The Anatomy of Abominations
Would you please take your Bibles and turn to the 8th chapter of the book of Ezekiel, verses 1-18.
>In chapter 7 we saw God announcing judgment on the nation of Israel.
God pronounced this judgment by telling them that the end has come.
God said, "Iím going to bring your nation down...
Iím going to utterly destroy it...
Iím going to bring it to an end."
Now in chapter 7, God told the people that there were two specific reasons why...
He was going to bring them to an end.
>First of all he said, "Iím going to bring you to an end because of your conduct."
And secondly he said, "Iím going to bring you to an end because of your detestable practices."
In chapter 7, in verses 4 and 9, we read that God said to them...
"Iím going to bring you to an end because of your conduct and because of your detestable practices."
Chapter 7 tells us of those ways that the people were living...
That brought about the wrath and judgment of God.
There were three of them.
They were very violent people.
They had become people of violence.
And Godís people are to be a peaceful and peace loving people.
Also they had become a people of great pride.
They had allowed a spirit of pride and arrogance to absolutely overwhelm them...
And they no longer trusted in God but trusted in their own ability.
And the third way was the way of wickedness.
They had become grossly immoral and ungodly in the lifestyles that they were living.
And so God said, "Because of your conduct, because of your pride...
Because of your violence and because of your wickedness."
God said, "Iím going to bring you to an end."
>But now chapter 8 tells us of the detestable practices that God saw them doing....
That also contributed to his bringing them to an end.
And so in chapter 7 he deals with their conduct...
And in chapter 8 he deals with their detestable practices.
Now the best way to view and to understand chapter 8 is to see three specific things.
Sometimes they are going on at the same time.
First of all, I want you to notice a visitor that Ezekiel encountered.
And the second thing weíre going to see are the visions that Ezekiel saw...
And then finally, the voice that Ezekiel heard.
>Verse 1 tells us of a divine visitor that came to Ezekiel.
Look at it.
In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day.
Now this tells us the time that the visitor came.
If I had time to go back in chapter 1, I would show you that this vision comes exactly to the day...
14 months after the first vision.
In chapter 1 he saw that great vision and the end of chapter 1 tells us...
That it was a vision of the glory of God.
But now 14 months later a second vision is given to Ezekiel...
And it comes at the hands of his heavenly visitor in the 6th year and the 6th month and the 5th day.
Now why is that important?
>Iíll tell you why that is important.
It lets us know that the Bible is not a book of fairy tales.
When you read "Little Red Riding Hood", or Mother Gooseís Fairy Tales...
How do they begin?
They begin something like this, "Once upon a time".
Now you see those are fictional stories.
Sometimes they have a good moral about them.
Sometimes theyíre just utterly ridiculous.
But they are vague and general and they are not real things or real events.
And so they just fall into the category of "once upon a time".
But this is a real vision brought by a real heavenly visitor...
That happened on a real day, and is recorded as fact in the word of God.
But letís read on.
>In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house, and the elders of Judah were sitting before me.
Now remember, Ezekiel is not in Judah.
He is in Babylon.
He had been taken captive.
But it seems as though the Babylonians treated these captives with some kind of generosity...
Because they were allowed to have their own houses.
They did not live in prisons.
They did not live in jail cells.
They were allowed to have their own homes.
And they had even established some kind of formal government on their own...
Because here he says the elders of Judah that were there in captivity had come to his house.
Now maybe they were there inquiring, "Is there any word from the Lord?"
But it was on the sixth year of captivity in the sixth month on the fifth day of the month...
When all the elders of Israel were sitting right there in his house in Babylon that the Bible says...
(Verse 2) I looked and saw a figure like that of a man, from what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal.
>This heavenly visitor had the likeness of a man...
And yet it was not like a man that you and I would see every day.
From his waist down it looked as though he was set on fire.
And from his waist up he was glowing as amber, a bright brilliant gold...
Almost somewhat like the sun.
And so this heavenly visitor came to Ezekielís house.
Now did these other elders there see it?
I do not know...the Bible doesnít say.
But Ezekiel saw this heavenly visitor.
>Now who was he?
Well it may have been an angel of God.
It may have been a reincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ himself.
I donít know who he is, but he came from heaven...
To give Ezekiel one of the greatest series of visions in all the book he wrote.
And so here is this heavenly visitor who comes and he says that he was taken by the hair of the head.
You say, "Now wait a minute, Bro. Joe.
