For the record, I intensely dislike writing this type of blog post, but alas, this is what God has laid on my heart for this week.
During the time of the prophetic ministries of the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, the people of God held to a misguided belief that God could, or would never leave his temple. Secure in their belief, the people gave no heed to the warnings of the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, their exhortations to repent, lest Jerusalem be destroyed.
Societal and religious leaders rationalized that God would never allow the destruction of a city and temple in which he dwelt. In their exuberance, they cried out “This is the temple of the Lord!, The temple of the Lord!, The temple of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 7:4), similar to the way we might chant, “USA! USA! USA!” at an Olympic event.
A false sense of security is a dangerous thing.
I am persuaded to my core that the United States is perched precariously atop a false sense of security. Just like the deluded priests in the Jerusalem temple, the people of the United States are moving shamelessly and incrementally from one abomination to the next, screaming “USA! USA! USA!” while driving God out of our lives and our nation just as the priests drove the shekinah (glorious presence of God on Earth) from the temple in Jerusalem.
Drowning in our delusion, the people of the United States are rebellious, obstinate, and stubborn, deluded by our false sense of invulnerability and arrogant, intellectual superiority. We have convinced ourselves that either God does not mind our depravity, or that good is evil and evil is good, or that God does not exist, thus morality and ethics can be whatever we (in our intellectual superiority) decide they should be.
The day is coming when we will successfully drive God away, and calamity will befall us as a nation, just as it befell Jerusalem.
They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin. – Ezekiel 4:17b, NIV-1978
Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will withdraw my favor; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. – Ezekiel 5:11, NIV-1978
I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes which have lusted after idols. – Ezekiel 6:9b, NIV-1983
God In the Sanctuary
When Ezekiel had his vision, it began with God in the temple. God has always wanted to dwell among his people. We started out that way in the garden, but our actions drove (and still drive) a wedge between us and God.
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?’ – Ezekiel 8:6a, NIV-1983
Shortly thereafter, God directed Ezekiel to the inner rooms of the temple, and there Ezekiel found the elders of Israel worshiping bugs and burning incense to idols. They felt safe doing so, saying, “The Lord does not see us;” (Ezekiel 8:12b, NIV-1978). They were weeping for Tammuz, and bowing down to the Sun – all of it happening inside the temple.
God At the Temple Threshold
When men and women of God live in filth, filling our lives with profane vulgarities, the glory of God will not remain among us. When we work to drive God out of our lives, he will oblige us by leaving.
Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. – Ezekiel 10:4a, NIV-1983
At this point, the glory of God was still with the temple, but it had moved from the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies, to the threshold of the temple structure. In this, God is basically standing in the doorway. And though his glory still filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of God, the people refused to repent.
God At the Courtyard Gate
Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and … stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the Lord’s house. – Ezekiel 10:18a, 19b, NIV-1983
The glory of God has left the Holy of Holies, moved to the threshold of the temple structure, and now has moved to the gate of the temple courtyard. Bit by bit, the glory of God is being driven from the lives of his people, and they are ignoring the reality that they and their city are about to be laid waste.
Even from there, God continued to reach out to the hardened hearts of his people, pleading with them to renounce their filthy ways and to turn to him with repentant hearts. But they (we) refused. The result of their obstinacy, and ours, is not pretty. God will show himself to be God in the face of our headstrong arrogance.
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. – Ezekiel 11:12, NIV-1983
God Outside the City
With no repentance to be found, God left the city, and with that we have a distinct separation of the sacred and the profane. What is precious is on the mountain, while what is polluted destroys the city.
The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. – Ezekiel 11:23, NIV-1983
What We Can Learn
The slow and gradual manner in which God left the temple, and ultimately the city of Jerusalem, gives us a clear indicator that God allows himself to be pushed out of our lives, but that he does so with great reluctance, and that he offers us every opportunity to turn things around, embracing him with love and repentant hearts.
We also see that though God’s forbearance and longsuffering are extensive, they do have limits. Matthew Henry noted, “But, though he bear long, he will not bear always.”
As we continuously push God out of our homes, our schools, our sporting events, our courtrooms, and dare I say it – our churches, there comes a point at which God will throw up his hands and give us exactly what we want. We want him to leave us alone, so he does precisely that. Hear it from the apostle Paul in Romans 1.
Pointing to our stubbornness, godlessness, and suppression of truth, Paul highlights God’s reaction to it. Three times, Paul says, God gave them over…
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. – Romans 1:24-25a, NIV-1983
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. – Romans 1:26a, NIV-1983
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. – Romans 1:26a, NIV-1983
A common misconception is the idea that since nothing bad has befallen me (yet) that God must be okay with my hedonistic lifestyle and worldview. Don’t make the mistake of equating God’s patience with God’s approval.
The people of Israel made this mistake saying, “The days go by and every vision comes to nothing” (Ezekiel 12:22b, NIV-1978). God was quick to correct that, saying “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to put an end to this proverb, and they will no longer quote it in Israel.’ Say to them ‘The days are near when every vision will be fulfilled’” (Ezekiel 12:23, NIV-1978).
As Philadelphia pastor, Joe Focht, is so fond of saying, “It’s not that God is approving of how I’m living my life. It’s just that I’m quickly running out of room.” The bridge is out, we’re ignoring the signs, and we’re rapidly running out of highway. And when we finally drive over the edge of the cliff, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. – Obadiah 1:15, NASB
Obadiah’s prophecy, speaking specifically to Edom, but in general to “all the heathen,” is a dire warning regarding the pending “day of the Lord.” There is a day coming when all of the nations will be judged by the God who created them, who died to redeem them, and who has been rejected by them, and that includes the United States of America.
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. – Revelation 19:15, ESV
I cannot count the number of nations and empires that once existed (even during my lifetime) that have been driven to their knees and into obscurity, including Edom.
We have been spared thus far, but as noted above, though God bear long, he will not bear always. But if we, as a nation, will humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and repent of our arrogance and wickedness, I trust that our loving and longsuffering God will hear us from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land.