The prophet Ezekiel lived among the exiles in Babylon and while there he preached the Word of God to them. For the most part the Jews did not really understand why Jerusalem had been destroyed and many of them carried off into captivity, and especially since they were the descents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They asked themselves, why would God allow that to happen to us? Ezekiel a prophet of God received various visions from God that plainly answered that question asked by the Jews. The Lord answered them by saying “I adorned you…your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty…which I had bestowed upon you, says the Lord God. But you trusted in your own beauty…How degenerate is your heart…” (Ezekiel 16:14,15,30).
The Lord’s answer to the Jews was that he had blessed them greatly, but instead of recognizing and honoring God as the source of the blessings they became arrogant and went down the path of self-destruction and like the nations around them began to serve the creation rather than the Creator. There had been a time when Israel was respected and influential among the nations because of its desire to serve God. God blessed the nation by blessing the leaders such as Samuel, David, and Solomon. Solomon started off with pure motives “And God gave Solomon wisdom…and men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:29,34). Not only was Solomon blessed with wisdom, but he was also permitted to build the temple that stood in Jerusalem as a magnificent structure representing the wisdom and presence of God. “So Solomon overlaid the inside of the temple with pure gold. He stretched gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary and overlaid it with gold. The whole temple he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the temple…” (1 Kings 6:21-22). The temple was a structure to be admired by people around the world, but it existed with conditions. “Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon saying, ‘Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in my statues, executing my judgments, keep all my commandments, and walk in then, then I will perform my word to you, which I spoke to your father David. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel’” (1 Kings 6:11-13).
God did keep his promise and did not forsake the children of Israel, but it was that they forsook God when they began to trust in the beauty of the temple instead of trusting in the purpose of the temple. At the completion of the temple Solomon said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel…Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like you…” (1 Kings 8:14,23). However, soon Israel began to trust more and more in the material and as Ezekiel wrote, “How degenerate is your heart…” (Ezekiel 16:30). The apostle Paul wrote, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning…” (Romans 15:4). There are lessons to be learned from what happened during the days of Ezekiel that can be applied to the Lord’s church.
The Lord’s church must be careful not to trust in beauty of the material things but remember that the purpose of the blessings is to glorify God and take the message of salvation to the world. Paul wrote, “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations…” (Ephesians 3:21). The material things that God provides are simply tools or expedients in order that the church might be able to accomplish the will of God. The world may look up to or down upon a congregation of the Lord’s church in a community for what it has materially, but the true glory to God comes through the preaching of the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2), caring benevolence (James 1:27), and spiritual edification of the church itself (Ephesians 4:11-15). Let us keep focused upon doing the will of God so that he might be glorified through the church.