God Is Not “Dead”
WHAT do you think when you hear some clergyman say “God is dead”? Some of Christendom’s leading theologians who make this remark explain that they do not mean by this that God never existed. Rather, they mean to say that God is ‘not involved in present history.’ These theologians hold that he is not concerned with man’s affairs and is content to let man go his own way without interference or help from Him.
Those believing in such a philosophy therefore feel that, no matter what they do, God will not call them to account for it. They think that God does not see what they do, or if he does see, he is not concerned enough to take any action.
It seems unbelievable that religious leaders in the nations that officially call themselves “Christian” should adopt this attitude. They have the Bible, and they have access to historical records. They can observe the natural creation. Surely they should be able to discern that a God who exercised such care in creation and who provided a book of truth and high principles, as is the Bible, is a God who is definitely interested in his creation. Furthermore, the Bible gives hundreds of instances of his dealings with men and many promises and prophecies that reflect the utmost care and concern for people who are living today.
So that those who believe in God may not fall into the foolish attitude of these religious leaders, Jehovah gives through his prophet Ezekiel an account of people in the past who thought as these clergymen do. He shows the bad results of such thinking—the degraded things to which it led.
EZEKIEL’S SECOND VISION OF JEHOVAH
Ezekiel was in Babylon. It was the year 612 B.C.E., more than a year since his first vision, in which he beheld Jehovah’s heavenly chariot on its way toward Jerusalem. Ezekiel was in his house at Tel-abib, with the older men of Judah sitting before him, to see what message he had for them. While these men waited, Ezekiel had the following vision:
“And I began to see, and, look! a likeness similar to the appearance of fire; from the appearance of his hips even downward there was fire, and from his hips even upward there was something like the appearance of a shining, like the glow of electrum. Then he thrust out the representation of a hand and took me by a tuft of hair of my head, and a spirit carried me between the earth and the heavens and brought me to Jerusalem in the visions of God, to the entrance of the inner gate that is facing northward, where the dwelling place is of the symbol of jealousy that is inciting to jealousy. And, look! the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the appearance that I had seen in the valley plain.”—Ezek. 8:2-4.
It was hard for Ezekiel to describe the appearance that Jehovah assumed in the vision, for it was not that of a human figure, but it was awe-inspiring and glorious. Ezekiel was lifted up by the hair of the head and carried by the spirit of inspiration to see, in this visionary way, what was going on hundreds of miles to the west in Jerusalem.
Ezekiel was set down at the gate of the inner courtyard of the temple, at a north gate. (The temple itself faced eastward.) It was a gate leading to the altar of sacrifice. At this place he saw something shocking: a lifeless, motionless “symbol of jealousy.” This was some kind of idolatrous image. It may have been an “asherah” or sacred pole representing the false goddess—a filthy sex goddess—who was the wife of the Canaanite god Baal.
THE “SYMBOL OF JEALOUSY”
Jehovah then began to speak from his chariot, which now had threateningly moved to Jerusalem to execute judgment on that city. Ezekiel tells us:
“And he proceeded to say to me: ‘Son of man, please, raise your eyes in the direction of the north.’ So I raised my eyes in the direction of the north, and, look! to the north of the gate of the altar there was this symbol of jealousy in the entranceway. And he went on to say to me: ‘Son of man, are you seeing what great detestable things they are doing, the things that the house of Israel are doing here for me to become far off from my sanctuary? And yet you will see again great detestable things.”’—Ezek. 8:5, 6.
The religious leaders of Jerusalem had broken the first two of the Ten Commandments, and were committing a ‘detestable thing.’ The temple was a place where God representatively dwelt with Israel as a nation devoted to his worship. With the temple defiled by the disgusting worship of this “symbol of jealousy” wherewith the Jews incited Jehovah to jealousy, was that temple a proper place for his occupying? No, indeed! Jehovah was not obliged to remain there. Rather, he was obliged to withdraw his spiritual presence; as he said, “to become far off from my sanctuary.”
Has Christendom, within which are those who say, “God is dead,” done similarly? Consider what took place in St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in New York city, in December 1971. Time magazine reports, in its issue of January 3, 1972:
“In the sanctuary upstairs, the show went on. At one end, three nude young people splashed happily in a kiddies’ plastic wading pool. At the other end, Actor Kevin O’Connor (Tom Paine) performed the bathtub scene from Sam Shepard’s play Chicago, a scene of despair and rebirth. At a sink, two housewives talked about which detergent was purest.”
What mockery! What degradation of the clean, upright teachings of Christ! This is the outcome of flouting God’s Word the Bible and of using images, symbols and teachings that draw church members away from exclusive devotion to the God they profess to serve.
JEHOVAH VERY MUCH ALIVE TO WHAT IS BEING DONE
As Ezekiel was taken on the visionary tour of inspection, Jehovah told him, “Yet you will see again great detestable things.”
Likewise, in Christendom, such a glimpse is only a fraction of the detestable things carried on right in Christendom’s churches. Back in Ezekiel’s vision, these things were done by the appointed heads of the people. Like the clergy today who say, either by actions or in words, “God is dead,” those leaders thought, “Jehovah is not seeing us. Jehovah has left the land.”—Ezek. 8:12.
Perhaps those Jewish leaders felt that Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah had had so much trouble recently at the hands of Babylon that Jehovah had apparently “left the land.” In effect they were saying the same thing that clergymen are saying now.
Because these men of Judah did not see God taking action in their affairs, did that mean that God did not know? No. He was fully aware of what they were doing. Just because he did not do what they thought should be done, namely, act to save Jerusalem, that did not mean he was not concerned. Rather, he was concerned with his judgment that they be destroyed for their detestable practices!
Even then, Jehovah exercised forbearance. But five years later he directed the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to the attack on Jerusalem. (Ezek. 21:18-23) If you read the Bible book of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, particularly chapters two and four, you will see that the calamity that came on Jerusalem is attributed to Jehovah’s judgment because of her detestable practices. Certainly the Jews, both those surviving the siege and those in Babylon, did not then say, “Jehovah is not seeing us. Jehovah has left the land.”
From this historical record we can realize that there is great peril hanging over Christendom. God is alive, and he is very much concerned over his own name and true worship. He is also interested in all people who “believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
Are you shocked at the disgusting things that clergymen, followed by many church members, have done? Then forsake any association with such persons and give God exclusive devotion. You may be sure that he sees and truly will reward those who look to him as the living God.