Ezekiel 8:1-6 (NIV) 1 In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign LORD came upon me there. 2 I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man. From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal. 3 He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. 4 And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain. 5 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. 6 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.”
On verses 1-6: Ezekiel is in his house having a meeting with the elders of Judah when all of a sudden he sees a vision (v1). In the vision Ezekiel sees a figure who waist down is full of fire and who waist up looks like glowing metal (v2). As verse 5 confirms, this figure is the same figure Ezekiel saw in Ezekiel 1:26-27 and is a picture of the Lord (also known as a theophany). The Lord reaches out what looks like a hand, grabs Ezekiel by the hair, and pulls him into a vision of the temple in Jerusalem (v3). Ezekiel sees an idol standing in the north gate of the temple. This idol is called the idol of jealousy, probably because it stirred God’s jealousy to see this idol standing in what was supposed to be His temple (v3, 5), even while the Lord himself and His glory is standing before Ezekiel (v4). The Lord calls the Israelites’ idolatry “utterly detestable” (v6) and says that these are the kind of “things that will drive me far from my sanctuary” (v6). And yet even more detestable things are still to come, the Lord says (v6).
What can we learn from this? God detests idolatry. As He says in Isaiah 42:8, “”I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” A sure-fire way to grieve God’s heart is to worship other gods.
Ezekiel 8:7-13 (NIV) 7 Then he brought me to the entrance to the court. I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall. 8 He said to me, “Son of man, now dig into the wall.” So I dug into the wall and saw a doorway there. 9 And he said to me, “Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here.” 10 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. 11 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. 12 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.'” 13 Again, he said, “You will see them doing things that are even more detestable.”
On verses 7-13: In Ezekiel’s vision, the Lord brings Ezekiel to the entrance of the temple court, where he sees a hole in the wall and is told to dig into it. Ezekiel digs into the wall, finds a doorway, and further to God’s instruction, goes in and sees pictures of idols drawn in a hidden area within the temple. In Ezekiel’s vision, 70 elders of Israel (possibly some of whom are in real life sitting in Ezekiel’s house while Ezekiel is seeing this vision) are burning incense to these images. Among these elders is Jaazaniah, possibly the son of a former royal secretary to King Josiah called Shaphan and who had numerous family members in high places of authority (v11).
What can we learn from this? The Israelite elders tried to keep their idolatry hidden and secret, but you can’t hide or keep secrets from God. As Psalm 90:8 says, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) And as Jesus Himself says, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Matthew 10:26)
Ezekiel 8:14-15 (NIV) 14 Then he brought me to the entrance to the north gate of the house of the LORD, and I saw women sitting there, mourning for Tammuz. 15 He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this.”
On verses 14-15: This time Ezekiel sees women sitting at the entrance to the north gate of the temple. There they are mourning for Tammuz, the god of vegetation in Babylonian culture. This is yet another sign of the Israelites’ idolatry.
Ezekiel 8:16-18 (NIV) 16 He then brought me into the inner court of the house of the LORD, and there at the entrance to the temple, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men. With their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, they were bowing down to the sun in the east. 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! 18 Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.”
On verses 16-18: In Ezekiel’s vision, Ezekiel finds himself now in the inner court of God’s house, known as one of the holiest areas of the temple where only priests could enter. There he finds men engaging in sun worship. It is not clear if these men are priests. If they are not priests, then they are twice violating God’s law by entering an area where they were not allowed to be and also by worshiping an idol in this sacred place. If they are priests, then to allow idol worship in one of the most sacred areas of the temple and to engage in such idol worship themselves would be a total repudiation of their role as representatives of God. In response to all of this idolatry, God promises not to listen to these idol worshipers or spare them (v18).
What can we learn from all this? All the idol worship that Ezekiel sees in this vision is taking place in the temple of God. Keep in mind that, as those who believe in Jesus Christ, our bodies and lives are called the temple of the Holy Spirit. Since we are God’s temple, we must be careful not to bow down to any idol.
Heavenly Father, thank You for showing us through Your Word that nothing we do is hidden from Your sight. Thank You that even though nothing I do, think or say is hidden from You, still You love me with an unconditional love, which You expressed most of all when You sent Jesus Christ to die for all of my idolatrous ways. Now that by faith my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I pray that I would put nothing else or no one else before You, that I would not bow down to any god other than You. You alone are worthy of my worship. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!