Christian houses of worship are thought to be places of purity, good morals, and godliness, which is why it appalls us when we hear reports of people in congregations who live in a manner that opposes the ideals that Christianity promotes. It would be nice if everyone in Christian congregations practiced what the Bible says, but because we live in a world where the majority of the people walk in spiritual darkness and their influence is strong, it should be no surprise that there will be people in Christian congregations who, instead of resisting spiritual darkness, embrace it either out in the open for everyone to see or in secret. Often the people in the midst of our Christian gatherings that embrace anti-Christian ideas and lifestyles don’t do their ungodly deeds out in the open where other members of the congregation can see them. They choose to keep their sins hidden and in the closet hoping no one in the church will discover their sin.
Even if such people think that God is not concerned with their sin or that they are too smart to get caught, God has several ways of exposing their sin if he chooses to do so. In Ezekiel 8, we see one way the Lord exposes the secret sins of people who may act righteous in public, but are walking in darkness.
Here we see that Ezekiel is in Babylon (modern day Iraq) in his house, hosting some of the elders of the nation of Judah who are in captivity like he is. All of a sudden Yahweh gives him a vision, appearing to him like a fire and bright light. Then the prophet is whisked off by his hair from Babylon to Jerusalem in the vision. When he lands in Jerusalem in the spirit, he is shown by God that the people of Judah have placed an ungodly image, an image of jealousy, at the entrance of the gate of the altar. It is called an image of jealousy because it provokes God to jealousy. Since Jehovah is righteous, pure, and true, he becomes full of righteous jealousy when his people, who he has done so much for, turn away from him to pursue evil things that weaken their relationship with him. This is why he asks Ezekiel, “Do you see what they’re doing here and how they commit such abominations?” Then he tells Ezekiel, “If you think that’s bad, let me show you something that’s worse.”
Ezekiel 8: 7-13
Ezekiel is then shown what is happening in a hidden secret room inside Solomon’s temple. When he digs a hole in the wall to enter the secret room, he witnesses a group of 70 old men who are worshiping false gods by burning incense to them. These false gods are portrayed by paintings of all kinds of creatures on the wall of the secret room. The Lord asks Ezekiel, “Do you see what the old men are doing here in the dark where they think no one sees them? They believe that I can’t see them and that I don’t care about what they’re doing.” Then the Lord says again, “If you think that’s bad, I’ll show you something else that’s bad.” In societies like the one of ancient Judah, the elderly are looked up to by the younger generations because they are believed to be full of wisdom and worthy of honor. However, the old men in Ezekiel’s vision are the opposite of what elders should be because they have foolishly bowed down to false gods. And apparently they formed a secret society to keep their sinful behavior away from the public eye.
Ezekiel 8: 14-15
The Lord brings Ezekiel to the door of the gate of Solomon’s temple on the north side of the temple. It is there that he sees women participating in a ceremony of weeping to honor the false god Tammuz. Then God tells Ezekiel once more, “Let me show you even more abominations.”
Ezekiel 8: 16-18
Ezekiel is brought to the inner court of the temple between the porch and the altar to witness 25 men facing the east to worship the sun. After the Lord shows all of this to Ezekiel, he explains that this is why violence and other evils are so prominent in Judah. This goes to the heart of why Jehovah wants humankind to worship only him. It is only through the worship of Yahweh through his son Jesus Christ that one can experience an unwavering sense that obedience to God’s commandments brings true righteousness where mankind holds himself to the highest moral standards and has complete respect for the lives of other human beings, who they recognize as being created in God’s image like themselves.
Things learned from Ezekiel’s vision
- Like Ezekiel, we must have humility to be drawn to God and for God to give us his spiritual discernment and insight. Before the Lord was willing to give Ezekiel revelation about what was going on behind the scenes at the sanctuary, Ezekiel had to have accepted God and applied God’s word to his own life to correct his own sins and shortcomings first. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble [1 Peter 5:5]. If we want God to reveal such secrets to us, we are required to hear God’s word for ourselves and to follow them out of love for him.
- We can’t always take people at face value. We as humans can be deceptive in how we present ourselves to others. The people of Judah told everyone that they were God’s chosen people and had a beautiful temple that outwardly seemed to show that it was true, but in reality they worshiped false gods and followed ungodly beliefs. This is also true in the modern church, where we have people in attendance that will swear up and down they are Christians, but then their secret lives show they have no regard for the Lord and prefer their foul language, astrology, drunkenness, vindictiveness, pornography, adultery, witchcraft, or false beliefs like the belief that there are many ways to God and other sinful behaviors and beliefs.
- God is not bound by physical distances. Ezekiel was hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem, but since he had a concern for Jerusalem out of his love for God, God showed him what was going on hundreds of miles away. God does the same thing today for believers who have a spiritual concern for cities or nations that are far away from where the concerned believer might be physically. A believer, for instance, might be praying for missionaries in another country and in the midst of the prayer, the Holy Spirit can tell them something specific that they should pray for about the missionaries or about the country where they are serving.
- Symbols and images matter to God. I have had people tell me that symbols or images that have their origins in paganism are harmless and innocent when they are changed for Christian purposes, but God showed Ezekiel that such images, symbols, and icons placed in his temple were unacceptable. It was wrong when ancient Jews placed those images in their temple, and it’s wrong for Christians today to embrace symbols that started with pagan rituals even if we call the Saturnalia feast Christmas or re-constitute Easter in celebration of Christ’s resurrection. God, who dwells in eternity, was present when such symbols were created and knows their origins even when we don’t.
- Embracing false religions or secret societies ultimately leads to violence against those who the false religions and secret societies believe are in the way of their agendas. God in Ezekiel 8:17 links the abomination of worshiping false gods to the violence that filled Judah. When one considers that all false gods have a devil behind them as it says in the scriptures, we can see why this is the case. Since devils are preoccupied with destroying anything that resembles God, it is fair to assume those who bow down to them are preoccupied with the same thing.
I believe there are many Christian congregations throughout the world who are trying to do the right thing, but there are also many who are compromising their commitment to loving God and keeping his commandments. This is why each individual Christian has to have their own intimate relationship with God instead of always relying on others in the congregation for godly counsel or spiritual help. I think it’s fantastic if one is surrounded by strong, God-fearing believers who know God’s word, what to do, and how to pray at crucial times, but unfortunately not all believers have this at churches in their communities.
The importance of knowing when to rely solely on the Lord was shown to me once in a dream. In this dream, I was in a town walking down the street on a beautiful sunny day and along came a group of violent men who were attacking anyone they saw on the street. They then started chasing me and I ran for the nearest church building for protection and locked the door behind me. There was a church service going on in the church, but the group of violent men were able to break down the door and ransacked the church looking for me. No one in the church was able to stop them and at the end of the dream as the men were approaching me in a corner, I called out the name of Jesus. Then I woke up.
–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–