EZEKIEL 1:3 The Hand of the LORD January 14, 2012
R ev. A. R. Fausset, A.M. reminds us that there were three deportations. The first in the 3rd or 4th year of Jehoiakim which included Daniel; the second was under Jehoiachin which involved Ezekiel and the third was at the taking of Jerusalem under Zedekiah. The 30th year probably refers to Ezekiel’s age and is reflected in reference to his being “a priest” since their ministry began at that time of life. It is suggested that since Jehovah was to be a “little sanctuary” to the exiles, Ezekiel was called to be its priest (11:16). “Thus the opening vision follows naturally as the formal institution of that spiritual temple in which he was to minister” (Fairbairn).
Chebar flows into the Euphrates 200 miles north of Babylon, but in this first vision the prophet perceives himself to be in the temple at Jerusalem.
As to the vision itself, we are at once astounded by such overwhelmingly awesome insights into the heavenly aspect of reality. We tend to measure what is real by what we experience in our daily earth-bound existence. Here the curtain is drawn back to expose us to the ways and means of heavenly doings and it is difficult for our minds to take the leap. That there are such living creatures as cherubim and seraphim, we have been aware from the beginning, but we find out here in this chapter that our understanding on the subject has been limited to say the least. Suffice it to say that we have a great deal to learn. Let us be open-minded and let us be reminded that this too is the Word of God. May the “hand of the LORD” be upon us, leading us to the One on the throne (v.26) Who, after all we have seen here, is a Man like us. May we behold His glory and like Isaiah, “speak of him” (John 12:14)
Ezekiel 2:4 Impudent Children
Jehovah chose Israel (Isa.44:1) and bound Himself to that nation in an unconditional covenant (Gen.15), of that we can be certain, but the question is why? We understand from Isa.46:9&10 that He knows the end from the beginning. Did He know how rebellious these people would be? Could He have foreseen how “impudent and stiff-hearted” they would become (v.4) and if so, why did He choose them? Could He not have found some nation that would have appreciated His magnanimity? Some city other than Jerusalem which so spurned His love (ch.16)?
Well, it stands to reason that if Jehovah wished to magnify His grace He would choose a nation that would present the greatest test of His love. Apparently the all-time winner of that title goes to Israel. What other people have been so blessed as they? Think of the miraculous powers to which they have been treated. The Red Sea crossing alone should have won their hearts forever but the golden calf expressed their gratitude.
Today it is individual recipients of God’s grace that marvel at His love. Paul, the chief of sinners, has writ it large in Ephesians 2, “not of works.” We who belong to the human race have crucified the Son of God and in return Jehovah chooses to bless us with eternal riches.
Let those who fear the loss of salvation due to their sin or unfaithfulness contemplate the phenomenon of God’s grace to such a “rebellious children” as these to whom Ezekiel is being sent. Are they getting what they deserve? No, and neither do we. It is all of grace, not of works lest any should boast. If we can do nothing to earn heaven, then what can we do to lose it? Have we received the gift? That is the only question!
Ezekiel 3:27 “I Will Open Thy Mouth”
It is very important when approaching this chapter here before us to remember the difference between interpreting a passage and applying it. I think that there is a tendency in fundamental churches for us to be intimidated by the concept of God expecting us all as Christians to be watchmen as He called Ezekiel to be. Let us first interpret the call of Ezekiel carefully.
You will note from verse seventeen that Jehovah specifically made Ezekiel the watchman unto a specific group, namely Israel. There is only one true interpretation of this passage as is the case in all other Scripture. To find the true interpretation one must determine certain facts. Who is speaking and to whom are the words addressed. Other questions to be answered are when, where, how, etc.
Perhaps we might discern principles in these verses that we could apply to our own hearts but there is no command to do so. Even when Paul speaks (Acts 20:26) of being “pure from the blood of all men,” it is spoken as a testimony and not a command. He was especially chosen and commissioned (Acts 9:15). There was only one apostle Paul and only one Ezekiel and we should be thankful for them both but also thankful that we are not called to walk in their shoes. If God does call us to special tasks be sure He will equip us for them. Note all of the special experiences in this chapter alone that this prophet went through and be prepared for seeing many more before we reach the end of this book.
Ezekiel 4:17 For Their Iniquity
If you will turn first to Jeremiah 29 you will see that the chapter records the fact that the prophet was writing to the elders, the priests and prophets and all the people whom Nebuchednezzar had carried away captive to Babylon telling them to resume a normal life for it would be many years before any of them would get back to their homeland (v.10). This was to confirm the fact that Jerusalem would be destroyed.
This prophecy was being written about 4 years before the events in our present chapter of Ezekiel where we see the prophet illustrating the destruction of Jerusalem to this same remnant who have been settled on the Chebar River (Ez.1:3). Thus we have both of these great prophets working in harmony to counteract the contaminating influence of the false prophets (Jer.31 and 32).
