Why is it important that you face the facts about yourself?
You did not remember, yet I will remember: "...you did not remember the days of your youth..." (Eze 16:22, 43) "Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth... Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed... So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord" (Eze 16:60-63)
After listening to Tony Evans, a friend was encouraged to ask me three questions. 1. What am I good at? 2. What is holding me back from growing? 3. What are the blind spots in my life? I answered, 1. You have zeal, passion and enthusiasm to serve others. 2. I don't think there is much that holds you back. 3. Perhaps you may need to hold back at times. He is a genuine person because he wants to face the facts about himself.
About 15 years ago, when my four children were teenagers, I asked them a question, "Why is there a gap between my generation and your generation?" I listened as they spoke for several hours. I sum up their responses as (1) You don't trust us. (2) You want to tell us what to do and how to live. (3) You want to tell us who to marry. I took their answers to heart and decided to trust my kids, not impose my expectations on them, and give them the freedom to choose who they want to marry. Then I also decided that this would be my ministry approach to everyone else as well. I want to trust others. Though I will not tell others what to do, I will preach the gospel with my whole heart (Ac 20:24, 27). Listening to my four kids was a defining moment of my life. This was God's truly amazing grace to me.
Israel's problem (both the exiles in Babylon and those remaining in Jerusalem) was that they would not listen to the prophets whom God had sent to them. They didn't want to face the facts and hear the truth about themselves.
Thus, Ezekiel's words, allegories and parables to the exiles was to confront them to face the facts, listen to the truth and accept rebuke. In ch. 15-19 God and Ezekiel were saying in various ways that Israel is useless, faithless, lustful, inssatiable, presumptuous and therefore well deserving of judgment that has been long overdue.
- [Ezekiel 15 - A useless vine] You are useless. Why is Jerusalem like a useless vine (Eze 15:8)?
- [Ezekiel 16 - A nymphomaniac bride] You forgot God's grace and used your beauty for yourself. What is the problem with forgetting your past and how you once were (Eze 16:22, 43)?
- [Ezekiel 17 - The eagle and the vine] You broke your oaths. How important is it that you keep your oaths and your promises (Eze 17:18)?
- [Ezekiel 18 - Only the sinner needs to die] You blame others and do not take responsibility. What happens when you blame others (Eze 18:2)?
- [Ezekiel 19 - A lament] Your leadership sucks. What causes bad or failed leadership?
A Lament for the Dynasty of David (Ezekiel 19)
- Presumption. The promises of God to the ancestors are no guarantee of divine blessing for their descendants. Ezekiel 18 affirms that children die for their own sins; they do not inherit the guilt of their parents. God had promised to bless Jacob/Isreal (Gen 49:8-12), and then narrowed this privilege to the house of David (2 Samuel 7). After four centuries of uninterrupted rule, the dynasty was governing the people as if by divine right, without any sense of accountablity to the people of God. For such leaders, the promises of David count for nothing.
- Servanthood. The call to leadership is a call to servanthood. Ezekiel 19:3, 6 is a sharp indictment of the exploitative behavior of Israel's kings. Much of the responsibility for the fall of Judah/Israel would rest on their shoulders. According to Moses, leaders serve by divine appointment for the good of the people (Dt 17:14-20). The last kings of Judah were not the only ones who had betrayed their calling. Sadly, the history of the world and of the church is strewn with the victims of monarchical excesses. Solomon--the wisest of Israel's kings--demonstrated himself the consummate fool by disregarding Torah. So are all who use divine election as an excuse for high-handed rule. Government exists for the people. People do not exist for the government.
- Commitment. The presence of God's chosen representative is no substitute for personal commitment to him. The people of Judah, even the exiles, continued to look on the ruling members of the dynasty as sure signs of divine favor, a kind of good luck charm. So long as a Davidide sat on the throne, God's protection was sure. They failed to realize that none of the divine promises was automatic; all are contingent. Without submission to the will of God of both leader and led, shepherd and sheep, pastor and congregant, any claim to security with God is a delusion.
- 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.
- Wright, Christopher J.H. The Message of Ezekiel, BST (Bible Speaks Today). IVP, Downers Grove, IL, 2001.