Signs of Judgment

Posted: June 19, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 4-5, “Signs of Judgment”

Signs.  They surround us, as we find them on the highway, the sidewalks, pointing us to restaurants, gas stations, and more.  The old song says, “Signs, signs, everywhere a sign…”  They wildly vary in what they say, and some are rather unexpected.  If there’s one thing that all of these signs have in common, it’s that they are meant to be seen.  No one erects a sign hoping that it will be ignored.

If that’s the case with men, how much more with God?  When God gives a sign, it’s meant to be seen.  It’s meant for careful attention, and obedience.  To ignore the signs of God is to do so at your own peril.

That’s true for us, and it was no less true for the Jewish nation, even after the Babylonian captivity had started.  They may have been currently experiencing the judgment of God, but God wasn’t done speaking to them.  He had much to say, and part of how He chose to say it was through visual signs He gave to prophets such as Ezekiel.  It’s not that God won’t have any sermons (there’s much of that, even beginning in Ch. 6), but God is well aware that lessons can be learned both audibly and visibly.  Sometimes it’s the picture that is most striking – as we say, a single picture can be worth 1000 words.

As Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry begins, God gives him not just one picture, but four.  Each of these signs were to be done among the Jewish captives in the heart of Babylon.  They were already experiencing God’s judgment, but there was more to come.  They needed to know the extent of the wrath of God they had incurred in order that they would come to grips with their sin.  It’s not a fun message for Ezekiel to give, but it was definitely necessary.  We cannot repent of sin of which we do not know – we don’t know to ask for mercy from God’s judgment if we aren’t aware of His judgment in the first place.  The Jews needed to know their dilemma if they were to ever humble themselves before their Deliverer – these signs were meant to do exactly that.

Ezekiel 4–5

  • Sign of the model (4:1-3)

1 “You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem. 2 Lay siege against it, build a siege wall against it, and heap up a mound against it; set camps against it also, and place battering rams against it all around.

  • First God tells Ezekiel to take a brick & make a model.  There are different thoughts as to what the "clay tablet" was made of.  Some have suggested a brick of some sort – others have noted that the Babylonians (and Sumerians and others) used clay tablets for writing, as a type of handheld slate chalkboard (only with impressions rather than chalk).  Whatever it was, Ezekiel was to take one and draw upon it a map of Jerusalem.  From that, God told the prophet to make a miniature model around the tablet, depicting the next onslaught of the city by the Babylonians.  Recall that Jerusalem was attacked three times by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  It was likely the 2nd wave of attack that Ezekiel was captured and removed from the city.  The 3rd (and final) attack was by far the most severe.  In the final attack, Nebuchadnezzar made the effort to completely break the city, surrounding them with his armies & setting up a blockade/siege that lasted between 1.5-2 years (2 Kings 25:1-3).  (FYI, much of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry took place during this time period.)  Things were so bad that the author of Kings says that there was no more food for the people of the land.  They were literally starved into submission.
  • Consider for a moment how difficult this message (and the other signs and prophecies) would have been for Ezekiel.  After all, he was a Jew who personally experienced much of this.  He knew the suffering of his people, and felt the pain and mourning himself.  Yet he had the responsibility to speak the word of God and show that there was yet more to come.  It was a difficult message, but one that needed to be said.
    1. Likewise, the message we’ve been given to speak regarding sin is often difficult, but it still needs to be spoken.  People never like hearing bad news, and we don’t like telling it.  The upside is that we never have to leave it at only the bad news.  We have good news to offer as well!  The good news is even more good, because the bad news is so bad.

3 Moreover take for yourself an iron plate, and set it as an iron wall between you and the city. Set your face against it, and it shall be besieged, and you shall lay siege against it. This will be a sign to the house of Israel.

