The Holiness of God.

Ezekiel 41

All the walls were decorated with carvings of cherubim, each with two faces, and there was a carving of a palm tree between each of the cherubim. One face—that of a man—looked toward the palm tree on one side. The other face—that of a young lion—looked toward the palm tree on the other side. The figures were carved all along the inside of the Temple, from the floor to the top of the walls, including the outer wall of the sanctuary. – Ezekiel 41:18-20 NLT

Everything in God's future Temple will have a purpose and a reason for its existence. There will be nothing left to chance. Every detail has been worked out beforehand by God. Every measurement has a reason behind it, whether we can see it or not. Even the width of the doors leading from the outside into the vestibule, then into the Holy Place, and then into the the Holy of Holies are sized increasingly smaller for a reason. Like the divine designer He is, God is focusing the attention of the worshiper onto the most important room in the entire building – the Holy of Holies. Everything points to that place. Everything in the Temple reinforces the Holy of Holies and the One who will dwell there. The entire Temple is about the holiness, the set-apartness of God. The walls inside the Temple will be covered in wood paneling, carved with alternating cherubs and palm trees. Each cherub will have two faces, the face of a man and the face of a lion, one looking left and the other right. These creatures were there for a reason. We can see elsewhere in Scripture that cherubim were used by God to protect His holiness. In the book of Exodus, in the instructions given by God for the construction of the Tabernacle. we are told of the two golden cherubim that were to be placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant, their wings spread out over the Ark. "The cherubim will face each other and look down on the atonement cover. With their wings spread above it, they will protect it" (Exodus 25:20 NLT). In the Tabernacle, the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was to have cherubim embroidered on it. In this future Temple, the paneled walls will feature a repeated pattern of cherubim and palm trees. The cherubim represent protection and security. The palms represent life and prosperity. In God, both come together as one. Holiness, health, and happiness – all are realized in God. There is no real life or prosperity apart from Him. And it is His holiness or set-apartness that makes it all possible. Only God can provide true life and prosperity. And in the future kingdom that Ezekiel is getting a glimpse of, God will rule and reign through His Son Jesus Christ and His holiness will permeate everything. He will have protected His holiness all the way until that day, preserving His name and His integrity and insuring that His divine plan is fulfilled so that we might have life and prosperity in Him. The key to it all? His holiness. There is no other god, but Him. He alone is God.

Father, some day the Temple we see described here to Ezekiel will be built. And when that day comes, it will mean that Your plan has been fulfilled. Your program will have been completed. And Your holiness will fill the world. There will be no more gods, no more unfaithfulness, and no more sin. I look forward to that day. In the meantime, help me remember just how holy You are and that it is Your holiness that makes life and prosperity possible, even now. Amen


When Affluence No Longer Has Any Influence.

Ezekiel 26-27

Everything is lost— your riches and wares, your sailors and pilots, your ship builders, merchants, and warriors. On the day of your ruin, everyone on board sinks into the depths of the sea. – Ezekiel 27:27 NLT

In this section of the book, Ezekiel gives oracles or judgments against seven nations that surround Israel and Judah. In them he states what God is going to do to these nations for the roles they have played in Judah's destruction or for having tried to prosper from their situation. In these two chapters, he concentrates his attention on Tyre, a wealthy and powerful seacoast nation that stood to benefit greatly from Judah's fall. Over and over again Ezekiel seems to highlight two indistiputable facts: Tyre's extreme wealth and God's sovereignty. Tyre was a highly prosperous nation that benefited from diverse trade relationships with a variety of nations. They had taken advantage of their ideal location along the coast and had become a focal point along the trade routes of that day. They traded in everything from slaves to silver, wine to white wool, ivory to iron, and cloth to carpets. Their warehouses were filled to the brim and their ships were loaded with goods from all over the known world at that time. They were rich, prosperous, and as a result, powerful. Their army was large and made up of mercenaries from around the world. And now, because Judah was suffering under the hand of God, the nation of Tyre was salivating at the chance to take over their trading relationships and prosper because of their demise.

But Tyre's wealth was no match for God's sovereignty. In fact, each of these nations were going to be destroyed by God as a reminder of God's covenant with the people of Israel. God may be punishing Israel at this moment, but He had still promised to restore them to the land. God was not about to let these foreign nations profit from Israel's situation. He would keep the land for them and protect it in order that they might return when He deemed it appropriate. These seven oracles would have been words of hope to the exiled Israelites. In spite of their unfaithfulness, God would remain faithful to them, keeping the land safe for their eventual return. Tyre was wealthy and stood to profit from the fall of Jerusalem, but God was not going to let that happen. In fact, God was going to bring destruction on the nation of Tyre, allowing the Babylonians to conquer and destroy them. Over and over again, Ezekiel writes, "Yes, the Sovereign Lord has spoken!" None of these nations were any match for the power of Almighty God. No nation can stand against God. They may do so for a time, but the day is coming when God will bring judgment on all the nations. China, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Cuba, South Korea, and yes, even America. God's will is going to be done. And no nation will be able to stand against it. He is going to accomplish what He has promised and there is no power in the world that can prevent it. Our God is great, and He is in complete control of ALL things.

