Scripture reading – Ezekiel 33; Ezekiel 34

Ezekiel 33 moved the focus of our Scripture readings from God’s judgment of Egypt and the nations (Ezekiel 29-32), to the prophet Ezekiel’s responsibility to serve the LORD as His watchman. Ezekiel’s task was not an enviable one. He was charged to deliver a message to the people of the captivity, and it was one they despised. Ezekiel’s task was to remind the nation of its past, discern the times, and declare God’s judgment should the people continue in their sins.

Ezekiel 33 – God Provided His People a Watchman

Far from Jerusalem, and living as a captive in Babylon, Ezekiel was charged with speaking the word of the LORD “to the children of [his] people” (33:2). God provided His people watchmen, whose ministry was to warn the sword of judgment was come into the land (33:2). Some of the watchmen were faithful to their tasks, but there were many who failed to sound the warning (“blow the trumpet”), and thus left the people unprepared, and unprotected.

Ezekiel was told, when a faithful watchman sounds the warning, and the people refuse to heed the sound of the trumpet, their blood was on their own head. Yet, should the prophet fail the nation, and not warn them, the blood of the people would be upon his head as God’s watchmen (33:3-6).

Ezekiel was Israel’s Watchman (33:7-11)

The LORD called and commissioned Ezekiel to be a “watchman unto the house of Israel” (33:7), and it was his task to hear the LORD and warn the nation (33:7). He was to warn the wicked saying, “thou shalt surely die,” but should Ezekiel fail, the blood of the wicked would be upon his hand (33:8). Yet, if Ezekiel was a faithful prophet, and the wicked refused to heed his warning, he would be delivered from the guilt of their blood when they perished (33:9). His mission was to call the people to repent, and assure them the LORD would extend His compassion (33:10-11).

Righteous Repentance vs. Righteous Work (33:12-16)

Lest any believe salvation by grace through faith is a New Testament doctrine, or that the saints of the Old Testament placed their faith in works to merit God’s favor, the LORD declared to Ezekiel: “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression” (33:12).

Good works do not save, they never have and they never will.  Only God can save! Those who trust in their own righteousness “shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it” (33:13). Yet, the wicked who repent of their sins, turn to the LORD and prove their faith by walking in His will “shall surely live, he shall not die” (33:15). Indeed, the wicked who have repented are promised, “16None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live” (33:16).

News of Jerusalem’s Destruction (33:21-26)

The year was 585 BC, “the twelfth year of [the] captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month” (33:21), a messenger from Jerusalem arrived in Babylon. Having escaped the city under siege, he brought the dreaded news Ezekiel had prophesied should come to pass: “The city is smitten” (33:21c). The prophet shared how, the evening before the messenger arrived, “the hand of the LORD was upon” him (31:23). The LORD put in Ezekiel’s mouth His words, and revealed the cause of God’s judgment.

In their pride, the children of Israel boasted confidently of the Abrahamic lineage, and asserted the land of Israel was their inheritance (33:23-24). Yet, their sins brought God’s judgment, for they had defiled the land with their wickedness (32:25-26).

The Consequences of Israel’s Sins (33:27-29)

The fall of Jerusalem was only the beginning of sorrows for those who survived the destruction of the city. Those who fled the city would be slain by the sword, and others would be killed by wild beasts in the fields (33:27a). Some sheltered in caves, only to perish of disease (33:27b). Jerusalem’s pride in her strength came to an end, and the land was left desolate (33:28). All this that the people would know the judgment was come upon them “because of all their abominations which they [had] committed” (33:29).

Ezekiel: A Persecuted Prophet (33:30-33)

One would think the affirmation of all Ezekiel prophesied would command the respect of the people in captivity, but it did not. Instead, the LORD warned His prophet, “the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother” (30:30). Some came to Ezekiel and made a pretense of listening to the word of the LORD through His prophet (33:30), but they were hypocrites. With their mouths they claimed to love the LORD, but “their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31). They complimented the prophet on his voice, and heard his words, but refused to obey (33:32).

Ezekiel 34 – The Failure of Unfaithful Pastors

The prophet took the unfaithful shepherds of Israel to task in Ezekiel 34. Men who were entrusted with shepherding, and leading God’s people had failed them. They had taken advantage of the people, and abused their roles as pastors of Israel (34:1-8). Because they failed to feed and shepherd His people, the LORD warned, “I am against the shepherds” (34:9-10).  In spite of the dire state of the children of Israel, the LORD comforted Ezekiel and assured him He would one day gather His people together as a loving shepherd gathers His sheep (34:11-31).

Closing thoughts (33:33) – What comfort might the prophet take from this great tragedy? Jerusalem was destroyed, and Judah was a desolate land. The people of the captivity not only refused to repent and turn to the LORD, they persecuted His prophet.

Though he was rejected by his people, Ezekiel was assured the time would come, and “lo, it will come,” when the people would know and remember, “a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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