The object lesson of the siege of Jerusalem is one of several in these early chapters, portraying God’s judgement. Ironside says that at the very time the prophet was illustrating the siege of the city the armies of the Chaldeans had thrown a cordon around it. All the while the false prophets contended that God would never allow its destruction.
The use of dung as fuel for cooking was common on American prairies – there is no thought here of it being mixed with the grain as some have thought. Note Jehovah’s willingness to change His directive.
As revolting or extreme as were some of God’s requirements nothing equaled the dire straits of the siege itself. We see His hatred of iniquity and idolatry.
Ezekiel 5:13 I Will Be Comforted
It is comforting for us to know that the hairs of our head are numbered (Matt.10:30) which is the Lord’s way of assuring us that He is watching over us in minutest scrutiny. There was not much comfort, however, in the message communicated to Ezekiel concerning the talley of the hair of his head (and beard). It represented not what would happen to him, but what God had in store for his brethren, the Jews of Jerusalem, probably actually representing all of Israel (J.F.B.).
It is comforting to know that a very small remnant was to be preserved though even they would pass through the fires of God’s judgement (see also 6:8 and following).
The severe judgements enumerated here were only begun in Zedekiah’s day and probably refer to all of the terrible sufferings Israel would experience, most especially during the Great Tribulation, yet future, known as Jacob’s Trouble (Jer.30:7). As we know, it is the horrors of that seven year period that will finally cause Israel’s repentance (Zech.12:10). They shall, apparently for the first time, supernaturally, see our Lord Jesus as the One they had “pierced” and “a nation shall be born at once” (Isa,66:8).
In the meantime, seeing this word “comforted” in verse 13 serves as a reminder of the important doctrine of satisfaction which speaks to us of the necessity of God’s vengeance against man’s wickedness, a vindication of His holiness, i.e. His righteous indignation. The word translated “comforted” here in v.13 which is used in Gen.24:67 when Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death, has very wide usage. It is the word used of God “repenting” and also of the “avenging” of oneself.
We can be thankful when we read this chapter to know that God’s wrath against sin was fully satisfied by the death of His Son producing complete reconciliation for those of us who are in Christ.
Ezekiel 6:9 I Am Broken
There are a couple of unusual features in this chapter that should perhaps be noted before we take a more in-depth perusal of a facet of Jehovah’s character mentioned here but probably often overlooked.
First we see that this prophecy is directed toward nature. In verse 3 Jehovah tells Ezekiel to address the mountains, the hills, the rivers and the valleys but actually it is the idolaters in these places that shall feel the edge of the sword. Secondly, the purpose for all of this death and destruction is in order that it may be known that Jehovah is the One wreaking such judgement. This is repeated four times (verses 7,10,13 and 14).
I believe we have in verse nine, however, a unique statement as to why God is carrying out these severities and it ties back with verse 13 in the previous chapter and with that special word “comforted.” In our verse here (nine) this thought seems to be continued by the use of another very interesting word.
As suggested in our opening paragraph, we have here an insight into the deep character of Jehovah. He says, “I am broken with their whorish heart ...and eyes.” The Hebrew word here seems exceptional as Strong indicates that it means to burst and that it is translated in other places as “to break in pieces.” He goes on, with such words as “broken-hearted” “crushed” “hurt.” We see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 10:34) as a N.T. enactment of this anthropomorphism in the Old.
I thought of how as a child when I grieved my mother by some wayward action which had seemingly broken her heart. Her tears would, in turn, break my own heart. Hasten O LORD the day when your broken heartedness will cause Israel to indeed “lothe themselves for the evils they have committed.” (See F.B. Meyer- Our Daily Homily).
Ezekiel 7:9 The LORD That Smiteth
Patrick Fairbairn in his classic work on Ezekiel says of this chapter that what it amounts to is poetic dirge or lamentation over the attitudes and conditions of the times. In fact, aside from a couple of pages of footnotes appearing at the end of the book, he makes absolutely no comments on the text of this chapter. My reaction is that if this profound scholar was left speechless here, where does that leave me?
Perhaps one thing we could think about is those recurring words here and in the previous chapter, “and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” This statement appears in six and seven, a total of seven times. Perhaps you could find them and underline them as I have done. Note especially that this chapter ends with this emphatic declaration.
I wish that each of you could have heard the brief message that our pastor brought to the nearly 20 of us who attended the local pastors’ fellowship last Monday (Feb.5th, 2012) here in the Searsport church. It had to do with the attitudes and conditions of our present day and time but primarily with our need to know personally our God Whom we serve.
Jehovah not only wants us to know that He is (Heb.11:6) but that He wants our love and fellowship. How much time do we spend just talking with Him, enjoying His presence, learning to love and appreciate Him for Who He is and glorying in His mighty works of creation and salvation?
As we read these terrible words of judgement let us realize that Israel in all of its wickedness did not nearly approach the sins of carelessness and indifference of professed believers who tread under foot the Son of God doing despite unto the Spirit of grace. “ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb.10:31). “The Lord shall judge His people.”
