Series on Ezekiel, I The Fall of Jerusalem, E Foul Worship, Text: 8:1-11:25, Title: Trivial or Detestable?


By the river Chebar Ezekiel delivers God’s message to the captives who have been carried from their own country. This time he focuses their attention on what will occur back home, and it is not pretty. In  bringing the message Ezekiel has from the beginning justified the judgment of God while assuring the captives that God is there with them. In this section 8-11 the original vision of the chariot of God and the cherubim is repeated, but here the message is that God is abandoning their homeland along with His temple and His city, Jerusalem. The reason is the detestable practices of the people and their leaders. We read about these in  8: 5-12, Then he said to me, “Son of man, look toward the north.” So I looked, and in the entrance north of the gate of the altar I saw this idol of jealousy. 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? But you will see things that are even more detestable.” Then he brought me to the entrance to the court. I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall. He said to me, “Son of man, now dig into the wall.” So I dug into the wall and saw a doorway there. And he said to me, “Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here.” 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. 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. 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.’” According to verse 17 what they are doing is trivial to them but detestable to God. Let us see, then, how this kind of behavior affects the culture and the covenant.

I The Culture

The culture is significantly effected. It is destroyed, God departs, and the people are devastated.

A The Destruction of Society

Read verse 17, He said to me, “Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the house of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually provoke me to anger? Look at them putting the branch to their nose!” So trivial did they regard their actions that God says they were mocking Him by holding a branch to their nose which was a frequent occurrence in idolatrous worship and God says in a play on words, they provoke my anger, literally nose. Why do people think that their actions have no affect on their society? Proponents of sexual freedom, abortion and pornography constantly regale us with their theme song, “Who am I hurting,” or “It’s a private matter.” Not only is this a stench in the nostrils of God, but it fills the land with disease and suffering and violence. These modern individuals are repeating the mistake of Israel and Judah in 9:9, He answered me, “The sin of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.’” Today because people have rejected God thy naively say the same thing, albeit for different reasons, God does not see. When we break God’s commandments, we destroy our culture. As a pastor, R.C. Sproul had a woman who was having an affair in his study. She said to him, “Leave me alone, who am I hurting?” He showed her his appointment book with 27 appointments with affected and troubled people including friends, family, parents, employers and neighbors.

B The Departure of God

It begins in chapter 8:6 with God saying that the things they are doing will drive him  away. It is gradually revealed through these chapters. In 9:3 we read that the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim where it had been and moved to the threshold of the temple. This is repeated in 10:4 and then in 10: 18 and 19 we read, Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. Finally in 11:23 and 24 we are told, The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God. It is a progressive withdrawal from Jerusalem to Babylon just like our society. Decades ago certain theologians wrote about the death of God. They were writing Ichabod, the glory has departed, over our culture. For them the only real existence that God had was in the mind of believers, and since that belief was declining, for them, God was dying. Our society today no longer thinks that God is really there. You have your religion and I have mine, and God is only there in your thoughts and my thoughts, and he may be very different in each one’s ideas. So, to them, it is important that you believe, but what you believe is irrelevant. This immanentistic belief that God only exists in people’s minds is rampant. How anyone can derive comfort with such a perspective is beyond me. God says I am that I am. He is there whether we believe in Him  or not.

C The Devastation of the People

The people were clearly devastated by their religious leaders who partook of the same sin and unbelief. The wicked leaders speak in 11: 3, They say, “Will it not soon be time to build houses? This city is a cooking pot, and we are the meat.” They are mocking in this statement. Jeremiah had advised the exiles to build houses because they would be in Babylon a long time, 70 years, but these leaders are telling the people there is no need yet to build houses because Jerusalem is secure. The allusion to meat in the pot is saying that Jerusalem is a pot protecting the people. When God speaks about the terrible judgment He is bringing this meaning is clear in  verses 6-12, You have killed many people in this city and filled its streets with the dead. “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: The bodies you have thrown there are the meat and this city is the pot, but I will drive you out of it. You fear the sword, and the sword is what I will bring against you, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will drive you out of the city and hand you over to foreigners and inflict punishment on you.You will fall by the sword, and I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD. This city will not be a pot for you, nor will you be the meat in it; I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. And you will know that I am the LORD, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you.” And then in verse 13 as a sign from heaven one of the princes and leaders of the nation is stricken before Ezekiel showing that their fate is sealed, Now as I was prophesying, Pelatiah son of Benaiah died. Then I fell facedown and cried out in a loud voice, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! Will you completely destroy the remnant of Israel?” Ironically the name Pelatiah means “Yahweh delivers.” People drop dead to make God’s point, as did Ananias and Sapphira in the early church in Acts 5.

II The Covenant

God’s people in covenant relationship with Him are also greatly affected, and they are told what to do.

A Repentance

God desires repentance according to 9:3 and 4, Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” These people are delivered because they mourn the practices and not the judgment itself. In Revelation 7 it is the people who do not have the mark of the beast on them that are delivered, but here it is those who are marked by God because they repent. In writing to the Corinthian church in II Corinthians 7: 8-10 Paul distinguishes between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow, Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it-I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while-yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. The captives were being marked because they were displaying the godly sorrow over sin and not the worldly sorrow of regret over the penalty which leads to death.

B Refuge

Chapter 11, verse 16 is exceedingly precious, Therefore say: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.” Though the outward props of their religion, the temple and the city of God are gone, God is with them wherever they are if they repent and believe. This carries on the magnificent vision of Chapter 1. God was with the exiles. The importance of this emerges later in history in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah when the captives return and they are the ones who have the pure religion, while those who were left behind and survived have married heathens and diluted and polluted their faith. The message is clear. If you don’t take refuge in God wherever you are, then there is no safe refuge anywhere.

C Renewal

In 11:17-25 we have the promise of renewal to the remnant, Therefore say: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again. They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.” Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God. Then the vision I had seen went up from me, and I told the exiles everything the LORD had shown me. This is partially fulfilled in the return after the decree of Cyrus and the spiritual and physical reconstruction in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. The final restoration does not come until Messiah comes and the gospel age is inaugurated. Both the physical and spiritual rebuilding are partial. The temple will again be destroyed, the land devastated and the spiritual revival cannot truly be fulfilled until Jesus death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel repeats this important truth in 36: 24-27,  For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. The true restoration does not come except through Jesus