Ezekiel 8

 

 

1 “And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the

fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of

Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon

me.” And it came to pass, etc. We begin with a fresh date. One year

and one month had passed since the vision of Chebar, and had been

occupied partly by the acted, partly by the spoken, prophecies of the

preceding chapters. In the mean time, things had gone from bad to worse

in Jerusalem. In the absence of the higher priests, idolatry was more

rampant, and had found its way even into the temple. It is probable that

tidings of this had reached Ezekiel, as we know that frequent

communications passed between the exiles and those they had left behind

(Jeremiah 29:1-3, 9, 25). Directly or indirectly, Elasah the son of

Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah. may have conveyed a

message, orally or written, from Jeremiah himself. Some such report may

have led to the visit from the elders of Judah, if we understand by that

term the exiles of Tel-Abib. I venture, however, on the conjecture that

possibly those who came to the prophet were actually visitors who had

come from Judah. Elsewhere, as in ch.14:1 and 20:1, those who

thus came are described as “elders of Israel,” or the captives (ch. 1:1),

they of the Captivity” (ch. 3:15). In either case, the visions

that follow gain a special significance. The prophet becomes the seer. It is

given to him to know, in a manner which finds a spurious analogue in the

alleged mental traveling of the clairvoyant of modern psychology, what is

passing in the city from which the messengers had come — and to show

that he knows it. With such facts before his eyes, what other answer can

there be than that EVIL MUST MEET ITS DOOM?  And so we pass into

the second series of prophecies which ends with ch.13:23. It would seem as

if the enquirers had kept silent as well as the prophet. We are not told that

they asked anything. His look and manner, perhaps also attitude and

gesture, forbade utterance. The hand of the Lord — the trance state —

was in the act to fall on him (see notes on ch. 3:14, 22). When the

trance state was over, we may think of him as reporting and recording

what he had thus seen in vision.

 

2 “Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the

appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins

even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the color of

amber.”  I beheld, and lo a likeness, etc. The vision opens with a

theophany like that of ch. 1.; but here, as there, Ezekiel uses the word

which emphasizes the fact that what he had seen was but a “likeness” of

the ineffable glory, an image of the Unseen. (For “amber,” see ch.1:4, 27.)

In this case we note the absence of the cherubic figures. It is

simply the “appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah,” seen now

in the glow of fire, without the milder, more hopeful brightness of the

rainbow (ch. 1:28).

 

 

A Revelation of Fire (v.2)

 

The prophet is visited with a series of new visions under fresh

circumstances. No longer walking among the weeping captives by the

waters of Babylon, or standing in solitude upon the great plain, Ezekiel is

now in his own house receiving a deputation of Jewish leading men, who

have evidently been impressed by his earlier prophecies, and who have

come to consult him on the condition and prospects of his nation, when he

is seized with an inspired rapture. The house and the visitors melt away

from his consciousness, and there in the very presence of these waiting and

astonished guests the prophet’s eyes are opened to a vision of God, and he

is carried in imagination to scenes of sin and shame in the temple at

Jerusalem. Was ever there a more unlikely time and setting of revelation?

Truly the Spirit breatheth where it listeth. God may visit a soul in company

as well as in solitude, in the home as well as in the temple or in the

seclusion of nature. HE IS EVER PRESENT!   The only question in —

When and how will the veil be lifted?

 

  • A VISION OF GOD. It is evidently a Divine appearance, a theophany,

that is here portrayed. Not that man at any time can see God with the

outward eye, for flesh cannot see spirit. But in vision and representative

form God now manifests Himself to Ezekiel.

 

Ø      The vision of God precedes the revelation of truth. It was usual

for this great seer of visions, Ezekiel, to have a new series of revelations

opened by some overwhelming manifestation of God’s presence. The

same occurred with John’s visions in the Apocalypse. We must know

God before we can understand Divine truth. The vision of God in the

soul must come first. Then truth can be seen in his light.

 

Ø      The vision of God precedes the revelation of man. Ezekiel is about to

see awful sights of sin. He must first behold the pure fire of God’s

presence. We cannot know man till we see him in the light of God. The

Bible that gives us our highest knowledge of God also gives us our

Deepest insight into man. Vague ideas of God lead to LIGHT

THOUGHTS OF SIN!   When about to visit the haunts of wickedness,

the Christian should first come into communion with God. This will

help him to see the horror of sin, to keep himself from contamination,

and to feel the right commiseration for the fallen.

 

  • A VISION OF FIRE. The Divine manifestation seems to have been in a

human shape, but in one of fire — burning flames below, brilliant radiance

above.

 

Ø      The fire below suggests WRATH AGAINST SIN.   “Our God is a

      consuming Fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Christ came to baptize with fire,

and to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12).

There is a righteous indignation against sin, the lack of which would

mean moral feebleness. God burns to consume all evil.

 

Ø      The brightness above suggests THE SUPREME GLORY OF GOD.

 The crowning characteristic of God is not wrath. Above the fire is

the serene radiance. There is terror in the holiness of God when this

touches the sin of man. Yet God Himself is supremely calm and

beautiful. If we can rise from the flaming wrath about His feet,

and behold the beauty of His countenance, we shall see on it the

expression of eternal goodness.

 

3 “And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine

head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and

brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner

gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of

jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy.”  The form of an hand (compare

ch.2:9;  Daniel 5:5).  For the mode of transit,  see Bel and the Dragon, v. 36

(a book of the  Apocrypha that is included as chapter 14 of Daniel in the

Douay Bible) as  probably a direct imitation. The touch of the “hand”

was followed by the action of the Spirit, in visions which he knew to

be more than dreams, visions that came from God (compare ch.1:1; 40:2).

The word is not the same as that commonly used by Daniel (chazon), and

often by Ezekiel himself (ch. 7:13; 12:22-23, et al.), but mareh, which

implies a more direct act of intuition. The word appears again in ch. 11:24;

43:3, and in Daniel 8:26-27, et al. To the door of the gate, etc. From the

first we trace the priest’s familiarity with the structure of the temple. He is

brought, as it were, after his journey in the spirit, to the door of the gate

of the inner court that looketh towards the north (Revised Version).

This is identified in v. 5 with the “gate of the altar.” It may probably also

be identified with the “upper gate” of ch. 9:2; the “high gate” of

Jeremiah 20:2; the “higher gate” of II Kings 15:35, built by Jotham;

the “new gate” of Jeremiah 36:10. Obviously it was one of the most

conspicuous portions of the temple, where the people gathered in large

numbers. And here the prophet sees what he calls the image of jealousy.

