Ezekiel — Lesson 13
1. The cause of judgment: Judah's idolatrous rulers (22:1-31).
1. Deliberate disobedience of the Mosaic covenant (22:1-16).
1. The city is still standing, but it is clear from Ezekiel's words that its days are numbered.
1. The city that is still called the "holy city" had become the "bloody city"; the bloodthirsty deeds of its citizens had transformed the character of the city.
2. While the words are addressed to Jerusalem, they are heard by exiles in Babylon who, upon hearing, lost their few remaining hopes that rescue might come from Jerusalem.
2. The condemnation of the city moves from the general to the specific, and from the sacred to the secular.
1. Jerusalem had been guilty of of idolatry and bloodshed, and so had hastened the day of its judgment (vv. 4-5).
2. The city had not only lost its true faith in its acts of idolatry (v. 3), but in addition its inhabitants had committed a multitude of social crimes making it the "sin city" of the ancient world.
3. The crimes of their capital city demanded punishment (the sins charged parallel those in the holiness code of Lev. chs. 17 - 26).
4. The phrase "O infamous city full of turmoil" (v.5, NIV) can be translated literally, "O defiled of the Name, abounding in tumult."
1. "Name" with the definite article was regularly used as a substitute for the personal name of God, which represented his holy nature and character.
2. They defiled "the Name," meaning the person and character of God, especially his holiness.
1. Laughter at the proud city rung around the world -- "Look at her now."
2. Have you hear the latest Jerusalem joke?
3. Can this not be the lot of the church of the Lord when we live like the world while making claims of being different?
4. Where would that (this) world look for light if not to Jerusalem (the church)?
5. What is clear is the interrelationship between the faith of the city and the moral behavior of its citizens.
1. When the faith of a nation or individual is healthy, moral behavior towards human beings flows from that faith.
2. When the faith collapses, it undermines the foundation of moral life so that crime and immorality flourish.
3. Thus, the root of Jerusalem's evil in the worship of false god's, or the worship of the true God in the form of an idol.
4. Thus, the catalog of crime is secondary; the root of the problem is the loss of faith.
5. The interrelationship between faith and morality is illustrated over and over again in the Old Testament; it is a lesson that needs to be learned if any life is to be successful.
1. The Ten Commandments deal first with the life of faith before moving on the the social and moral areas of human behavior (theft, adultery, murder, etc.).
2. Israel's educational system as developed in the Book of Proverbs, started with the foundation of faith (1:7 --the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom); when that foundation has been established it is possible to learn the way of morality.
3. The loss of faith is accompanied by a decline in morality; there is no longer a commonly shared vision as to what constitutes the good, and so evil may flourish unnoticed.
4. The tragedy in this process of decline is the transformation of character that is an integral part of the process; the "holy city" become the "bloody city"; the good person becomes the evil person; both invite the judgment of a God who is both good and holy.
5. That judgment will be severe (v. 14 --Can your heart endure or can your hands be strong in the day when God shall deal with thee? Thank God for Jesus Christ!)
2. The purification of judgment (22:17-22).
1. The image is that of a smelter.
1. Various types of metals are dumped into a furnace to obtain something precious, but there is nothing but dross.
2. There is nothing precious.
2. In the same way God acts as a smelter.
1. The melting down of the people is a metaphorical description of God's coming judgment.
2. There is nothing precious to be found; Israel has become dross of no value.
3. Ezekiel takes a familiar Old Testament metaphor and converts it from one of hope to hopelessness.
1. Isaiah describes God as a smelter (Isa. 1:21-27), but his message has an element of hope: the judgment of God would remove the dross, but it would also be a process of refinement and restoration.
2. Ezekiel sees no prospect of refinement; beyond the smelting there remains only dross.
3. Israel's evil has been taken so far that the prophet, at this point, sees no prospect beyond judgment.
4. The prophecy is one of waste.
1. In every life there is potential both for dross and for silver.
2. Life's purpose, from one perspective, is to remove the dross and refine the silver.
3. That goal may be obtained by maintaining a relationship with the living God, but when one loses that relationship and dross dominates where silver should have been, life has lost its purpose.
