Elon, North Carolina
The title of our class is “The Visions of Ezekiel.” We looked at the first vision of the book in Ezekiel 1. It was a vision of God on his throne, supported by four living creatures in a wheeled chariot. Today, we come to the second vision of the book. This vision is four chapters long.
The vision starts with a visit from a group of elders. In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there (8:1 ESV).
While he is with them, he has this incredible vision in chapter 8 and after it is over in chapter 11, he tells them what he saw. He “told the exiles ALL the things that the Lord had shown me” (11:25 ESV). He told them the good news. He told them the bad news.
Who are the these elders? They are the leaders of the Jews in exile. Why do they come to Ezekiel’s house? By now, he has a reputation as a prophet. People have talked about all of the crazy things he has said and done, so the leaders come to investigate. They want to hear for themselves. Ezekiel stays in his house, so they come to see him. If he is a genuine prophet, they want to hear a genuine word from God.
While they are there, something incredible happens. Ezekiel gets another vision, not while he is alone but while he is with people. During this vision, Ezekiel gets teleported. His body stayed in Jerusalem but his spirit traveled a thousand miles to Jerusalem. Ezekiel was not only DEPORTED by the Babylonians, he was TELEPORTED by the Spirit to Jerusalem.
It sounds like something right out of Star Trek. People are teleported to places in science fiction but this actually happened. Ezekiel traveled in the Spirit. He moved from one place to another supernaturally. This happens several times in the book.
Is this the normal mode of transportation for Christians today? No. Ezekiel did not ask for this to happen. He did not pray for this to happen. He took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north (8:3 ESV).
God showed up, grabbed him by his hair and lifted him up. The hair that he cut off with his sword must have grown back, because God was able to grab it (8:3). Apparently, it did not hurt Ezekiel. Ezekiel does not complain but he did get to see an incredible vision. God took him to Jerusalem and showed Ezekiel four things.
He saw the SIN of the nation (Ezekiel 8). He saw the JUDGMENT of the nation (Ezekiel 9). He saw God LEAVE the Temple (Ezekiel 10). He did not stop there. He also saw some good news. He saw the CONVERSION of the nation and the return from exile of the Jewish people (Ezekiel 11).
When Ezekiel wrote it down, he dated it. He told us exactly when it happened, the exact month, day and year it happened. In the sixth YEAR, in the sixth MONTH, on the fifth DAY of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there (8:1 ESV).
Ezekiel dates everything. Ezekiel is very detailed oriented. Ezekiel tells us WHEN it happened and WHERE it happened. He was in his house at the time in Babylon with people around him. This vision took place in September of 592 B.C. This was fourteen months after his first vision.
Why is it important for Ezekiel to date this? It was a way to verify his prophecy. Talk is cheap. Many make all kinds of claims but it does not pan out. In the Bible, the way to tell a true prophet was to look to see if what he said came true or not.
Before the last presidential election, some Christians got it right and predicted that Trump would be President, even though it contradicted what all of the media predicted. Other Christians claimed to be genuine prophets and predicted that Hilary would win the election.
Vonda Brewer said that she had a dream that Jezebel would be in the White House. She claimed to be the Holy Spirit speaking and she predicted that Hillary would be in the White House. Other prophets made similar claims (e.g. Brian Carn).
Ezekiel gave a prophecy and it came true exactly six years later. He did not give his own ideas. He had a genuine revelation from God. Some today say that they have a genuine revelation and then pass on their own ideas and it does not even come to pass.
Four Temple Abominations
God gave Ezekiel a tour of the Temple in chapter eight and showed him four abominations, each one was worse than the other. THE FIRST ABOMINATION was a big idol sitting on the gate of the inner court of the Temple. God called “the image of jealousy” (8:3). The Temple is God’s House and you have a pagan idol inside it.
And 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” (8:6 ESV). God says, “You think that is bad. You are now going to see something worse.”
Ezekiel now looks through a hole in a wall and sees THE SECOND ABOMINATION. In a dark storage room, he sees more idolatry “engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel” (8:10 ESV). This involved the worship of animals, a lot of them and many of them were unclean. The people involved in this sin were leaders (seventy of them) and people from good families, like Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan.
Shaphan worked in the government of Josiah, one of the best kings the nation ever had. When a copy of the Law was found in the Temple, Shaphan was the one who read it to the king (II Kings 22:3-14). After he read it, King Josiah tore his clothes and a revival broke out. This godly man had a son who was an idol worshipper.