The words that follow probably give his explanation of the strange phrase,

not found elsewhere, though it might naturally be suggested by

Deuteronomy 32:16, 21; Psalm 78:58. What this image was we can

only conjecture. The word for “image” is a rare one, and is found only here

and in Deuteronomy 4:16; II Chronicles 33:7, 15. It may have been

the Asherah (the “grove” of the Authorized Version), or conical stone,

such as Manasseh had made and placed, with an altar dedicated to it, in the

house of the Lord (II Kings 21:3; II Chronicles 33:3), or one of

Baal, or of Ashtaroth, or even of Tammuz (see v. 14). As the word

“grove” does not occur in Ezekiel, it may be sufficient to state that the

Ashera was a pillar symbolical either of a goddess of the same name, or, as

some think, of the Phoenician Astarte. The worship seems to have first

become popular under Jezebel (I Kings 18:19), and took deep root

both in Israel and Judah. The cultus, as in II Kings 23:7, seems to have

been connected with the foulest licence, like that of the Babylonian Mylitta

(Herod., 1:199; Baruch 6:43). The work of Josiah had clearly had but a

temporary success, and the people had gone back to the confluent

polytheism of the reign of Manasseh. In such a state of things the worst

was possible!

 

 

 

                                    The Image of Jealousy (v. 3)

 

Ezekiel in vision imagines himself plucked up by a lock of hair and carried

from the land of his exile back to Jerusalem, there to behold the

abominations that are being practiced in the temple of Solomon. In the

sacred enclosure he sees an idol that provokes the jealousy of the true God.

 

  • GOD IS JUSTLY JEALOUS. The Old Testament idea of the jealousy of

God has been grossly misapprehended. It has been taken as meaning that

God was regarded as narrow, self-seeking, or harsh. Such criticisms reveal a

total misapprehension of the Old Testament position, according to which

the jealousy of God is a necessity of His nature and righteousness.

 

Ø      A necessity of Gods nature. There is but ONE GOD who fills all

things.  When He is represented as jealous, this cannot be because

He grudges a certain amount of honor to a rival — as Zeus might

be jealous of Apollo — for GOD HAS NO POSSIBLE RIVALS!

The supposed rivals are not gods at all.  The worship of them is the

worship of empty names. God is calling men back from delusion

to fact when He is jealous of heathenish worship.

 

Ø      A necessity of righteousness. Forsaking Jehovah for false gods is not

merely leaving one deity for another, nor even only turning aside to

vanity and a delusion. It is turning from holiness TO SIN!   The

worship of God involves purity of heart and life; idolatry means a

lower moral life. For the sake of holiness God cannot endure the

lower worship. It might be said that God could be worshipped under

various names as “Jehovah, Jove, or Lord.” But if the lower forms of

worship involve false thoughts of God and evil practices in morals,

they are degrading and unendurable.

 

  • AN IDOL PROVOKES THE JEALOUSY OF GOD. The idol takes

the place of God, sits on His throne, defiles His temple, usurps His Name

and authority and worship. Anything that works in this way is an idol, and

needs to be visited with the just indignation of God. Let us note some of

these “images of jealousy.”

 

Ø      Pleasure. If men set pleasure first, guiding their lives by its gaudy

radiance, pleasure presides over the altar of their souls. “Love not

pleasure, love God,” says Carlyle; for the supreme love of the one

excludes the supreme love of the other.  (One of the characteristics

of the end of time will be “Men will be…..lovers of pleasure more

than love of God” – II Timothy 3:4 – CY – 2014)

 

Ø      Money. This idol of gold is the modern representative of

Nebuchadnezzar’s statue on the plain of Shinar — a hard, helpless

idol, which the man who lives for money enshrines in the temple

of his soul.

 

Ø      Earthly love. God does not require us to abandon human affection; on

the contrary, we cannot love God unless we love man, and we learn to

love God best through the exercise of human affections (I John 4:20).

But when a human affection is supreme and will not yield in submission

to the will of God, the object of it becomes an “image of jealousy.”

 

Ø      Self-will. We may think we serve God and yet we may refuse to obey

Him, only working according to our own will. This also is idolatry.

 

Ø      Fixed opinions. Instead of loving truth, we are tempted to love our

Own ideas; wishing them to be true, we are led to regard them as

such, and so to shut our minds against the correcting voice of Divine

revelation. All these images of jealousy are just so many embodiments

of SELF,  the monster idol of the soul and rival of God. To cast out

these images we need the true Image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ,

to come and take possession of our hearts.

 

4 “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to

the vision that I saw in the plain. 5 Then said he unto me, Son of man,

lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes

the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar

this image of jealousy in the entry.” And, behold, etc. In appalling contrast

with that “image of jealousy,” Ezekiel saw what he had not seen, as he first

became conscious that he was in the court of the temple — the vision of the

Divine glory, such as he had seen it on the banks of Chebar (ch.1:4-28). He

was to look first on this picture and then on that, and the guilt of Judah was

measured by that contrast. 

 

6 “He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they

do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel

committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but

turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.”

That I should go far off, etc. The lesson taught was that

already implied in the fact that the glorious vision had come to him from

the north (ch. 1:4). The temple was already as a God-deserted

shrine. His return to it now was but the coming of the Judge and the

Destroyer. We are reminded of the Μεταβαίνωμεν ἔντευθεν

Metabainomen enteuthen - Let us  depart hence), which was heard in the

darkness of the night before the later destruction of Jerusalem (Josephus,

Bell. Jud.’ 6:5.3) Bad begins, but worse remains behind. The prophet is

led onward as through the successive stages of an inferno of idolatries.

 

7 “And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked,

behold a hole in the wall.  8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now

in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door.

9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations

that they do here.”  To the door of the court. What follows suggests that the

prophet was led to the gate that opened from the inner to the outer court.

This was surrounded by chambers or cells (Jeremiah 35:4). The term for

“wall” (kir) is that specially used for the wall which encloses a whole group

of buildings (Numbers 35:4). Behold a hole in the wall. The fact was

clearly significant. The worship here was more clandestine than that of the

“image of jealousy.” We are not warranted, perhaps, in insisting on minute

consistency in the world of visions, but the question naturally arises —

How did the worshippers enter the chamber if Ezekiel had to enlarge the

hole in the wall in order to get in? We may surmise that the entrance from

the temple court had been blocked up all but entirely in the days of Josiah,

that the idolaters now entered it from without or through some other

chamber, while Ezekiel thinks of himself as coming upon them like a spy in

the dim distance of the covered passage through which he made his way.

 

10 “So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things,

and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel,

pourtrayed upon the wall round about.” Every form of creeping things.

The words obviously paint the theriomorphic worship of Egypt, the scarabseus

probably being prominent. The alliance between Jehoiakim and Pharaoh

(II Kings 23:33-35), and which Zedekiah was endeavoring to renew, would

naturally bring about a revival of that cultus. Small chambers in rock or

tomb filled with such pictured symbols were specially characteristic of it

(Gosse, ‘Monuments of Egypt,’ p. 6; ‘Ammian. Marcellin.,’ 22:15).

 

 

Base Idolatry (v. 10)

 

Placed, as the children of Israel were, in a very central position among the

nations, they were exposed to a great variety of temptations.

Circumstances must sometimes have favored the influence of one nation,

sometimes of another. Commercial intercourse, political leagues,

matrimonial alliances, all had a share in determining which nation should

predominate in influencing the Jewish people. And it is certain that by such

influences the people were led into idolatries of different kinds. Egypt, as

the neighbor of Israel upon the south, naturally came again and again into

contact with the people who had been by Divine power delivered from her

hands. Probably some relics of Egyptian superstition lingered for

generations among the Jews, and it seems certain that efforts were made to

introduce the deities and idolatrous worship of Egypt among the professed

worshippers of Jehovah. This verse obviously refers to the practice of

Egyptian idolatry in the capital, and in the very temple courts.