  • Next God tells Ezekiel to get a griddle & make a barrier.  As with many things about the prophetic signs, there is some debate over the various interpretations.  Some have believed that the iron plate referred to a block between Ezekiel and his people.  More likely, it seems to refer to a barrier between GOD and His nation.  It seems to have been a sign that no matter how much the people cried out to God during the days of the siege, He would not answer them.  There would be a block between Him and His people, and their prayers would not get through.
  • Have you ever felt as if your prayers hit the ceiling?  In this case, the ceiling was an iron pan.  They might as well have spoken to a brick wall, because God wasn’t hearing their prayers.  Sin does that.  Sin causes a barrier between us and our Lord, and it seems that our prayers can be hindered.  Peter says as much to husbands, in regards to how we treat our wives.  If we treat them treat them dishonorably and without understanding, our prayers will be hindered (1 Pt 3:7).  If God does it in that instance, surely He might do it in others as well.  What reason does God have to hear our prayers if we persist in stubborn rebellion against Him?  Why would He grace us with blessing when we’re spitting in His face?  In our sin, the only prayer we’re guaranteed that God will hear from us is one of repentance.  God will remove the iron plate – but He wants us to humble ourselves first.  God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6).

  

  • Sign of side-lying (4:4-8)

4 “Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. 5 For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.  6 And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.

  1. At first glance, this seems to refer to the years of Israel’s & Judah’s sin against God.  But that’s the NKJV.  Other Bible translations indicate something different – and there’s a reason for it.  "Iniquity" (עָוֹן , ‘Avon) could be translated "iniquity" or "guilt" or "punishment for iniquity."  So the question becomes: does this refer to the years of Israel’s sins, or the years that God judges Israel for their sins?  Much of that is wrapped up in the actual number of years, and unfortunately, scholars are unsure as to the significance.  Possibly a reference to how many years Israel (and later Judah) sinned against God, engaging in gross idolatry.  Some have suggested that it was 390 years from Jeroboam to the last of the Jewish kings, and within that, Judah’s 40 years is the time between Israel’s fall & Jerusalem’s fall. The problem with that is that God gives Ezekiel commands to lay on each consecutive side, implying that the years are not concurrent with one another.  JFB suggests that this refers to the Egyptian slavery of 430 years, though the relationship to this particular judgment is uncertain.  Bottom line: no one knows.  We DO know that God gave a very specific time period, and it meant something very specific to Him, which would have been evident to Ezekiel, Israel, and Judah.  It was a sign against them, and God would give them a sign they would understand.
  • This was to be a long time!  13 months for Israel, almost 1.5 months for Judah.  It seems unlikely that Ezekiel would be lying on his side for 24 hours a day during this time.  Obviously he still needed to eat and take care of other physical needs throughout the day.  God actually gave Ezekiel other tasks to do during this time, which would have been impossible for him if he had been laying on his side.  Thus it seemed that Ezekiel did this for a portion of each day – however long it was, we don’t know, but surely God gave him the right time period to do it.  
  • The side Ezekiel lay upon was significant.  One side symbolized Israel; the other represented Judah.  Some have suggested that Ezekiel faced north or south depending on the nation.  That may or may not be the case, considering that Ezekiel was deep within Babylon at the time.  The point was that the sins of both nations was known by the Lord, and the sin of both needed to be addressed.

7 “Therefore you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem; your arm shall be uncovered, and you shall prophesy against it. 8 And surely I will restrain you so that you cannot turn from one side to another till you have ended the days of your siege.

  • Why an uncovered arm?  Some suggest that this is a reference to readiness.  No longer is Ezekiel’s arm bound up in his robe/tunic, but it is ready for action…it is ready to be against Jerusalem in the picture of the siege.  Perhaps symbolic of overall being ready for war.
  • So there Ezekiel is: lying on his side for likely hours on end, months at a time symbolizing the iniquity God held against His people.  Ezekiel had the model of Jerusalem’s siege in front of him, the iron plate between it and him, and…now what?  He’s just there.  Lying there.  What happens if he moves?  Answer: he won’t.  God would ensure it.  The fact that God "restrains" Ezekiel from turning isn’t an act of punishment He’s doling out to the prophet.  After all, when Ezekiel did these things, he had nothing wrong – he was being obedient to the Lord.  God’s restraint of Ezekiel wasn’t His action against the prophet; it was His action for the prophet.  This would seem to be an impossible task, but God would empower Ezekiel for the days ahead.  He would ensure that whatever message He wanted to send, that Ezekiel would send it accurately, and God did so by empowering Ezekiel to do this thing for however long it took.
  • God equips US for His work!  So often we read the commands of Scripture, and we get overwhelmed, thinking that there’s no way we can do it.  Sure, we might want to obey God, but we think it impossible.  "What, me – share the gospel with a complete stranger?!  I can’t!" "Go on a mission trip where?  With whom?  There’s no way!"  "Forgive that person?!  Never!"  We might know it is the will of God for us, but we simply don’t see a way that we can possibly follow through in obedience.  That’s because we’re trying to do it in our own strength.  Not once does God ever call upon us to do that.  He never expects us to have the strength to do His work, because He knows we never will.  That’s why He makes His strength available to us.  That’s why He fills us with His own presence via the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He gives us spiritual gifts.  He wants to use us – He wants us to obey Him – but He knows we need help.  And God is more than happy to provide it!  All we need to do is ask.

