Elvis Has Left the Building.
“Then the Glory of GOD left the Temple entrance and hovered over the cherubim. And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the Lord’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them.” – Ezekiel 10:18-19 MSG
Ezekiel continues to see a vision given to him by God. He has been transported to the city of Jerusalem where he witnessed the sins of the people of Judah committed against God. They have erected idols in the Temple. They are clandestinely worshiping false gods in hidden rooms within the Temple grounds. Their spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness have reached a whole new low – even for the people of Israel. And now Ezekiel has to witness a scene that was devastating for him as a prophet of God. He was about to witness the glory of God departing the very Temple designed as His dwelling place. All the way back on the day when Solomon had dedicated the Temple upon its completion, God had given this unique structure His Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval by filling it with His glory. “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple” (1 Kings 8:10-11 NLT). God had taken up occupancy of the Temple. He had filled it with His glory. Now, hundreds of years later, God was about to leave the premises. He was making a not-so-subtle exit.
The glory of God made a methodical and obvious move from the courtyard to the main entrance. From there it moved to the east gate of the Temple grounds. God was no longer able to dwell in the house built for Him because it had been defiled by other gods and was not longer set aside for Him alone. The Temple of God was no longer the Temple of God. It had lost its distinctiveness and so God removed His presence. His glory departed. What a sad statement. What a chilling reality. The God of the universe was removing Himself from their midst. He was no longer willing to tolerate their rebellion and open rejection of His authority over their lives. This was a sad day for Israel. But it was not the first time the glory of God had left them. Back during the days before there were kings over Israel, the prophet Samuel witnessed another dark day in the life of the people of God. They were at war with the Philistines and things were not going well. So they decided to bring the Ark of God from where it was kept in the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They saw it as some kind of magic talisman that could bring them victory over their enemies. They knew that God was enthroned above the cherubim that decorated the top of the Ark. So they reasoned that if they could bring the Ark to the battle, God would come along with it. They could somehow force God to do their will, their way. They didn’t ask God for permission or seek His advice about the war with the Philistines. They simply decided that they needed a quick fix for their problem. But it didn’t turn out well. The Ark was captured by the Philistines and more than 30,000 Jews were killed. The rest ran for their lives. Not only that, Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, the priest, were killed in the battle. When Eli received news that the battle had been lost, his sons were dead and the Ark was captured, he keeled over dead. When Phinehas’ pregnant wife got word that her husband was dead, she went into early labor and died. She stayed alive long enough to give birth to a son and she named him Ichabod, which means “the glory has departed.” Before she died, she described the sad state of affairs in Israel. “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured” (1 Samuel 4:22 NLT).
The glory had departed! God had left the building. All hope was lost. But wait. While these two stories are sad and leave us with a sense of impending doom, we can’t forget the fact that God has placed His Spirit within each of us who have placed our faith in the saving work of His Son Jesus Christ. Our bodies are now the temples of the Holy Spirit. We have been indwelt with His presence. We have been set apart for His use. We have been given His power. He has chosen to reside within us, and He has promised to never leave us. His glory will never depart from us. But you and I can quench the Spirit. We can determine to live our lives outside of His control and refuse to listen to His voice. We can live our lives in such a way that we obscure the glory of God that is present in our lives. So the apostle Paul exhorts us, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,e you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Romans 8:12-14 NLT).
We have the glory of God within us. But like the people of Israel, we must decide to allow our lives to be directed by God. It is not enough to have His indwelling presence. I must choose to obey His word and follow His will. I can’t treat the Holy Spirit of God as some magic talisman that I tap into when I need a quick spiritual fix and a fast solution to a problem. He is God and He is to be feared and obeyed as God. While He will never leave me, He can choose to leave me to myself, allowing me to walk in the flesh and suffer the consequences. He will continue speaking to me and attempt to convict and direct me. But I must choose to listen and obey. To not do so is to run the risk of missing out on the glory of God in my life. I could fail to see His power lived out in the daily affairs of my life. And the sad truth is, many of us as believers live as if the glory of God has departed. Our story of our lives could be named “Ichabod,” when they should be called “Immanuel” – God with us.
Father, I know You want to reveal Your glory in and through My life, but I stifle it by my attitudes and actions. I want the story of my life to be named “Immanuel” and not “Ichabod.” Because Your glory is in me and with me every second of every day. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men