Friday, June 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 7-12

Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry, while a captive in Babylon (Ezekiel 1:3), continues in chapter 7 when the LORD commands the young prophet to declare to Israel, “An end, the end is come” (7:2, 5).   The sins of the people exhausted God’s patience and the judgment of the nation was sure (7:3-4, 7-13).  The nation had rejected the LORD, ignored the warnings of His prophets and the siege of Jerusalem was soon at hand (7:10-21).  (Remember, Ezekiel is prophesying from Babylon while Jeremiah is prophesying in Jerusalem in the years leading up to the final destruction of that city).

The LORD instructed Ezekiel to “make a chain” (7:23), a symbol of the captivity that would remove them from the land as exiles in Babylon for 70 years.  Less someone accuse Him of injustice, the LORD declared, “I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD” (7:27).

Ezekiel 8 offers insight into how far the people had departed from worshipping the LORD and refusing to obey His Law and Commandments.  The Temple of the LORD was defiled with idols (8:1-18) and even the elders of the people, those entrusted with teaching the Law and exercising righteous judgment had committed idolatry in secret places.

God’s judgment of the rebellious people begins in Ezekiel 9 when the LORD calls six men (most likely angels carrying out God’s judgment) and commands them to go throughout the city.  Another man, portrayed as a scribe, was to place a mark on the foreheads of those who “sigh and that cry for all the abominations” being committed in the midst of God’s people (9:1-4).   While the wicked were slain (9:5-6a), those who grieved over the sins of the people and received the mark on their foreheads were spared (9:6b).  Perhaps to encourage His servant, the LORD reveals His heavenly glory in Ezekiel 10.

Ezekiel 11 records God’s warning of judgment against the leaders of the city, “five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people” (11:1).  The LORD informed Ezekiel, “these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city” (11:2).  The leaders were guilty of dismissing the prophecies of God’s judgment and encouraging the people to “build houses” (11:3) when they should have been repenting of their sins and turning to the LORD.

God commanded Ezekiel, “prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man” (11:4).  Empowered and emboldened by the “Spirit of the LORD” (11:5), Ezekiel courageously proclaimed God’s judgment (11:6-12) and one leader named Pelatiah suddenly fell dead (11:13).  The LORD comforted Ezekiel promising, although many would die in the destruction of Jerusalem and many others would be taken captive to Babylon, a remnant would one day be restored to the land (11:14-21).

Our scripture reading closes with Ezekiel 12 and a remarkable symbolic act portraying the destruction, desolation and captivity that was at hand.  The LORD instructed Ezekiel to, for all to see, pack and remove his “stuff” (12:3).  Removing his personal belongings, he was to dig a hole in the wall leaving the people wondering why he was doing so (12:4-8).  When the people asked, Ezekiel was to tell them it was a sign of what would happen to “the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that are among them” (12:9-10). Although prophesying from Babylon, Ezekiel revealed to the people what the king and those taken captive from Jerusalem would suffer (12:11-16).

Dismissing the LORD’s patience and longsuffering, some in Israel scorned the prophecies of God’s judgment saying, “the days are prolonged, and every vision faileth” (12:22).  God commanded Ezekiel to warn the people they would soon see the fulfillment of the LORD’s prophecies against the nation (12:23-24).  Six years later, Babylon’s army overran the walls of Jerusalem, taking the people captive, and fulfilling every word of Ezekiel’s prophecies.

A quote of the late Dr. Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) is appropriate as I close today’s devotional commentary: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay, Sin will cost you more than you want to pay.”

My friend, I fear 21st century Christians and churches are guilty of dismissing the consequences of sin and, in the words of Dr. Robert G. Lee, the promise there is a Pay Day Someday.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith