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

It wasn’t just the idol worship that God objected to, it was also the violence (see 9:9). The worship of idols didn’t produce a peaceful society, rather, it encouraged crime.

Why would idol worship lead to violence?

Perhaps because worshipping idols is a self-focused activity. People worshipped idols for what they expected in return, blessings on their crops, increased income, larger families, or as a distraction from worshipping the true God, who expected 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, their attitude changed to taking advantage of others and giving free rein to anger, greed and envy.

Whereas worshipping God focuses us on the bigger picture of God’s character and his purposes. Worship of the true God encourages us to have his attitude towards ourselves and others, as well as realising that material blessings are temporal.

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