Meditations from Ezekiel: 14. The Horrors of Jerusalem
Ezek 8:6 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?
Aspects of Apostasy: Ezekiel, we have noted, has been carried in the Spirit in a vision to Jerusalem where he is being shown 4 aspects of the apostasy that is taking place there. The first one we noted in the previous study, was an idol located at the northern entrance to the Temple. Now whether each of these things actually were there or they are simply symbolic pictures of the reality of what was happening in Jerusalem, is not clear. That first one may have been a literal, physical idol that had been put up just outside the northern entrance or it may be symbolic of the whole idolatrous outlook that prevailed in Jerusalem at that time.
An Action Picture in a Vision: The second of what I have titled ‘the horrors of Jerusalem – because they are so alien to the life God had sought to give this people – comes as an action picture Three times within the next ten verses we find the same opening phrase: “Then he brought me”. In this first one he is taken “to the entrance to the court.” (v.7a) Now commentators disagree whether there was one or two courts but the main point is that he comes to the entrance but does not use it. What he is about to see will not be open to public view and will not be accessed by public means. Observe.
“I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall.” (v.7b) A hole is a breach. In modern life we often hear of something being ‘leaked’. An unauthorized access is given. This is not a window or a formed opening but a hole which signifies an unauthorized access. When there are ‘dark doings’ in society, there will always be a leak or an access sometime. Almost like an investigative reporter he is now instructed by the Lord how to proceed: “He said to me, “Son of man, now dig into the wall.” So I dug into the wall and saw a doorway there.” (v.8) He has to make effort to get deeper in to find the truth. This only goes to emphasise even more how what he is going to find is hidden away from sight. There is a door before him. A door is simply a way of easy access. He has done the hard work and so this suggests that he is almost there, to the place of revelation and so the Lord further instructs, “And he said to me, “Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here.” (v.9) Yes, he’s about to be able to see the reality of what was happening there at the heart of Jerusalem.
“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.” (v.10) This feels like something out of an Indiana Jones film, an inner enclave to some terrible, mystical eastern cult with pictures of all sorts of unpleasant if not horrible creatures that make the skin crawl in terror anticipation. But the pictures also include “all the idols of the house of Israel”, i.e. all the foreign idols that have been brought into the land, alien images from pagan places. This is a hidden place of dark demonic worship. So who uses it? Who inhabits this place that is so utterly alien to the holy place of God?
“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.” (v.11) Oh my goodness! They are the very leaders of the people and there is even a prominent figure that he actually recognizes. They are offering incense worship to these mystical and horrible creatures. Are they out of their minds? If there was any doubt about who these people were, the Lord casts it away: “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.’” Again, he said, “You will see them doing things that are even more detestable.” (v.12,13) Now this would suggest that this initial picture is a summary of all that is going on at the heart of Jerusalem for it speaks of each of these leaders as worshipping “at the shrine of his own idol”, suggesting that each one has his own particular place of worship. None of these people can make the excuse, well I just went along with the crowd, for each one is identified by the Lord as having his own false worship place. They are individually guilty.
Now there is too much in the following two ‘horrors’ so we will leave them until the next study, but are there things in these verses that can speak to us personally? Our initial reaction, I am sure, is surely not, but think about this in general terms. We have been shown things that are happening ‘behind closed doors’. Now I suspect that most of those who would be reading these notes come from a good Biblical background and (because this is not the easiest of reading and we are therefore ‘serious’ Christians) are strong believers, we do have a temptation to be compartmentalized from the rest of the world and therefore fail to realise the things that are going on in our societies.
Having said that, the media (particularly the film industry) do a good job at showing us drug, sex and power abuses that go on in our modern Western society, and yet little glimmers (the hole in the wall) suggest to me the darkness that prevails behind closed doors. For example, my son-in-law mentors and counsels young people who are disturbed, more often than not because of dysfunctional family life. He tells me that he regularly comes across children of under 10 who have no family restrictions placed on them so they are regularly playing the worst ‘18’ video games and watching the worst ‘18’ video films. Access to internet pornography is almost unlimited.
Many, if not most, modern novels for adults you can buy in your local bookstore today, have some element of sex in them. Recently traveling on a long flight, I picked up and bought an apparently innocent looking novel only to find it had the most graphic sex in it of a style that left me shocked (and I as a retired pastor thought I was unshockable). If half of what is conveyed by modern films about college or university life is true, then there will be things going on there ‘behind closed doors’ that will send you to prayer and fasting for your young people!
We still have elements of conservative attitudes towards moral issues (thankfully) in our societies, in public at least, but ‘behind closed doors’ it is something else. I could write another page on the sort of church we need to be to counter these trends (and they are still moving downwards, with only one or two hopeful glimmers to the contrary) but I leave you to pray about the realities of your society and its need for the Lord to come revealing its unrighteousness and ungodliness and the folly and futility of that. But it IS a time to wake up to these realities and pray and work like we never have before to save our peoples. The church today NEEDS to be salt and light, portraying a lifestyle that is loving, caring, good, i.e. holy, so that an alternative is portrayed to an otherwise lost world.