Ezekiel 8:4 The Vision That I Saw
Here begins a section which encompasses four chapters. In it the prophet has a vision in which, though he was sitting with the captives in Babylon, he was spirited, while in a trance, to Jerusalem, and later shared what he had experienced (11:25).
In our present chapter we have four scenes that were shown to Ezekiel, any one of which would be enough to warrant Jehovah’s wrath upon Jerusalem. Many of the Jewish leaders were like the later Diests, believing that Jehovah had abandoned His creation (8:12).
In the first one he was shown an altar that had been placed in prominence before the brazen altar and was called “the image of jealousy.” God said that this was enough to cause Him to vacate the temple (which He later did as recorded in 10:18). Exodus 34:14 is one place where the word jealous is used of God. We are not told the name of this idol but we do know that Manasseh had set one up in the temple court (II K.21:7) to Astarte (Venus) who was “worshiped with licentious rites” (J.F.B.)
Secondly, Ezekiel was shown a secret door in the temple which led to a room where the priests were worshiping all sorts of Egyptian-type gods. In their secret chamber they thought no one could see them, but God knew all about it! And so now did the captives at Chebar, probably causing them to be less surprised at what Jehovah was going to do with His beautiful temple.
In the last two scenes, the women are weeping for Tammuz and the men are worshiping the sun. Hyslop in The Two Babylons, pg.62, cites Maimonides (deeply read by the Babylonians - Chaldees)who tells the story of Tammuz and the custom of weeping for him on the first day of the month. The account of his death and resurrection are, of course, part of Satan’s warfare against Christ.
There are many applications that can be made to the Christian’s heart and life from this chapter and can be easily found by the reader (J.F.B., Ironside, Meyer, etc.).
Ezekiel 9:4 Men That Sigh and Cry
Of course, this is still part of the prophet’s vision. It isn’t actually happening, but the end of the story is as if it were. The marked men will survive and they are marked in the mind of God. The others are destroyed in effect and it will be only a matter of time, i.e. from this moment their fate was sealed.
The two words sigh and cry look alike and sound alike in the Hebrew as they do in English and they both mean practically the same thing, to shriek or to groan. We are not told how many such men were seen to be in this category. Relatively few there probably were.
The reason for their obvious compunction was their deep distress over the idolatrous activity symbolized by the occupations of the leaders portrayed in the previous chapter and the awareness of Jehovah’s displeasure in it all. In spite of the fact that these, who in the heart of God were singled out and set apart from those upon whom His judgement was about to fall, could not escape being involved. Their wives and children would be exposed to the Babylonian fire power, the deprivation of life’s necessities and all else that accompanies the ravages of war and especially siege.
As believers today we greatly desire the return of the Lord Jesus but how prepared are we for the upheaval of life style we probably would experience during the period leading up to the reign of the Anti-Christ. It is wonderful to know that we who belong to the Lord are not appointed to wrath as the unsaved are, and we are set apart in Jehovah’s heart as those whose names are written in His book. There might be some sighing and crying, on our part however if we were to be swept along by momentous events like the necessary fall of capitalism to socialism and a new world order. Who really knows what might happen before the rapture?
Ezekiel 10:18 The Glory of the LORD Departed
Seeking for insight regarding the strange creatures which appeared at the beginning of this book and now in this chapter take center stage, the Lord has led me in a very interesting way to some satisfactory conclusions.
First, let us establish that they are referred to throughout Scripture from Genesis (3:24) to Revelation (chs.4 and 5) and though in the KJV they are called by different terms they are obviously one and the same (viz. living creatures, beasts, cherubim). For example, note in today’s chapter verses 15 and 20, the clear statement of Ezekiel. A study of the words in Hebrew and Greek will show that the primary meaning of them all is that they were living beings.
Regarding God’s leading as I sought for understanding He led me to a book on Revelation by James B. Ramsey, published by Banner of Truth, which was purchased at a local yard sale a few years ago and never opened. This little known author humbly presents a credible and deeply spiritual explanation that I wish all might read but since that is unlikely, I will try in a short space to elucidate. Patience and prayerful meditation will be rewarded, believe me. I will quote:
“No more strange, mysterious, and unearthly object was ever presented, ...than that described in these verses. It is nothing less than a visible picture of what the boldest human imagination would have pronounced impossible to be represented by a visible image. It is a symbol of THE LIFE OF GOD IN THE SOUL OF MAN, of THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF REDEEMED SINNERS. Or to express the same idea in a somewhat more concrete form as it presents itself in those who possess this life – it is human nature as redeemed and regenerated, united to Christ and made partakers of the divine nature”. (Caps and italics are the author’s.)
