Then it happened... and no one thought it would. In fact, they didn't even believe that it could... If you were a Jew in the days of the prophet Ezekiel, the common belief was that the "kabod" the visible representation of the glory of God neither would or maybe even could depart from His temple. But if you've been reading with us, chapter by chapter, you've noticed that idolatry that provokes God to jealousy inhabits the halls of the temple and the hearts of the people. This idolatry made it "not His" - and judgement is coming - but as the chariot comes to escort the glory away from Jerusalem, I see some contextually Old Covenant principles about God that certainly parallel the New Covenant and His temple - which is not longer a building - it is the believer.
1. From Glory To Glory
And I looked, and there in the firmament[a] that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne. 2 Then He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, “Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in as I watched.
Ezekiel is recording all the means by which Israel will be judged. Sword, Wind, Famine, and Fire (2 Kings 25). And the fire that would destroy came directly from the glory of God, for the glory of God. Yahweh refuses to share His glory with anyone or anything. Being provoked to jealousy, even by the idol of Jealousy mentioned in chapters previous, God will ultimately receive the glory by destroying every hindrance to the knowledge that He is LORD. A second temple will be built in years to come, and rebuilt again just prior to the days of Jesus' ministry on earth, but the kabod, the glory of God would never again indwell a temple...that is, until the very presence of God - in the person of Jesus - would walk in to the temple and begin the process that would tear the veil. His death and resurrection would mark the emptiness of the Jewish religion. His teaching would mark the destruction of the Jewish temple. And light a fire in the hearts of all who call upon His name. The fire which comes from God's glory - to God's ultimate glory.
2. Blotted Out or Burned
I think it is interesting to note that these coals that come from the glory of God blot out the sins, consecrate, and prepare the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6. Yet, in this instance they destroy and judge the wicked. God's glory works in much the same manner today. The righteousness that is brought about by the Holy Spirit will burn the conscience of the wicked. When truth is preached and practiced - it is divisive and revealing of the heart.
3. God Is On The Move...PAUSE
3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the [c]temple when the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court. 4 Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory. 5 And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.
This is descriptive. You have to see it. You have to hear it. You have to feel it. God's glory moves to the threshold. Even the court is filled with the brightness of His glory. Women who are worshipping idols...missed it. Men who are worshipping idols...missed it. Priests who are looking in this exact direction facing the sun...missed it. Can you imagine this sound and this sight and still missing it? I can. For so long I was fixated on all the wrong things. In the right place. But like the priests of Ezekiel's day, I was so fascinated with the shiny things that I neglected to chase the glory of God. God is on the move. The sound of his going is all about us. And if we are not careful, we will miss it.
But the gracious thing about God is that He pauses. "WAIT! I don't want to leave yet. I love my people. Does anyone see Me? Does anyone hear Me?" Imagine that final look through you gave your first home once the moving truck was loaded up, just before locking the door. It's empty - but you can see all the memories of that special place flash before your eyes. One last glance. A touch to the door frame. A singular tear...knowing something better is coming. And....goodbye. God pauses as if to allow the priests or the people to recognize His movement and repent. But they only have eyes of idols. So, God is on the move. Ezekiel saw. But no one else did.
4. If It's Yours - It's Not His
As a fourth generation preacher's kid, I've seen my family fight particular battles that I, too, as a pastor and church consultant have had to fight. Church facilities all over our country have "sacred cows" that "shall not be moved." "My great uncle built that communion table." "My aunt paid for that pew." "My momma donated that carpet." "I paid for that...not you." I've had to look in the eye of many a "saint" and say these words: "If it's yours...take it home. The only things I want in this building are the things that belong to God."
Oh friend, it's more than icons that we idolize. We've made an idol of traditions as well. And I want to be loud where the Bible is loud and quiet where the Bible is quiet. We've called it "God's House" and "The Lord's Day" but if our pastor or church goes a direction we don't like, preferentially, we'll find another church that does it our way. That's the problem. God's glory refuses to dwell among people who do it "the old time way," "the new age way," "grandma's way," and especially "my way." If it's yours...it's not His. God's glory manifests itself exclusively in the gatherings and in the hearts of those who worship Him - HIS WAY.
5. It's Above Them
18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the [i]temple and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
Saddest reality of this chapter. Ezekiel writes an ironic statement that English cannot fully express. Best way I can put it is - because Israel thought God's glory was a common commodity...Just another "thing" that God is obligated to because we call ourselves His people and this is "His temple...." Because they callously went through the temple rituals while chasing after idols, even in their hearts, God's glory was "above them."
In these days of corona virus quarantine - in the year 2020 - God has given the church a great opportunity to reset. To chase after Him. To consecrate their hearts. To remove the idols of jealousy. And to seek His glory. He's cleared the stage. He's temporarily burned our opportunity to gather in many instances. No shiny things. No sacred cows. No preferences. Just pure community. Prayer. Fasting. Depth in the Word of God. - or - none of those things. Some will attempt to over lay a digital version of their own tastes during this time. That's because God's glory is over their heads.
Oh that we would be consecrated afresh with a coal from the fire of God's glory.
Let it melt away all impurity and idolatry.
That we might Remember. Repent. And see Relationship Restored.
verse 6: "then it happened..." God's glory is about to leave the building.