Weíve already read in earlier chapter that he cut off all of the hair on his head...
And he shaved the beard and mustache off his face.
So where did the hair come from?"
Well 14 months have passed.
You go without going to the barbershop for 14 months...
And weíll pull you by the hair of the head and see if there is enough there.
Now there are some of you that weíd still have a little trouble doing that with.
But most of you we could probably get a hand full.
But thatís what this image does.
This likeness of a man does.
He grabs him by the hair of the head and the Bible says in verse 3:
The spirit lifted me up between heaven and earth..
>So hereís the setting.
Ezekiel was in his house on a specific day meeting with the elders of Judah...
When this heavenly visitor came and grabbed him by the hair of his head...
And lifted him out of this house and suspended him between heaven and earth.
Now I believe personally that this is as far as they go...
Because what else is said in the chapter is specifically identified as a vision.
This seems to have been a literal happening.
This heavenly visitor comes.
He takes him by the hair of his head, and he carries him somewhere suspended between heaven and earth.
And all the rest that happens is by means of a vision.
And so we see the visitor that he received.
>Now secondly, I want us to see the visions he saw, and there are five of them.
One of them is a wonderful vision, and four of them are visions of detestable practices.
And every one of those four visions, that one that follows the one before it is worse than the one that preceded it.
They get worse steadily as they go.
Thatís why he says, But you will see things that are even more detestable.
And we see it, and he says, "Now Iím going to show you an even greater abomination."
And we see it, and he says, "You will see them doing things that are even more detestable."
So there are five of these visions in all.
>The first one is found in verse 4.
He says, "And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain."
Now where is there?
It is a vision of Jerusalem.
He says, "I was carried by the spirit by means of vision to Jerusalem."
But he was not carried to Jerusalem to the sheep market.
He wasnít carried to Jerusalem where they dance and play.
He was carried into Jerusalem at the temple itself.
Everything he sees he sees happening at the house of God.
The NT reminds us that judgment begins at the house of God.
And this is exactly what we see happening here in this chapter.
And so while he is suspended there between heaven and earth...
This heavenly visitor gives to him a vision of what is happening in Jerusalem...
At the temple specifically.
And as he begins to see these visions the first thing he sees is the vision of the glory of God.
>Now listen to me, itís always wonderful when the church house is filled with the glory of God.
You know most of the times when we come here we can sense the presence of God.
The glory of God is what makes the house of God unique.
Itís not the architecture.
Itís not the padded pews or the stained glass windows.
Itís not the instruments of the choir.
Itís not how big or small the preacher might be.
That which makes the house of God unique is the presence of divine glory.
When the glory of God shows up, friend, you can have church.
>Now the glory of God was still residing there at the temple.
And that was the first thing Ezekiel wanted to be assured of is that the glory of God is still there.
But friends, the glory of God was fixing to depart from the house of God.
At the time he saw the vision the glory of God was still there...
But God has already said, "the end is coming."
And friends, for the end to come to the glory of God would have to depart...
Because there is no power on earth or in heaven or in hell itself that can fight against the glory of God.
And so the glory is about to leave.
But at that very moment as he is seeing the visions the glory of God was still there.
Now we come to the four detestable practices that are causing the glory of God to exit.
>First of all he sees what is identified as the gate toward the north...
He sees what is called an image of jealousy.
Now you have to understand, thatís not what they called it...
And thatís not what any man or woman on the face of the earth would have called it.
Thatís what God called it.
It wasnít that the image made the people jealous of each other.
It was that the image made God jealous.
When God wrote the 10 Commandments in the book of Exodus...
He reminded people that youíll "have no other gods before me."
Because "I am a jealous God."
This image had been set up right at the very entrance to the temple of God.
The first thing you would see as you made your way into the temple of God...
Was this great huge image of jealousy.
>Now what image was it?
I donít know for sure but many Bible scholars believe it was the image of Ashtaroth...
A Sumerian goddess of fertility.
In other words, this was a goddess that was worshiped by sexual promiscuity.
It was a goddess that was made happy by your own immorality and unfaithfulness to your marriage vows.
And so sitting right here at the temple gate of a holy God...
Was this image to pornography, an image to immorality, and God said...
"That image has provoked me to jealousy."
Folks, I want to tell you, thatís a terrible thing.
That would be like going right out here at the front of our church house...
And building a building and having some pornographer come and set up the little 25 cent viewing booths...
And showing gross, pagan immorality.
