Today: [Ezekiel 6] Does It Matter What You Believe? John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and many others believed that organized religious was of very little value. Many of our founding fathers believed in a deistic God and attended church very little. The ancient Hebrews held similar beliefs and chose to worship Jehovah in groves in the high places, rather than going to the temple. In this chapter God’s heart toward such thinking is clearly expressed.
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[Eze 6:1-14 KJV] 1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, 3 And say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys; Behold, I, [even] I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. 4 And your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken: and I will cast down your slain [men] before your idols. 5 And I will lay the dead carcases of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about your altars. 6 In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished. 7 And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD. 8 Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have [some] that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries. 9 And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I [am] the LORD, [and that] I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them. 11 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. 12 He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remaineth and is besieged shall die by the famine: thus will I accomplish my fury upon them. 13 Then shall ye know that I [am] the LORD, when their slain [men] shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols. 14 So will I stretch out my hand upon them, and make the land desolate, yea, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblath, in all their habitations: and they shall know that I [am] the LORD.
Chapter 6 of Ezekiel begins with a prophesy against the mountains of Israel. The mountains of Israel were the places where idolatry was practiced from many generations from the time of Joshua right down to Zedekiah, the last Davidic king before the captivity. The kings of Judah were never able to fully extinguish these practices but now God Himself intervenes to purify the land. The ancient altars will finally be made desolate and the images worshipped there will be cast down and broken. The language and condemnation of these high places is very difficult to read, therefore it would be beneficial to determine just what these were and why they were so universally condemned.
When Solomon dedicated the temple, he made particular and specific reference to the exclusive status of the temple as the only legitimate place where worship could be carried out:
[2Ch 6:19-20 KJV] 19 Have respect therefore to the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee: 20 That thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof thou hast said that thou wouldest put thy name there; to hearken unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth toward this place.
The temple of God is a “the place”, implying that no where else is worship to be sanctioned. Before the temple was built the tabernacle of Moses was pitch as a moveable structure in various places round about Jerusalem. These were high places were worship of Jehovah took place. The people also were known to sacrifice to Jehovah in various high places round about Israel and Judah until such time as the temple was finished and then the temple and only the temple would appropriately be the place where worship could be allowed and sacrifice made whereby man could expect God to look with respect upon the offering made.
What is the message here? It deals with personal choice. In our newspapers we read every Saturday in the religious section “go to the church of your choice…” What is the message here? The message is “worship as you please, where you please…” This is the equivalent of a high place in modern Christian culture. John Wayne believed that one could serve God on the creek bank as legitimately as He could be served within a congregation. Is this true? Frank Sinatra felt that it didn’t matter what you believed, just so you were sincere. He completely eschewed organized, corporate worship. Thomas Jefferson seldom attended church and never partook of the sacraments. He never referred to God as a person but was in reality a non-Christian deist. Lincoln admitted himself that he was a member of no church, but believed in a general, universal salvation for all mankind, negotiated between man and maker without the need or requirement for a larger community of faith to resolve the issue of eternity. Is this acceptable?
The altar at Bethel in the northern kingdom was an altar to Jehovah, venerated by the image of a calf and appointed priests to give the people a place to worship other than at Jerusalem. The northern kings feared that if the people when to Jerusalem to worship, they would eventually reject the authority of the northern kings in Samaria. For this reason God ultimately scattered the 10 northern tribes and they faded into obscurity and ceased to exist. These altars in the high places, even if God were worshipped there were considered an abomination. There was a command to all the people of God to appear three times before the Lord each year and the temple was the only place acceptable where worship could be conducted.
The word Gentile is a word picture of a person who has turned his back on God. The word for “high place” comes from a word meaning to describe the back of something. As is the altar so is the worshipper. When personal preference and choice is the overarching characteristic of one’s chosen manner of worship, it is a high place and thereby rejected. What is the lesson for us? The issue is whether the validity of worship is relative to the sincerity of the believer, or to the objective, unyielding truth of God’s word? Is the truth of God objective, to which we must bend and yield to? Or is the truth of God subjective, only having the meaning we lend to it? In considering the intent of the constitution, the courts are divided on whether we are bound in the US to what the intended when they wrote it 200 years ago, or whether the constitution means what we say it means and applies as we choose to apply it. This is very controversial and the constitution is only a human document. What of the word of God? 16,000 denominations, each operating independent one of another are testimony to the fact that our handling of the word of God is no better than the twisting by our courts and politicians of the wording of the constitution. The one fact points very heavily to the fact that Christianity as a religious system, functioning outside of Christ is the Babylon of Revelations 14 and 18.
What is our salvation in such a situation? Verse 8 again repeats in Ezekiel that there will be a remnant. There will be a remnant that shall know (v. 10) that God is the Lord who does not speak vanity and is to be worshipped in fear and trembling. What is our responsibility? First and foremost, to make up our minds about His word. The neglect of God’s word in Christian culture is universal. It is very seldom actually taught in its own assertions by our leaders. It more often only serves to illustrate or justify the point a given teacher is making in words of their own choosing. In our homes and the conduct of our personal lives, the scriptures do not figure very prominently.
The path of progress for us is to raise the profile of the scripture in our lives and our homes. When the scriptures are studied they need to be a approached from a posture of seeing them as objective truth and not just bending them to our own definitions and meanings. Purpose that from now on you will sit and read a chapter every week with your family members. Whether they want to or not, whether they cooperate or not. The flesh never wants to hear God’s word. Bring the word online in your life. Play audio scriptures in your car. Read the scripture at work. Pick up your bible at least fleetingly before you pick up the remote control. Read it – if only a verse to your spouse, to your children. The scriptures themselves will establish their own authority as you do so. It isn’t important to be able to explain or exhort concerning what is read. Simply act upon the commitment to make God’s word a part of life and in so doing you are returning to the ordained altar that God has blessed in our day.
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