GOD will not TOLERATE any IDOLATRY in our LIVES: “So He brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house; and there, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east. And He said to me, ‘Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.’” (Ezek. 8:16-18)
Fourteen months after getting the call from God, the prophet Ezekiel starts getting a series of visions that were related to the evils in Jerusalem among the Jews who were not yet in exile, while the elders of Judah were before him (8:1; 11:24–25). These evils include the abominable kinds of idolatry that was currently practiced in Jerusalem. To add to their depravity, the worship of idols was happening in the very Temple that was built for the worship of Jehovah God! We should note that these wicked practices of the Israelites were a legacy from the rule of King Jehoiakim, who had ruled from 609 to 598 A.D.
The background narrative is that God carried Ezekiel from Babylon to Jerusalem in a vision, and there he saw some terrible acts of idol worship by the Israelites. In his vision, the prophet Ezekiel first saw an abominable idolatrous image in the entrance of the temple that provoked God to jealousy (vv. 1-6). Then, he saw the elders of Judah assembled in the court of the temple, each with a censer in his hand, as they were worshiping some vile pictures portrayed all around on the walls (vv. 7–12). Thereafter, he saw some Jewish women weeping for Tammuz, a Babylonian deity, at the north gate (vv. 13-14).
Finally, he saw twenty-five men in the inner court of the temple (the priests) worshiping the Egyptian sun god, Ra (vv. 16–18). The temple at Jerusalem was oriented to the east, and to worship the sun one had to turn his back toward the temple. This involved both a physical and a spiritual turning away from Jehovah in order to worship the sun god. We may recall that these men were not just priests, but were elders of the priests (see 9:6). Rather than face the temple to lament and mourn their sins and to intercede for the nation of Israel (9:4; Joel 2:17), these unsaved religious leaders rebelled against God by their ungodly behavior and outrageous heresies!
Let us understand that worship of idols violated the second of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:3-4; Deut. 4:23–24). God’s response was swift and decisive: “I will act in fury” and “Nor will I have pity”. The stage was now set for judgment as God would not allow such open rebellion to continue any longer. God views idolatry as the most abominable kind of sin that humans can engage in as idolatry is an open rebellion against the Lord God Himself. By practicing idolatry, man fails to give due recognition and worship to God, and thus become a law to himself. So, after showing Ezekiel the various forms of idolatrous worship in the Jerusalem Temple, God promised that He will deal in fury, will not pity, and will not listen to their cry.
Let us note that while some people worshiped idols openly, others did it “in the dark” (v. 12) and all were equally guilty before God. People usually go into a sanctuary in order to find God, but in the temple at Jerusalem, the people went into the sanctuary in order to turn away from God! In fact their idolatrous “abominations” caused God to leave His temple and go “far away” from His people (Ezek. 8:6; 14:1–5).
The lesson to be learned here is that God will not tolerate any idolatry in our lives! We may not literally bow down and worship any image today, but anything (any activity or, any person) who takes the place of God in our lives becomes an idol in our lives today. We don’t often think of food, money, career, sex, status, or entertainment as idols, but these are the things that many of us allow to take the place of God in our lives. Any time we choose to find solace, peace, or fulfillment in something other than God, we have an idol in our life. Only when God sits alone on the throne of our hearts will we discover the peace, joy, and rest of a truly fulfilled life!