The eighth and ninth chapters of Ezekiel’s prophecy illustrate why every Christian should pray often – if not daily – for our clergy. Chapter eight highlights the appalling abominations the Jewish clergy were committing against God, even in His Temple.
“Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here,” God said to the prophet, who found “every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel” carved on the walls.
But that was not all. Ezekiel also saw “seventy elders of the house of Israel . . . each man with his censer in his hand and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising.”
But that was not all. The chapter continues: “Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us . . . .” And a few verses later: [God] brought me to the entrance of the gate of the Lord’s house . . . and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz” (i.e. the goddess of fertility).
But that was not all. God brought Ezekiel into the inner court of the Temple where another dozen of the religious leaders had turned their “backs to the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun . . . .”
God’s patience ended in chapter nine. He told His angel: “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”
The mark would serve to protect them from what happens next.
God commanded another angel:“Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.” So they started with the elders who were before the temple.
And so the false shepherds, the hirelings, the wolves in sheep clothing inevitably met the judgment of God.
How does it happen that anyone can turn away from God after knowing Him? But perhaps the greater question is this: How does a pastor, elder, or priest turn back from following God? How do they who preach and teach about our great Savior, who perform intercessory prayers, and offer the sacraments, how do they think God is blind to the evil they do?
God is not blind. Patient, yes. But not blind. Ready to forgive, but ready also to execute wrath against any laity or clergy who insist on turning a stubborn shoulder to God.
People have not changed since Ezekiel’s time. And neither has God. And therein lays the alarming character of these two chapters.
Christian – Pray for your pastors and priests. Pray for your bishops. Pray for your deacons. Pray for your catechists. All of us – laity and clergy alike – are susceptible to the subtle schemes of Satan who roams the earth seeking souls to devour. What better way to scatter the many sheep than to first ruin their shepherds?
Christian – our clergy and leadership desperately need us to pray. Let’s not fail them.