  

  • Sign of defiled bread (4:9-17)

9 “Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it. 10 And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it. 11 You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink.

  • In recent years, there has been a surge of popularity of Ezekiel 4:9 in regards to bread recipes.  Whether it’s purchased in a store, or made in a home kitchen, all kinds of people have made "Ezekiel Bread" in an effort to find a nutritious Biblical recipe.  And indeed it sounds nutritious & delicious (which when prepared a certain way, can be!).  But as with all things, we need to be careful not to rip this from its context.  In giving these instructions to Ezekiel, God wasn’t blessing him with a trendy bread recipe that would help him eat well; God was giving him a bread of affliction.   Modern readers look at these ingredients & think, "Whole grain…wonderful!"  Ezekiel & his companions would think, "Where’s the real bread?"  The only reason that all the barley, beans, etc., would be added to ancient bread was if there wasn’t enough pure wheat flour to go around.  This wasn’t trendy bread; this was famine bread. This is what people would eat when there wasn’t enough to eat.  IOW, this was more picture of the suffering that would accompany the siege of Jerusalem.
  • In addition, it was a tiny amount.  Although Ezekiel would be fed, he wouldn’t be fed much.  20 shekels = 8 ounces.  That’s equivalent to around 6 slices per day, or approximately 500 calories.  His water intake wasn’t much better. 1/6 hin = 1.5 pints.  Considering that most people require somewhere between 1500-2000 calories per day, and several glasses of water each day, Ezekiel would basically be in a starvation mode for the entire length of this sign.  He’d eat & drink from "time to time," but it wouldn’t be a lot.  Again, God would equip him for the task, but that doesn’t mean things would be easy.  Ezekiel had a tough road ahead of him, and he would personally experience the suffering of his people.
  • Something similar could be said about Jesus Christ.  He came and dwelt among us as the Son of God, but that doesn’t mean things were easy for Him.  He entered into the fullness of our suffering right along with us, even taking our suffering upon Himself.  He suffered on our behalf, so that in eternity we would never suffer again.  What Ezekiel did in solidarity with Israel, Jesus did as a substitute for the world.

12 And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.” 13 Then the LORD said, “So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.”

  • This is the part the trendy bread advertisements leave out.  They are happy to sell Ezekiel 4:9 bread, but they don’t often recommend the Ezekiel 4:12 cooking method of toiletry-style baking.  If it sounds disgusting, it’s meant to be.  This was the extent of the suffering and famine that the people of Jerusalem would experience in the siege.  The Jews would be driven far away from their homeland, far away from kosher practices, and forced to eat unclean food in an unclean land.
  • At this point, even Ezekiel objected a bit (and who can blame him?).  See vs. 14…

14 So I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.” 15 Then He said to me, “See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it.”

