This sermon is number 7 in a series of 24
Ezekiel - Part 7
"Glory - Past, Absent And Future"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2001 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Let me welcome you to our Bible Reading tonight, it's great to see you all with us here in the Iron Hall. We trust that we'll be blessed together as we meet around God's word, in the book of Ezekiel, again this Monday night. Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11 tonight for our studies, and let's read from verse 1 of chapter 10. The subject tonight is: 'Glory - Past, Absent and Future'.
"Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight. Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord's glory. And the sound of the cherubims' wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh. And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubims; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels. And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubims unto the fire that was between the cherubims, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out. And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's hand under their wings. And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubims, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the colour of a beryl stone. And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went. And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had. As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel. And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar". Now note that; this is the same creature that Ezekiel saw in chapter 1 of this book. "And when the cherubims went, the wheels went by them: and when the cherubims lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also turned not from beside them. When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them. Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims. And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord's house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims. Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward.
"Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the Lord's house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city: Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh. Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man. And the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the Lord; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them. Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain. Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron: but I will bring you forth out of the midst of it. Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you, saith the Lord God. And I will bring you out of the midst thereof, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and will execute judgments among you. Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. This city shall not be your caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; but I will judge you in the border of Israel: And ye shall know that I am the Lord: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgments, but have done after the manners of the heathen that are round about you. And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then fell I down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel? Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the Lord: unto us is this land given in possession. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God. Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city. Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the Lord had showed me".
Don't forget, as we look at these two portions of Scripture, that they are the second half of the vision that began in chapter 8. Last week we looked at chapters 8 and 9, and I think I told you that that was only half of the vision, and we finish the vision tonight. So if you can remember all that we saw last week, this is purely a continuance of the same vision.
In the book of Jeremiah you find a cry, the cry of the people is: 'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!'. The motivation of such a cry is: false security. A people who were holding on to the externals of their religion, rather than the deep spiritual relationship that they could and ought to have had with their God. Therefore, when the prophet Jeremiah judged them with his prophetic utterance from the Lord and said: 'Thus saith the Lord, there will be destruction, there will be captivity, you will be taken away to a foreign land' - the religious men and the politicians of the day, their cry was: 'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!'. In other words: 'We have the temple of God for our security! What are you talking about? Telling us about judgement! Talking to us about captivity and deportation! We are God's people, we have God's temple - within it dwells the Ark of God, God's presence dwells above the Ark of God - we can see the visible presence of God! Don't tell us that God is going to judge us!'.
If God were still in His temple, what happened to Jerusalem would never have happened. If the confidence of the people of Israel was a true confidence, they would have remained in the land and their security would have been justified - but as we read this book we see very clearly that it is not justified. In fact, what this vision shows us is that because of their sin the very presence of the Lord had departed from Jerusalem! In fact, in the first chapter of this book we saw that it was by the river Chebar, in this concentration camp in Tel Abib, that this man Ezekiel saw the vision of the glory of the Lord. It wasn't in Jerusalem he saw it, he saw vision of the glory of the Lord in captivity - which was to tell him that the very presence of the Lord was no longer in the place that they expected. It was no longer in Jerusalem, but it had actually followed the people of God into captivity.
So this vision that we're looking at tonight, it is totally about the location of the presence of God. It's about where God's presence dwells. If you look at these verses you will see that the seventh figure - remember there were seven figures, six of them were clothed in army gear, if you like, and had a weapon, a weapon of destruction and slaughtering; we saw that in chapter 9. But one of them was clothed in a white garment, a white linen garment, the garment of a high priest. In his hand was not a weapon of slaughter, but there was a quill and a bottle of ink - a little writing case. He was the minister of mercy, do you remember that? If you go back to chapter 9 you will see that that man, or that angelic figure, was told to go and mark all the remnant with the cross - the Hebrew letter 'tau'. He was a minister of mercy.
But if you look at this portion of Scripture you will see that this man is called once again. What the Lord commands him to do is now not an errand of mercy, but an errand of judgement. If you look at verse 2 you will see that he was told, he was commanded, to take the burning coals from beneath the throne off the altar. He then goes and stand beside one of the wheels of the chariot throne of the glory of God, and one of the cherubim take some of the burning coals and places them within his hands. Then he is told to go over to the city of Jerusalem and to rain this fire and brimstone upon them. In other words, Jerusalem would be burned to the ground with fire from heaven.
