder, inside the city of Jerusalem. (6) As a result, he said, they would not die in the city, but would be driven from the city and given into the hands of foreigners. They would be captured and taken away from Jerusalem. In their captivity, God would execute judgments on them, including death. (9-10)

2 Kings 25:1-7 records the fall of Jerusalem. Some of the fighting men made a whole in the city wall and fled by night. They were captured, however, and either slaughtered or taken to Babylon in chains. This is a historical account. Ezekiel 11:9-10 is the theological perspective, or God’s perspective. He brought them out of the city to be captured or killed.

When this event happened, God wanted them to remember this prophesy so they would know that he is the Lord (literally that he is Yahweh).

In verse 12, God reiterated the reason for his wrath: they did not live according to the covenant, which was to separate them from the nations that surrounded them. Instead, they lived as those nations did. God specifically forbad them from doing this. (Deuteronomy 12:28-31)He also told them the consequence of such a life. Deuteronomy 8:19-20 says: “And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.”

A Promise of Better Things

For the first time in Ezekiel, God reveals what will happen after the exile. First, the Lord said he would gather them from the places to which he had scattered them. He would again give them the land of Israel. (11:17)

Second, God said that, upon their return, the Jews would remove all detestable things and abominations. (11:18) I believe he refers to pagan idols and places of worship. That seems to have occurred. Even centuries later, Jesus confronted Israel with their many failings, but idolatry was not one of them.

Finally, in verse 19, God said he would give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them. This new heart and spirit would allow them to live according to his statutes. This echoes the same promise contained in 36:26-27.

But not all would share this new heart and new spirit, for he would judge those whose heart still went after the abominations. (21)

The Glory of God Departs

At the end of God’s message, Ezekiel saw the cherubim begin to depart by lifting their wings. The glory of God was over them. The presence, or glory, of God had gone up onto the glorious chariot of the cherubim. The chariot left the temple grounds and left he city for the mountain of the east side of the city. That would be the Mount of Olives.

The temple was now and empty building and the city was no longer the prized possession of God.

Then the Spirit took Ezekiel home. He told the exiles all the Lord has shown him in the vision. Don’t you know there was great grief, shame and fear felt by the exiles.

It is not just the Old Testament Jews that can lose what they have in God’s judgment, if they are not faithful. In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus told the church at Ephesus they had lost their first love for him. If they did not repent, he said, he would come and take their church (lampstand) away.
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