Ezekiel ranks amongst the great prophets of Israel. His visions were realistic and powerfully described. His prophecy is full of symbolism and has appropriately been termed the apocalypse of the Old Testament. The entire prophecy was given in Babylon where Ezekiel himself a captive resided and ministered, as a prophet chiefly for the Jews of the captivity, those that had been exiled.
The Lords testimony through this prophet was undoubtedly intended to cheer and comfort those of his people who were Israelites indeed, and to fan the spark of faith which still remained in the hearts of these believers, to lead them, as in the case of Daniel to hope for the return of Gods favor and the end of their captivity with the end of the appointed seventy years desolation of the land.
But although the sins and crimes of this people were many, the Lord did not utterly cast them away, but in great mercy remembered them even in the land of their captivity, where He was represented in their midst by the prophet Ezekiel, who for twenty two years delivered unto them the Word of the Lord.
Words of reproof and denunciation and also words of promise and of hope. As we carefully consider these words of promise and call to mind the miserable idolatries, and ingratitude of this hard hearted and stiff-necked people, let us not fail to mark the loving kindness of our God, His mercy and faithfulness, His slowness to anger and His plenteous grace.
And while we do so let us not forget the typical character of His dealings with Israel, for they are not only a picture of Gods dealings with Spiritual Israel during the Gospel Age, and the harvest of that age but also apply in part to the entire household of faith, now, during this time of trouble.
In the eighth chapter of the book, Ezekiel saw the glory of God. He beheld a likeness as the appearance of the fire. The Scriptures never attempt to describe God or His glory. When God appears, He is as the “likeness” of the cloud, or the likeness of fire, or the likeness of the wind. Out of this appearance of fire came forth a hand which transported the prophet in the visions of God to Jerusalem to the doors of the inter gate that looks toward the north. Near the door of the inner court of the temple he saw a hole or opening in the wall.
At the direction of his angelic guide, Ezekiel dug in the wall until the opening was large enough for him to pass through. When he had passed the first wall he came to a second, and by a door in that wall he entered a hidden chamber.
In this chamber he saw every form of creeping things and abdominal beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel portrayed, painted or carved upon the walls of the room. Before these filthy pictures and loathsome idols, the inventions of depraved minds, stood the seventy elders, representatives of the people, mumbling heathen chants and waving censers filled with incense.
Then said the angel to the prophet, “Son of man,” hath thou seen what they do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, “The Lord seeth us not, the Lord hath forsaken the earth.”
The vision of Ezekiel was true of the spiritual condition of Israel at the time o fthe exile. There was a formal adherence to the religion of Jehovah, outwardly they worshiped at the temple and alters, but in their hearts they served other gods. In their secret chambers of idolatry and imagery they bowed down before grinning images of Baal and Moloch.
In the Present Truth, May 1932 Page 75, Par. 2 Bro. Johnson gives us some insight on this eighth chapter of the book of Ezekiel..
We believe this two sided portrait of Israel can be likened to the worship of false doctrines, creeds, organizations, and arrangements by Churchianity during the reaping time from 1874 onward. These false teachings are represented by the creeping things and all the idols of Israel symbolized upon the walls of the chamber of imagery. The clergy who fostered the worship of these errors are pictured as the 70 counterfeit elders of Israel. Ezekiel in this chapter represents the Little Flock in the reaping time. The presence of Judahs elders represents the thought that the vision concerns the leaders of CHurchianity during the reaping time. The likeness of fire in verse two represents the Parousia Truth, which enabled the Church to clearly see the errors that were wrongly practiced in the chamber of imagery and instead to worship and rejoice in the presence of the Lord.
This two sided portrait of Israel during the Babylonian captivity can also be likened to the life of a man. We all live in two worlds. There is an upper or outer world, the real world with natural objects, scenes of pleasure and business also in the real world we find pain and sorrow and depravity, with streets, stores, houses, theaters, hotels, churches and conventions. This is the real, the upper world.
But there is another realm of life; not less real in which we touch and taste and handle and see with our eyes, that we can in a moment pass into, a hidden kingdom of thought. A realm of feelings, of aspiration, of memory, of conscience of remorse, of envy, of hate, of passion.
The upper material world is a marvelous world; bright are its colors, wonderful its devises. The airplanes, automobiles, television, computers, the inter-net, movies, labor saving devises of all kinds, home, family, the world of business, the world of sports, religion, education and its noises, music and singing and the beauty of quiet.
But the phenomena of the outer are nothing compared with the phenomena of this inner world. There thought and feeling have no encumbrances. They are not dependent upon the tongue to speak or the eye to look or the hand to act. In the real outer world a man may speak, act, move and be only partially understood, or perhaps altogether misunderstood. But in this hidden and immaterial kingdom the man acts and lives and speaks to himself and is never indistinct in his words or misunderstood in his action. In this realm life reaches its highest altitudes; there are wrought the great miracles of charity and forgiveness and good will, and there first of all are created the wonders of art, music, of poetry of eloquence.