Then Ezekiel saw THE THIRD ABOMINATION. He saw women weeping for Tammuz (8:14). Tammuz was a Sumerian god of food and vegetation. It was a fertility cult and was very popular in the Ancient Near East. The Babylonians worshipped this god and now he was being worshipped in Jerusalem by Jews. Then, God showed Ezekiel even greater abominations.
THE FOURTH ABOMINATION involved Sun worship and the people doing it were priests. And 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 (8:16 ESV).
Six Deadly Men
In Ezekiel 8, God showed Ezekiel the sin of the nation. In Ezekiel 9, He shows him what He is going to do about it. Then he cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying, “Bring near the executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.” 2 And behold, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his weapon for slaughter in his hand (9:1-3 ESV).
Six men step forward with weapons. These six men are really six angels. They have one job. Their job is to kill all of the idolaters. Their instruction was to slaughter people, to be executioners, to “pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women (9:5 ESV).
There was a seventh angel sent into the city, not with a WEAPON but with a PEN. He had a different job. He was not an executioner but a writer or tattoo artist. His instruction was to “pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it” (9:4 ESV).
The word “mark” in Hebrew is tav. It is the Hebrew letter T (which in English looks a little like a cross). This angel puts a T on their head. In ancient Hebrew it looked like an X. It was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. English goes from A to Z. Greek goes from alpha (α) to omega (ω). Hebrew goes from aleph (א) to tav (ת). This mark on their forehead protected them from judgment.
This was all symbolic. The ones who did the actual killing were Babylonian soldiers. Angels would normally protect the city but now they are behind its destruction and judgment.
How does this chapter have any relevance to us today? It was written over twenty-five hundred years ago. Most of us are not Jews. We do not live in Jerusalem in OT times. The Temple has been destroyed. How is this relevant to us today? It is very relevant to us today. In fact, you might find these chapters very convicting. There are two reasons why this is still relevant today.
1. God has not changed
God is OMNISCIENT and OMNIPRESENT. He sees everything we do. He saw what people were doing in Babylon. He saw what people were doing in Jerusalem in the Temple. He knows what goes on in the most remote corner of the planet. He knows what goes on in secret rooms. He knows what our secret sins are. Nothing escapes God’s view
“The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice (9:9). God sees the bloodshed. He sees the injustice. He also sees the idolatry. He saw all of the sins in that city and he sees all of the sins in our city and land.
What God calls sin is different from what we would call sin. Modern man would just call idolatry “religious expression.” People today would not see it as wrong but as a perfectly valid form of religious expression. God sees it differently. He not only sees it as wrong, He calls it “an abomination.”
When many think of the word “abomination,” homosexuality comes to mind. God views idolatry as the most abominable kind of sin that a person can engage in. Idolatry is not a result of ignorance. It is the result of rebellion and in this section it was committed by the religious leaders of the nation and they committed it in the most sacred place of the Temple where God’s presence was manifested.
God not only saw it. He hated it. He judge it. He judged it WITHOUT MERCY. He pours out his wrath on Jerusalem and kills people without pity, young and old (9:6). God says that even if they cry with a loud voice, He will not hear them (8:18).
That almost seems like a different God than the one preached in most churches today. It might make sense if you lived in the 1700s and went to Jonathon Edward’s church but it seems completely different form the God of American Christianity.
Our God is a God of mercy but this God seems to show NO mercy and NO pity, not on the old or young or even the children. The God that many worship today is not the God of the Bible. It is a God of all love and no judgment.
The God of these chapters is the same God today. He has not changed. If you do not believe me, read the Book of Revelation and all the plagues that fall on the earth. He is a God of love but He is also a God of wrath. The NT says that “OUR GOD is a CONSUMING FIRE.”
He is a God who still sees sin and still hates sin. He hates idolatry. God is still a God who judges sin today. He judges sin in individuals and he judges sin in nations, like we see in these chapters (the whole nation suffers here). He still judges His people when they sin.
Not only is he the judge of all the earth but he judges his people FIRST. God said that the killing of Jerusalem was to begin at His sanctuary. It began at the Temple (9:6). Judgment must BEGIN at the house of God. He is a jealous God.
There is another side to God even in these chapters that is still true today. God not only PUNISHES, He PROTECTS. We see that in Ezekiel 9. God not only sent six men into the city with weapons to kill people. He sent one man into the city to protect people. God knows who his people are and He is able to protect them from judgment. He did that by sending the dude in white. Another group of people in the future will be marked in the forehead by an angel.
