The Voyeur of Idolatry — Ezekiel Study Continues

Eighth Symbol: The Voyeur of Idolatry

In this symbol it’s tempting to look at the events and implications of the prophecy and not focus on Ezekiel as a symbol, which is the point of this study; thus to keep on track we will try to confine ourselves to those things in which Ezekiel participated and avoid the lure of other concepts which will take focus off him as a symbol. In chapters 8 through 10, Ezekiel is called upon to be a witness of coming things. His only participation is that of sharing in God’s horrified view of what had happened to His people, to expose those deeds, and to ask questions.

“¢ Someone called as a symbol against great sinfulness must need reinforcement. In chapter 8 we see the vision of God that Ezekiel had seen twice before portrayed once again. We see it again in chapter 10–Of note is the fact that where previously the symbol of a rainbow (forgiveness and relenting of destruction) was mentioned, at this point it is absent.
“¢ A symbol may be called upon to see what may not be obvious to others. In the case of Ezekiel, he was taken in a vision to Jerusalem and saw things that the elders there in his house did not see. A non-natural vision of things may be put into the mind of a person called to be a symbol.
“¢ A symbol can be moved upon forcefully by God. In Ezekiel’s case, he was snatched up by the hair of the head and carried.
“¢ A symbol can be called upon, as was Ezekiel, to witness and share in an experience with God, so that the symbol can see things as God does. Repeatedly God asks Ezekiel to come and look at aspects of the wickedness of His people, as if to reinforce to Ezekiel’s mind the necessity of the drastic means He will use to correct the situation. There seems to be a progression in the intensity he is to feel (“you will see things that are even more detestable.”)
“¢ He is to see the mechanism of how people by bringing their own images into places He has declared holy–off-limits to human representation or manipulation–such actions can actually drive God away from those places He intended to be meeting places between Himself and men.
“¢ A symbol may be called upon to uncover sin. Ezekiel was commanded to dig into a wall to uncover the secret things done in darkness there.
“¢ Great sin may cause God to react in anger, and God wants us to understand that no amount of crying and repentance can turn away His wrath in certain cases. In 9:8, for instance, Ezekiel is aghast at the destruction of men, women and children– but God makes it clear that His judgment is commensurate with the weight of their sins.
“¢ God was indignant at seeing something portrayed alongside Himself– the idols in temple. He will not share His glory with any object He, or anyone else, has created.
“¢ In 8:12 we see the core of what has made God so furious. Those who should have been leaders were “in the dark” in what the KJV says is “the chamber of his own imagery.” To counteract the compelling nature of these mind-encompassing representations generated by each man’s mind shows the need for the presentation of a more powerful image (Ezekiel and his messages) to counteract these images. While their sin was corporate, it arose out of each individual’s suite of images: each man had his own chambers or innermost places. If the function of a symbol is to counteract this, he as a symbol must first see it, witness it, see how holding on to one’s own representations is equated with idolatry.
“¢ The word is maskyith, a figure carved on a wall, an object; figuratively imagination, conceit, image, picture, wish. In this case, we can see how those images were directly tied to what they were doing: had reified their idolatry (given it form upon the walls) and had taken upon themselves priestly offices (were all burning incense as priest only were supposed to do). Significantly, the result of these actions was that they concluded two things: God can’t see what is going on here, and He wouldn’t do anything if He did see because He’s removed Himself from this realm. Thus they had created out of their own minds a different reality, given it physical form, and then concluded that God was absent from the picture and would be powerless even if He were present. No wonder He was so angry.

“¢ A symbol as witness must himself know the difference between the holy and the profane. God’s servants being able to distinguish between the holy and the profane: Leviticus 10:10-11– priests told to not drink strong drink so that they’d themselves show in their bodies a “distinction between the holy and the profane, the unclean and the clean,” and this being done, says God, “so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them through Moses.” A symbol is called upon to witness in the Bible (through reading it) the criteria for the holy and the profane; and by doing so to be able to teach others that distinction so that people won’t see their own internal validation of their own symbols. This is stated most strongly in Ezekiel 22:26: “they do not distinguish between the holy and the common.” Chapters 38-48, especially with the portrayal of the new temple, emphasizes the distinctiveness of God as holy and what He proclaims as holy.

“¢ A symbol’s understanding of a situation may be completely uncorroborated by the people he is speaking to. When the Lord cried out with a loud voice, the victims did not hear, just the executioners and Ezekiel as witness.

“¢ He was to witness the fact that judgment began with the ancients– those with the greatest experience and thus the most culpable of sinning against God. That would serve as a warning to him as well, we would conclude, since he himself has such great knowledge.

“¢ Ezekiel witnesses that the conflagration against sin does not come from his own words or his mouth or actions, but is kindled by coals from within the restless, autonomous motion of the will of God that fuels the chariot that carries His throne: His own authority. Thus Ezekiel as a symbol is not called upon in this utter destruction to participate, only to watch.

“¢ Ezekiel must know the meaning of being given a new heart– it is not only a sign of surrender but also a mark of God’s new action on a person, and that will bring Ezekiel hope as he preaches this message of destruction. Ezekiel is called to witness the destruction that will come as a result of hearts that insist on their own images alongside God. The vile images must be purged before a undivided heart can be created and non-naturally inserted into a person.

A side note to this section: one of the most touching portrayals of the sorrow of God is portrayed in these chapters. In chapter 10, we see the sapphire throne of chapter one again, suspended over the heads of the cherubim. The cherubim are over at the south side of the temple, removed as far as possible from the horrendous acts that the people are performing on the north side of the temple. God Himself is not between the wings suspended over the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, nor even within the temple at all. Instead, we see His glory move from above the cherubim to the threshold of the temple, where He fills the edifice with the cloud of His anger, and the court with the radiance of His glory. Meanwhile, the wings of the cherubim hum anxiously, as if warming the motor of His chariot for His departure.

There, on the threshold, not entering the His own house, the glory of God pauses wistfully, looking into the place He’d chosen as his own residence on earth but which had been so defiled that He would not longer dwell there among its new residents: the idols and their worshipers. Even when His presence leaves the temple, it pauses again at the east gate, looking back perhaps again in sorrow; and then it moves a little further away, coming to rest upon the mountain east of the city. The last thing Ezekiel sees in this vision, before he is brought back from his vision
to Babylonia, is the glory of the Lord lingering for a moment, looking upon the city that has cast Him out.

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