The Weeping Prophets, Part 2
What brought this terrible thing upon the people He loved–His own people?
Reading Ezekiel 8, God paints a picture of what He sees from His perspective. It is a picture we will do well to observe and to apply to our own hearts. This is what is happening in the “Temple” that they thought would spare them from judgment:
The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain. Then he said to me, “Son of man, look toward the north.” So I looked, and in the entrance north of the gate of the altar I saw this idol of jealousy. And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing– the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.” Then he brought me to the entrance to the court. I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall. He said to me, “Son of man, now dig into the wall.” So I dug into the wall and saw a doorway there. And he said to me, “Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here.” So I went in and looked, and I saw portrayed all over the walls all kinds of crawling things and detestable animals and all the idols of the house of Israel. In front of them stood seventy elders of the house of Israel, and Jaazaniah son of Shaphan was standing among them. Each had a censer in his hand, and a fragrant cloud of incense was rising. He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land.’” Again, he said, “You will see them doing things that are even more detestable.” Then he brought me to the entrance to the north gate of the house of the LORD, and I saw women sitting there, mourning for Tammuz. He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this.” He then brought me into the inner court of the house of the LORD, and there at the entrance to the temple, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men. With their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, they were bowing down to the sun in the east. He said to me, “Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the house of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually provoke me to anger? Look at them putting the branch to their nose! Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.” (Ezekiel 8)
For myself, I ask in the first person: What does He see upon the walls of my mind? What detestable images? What idols are there? What things do I watch and listen to that are being imprinted upon the walls of the temple where the Holy Spirit now resides? It grieves me. In the third person, I ask the same on behalf of His Church, the temple of hearts upon which He has engraved His covenant.
Weeping is Permissible!
In chapter 9 of Ezekiel, God instructs the man dressed in linen to go through the city and “put a mark upon the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it” (v. 4). A prayer that is attributed to Billy Graham shows that we have our own weeping prophets in America:
Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from sin and Set us free. Amen!’
Ezekiel records the glory of the LORD as it departs from Jerusalem—slowly, agonizingly reluctant, pausing to look back, pausing again at the East Gate. It is a heartbreaking scene. There is good news even here in this heartbreaking scene: The Glory of the LORD departed through the East Gate of Jerusalem—the very gate where the Glory of the LORD Jesus will return! And He is coming soon and He will march through that very Gate!
Folks, it is entirely permissible to grieve over our nation, over our Churches. He marks those who grieve because they are grieving His grief—they are expressing His lament. We are not grieving a hopeless grief. We don’t have to try to put a happy face on what we see today in our country. We are permitted to grieve—it is entirely appropriate to grieve. In the Old covenant days they were sometimes instructed to “call for the wailing women” to wail on behalf of the Land. So yes, call for a solemn assembly—not to call down fire and judgment from heaven, but to grieve and lament because God grieves and laments over this once Godly nation. And in our lamentations, to cry out as Ezekiel—for His mercy or as Habbakuk cries out “In your wrath remember mercy!”
As we cry out for revival, let us pray as Habakkuk cried out: “I stand in awe of Your deeds O LORD. Renew them in our day—in our time make them known!”
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).