Of course, Ramsey is commenting on the Revelation passages and the appearance of the so-called beasts there are somewhat different than those which appear in Ezekiel 1 and 10, but since they are essentially the same symbols, we must attempt to extrapolate (look up the meaning) on the subject, keeping in mind “the glory of the LORD” which was departing from the temple. It came back to the temple at Pentecost!
Ezekiel 11:16 A Little Sanctuary
This chapter concludes the vision that Ezekiel experienced which is seen as beginning in chapter eight. In it Ezekiel sees the company of men again who were worshiping the sun in 8:16 this time being led by Jaazani the son of Azur. We had seen, also in chapter 8 another by the same name only with a different father, Shaphan. These two may be singled out because of their name which meant God hears. He would have heard if they had but called upon Him.
Instead, the men he represented were devising mischief and giving wicked counsel in Jerusalem, mocking Jeremiah’s message on the seething pot (1:13). In his vision Ezekiel was told to preach against them, the result of which one of them dropped dead (apparently both in the vision and in actuality in Jerusalem at the same time) (v.13).
Again, we are reminded that the purpose of all of this was to convince the remnant in Babylon that the message of the cauldron would come true and Jerusalem really would be destroyed, therefore they should indeed build houses, etc. and settle in for the long haul (seventy years). When Ezekiel was finished with his vision he explained it all to the captives (v.25).
All of this we have heard over and over again many times, that is true, but here there is a special glimpse into the grace of God. He says to the remnant that though He had scattered them among the heathen, He would be to them “a little sanctuary in the countries where they should come” (v.16).
Though the Shekinah Glory is seen leaving the temple and ascending from the Mount of Olives (v.23) a great day is yet to come when Jehovah shall stand upon that mountain in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Zech.14:4; Acts 1:11 &12) and “in that day” the LORD shall be king over all the earth. Today the earth is peppered with “little sanctuaries”- local churches (Eph.2:22) from whence the cry goes up, “Even so come Lord Jesus” (Rev.22:20).
Ezekiel 12:2 A Rebellious House
Ezekiel is made a sign unto the rebellious house of Israel that were now captives in Babylon (v.11) and a prophetic picture of what would happen to King Zedekiah in a few years. It was very accurate and in 5 years he was captured as he was trying to escape from Jerusalem, blinded and carried to Babylon in chains where he remained until his death (Jer.32:7-11).
The proverb in verse 22 showed the unbelief of the people for it said, in effect, it will be a long time before any of these calamities take place (v.27) and we don’t think much of these visions that some of the prophets tell us about. God said that the days of fulfillment were “at hand” and events seen in the visions are now taking “effect” (v.23).
Five times we read the words that Israel was “a rebellious house” so that there is no doubt about the theme of this chapter. Find and underline them so that the next time you open to this passage the words will pop out. We need to make notes in our Bibles so that we do not have to break ground each time we come here again but we can rather build upon our knowledge with additional insights. Plan that your next Bible will have margins so that you may write notes in them from your pastors’ sermons. Notes on separate papers are too often lost or are not at hand when needed. Think about it.
Unfortunately all too often it is true today as then that we also dwell in the midst of a rebellious house. What else is it when all around us are people like these who have eyes but see not and ears but hear not (v.2), and we must examine our own hearts as well. While God’s Word is being faithfully preached, believers are apparently seeing and hearing but there is little effect on the life. If it were really believed, there would be a better attendance on Sunday night and at prayer meeting, would there not? In our little church, a third of the Sunday morning crowd do not even see the need of being members. Intelligent men act as if they are listening but no change in behavior can be noted. What is this if it be not rebellion? Shall we pray about it?
Ezekiel 13: 12 Wall-Daubers
Don’t be hornswoggled by the false prophets. Don’t know what that word means? It means don’t be bamboozled by them. Both of these words are in Webster and it simply means, don’t be taken in - misled by them.
According to the dictionary it means to be taken in by a hoax. The illustration being used by the prophet is that of daubing a stone wall with worthless mortar (v.10). It is as if someone told you that by using a certain brand of whitewash (Fairbairn) one could strengthen a wall. This would be pure hogwash – like someone trying to sell the George Washington Bridge. There are some things that you just know are a hoax.
The term “day of the LORD” (v.5) refers to the immediate judgement that Jerusalem would soon experience but certainly looks forward to a “day” yet future. The Babylonian army would soon test the wall around that city and it would take more than chalk (Young’s Literal Translation) to keep it out.
The problem was that the prophets that were preaching peace (v.10) were misleading the people and in some cases were themselves misled. Peace is a great message when it is properly taught but it must have as its basis a firm foundation in the Word of God.
Of course, the false teachers abound in our present day and a large number of them are religious leaders. They offer a great variety of alternatives to the sound teaching of the Holy Scriptures. Peace for a troubled conscience is that which is grounded in forgiveness for sin and the gift of eternal life which can only come through the vicarious death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately a great many of our friends and neighbors and in many cases our own loved ones are completely bamboozled by the “saved by works” mentality. They think we are crazy. That’s what they thought about Ezekiel too!
