Brazilian billionaire pastor, Edir Macedo, built a church designed to look like Solomon’s temple. See the picture above. You can read more about it here. It has a sanctuary for worship, a museum, and a helipad for Macedo’s convenience. I wonder what it would be like tour that building? How similar or different is it from the original? And perhaps most importantly, what would God think of Macedo’s massive $300 million dollar building? We can only speculate. Today, though, we will hear what God had to say when he took Ezekiel on a tour of the original temple.
First, let’s try to get in Ezekiel’s heart and mind. Have you ever had that feeling, after having been away from your hometown for a while, and you come back, look around, amazed how much you recognize and yet unsettled by how much has changed. Then you see that your favorite park is gone, and in its place is a superstore with a huge parking lot. No more climbing trees, playing sports in the grass, or using the playground. Instead it is a Big Box Store.
As we continue studying Ezekiel 8, I suspect Ezekiel had some of those disconcerting feelings.
In the previous post, we learned that in Ezekiel chapter 8, God takes Ezekiel, in a vision, to Ezekiel’s hometown, the city of Jerusalem. Ezekiel had not been back there in six and a half years, and now through the miracle of what I am calling a virtual reality dream vision, Ezekiel flies 900 miles to Jerusalem and arrives at the temple. The first thing he notices is that his own people, the Jews, have set up an idol in the temple courtyard. All is not well.
What does Ezekiel see next in this virtual reality dream vision? Read Ezekiel 8, verse 4.
God’s glory is there! Just as Ezekiel had seen before in the previous visions in chapters 1-3! He doesn’t spend much time describing it, but we would do well to pause a moment and consider what this must have been like for Ezekiel. Seeing the glory of God would be amazing. Seeing it once would be astounding. This is now the third time Ezekiel gets to see God’s glory. The first two times, God’s glory came and totally surprised Ezekiel in Babylon. Now he sees God’s glory in the temple, which is where the glory of God resided.
Even though he sees God’s glory, he has also seen an idol in the temple. What is going on? Continue reading, and we’ll see what else God shows Ezekiel in the temple. Read Ezekiel 8, verses 5-18.
God takes Ezekiel on a tour through room after room in the temple, and in each room the people of Israel have desecrated the temple with worship of idols and foreign gods. On the tour, four times God asks Ezekiel a question: “Do you see this?” If God were talking in contemporary English, I think he would say, “Can you believe these people???” Why is God so astounded? Because his own people, in his own temple, are participating in one desecration after another, right there in his place of residence.
Each time, after he asks the question, “Can you believe it?”, God says, “You better believe it, because guess what? When we head into the next room, you’re going to see things even worse than that!”
On God’s tour of the temple, things are going from bad to worse. In each of the rooms there are descriptions of various kinds of idol worship. The room in verse 10 is likely describing Egyptian idol worship. Notice in verse 11, the elders of Israel are in another space using pagan religious worship. These are not the elders in Ezekiel’s house in Babylon who we met in the previous post. They are the elders who were living in Jerusalem all along, and Ezekiel sees them practicing pagan religion in the temple.
What is worse, did you hear what the elders said? Look at verse 12. Amazingly, they claim that God doesn’t see them, that God has forsaken them. I find that fascinating. Though they have constantly disobeyed him, though they abandoned him, including the audacious rebellion of allowing idolatry in God’s temple, they blame God??? It is also interesting that at this point neither God nor Ezekiel comment on the elders’ convoluted logic.
Instead, as the tour continues, in verses 14-15 we read that God brings Ezekiel to another room where woman are worshiping the Babylonian fertility god Tammuz. Then in the next room, in verse 16, twenty-five men have turned their backs on the temple and are worshiping the sun.
In the concluding verses 17-18, God has had enough, and he tells Ezekiel that he is done with the people in Jerusalem. No matter how much the people cry out, God will not listen to them. This sounds very ominous. In chapter 9, God takes action.
Check back to the next post as we learn what God does about the apostasy in his temple.