And on your way into church you could stop out there and observe all that filth...
Before coming into the house of God.
Or it would be like going out there and having a mission point from Tunica...
And putting slot machines out there and roulette wheels...
And put all of that out there right in front of the house of God.
And people could go in there and gamble before coming into the house of God.
And God says, "Ezekiel, I want you to see this because it is a detestable practice.
And it is being carried out right at the door of my house in Jerusalem."
But he says, "Now Iím going to show you something even greater than that."
>Look there with me in verse 7: Then he brought me to the entrance to the court (this is still the temple)...
I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall.
(Verse 8) He said to me, "Son of man, now dig into the wall."
And so Ezekiel did.
He began to dig out that hole in the wall, and when he got through digging there was a door, a secret door.
Nobody seemed to even know it was there.
And God said, "Now I want you to open that door and go inside the room behind the door...
And just see what is going on."
And he said, "I opened the door and I went in and behold, I saw 70 elders Ė ancients".
That means old people.
Now if I were to come up to you and call you ancient, you probably wouldnít like that.
Most of us donít like to hear things like that.
But these were 70 men that the Bible calls "elders".
That means they were old men.
They were old enough to know better.
These were grandpas, grand daddies, grandfathers.
These were paw paws and big daddies and pappys.
These were men who were old enough to know better.
And when Ezekiel looked in that room he saw all around the wall these paintings.
And these paintings were made of every image known and idol known to man.
And here were all these elderly Jewish men...
Men who at one time had known what it was to serve God...
Men who at one time had been in a close walk with God...
And yet men who had turned their backs on the Lord.
And there they were in this dark room in secret, in the dark...
Burning incense to pagan idols, worshiping pagan gods.
And they came to this conclusion, "God doesnít see what weíre doing."
I want to tell you, there are a lot of people today, many of them who call themselves Baptists...
Who are not in the house of God today.
They are off somewhere in the dark doing something to satisfy the flesh with the assumption that...
"God wonít see what Iím doing."
But I tell you, they are very, very wrong.
And so here were these 70 grandfathers in this secret chamber in the darkness...
Assuming that God could not see them worshiping pagan idols.
God said, "Son of man, do you see that? Well get ready."
He says, "because you will see them doing things that are even more detestable."
>Now here weíve seen the image at the temple door...
And weíve seen these 70 elders worshiping idols.
What could possibly be more detestable to God than that?
Well look in verse 14: Then he brought me to the entrance to the north gate of the house of the Lord
(This is back where we started Ė where the image was)
Ad behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.
>Well who was Tammuz?
Tammuz was a Samarian, Babylonia god of plant life.
In other words, the plants grew and the plants died at his beckoning.
And hereís what they believed, the worshipers of Tammuz.
They believed that every fall when the leaves began to change color and fall off the tree...
And the crops had been laid by and the grass began to turn brown...
They believed that every fall Tammuz would die.
And so the way you worshiped him in his death was by weeping.
And they also believed that every spring when the grass began to get green...
And the flowers began to bud and the trees began to put leaves on again...
They believed that every spring Tammuz came back to life.
And so once a year he died...once a year he came back to life.
And then the next year he would die and would come back to life.
Every year they went through this, and so he comes here, and this is in the house of God...
The temple, where the women should be singing praises to Jehovah and there they are weeping for Tammuz.
And he says, "Iím telling you, this is a detestable practice."
And so here were the grandpas...in a secret chamber worshiping idols...
And here were the mamas...weeping over a pagan god that does not even exist...
Shedding tears over a pagan idol rather than worshiping the one true God.
>And then he says, "Ezekiel, do you see that?
But I want to tell you, Ezekiel, Iím going to show you one other thing that is worse than that."
Look down in verse 16: And he brought me into the inner court of the LORDís house, and there at the entrance to the temple (this is important)
Between the porch and the altar.
Now who stood between the porch and the altar?
It was not just anybody.
It wasnít those 70 elders and it wasnít those women.
They were not allowed to go there.
The only people that could stand in that area between the porch and the altar were priests of God.
These were the priests.
These were the preachers.
These were the men who supposedly spoke for God.
These were the men who preached sermons.
These were the men who told people how to be right with God.
These were supposed to be holy men of God.
>But look at what he says about them.
He says, ĎThere were about 25 of them with their backs toward the temple of the LORD."
In other words, they had turned their backs on God.
These are not the elders and the women...
These are the preachers.