It is reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah, isn't it? Destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven. If you turn with me to chapter 16 of Ezekiel and verse 46 we read these words, speaking to Israel: 'Thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters'. Ezekiel, indeed God through Ezekiel, is saying that Jerusalem's youngest sister is Sodom, and that is the state of the nation of God's people now. Sodom and Gomorrah was rained down with fire and brimstone from heaven because of their abominations unto God, God's own people had got to such a peak and climax of sin that God was calling Sodom their younger sister, and He was going to rain judgement upon them as He did to Sodom.
Now this is amazing, because where do these coals come from? The cherubim takes the coals from the angelic divine chariot of the glory of God, and then he puts them into the hand of this figure in white linen. In other words, these burning coals actually come from the glory, the picture of the glory, holiness, and purity of God. When you think about that: these coals that are used to judge God's people, to destroy Jerusalem, to destroy His own covenant people, are actually His coals of purity, His coals of holiness, and coals of glory.
Now if you think about this for a moment, and cast your mind back to Isaiah chapter 6 where Isaiah says: 'In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up', and then down through the passage you find that Isaiah sees such a vision of the glory and holiness of God that he falls at the feet of God and he says: 'Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the Lord'. Then an angelic figure takes, with tongs from off the altar, a coal - touches his lips, and he is purified. So the coals of God speak of purity, they purify, they're in this vision of the holiness and the glory and the purity of God - but these are the very coals that God is going to judge His own people with!
The writer to the Hebrews says these immortal words: 'Our God is a consuming fire' - and when you think, isn't it remarkable that that flood of molten fuel of God's holiness that actually conforms us to Christ is the very same element that will cause the wicked to perish? All you need to do is think of the atonement, and think of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross - what was that cross? It was the altar of God! God's holy indignation was poured upon Him, all of His wrath from His holiness. If you turn to Psalm 22, prophetically: 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' - there's the question asked on the cross by the Lord Jesus. What is the answer? Verse 3: 'Thou art holy'. It's remarkable, isn't it, that those coals of God's holiness and purity are the very things that give us life, the very things that give us purity? For as He suffered, the righteous one became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him - and there has been that transferral because of these righteous coals of God upon Him.
But the awful thing to think about in the context of Ezekiel is this: that the very judgement that was poured upon Christ at Calvary's cross, and gives us life, gives us purity and holiness, are the coals of hell that the wicked unregenerate sinner will endure for all eternity! The picture that we have in Ezekiel is that this is a foretaste of final wrath, and that is what this book has been pointing to all along. It's not just prophetic about Ezekiel's immediate history, but it pushes forward to the very end times. When we read the apostle Peter we find there that 'the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up'. It's awful, isn't it? The picture of God's holy wrath, there's nothing unjust about it, there's nothing wicked, there's nothing cruel - it is absolutely righteous because the very coals He uses to judge His own people are coals of purity and holiness.
Why does He do it? It's simple. As old Matthew Henry said: 'Those who will not come to Christ and be saved will depart from Him and be damned'. Isn't that it in black-and-white, isn't that the Gospel? Those who will not come and be saved will depart and be damned! Ezekiel gives us a unique glimpse into the mechanisms of God's divine judgement, and His history within the world. We see here the workings, the mechanics, of God in all of His justice and also in His mercy.
When physical destruction eventually comes on Jerusalem you will read later on in this book and later on in the Old Testament that it finally came by fire, and God did rain fire upon it. Nebuchadnezzar came in 586 BC and took the final deportation and burned the city to the ground. What God is saying is: 'This is the heavenly realm, this is what is going on - these Babylonians are my human instruments! It is I, the sovereign Lord in heaven, that is directing them. I am sending them to destroy and destruct my nation and my city'. These men, these Babylonians, were only the human instruments in the hands of an angry God.
You know, when we thought about that vision that he saw last week, and that idol sitting at the gate, and all the horrible abominations that he saw on the temple walls, and then he went into the very holy place and he saw the elders bowing down to the sun with their back to God - all of these abominations were to protect the people from their enemies and from demonic attack. But in the ancient near East, the thing was this: whenever a city or a country was sacked and destroyed by the enemy it was a sign to them, no matter what nation it was, that their god had either died or their god had abandoned them! So God was letting them see He had not died, but He had abandoned them.
