Friday, June 30, 2017
Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 13-18
We continue our reading of the prophecies of Ezekiel with a reminder he is a prophet and priest, numbered among the Jews who are captives in Babylon. The LORD has charged Ezekiel with the unenviable task of delivering a message of woes and judgments against Israel and his own people. God commanded Ezekiel, “prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man” (11:4); however, the people would not repent.
False prophets become Ezekiel’s focus in chapter 13 when the LORD commanded the prophet, “prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy” (Ezekiel 13:2). Lying prophets and prophetesses pretended to be the LORD’s prophets; however, their prophecies were lies pacifying the people’s lusts and belying the inevitability of God’s judgment against the nation (13:1-23).
Some elders of Israel living in Babylonian captivity come to Ezekiel in chapter 14 feigning a desire to hear the Word of the LORD; however, the LORD revealed to the prophet they were idolaters and not sincere worshipers of the God of Israel (14:1-5). Rather than entertain the hypocrisy of the elders, Ezekiel called them to repent of their idolatry and warned them concerning the false prophets (14:6-11). The LORD charged Ezekiel to declare a series of four judgments He would send upon Israel (14:12-21), but also promising He would spare a remnant of the city (14:22-23).
With the elders of Israel serving as his audience (note 14:1), the LORD reveals to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of judgment (Ezekiel 15-17). The first is a vine (15:1-8), often a symbol of Israel in the scriptures (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:1). The destruction of the vine by fire is a prophetic picture of God’s judgment against Jerusalem and Judah (5:6-8).
The second prophetic picture portrays Israel as an abused woman whom the LORD out of His mercy chose to be His wife (16:1-7) and out of His love and grace showered with jewels and fine robes (16:8-14). Rather than serving her husband out of love and gratitude, the wife repaid her husband’s favor heaping shame and humiliation on him with her gross immorality. Israel, like an unfaithful wife, had turned from the LORD Who chose her. The sins committed by Israel are staggering and the evidence of her wickedness are named by Ezekiel. The nation had played the harlot (16:15-16), made idols (16:17) and the people offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to idols (16:20-21).
Rather than repent and turn to the LORD for His protection and blessings, Israel turned to her heathen neighbors (Egypt, vs. 26; the Philistines, vs. 27; the Assyrians, vs. 28; the Chaldeans, vs. 29) and her compromise was akin to the wife playing a harlot on street corners (16:22-34).
Having stated the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel was charged with declaring God’s judgment (16:35-43). Those nations (i.e. “thy lovers”, vs. 36) with whom Israel had compromised would despise her and be the instruments God would use to punish His people. Israel’s sin and rebellion against God was greater than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah because she had enjoyed God’s favor; however, she despised the LORD, rejected His Law, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52). In spite of the nation’s wickedness, God promised to not forget His covenant with Israel and to restore her (16:53-63).
The third picture of God’s judgment against Israel is a riddle of two eagles and three vine shoots (i.e. “twigs”) planted in Israel (17:1-24). As discussed earlier, the vine, and in this chapter the cedar of Lebanon, are pictures of Israel; while Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon is pictured as an eagle in the Bible. The prophet Jeremiah writes concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “he shall fly as an eagle” (Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22). Leaving no doubt Nebuchadnezzar is the eagle and Israel and her king are the objects of God’s approaching judgment, we read: “Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon” (Ezekiel 17:12).
In spite of the utter destruction and devastation of Jerusalem and Judah, the LORD promises to take a “twig” and replant it in Israel (17:22-23) and exalt “the low tree” (17:24). Bible scholars believe, and I am inclined to agree, the “twig” represents the humble birth of Jesus Christ who will one day return as the King of kings and LORD of lords.
I conclude today’s devotional commentary with a passage of scripture from which I will be preaching this Sunday morning, Ezekiel 18.
There was no debate over the question of God judging Israel for sin; however, a question of responsibility for the calamities facing the nation rose among the people.
The younger population said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2). In other words, some were blaming the nation’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their forefathers. In our day when “blame shifting” is epidemic and everyone is a victim, Ezekiel 18 is applicable to the homes of believers and non-believers .
The universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin are declared by the LORD: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4). While all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and He blesses the man who chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).
Herein is a spiritual lesson for us all: Every generation bears responsibility for its sins and God does not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13) no more than he holds a son accountable for the sins of his father. When a son see his father’s sins, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17); however, the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).
So, who you gonna blame for your troubles?
I close with a challenge to parents who, though not perfect parents, are loving parents but find themselves burdened with an adult child that is a sorrow to their hearts. Guard your heart against false guilt! Don’t allow a child wallowing in the mire of self-pity give you cause to despair. No man or woman has the privilege to blame others for the consequences of their own sinful choices.
God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30). A family will suffer consequences for a family member’s sinful choices; however, the key is in how you respond to those troubles and sorrows.
Remember: “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith