The prophecies the LORD imparted to Ezekiel continue in today’s Scripture reading. With the elders of Israel as his audience (14:1), the LORD revealed to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of divine judgment. The first prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an unfruitful vine (Ezekiel 15). A helpless, abused and adulterous woman was the second symbol of Jerusalem’s spiritual condition (Ezekiel 16). In Ezekiel 17 (a future devotional study), Jerusalem was identified as being a vine ravaged by predators.
Ezekiel 15 – An Unfruitful Vine
Israel was often seen in the Scriptures as a fruitful vine, a people the LORD chose and planted in Canaan. In Psalm 80:8, Israel was a vine the LORD “brought…out of Egypt…[and then] cast out the heathen [out of Canaan], and planted it.” Israel was also portrayed as a vineyard the LORD planted and cultivated, and yet it bore “wild (bitter)grapes” (Isaiah 5:1). So, the elders of Israel immediately recognized the analogy of Judah, and in particular, Jerusalem, drawn by Ezekiel, as an unfruitful, useless vine (15:2-3).
In God’s judgment, the wickedness of the people had rendered the vine (Israel) good for nothing, but to be cut off, and “cast into the fire for fuel” (15:4). The fire was said to have devoured the whole of the vine, and served as a prophetic picture of God’s judgment and the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah (15:6-8).
Ezekiel 16 – Jerusalem: An Abused Adulterous Wife
The second prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an abused adulterous wife (16:2). Like a husband who takes a virgin for his wife, the LORD had chosen Jerusalem (the land, and all Israel), and claimed her as His wife (16:1-7). It was noted how ancient Jerusalem had been the birthplace of Canaanite nations (16:3-4), and a place of idols, lawlessness, and immorality. Yet, the LORD chose Jerusalem as a habitation for His people (16:6), and caused that city to become a place of beauty (16:7-8).
Ezekiel 16:9-14, though addressing Jerusalem specifically, did in fact relate to how the LORD blessed Israel as His chosen people. He chose and loved Israel as a husband cherishes his wife. He cleansed (16:9) and clothed (16:10), and blessed the city with wealth (16:11). She was the LORD’s crowned jewel (16:12), and He gave the people of that city the best of everything (16:13), and her beauty was famous among the nations (16:14).
Jerusalem: An Unfaithful Wife (16:15-34)
Rather than loving and serving the LORD out of gratitude and love, Jerusalem had played the harlot. The people repaid the LORD’s favor with shame and humiliation exercised by their gross immorality. The sins committed by Israel were staggering, and the evidence of her wickedness were named by Ezekiel. God’s people had committed spiritual harlotry (16:15-16), made idols (16:17) and sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (16:20-21).
Rather than repent and turn to the LORD, the children of Israel turned to heathen neighbors for protection (Egypt, vs. 26; the Philistines, vs. 27; the Assyrians, vs. 28; the Chaldeans, vs. 29). Indeed, the wickedness of the people was akin to a wife playing a harlot on the street corners (16:22-34).
The Certainty of God’s Judgment (16:35-43)
After stating the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel declared His judgment (16:35-43). The nations (“thy lovers”, 16:36) to whom Israel had turned for help, would become the instruments of God’s judgment and Jerusalem’s destruction (16:36-38). The blood of the slain would run through the streets of Jerusalem, and that beautiful city would be humiliated, and her houses burned because the people had forsaken their covenant with the LORD. Ezekiel declared that God’s anger was justified, and He would satisfy His wrath (16:39-43).
The Great Wickedness of Judah (16:44-59)
With the proverb, “As is the mother, so is her daughter” (16:44), we realize the sins of Judah and Jerusalem equaled and exceeded the wickedness of the heathen nations born before her (Hittite and Amorites, 16:45). Even the sins of Jerusalem’s sisters, identified as Samaria (i.e., the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel, 16:46) and Sodom (16:48), paled in contrast to the wickedness of Jerusalem. Ezekiel reminded the leaders of Israel (14:1) how the LORD destroyed Sodom for its gross wickedness (pride, glutton, slothful, uncharitable, haughtiness, and idolatry, 16:49-50), yet the citizens of Jerusalem had exceeded the infamy of those people (16:51-52).
Closing thoughts (16:53-63) – How could the sins of Jerusalem be greater than those of Sodom and Samaria?
Judah and Jerusalem enjoyed God’s favor like no other people. Nevertheless, they despised the LORD, rejected His Law, disobeyed His commandments, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52). In spite of the sins and rebellion of Israel, God promised He would not forget His covenant with His people, and promised He would restore them to their land (16:53-63).
Truth – Greater Judgment Befalls Those Who Disdain the LORD’s Blessings.
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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