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (7:1-3 ESV).
Before judgment falls in the Tribulation, an angel puts a mark on the foreheads of God’s people. That is exactly what happens in Ezekiel. A mark is placed on the foreheads of God’s servants. It is done by angels.
The purpose of the mark is to protect them from judgment. This mark saves their life. In Ezekiel, there were six angels of destruction and one angel of protection. Revelation mentions a future period in which there will be four angels of destruction and one angel of protection marking people.
Which people were given the mark on the forehead by this scribe? How were they chosen? This mark was NOT given randomly or arbitrarily. People were judged based on their reaction to idolatry. All of the idolaters were killed.
All of the people who did not worship an idol and hated the practice were given the mark. The people who were spared were the people who had the same attitude toward idolatry that God had had. God knows who His people are. The Lord knows who are His (II Timothy 2:19). There is another reason why these chapters are still relevant today.
2. People have not changed
How are people in these chapters similar to people today or perhaps similar to us? God’s own people turned their backs to the Temple of the Lord (8:16). They TURNED THEIR BACKS ON GOD. They put a branch to their nose (8:17). They thumb their nose at God. People still do this today. Christians still do this today. They do not care what the Bible says. They will do what they want to do anyway. Have you turned your back on God?
The people have not only turned their back on God, so have the RELIGIOUS LEADERS. Church leaders can be involved in sin. Seventy elders of the house of Israel burned incense to a bunch of idols (8:11). In these chapters, we see people involved in CORRUPT WORSHIP.
That happens in the world and it sometimes happens in the church, mixing true worship with false worship. Some churches take what the Bible says and throw in unbiblical ideas as well and make them even church doctrine.
There was idolatry in Ezekiel’s day and people were PASSIONATE ABOUT FALSE RELIGION. They were emotional about their idols. Women were weeping and wailing about Tammuz (8:14). Some of the people who are most passionate about their faith are people who have false faith. Terrorists will blow themselves up over false religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses are far more enthusiasm for their faith than most Christians are.
We have idolatry today. God does not dwell in buildings. He dwells in people. God still has a temple today. It is not a literal physical temple. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). This is His sanctuary. It is his temple. It is where He dwells today. The body of every Christian is a temple.
The Jews had idols in their temple and we as Christians may have some IDOLS IN OUR TEMPLE. We would not worship snakes today or bow down to the sun, like these fools did but we still have idols that we worship, idols that provoke God to jealousy. God sees those idols. He knows about those idols.
Sin in his people provokes Him (8:3). Idolatry provokes Him to jealousy, like a spouse would be jealous if her husband was having an affair. Is there anything in your life which competes for His affection and devotion and would provoke God to jealousy or to anger? It provokes Him to jealousy (8:5). It provokes Him to anger (8:17).
We still have SELF DECEPTION today. We tell us things that are not true and we believe them. They did that in Ezekiel’s day. They thought that God does not see things (8:12; 9:9). If they did it in the dark, He did not see it. We not only lie to others sometimes but we lie to ourself. We deceive ourselves today.
We JUSTIFY sin today and try to RATIONALIZE it, like they did in Ezekiel’s day. Some Christians even think it does not matter what they do because they are forgiven, so they can live any way they want. They are going to heaven anyway.
We also try to HIDE SIN today. We have SECRET SINS. The Bible talks about secret sins. Psalm 90:8 says, “Our secret sins in the light of your presence” (ESV). God showed Ezekiel secret rooms in the Temple where these secret sins were committed. The NLT mentions “a hidden doorway” (8:8).
Nobody else knows about these rooms. Nobody else can go there. There is nothing wrong with a secret room. You can have a secret room to pray but this is a secret room to sin, a dark private room. Do we have any of those rooms in our temple?
They also had PICTURES ENGRAVED ON THE WALL of the Temple (8:10) and these pictures were INDIVIDUAL. Each one had his own wall of pictures. Ezekiel 8:12 says, “Then 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?” (ESV). Do we have any pictures engraved in the walls of our Temple?
Many have applies this to pornography today. It is not what Ezekiel was talking about. He was talking about actual idol worship in the Temple, not adult books stores or X-rated movies but many of the men may have these pictures engraved in the walls of their mind and for many men this is an idol in their life. It is an interesting application to this chapter worth thinking about.