by Pastor Mark Hudson
In chapter 9, Ezekiel is seeing a vision of the destruction of Jerusalem. He and Daniel are in Babylon (Daniel probably arriving approximately 10 years earlier than Ezekiel. Daniel arrives in 605 BC and Ezekiel in 597/6). We are not told if they ever met but it does seem likely. Jeremiah, back in Jerusalem, is warning those in Jerusalem until he is taken to Egypt.
The vision of Ezekiel is of God executing judgment. From Ezekiel’s vision, those executing are angelic beings which makes us think of the Exodus. In this case, the six have a destroying weapon in their hand. In verse 2, there is one who is dressed in linen (priests dressed in linen) who is superior to the others, and he marks those who (in v. 4), “sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it [Jerusalem].” Those who receive this mark will escape death.
These angelic executioners are commanded by God to “strike” and not pity? Why? Because of the idolatry we read about in chapter 8. Remember in 7:9, “I will punish you according to your ways . . . .” Since this is a vision, we ought to understand this as “deadly weapons of God’s angelic warriors (who) took the form of Babylonian siege machinery, swords, and torches. The historical slaughter is interpreted in advance as divine judgement, in the same way as Israel’s military attack up the Canaanites in the previous millennium as interpreted as divine judgment upon them. . . . Israel had in fact effectively ‘Canaanized’ themselves.” (The Message of Ezekiel by Christopher J.H. Wright p. 115). And since Israel has morphed into Canaan, they will be treated like Canaan.
God himself says, “Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain” in v. 7. This is shocking since worship revolved around purity and cleanness. God was constantly trying to keep defilement out of the temple and out of the lives of His people. This is like Jeremiah’s warning in Jer. 7. “The place of sanctuary becomes the place of destruction. The place that should have been the focal point of God’s protective presence . . .has become the focal point of his judgment over them. It was a deeply ingrained tradition of Israel’s faith that Yahweh would fight against his enemies from Zion. The awful truth is that his enemies are now within Zion. Indeed, there is almost a pantomime grotesqueness in the detail that the slayers began with the elders doing their sun worship with their back to the temple. Viewers from the direction they were pointing would want to call out in warning, ‘It’s behind you!’” (Ibid.).
Did Peter have this text in mind in I Pt. 4:17, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? As Wright reminds us, “. . . far from being immune to his judgments, (we) are all the more exposed to it on account of the privilege of being his covenant people.
So, in v. 7 when God say, “Defile the house,” He is admitting the house is already defiled. The temple has become, not a place of worship, but a place of idolatry. God is only doing what He has promised to do: judge and punish sin. Which leaves Ezekiel to do the only thing he can do; plead for God’s mercy. But God’s eyes will not pity; a phrase repeated often.
Notice v. 3. The glory of God is leaving the temple in 9:3. The Spirit or glory of God moves again in 10:18,19 and in 11:23. We see the glory of God leaving the temple in stages until finally His presence leaves the temple. This reminds me of Matt 27:46 where Christ cries out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ This is a tragedy we never want to experience: the departure of the Holy Spirit from us. This is what is happening in our country and in the world. Churches that should be standing up rebuking sin, embrace sin. Churches should lovingly tell homosexuals that homosexuality is a serious sin against a holy God. And just as quickly remind them that our sins are also serious. But we must never accept their sin and be proud of it. We are to be watchman for God (Ez 3:17, 33:2ff). We have an obligation to repeat the warnings God has given to us. This is serious because Ezekiel’s words are God’s warnings and God’s words. If God speaks and I ignore God, I am in a seriously dangerous place. I can ignore you and you can ignore me. While ignoring someone is being rude, there are no eternal consequences. But what will happen to churches, ministers, etc. who are saying nothing different than the world?
Finally, look at vs. 9-10. The sins that we see in the Bible are not minor or as we might say peccadillos. God’s wrath is not against minor sins but against sins that harm individuals and communities. “The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice. For they say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see’” v. 9. It was so bad, people felt like God must not see what is going on or He would judge these awful sins. Or they thought God had forsaken the land. God had abandoned His own people. This was not a small issue. God calls the guilt “exceedingly great.”
“The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice” writes Ezekiel in 9:9. He could be talking about the U.S. Our guilt is exceedingly great and our land of full of violence. We murder the unborn in a place that should be the most nurturing, safe places for a human being. In 2020, the Guttmacher Institute tabulated 930,000 abortions. The CDC in 2021 recorded 625,000. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the US has recorded at least 314 mass shooting in 2022 and this is only July. Gun violence overall has killed at least 22,000 people so far. We are an angry, violent people that have spurned God and closed our ears to his cry.
Dear Heavenly Father, please move among Your people and insure we are sighing and groaning over the abominations that are committed in our lives, in the lives of those we know, and in our country. If you marked those who are Yours, all who truly believe in Christ, would receive that mark of ownership and protection. Revive Your people to live holy lives and sincere trust in Christ. In all these fake, glittering toys, may our treasure Your majesty as our chief delight. And may our lives and activities reflect that priority. We run to the only One who can save us: our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.