Father, You are sovereign and Lord over all, including all the nations of the world. I can rest in the fact that there is no power like Yours. No nation can compete with You or prevent You from accomplishing Your divine will. Thanks for that reminder today. Amen


Elvis Has Left the Building.

Ezekiel 9-10

Then the Glory of GOD left the Temple entrance and hovered over the cherubim. And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the Lord’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them. – Ezekiel 10:18-19 MSG

Ezekiel continues to see a vision given to him by God. He has been transported to the city of Jerusalem where he was witnessed the sins of the people of Judah committed against God. They have erected idols in the Temple. They are clandestinely worshiping false gods in hidden rooms within the Temple grounds. Their spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness has reached a whole new love – even for the people of Israel. And now Ezekiel has to witnessa scene that was devastating for him as a prophet of God. He was about to witness the glory of God departing the very Temple designed as His dwelling place. All the way back on the day when Solomon had dedicated the Temple upon its completion, God had given this unique structure His Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval by filling it with His glory. "When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple" (1 Kings 8:10-11 NLT). God had taken up occupancy of the Temple. He had filled it with His glory. Now, hundreds of years later, God was about to leave the premises. He was making a not-so-subtle exit.

The glory of God made a methodical and obvious move from the courtyard to the main entrance. From there it moved to the east gate of the Temple grounds. God was no longer able to dwell in the house built for Him because it had been defiled by other gods and was not longer set aside for Him alone. The Temple of God was no longer the Temple of God. It had lost its distinctiveness and so God removed His presence. His glory departed. What a sad statement. What a chilling reality. The God of the universe was removing Himself from their midst. He was no longer willing to tolerate their rebellion and open rejection of His authority over their lives. This was a sad day for Israel. But it was not the first time the glory of God had left them. Back during the days before there were kings over Israel, the prophet Samuel witnessed another dark day in the life of the people of God. They were at war with the Philistines and things were not going well. So they decided to bring the Ark of God from where it was kept in the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They saw it as some kind of a magic talisman that could bring them victory over their enemies. They knew that God was enthroned above the cherubim that decorated the top of the Ark. So they reasoned that if they could bring the Ark to the battle, God would come along with it. They could somehow force God to do their will, their way. They didn't ask God for permission or seek His advice about the war with the Philistines. They simply decided that they needed a quick fix for their problem. But it didn't turn out well. The Ark was captured by the Philistines and more than 30,000 Jews were killed. The rest ran for their lives. Not only that, Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, the priest, were killed in the battle. When Eli received news that the battle had been lost, his sons were dead and the Ark was captured, he keeled over dead. When Phinehas' pregnant wife got word that her husband was dead, she went into early labor and died. She stayed alive long enough to give birth to a son and she named him Ichabod, which means "the glory has departed." Before she died, she described the sad state of affairs in Israel. "The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured" (1 Samuel 4:22 NLT).

The glory had departed! God had left the building. All hope was lost. But wait. While these two stories are sad and leave us with a sense of impending doom, we can't forget the fact that God has placed His Spirit within each of us who have placed our faith in the saving work of His Son Jesus Christ. Our bodies are now the temples of the Holy Spirit. We have been indwelt with His presence. We have been set apart for His use. We have been given His power. He has chosen to reside within us, and He has promised to never leave us. His glory will never depart from us. But you and I can quench the Spirit. We can determine to live our lives outside of His control and refuse to listen to His voice. We can live our lives in such a way that we obscure the glory of God that is present in our lives. So the apostle Paul exhorts us, "Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,e you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God" (Romans 8:12-14 NLT).

We have the glory of God within us. But like the people of Israel, we must decide to allow our lives to be directed by God. It is not enough to have His indwelling presence. I must choose to obey His word and follow His will. I can't treat the Holy Spirit of God as some magic talisman that I tap into when I need a quick spiritual fix and a fast solution to a problem. He is God and He is to be feared and obeyed as God. While He will never leave me, He can choose to leave me to myself, allowing me to walk in the flesh and suffer the consequences. He will continue speak to me and attempt to convict and direct me. But I must choose to listen and obey. To not do so is to run the risk of missing out on the glory of God in my life. I could fail to see His power lived out in the daily affairs of my life. And the sad truth is, many of us as believers live as if the glory of God has departed. Our story of our lives could be named "Ichabod," when they should be called "Immanuel" – God with us.

Father, I know You want to reveal Your glory in and through My life, but I stifle it by my attitudes and actions. I want the story of my life to be named "Immanuel" and not "Ichabod." Because Your glory is in me and with me every second of every day. Amen