Have you ever experienced the truth behind the old cliché “You don’t know what you had until you miss it”? Maybe you had a job or a relationship with someone that you took for granted, and then for some or reason or another (perhaps your own fault), you lost it. And then you find out what you had all that time.
We aren’t going to spend a lot of time in Ezekiel, but today’s reading is one of the most striking images of Scripture to me, and it breaks my heart to read it and apply it.
Maybe you were so distracted by the flashy and hard-to-understand images in the passage that you didn’t catch what was going on here. I know that there are some unusual—ok, let’s call them weird—pictures here. But the images of the cherubim (angels) and wheels and fire are really incidental to what’s happening in this passage.
It’s a total reversal of what happened in Solomon’s day. After Solomon gave an incredible prayer/dedication, the glory of the Lord filled the completed temple, so that the priests couldn’t even go in to do their work. Yes, the physical manifestation of the Lord’s presence faded, otherwise they would've never been able to go in. But his spiritual presence was there in a special way. And it was there for the next 300 years or so.
I just want to point out here that Judah went through a lot of periods of unfaithfulness before this point. It had had lots of really wicked kings and the people had been flagrantly rebellious much more often than they had been consciously obedient. But there came a time when the Lord said “Enough! I'm out of here!” and his presence left, and he wouldn’t be back for a long long long time. The glory of the Lord went over the threshold of the temple and left.
Whenever I read this passage, I think of the kid born with the most unfortunate name in Scripture. Back in the time of the Judges, a son was born just at the time that the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, and he got the name “Ichabod,” which means (you guessed it) “The Glory has departed.”
Why does this image bother me so? Well, why would you think it would? Because the name “Ichabod” might be applicable to a lot of churches, and to a large degree it’s written over the American church as a whole. Think of the whole denominations which were started by godly men and which now have wandered into unfaithfulness and infidelity to Scripture. Churches which once burned with desire to see the lost come to a saving knowledge of Christ and for believers to become sold-out followers of Jesus have lost that flame.
What about individual Christians? Can the glory of the Lord depart from them as well? Is the warning applicable to them? Well, I thoroughly believe that once someone is saved, they can’t lose their salvation. But I also believe that there’s a sense in which the glory can depart from a believer. His prayers grow lifeless and cold. He no longer burns with passion and compassion for those without Christ. To him, glorifying his Savior is not nearly as important as what’s on TV tonight. It’s probably not as dramatic as today’s passage describes it, but the Lord’s not “there” in their lives as much as he once was.
Am I pointing the finger at anyone? Sure, but mostly at myself. I’ve been through periods like that.
So what about your church? What about your household? What about you? Is he still in evidence? Does his presence pervade your being, your thoughts, your words, your actions?
If not, why not?
Father God, I’ve seen “Ichabod” written over the lives of my fellow believers and over churches. Please don’t let that happen to me—again. By your grace and mercy, please don’t.
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