4. To have lived without knowing the purpose of human existence (Eccl. 12:13-14) is the greatest of human tragedies and waste.
3. The void of righteous leaders (22:23-31).
1. Now Ezekiel's condemnation becomes quite specific in terms of the various segments of society.
2. The picture is that of an enormous court; before the court the people are lined up in various ranks -- princes (v. 25) responsible for the government and administration of the nation; priests (v. 26), to whom were entrusted the worship and spiritual welfare of the nation; prophets (v. 28), who were responsible for declaring God's word to his people; and the citizens as a whole.
1. The princes had power that should have been exercised in the course of their leadership for the good of the nation, but it was abused.
2. They no longer saw the people as sheep entrusted to their care, but as prey upon whom they could feed by destroying their lives and seizing their wealth.
1. The priests were responsible for maintaining the divine law and guarding the sanctity of worship.
2. They failed miserably; they had neither fulfilled their responsibilities with respect to worship and the Sabbath, nor had they taught the people the fundamentals of the faith.
1. The prophets had succumbed to the pressure of popular demand.
2. No one wanted to hear bad news, so they declared none.
3. They whitewashed the dark truth of Israel's terrible estate and declared instead the cheerful things that the people wanted to hear.
4. They claimed the authority of God for all their hollow pronouncements, but God had not spoken.
1. The people as a whole were just as guilty.
2. They committed every type of crime, exploited the poor, and exercised no concern for the rights of immigrants and other marginal members of their society.
3. In this prophetic condemnation by rank and file, a number of things become clear about God's judgment of the chosen people.
1. The judgment was to be all-inclusive (vv. 17-22 made this clear), and no single class of people could claim innocence or exclusion from it.
1. The judgment announced by Ezekiel was not only justified, but it was demanded by the national collapse of faith and morality among the people as a whole.
2. However, if there had been a single person to stand in the breach (v. 30) judgment could have been turned aside, but there was none.
1. God was looking for someone to take the lead and stand in the breaches of the wall so he would not destroy the land.
2. This was similar to the proposal found in Gen. 19:22-33 where God promised to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if but ten righteous persons were found.
3. God's plan for reaching people and nations is still the same.
4. He uses godly men and women to stand in the breaches in morality and spirituality and make the difference by calling the nation and individuals to repentance.
5. Many are willing to do an easier task, seeking to ban pornography and drugs, etc.
6. The harder job is what God asks -- help me change people from the inside.
2. Ezekiel's declaration removes a natural human tendency in time of trouble to blame someone else.
1. When a nation has gone wrong we blame the government; when the economy goes bad, we blame the workers; when the church is in decline we blame the preachers and elders; fault must always lie elsewhere.
2. Yet the fault, albeit rampant elsewhere, also lies within.
3. Ezekiel seeks to bring home to the people not only the pervasiveness of evil, but also the responsibility of individuals for evil, regardless of rank or vocation.
3. Each group that disobeys is responsible for its own condemnation.
1. If the princes had maintained their integrity; if the priests or prophets had retained faithfulness in their calling; if the people had kept the faith, there would still have been hope.
2. But there was no honest person left, and so there was no hope.
4. The declaration of judgment is a challenge to accept responsibility.
1. God seeks for one person to stand in the breach.
2. Though we may not be able to see the impact of one such person, we (I) am required to stand and not conform to the tenor of our times.
2. An allegorical summary of Israel's political prostitution (23:1-49).
1. The whole chapter is taken up with the story of Oholah and Oholibah, together with its various levels of interpretation.
1. On the surface it is a story of two sisters whose lives are characterized by blatant immorality and eventual failure.
2. But the story serves as an allegory: it is really a tale of two cities and their fate in history of the world nations.
1. Oholah ("her tent"; a possible reference to a place of worship such as the pagan shrines prevalent in the north) represents Samaria, the capital city of the northern state of Israel.