In order that they see that Ezekiel has a re-visitation of the glory of God that he had in chapter 1 - and that's our first point. The chariot of the Lord - and, incidentally, there are some diagrams up in the porch on your way out, if you weren't here at that study you can get a picture of this chariot of the Lord which will help you understand this passage a little better. But this is the vision that he saw in chapter 1, and that is the central figure of this vision in chapters 8, 9, 10 and 11 - because the vision of the glory of the Lord is being shown now as a vision of judgement. The first time he saw it in Babylon, but now he is actually in Jerusalem - he is now seeing it in Jerusalem, departing Jerusalem.
If you read this passage you will see that on the top of the cherubim the prophet sees a throne. In verse 1 of chapter 10 you will see it first is empty, and then the divine chariot is drawn up to the south side of the temple in verse 3 - and that tells me that it is as far away as possible from all the abominations on the Northern side of the city. Remember the vision last week? Everything was in the northern side of the city: the idol was at the Northern gate - but now God's vision of His glory, this chariot, is being taken as far away as possible from the northern side, from these abominations. Then Ezekiel sees the cloud filling the inner court, and he sees once again the glory of God on the move away from God's people, just as he did before.
If you were to turn tonight - we don't have time to do it - to Exodus chapter 40, you would see there the wilderness wanderings of the people of God as they exited Egypt and were going to the promised land. There's a similar picture there of the glory of God filling the tabernacle, of the glory of God being with the people and the cloud guiding them by day and a pillar of fire by night. But as we read this passage of scripture we find that this cloud of the Shekinah glory of God departs slowly. He sees it halting, as if reluctant to leave. It's as if God doesn't want to move, it's as if God doesn't want to draw away from His people. In actual fact He isn't, He is being evicted by the people's sins and by their abominations! Isn't that an awful thought? That God's people were actually making Him redundant as their God!
It's a wonderful picture of our merciful God when you ponder for a moment that the first act of judgement against His people seems to be forced upon Him. He doesn't want to do it, He's reluctant, He halts as He moves away - what a gracious God! Do you know something that has struck me as I have studied this passage today? The presence of God was moving away, God's people were being judged - but at least when they were being judged they had God's presence with them! But now God was leaving them! God was moving away, there was going to be a total absence - and that is what causes this horror in Ezekiel's soul, when he thinks of God totally abandoning and leaving His people.
In Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 6 and 8, I wonder had the writer to the Hebrews this in mind when he said: 'For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons'. Whom the Lord loves He chastens, but what an awful thing to be an unchastened child of God - in fact I don't even think that it's possible, for that is abandonment!
If you look at this portion of chapter 10 you find that first the glory passes off the earthly cherubim within the very Holy of Holies. It dwelt above the Ark of the Covenant, and it lifts upon it and hovers - and then that cloud of glory moves. If you look at verse 4 you will see that it hovers above the threshold of the temple. Then it moves from the threshold of the temple to the divine chariot that Ezekiel is seeing in his vision. In other words, it's moving from the false cherubim to the real cherubim! It's moving from the representative figure of the glory and presence of God to above the threshold of the door, and over the actual cherubim of God's glory in verse 18. From there the glory moves to the East gate of the temple courtyard in verse 19, and just there it stands and it pauses - and just as it halts above that gate there of the city of Jerusalem, Ezekiel receives a further oracle and a further vision from God.
Finally the glory moves on to the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem - totally and utterly outside the city limits. Now, do you know what that means? It means, finally, that the city of Jerusalem is effectively doomed. Because God's presence has moved away, totally outside the city, it is doomed and damned, it is cut off from God, it is abandoned of all divine aid, it is waiting for the axe to fall - their true protector God, Jehovah, has gone! The city is left empty of God, and God says to them in roundabout terms: 'If you want your idols to protect you, you can have them now - I'm gone'.
This is a terrifying passage of scripture, when we think that the glory departs in stages. You know, it doesn't just disappear. The glory just doesn't go overnight, but it's in stages - and the amazing thing is: some of those stages are closed off to the rest of the city. They can't see the glory moving from the Ark of the Covenant into the main holy place, they can't see that - but it's happening nevertheless! It's not until they see it go away from the city that they realise that God has gone!
That's what happens: it's often missed by most when the glory departs. One of the most frightening passages of scripture is Judges chapter 16 and verse 20, where it speaks of Samson. We read there that Delilah said to Samson: 'The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him'. Now, finally, 'Ichabod' could be the denominational tag of the children of Israel. How could the glory of God dwell in such a wicked place? When you think of the vision that we saw last week of all those abominations that got worse and worse as you came nearer the holy place of God's temple, it couldn't - the glory of God could not abide there! The throne of glory had to be vacated, and now it was empty, now God was not there - and now, effectively, it had become a throne of judgement by His absence.
