Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Scenes of idolatry

And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the LORD. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east.
Ezekiel 8:16

The prophet Ezekiel is transported in a vision from his dwelling in Babylon back to the Jerusalem temple. Since he was by profession a priest, he was very familiar with the temple, its layout, and its purpose. And God gives him a tour of the temple in its current state. It winds up being an appalling tour of idolatry.

Everywhere God takes him on the temple grounds there is some form of pagan idolatry. There is an idol at the entrance to the inner court. Inside the courts are carved images of beasts and all sorts of idols. In this menagerie of idolatry, the leaders of the nation worship and offer incense. They do this secretly, but God exposes it to the prophet in the vision.

In the entrance of the north gate a woman practices ritual weeping for the Canaanite deity Tammuz... a fertility idol associated with all sorts of pagan immorality. The mourning ritual was supposed to ensure a new crop and prosperity. And this ritual was taking place in the temple of God.

The final scene witnessed is of sun worshipers. The picture is dramatic. The men literally turn their backs on God and His temple in order to face the rising sun in worship. All of these scenes show that Judah had forsaken God so completely that God would judge them for their defiant rejection of Him. it was one thing to be idolatrous. It was another rebellion altogether more direct to do so by turning God's temple into a center for the celebration of religious pluralism and pagan ritual.

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