A Horrifying Message-Ezekiel 4-7

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Big Idea: Don't ever make God your enemy!

Key question: Can there be nothing worse in all of life than hearing God say, "I myself am against you" (Ezekiel 5:9)??

"--therefore, here is what the Lord Yahweh has declared: 'I am against you! I myself! And I will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations" (Ezekiel 5:8). "My eye will not have pity, Nor will I spare. On the contrary, I will hold you accountable for your conduct, While your abominations persist within you. Then you will know that I am Yahweh who smites(Ezekiel 7:9).

  1. Calling (1-3): The Call of Ezekiel: Encounter (ch. 1); Mission (ch. 2); Crux(ch. 3).
  2. Judgment (4-32): Oracles of doom.
    1. God's judgment on Judah and Jerusalem (4-24).
      • Against Jerusalem (4-5): Dramatizing the fall of Jerusalem.
      • Against the mountains (6): Judgment proclaimed against the mountains of Israel.
      • Against the land (7): Sounding the alarm for the land.
    2. God's judgment on the nations (25-32): Moab (25), Tyre (26-28). Egypt (29-32).
  3. Salvation (33-48): Oracles of good news. The gospel accourding to Ezekiel. God's restoration of Israel.
    1. Proclaim the good news (33-39): Renewal, return, restoration and resurrection.
    2. Envision the good news (40-48): Vision of new temple, Torah, land and city.

EZEKIEL OUTLINE

  1. Ezek Ch 1-24 Jerusalem must fall. 592-586 BC
  2. Ezek Ch 25-32 Judah’s enemies must fall as well.
  3. Ezek Ch 33 Bridge from Ch 24 to Ch 34
  4. Ezek Ch 34-48 Jerusalem must be comforted. The Messiah will come and save a remnant. 585-570 BC

I. God's Judgment: Against Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4-5)

God's reaction to the rebellion of his city is cast in the form of a challenge to a duel.

  1. The combatants are identified. God steps forward as the challenger. Jerusalem is identified as his opponent (Eze 5:5). The announcement opens with an emphatic declaration, confrontation and challenge: "I am against you! I myself!" ("Behold me, against you, even I"). It may be like one person challenging another in man-to-man combat. This sharply contrasts "I am with you" (Gen 28:15; 26:3; 31:3), an expression of presence and support. This signifies God's repudiation of his patronly obligations to his people. This affirms orally what Ezekiel's sign-actions have communicated non-verbally, especially the siege model and the iron griddle (Eze 4:1-3). God has assumed the posture of an enemy, intent on destroying his own people. "I myself" reflects the emotional intensity of the challenger and focuses the audience's attention on him. There can be nothing more frightening than this!
  2. God announces his goal: to execute judgment (punishment) on Jerusalem.
  3. The site of the bout is identified and emphasized: "in your midst," in the very midst of the city. The city will be transformed from a place of refuge to an arena of combat.
  4. The spectators are introduced. The duel will happen "in the sight of the nations." Since God's relationship with his people had never been a secret or private affair, it is fitting that those whose conduct Jerusalem had emulated should be called on to witness God contend with his people.

What are the implications of the message communicated by Ezekiel's dramatic performances?

  1. Privilege must be accompanied by responsibility (Lk 12:48). Jerusalem had been appointed to a unique role among the nations. Only the nation she represented was party to a covenant relationship with God. Only she had experienced the revelation of his will. Only in her was his sanctuary to be found. But God's treasured possession, his kingdom of priests, his holy nation, had wallowed in the mud of rebellion, desecrated the sanctuary, and defiled itself. Instead of serving as a model of purity, she had won the international contest in wickedness. Her example serves as a stern warning that anyone who claims to have the name of God's own chosen people may become worse than those who are not God's people. Are Christians worse than non-Christians today?
  2. Those who presume upon the light of God's grace must reckon with the darkness of his fury. The danger of perceiving God from only one side is always present and can lead to a romantic view of one's relationship with God. But God will not and has never condoned infidelity, rebellion, wickedness, abominations. God watches over his covenant with passion. Those who claim to be his people may not exchange him for another god without cost to themselves. To do so is to transform "See, I am with you" to "See, I am against you."
  3. The relationship between God and his people is open to public view. God placed Jerusalem at the center of the nations so that they might witness the joy of a covenant relationship with God. God staked his reputation on her. Since she failed publicly, she must also bear her humiliation before the eys of the world. Thus, the nations will learn who God is: he is not only gracious but also passionate, demanding absolute and exclusive allegiance. While Jerusalem bears the insults of mockers, the pain extends to the heart of God. He too will ultimately feel the sting of the cynics' slander (Eze 36:20).
  4. God, not some other god or anyone else, is the master of life and death. God not only wields a deadly sword but also has at his disposal a series of agents through which his sentences against a wicked nation are executed.
  5. The word of the Lord is surehe does not speak in vain. From the time God entered into covenant with his people, he had warned them of the consequences of infidelity. These warnings are about to be fulfilled, precisely as uttered. In 593 B.C. Ezekiel pronounced this word of judgment; in 586 his prophetic status was confirmed.

