A Tenderized Heart – Ezekiel 11

Light cannot co-exist with darkness – there must be a separation.  But if we find ourselves in darkness, God has left the door open if we wish a reconciliation and a return to His light.

Despite many decades of warnings from the Lord’s prophets up to the time of Ezekiel, the Temple leaders and most of their followers in Jerusalem firmly rejected God and devoted themselves to the worship of idols.  The time had come for God to do something about it, and it came in the form of a terrible judgement.  God’s protection over the city and its Temple were about to be removed, and His wrath was permitted to come in the form of an invasion by Nebuchadnezzar’s army.  But God still loved His people and wanted an eternal relationship with them.  He would protect those who remained faithful to Him in the midst of the approaching catastrophe and would try to turn back the hearts of those who opposed Him through the coming hardship. 

Ezekiel’s vision described what was happening behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm.

Then the glory of the God of Israel rose up from between the cherubim, where it had rested, and moved to the entrance of the Temple. And the Lord called to the man dressed in linen who was carrying the writer’s case. He said to him, “Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.” Ezekiel 9:3-4 (NLT)

Since the time of Moses, the ark of the covenant had been the footstool and mercy seat of God’s presence on earth.  Residing behind a curtain in the Temple’s Holy of Holy’s, it was symbolically presided over by two golden statues of angelic cherubim.  The ark was only approached by a human being once each year.  This was only done by the High Priest and only after a spiritual “covering” of his sins through an animal sacrifice. 

The pattern for the ark and its surroundings were earthly representations of heavenly realities, given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.  These were implemented first in a mobile tabernacle, and later, in a Temple built by King David’s son, Solomon, on the spot God had chosen in Jerusalem.  The Temple dedication was a solemn event filled with worship, prayer and many atoning sacrifices, and God blessed Solomon’s work with His visible glory on dedication day.

But now, many years later, the Lord was about to remove His glory from the Temple.  Ezekiel saw this in his vision, including the real cherubim that the golden statues above the ark were modeled after.

18 Then the glory of the Lord moved out from the entrance of the Temple and hovered above the cherubim. 19 And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the Lord’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them.  Ezekiel 10:18-19 (NLT)

22 Then the cherubim lifted their wings and rose into the air with their wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them. 23 Then the glory of the Lord went up from the city and stopped above the mountain to the east.  Ezekiel 11:22-23 (NLT)

What a tragic day.  The Creator of the universe had honored Jerusalem with His presence, intending them to be a light to the world that attracted people to the Lord from every nation.  Instead, they were pointing them to demonic idols.  For this, God was pulling up stakes and leaving the Temple, His holy light unable to coexist with the dark worship and elevation of idols. 

But God did not give up His good intentions towards His people.  Prophecy tells us that one day, Jerusalem will fulfill its role as the footstool of God and the attractive beacon of His goodness to all the world.  The throne of David will be restored for eternal global rule by the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

In the meantime, God extended grace and protection to all of His faithful who were suffering as a result of His cleansing judgment.  And many of those who had rejected Him were given a chance to repent of their ways and humbly return to His open arms.  Ezekiel continues with his instructions from God:

16 “Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. 17 I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.’

18 “When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. 19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20 so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those who long for vile images and detestable idols, I will repay them fully for their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”  Ezekiel 11:16-21 (NLT)

Thus ended Ezekiel’s vision and message to the exiles. 

24 Afterward the Spirit of God carried me back again to Babylonia, to the people in exile there. And so ended the vision of my visit to Jerusalem. 25 And I told the exiles everything the Lord had shown me.  Ezekiel 11:24-25 (NLT)

Jesus told a parable in Luke 15, the Parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) Son, which also outlined a theme of rejection, hardship, change of heart, and welcome return.

A young man turned his back on his father, demanding and spending his share of the family inheritance on wild living in a foreign land.  When the money was gone, he found himself suffering in his self-imposed exile.  Starving with hunger while the pigs he slopped were well fed, he finally came to his senses.  His heart was “tenderized” through suffering, and he became softened in his heart towards his father.  Realizing that he would be much better off under the care and protection of a father who loved him, the young man repented of his ways and decided to humbly return home. Seeing him while still a long way off, his father ran to hug him and celebrated the joyful occasion with a feast.  

God used the difficult experiences of the young man’s life to bring him safely back into the fold. He longs to be reconciled with all who are alienated from Him.

Reflection

Lord, continue to draw me closer to You and Your love.  Hold me up through times of trial and trouble, keeping me in Your grip until the storm passes.  Let Your light so shine through me that I may become a beacon attracting others to your glorious Light.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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