 

  • THE CHARACTER OF THIS IDOLATRY.

 

Ø      It was the worship of living creatures.

Ø      And of the lowest forms of life. This we know to have been

Especially characteristic of the religion of ancient Egypt.

 

  • THE VILENESS AND ABSURDITY OF THIS IDOLATRY.

 

Ø      It was the elevation of the creature above the Creator.

Ø      It was the glorification of animal in preference to spiritual life.

Ø      It manifested itself in the most irrational and indefensible forms

which so called religion could possibly assume.

Ø      It lowered the worshippers to a moral level of degradation below

which it was scarcely possible to sink.

 

  • THE GUILT OF THE JEWS IN PRACTICING THIS IDOLATRY.

 

Ø      They forsook the pure and elevating worship of the living and true God,

preferring the vile to the precious, the disgusting to the sublime.

Ø      They acted in a manner contrary to all the lessons of their past history.

Ø      They rebelled against the authoritative admonitions of the Lord’s faithful

prophets. In all these respects the Hebrew people were far more blamable

than the surrounding nations who had been trained in idolatrous practices,

and had never declined from a purer and nobler faith and worship.

 

 

11 “And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the

house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of

Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud

of incense went up.”  Seventy men, etc. The number was probably chosen with

reference to the “elders” who had seen the Divine glory in Exodus 24:9-10.

The Sanhedrin, or council of seventy, did not exist till after the

Captivity. The number can scarcely have been accidental, and may imply

that the elders were formally representative. Another Jaazaniah, the son of

Jeremiah, appears in Jeremiah 35:3; yet another, the son of Azur, in

Ezekiel 11:1. If the Shaphan mentioned is the scribe, the son of

Azaliah, under Josiah (II Kings 22:3), the father of Ahikam (Ibid. v.12),

of Elasah (Jeremiah 29:3), and of Gemariah (Ibid. ch.36:10-12), and the

grandfather of Gedaliah (Ibid. ch. 39:14, et al.), all of whom were prominent

in the reform movement under Josiah, or as friends of Jeremiah, and no other

Shaphan appears in history, the fact that one of his sons is the leader of the

idolatrous company must have had for Ezekiel a specially painful significance.

He could scarcely have forgotten the meaning of his name, “The Lord is listening,”

and probably refers to it in v. 12. As the climax of this chamber of horrors, the

seventy elders were all acting as priests, and were offering to their pictured idols

the incense which none but the sons of Aaron had a right to use, and which

they offered TO JEHOVAH ONLY!

 

12 “Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the

ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the

chambers of his imagery? for they say, the LORD seeth us not; the

LORD hath forsaken the earth.”  Every man, etc. And this, after all, was but

a sample of the prevalence of the Egyptian influence. Other elders had, in the dark,

a like adytum, a like chamber of imagery, like the Latin lararium, filled with a

like cloud of incense. And though the name of the leader of the band might

have warned them that the Lord was listening, they boasted, in their

blindness, that Jehovah did not see them; he had forsaken the temple, and

had gone elsewhere. They thought of Jehovah as of a local deity who had

abdicated. They were free to do as they liked without fear. The words are

worth noting further as the first of a series of popular half proverbs, in

which the thoughts of the people clothed themselves:

 

·         The time “It is not near” - ch.11:3;

·         “The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth” – ch. 12:22;

·         “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth

are set on edge.” -  ch.18:2,

  • “Doeth not the son bear the iniquity of the father.”  (Ibid. v.19;
  • “If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine

Away in them, how should we then live?”  - ch.33:10;

  • “Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost:  we are cut off for

our parts.  ch.37:11.

 

All these imply some personal knowledge of what was passing in Jerusalem.

 

 

Chambers of Imagery (v. 12)

 

Old men who should have been the guides of the younger generation were

found by the prophet to have their secret practices of idolatry in private

chambers, where they kept idols unknown to the world at large. Too

careful for their reputation to share in the open idolatry of the mass of the

people, these venerable hypocrites aggravated their guilt by cowardly

deception. Safely enclosed in the seclusion of their chambers of imagery,

they reveled in the orgies of a degrading idolatry, and then appeared in the

streets as sedate citizens. The shameful sin of this double living may be

practiced in other forms with another kind of chamber of imagery.

 

  • EVERY MAN HAS A CHAMBER OF IMAGERY IN HIS OWN

HEART. Children and poets are possessed of the most powerful

imagination; but even the dullest, most prosaic person is haunted with

visionary presences, though of the most common place order. When we

retire into ourselves, we unlock the door of our chamber of imagery and

look at its ghostly scenes. There hang the portraits of the past, some

blurred by the dust of years, others as clear as when they were first painted

by the flash of a keen experience; some distorted into painful, impossible

ugliness, others rounded into equally impossible perfection. There, too, are

vague shadows of the future. But the most important images are designs

and wishes, favorite fancies and pet ideas. These we embrace as friends;

before some of them, perhaps, we prostrate ourselves in idolatrous

worship. But happily we may also find there inspiring images of noble

deeds, the ideals we would strive to copy in actual life. We may have left

them too long in the dim chamber of imagery. We should bring them forth

and clothe them with the flesh and blood of living deeds, while the bad

images had better be crushed before they reach the doorway of utterance.

 

  • THERE ARE DEEDS DONE IN THE CHAMBER OF IMAGERY.

Lust is there, and adultery, covetousness, theft, hatred, and murder. So

long as a man restrains his utterance he is tempted to believe that it matters

not what he imagines. No greater delusion can be possible; for the true life

is that which is lived within. While in his chamber of imagery, a man is his

true self divested of the cloak of semblance which he wears when about in

the world. What images does he there delight to gaze upon? The true

character of the man will be determined by the answer to that question.

Certainly evil images may come there unsought and unloved as painful

temptations, and it is the duty of one who loves holiness to turn aside from

such. (You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head but you can keep

him from building a nest in your hair – Chinese proverb  – CY – 2014) 

But the images delighted in reveal the true self. The wickedness there

planned and gloated over in evil thought is sin — a deed of the soul.

Ultimately it must come out in the life, for the imagination of the heart

colors the external conduct, Shakespeare says —

 

Dangerous conceits are, in their natures, poisons,

Which, at the first, are scarce found to distaste,

But, with a little act upon the blood,

Burn like the mines of sulphur.”

 

  • IT IS A DELUSION TO SUPPOSE THAT GOD IS INDIFFERENT

TO WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CHAMBER OF IMAGERY. The old

Men of Jerusalem comforted themselves with the notion that God did not

see them, that He had forsaken the earth. This Ezekiel knew to be A

MONSTROUS DELUSION!

 

Ø      God looks into the chamber of imagery. There is a window in every

soul, through which the eye of God gazes right down to the bottom

of its most secret thoughts. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

The cloak of hypocrisy is not as the thinnest veil between us and God.

Now, this is of supreme interest, because, while it does not very much

Matter what our fellow men may think about us, God’s thought of us

is ALL IMPORTANT!

