June 15, 2010 David Balzer

Ezekiel 3-23: I can’t bear to watch!

There’s some TV I can’t BEAR TO WATCH.  Documentaries like R.P.A., or Extreme Makeover. Where they show the close-ups of surgical procedures. Liposuction. Or the little circular saw being taken to someone’s head. Even stitches make me turn away.  I can’t bear to watch.

Then there’s TV about kids being abused or hurt. It might only be a movie. But I can’t sit and watch them. I have to get up and leave the room.  There’s some things which are SO GRAPHIC. So HORRIBLE, that I can’t bear to watch.

And that’s God’s message to Israel. The things they’re doing/ are so wicked, so detestable, that he can’t bear to watch anymore. He can’t stay. He has to leave.

And that’s the image we get in Chapters 8 to 11. God’s glory. His presence. Leaving the temple. Leaving Jerusalem. Leaving the land.

1. Judgment – A picture warning

But before we get there, God’s got a message for Ezekiel. A message of JUDGMENT. Exactly what’s coming for the people because of their sin. The same sin which drives God out of the temple/ also has extreme consequences for the people.

But it’s a SPECIAL message. Because God’s already warned Ezekiel how STUBBORN the people are. How DEAF, and DISOBEDIENT.

So it’s got to be something pretty ATTENTION-GRABBING. It’s a PICTURE warning. An acted drama. A skit.

Words don’t seem to get through. So Ezekiel’s going to ACT IT OUT.

Like when you’re training your dog. Words do no good. Perhaps even REWARDS do no good. So you might rub his nose in his mess. Or smack him across the nose with the rolled-up newspaper. Symbols. Pictures. Actions. They all speak louder than words.

And Israel’s a lot like that dumb dog.

So look what Ezekiel does. Ch 4. V1. He draws a picture of Jerusalem on a clay tablet. And builds some model siege-works in front of it. Climbing towers and ramps. He sets up a little campsite, and little battering rams.

The message is/ Jerusalem is going to come under attack.

And then, in v4. He has to lie on his left side. He bears the sin of the nation. And he’s to do that each day for 390 days.

And (v5), that represents the 390 years of the people’s sin – from the time Solomon’s temple’s COMPLETED until it’s DESTROYED (4:5). More or less for the whole of that time/ God dwells among them, but they behave as if he’s not even there. They sin all around the temple. Ignoring the God who lives there. That’s Ezekiel’s message.

For a whole year the people keep dropping into Ezekiel’s house. But he just keeps doing the same old thing. Day after day.

If it seemed a long time for the PEOPLE, imagine how it felt for GOD. 390 YEARS of sin. Insult to God.

And when THAT’S over, Ezekiel’s to lie on his RIGHT side for another 40 days. And that’s in v6. And that represents the 40 years or so of exile. The punishment that RESULTS from the sin. And from the siege of Jerusalem.

And while Ezekiel doing all this. There’s some more details of the drama. He’s to eat only GRAINS during the whole time he’s lying on his side. And not much of that EITHER. And only a ration of WATER. That’s v9 and following.

The siege of Jerusalem will cause FAMINE within the city.

So for more than a year Ezekiel plays out Act 1 of the drama. Day after day.

And when that’s over, he moves onto Act 2. In Ch 5 he shaves his head. And he gets all his hair. And divides it into three piles.

And then he burns a third of it. He strikes a third of it with the sword. And scatters a third into the wind. A few hairs he keeps back, and tucks into his belt.

It would have been a vivid and startling picture… And God’s point? Down in v12. By the time Jerusalem falls, the people will suffer one of those three fates. Burned or starved. by the sword Or scattered.

2. The reason? Rebellious Jerusalem

It’s terrible news. A graphic picture.

But as well as a picture. God gives Ezekiel WORDS. It might have come at the END of that year. Or perhaps Ezekiel was continually speaking the meaning of the drama. As he went along.

Look at Ch 5 v5.

(Ezek 5:5-6 NIV)  “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. {6} Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees.

Rebellion. Rejection. And disobedience.

And that’s seen PARTICULARLY in her IDOLATRY. Making and worshipping other gods. That’s what ch 6 and 7 describe. Look for example over at Ch 7 v20.

(Ezek 7:20-22 NIV)  They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. {21} I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. {22} I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will enter it and desecrate it.

The language is STRONG. (Detestable. Vile. Defiled. Desecrate.) Because the OFFENCE is GREAT.

And while the people committed idolatry ALL OVER the land, it was their idolatry in THE TEMPLE that REALLY cut God to the heart.

3. (A visionary interlude) God can’t bear to watch so he leaves the temple (10:4, 19-20, 11:23)

And that truth is seen in ANOTHER vision Ezekiel has. It’s really a visionary interlude. An interruption.

I don’t know about you, but it annoys me when someone phones ME up, then puts me on hold. I got a call the other day. I answered it, and there was no reply. After about 3 seconds a computerised voice said, “Please hold, this number has a call”

I waited for a bit longer. Still nothing. So I hung up! I think perhaps an operator was supposed to take over.