There, first of all, in the outlines of dreams and visions, are laid the foundations of great and lofty careers. There in the imagination men conquer themselves before they conquer the world.
But it is also in that realm that man sinks to his lowest depths. There is born envies, jealousies, cruelties, adulteries and tyrannies.
These sins beginning in the imagination, if they take form in the outer world, fill mens lives with bitterness and sorrow. There is sinned the sin that no eye ever saw, or can see, the sin of imaginations the secret sin.
The glory of imagination is when thought takes a pure and noble form, holy aspirations, generous, purpose, courageous resolves, pure desires.
Psalm 19: 12-14 [Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.]
This inspired prayer of David for cleaning from secret faults, that he might thus be restrained from actual sins should be familiar to every Christian. Our prayer like Davids is that we would watch against the beginnings of sin and keep our hearts in a cleaned and pure condition by going continually to the fountain of grace for help in every time of need.
For anyone who is seeking to live a life of holiness and nearness to the Lord by merely guarding against ourward sin and neglects the beginnings of sin in the secrets of his own mind, is attempting a right thing in a very foolish and unreasonable way.
When the seventy elders in the vision worshiped before the elders of Jehovah in the courts of the temple above, that was only a form of worship, a sham of worship. Their real worship was hidden from the eye of the people, and they fancied from the eye of God Himself as they knelt before the filthy images of their subterranean chambers.
In the realm of our imagination there are no obstacles, nothing stands between us and our desires, here we may appraise ourselves at true value. If I want power, it is mine. If I deserve great wealth; it is mine. I conceive a base deed, and immediately it is done.
All of us have secret faults, which have come to us mainly by heredity, though associates, surrounding and training have measurable increased them. These defile us; hence the desirability of our prayer for cleansing from them. The Father reveals them to us; and enlists our co-operation in purging them away. Especially dangerous are presumptuous, outward, sins. We should pray the Lord that He keep us back form them and prevent their gaining control over us.
We will be enabled to gain victory over these if the meditations of our hearts and the words of our lips are acceptable unto God, our Strength and Redeemer.
The Bible has so much to say about a mans heart. 1 Samuel 16:17 [But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.]
The Lord looks on the mind, the intentions, on the endeavor, therefore we want our hearts to be loyal, faithful and obedient. He knows to what extent we are striving against sin, and if he sees earnest endeavor to do His will He will cover the deficiencies and imperfections with the merit of our Savior.
1 Chronicles 28:9 [And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.]
You can go about with schemes of dishonesty and robbery and slander and cruelty and lust in your heart and mind, but as long as that evil thought does not crystallize into action, in deeds that men can observe or by breaking the law which speaks for society of men, even if you confessed to having such thoughts in your heart, they wouldn’t care and would take no notice of you; but we make a great mistake when we identify the law of man with the law of God. Man can judge only deeds and words, for he cannot look on the heart, but God judges them at the source. God looks not on the river of action, but upon the fountains of thought.
Proverbs 23:26 [My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.]
The Lord desires our intellects, our affections and our wills. He wants our intellects, so that emptying them of sinful erroneous, selfish and worldly thoughts, and filling them with just, truthful, loving and heavenly thoughts, our intellects so emptied and so filled might be used for the blessing of others and ourselves.
Proverbs 4:23 [Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.]
Why with so much diligence? Because the Adversary is going around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. It is not sufficient that we acknowledge sin in its various forms to be evil and that we resolve that we will strive against it. In addition to this we are to root out of our hearts every longing, every desire for everything not approved by the Lord. We should be obedient children, not fashioning ourselves according to our former desires. If we do not keep our hearts with all diligence, some of the evil we are surrounded with will creep in. If you and I are to be victors it must be by constant vigilance, which the Lord will be pleased to bless.
All of this is part of the teaching of our Lord Jesus of which we are all familiar but often do not apply to ourselves. But if Jesus meant what he said, and we all believe he did, then how serious and how solemn is his teaching when he shifted the center of morality from outward respectability to inward thoughts and desires.
The Old Law said, “Though shalt not kill” and punished men accordingly. What did Jesus say? “Thou shalt not hate.” The Old Law said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” Jesus explained “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a clearer conception of the Divine will than was presented in the Law of Moses. We are to remember the higher interpretation of adultery and murder and thievery set forth in the New Testament; that whoever desires adultery, and is merely restrained from it by outward circumstances or fears is really an adulterer in his heart: that he that is angry without cause is in danger of judgment because the spirit of anger unrestrained could lead to murder, and the person who covets the things of another and is merely restrained from taking them for lack of opportunity or fear of consequence, is at heart a thief. If we apply these principles to ourselves in the examination of our hearts, it is entirely probable we will find ourselves very near the plane of sin.