  • FYI: If “son of man” is God’s favorite designation for Ezekiel, “ Lord GOD” seems to be Ezekiel’s favorite designation for God.  Our English translations need to be deciphered here a bit, as the word “God” is not actually in the Hebrew text.  Normally, when we see “LORD” in our Old Testaments, it’s an indication that the original text used God’s covenant name of YHWH, which the Hebrews did not pronounce verbally.  Instead, they orally substituted their word for “Lord” (Adonai – אֲדֹנָי ), while leaving the written text alone.  In this case, the actual word for “Lord” (Adonai) is used along with God’s covenant name YHWH, so the English editors decided to capitalize “GOD” rather than print the word “Lord” twice.  For Ezekiel, it’s perhaps a formal way for him to refer to his God in speech, but considering his background as a priest, a formal designation is not unexpected.
  • It was Ezekiel’s priestly background that caused him to object to God’s command regarding the fuel of human excrement.  By every indication, Ezekiel had always lived according to the Levitical regulations for the priests, and that included his clothing, his washing, and even his diet.  He could claim with a clear conscience that never once had he defiled himself by what entered his mouth.  The Torah did not talk about what consisted of proper fuel for cooking fires, but at the very least it commanded that human waste be taken outside the camp, away from the tabernacle (Dt 23:12).  By default, it was unclean & unfit for cooking fuel.  So what was Ezekiel to do?  He wanted to honor the Lord in obedience, but he was faced with a dilemma.  He could either obey God in regards to his diet, or he could obey God in regards to the sign.  What would he do?  He cried out to God for help…
  • And God answered.  He showed mercy to His servant by allowing him to cook over animal dung.  It still conveyed a similar message, but it was at least more acceptable in regards to clean diets.  Keep in mind, God was certainly punishing His people, but He wasn’t punishing His prophet.  Ezekiel wasn’t being stubborn or resistant to God’s will; Ezekiel truly wanted to honor God, but didn’t know how.  God understood Ezekiel’s limitations and reached out to him.  (Likewise with us!  He knows our weaknesses and flaws, and loves us anyway.  He always reaches out to us in mercy and grace.)

16 Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, surely I will cut off the supply of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and shall drink water by measure and with dread, 17 that they may lack bread and water, and be dismayed with one another, and waste away because of their iniquity.

  • The original use of human excrement had a specific purpose, though it was allayed somewhat by God.  Everything Ezekiel would endure throughout this sign is what the people of Jerusalem would endure throughout the siege.  They themselves would be defiled by the end of it, due to their sin.
  • Question: Why would it be so bad?  Answer: Because that is what it would take to get their attention.  God never punishes someone for the fun of it.  God does not get glee from anyone’s misery.  As He will later tell Ezekiel, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze 33:11) – this isn’t something He likes doing.  But He will do it. There are two types of judgment that people have the potential to face: temporary & eternal.  Once someone faces eternal judgment, that judgment is set & final (and thankfully, our eternal judgment has already been doled out upon Jesus when He went to the cross!).  But in regards to temporary judgment, that is given not only out of the righteous justice of God, but in order to bring people to repentance.  Just like we might send our kids to their room in order that they might calm down, sober up, and seek forgiveness, so does God do the same thing with us.  Sometimes He needs to let us face the full consequences of our actions in order that we realize how bad our actions actually are.  He lets us experience the full nature of our sin so that we would see that it is sinful, and that we would turn from it & forsake it.  That’s what He did with the Jews in their judgment, and that’s often what He does with us.  The consequences we face might be terrible, but they can be used for something glorious if that’s what it takes to bring us to repentance.
    1. Keep in mind you don’t have to wait that long!  The very moment you recognize your sin is the moment you need to confess it to God and repent.  And thankfully, in that very moment we can also receive the forgiveness and cleansing of God, according to His promise.  (1 Jn 1:9)

  

  • Sign of the shaved hair (5:1-17)

5:1 “And you, son of man, take a sharp sword, take it as a barber’s razor, and pass it over your head and your beard; then take scales to weigh and divide the hair. 2 You shall burn with fire one-third in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are finished; then you shall take one-third and strike around it with the sword, and one-third you shall scatter in the wind: I will draw out a sword after them.

  • Reading this from the viewpoint of our culture, the idea of shaving one’s head and beard might sound unusual, but it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as lying on one’s side for 430 days and eating defiled bread.  This seems almost minimal in comparison.  Ezekiel would have seen things differently.  For the ancient Jews, shaving one’s head and beard was a sign of degradation and/or humiliation.  David’s soldiers were purposefully humiliated by the Ammonites when they were sent back to Jerusalem with their beards shaven. (2 Sam 10). Shaving one’s head after fulfilling a Nazirite vow was done as a voluntary act of humility. (Num 6).  Here, the idea is also one of humility, but it is a humiliation that will be forced upon the house of Israel, pictured through the prophet Ezekiel.
  • But shaving his head & beard wasn’t all.  God had a purpose for the hair shavings, as a picture of what would happen to the people of Jerusalem (which will be explained in vs. 12).  After the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem was completed, the people of the city would be decimated: killed, burned, and scattered to the wind…and even then, they would be pursued.  As bad as it was, they would not be completely eliminated.  See vs. 3…

3 You shall also take a small number of them and bind them in the edge of your garment. 4 Then take some of them again and throw them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire. From there a fire will go out into all the house of Israel.

