A Lament Over the Fall of Jerusalem
Open Your Bible
Ezekiel 6:1-14, Ezekiel 7:1-27, Galatians 6:7-9, James 4:1-6
Sometimes words are so grim we find ourselves putting up a protective shield against them. How can we lessen the impact of “detestable practices”? Or “idolatry”? Or “judgment”? “Detestable practices,” or “abomination,” is the Lord’s indelicate word for evil words and actions, and He does not hesitate to use it to label lying and idolatry (Ezekiel 6:9,7:3,4,8,9,20). Our response to this barrage is often to allow our senses to be dangerously dulled, dismissing the warnings as quaintly antiquated. Nevertheless, as we read Ezekiel 6 and 7, the determinative question is this: How will God’s word break through hardened religious hearts?
The curtain had rung down (temporarily) on Ezekiel’s street theater (Ezekiel 4–5). His audience may have noticed his actions, but they had a short attention span. Thus, Ezekiel next climbed to the bench to pronounce severe judgment; perhaps that would register more.
For the record, Ezekiel’s audience presumed themselves spiritually attuned. They engaged with altars, incense offerings, and all the trappings of a religious culture. To be sure, Israelites were commanded to guard against idolatry. It was a tough requirement, because in that context, it was unthinkable not to have idols. Idolatry was central to a world view that was based on utter selfishness, manipulating the gods to gain favorable treatment. And it got worse. Their leadership was bankrupt, they terrorized innocent people, and arrogant violence was in the daily news.
The processes of making and setting up idols have changed; the expectations have not. Self-advancement and entitlement to self-satisfaction are idols of choice. The apostle Paul declared that greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5, James 4:1–6). Too often we sacrifice virtue for economic security, exchange the truths of God for lies, and call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). Until we in the Church come to grips with the reality of our own twenty-first century idolatries, Ezekiel will remain in the prophetic dustbin.
Like Ezekiel’s audience, we are commanded to be counter-cultural, getting rid of everything that traps us and takes the place of the Lord God of the universe. We are admonished to “take every thought captive to Christ” (2Corinthians 10:5).
Amidst the harsh words, however, there is a powerful declaration. “Then your survivors will remember me…how I was crushed by their promiscuous hearts that turned away from me…” (Ezekiel 6:9). Yes, there is deserved judgment forthcoming; yes, idolatries are built into the fabric of everyday existence and are abominations to the Lord. But thanks be to God, the end of our own dreadful trajectory into the ravages of sin is at the cross.