The glory was removed because God says: 'I will not share my glory with another'. The idols and the sins of the people had driven God away, and oh that we would learn this in our Christian walk: that it is exactly the same today! When we sin we lose the glory! Without the glory of God the temple just became like another building, didn't it? It was just bricks and mortar. That's like us, for when the glory departs our lives we're just like ordinary people - we behave like ordinary people, we talk like ordinary people. It's the same with the church: when the glory departs, what are we only an organisation! The thing that makes the difference is the power and the presence of Almighty God!
Where there are two gods in the temple, one god will have to move. It's the same in the church: only one can have the preeminence. It's the same in our lives - isn't it? - our bodies who are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Whatever idol we have within our hearts must come down so that God can reign alone and have absolute authority in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. As Craigie says: 'It is better to remove the false presence than to have the true presence depart'. Is it not better to pull down the idols than to see God move out of our lives? Isn't it awful to think that sin caused God, and still causes God, to evacuate His own home?
We thought last week that this covenant relationship between God and His people is like the marriage relationship. Do you know something? God hates divorce, but here it's God leaving the home. God, if I can say it reverently, is packing the case and closing the door behind Him, and He's gone. God's presence is the most precious thing that we have. If you go through the Scriptures you will find that, you find these verses - Psalm 23: 'Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me'. You find that God is described as being with us, being around us, being in us, being in the midst of us, being underneath us, being near to us, and being before us. That is the most precious thing that we have: God dwelling with us!
That's how we measure spirituality, that's how we measure a church. I wonder: how do we measure churches today? We probably measure them by the traditions of men, or by the forms of their doctrine, or even perhaps by their numbers - and when people attend a place in droves we say: 'God must be there! There's a lot of people there! Therefore we must do what they do in order that God would be here!'. But I hope you know that God doesn't always bless tradition, and God doesn't always bless the things of the past, and neither does He always bless the places where there are crowds upon crowds. If you remember the Lord when He went to seek twelve disciples, where did He go? He didn't go to the Bible Colleges of the day, He went to the ordinary working man. When He trained them, what did He do? He didn't set them down an exam for a degree, but He took them into His presence for three solid years! That's what we need! We need His presence.
That is why Ezekiel was brought by the Spirit of God to revisit the glory of God. The second thing he saw was, as we've already mentioned, the glory removed - because all the people didn't agree. Remember there are the people in captivity in the concentration camp by the river Chebar, and there are also the people back in Jerusalem, they're still in Jerusalem - and they didn't agree. In fact, at the entrance of the East gate Ezekiel sees a group of men, chapter 11 and verse 1, in fact 25 of them. It says of them that their function, what they were doing, was giving counsel to the people - and that suggests they were elders.
Again we see 25 of the religious and political leaders of God's people at the gate. Included in their number, if you look at it, were princes of the people, leaders of the people. They are named as: Jaazaniah the son of Azur - now that's not the same Jaazaniah son of Shaphan in chapter 8 and verse 11, this is a different man - then there is Pelatiah the son of Benaiah. These are princes, leaders of the people. In other words, there must have been a small council of high officials of the King, perhaps 25 of them as seen here - and these men wielded great authority, there were even times when these men were able to influence the King and the decisions that took place in Judah.
Ezekiel is told in verse 2, if you look at, that these men are devising mischief and giving wicked counsel in the city. Now I believe that means that they were contradicting the prophetic word of God. Jeremiah was prophesying, Ezekiel was prophesying, Daniel was prophesying in Babylon - but these political and religious hierarchy were contradicting, arrogantly, saying: 'We're alright! The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!'. They were arrogantly asserting their own security and their own position. Of course that wasn't only in their own lives, because they were leading others and they were telling them: 'Look, you build that house you were talking about. You do the extension, you build that business, build the hotel - everything is going to be alright. People aren't going to come and destroy the city and set it alight, everything is going to carry on as normal! There's no threat!'.
