Dead Before An Altar

Ezekiel 6:1–14 (NKJV)

6:1 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, ‘O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God! Thus says the Lord God to the mountains, to the hills, to the ravines, and to the valleys: “Indeed I, even I, will bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places. Then your altars shall be desolate, your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain men before your idols. And I will lay the corpses of the children of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones all around your altars. ezek 6 idolsIn all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate, so that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, your idols may be broken and made to cease, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be abolished. The slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord.

In this prophetic speech against Israel, Ezekiel establishes the weakness of idols and the power of Yahweh.  Symbolically, he speaks of laying the bodies of the Israelites before their idols, as if they are an offering unto the destroyed, impotent figures that Isreal chose to worship.  This act is to establish that the only true God is Yahweh, the Lord!

“Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries. Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them.”

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God had chosen Israel long before to be His people, a light among the nations.  He never intends to totally annihilate the Israelites, but rather longs to chasten them, that they might return to Him in repentance and holiness.  His desire is that they might know “that I am the Lord.”  Therefore, He promises to leave a remnant.

11 ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, ‘Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. 12 He who is far off shall die by the pestilence, he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who remains and is besieged shall die by the famine. Thus will I spend My fury upon them. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when their slain are among their idols all around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every thick oak, wherever they offered sweet incense to all their idols. 14 So I will stretch out My hand against them and make the land desolate, yes, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblah, in all their dwelling places. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.’ ” ’ ”

The Lord God commands that the hearer express themselves aggresively in their  “indignation tempered by grief and sadness.”*  It would be akin to the response when an individual walked into their home and found their family murdered, slaughtered by an intruder.  Yet the Lord does not limit this sorrow to the immediate confines of the cities, but also to anyone who is in the hills, mountaintops, and groves.  This is all in response to the idolatry of the nation.  God intends to be known as the Lord.  We must turn to God today, making Him known as the Lord of the whole earth.  If not, we may find ourselves dead before the altar of our false gods.

*Allen, Leslie C. Ezekiel 1–19. Vol. 28. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

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