2. Oholibah ("my tent is in her"; a reminder that God had selected Jerusalem as the place for his place of worship) represents Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.
3. The method of the story is to cause comprehension by shock.
1. It is a lewd tale told in a vulgar fashion.
2. It would have raised eyebrows and offended sensibilities when it was first told, as it continues to do today.
3. Yet the complacency of many people is so firmly set that only a shocking approach can break the shell of hardness.
4. Ezekiel is saying, if you think this story is crude, what do you think that God's reaction must be to your lives.
3. The story is one of horror and unfaithfulness in terms of international relationships.
4. It is expressed as a horrifying tale of moral turpitude, easily understood and easily abhorred by any listener.
2. Israel's sordid youth (23:1-4).
1. The story beings with two sisters living in Egypt where, as young women, they had already adopted the life of a prostitute.
2. Despite their unworthiness, God took them as his wives (v. 4 - they became mine).
3. Samaria's prostitution (23:5-10).
1. Oholah took lovers and was unfaithful to her husband.
2. She fancied the young warriors of Assyria and devoted her attentions to them until at last her husband turned her over to them.
3. Only then did she discover the cruelty of her lovers; they slew her,and in death she became a byword among women, one whose immoral life was told to the young to warn them of the final end of the profligate.
4. Israel fell to Assyria in 722 B.C.
5. George Bernard Shaw said that there were two horrible times in each one's life, the time when you don't get what you want and the time when you do get what you want. Psalm 106:15 said it best, "And he gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul."
4. Jerusalem's prostitution (23:11-35).
1. Oholibah was worse; knowing full well the fate of Oholah, she continued to behave in the same fashion.
2. Sometimes it was the Assyrians that caught her fancy; sometimes it was the Babylonians, until at last she too had gone so far beyond the limits that her husband turned from her in disgust (v. 18).
3. Even that did not halt her; she continued the lewd lifestyle that had been her only companion since youth.
4. Oholibah would drink the same cup that her sister had drunk, a cup of "horror and desolation" (v. 33).
5. From all the bleakness of this continuing tale of two sisters, two lessons emerge:
1. The source of all the sins (both of the city and the sister) was unfaithfulness.
1. Covenants of every kind required faithfulness between the partners.
2. The first of the ten commandments specified the primary requirement of Israel -- that it be faithful to the one true God.
3. Failure in this first requirement leads to collapse elsewhere.
2. There is a deeper diagnosis of Israel's failure -- acts of unfaithfulness culminated in disaster, but behind the unfaithfulness lay forgetfulness (v. 35 -- ye have forgotten me, see 22:12.).
1. When one forgets God and leaves his ways, the path into every kind of abomination opens before him.
2. A healthy memory was a necessary part of a healthy relationship (Deut. 8:11-20).
3. By forgetting God's past mercies, Israel had no brake in its headlong rush into disaster.
5. Judgment for prostitution (23:36-49).
1. The allegory draws to a close in this passage in which some elements of the preceding story are recapitulated and a number of minor new elements are added.
2. The behavior of the cities and sisters invited judgment, and so God summoned judgment (v. 46).
3. The judgment would be administered by righteous men (v. 45), not in the sense that they were righteous before God, but in the sense that they were more righteous than Israel and Judah.
4. Only one small positive note emerges -- all women may take warning and not commit lewdness as you have done (v. 48).
5. If they or their children should survive the exile and return to life in Jerusalem, it was a lesson that they could take with them.
6. The only future was for the faithful; if they were to hope once again for a future for their city and land, they would first have to relearn the daily practice of faithfulness to God.
3. The execution of Jerusalem's judgment (24:1-27).
1. The parable of the cooking pot (24:1-14).
1. Once again Ezekiel specifies a date for what he is about to declare.
1. The last date referred to was the summer of 591 B.C. (20:1).
2. Now, some 2 1/2 years later, he specifies a winter date, probably in January, 588 B.C.
3. It is presented distinctively -- he is told to write it down.
1. The date was important, because it was the date on which he was instructed to announce that the Babylonian king had begun the siege of the city of Jerusalem.