You see, that's the danger of false prophets. You wonder why sometimes Paul condemns them so strongly: the reason is because they lead simple souls astray! These men had listened to those who cried: 'Peace!', when there was no peace. It had filled them with a self-confidence. If you look at verse 3 of chapter 11, in the first part it says: '[They say to the people], It is not near; let us build houses'. 'This judgement is not near, where is the promise of it coming?'. Literally what it seems to mean is this: 'Those who are afar-off in the land of exile, they can do what they like. If it pleases them they don't have to build anything, they can take the prophets advice - but you set about building your houses, and that doesn't concern us what they are doing'. Do you remember Jeremiah prophesied to the people in captivity and said to them: 'You better settle down there, because you're going to be there for 70 years', remember that? These leaders of the people back in Jerusalem are saying: 'Let them listen to all that nonsense, they can do what they like - but you build here. They might like to build there thinking they're staying, but we know we're staying in Jerusalem. You build, everything will be alright!'.
Their attitude is confirmed in the second part of verse 3, where they say: 'this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh'. Now a caldron is a very solid thing - but what they are actually saying is that the flesh is the best part of the meat, it's actually the real beef. They are saying: 'We're not the offal, we're not the offal that has been rejected of God and sent into captivity. We're the meat, we're the fillet. We're in a caldron, we're protected, don't you worry everything is going to be alright for us! We're not going from the frying pan into the fire!'. What a picture of the unregenerate man, especially the unregenerate religious man: 'I'm alright'. How many times do you hear this: 'I don't need to be saved! I'm not a bank robber, I'm not a terrorist, I'm not a rapist, I'm not a murderer! I'm alright, I go to my church, I'm baptised, I do everything well'? But those are the ones the Lord will say to: 'I never knew you!'.
Their attitude is further seen in verse 15: 'Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the Lord: unto us is this land given in possession'. What they're literally saying is: 'The exiles are the ones that are far away from God. This land was given to us, this land is our possession, why do you think we're still in it? We're here, you're the ones in exile - you, Ezekiel, all your people - we're still here!'. Possession is nine tenths of the law, isn't that right? That's the way they were thinking: 'God has pleasure in us, we're still here. We must be God's remnant, we must be the ones who are pleasing God - it's the captives who are under God's judgement' - but God, by the Holy Spirit through Ezekiel, is saying: 'Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall'.
The facts of the matter can be found in verse 7, look at it: 'Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron: but I will bring you forth out of the midst of it'. 'I'm going to boil you in the pot!', that's what God's saying! 'I'm going to boil you!', verse 8, 'The sword that you feared, you're going to die from it'. In verse 10 the same message: 'The land is not going to be your possession, but rather the Lord will bring you out of the land and judge you at the borders of Israel', verse 10. If you read 2 Kings 25 and 21 you will find that the fulfilment of it is when the citizens of the city of Jerusalem were all led out and slaughtered at Riblah by Nebuchadnezzar.
The fundamental challenge here is the claiming by God's people of the land: 'It's our land! We're in the land that God has given to us!'. The language that the prophet uses here is deliberately chosen to create the idea of an anti-exodus. You remember the exodus, where the Jews were delivered from Egypt into the promised land, well the language Ezekiel uses is here deliberately trying to evoke into their mind an anti-exodus - out of the promised land back into Egypt, only it's Babylon!
He says: 'I will drive you out of the city, just as Israel was driven out of Egypt', look at verse 9, it says that. Once the promise was to deliver Israel from the land of the Egyptians, but now God is threatening to give them into the hand of foreigners! The judgements that once came, the plagues that came upon Egypt, God is going to pour those plagues upon His own people. The phrase that He uses in verse 10: 'the borders of Israel' is meant to bring to the mind of the children of Israel the conquest into Canaan land, where all of the area was sectioned and divided under all the tribes that were established. God is saying: 'Those borders, I'm going to take you to the very end of them, and I'm going to give all those borders to your enemies'. Because of their failure to keep the Lord's decrees, and to keep the laws in the land, they were being pushed out of the land.
They had become worldly, if you look at verse 12 God says: '[You have lived] after the manners of the heathen that are round about you' - and that's the message. When God's people become like the world, the glory goes! Ezekiel falls to his knees again, because Pelatiah dies - in fact, as Ezekiel is actually prophesying all these things, Pelatiah dies. Now Pelatiah is in Jerusalem, remember that Ezekiel is only seeing a vision, Ezekiel is still in captivity. But Ezekiel, as he's speaking in captivity, as he's seeing this vision of Pelatiah standing before him, Pelatiah - out of the vision, in real life - literally drops dead! 'Pelatiah', do you know what it means? 'The Lord causes a remnant to escape' - that's what his name means! When he died, and the word got back to Ezekiel, he thought the hope of a remnant had died! He was thinking: 'Well, if the people of the land aren't even safe, Lord, who are You going to save?'.
