Then he said to me, “Son of man, lift up your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and behold, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. 6And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see still greater abominations.”
7And he brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. 8Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. 9And he said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” 10So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. 11And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. 12Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’” 13He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”
14Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these.”
16And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord. And behold, at the entrance of 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, worshiping the sun toward the east. 17Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to their nose. 18Therefore I will act in wrath. 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.”Ezekiel 8:5-18
The prophecy of Ezekiel contains some of the most remarkable visions and prophecies and some of the most sober warnings in the whole of Scripture.
This particular vision is one which looks at the hidden sins of the leaders of the people. While professing to worship the true God of Israel these people were worshipping the gods of the surrounding nations. These “dunghill ” deities were notorious for their vile rites and the degrading practices.
Alexander Maclaren the expositor on this passage reminds us all that to some degree or another we have a secret place in our hearts where we indulge our darkest desires and indulge ourselves in things we would be ashamed that others would know about.
The lack of actual opportunity does not lessen the sins of thought and imagination. Many today would decrease our culpability by making such sins the result of human frailty and weakness.
Scripture by contrast makes all secret sins as liable to God’s judgment as sins of actual commission. They are all to be repented of and fought against and forsaken.
While it is true that they cling and constantly beset us, we must endeavour to seek God’s strength to flee from them and not allow them to have dominion over us. They are also to keep us in humility and gratitude to our mighty Savior.
This passage is also a condign warning about how far false religion and worship can infiltrate the courts of God’s house.
No amount of secrecy can hide from God’s all-seeing eye; we are an open book to Him.
One wonders how people in full possession of the truth of God can trifle with such debasing idolatry.
Instead of worshipping the Creator they worship the creature. They turn their backs on the true worship and worship everything else but.
Some of these men worshipped the rising sun one of the nobler creations yet infinitely short of the one who made it: others here are worshipping bugs and creeping things as the ancient Egyptians were well known for.
This had the effect of reducing these besotted men to less than God made them to be in the first place. Their knowledge of the Word of God and experience of
His great mercy and grace in past times left them without the shadow of an excuse and made the impending judgment that was to come upon them more deserved.
This must serve as a warning to all the professed people of God that those who are closest to Him are not to presume on his longsuffering because He is a holy God and will not give His worship to another.
A Sense of direction!
It is a commonly attested belief that women cannot read maps and that men cannot ask for directions. However that may be, the subject of Divine guidance and of God’s leading is a constant topic of discussion and too large a subject to go into here.
To look at two Old Testament examples, we look firstly at the call Abraham received to leave his home and kindred and go under God’s guidance to a land He would show him and give him possession of. To this Stephen refers in Acts chapter 7.
“To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’” Acts 7:2-3
We are not told specifically how the Lord guided Abraham day by day. It may be that God simply pointed Abraham in the right direction and then told him when he had arrived.
Even when the patriarch arrived in the Promised Land his journeying had not ceased and he remained a stranger and sojourner in the land and received no tangible ownership of it during his lifetime.
The only times Abraham got into real difficulty was when he went off the map and went to places without seeking God’s guidance for example going down into Egypt.
This is a lesson we all need to learn and give heed to.
Four hundred years, Abraham’s descendants, the children of Israel departing from slavery in Egypt were guided by a pillar of cloud by day and protected pillar of fire by night.
They set off and followed when the cloud lifted and stopped and encamped when it settled.
Even then it must have been confusing because instead of leading them by the direct route back to the Promised Land the cloud led them in a circuitous direction to the shores of the Red sea.
What may have seemed to be a false step ended in God’s total deliverance of His people from the power of Egypt and the miracle of the parting of the waves.
There subsequent journeys and wanderings in the wilderness are testimony to the power of God in the guiding, guarding and sustaining as well as the remaining unbelief and selfishness of the people.
Even when the next generation were on the brink of entering the land of promise, the requirement to follow God’s guidance did not cease and they were commanded to closely follow the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence because they had not walked this way before ( Joshua 2;3-4).
The main point I would make from all this is that the place to which God is taking us is somewhere we cannot get to on our own and we are totally reliant on following God’s lead, as set out in His Word and by relying on His strength day by day.
We must also know that trouble and difficulty are the only results when we set off on our own and depart from the pathway of promise.
The Farm Gate.
Those of you from the country and with farm experience know that the first rule you learn is that you always leave a farm gate the way you find it.
If the gate is open, it may be that the farmer is moving stock and if you close the gate on him he will not be pleased.
When you find a gate closed you must close it again after you go through it, the reason being there may be stock in the paddock (even if you cannot see it) that may get out and get lost or injured.
God Himself has set up the door or if you like gate and way of salvation. Sadly many even among professing Christians there have been some that have not been content with this Way as it is and have sort to change and adapt it according to their own agendas and ideas.
Some would move the gate to another place entirely. They would say believe in Jesus but you must add your own righteous works and merits. Others would narrow the way and say you must do as we do and believe what we tell you to believe even if there is no support received from the Word of God for their beliefs and practices.
Yet others would close the gate on some people entirely because they are not up to their standard for acceptance.
On the other hand some would make the gateway and path wider than it is set forth by Scripture and let all and sundry enter regardless of repentance of sin and faith in Christ.
The fact is the way of Salvation is the way it is ,“ Because strait is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life and few there be that find it’ Matthew 7:14
Rather than seeking to tamper with the gate we should strive to enter through it and walk the path in the footsteps of Christ and encourage others to do the same.
One of the best known and best loved stars of the British screen was John Mills. During an exceedingly long career he very often played an unremarkable”Every man” person who exercised character and good sense and generosity.
Both of his daughters, Juliet and Hayley became actors and often appeared with him.
My favourite film of his is one called “The history of Mr. Polly” about a man who seeks to change his “hum drum” life for something better.
We all can sympathize with this desire yet very often cannot find the ways or means to achieve it.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, when on earth trod the path of daily duty to His heavenly Father but transcended the ordinary and commonplace by doing all to the glory of God and the good of men and women.
When placed in the light of eternity nothing remains ordinary.