Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Church idolatry--literally

Lately I've been reading from the book of Ezekiel; an intimidating book at the best of times and at the worst just flat-out bizarre. But today something struck me full-on in the face: the Israelites idolized a building.

In Ezekiel 24:21, the Lord says, "21 Say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary-- the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword."

And there it was: it's the building that the ancient Israelites trusted in . . . the building that they loved. Not the God who dwelt there, who came close to His people through the building . . . but the building itself.

It's not that I have a problem with buildings. They are useful and convenient. But the thing that got me to thinking was how easy it is to confuse bricks and mortar with mission. To confuse the building where God's people gather with God's church. These are NOT the same things.

The ancient Israelites had come to a point where they loved the building more than the God who dwelt there. I understand how it happened. After all, the building is rich with tradition and history. It's something you can touch and see and enter into. God, on the other hand, is somewhat nebulous . . . always hiding His face . . . always working through mysterious means.

But in the end, it didn't matter. Because the Israelites had loved the earthly building instead of what it was truly supposed to represent, the only merciful thing God could do was to take it away from them so that they would know that He was The Lord. So that they would be reminded once again that He, and not a building, alone was to be worshipped.

I wonder . . . does God look into our hearts and wonder "Should I take away their building, as well?"

And what would happen if He did?

1 comment:

  1. Shonnie12:54 PM

    Sometimes, I wonder the same thing. How many people would go elsewhere if they didn't have their familiar building to go to...where would they go? Would they stay together? Or, would they scatter? What is the best environment for God's people? Where can one get the closest to God and receive the "fruits" of the Spirit...?

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