Tuesday, March 21
“Elvis has left the building.” That’s what they used to say to the throngs of screaming fans after one of Elvis Presley’s concerts back in the day. They would rush Elvis out the back door into his waiting car or bus and whisk him off to safety. Hopefully, the fans would calm down after they knew he was no longer there… there would be no more encores for this performance.
In Ezekiel ten- YHWH has left the building. The building in question was the Temple of Jerusalem. Since the time of Moses and Aaron in the wilderness when Israel worshipped in the Tabernacle, to the time of Solomon and beyond, when they worshipped YHWH in the Temple of Jerusalem, YHWH was present with His people. They knew that there, in the holy of holies, the shekhinah glory of God was present with his people. Yes, there was a veil which separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple, and only the high priest was permitted to enter into the presence of YHWH once a year to atone for the sins of the people, yet they could always look up to the tabernacle or later Temple atop Mt. Zion and know that God was with them. But no longer. Ezekiel saw a vision of God’s glory leaving the Temple. Because of their extreme disobedience and their worship of idols, God could no longer remain among his people. It was a time for judgment, and God had to leave. How sad that must have been for Ezekiel, to watch God leaving.
In Ezekiel eleven, judgment is proclaimed against Israel’s leaders. “You haven’t obeyed my laws” YHWH complains. “You’ve conformed to the standards of the nations around you.”
God is gracious, even in the midst of judgment, he promises to bring some of them back from exile and give them back the land which he had given to their forefathers. God promises to bring about change in their hearts. vs. 19 “I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” God still loves His people and offers them hope in the midst of judgment. Ezekiel shared this vision with the exiles so that they would understand the consequences of their sins.
In Ezekiel twelve, God warns that even their ruler would be forced into exile. They kept hoping that this would happen in the distant future, but God assures them that judgment is coming soon.
In chapter thirteen, God turns his judgment from the leaders to the false prophets. These people told lies in the name of YHWH. They said “thus saith the Lord” when God didn’t say it. God condemns them for leading their people astray. They “whitewashed” over the truth about God’s coming judgment against sin and substituted their lies about a false peace. “you encouraged the wicked not to repent”. He blames the false prophets for the sins of the people, therefore, they will come under God’s harsh judgment.
Israel had a wonderful building in which to worship, they had clear rules to follow, they had leaders to teach them, they had priests to offer sacrifices, they had prophets to bring them words from God- and yet that wasn’t enough. They were not content to live as God’s holy and separate people and act as a witness to the rest of the nations around them. Instead, they worshipped the false gods of their neighbors, they ignored God’s laws, their prophets failed to warn them for their sins and assured them of false peace when God was preparing to bring his judgment. It seems not much has changed. One would be tempted to see the same kinds of things going on today. How many buildings today allow idolatry and false gods to be worshipped? How many people falsely claim to be speaking God’s word when they are instead peddling the words of men? Some days we might even wonder “has God left the building” when we follow the sinful standards of the world rather than remaining faithful to God’s holy word? We’d like to think judgment is far away just as they thought then… but perhaps it’s much closer than you might think.
-Pastor Jeff Fletcher