Ezekiel 14:23 Not Without Cause
The opening verses of this chapter indicate the principle problem that Jehovah had with these elders of Israel that came to enquire of Ezekiel. It was idolatry, pure and simple! Or, we should say, impure and complex!
The Amplified Old Testament helps us here by indicating that the idols of the heart are self-will and unsubmissiveness and the “stumbling block of their iniquity before their face” is their idols of silver and gold.
The sense of the first section (to v.12) is that Jehovah Himself will answer these hypocritical enquirers and if they should get an answer (from a false prophet), He will punish both the seeker and the prophet alike (v.10). Only on this basis can these be His people and He be their God.
In the latter section (12-23) a subtle contrast is presented. By using two well-known names from Israel’s history and the contemporary Daniel, who apparently was already known for his righteousness, God emphasizes the thorough going nature of His four-fold judgement (v.21), that as great as these men are, even their sons and daughters could not escape His fury upon Jerusalem. “Yet”, to paraphrase, He says, “I have left you a remnant (of sons and daughters) bringing them here to Babylon (Amplified) and when you see how ungodly they are, you will know how right I was in bringing such judgement upon Jerusalem.”
It was certainly an act of grace that any should escape the judgement of God, especially since such godly men as these three could not expect even their own children to be spared. A weird sense of consolation would thus prevail when the evil “doings” would prove God’s justice in dealing with Jerusalem as He had done. (Comforted, i.e. their minds eased).
God always has good cause for doing what he does (v.23).
Ezekiel 15:7 When I Set My Face Against Them
It was a point well made, especially in that day, that a vine made a poor peg and if you worked in the building trade, there was really not much use for that kind of wood. Even for fuel it is not all that great! This short chapter makes a clear point and we can easily visualize the fiery destruction of Jerusalem by means of this dramatic illustration.
On the other hand, however, being reminded of a vine and being the positive creatures that we are, we can think of lots of good things about that kind of a tree in another chapter fifteen somewhat in the Bible, now can’t we?
The problem is that it is a greater leap of faith than the proverbial one of Schliermacker to get to something positive from this chapter and frankly, I don’t think the Holy Spirit who inspired it had much very positive in mind, do you really?
So, my reader friend, what shall you do? Shall you stick with the theme and pass on to the next illustration which is even more forceful or do you pause here in the midst of the historical nightmare of the citizens left in Jerusalem fleeing from one fiery scene to be devoured by another. There is nowhere to hide from the wrath of Jehovah. His face is set against them (v.7).
It is assumed that most of Ezekiel’s prophecies prior to chapter 24 were written 4 or 5 years before Nebuchednezzar began his siege of Jerusalem (see 24:1&2) which was in the year 590 B.C. According to Jeremiah 39:1 and II Kings 25 these events transpired during the reign of King Zedekiah. Verses 8&9 of the latter chapter speak specifically of the burning of the city by the captain of the guard.
So, it hasn’t happened yet at the writing of this chapter but it will soon take place and did take place. Those who believed the prophets got out, the others didn’t.
Those who believe that there is a place called hell and that there is only one way to escape it will take the Biblical way of salvation but those who don’t will know that Jehovah’s face is against them for sure.
Ezekiel 16:8 The Time of Love
Who doesn’t like a good love story? This one has all the ingredients. A poor helpless maiden and a strong hero type. The maiden is not only rescued from death by the hero but is wooed and won by her savior- lover. Sadly, the beautiful young bride who is showered with gifts of expensive clothing and jewelry spurns the love of her gracious husband and is unfaithful to him and becomes a harlot.
Next there unfolds a long and horrible tale of wickedness on the part of this wretched creature which we wish we did not have to read. If it were a novel I would throw it in the trash.
This is the story of a city, in fact, of several cities. We might call them, for short, Jerus, Sammy and Sodo. What evil one could not think of, the other one did and furthermore taught their own daughter to follow their example (v.48).
Jehovah is telling the story, a parable, and He the rejected lover (v.14). Isn’t it something for Him to think like this?
It is like God to offer life to the hopeless, He did the same for me. He said “Live” and I was born again! It is like Him to visit His love upon the unworthy, to impart His own comeliness (v.14), to wash us, anoint us, to clothe and bejewel us. Oh, how He loves you and me!
We want our stories to end on a happy note and it is suggested at the end of this chapter that this one will, but it takes another prophet who has told a similar story to give us a really great ending. In Hosea chapter two we have Jehovah speaking of His wife (unfaithful though she has been) “I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgement, and in loving-kindness and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD” (v.20). And there you have it, the end of the story!
Ezekiel 17:3 Of Eagles and Trees
In the parable, commentators are agreed that the first eagle represents Nebuchednezzar. Lebanon is the temple at Jerusalem (because its woodwork was wholly of cedars of Lebanon- Eusebius). The top twig (v.4) is Jehoiachin who was carried away to Babylon six years before this parable was uttered.
