He said to me, “Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the people of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually arouse my anger? Look at them putting the branch to their nose! Ezekiel 8:17

It is unclear what the expression, “putting the branch to their nose” means. It was either a ritual practiced during the worship of a pagan god (a sculpture has been found which suggests this) or it is an expression of disdain towards God. The NLT translated it as, “thumbing their noses at me.” Either way, it wasn’t good.

This verse points out that it wasn’t just the idol worship that God objected to. It was also the violence (see 9:9). The worship of idols doesn’t produce a peaceful society. In fact, it seems to encourage crime.

Why would idol worship lead to violence?

Perhaps because worshipping idols is a self-focussed activity. People worshipped idols for what they expected in return, blessing on their crops, increased income, larger families, or as a distraction from worshipping the true God, who expects a higher level of moral behaviour. With the focus on themselves and on the benefits they may gain by giving their alliance to pagan gods, it becomes easy to start taking advantage of others and to give free reign to anger, greed and envy.

Whereas worshipping God is focussing on the bigger picture of God’s character and his purposes. It encourages us to have God’s attitude towards ourselves and others, as well as realizing that material blessings are only temporal.

Worshipping God changes our priorities and helps us adopt his priorities of compassion, love and kindness which is good not only for us, but also for society.