They have turned their backs on God and he says in verse 16:
And their faces toward the east; and they worshiped the sun.
Not Son, Son of God...
They worshiped the sun, that big ball in the sky.
Here were the men of God turning their backs on God and worshiping the sun.
Is there any wonder that the glory of God was about to depart?
Here at the very entrance was an image that provoked God to jealousy.
Here in a secret chamber were 70 elders worshiping idols in the dark.
Here at the entrance of the temple were these women weeping in a religious ceremony...
Worshiping a pagan god that isnít even real.
And then here in one of the most sacred spots between the porch and the altar...
Were the priests, the ministers, and they had turned their backs on Godís house...
And were worshiping the sun.
Those are the visions he saw.
>And then finally I want you to hear the voices he heard.
The visitor he received.
The visions the saw.
And the voice he heard.
Now weíve seen this voice all the way through the chapter.
But who was this voice?
This voice was the voice of God.
It was not the voice of an angel.
It was the voice of the Lord.
The Bible says, and the hand of the Lord fell upon me, and the spirit showed me this vision and the Lord said unto me.
Friends, it is Godís voice.
God speaks to Ezekiel and let me share with you summarizing what he said in four statements.
Here is what God said.
>God said, "Ezekiel, I will not co-exist with other gods."
Look in verse 6: and he said to me, "Son of man, do you see what they are doing Ė the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here (in the temple) things that will drive me far from my sanctuary."
God said, "Iím about to leave...Iím fixing to exit.
Iím fixing to depart because I will not co-exist with any other god.
I refuse to be one of the boys.
I refuse to sit in the orchestra.
I refuse to be a member of the choir.
I will not co-exist with any other god because there are no other gods but me.
I will not co-exist with any other god."
>The second thing God says is, "Ezekiel, I can see everything my people do."
Look in verse 6: and he said to me, "Son of man, do you see what they are doing?"
Look in verse 12: then he said unto me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders do?"
Look in verse 15: then he said unto me, "Do you see this, son of man?"
Friend, God says to us in clear language, "Child of mine, I want you to know I see everything you do.
You cannot get into a place dark enough for me not to see you."
It doesnít matter how high you go.
It doesnít matter how low down you go.
It doesnít matter how far to the west or how far to the east.
You might get out of sight of your wife or husband.
You might get out of sight of your children.
You might go to a place where no one at your office would ever find you.
But God says, "I want to tell you, I see everything you do."
>Then a third thing.
He says, "Ezekiel, I want you to know that I consider sin a very serious thing."
Look in verse 17: 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?"
He says, "Son of man, do they think what they are doing is not important?
Do they consider this to be a light thing?
Do they think they can put up an image at my house and that the women can worship a pagan god...
And the elders can get over here in a quiet, dark corner and worship idolatry?
Do you think that the priests can turn their backs on me and worship the sun?
Do they think this is a light thing?
Iím telling you, I take sin very seriously."
>And then the fourth thing he said.
He said, "Ezekiel, I want to tell you, not only will I not co-exist with any other gods...
And I see everything my people do...
And I consider sin to be very serious...
But I want to tell you one last thing, Ezekiel.
And you go back and you tell those elders sitting in your house...
And you tell anyone else that wants to hear...
I will not tolerate sin in the lives of my people.
I will not tolerate it.
I donít care if all the preachers turn their backs on me.
I donít care if all the women turn to idolatry.
I donít care if all the elders turn away from me.
Iím telling you, I will not tolerate sin in the lives of my people."
Look at verse 18: Therefore, I will deal with them in anger. I will not look in them with pity or spare them.
Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.
Folks, if you find any more sobering words in the Bible than that, bring them to me.
I mean thereís not anything more chilling and frightening than those verses.
God said, "I will not put up with it. I will not tolerate it."
>Oh, Bro. Joe, man that was spoken about 2500 years ago, and Iím telling you...
Preacher, isnít good to be under grace today?
Man, those people back there now, they were under the law, and boy, was God mean back then!
But now God has had a conversion, and he doesnít deal like that today.
What does God say to us today, preacher?
Iíll tell you what God says to you today.
God says, "I will not co-exist with any other god.
I see everything you do.
I consider sin to be very serious.
And I will not put up with it."
Thatís what God says under grace.
>The end is coming because of your conduct and because of your detestable practices.
I donít know about Babylon or Israel today.
But I tell you, America better listen to what God says.
Our conduct and our detestable practices are a stench in the nostrils of God.