Zedekiah is represented in the parable by the term “seed of the land” (v.5) who is seen as revolting against Nebuchednezzar and turning to Egypt (the second eagle) for which he is punished by being taken to Babylon where he would die (II Kings 25:6&7). All of this was prophesied before in chapter 12 verses 10-15.
Jehovah asks the question here in verse 12 “know ye not what these things mean?” He then gives the explanation of the parable.
This is all just the same message as we have seen throughout the book couched in different terminology. God is using Babylon to discipline Israel and to resist it is to defy His will. This Zedekiah did by going down to Egypt after making a covenant with Nebuchednezzar which he then broke and this as much as anything incurred God’s anger (vs.15&16).
From verse 22 to the end of the chapter we find another parable which also uses trees as object lessons. In this, it is generally thought that the prophet is looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Ironside in his book ends this chapter as follows:
"When He came in God’s appointed time He was rejected by His own people, but when He returns in power and might He will take the kingdom and administer the affairs of this universe for the glory of God and the blessing of all mankind. Then the high tree of Gentile supremacy will be cut down, and the low tree of Judah shall be made to flourish when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and His Christ. This is decreed by Him who cannot lie, and will be brought to pass in the day of Jehovah’s power."
Ezekiel 18:4 The Soul that Sinneth
This is a straight forward situation here in today’s chapter. From where and why this proverb developed we are not told. It is certainly one we do not agree with in principle nor, obviously, neither does Jehovah and He takes the entire chapter contending against it.
First we must be aware that the conclusions drawn are entirely based upon the fact that this is written to Israel (v.2) and is Old Testament truth. Of course, as Christians we have appropriated the statement at the end of verse four, “the soul that sinneth it shall die” and while it is true in every dispensation we have lifted it out of its context when we use it. Furthermore, it is not exactly stated correctly when used as a New Testament principle. The soul that sinneth is already dead in trespasses and sins according to Ephesians 2:11. We are not sinners because we sin (which seems the emphasis here) but we sin because we are sinners from being born into Adam’s race.
In the lengthy three generational illustration the implication is that the difference between eternal life and death is predicated upon keeping the statutes and judgements (v.9), a long list of which is clearly delineated.
On the contrary, as believers under grace, nothing could be further from the truth for us. It is not what we do in matters of right and wrong that determines our eternal destiny, but what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us by His substitutionary death on the cross. Theoretically, we might be guilty of every sin in the list and yet have eternal life. A true Christian will learn to hate sin and love righteousness but the thief on the cross had no time to do any learning.
In Adam all sin and all die and this is, as we have said, true in all dispensations, so it is not wrong to use the words but it is important that we understand what we are talking about. Furthermore we heartily agree with the conclusion of the illustration (v.17) that we do not die for the sins of others, with one exception. We do die for the sin of our father Adam (I Cor:15:22) physically, but since Christ has completely satisfied the demands of the law on our behalf, now, “we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness” (I Peter 2:20)
Ezekiel 19:2 The Lion’s Whelp and the Vine
Judea is the “mother” of King Jehoichin, one of the “young lions” who was carried captive to Egypt by Pharaoh-necho. He was currently in exile in Babylon along with Ezekiel (II K.23:33; JFB). The second of her whelps (v.5), Jehoiakim, was placed on the throne of Judah by the pharaoh but due to his evil ways “learned to catch the prey and devoured men” (v.6) and was eventually taken as a prisoner to Babylon (v.9). All of this is recorded in II Chron.36:3-6.
Verse ten begins a second metaphor, that of a vine. Judea was planted by Jehovah in a well watered land (Canaan) and was fruitful but because of unfaithfulness she was removed (taken to Babylon) where she languished as a transplanted vine in a dry place (her present captive state).
Judah is all done ruling until the lion of the tribe of Judah comes to reign as in Genesis 49:9-11where both of these pictures of Judah are spoken of in Jacob’s prophetic fore-view. “This is a lamentation” (Jehoichin and Jehoiakim were already history as Ezekiel here is “rubbing it in” to the captives to whom he was ministering) “and shall be for a lamentation concerning Zedekiah.”
The day is coming when Judah will not only produce a Lion Who shall rule with a rod of iron but also as a root out of dry ground, the Vine which will have many branches and will produce much fruit (John15). It is doubtful that Ezekiel saw in these prophetic utterances the ultimate plan of God being fulfilled through His Son, but it is impossible but that God must have planted these thoughts in his mind or these words on his tongue fully knowing how Jesus would, as the Lion’s Whelp and the Vine, round out these pictures and fulfill Jacob’s thoughts of the future of his son Judah.
Ezekiel 20:15 The Glory of All Lands
The date affixed to this chapter is 590 B.C. (according to Halley) and the reference point is the carrying away captive of King Jeconiah. Calvin says that the reason for stating the time this way is to remind them of the date their captivity began and thus by adding 70 years (the prophesied length of the captivity) they could be encouraged to anticipate its end.