Who will be left if those in the land are destroyed? God answers his question, and He tells him about the glory restored in verses 14 to 21. Look at verse 15, God tells him: 'Your brethren, Ezekiel, your kindred, all the house of Israel - you are going to be the one, the future of Israel lies among the exiles'. It is Ezekiel's brethren, literally it means in the Hebrew 'the men of your redemption'. 'The men of your redemption, Ezekiel, the people that I have sent you to redeem, they are the future. Your fellow exiles!'. The Lord's movement is not just a departure from Jerusalem, now you must understand this, but it's a departure to Babylon. It's a departure to a certain people.
If you look at verse 16: 'Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come'. It literally means 'a sanctuary for a little time'. The Lord's going to perform a new exodus, after this anti-exodus where He takes the people into captivity, He's going to perform a new exodus and bring them all back again as His true people out of all the nations that they have been scattered into. Then the land will be redeemed by the Lord! If you look at verse 18 you will see that the people will go into the temple, this new people of God, they will take down all the idols and they will set up the glory of God again.
How's that going to happen? That's a bit of a change, isn't it? If you look at verse 19, here is the answer: 'I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh'. It's a change of heart. God was going to create a new people, He says: 'I will give them one heart', do you know what that means? 'An undivided heart'. 'I will give them a new spirit...I will cause them to receive a heart of flesh' - and if you remember, in chapter 3 and verse 7, He called them a hardhearted people! In contrast, He says in verse 20 - so many times He has said: 'They have not walked in my statutes, they have not obeyed my laws' - verse 20, 'This people shall walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God'. Do you know what that statement is? That was the goal of the exodus and the settlement, conquest, of Canaan land - that's what God's saying. 'I'll give them a land, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God'.
It's been all doom and gloom, hasn't it, this book of Ezekiel? All these chapters are full of judgement, but what a picture of hope! 'I'm going to save a remnant'. You know we studied the book of Haggai and Habakkuk, and we read about their exodus. There was a day coming, unknown to these people, where men like Zerubbabel, and Joshua the high priest, and Ezra, and Nehemiah, were going to build the temple to the glory of God again - because God was determined to save His chosen people! But for those who sinned and stayed in the land there was no hope, verse 21.
As we close, I really do want to bring this to you - because even when these men, this remnant, built the new temple there was disappointment, because there was an expectation that there would be something greater to come. Of course, as we look at the last few chapters of this book, we will find that there is a millennial temple, and there's still a temple to come - and that is a greater thing that will happen. But, you know, if you look at Matthew chapter 23 very quickly - Matthew chapter 23. Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11 are a great commentary of this passage of Scripture. Verse 37 - the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh came to Jerusalem, and He Himself now is standing on the Mount of Olives. He says: 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!' - there are the hardhearted, stiffnecked Jews again! God's prophets are sent to them, and they would not! What will happen? Verse 38: 'Your house is left unto you desolate' - there will be a desolation. Verse 39, what is the consequence? 'Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord'. 'You will not seen me until you receive me again' - what is verse 1 of chapter 24? He talks then about the temple, and how Herod's temple would be destroyed.
Isn't it amazing: the temple in the Gospels is not Herod's temple, it's the Lord Jesus. That's the temple in the Gospels - John 1 and verse 14: 'We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'. He dwelt among us, He tabernacled among us in flesh - but they wouldn't receive Him! He, as the glory of God, comes from the Holy of Holies, moves to the threshold, moves to the gate, and at this moment stands on the Mount of Olives.
We are the glory today, we are the temple of God. You go to Revelation chapter 2 there's a church, Pergamos, and there are some awful things said about that church. Do you know what the Lord Jesus says? 'You better repent, or I will come and fight against you', imagine that! If God's glory can leave His Old Testament temple, Revelation chapter 2 tells us that God's glory can leave His New Testament temple - and He can leave this temple, and worse than that: a church can become a synagogue of Satan. Isn't that a terrible thing?
But, my friend, the wonderful message that I leave with you tonight is this: there is hope! There is hope, because God always has a remnant - and if you want to be that remnant and worship God in spirit and in truth, He will let His glory rest upon you! When the glory departs it's not long until the outward edifice falls down - but, my friend, when the glory comes in it shines to all the nations around, and it glorifies our Lord Jesus. There's much more for me to share with you, but we'll get on with it next week.
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh tape in his Ezekiel series, titled "Glory - Past, Absent And Future" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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