It’s significant that in each of Ezekiel’s visions in this chapter, the vision is so much worse than the one before. In the first vision Ezekiel saw an idol of jealousy located and worshipped at the north gate of Jerusalem. The north was the typical direction from whence Judah’s enemies approached. Instead of placing their hope and trust in God, they trusted this idol for their protection. As serious as this offense was, it gets worse for Judah. Where the first vision was of idolatry out in public, the second vision takes Ezekiel to a more private location, the entrance to the Temple courtyard. There Ezekiel sees 70 leaders worshipping Egyptian style idols carved into a wall. Can you imagine seeing leaders of Judah worshipping Egyptian idols and declaring that the Lord does not see them and has forsaken them (verse 12). This is unimaginable, but such wickedness pales in comparison to the next vision. Ezekiel sees women practicing a Babylonian ritual, weeping for the god Tammuz. The ritual was to hasten the rising of the god Dumuzu (the Babylonian name for Tammuz) from the dead. This ritual marked the end of winter and symbolized fertility and new life. These women are grieving for the dead winter god rather than worshipping the living God. The final vision of chapter eight was the most abhorrent. This vision takes place in the Temple itself. Ezekiel sees 25 men with their backs to the Temple, facing east to worship the sun. They turn their backs on the Creator and worship His creation.
These visions do not leave anyone out. The visions of idolatry included everyone; men and women, leaders, and idol gods from all over the region. The idolatry had spread from throughout Jerusalem and even to the inside the Temple. It’s important to notice that in these visions of Judah’s idolatry, these idol worshipers never claimed that God did not exist. In fact they recognized His existence, but the people of Judah and their leaders denied His relevance in their lives.
I think the same can be said of us at times. When we face serious illness, financial struggles due to cut hours of work, unemployment, or struggles in our relationships, we seldom question God’s existence. However, though we do not doubt His existence, our stress, anxiety, and worry clearly question His relevance. When we seek to remedy our anxiety and restlessness by seeking our self-made idols of entertainment, possessions, or immorality, we communicate to God that He is either not capable of helping us, or unwilling to bless us. But there is great news—He is willing and He is most capable. You and I can trust Him above all else. Amen.
Dr. Eric Bates, Pastor
Gulf States Conference