The book of Ezekiel is a harsh, but necessary reminder that God hates sin. Multiple times in chapters eight and nine, God describes the sins of the people as “utterly detestable.” In chapter eight, Ezekiel is taken on a tour of Israel’s sins, and then in chapter nine, the sinners are killed for their disobedience. The sins of the people mostly focus on idolatry. We may look at this and say, “Phew idolatry is God’s pet peeve, but, thankfully, I don’t worship metal statues. I should be okay.” But let’s look more closely at the idolatry occurring.
An example is given of some women mourning and crying over the death of Tammuz. The footnotes in my Bible explain that the people believed that in the fall, when the plants began to die, this Babylonian god Tammuz descended into the underworld. Therefore, the earth mourned him and the plants shriveled. The women were mourning for Tammuz as he journeyed into the underworld. Sounds a little crazy, huh? It was simply the changing of the seasons, a natural cycle. When something happened that the people couldn’t explain, they created an explanation for it and turned to this false god for relief and comfort. When things happen in our own lives that we cannot explain (loved ones die, jobs lost, relationships broken), where do we turn? Do we run to the one, true God, or do we try to explain and rationalize? Do we rely on God for strength and comfort, or do we seek that in food, alcohol, drugs, television, other people, etc.? Are we really that different from the Israelites turning to idols for comfort and explanation? We may not worship an idol sitting on our mantle, but our trust lies in something other than God.
Another example is given of twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple bowing to the sun. The Israelites claimed that the Lord had forsaken them. They were frustrated with their situation, so they assumed that God was no longer with them. Really, though, they had forsaken the Lord. Do we turn our backs on God? Do we refuse to see his hand in our lives and lose hope that he is there? In Deuteronomy, we are given the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us; we are reminded of that promise again in Hebrews. The Israelites had been given this promise, too, but they lost focus and abandoned God when they thought he had abandoned them. It won’t happen, though. No matter how awful the situation is, whether we got ourselves into it or not, God is there. We must not lose sight of him and then turn to other idols for explanation and comfort.
Though we are quick to judge the Israelites for their reliance on and worship of false gods, we must examine our own lives for the same sin. Where do we turn when it seems like everything is going wrong? To God or away from him? How do we react when the unexplainable happens? Blame God for abandoning us or recognize his sovereign hand in a grander plan than we can even understand? These lost and searching Israelites aren’t that different than our lost and searching society. Thankfully, God searches out the lost and rescues us if only we choose to believe in him.
Thank you, Lord, for promising never to leave or forsake us. Help us to see when we begin to put our backs to you and help us to turn around. When we do, we will find you with the open arms of forgiveness ready to wrap us in mercy and grace. Thank you lord for the sacrifice of your son on the cross so that we can experience forgiveness when we fall. Help us to keep our eyes on you Lord, searching for you in every situation.