By Jamin Roller
A few years ago, I officiated a wedding for a young couple in my church. On the wedding day, I was standing with the groom a few hours before the ceremony was scheduled to start. In the middle of our conversation, he got a phone call, and while I could only hear one side of the conversation, I could tell someone was calling to say they couldn’t make it. A close friend of the groom had gotten sick and wouldn’t be at the ceremony. I could see his disappointment when he got off the phone. “I’m sorry about that,” I said. His response made me smile. “As long as the bride shows up, everything will be ok.”
His response was endearing and also true. You don’t have a marriage without a ceremony, and you don’t have a ceremony without the bride. The presence of a friend is nice, the presence of the bride is essential. Without it, it’s no longer a wedding, and everything would not be ok.
Chapters 10 and 11 of Ezekiel are sad. The Lord has given Ezekiel another vision depicting the harsh consequences of Judah’s idolatry, but an especially tragic event marks this vision.
“Then the glory of the LORD moved away from the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim” (Ezekiel 10:18).
What made Israel the people of God was the presence of God dwelling among them (Exodus 40:34–35). They were not special because of their wealth, power, land, or military, they were special because the one true God made His home with them. From the tabernacle in the wilderness to the temple in Jerusalem, God’s presence with His people was a sign that in and through them, He was restoring creation to His original intention. God’s presence was essential to them being who God called them to be. Without His presence, they would be like a wedding without a bride. Everything would not be ok.
That tragic reality is exactly what Ezekiel is shown by God. Ezekiel 10 describes this as a kind of reversal of 1 Kings 8. Instead of the temple being prepared for God’s arrival, coals are scattered as a sign of destruction before God’s departure. Then, the glory of the Lord leaves. The temple is no longer filled with God’s glory; the people no longer enjoy God’s presence.
It’s easy for me to respond to a passage like this by thinking how foolish the people of Judah were. If I’m honest, though, my sinful heart shares in their folly. I too, can ignore God and look for life in what is not God. The human heart is prone to drift from God.
As Christians living on this side of the life and work of Jesus, a faithful response to this passage would be to intentionally search our hearts and repent before God for ways we presume upon or neglect His presence. From that place of repentance, we can be comforted knowing that because of Jesus Christ, God will never again depart from His people. This season of Lent, you and I can hold on to our Savior’s parting promise before His ascension: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).