3 Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case. 4 The Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.” 5 But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. Ezekiel 9:3-5
You don’t want to spiritualize these verses and apply them to the church or to America, but I believe you can draw some important lessons that can be applied to the wayward believer. It’s impossible to lose your salvation (John 10:28), but the Bible teaches that Christians can take sin too far and subject themselves to divine judgment, and even death (1 Cor. 11:30). We’ve just learned about Israel’s spiral into the worst forms of idolatry (Ezekiel 8). We know that the same kind of decline can occur in a believer’s life when the spirit of God is ignored or scorned. It follows that much worst can be expected if we deliberately replace God with idols. But let’s not get too far afield from the simple signs of waywardness, since we’ll invariably have to address the absence of the Lord in the person’s life altogether, and that’s for another time.
When you’ve got idols to start with, then toss in a little insolence, there’s cause for serious concern. It seems as if we want to ignore or downplay God’s role as a righteous judge. The Israelites appeared to have thrown caution to the wind. They thought he was absent and didn’t care anymore. In all sectors there was degradation. So bad was it that God was ready to (and did) destroy all who were not remorseful.
I find it comforting to know that God was aware of those who felt like he did about sin. We’re all hyper-aware of evil in the world today, made possible by the pervasive presence of instant information. It’s easy to become distraught by this bad (or fake) news if your focus is not constantly on the Lord’s imminent return. It’s comforting to know he’s perfectly aware and in control of the situation.
Revelation talks about the “mark of the beast.” (Rev. 13:16) Here God marks the foreheads of those who are his (9:4). I certainly want my head stamped by him! In the midst of what would be merciless total annihilation at the hands of marauding Chaldeans, saving a remnant of believers was truly miraculous. I think of Ezekiel’s contemporary Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, 14:20, 28:3) who may have known of Nebuchadnezzar’s looming final push into Jerusalem from his post in the administration. What dread he must have felt! And certainly, Ezekiel thought he was the last man standing (9:8).
My takeaway is to always be on the right side of the law. Be aware of anything that will take my eyes off the role of the Lord in my life. Just because I cannot see him, act as if he’s standing over my shoulder. Always credit his forceful hand and give him glory. It was disturbing to read of his glory departing its place on the altar and head for the door (9:3). Don’t ever allow this to happen in your life, not even for a moment.