 

Ø      God will judge us for deeds done in the chamber of imagery.

Knowing all, He will not judge only by what the world sees.

Sins of the heart will be noted by God, and will bring down

upon us His just wrath, even though the hands have been clean

from iniquity.

 

Ø      The only effectual salvation must be ore that cleanses the chamber of

imagery. “Create in me a clean heart, O God” cries David, in the depth

of his penitence (Psalm 51:10, knowing that the outward sins he had

committed have sprung from the evil of his imagination. Therefore

nothing short of the new birth which Christ brings can save our souls.

 

 

Atheism (v. 12)

 

In the chambers of the temple courts the prophet in his vision beheld

seventy elders, representing the people of Judah and Israel, engaged in

idolatrous worship. The walls of the chambers were decorated with figures

of the animals to which homage was rendered. Those who by reason of

character and station should have been the leaders of the people in the

offices of pure religion were engaged in waving the censers of the

idolatrous worship, and the thick cloud of unholy incense filed the

chambers. As the prophet gazed appalled at this awful spectacle, the voice

of the Lord addressed him: “Hast thou seen what they do? They say, The

Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.” Here was the true

explanation of the defection of the Jews — leaders and common people

alike. It was atheism which led to idolatry. And atheism is far more

generally at the root of all evils in society than many superficial observers

are willing to allow.

 

  • THE ELEMENTS OF ATHEISM. There are many who are not

professedly and openly atheists, who are such in reality. They may not cast

aside the Name of God, they may not openly repudiate the Law of God;

but in their hearts they believe not in Him. There may be recognized on

their part:

 

Ø      Disbelief in the Lord’s omniscient observation of men. “They say,

The Lord seeth us not.”        

Ø      Disbelief in the Lord’s presence and activity. “They say, The Lord

hath forsaken the earth.” Whoever they may be who make these

assertions, and whatever their standing among their fellow men,

they are practically and really atheistic.

 

  • THE OPERATION OF ATHEISM. It is impossible that such disbelief

as that described should be without influence upon the moral nature and

conduct.

 

Ø      Atheism removes the restraints from sin which belief in the Divine

presence imposes. This is not the highest view to take of the question,

but it is a just one; and many natures are largely influenced by the

knowledge that AN ALL-SEEING GOD REGARDS ALL

THEIR WAYS AND THOUGHTS!

 

Ø      Atheism removes the inspiration to goodness which belief in the

Divine presence furnishes. The knowledge that a holy and

omnipotent Father is ever with us, is ever ready to encourage and

assist us in all our endeavors to realize our highest ideal, must needs

be a factor of great importance in our spiritual life. Let this be

withheld or contradicted, and how much that is best must be

withdrawn along with it!

 

  • THE FRUITS OF ATHEISM.

 

Ø      Among these Jews at Jerusalem disbelief in Jehovah led to

superstition and idolatry — no unusual conjunction.

 

Ø      Very generally, atheism leads to self-indulgence and vice.

 

Ø      And IT IS DESTRUCTIVE OF NATIONAL LIFE!   Fidelity

to God is fidelity to principle, fidelity to society, fidelity to the

highest conception formed of human life. Infidelity to God

involves the opposite of all these virtues (especially abortion on

demand – CY - 2014), and abandonment to the life of interest,

of ease, of pleasure; it gives power to every temptation to sin,

to every evil tendency of society. Under its influence man sinks

to the merely animal life, and to such mental activity as

subserves that life.

 

APPLICATION. We are sometimes told that in speculative atheism there

is no great harm; that without belief in God men may be good citizens, and

may discharge honorably the several relationships of life. Without denying

that, in certain instances, the influence of Christianity may for a time abide

after Christianity itself has been abandoned, we have yet to look at the

proper and inevitable consequences of a general abandonment of belief in

God. We shall find these SO TERRIBLE, that we may well watch and pray

against the first loosenings of belief in the most fundamental and precious

of all truths.

 

13 “He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see

greater abominations that they do. 14 “Then he brought me to the door

of the gate of the LORD’s house which was toward the north; and,

behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.”  Behold, there sat

women wailing for Tammuz. The point of view is probably the same as that of

v. 3, but the women were apparently in the outer porch of it, as he has to be

brought to the gate in order to see them. We are led to note two things:

 

  • the general prominence of women in the later idolatry of Judah;

we have the women who wove hangings for the Ashera (II Kings

23:7), those who had burnt incense to other gods, especially to the queen

of heaven (Jeremiah 44:9, 15-19), probably, i.e., to Ashtaroth.  (Note

the had become leaders – see Isaiah 3:12)

 

  • the specific character of the Tammuz worship.  This was done under

the name Tammuz and does not meet us elsewhere in the Old Testament.

All interpreters, however, agree that it answers to the Adonis of Greek

mythology. So Jerome translates it, and expressly states (in loc.) that what

Ezekiel saw corresponded to the Adonis festivals. It may be enough to

state, without going into the details of the story, that Adonis, the beautiful

youth beloved of Aphrodite, was slain by a wild boar; that after his death

he was allowed to spend six months of each year with her, while the other

was passed with Persephone in Hades. The cultus thus became the symbol

of the annual decay and revival of nature; but the legend rather than the

inner meaning was in the thoughts of the worshippers. The emotions of

women poured themselves out in lamentations over the waxen image of the

beautiful dead youth who had perished in his prime, and in orgiastic joy

over his return to life. Milton, deriving his knowledge, probably, from

Selden’s ‘De Diis Syris,’ has painted the whole scene in words which may

well be quoted —

 

Thammuz next came behind,

Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured

The Syrian damsels to lament his fate

In amorous ditties all a summer’s day;

While smooth Adonis from his native rock

Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood

Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale

Infected Sion’s daughters with like heat;

Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch

Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led,

His eyes surveyed the dark idolatries

Of alienated Judah.”

(Paradise Lost,’ 1:446, etc.)

 

The chief center of the Tammuz-Adonis worship was Byblos, in Syria. but

it spread widely over the shores of the Mediterranean and was fashionable

both in Alexandria and Athens. One of the practices of the festival, that of

planting flowers in vases for forced cultivation, has been perpetuated by

Plato’s allusion to “the gardens of Adonis” as the type of transitoriness

(‘Phaedr.’ p. 376, b). Cheyne, following Lagarde, finds a reference to the

cultus in Isaiah 17:10; 65:3: 66:17. The festival of Ishtar and Tammuz

(or Tam-zi) at Babylon presented a marked parallel. Adonis is, with hardly

a doubt, identical with the Hebrew Adonai (equivalent to “Lord”). Tammuz

has been explained as meaning “victorious,” or “disappearance,” or

“burning;” but all etymologies are conjectural. Lastly, it is not without

interest to note

 

  • that when Jerome wrote, the Cave of the Nativity at Bethlehem was

overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz (‘Ep. ad Paul.’); and

 

  • that the later Jewish calendar included the month of Tammuz, which

corresponded to July. The festival seems to have been celebrated at the

summer solstice. The time of Ezekiel’s vision was in the sixth month, sc.

about the time of the autumnal equinox (see ‘Dict. Bible,’ art. “Tammuz”).