You don’t just get real people trying to sell you stuff you don’t need. Now computers are even doing it!

It’s a bit like what’s happening here. It’s 14 months after his first vision. And the elders are round at Ezekiel’s house. Probably watching the same show they’ve seen for the last year.

He’s right in the middle of giving them the bad news, when God comes to visit. Look at it there at the start of Ch 8.

(Ezek 8:1-3 NIV)  In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign LORD came upon me there. {2} I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man. From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal. {3} He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem…

Ezekiel goes off in some vision all the way to Jerusalem. While he’s still sitting in his lounge room.

And the vision lasts for four chapters. Until the end of Ch 11. When he comes back to Babylon.

We don’t know how long Ezekiel was seeing the vision, but I can’t help feeling for the elders. Sitting there. Twiddling their . Not knowing what was going on. While Ezekiel is off on a guided tour of Jerusalem.

And in particular, it’s a vision about the TEMPLE. There are DESPICABLE things happening there. And God can’t BEAR it. Look at Ch 8, the end of 3.

(Ezek 8:3 NIV)  The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, TO THE ENTRANCE TO THE NORTH GATE OF THE INNER COURT, WHERE THE IDOL THAT PROVOKES TO JEALOUSY STOOD.

False idols. Set up RIGHT IN THE THRONE ROOM OF THE KING. What TREASON!

And down in v6.

(Ezek 8:6-12 NIV)  And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing–the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, THINGS THAT WILL DRIVE ME FAR FROM MY SANCTUARY? But you will see things that are even more detestable.” {7} Then he brought me to the entrance to the court. I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall. {8} He said to me, “Son of man, now dig into the wall.” So I dug into the wall and saw a doorway there. {9} And he said to me, “Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here.” {10} So I went in and looked, and I saw portrayed all over the walls all kinds of crawling things and detestable animals and all the idols of the house of Israel. {11} In front of them stood seventy elders of the house of Israel, and Jaazaniah son of Shaphan was standing among them. Each had a censer in his hand, and a fragrant cloud of incense was rising. {12} He said to me, “SON OF MAN, HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT THE ELDERS OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL ARE DOING IN THE DARKNESS, EACH AT THE SHRINE OF HIS OWN IDOL? THEY SAY, ‘THE LORD DOES NOT SEE US; THE LORD HAS FORSAKEN THE LAND.'”

They think God can’t SEE them. They think God is FAR AWAY. But from his vision (remember Ch 1?), Ezekiel knows better. God goes EVERYWHERE. He SEES EVERYTHING.

Even what they do in secret. And he CAN’T BEAR IT.

So he has TO LEAVE. He can’t stay on his throne in the temple a moment longer. Look at the progression through the vision. Over in Ch 10, Ezekiel sees another vision OF GOD HIMSELF.

(Ezek 10:1 NIV)  I looked, and I saw the likeness of a throne of sapphire above the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim.

And then down in v4.

(Ezek 10:4 NIV)  Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moved TO THE THRESHOLD OF THE TEMPLE. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD.

The GLORY of the LORD. His presence. A representation of God himself. Dwelling in his temple. Among his people. But not for long. The glory moves to the doorway.

Ezekiel watches for a bit longer. Then down in v19, the glory moves from the doorway. To the gates of the temple itself. The outside wall.

(Ezek 10:19 NIV)  While I watched, the cherubim their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

And then, finally, over in Ch 11 v22, we read.

(Ezek 11:22-23 NIV)  Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. {23} The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.

He can’t bear to watch, so THE KING LEAVES THE BUILDING. He’s away in the distance. Not gone completely. But removed from the temple. From the centre of the people’s rebellion.

And the vision finishes. And Ezekiel is back in his lounge room. With all the elders still there. And he tells them what God had shown him.

4. For example…

The next few chapters give us some EXAMPLES of the sorts of things Israel was doing. The specifics of what sickened God so much.

Ch 13 is about FALSE PROPHETS. They say whatever comes into their heads. V3.

(Ezek 13:3 NIV)  This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who FOLLOW THEIR OWN SPIRIT AND HAVE SEEN NOTHING!

And that means they give people FALSE HOPE. Saying that things will be alright when there is real danger. V10.

(Ezek 13:10 NIV)  “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash,

How ridiculous to build a brick wall. Forget to use a level. Or any mortar. It’s about to fall over. But you slap some paint on it. And say “She’ll be right! It LOOKS fine!”

It’s ludicrous worrying about the externals – appearances, the symptoms. And ignoring the CAUSE. The things on the INSIDE. The ROOT of the problem.

It’s what the false prophets were doing. Saying PEACE when there was no peace.

And we’re tempted to do that sometimes, aren’t we? People need to hear the TRUTH of their situation. That without Jesus they’re headed for HELL. An eternity without God.

But we’re more concerned with keeping the peace. Not offending them. More worried about losing their friendship.

And God is AGAINST that sort of attitude.