Thirteen times Ezekiel’s visions are dated this way from chapters 1 to 40. Halley gives the list on page 289 (21st edition). There are some slight variations by commentators on these chronologies but we will follow Halley for consistency.
While discussing dates it may help at this point to include a few more. J.F.B. reminds us that there were three deportations of Jews into captivity. The first which included Daniel and his three friends was in 606 B.C.; the second which involved Ezekiel was about nine years later in 597 B.C. and the third was at the taking of Jerusalem on July 9th, 586 B.C.
By a quick glance at these dates we can easily see that the episode of today’s chapter takes place about 4 years before Israel’s total collapse including the destruction of the temple. As Ezekiel is here ministering to the captives, in fact, the siege of Jerusalem had not yet begun. His predictions concerning its fall covered a period of 22 years.
Here in chapter 20, verses 1-32 the prophet reminds his audience of their rebellious history as he points out 5 separate instances of failure. In the latter section Jehovah promises that in spite of this He will ultimately be sanctified in them before the heathen and they will know that He is the LORD.
God reminds Israel that the land of Canaan was “the glory of all lands” and when He gave it to them (vs.6&15) it flowed with milk and honey, was exceedingly fruitful and was theirs for the taking. It was surely a wonderful type of the land upon which we stand as believers, the place of victory and blessing. May we abide in it and bear much fruit (John 15).
Ezekiel 21:9 A Sword is Sharpened
Another illustration foreshadowing the judgement of Jehovah on his people - this time that of a sword. Remember, these were not written to be read daily as we usually do but were posted where the people could read them or were given in person periodically.
This time the prophet was even instructed by Jehovah as to the manner in which he was to present it, that is, with sighing so deep that it would be accompanied by gestures similar to those of a woman in travail (Jer.30:6&7). When asked about it he was to respond by telling his hearers how they would be affected (v.7), how their hearts would melt, their hands be enfeebled, their spirits would faint and their knees would buckle.
The message that would cause such a reaction was the picture of a glittering sword suspended over the land of Israel and sharpened to make a sore slaughter.
Perhaps this was given at a time when the captives were making mirth at a holiday celebration or a wedding feast. At such a time to hear the prophet crying and howling must have been quite impressive but apparently one of the reasons was because the righteous were seen to be “cut off” as well as the wicked (v.3).
The sword was the lethal weapon of the day and by it were perpetrated the distinct horrors of war against the innocent (Hos.13:16). These things indeed touch us deeply and we shudder to think of such suffering and misery. But, what should have an even more profound affect upon us is to contemplate the suffering of our loved ones in hell. The experience of death by whatever means is relatively transient but the lake of fire is eternal. It grieves me to think of my grandfather and my aunt Evelyn being there as only a few of the vast multitude suffering its torment. We should be moved with compassion for those with whom we mingle daily knowing that apart from salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ this is their ultimate destiny.
Ezekiel 22:30 I Sought for a Man
Nine times in verses six to twelve are the words “in thee” repeated as Jehovah accentuated the sins being committed in Jerusalem and for which His judgement is due to fall. This time the picture is that of dross of various metals being melted in a furnace (v.20). The unusual feature of this parable is the fact that it is not the metals that are being purified by having the dross skimmed off in the process, but the focus is on the dross itself being destroyed by the melting fire of God’s fury.
Towards the end of the chapter in verses 26 thru 29 we have an interesting alliteration as four entities are arraigned before the bar of Jehovah’s justice, the priests, the princes, the prophets and the people.
Of course, the key verse of the chapter is one familiar to most of us. “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it: but I found none” (v.30).
There were certainly some very good men alive and available at the very moment these words were spoken. To name a few; Daniel, his three friends, Jeremiah and of course, the prophet Ezekiel. Why would not one of these fill the gap in the hedges?
It may help to answer this question if we should refer to the Septuagint version of this verse. It reads, “And I sought from among them a man behaving uprightly, and standing before me perfectly in the time of wrath,” etc.
The Man had not yet been born Who could stand before Jehovah perfectly in the time of wrath.Is this verse here to remind us of that? In fact, was there no sin in a Daniel or a Jeremiah that deserved the wrath of God? Who could be their Daysman? There is but One Who could efficiently mediate between even an ardent Ezekiel and an angry God! It is Messiah Jesus! All they had were lambs but at that time they were adequate.
Ezekiel 23:45 After the Manner of Adulteresses
The entire chapter is a parable, again emphasizing the sin of spiritual adultery of both the northern and southern kingdoms, Samaria representing the former and Jerusalem, the latter. Two fictitious women are invented by Jehovah, Aholah and Aholibah, and throughout, their evil relationships with the nations of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon are described in vivid terms. Judgement for their misbehavior is pronounced and the whole purpose is summed up in the last verse, “and ye shall know that I am the LORD GOD.”
