Then this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, the people still left in Jerusalem are talking about you and your relatives and all the people of Israel who are in exile. They are saying, ‘Those people are far away from the Lord, so now he has given their land to us!’
“Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.’
“When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those who long for vile images and detestable idols, I will repay them fully for their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
God promised the exiles in Babylonia that he would continue to be with them even though they were not in Jerusalem. This was a major concern to the Jews because they believed that God was present primarily in the Temple. But God assured them that he would continue to be their God regardless of where they were.
God’s messages through Ezekiel are full of irony. Here God says that the people in captivity are the faithful ones, and those in Jerusalem are the sinful and wicked ones. This was the opposite of the people’s perception. God was a sanctuary for the righteous remnant. Idolatrous people, even though they worshiped in the Jerusalem Temple, would find no true sanctuary; but the faithful exiles, even though they were far from home, would be protected by God.
Our external circumstances do not always indicate our standing with God. Those who appear secure may be far from him, while those going through difficult times may be safely under God’s spiritual protection. Depend on God to keep you safe in good times or hard times.