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Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Glory of God Leaves the Temple


The Glory of God Leaves the Temple

Ezekiel 10


The sight is very sad.  The Spirit of God is departing from the temple in Jerusalem.  The cloud of God’s glory fills the inner court and then slowly moves out. (Ezekiel 10:3)  As Ezekiel watches “the glory of the Lord rises from above the cherubim and moves to the threshold of the temple. The cloud fills the temple, and the court is full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 10:4)  The year is 587 B.C. and the Spirit of God is leaving the sanctuary - the place where He has been among the people for hundreds of years.   


God’s shinning glory stops and stands over the threshold of the door as Ezekiel watches. (Ezekiel 10:4) And then after a long pause the cloud of glory rises from the threshold and with the whirling wheels moves further away over the cherubim.  (Ezekiel 10:18)  “And immediately the cherubim lifted up their wings.” (Verse 19)  “The cherubim and the glory of God above them stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, ready to depart and leave the house.” (Ezekiel 10:19) 


With many pauses and stops the Spirit of the Lord covered with light reluctantly departs from the people He loves.  He doesn’t want to go but He has been replaced by the idols – the foreign gods.  Is the Spirit of the Lord waiting to see if any one might care that He is leaving and repent and ask Him to return?  God removes by degrees away from a provoking people.  He would quickly return in mercy if they would care and turn from their idols and worship Him.


 But most of the people of Jerusalem have thrown away the God of their fathers and they don’t care.  They are busy worshipping idols and sacrificing their children to them!  They have even brought their idols into God’s holy temple and the priests and the people are all worshipping the idols in the very temple that had been dedicated to the Lord!  Violence and bloodshed are everywhere in the streets of Jerusalem and the poor have been forgotten.  Nearly all of the people in the city have given up truth and goodness for cruelty and evil!  God promises Ezekiel that judgment will follow soon!


  But there are a few people – a remnant - still left in Jerusalem who are upset by all of the blood shed and idol worshipping.  These few men and women want to return to the God of their fathers and they weep over their beloved city because it has changed and become such an evil place.


 God shows Ezekiel in a vision that He is sending a man - a mediator - to go through Jerusalem and put a mark on each person who wants to return to God.  (Ezekiel 9:4)  Then when judgment does come to Jerusalem, the few people left who are marked and who still love God will be spared.  A remnant will be left to start anew and carry on.  God’s judgment (most of the people will die)  will be healing since it will enable the remnant – the ones left behind who still love God and truth-  to recover their faith and to begin again to build their lives free from the idol worshipping and violence that has been all around them.


Does this Bible story from so long ago have any relevance for us today?  This story about God’s Spirit leaving the temple with judgment following?  What do you think?  Today God’s Holy Spirit still abides with his people, but in a different way!  This ancient story from the Old Testament happened nearly 600 years before Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins.


 And later when Jesus, our Mediator, came, He changed everything!  Jesus left his Spirit for each of his followers.  (Acts 1)  Like the men and women of old in Jerusalem who still loved God were “marked” by the mediator so they would be saved when judgment came down; today each of us who love God have also been “marked” by receiving the Spirit of Jesus, our Mediator, so that we will be saved in the final Judgment..  Scripture says: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by whom you were “marked” (sealed) for the day of redemption.”  (Ephesians 4:30)


 Scripture says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit!  And God’s Spirit lives in our bodies, if we open our lives to Him.  Scripture says: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God:…” (1 Corinthians 6:19)  The Bible says that today God’s Spirit lives within each person who believes in Him whereas before Jesus died and rose – in Old Testament times – God’s Spirit lived in the temple – a building built with human hands.  Today we don’t have to go to the church or the temple, as worshippers did in Old Testament times, to worship God.  We can worship Him anywhere since our bodies are His temples and His Spirit is right here in us!


After God’s Spirit and glory left the temple in ancient Jerusalem the people could tell the difference.  Life wasn’t the same, something was missing!  When the people of Jerusalem started having problems they asked their prophets for a vision and they went to the temple priests who worshipped idols and asked them for understanding and for the law of God, but Scripture says that the prophets and priests had nothing to give the spiritually hungry people.  And the elders who always gave good advice also lost their gift of counsel!  (Ezekiel 9:26b)  It’s scary!  Without God’s Spirit life goes flat!  The spark of life is gone!  There is no there there!


King David knew the importance of having God’s Spirit with him!  Once when David had sinned grievously he repented and prayed to God and begged that God not take his Spirit away from him.  (Psalm 51:11)  As a boy David had watched as King Saul had turned away from God and as God’s Spirit had departed from him.  (1 Samuel 16:14)  And David had been there to see how troubled King Saul had become when he no longer had the guidance and help of the Spirit of God with him.  Even though David messed up many times in his life, he loved God and really wanted God’s Spirit to guide him and be with him. 


It would seem that the Holy Spirit does more for us than we realize!  Scripture tells us that the Spirit holds us together and keeps us on the right path.  (And all that time we thought we were doing that all by ourselves!)


 Chapter one of Romans says that when we “exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom.1:25)  and when we insist on our own way and fight and kick at God long enough, God finally lets us have what we insist we want. If we rebel long enough God’s Spirit finally stops holding onto us and stops moving us along on the right paths and lets us walk where we want to go even if that is a bad place.  A long list of sins follows - sins that God’s Spirit was holding us back from. (Romans 1:26-32)  A list of wrong ways and bad places and sins follow in the first chapter of Romans.  Sins that the Spirit of God was holding us back from falling into.  Scripture says that the Spirit of God can give us over to a debased mind if we keep insisting and rebelling against Him. (verse 28)  It doesn’t sound pretty!


It’s our call to be guided by the Spirit or not. -Like when God’s Spirit left the temple in ancient Jerusalem when the people rebelled and stopped worshipping Him, today God’s Spirit can leave us humans when we rebel and stop worshipping Him.  Scripture says that the Holy Spirit will not always strive with humans.  (Genesis 6:3)  God would not force his Way onto the people in Jerusalem long ago and He will not force his Way onto us today against our will.


But we lose so much when reject and grieve the Spirit until He sadly leaves!  Scripture says that the Spirit helps us do what we need to do!  Sets us on the paths that we need to take!  Guides and teaches us to say what we need to say!  Gives us joy and peace and faith and truth and a gentle spirit! (Galatians 5:22)


 How many times have we prayed for and received help in doing a job that we didn’t have the strength to do by ourselves? And Scripture says that the Spirit gives us strength and upholds us. (Isaiah 41:10)  The gifts and blessings the Spirit brings us just keep on coming!  They are new every morning!  Having the Spirit in our lives is having the good life!           

















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