Mr. Baring-Gould, treating the legend as a solar myth, finds the old

Phoenician deity represented in the “St. George of Merrie England

(‘Curious Myths,’ pp. 277-316). An exhaustive monograph, “Tammuz

Adonis,” has been published by Liebrecht, in his ‘Zur Volkskunde’ (1879),

reprinted from the Zeitschrift Deutschen Morgen-Gesellschaft, vol. 17. pp.

397, etc.

 

 

Secret Sins (vs. 7-13)

 

And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a

hole in the wall,” etc. In the case of “the image of jealousy” the idolatry of

the Israelites was open; in this case it is secret. In that the abominations

were committed by the house of Israel; in this by the elders of the house of

Israel. The paragraph suggests several observations on secret sins.

 

  • THE MOST HEINOUS SINS ARE GENERALLY COMMITTED IN

SECRET, These chambers of imagery, in which the elders of the house of

Israel did their wicked abominations, were concealed and difficult of

access. The secrecy with which their vile sins were committed is

graphically set forth in the text. “He brought me to the door of the court;

and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of

man, dig now in the wall,” etc. The idolatry practiced in these chambers

of imagery was the animal worship of the Egyptians. The prophet beheld

every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of

the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall.” Such idolatry indicates deep

spiritual degradation, and by its influence it increases that degradation. It is

fitly characterized as “the wicked abominations that they do.”  Every thing

created, however good it may be in itself, becomes an abomination as soon as

it stands with man beside, or quite about, God. What a fall for the elders of

Israel, from the elevating worship of the true and holy God to the debasing

 adoration of cattle and creeping things! And they must have felt the

wrongness of this, or they would not have so carefully striven to conceal it.

There are secret sins in the lives even of good men — sins of thought and

feeling that are hidden from our fellow men. Who could bear to have

everything that transpires in his mind and heart exposed to the gaze of

even his tenderest and best human friend; or, indeed, to any one except

the merciful and holy One?

 

“Or what if Heaven for once its searching light

Lent to some partial eye, disclosing all

The rude bad thoughts, that in our bosom’s night

Wander at large, nor heed Love’s gentle thrall?

 

“Who would not shun the dreary uncouth place?

As if, fond leaning where her infant slept,

A mother’s arm a serpent should embrace:

So might we friendless live, and die unwept.

 

“Then keep the softening veil in mercy drawn,

Thou who canst love us, tho’ thou read us true;

As on the bosom of th’ aerial lawn

Melts in dim haze each coarse ungentle hue.”

(Keble.)

 

But the secret sins most analogous to those of the text are those which are

practiced willfully. Could we read the chambers of imagery in human hearts,

what pictures of sins tolerated, and even indulged in some, we should see,

while the lives present a fair exterior! Secret impurities, veiled dishonesties,

concealed jealousies and animosities, and hidden idolatries, would appear

before us in appalling shapes and colors, and perhaps in astounding numbers.

 

  • THE MOST HEINOUS SINS ARE SOMETIMES COMMITTED

SECRETLY BY THOSE WHO ARE UNDER THE STRONGEST

OBLIGATIONS TO ESCHEW THEM. “And there stood before them

seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel,” etc. (v. 11). (On the

seventy men of the ancients,” compare Exodus 24:1, 9; Numbers 11:16,

24-25.)

 

Ø      The seventy elders may be viewed as representing the whole people, and

thus indicating the general corruption. In accordance with this view, the

entire nation is represented as having fallen from its high and holy calling

into this groveling superstition. And with comparatively few exceptions

the whole house of Israel had departed from the pure worship of the

Lord Jehovah.

 

Ø      The seventy elders may be viewed as showing the corruption of those

who should have been most incorruptible. They were the

representatives and counselors of the people, and as such they were

morally bound by advice and example to have endeavored to keep

the people from idolatrous associations, and to have maintained in its

integrity the worship of the true God; yet they fell themselves into

abominable idolatries. More than once, persons standing highest in

religious position have been amongst the lowest in their real character.

Such was the case with the scribes and Pharisees during the time of

our Lord’s life upon earth (compare Matthew 23:13-33). Exalted

religious position or office is no guarantee of exalted spiritual excellence.

 

  • THE PRACTICE OF SECRET SINS SPRINGS FROM

PRACTICAL ATHEISM. “For they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord

hath forsaken the earth.” Here is a twofold denial.

 

Ø      Denial of the Divine observation of human life and conduct. “The

Lord seeth us not.” The attempt at concealment implies the fact that

they ignored the all-seeing eye. The practice of sin generally involves

the overlooking or ignoring of the presence and observation of God.

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the

 good  (Proverbs 15:3).  Let this become a conviction, let it be realized

as a solemn fact, and sin would become an impossibility, at any rate

with most persons.

 

Ø      Denial of the Divine interest in human life. “The Lord hath forsaken the

earth.” Their feeling seems to have been this: “God does not care for us;

he is indifferent to what we do, or what becomes of us.” “As He does

nothing for them, they must help themselves as well as they can.” This

practical atheism is the prolific parent of secret and other sins. If man

realized the deep concern of God for his well being, in that realization,

he would have a most effectual restraint from sin.

 

  • THE FACT OF THE EXISTENCE OF SECRET SINS DEMANDS

THE EARNEST CONSIDERATION OF THE FAITHFUL SERVANTS

OF GOD. “He said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations

that they do here .... Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen

what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the

chambers of his imagery?” Thus the prophet was summoned to consider

the secret idolatries which were being practiced by the elders of Israel. It is

important that the faithful servants of God should consider the existence

and practice of secret sins:

 

Ø      To qualify them for battling with such sins. The reformer must become

acquainted with the full measure and force of the evils which he would

abolish, if he would succeed in his mission. And the physician, if he

would overcome disease, must know it in its inner workings as well as

in its outer manifestations. So also is it with him who would wage war

against sin.

 

Ø      To qualify them for estimating the righteousness of Gods treatment of

sinners. To appreciate how just and true He is in all His dealings with

men, it is necessary to consider the sins of mind and heart which are

committed against Him, as well as those of the tongue and hands.

 

  • THE MOST CAREFULLY CONCEALED SINS WILL

ASSUREDLY BE MADE MANIFEST. God is perfectly acquainted with

every one of them. Our secret sins are set in the light of His countenance

(compare Psalm 90:8). The revelation to the prophet of the wicked

abominations practiced in the dark in the chambers of imagery, is

suggestive of the unveiling of all secret sins.  (“All things are naked

and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we  have to do.”  -

Hebrews 4:13)

 

Ø      In the present life circumstances sometimes arise which occasion the

revelation of hidden sins. Afflictions sometimes strip off the mask

from the face of the hypocrite.  (“Some men’s sins aree open

beforehand, going before to judgment” – I Timothy 5:24).   Or

the near approach of death leads to the acknowledgment of

concealed vice or crime.

 

Ø      In the future life there will be an awful revelation of human character

and conduct. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with

every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” 

(Ecclesiastes 12:14).  “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord

come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness,

and make manifest the counsels of the hearts”  (I Corinthians 4:5).

 

  • CONCLUSION.