II. God's Judgment: Against the Mountains (Ezekiel 6)

The bad news continues.

  1. God is grieved, heartbroken (Eze 6:9). There is an impassioned side of God's character. He is grieved. He gets angry.
  2. The people were sincerely in error...while being sincere in their religious commitment. The people's hearts were adulterous and idolatrous (Eze 6:9). Idolatry is more than spiritual adultery; it is devotion to futility.
  3. God is faithful to his covenant, to the very letter! Far from responding to human rebellion impulsively or arbitrarily, he reacts predictably, in accordance with his righteous character, and in keeping with the terms of the covenant. This affirms his unchanging nature. He is the Lord. He has spoken. He acts accordingly.
  4. God never cancels out his grace no matter how severe his judgment. God may sweep across the landscape with the sword and visit the earth with manifold judgments, but he has always preserved for himself a remnant of those who would serve him.
  5. We should see ourselves as God sees us. Despite our elevated status within creation as images of God (Gen 1:26-31; Psalm 8), nothing within us warrants God's love. The focus on our own innate goodness and on the positive self-images is delusory. To be chosen as an object for divine grace does not reflect on the goodness of the individual but on the character of the living God. A true encounter with God will provide more realism to one's self-understanding than our own self-delusion regarding our own goodness. In the face of God's unblemished purity, holiness and goodness, his unswerving faithfulness and his immeasurable grace, sinners begin to see sin for what it really is, an abominable evil that defiles our entire being. Apart from the recognition of our depravity, mercy has no room to work.

III. God's Judgment: Against the land of Israel (Ezekiel 7)

In addition to reinforcing many of the themes developed in the previous chapters, Ezekiel 7 adds several new dimensions to our understanding of the ways of God and the nature of humankind.

  1. Cynicism and independence results from the loss of vision of God and of the sense of awe and wonder of his grace. In such a society without a real sense of God, revival must start with a renewed vision of and obeisance and submission to the living God, who will in any case have the last word on human history.
  2. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind (Hos 8:7). A society (or individual) may not violate the moral and spiritual will of God with impunity and expect to escape the consequences of their behavior. Those who practice evil bring ruin on themselves. If we pursue a course apart from God, we must know that God will ultimately call us to account and heap on us the due rewards of our deeds. God's punishment is neither arbitrary nor capricious. It is perfectly consistent with his declared standards of justice and in keeping with the offenses that we have committed.
  3. Never be complacent or indifferent toward evil, even if God delays his visitation. Even as believers we are ever tempted to (a) assume that God overlooks sin and that he is obligated to visit us with his favor, and (b) relegate God's intervention in human affairs to a distant eschatological event (2 Pet 3:3-4). The distinction between the eschaton and the present is false. All who practice evil stand in danger of the judgment of God -- now. 
  4. Depending on our false sense of security. God can undermine all the supports on which we may base our security. Under God's judgment the wealth of the rich turns to rubbish, the futility of idolatry is exposed, and the resources found in human institutions are annulled. God can turn their evil on the wicked in a moment, and when he does nothing will deliver them. Relief cannot be purchased. Deliverance cannot come from false gods. Those who seek shalom from people (their leaders) will be disappointed.
  5. God can use for his own purposes--even those who do not acknowledge him. On the contrary, God exercises full authority over the most wicked of nations and uses them as instruments of wrath on his people. It is not that God delights in punishing his people, ungrateful through we may be. God treasures his covenant relationship with his people, and his harsh treatment is driven ultimately by a desire to draw them back to himself. But in the face of persistent rebellion by his own people, to their shame, violent and ungodly instruments may be called on to serve as agents of divine discipline (Habakuk 1-2).

References:

  1. Block, Daniel I. The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24, NICOT (New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1997.
  2. Wright, Christopher J.H. The Message of Ezekiel, BST (Bible Speaks Today). IVP, Downers Grove, IL, 2001.

 

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