2. Although the expedition might have been known (the exiles probably heard of the expedition that had been dispatched to Palestine), the date that the siege had actually begun was something that could not have been known by normal means.
3. This is one indication that the prophecy was taking place in Babylon, not Jerusalem; the whole point in writing down the date was that he could not have known it by normal means, an exercise that would have been futile had he been in Jerusalem.
2. The Ezekiel was told to declare an allegory -- a pot is set on the fire and meat and bones are added to make a tasty stew.
1. The pot has not been properly cared for -- it is corroded with rust and cannot do its job properly.
2. The rust ruins the stew and it is poured out.
3. The pot is put back on the fire where the dry flesh and bones burn, and eventually the pot itself melts down to bits of useless metal.
4. The scene of domesticity has been turned into one of destruction -- the pot is not good for the task for which it was created and so it must be destroyed.
5. Interpretation of the allegory.
1. The pot is Jerusalem.
2. The flesh and bones are its citizens.
3. The fire beneath is the Babylonian enemy.
4. A healthy (uncorroded) city and use external heat to its own purposes, strengthening those within in times of adversity.
5. But when the city is corrupted, external adversity destroys both the city and its inhabitants.
2. Signs to the exiles (24:15-27).
1. The death of Ezekiel's wife (24:15-24).
1. This event was after the dated allegory (24:1-14), but it is uncertain how long after.
2. It may have been some 18 months which would have been in the fateful summer of 586 B.C. when Jerusalem finally fell.
3. God's word on this occasion would have caused Ezekiel instant shock -- his wife is about to die.
1. In the book as a whole, she is an anonymous person; nothing is known of the relationship between her and Ezekiel except for the statement that she is the delight of his eyes.
2. The shock is compounded by the instruction that when she dies Ezekiel is not to mourn her in the conventional manner, but to hold his grief within himself.
3. Further, he is told to announce the event to the people which he did on the same morning that he received the revelation.
4. In the evening, Ezekiel's wife died; the following morning he exhibited none of the customary signs of mourning as required by convention and compelled by grief.
1. We do not know how she died except at a stroke, which may indicate suddenness.
2. Nor do we know whether she had been sick and vulnerable to death.
3. All that is known is that her death was announced, and she died later on the same day.
5. Ezekiel's hearers were curious about the sequence of events and questioned him as to the absence of mourning.
1. Usually he would have been weeping loudly, he would have removed his priestly turban, taken his sandals off, and dressed in sackcloth and ashes.
2. Ezekiel explained.
1. As his wife had been the delight of his eyes, so the temple in Jerusalem had been the delight of the exiles eyes (v. 21).
2. That striking temple, beautiful in architectural form and profound in its symbolism of God's presence would die as did Ezekiel's wife.
3. As had Ezekiel, so too would the exiles control their grief.
1. For both parties the tragedies would be too great for resort to formal grief.
2. As one part of the prophet's life and hope had died with his wife, so too hope would die for those in exile when the temple was destroyed.
3. The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem would seem to mark, in an external sense, the end of the religion of Israel -- God's presence would no longer be among them.
2. The removal of Ezekiel's muteness (24:25-27).
1. From the time of his wife's death until news was received by those in exile of the temple's destruction, Ezekiel was to be totally speechless.
2. Only when he received new of the temple would he be able to speak again.
3. When his speech returned, the people would be speechless from the news of Jerusalem's destruction.
4. Ezekiel was obedient and faithfully fulfilled his instructions; we completely misread the man if we think that his obedience came easily.
1. He was a man who loved deeply, and true grief is born of true love.
2. Yet even his grief was to be used in the service of God; no part of his human existence was excluded from the totality of his vocation.
3. We begin to perceive how the real tribulations of mortal existence may be more direct messengers than the words of sermons and speeches.
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)