 

Ø      “Create in me a clean heart, O God;”  (Psalm 51:10)

Ø      “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” (Ibid. ch. 19:12)

Ø      “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

(Proverbs 4:23)

 

15 “Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee

yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.

16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house, and,

behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch

and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs

toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east;

and they worshipped the sun toward the east.”  He brought me into the inner

court. The last and the worst form of desecration follows. It was the “inner court”

(Joel 2:17) which, after the exile, was entered only by the priests. During the

monarchy, however, it seems to have been accessible to kings and other persons of

importance, as in the case of Solomon (I Kings 8:22. 64; 9:25) in the

revolution against Athaliah (II Kings 11:4-15), and Hezekiah (Ibid. ch.19:14),

and Josiah (Ibid. ch.23:2). Ezekiel does not say that the men whom he saw were

priests, though the number twenty-five suggests that they were taking the place of

the high priest and the heads of the twenty-four courses of the priesthood

(I Chronicles 24:4-19), and so symbolized the whole order of the priesthood as the

seventy elders represented the laity. In II Chronicles 36:14 the chief of the priests is

spoken of as having been prominent in “polluting the house of the Lord.”

They were seen turning their backs to the temple of Jehovah, i.e. the

sanctuary. The very act was symbolical of their apostasy (Ibid. ch. 29:6; Isaiah 1:4;

Jeremiah 7:24). And they did this in order that they might look to the east and

worship the rising sun. That, and not the temple (Daniel 6:10), was the Kiblah

of their adoration. The sun worship here appears to have had a Persian character,

as being offered to the sun itself, and not to Baal, as a solar god. Of such a worship

we have traces in Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:3; Job 31:26; II Kings 23:5, 11.

 

 

 

                                    Greater Abominations (v. 15)

 

As Ezekiel is taken from one chamber of idolatry to another, in his visionary

visit to the temple, he finds to his horror a continuous aggravation of the

abominations. This is similar to the results of a survey of the world’s sin.

 

  • SIN IS FOUND IN VARIOUS DEGREES OF ABOMINATION. The

patristic statement that all sin is infinite, because it is an offence against the

infinite God, is not found in Scripture, nor is it borne out by observation or

experience. The Bible refers to various degrees of guilt; e.g. John 19:11.

Peter’s denial of Christ was a sin; but Judas’s betrayal was a vastly

greater sin. We are conscious of degrees of guilt in our own lives. It looks

as though the sink of iniquity must be a bottomless pit. There are even

deeper, blacker, more frightful and damnable sins yet to be reached by an

abandoned soul that plunges down an unchecked descent of iniquity. No

one is so bad that he can say, “I can do nothing worse than I have done.”

 

  • THE VARIOUS DEGREES OR ABOMINATION CANNOT BE

MEASURED BY EXTERNAL STANDARDS. They are not to be

determined by any graduated code of formal morality. What is a weakness

in one man may be a crime in another. The father of a starving family who

steals a loaf — like the hero of Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’ — is not to

be judged as the respectable promoter of rotten investments, who grows

rich on the ruin of thousands of helpless people. The miserable child of the

London thief, whose training has been at a school of crime, cannot be justly

put into comparison with the son of a happy, prosperous Christian home.

There are hereditary tendencies to evil and peculiar circumstances of

temptation which beset certain people more than others. The degree of

guilt varies accordingly. We cannot weigh all these conditions. Hence the

advice, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”  (Matthew 7:1)

 

  • ALL SIN TENDS TO AN AGGRAVATION OF ITS

ABOMINATION. As Ezekiel went from one chamber to another, he came

upon a continually descending series of scenes of wickedness. The worst

were last. Sin is never at a standstill. It is a dark and turbid torrent that

SWELLS AND BLACKENS AS IT FLOWS!   The man who begins with a

slight lapse from virtue is on the road to greater abominations. Herein is the

danger, the fatal insidiousness of evil. If the sinner saw the whole course of

his future from the first and at once — like Hogarth’s pictures of the ‘Rake’s

Progress’ — he would start back with horror. Yet while HE LINGERS

AND TOYS WITH SIN,  it is silently coiling about him with more and

more direful entanglements.  (The chains of sin are too light to be felt

until they are too strong to be broken!)

 

  • THE EXISTENCE OF VARIOUS DEGREES OF ABOMINATION

IS A REASON FOR SPEEDY REPENTANCE.

 

Ø      All sin is abominable. One sin may be a greater abomination than

another, but the standard of measurement is not the depth below,

but the height above. The question is — How far have we fallen?

not — How much further may we yet sink away from the light?

A man’s sin is not one whit the less because his brother’s sin is

greater in guilt.  (There is great danger in taking comfort because

everybody is doing it!  - CY – 2014)

 

Ø      The sooner we repent the easier it is to return. Sin hardens as it

becomes more aggravated in evil. While the light of God is waning,

the way of recovery is becoming more obscure. “Today is the

accepted time.”  (Hebrews 4:7)

 

Ø      It is possible for the greatest abomination to be forgiven. The

obstacle is only on one side. CHRIST CAN SAVE THE

WORST OF SINNERS!

 

 

Sun Worship (v. 16)

 

When Ezekiel, in his visionary visit to the temple, came upon the last scene

of horror, and beheld the greatest of all the abominations therein committed, he

saw twenty-five men performing rites of worship before the rising sun.

 

  • SUN WORSHIP IS MOST FASCINATING. This was the most

common, and perhaps also the most primitive, heathen cult. It was very

prominent in the ancient Egyptian religion — the rising, the midday, and

the setting sun being honored with separate names and rites; it was the

essential idea of the Canaanite Baal worship, as well as of the Babylonian

religion; and it lies at the heart of the Aryan mythology in Sanskrit, Greek,

and Teutonic forms. If any material object should be selected for worship,

it is natural that the earth’s great source of light, power, and life should be

the universal favorite. Our modern idolatries do not reach this material

form, but they contain the same ideas.

 

Ø      The worship of light. This takes two forms.

 

o       Aestheticism. Grace of form and tone are set up as supreme objects

of admiration, to the neglect of moral goodness.

 

o       Science. This is put on a pinnacle as lord of all thought and life.

Now, knowledge is good, and all truth, which is the subject of

science, is in itself pure, and should be pursued by men. But the

exclusive cult of science is idolatry, because it is placing knowledge

above obedience.

 

o       The worship of power. The sun is the great motive power of the

universe. Latent sun heat in coal drives our steam engines. Direct sun

heat lifts the water from the sea, that afterwards descends in

avalanches and mountain torrents. We do not prostrate ourselves

before the sun, the source of all this force, but we do magnify the

virtue of the power itself. Yet material resources are not the highest

good.

 

o       The worship of life. The sun is the great fertilizing influence of

nature.  The return of its warm rays awakens nature from the death

of winter, and creates the new life of spring; its great heat makes the

tropics to teem with swift growing vegetable and insect life. The

most modern idolatry is the deification of the vital powers

(something like Mother Nature – CY – 2014) — the idea that, as

all natural instinct is pure, the indulgence of naturalism is

commendable. This is just the old Canaanite abomination.