Every secret sneer at truth, every base desire, every angry impulse, is portrayed upon the walls of the Chamber of Imagery. Have you never in your imagination done in mind what you feared to do in the flesh? Have you never spoken there the words you would never speak before men? Have you never there slandered someone you pretended to praise in public? Have you never in that realm dishonored a woman you pretended to honor in public. Have you never imagined yourself in anothers place, even put yourself in his place? Have you never wished anyone out of the way? We fear to lose our honor and respectability with men; but we must realize that it is possible to lose both of these, honor and respectability, without going further afield than our own heart. The act done in the sight of man is only the record done long ago in the sight of God.
That Jesus was just when He said that it is the man of the heart that is judged, irrespective of the man of deeds, is shown by the fact that it is this real man of the heat who first of all commits those transgressions which afterward bear fruit in action.
Speaking one day with the Scribes and Pharisees who had an orthodox ceremonial of religion but nothing o the spirit of true religion Jesus say Matthew 15:11 [Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.] When Jesus was asked to interpret the saying, He answered in Matthew 14:18-20 [But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.]
The importance of the life we live in the chambers of thought and imagination is measured by the fact that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. A man is what he thinks. The soul is dyed the color of its thought. The commandments are not broken outward until they have been broken first in the imagination.
To the pure all things are pure. If I were pure in my heart, my world would be pure and all my deeds would be pure. But since I am not pure in heart, since the seeds of evil have been sown there, the world is my temptation, for through objects and person of the visible natural world the inherited evil within me tries to express itself.
Now we begin to see how important it is that we keep the heart, for out of it are the issues of life. Since no evil deeds are done without until they have been first committed within, we must be on guard against even a momentary entertainment of an evil thought. Before you know it, that dangerous guest may become your tyrant.
In our life and socciety there are those things which are the natural friends and allies of good imaginings and those which are the natural friends and allies of evil thoughts. We know what we must do if we are to win the battle. We must cultivate the good and shun the evil. Satan has filled the world with evil, we are surrounded with evil on every side and mankind is already paying a terrible price because of its influence. The leaders of men are confounded and seem unwilling or unable to stem the flood of vile, suggestive, and unclean movies, television, music internet and magazine pictures and articles that are available to all, young and old.
The effect that this allowed evil has on the people is terrible. It puts thoughts in their minds that should never be there, imaginations are ignited by what the entertainment community terms, Adult Entertainment.
Therein lies poisoning of the conscience. Evil thoughts enlarged and developed in the chamber of imaginations, will corrupt and then easily lead to evil deeds.
There is but one sure antidote; the friendship of Christ. In Galations 2:20 the Apostle Paul speaks of his life as a Christian [I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.] Here is our safety, that is our happiness, that is our glory, Christ dwelling in the heart.
In his presence evil which, when I was alone seemed attractive, now becomes hideous and ugly. The temptation which, when I was by myself, seemed mighty and irresistible, now is weak and contemptible.
In the conduct of our lives our first care must be to live according to the light we have received: and no one has received more religious truth than we who are now living at the end of this age.
Luke 12:48 [But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.] “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.” Our Lord said it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for those who have been offered truth and refused.
Our judgment now can be compared to the Lords dealings with the repentant restitutionists during the millennial age. The world of mankind will come up from their graves still possessing all the secret faults and all the presumptuous sins that were a part of their character during their life. They will be helped, the purpose of the times of restitution will be the rehabilitation of the fallen human race. They will learn righteousness instead of sin and they will rejoice in the satisfaction the truth will bring into their hearts. in the same way we have been given the truth, little by little, as we are able to receive it, in this same way the resurrected world of mankind will also receiveth the truth. And as we are expected to change for the better as we apply that truth to ourselves, so it will be with the restitutionists. The difference is, this is our judgment day. We are on trial for our faith and our obedience to righteousness now. We have been brought to a knowledge of the truth, much truth, and we are responsible, according to how we use or abuse that knowledge after we have received it.
Our advantage is, we are promised Divine forgiveness and assistance in our effort to develop new hearts, new minds and new and better conscience. We are to submit our minds not to the earthly; but to heavenly influences which will dictate to us in every matter, great and small.
The heavenly influences draw a distinct line of separation between things earthly and things heavenly. Our guide to these heavenly influences is the “Word of God.”
On the one side are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, which are of the world 1 John 2:16 [For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.] while on the other side is that “simplicity and godly sincerely” whose delight is in the beauty of holiness and whose adornment is a meek and quiet spirit, submissive to discipline, patient in tribulation, always abounding in the world of the Lord and delighting only in his manifest favor 2 Corinthian 1:12 [For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward]
But who is able to do all these things? Who can walk so contrary to the course of this present world? Certainly no one who continues to be filled with any considerable measure of the spirit of the world. It is only as we become filled with the Spirit of God that we can develop new and better characters. Our sufficiency is not of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.
Philippians 2:13 [For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.] He it is who for the asking, will so fill us with His spirit that we can go forth from victory unto victory.