We are aware, of course, that sexual drives and relationships are generally the strongest of all those known to man second only to self-preservation, and it is to that familiar theme that Jehovah goes to give His most powerful lessons. A wholesome marriage sets forth the beauty and wonder of all the best there is in the human realm for us to experience and it is God Himself Who has designed and given it to us. He uses it in a positive fashion to illustrate His relationship to us as in that superb passage of Ephesians 5:21-33 where it is called “a great mystery” as He speaks about “Christ and the church.”
Since this analogy is used so frequently in the Old Testament, i.e. Jehovah as the husband of Israel and since the Holy Spirit must have nudged the Apostle Paul to use it in the New as well, it is not at all surprising that the negative aspect of the subject should find its way into Holy Writ.
We know from Malachi 2:15&16 that Jehovah hates divorce because He made the two parties one flesh and it follows that He certainly hates everything that violates that oneness.
Obviously He can think of no greater way to call attention to man’s unfaithfulness to Him than to illustrate it by using such horrible analogies as the one before us in this chapter. We dislike having to read it but let this very fact serve to underscore the depth of His divine displeasure at all travesties such as those which caused our Lord Jesus Christ to decry against what might seem to the lost to be the slightest of infringements (Matt.5:28) or James to level such a charge as he does against those guilty of “friendship of (with) the world” (4:4).
Ezekiel 24:24 A Sign
There are two major events in today’s chapter in addition to the parable of the boiling pot. That the two are related is evident by verse 21. The date of Babylon’s assault upon Jerusalem (590 B.C.) must have been difficult for Jehovah since the city was “the apple of his eye” (Zech.2:8) and the loss to Ezekiel of his dearest wife, the desire of his eyes, took place on this same day.
Yesterday I received word from a dear friend that her husband had pancreatic cancer which was inoperable. The desire of her eyes would soon be taken away with a stroke and before the day was done I also learned that a fellow radio ham had lost his wife a few days ago by the same disease. My heart was wrenched by these events. I am sure that no one knows the deep pain that comes as a result of such loses, however, until they pass through a similar experience.
Our text makes it clear that Jehovah knew the depths of His servant’s sorrow whose wife was the desire of his eyes and we can be certain that God sympathized deeply with Ezekiel though He required a super human response from him, no tears! And here I shed them just thinking about it.
Jerusalem was spoken of as Jehovah’s wife and we might think that heaven would have rained tears on the day it was taken away “with a stroke” so dearly did He love her (Luke 19:41; Mt. 23:37). We do not see things, however, as He does Who might have reminded Ezekiel of Ps.115:16.
God’s reason for Ezekiel not to shed tears was an object lesson to the captives to whom he ministered who had not believed his prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem and thus their grieving would be delayed til such news reached them from some who escaped (v.26). Until then they would not know that those left behind (v.21) of their sons and daughters, the desire of their eyes “the joy of their glory” had been slain “by the sword.” The fact that the “dumb” prophet could now speak (and probably mourn his wife’s death) was a sign unto those who also mourned the death of their loved ones at the same time. This was arranged in order that they might know that all along Ezekiel’s prophecies had been true as was also the closing statement of this chapter “that I am the LORD” (v.27).
Ezekiel 25:14 They Shall Know My Vengeance
Perhaps you have already noted the way this chapter is structured. If not, observe the repetition of the word because and then note the word therefore which for five times always follows in the next verse; because - therefore, because - therefore, etc. 5 times. The recipients of these five declarations of judgements are the nations Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia. God says He is taking great vengeance and exacting furious rebukes upon these people because of the way they have treated Israel.
It is a definite pattern in the Scriptures that Jehovah may inflict whatever punishment He deems best for His children (like Job) but He grows very angry with those who enjoy helping “forward the affliction” (Zech.1:15). It is here in Zechariah that we discover rich statements of God’s love for Jerusalem. “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy” (1:14). “The LORD shall yet comfort Zion and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (1:17).
Also in the Psalms we find overflowing paeans of praise and love for the holy city as in 122 where we are admonished to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (v.6). In the best of days the tribes would sing these songs of ascent when climbing Mt. Zion to worship.
Perhaps it was the words of Ezekiel spoken here about Edom (12-14) that inspired the captives “by the rivers of Babylon” to remember Zion (Ps. 137) in spite of being wasted by their captors, to take down their harps from the willow tree and sing a lament about Jerusalem. “If I forget thee O Jerusalem... if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy... Remember O LORD the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem,” who watched the Babylonians destroy the walls and smash the Holy Place with a sense of glee “Rase it, rase it” clear down to the foundation they shouted (vs.5-7)! “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the LORD.” (Rom.12:19).
Our prayer should be, how long O LORD, how long before you build those sacred walls of the New Jerusalem where the remnant of those nations which fought in the old city will come to worship “the King, the LORD of hosts” (Zech.14:16)? Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.