 

o       The worship of the future. The sun worshipper turned to the east

and hailed the sunrise. There is something fascinating and

exhilarating in this anticipation of the morning. Christianity

consecrates hope. But it is a mistake to believe in the future

as in a fate of coming good. The future can only be good

because GOD IS IN IT and blesses it.

 

  • SUN WORSHIP IS MOST ABOMINABLE. It includes many evil

things.

 

Ø      Departure from God. The sun worshippers stood with their backs

turned towards the temple. Their attitude was most significant.

All idolatry must be practiced with the back turned towards the

truly Divine. We cannot serve the false and the true one at

the same time.

 

Ø      The degradation of Gods greatest works. The more beautiful and

powerful and fruitful the sun is seen to be, the more shameful is it

that men should degrade their thought of it into idolatry. When

we abuse God’s best gifts by idolizing them, we turn what should

occasion our deepest gratitude and admiration for God’s goodness

into an occasion for departing from Him.

 

Ø      The consecration of sin. Sun worship began in adoration of the lord of

day. But it descended into gross licentiousness, through the selection of

the fertilizing power of sun heat as a special object of adoration. Thus

sun worship became the worship of lust. This will be the inevitable

effect of naturalism regarded as a religion. The worship of nature powers

pure and simple involves the consecration of the lowest of those powers,

so that what should be kept down as a slave claims to rule as a master,

with obscene effrontery.

 

  • CONCLUSION. The rescue from nature worship — modern as well as

ancient — is to be found in the revelation of One infinitely greater than

nature. No wonder men who had no vision of the spiritual God selected the

sun — so powerful in his southern splendor — as the greatest object of

adoration. But we have “the Sun of Righteousness,” before whose glory all

physical brightness grows pale and fades away.

 

17 “Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a

light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the

abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the

land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and,

lo, they put the branch to their nose.” For returned read, with the Revised

Version, turned again.  The word seems chosen with special reference to the

attitude of the idol worshippers. It may be noted that even here the prophet

speaks not only of the idolatry of Judah, but of its violence also, as bringing

down the judgments of Jehovah. (So also at the end of time – even now

violence is a factor not only in America and the world, but also in our

city, with the shootings of the last month!  So also in the days before the

Flood when God destroyed all mankind, except Noah and his family –

Genesis 6:11 – CY – 2014)  Lo, they put the  branch to their nose. The

opening word expresses the prophet’s burning indignation. The act

described probably finds its best explanation in the Persian ritual of the

Avesta. When men prayed to the sun, they held in their left hands a

bouquet of palm, pomegranate, and tamarisk twigs, while the priests for

the same purpose held a veil before their mouth (Spiegel, ‘Iran. Alterth.,’

3:571, 572, in Smend), so that the bright rays of the sun might not be

polluted by human breath. And this was done in the very temple of Jehovah

by those who were polluting the whole land by their violence. The Septuagint

gives, as an explanation, ὡς μυκτηρίζοντες hos muktaerizontesput a

branch to their nose, as though the act was one of  scornful pride (compare

Isaiah 65:5), the sign of a temper like that of the Pharisee as he looked upon

the publican (Luke 18:11).  The word for “branch” is used in ch.15:2 and

Numbers 13:23 for a vine branch.

 

 

Making Light of Sin (v. 17)

 

 

  • SINNERS MAKE LIGHT OF SIN.  “Fools make a mock at

sin”  (Proverbs 14:9).  This is a commonly observed fact.

Let us see how it is caused.

 

Ø      As an attempt to excuse the sinner. This, of course, is the most

obvious and palpable reason why many people try to minimize

their own sin. The prisoner pleads “Not guilty” simply to save

himself. The same is done even before the private bar of a man’s

own conscience; for we wish to excuse ourselves to ourselves.

Thus there may be no conscious deception, no

hypocrisy. We may really persuade ourselves that we are not so

bad as we seem to be. The wish is father to the thought.

 

Ø      By the force of habit. We grow accustomed to the worst

companions if we are much with them, as we scarcely notice

the ugliness of what is constantly with us, though strangers

would be struck with their first sight of it. So while we become

familiar with our sins, their supreme and most dreadful

wickedness ceases to affect us, as the fearful sight of mutilated

bodies ceases to affect hospital surgeons. The horror dies out

of the aspect of wickedness, and a look of familiarity takes its place.

 

Ø      Through the influence of example. If a man stood alone in his sin, he

would he appalled at the singular horror of it. But he sees it reflected

in the lives of his neighbors, and, judging himself by the average

standard of society, instead of taking the Law of God for his

measure, he passes an easy sentence.

 

Ø      In the deadening of conscience. This is the worst and the most

dangerous effect of sin. The sense for perceiving its guilt is blunted.

Until conscience is reawakened by the Spirit of God, no man truly

appreciates his own guilt.

 

“If I willfully keep my conscience in darkness and continue

             in errors which I might easily know to be such by a little

            thought and searching of God’s Word, then my conscience

            conscience can offer me no excuse for I am guilty of

            blindfolding the guide which I have chosen and then

            knowing him to be blindfolded, I am guilty of the folly

            of letting him lead me into rebellion against God.

 

 

  • IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO MAKE LIGHT OF SIN.

 

Ø      He sees it as it truly is. God is not deceived by our excuses. He sees

into the true nature of our thought and conduct with an all-searching

eye, and He is perfectly true and just to judge according to fact.

 

Ø      God measures it by the law of holiness. He knows our weakness, our

ignorance, our temptation; and He does not judge men as He would

judge angels — of that we may be sure; for “shall not the Judge of

all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)  But according as we have

light He will judge our conduct, measuring it against that light, and

not against the darkness of our neighbors. God cannot endure iniquity.

In His sight it is hideous and hateful and utterly deserving of

condemnation. Let us remember that we shall not be judged by man’s

standards of conventionality, but by God’s pure law of righteousness.

 

Ø      If God forgives sin, He does not make light of it. Forgiveness is not

excusing evil. It recognizes the whole black guilt of it. Jesus who

brought free forgiveness denounced sin itself as no stern Hebrew

prophet had ventured to denounce it. In pardoning the penitent He

carefully noted that her sins were “many” (Luke 7:47). The publican

is commended for his humiliation in the confession of sin (Ibid. ch.

18:13). We can only judge of God’s horror of sin by the darkness and

agony of Gethsemane and Calvary. God forgives sin AT THE COST

OF HIS OWN SON!  The great atonement of Christ was rendered

necessary because God could not make light of sin, though

He desired to save the sinner. We can be saved from our sin, not by

Making light of it, but when we fully confess its whole guilt and shame.

 

18 “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither

will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud

voice, yet will I not hear them.”  The verse serves as a transition to ch. 9.

The unpitying aspec of the Divine judgments is again prominent. Such sins

deserved, and could only be expiated by, the judgments to which we now pass.

 

 

Man’s Provocations of God, and God’s Punishment of Man (vs. 14-18)

 

“Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which

was toward the north,” etc.