And in Ch 14. He aims up on HYPOCRITES. People who give THE APPEARANCE that they follow God, but on the INSIDE they worship idols. Look at v7.

(Ezek 14:7-8 NIV)  “‘When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from me and SETS UP IDOLS IN HIS HEART and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and THEN GOES TO A PROPHET TO INQUIRE OF ME, I the LORD will answer him myself. {8} I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

God S it when people give the appearance of loving him. When in reality there are plenty of OTHER things they love more. …Is that you?

Are you foolish enough to think that God doesn’t SEE? That he doesn’t KNOW where your heart is? You might be able to fool PEOPLE. But you’ll never fool God.

God s it when we’re hypocritical like that!

And Ezekiel goes on to list MORE sins. More things that God despises. And we could go on. But we’re running out of time.

5. It’s like….

And just in case we’re tempted to think that these things don’t matter to God. In Ch 16 he paints us ANOTHER picture. It’s as if he’s saying to Israel, “You reckon that me leaving the temple is pretty drastic. That destroying Jerusalem is a bit over the top?”

“Well, let me just explain to you what it’s like when you sin.”

It’s like you were a baby. But your parents abandoned you at birth. Threw you into the field.

They cared so little for you/ they didn’t even bother to wipe the off you, or cut you off from the placenta.

No-one gave you a second glance. Worthless. To everyone except God. But look at what God says he did. Ch 16 v6.

(Ezek 16:6-7 NIV)  “‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your , and as you lay there in your I said to you, “Live!” {7} I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your were formed and your hair grew, you who were and bare.

Like an adoptive parent God took Israel in. And raised her. Protected her. Cared for her. And she grew beautiful and strong.

And then God fell in love with her. And He MARRIED her. Declared his love for her. Committed himself to her for life. Vowed to care and protect her. Like a husband and a wife.

He provided for her. Bought her expensive clothes and jewellery. Provided the finest food.

And in v13.

(Ezek 16:13-14 NIV)  …You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. {14} And your fame among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.

It’s a wonderful picture. The perfect fairy tale. Beautiful woman. Adored by her rich husband. Everything perfect.

But then the picture is ruined. The story turns. V15.

(Ezek 16:15 NIV)  “‘But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become A . You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his.

The terrible betrayal! The joy and hope of the husband replaced by bitterness and jealousy and hostility.

Listen to how the husband will seek his revenge. Down to v37.

(Ezek 16:37-42 NIV)  therefore I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you found pleasure, those you loved as well as those you d. I will gather them against you from all around and will strip you in front of them, and they will see all your ness. {38} I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit ery and who shed ; I will bring upon you the vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger. {39} Then I will hand you over to your lovers, and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you and bare. {40} They will bring a mob against you, who will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords. {41} They will burn down your houses and inflict punishment on you in the sight of many women. I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer pay your lovers. {42} Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry.

The very nations Israel longed to be like. The very gods they worshipped. Will be the weapons God used to punish her.

It’s the terrible picture of the seriousness of sin. And the seriousness of God’s judgment.

6. Repent and live

How do you react to all that? We’re pretty far removed from it all, aren’t we? Perhaps it doesn’t really hit you between the eyes.

And I reckon that’s what EZEKIEL’S HEARERS are thinking as well. Remember they’re in BABYLON. Hundreds of miles from Jerusalem.

And they’re feeling pretty comfortable. But God, through Ezekiel is sending THEM a message. “This isn’t just news to keep you AMUSED. Dramas and stories. It’s WARNING for YOU to change.”

Look back to Ch 14 v21. Everything going on in JERUSALEM is an OBJECT LESSON to those in BABYLON.

(Ezek 14:21-23 NIV)  “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments–sword and famine and wild beasts and plague–to kill its men and their animals! {22} Yet there will be some survivors–sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come TO YOU, and when YOU see THEIR conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought upon Jerusalem–every disaster I have brought upon it. {23} You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for YOU WILL KNOW THAT I HAVE DONE NOTHING IN IT WITHOUT CAUSE, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

God’s dealings with the NATIONAL Israel are to serve as lessons to INDIVIDUAL Israelites. Those God is keeping protected. Safe.

And what LESSON are they to learn? REPENT AND LIVE. Flip over to Ch 18 v30

(Ezek 18:30-32 NIV)  “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. {31} Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? {32} For I take no pleasure in the of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. REPENT AND LIVE!

And these events are designed to teach US the same lesson. Repent and live. Learn the lessons of history. God s sin. Sin must be punished. But God LONGS for you to live.

When it came to the sin of Israel, God couldn’t bear to watch.

But it’s different for US. Rather than God turning his face from US, he place all OUR guilt on HIS SON. On Jesus. On the cross.

And turned his face from HIM. And so Jesus cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

A cry of DESPAIR from Jesus. But a cry of JOY AND FORGIVENESS for us. A cry of RESTORED RELATIONSHIP.

God s our sin. Can’t bear to look. But in Jesus, he promises us forgiveness. A new heart. A new Spirit. A new relationship.

So repent and live!

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