 

  • MAN’S PROVOCATIONS OF GOD. In v. 17 it is said, “They

returned to provoke me to anger.” The sins mentioned in this paragraph

were not the only provocations of the Most High, as the words of the

clause imply. Professor Cheyne translates, “provoke me to anger again and

again.” And Ewald, “exasperated me repeatedly.” The various idolatries

and other sins committed by the people were so many provocations of the

Lord. But as to those mentioned in the text, notice:

 

Ø      The foul idolatry of the women. “He brought me to the door of the

gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold,

 there sat women weeping for Tammuz.” The meaning of Tammuz

is not certain, but the conjecture which is by far the most probable is

that it is the Hebrew and Syriac name for the heathen god Adonis,

who, according to the fable, was the beautiful paramour of Venus.

He was said to have been killed by a bear in the chase, and

afterwards to have returned to life. The worship of Adonis took

its rise at Byblos, in Phoenicia. “From Byblos it spread widely

over the East, and was thence carried to Greece.” It was probably

introduced to the Jews front Syria. The festival of Adonis was

celebrated in the fourth month (corresponding to portions of our

June and July). This celebration “was of a twofold character: first,

that of mourning, in which the death of Adonis was bewailed with

extravagant sorrow; and then, after a few days, the mourning gave

place to wild rejoicings for his restoration to life. This was a revival

of nature worship under another form — the death of Adonis

symbolized the suspension of the productive powers of

nature, which were in due time revived. Accordingly, the time of

this festival was the summer solstice, when in the East nature seems

to wither and die under the scorching heat of the sun, to burst forth

again into life at the due season” (‘Speaker’s Commentary’). For seven

days the women gave themselves up to this lamentation, chanting

mournful songs to the accompaniment of pipes, cutting their breasts

with knives, and either cutting off their hair as a sacrifice to the god,

or presenting to him the more costly and shocking sacrifice of their

chastity. Well does Fairbairn say, “This Phoenician abomination had

become one of the festering sores of Judah’s disease.”

 

Ø      The idolatry of the men. “And he brought me into the inner court

of the Lord’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the

Lord,” etc. (v. 16). Most expositors regard these five and

twenty men as the presidents of the twenty-four orders into which the

priesthood was divided (I Chronicles 24.), with the high priest at their

head; and thus they look upon them as representing the entire priesthood.

This, however, is by no means certain. As a matter of fact, the priesthood

as a whole had never given themselves up to idolatry. The number

(twenty-five) is a round one, as in ch. 11:1.  Had it been stated that the

men were priests, we might have supposed that they were the heads of

the twenty-four courses, together with the high priest.  But no; they

were ‘elders’, i.e. laymen. The inner court was not closed to

the laity till after the return from exile (see I Kings 8:22, 64; 9:25;

II Kings 11:4-15).” But to whatever class these men belonged,

they were offering provocation to God by worshipping the sun.

This form of idolatry was of very ancient origin. Job declares his

Innocence of it (Job 31:26). It is distinctly prohibited in the Law

given by Moses (Deuteronomy 17:3). In its earliest form, among the

Arabians, the worship was addressed directly to the heavenly bodies,

without the intervention of images. In times preceding those of the

prophet this idolatry had been introduced into Jerusalem, and abolished

by King Josiah (II Kings 23:5, 11). But by some means it had been

revived or reintroduced, and now in the days of Ezekiel was openly

flourishing again. Moreover, their worship of the sun was aggravated

by the posture in which it was practiced. “With their backs toward the

temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east.” The sanctuary of

the Lord God was behind them, as a thing they were renouncing, while

they were looking to the new object of their hope and adoration rising

in the east. A still further aggravation of their sin is mentioned: “And,

lo, they put the branch to their nose.” We are not certain as to the

meaning of this expression. “The Persian sun worshipper, according to

Strabo and others, held in his hand a bunch of shoots, called barsom,

when praying to the sun, and applied it to the mouth when uttering

prayer. This quite agrees with the rite here.” It appears to be of Persian

origin; only this qualification must be made that, considered as a

Persian practice, it has reference not to the worship of the sun, but to

that of the sacred fire. In the Avesta we read of a bundle of branches

called baresma (later writings call it barsom), which occupied as

important a place in Zoroastrian worship as in the worship of these

five and twenty men.’ The twigs preferred for this sacred object

were those of the date, the pomegranate, and the tamarisk,

and the words of the Zoroastrian Scripture (Vendidad, 19:64) are

rendered as follows by the latest translator: ‘Let the faithful man cut

off a twig of baresma, long as a ploughshare, thick as a barleycorn.

The faithful one, holding it in his left hand, shall not leave off keeping

his eyes upon it.’ Thus it is not expressly stated by the Zoroastrian

authorities (nor yet is it by Strabo) that the baresma was to be held to

the mouth (or the nose). This, however, was the way of holding the veil

called paitidana, the object of which was to prevent the impurities

of the breath from passing into the sacred fire. By this heathenish and

idolatrous practice the Lord Jehovah was insulted by His own people.

 

Ø      The social injustice and oppression. They have filled the land with

violence.” Unfaithfulness to God and cruelty to man were sins that went

hand in hand amongst the people of Israel (compare ch.7:23; 9:9),

 in the temple were pollutions, and in the land violence. The princes and

judges, they wronged men; the priests and prophets, they wronged God

(Zephaniah 3:3-4) If there be violence in a land, there will be

corruptions, pollutions, abominations in the sanctuary; if there be

superstition, idolatry in the Church state, there will be oppression,

injustice, and spoil in the civil state: when the temple is a den of thieves,

the land will be a den of oppressors and murderers (Jeremiah 7:9-11).

Thus the people provoked the Lord to anger by their oft repeated

and much aggravated sins and crimes.

 

  • GOD’S PUNISHMENT OF MAN. “Therefore will I also deal in fury:

mine eye shall not spare,” etc. (v. 18). The nature of the punishment is

not stated here; but it has already been set forth at length by the prophet,

and is still further indicated in the next two chapters. Two remarks

concerning it are suggested by this verse.

 

Ø      It will be the expression of His righteous anger. “Therefore will

I also deal in fury.” The “therefore” indicates the close connection

between THE SIN and THE PUNISHMENT. They are related as

cause and effect (see our remarks on ch.7:4).

 

Ø      It will be inflicted without any relenting. “Mine eye shall not spare,

neither will I pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice,

yet will I not hear them.” The former of these clauses we noticed on its

occurrence in ch.7:4. And as to the loud cries of the wicked in

their distress, they are generally the mere outburst of selfishness,

without a particle of true penitence or prayer (compare Proverbs

1:24-31).  When Nebuchadnezzar came, besieged the city: when

plague and famine increased, then they fell upon their knees and

cried to God for help; as malefactors, when the judge is ready to

give sentence, cry out, and importune him to spare their lives.

Such prayers are the voice of the flesh, not of the spirit: forced,

not free: faithless and unseasonable prayers, COMING TOO LATE

and therefore UNACCEPTABLE!   Let men therefore not defer

seeking of God TILL NECESSITY PUTS THEM UPON IT! 

And let us seek Him, not with the selfish cries of terror, BUT WITH

PENITENT AND BELIEVING HEARTS!   It is not the loud voice,

but the upright heart, THAT GOD WILL REGARD!

 

 

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