  • In the midst of all this suffering, we see mercy: a remnant.  Though the vast majority of hair shavings would be destroyed, a "small number" would be tucked away safely in Ezekiel’s clothes, bound up in his garment.  Symbolic of how God would save a small remnant of His people from Jerusalem, which historically came to pass.  After the 3rd wave of Babylonian invasion, the final Jewish King Zedekiah was blinded and chained (2 Kings 25:7), the people carted off, and just a bare minimum of people were left in the land to tend it.  It was just enough people to ensure the land wouldn’t go to waste, taken from the poor and downtrodden (Jer 40:10), but it was a remnant, nonetheless.
  • Yet not even the remnant is completely free from trial.  They would survive, but they would still experience a taste of God’s judgment. God tells Ezekiel that from the remnant of hair shavings, some were still to be thrown into the fire – seemingly symbolizing the troubles that would remain upon the people.  Jeremiah experienced this first-hand, as he saw the surviving Jerusalem Jews panicking after their governor Gedaliah was murdered, and fleeing to Egypt, where they were pursued by Babylon (Jer 43).  
  • All in all, the people of Jerusalem were in bad shape.  Things were already bad for the Jews, but they were about to get worse, and even those who had the opportunity to experience God’s mercy would still find ways of getting themselves into trouble.  This is what sin does to us.  The more we give ourselves over to sin, the worse off we become.  We think we can find ways of digging ourselves out of our problems, but we only sink deeper and deeper into troubles.  The only real solution to sin is repentance. We’ve got to come to the place where we realize we cannot help ourselves, but we must be rescued by God.  We have to humble ourselves, place ourselves in His hands, trusting Him to save us according to His mercies in Christ Jesus.  And that is exactly what He does!

5 “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her. 6 She has rebelled against My judgments by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against My statutes more than the countries that are all around her; for they have refused My judgments, and they have not walked in My statutes.’

  • In case there was any confusion about the sign, God gives a straightforward interpretation to Ezekiel.  These shaved hairs were the people of Jerusalem, and they had sinned.  How bad were they? Jerusalem was worse than the Gentiles.  God had set up the city to be an example to all the world of what the City of God could be – instead, they became the worst kind of example.  They availed themselves of the mercy of God only to abuse His mercies.  They called themselves the people of God only to rebel against Him as God.  In fact, they rebelled more against God than all of the idolatrous nations surrounding them. 
  • Question: Had they, really?  Had the Jews truly acted worse than all of the other Gentile nations in their pagan idolatry, or had they just acted the same as all the rest?  They acted the same, but that was the problem.  The fact that they DID act the same showed that they were worse than all of the rest.  How so? The Jews had the word of God, but ignored it.  They had the written Scriptures & statute & judgments, knowing what God commanded them, but they cast it aside.  At least the Gentiles could claim ignorance!  Sure, all people ought to know better than to engage in idolatry, as God has revealed Himself through nature all around us (Rom 1).  All peoples everywhere are left without excuse.  That said, not all people have had the blessings that the Hebrew people received.  They had the history of the patriarchs.  They had the Moses and the rest of the prophets.  They had the written word of God.  They had the visible miracles of God on their behalf, and more.  Yet even with all of this, they still acted like the pagans.  Of all peoples in the world, they should have known better.  Thus, they were actually worse than all the other people in the world.
  • There’s a reason that judgment begins with the house of God! (1 Pt 4:17). The sins that we commit against God not only are offenses against the God who created us and saved us, but they are acts of hypocrisy in the eyes of the world.  Our sins testify against the God who saved us, tearing apart our testimony of Christ.  Are our sins worse?  Arguably, yes.  There’s a reason that God judged Moses so harshly when He forbade Moses from entering the Promised Land after Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it (Num 20:12).  Moses’ sin might seem minor to us, but it was major in the eyes of God.  Not only had Moses destroyed the picture God was painting regarding Jesus, but he set a terrible example for Israel.  Moses had a greater responsibility to walk in obedience, because he had experienced so much of the grace of God.  Likewise with us.  We’ve been given incredibly much in Jesus – we dare not cast it aside & trample the blood of Jesus underfoot.  God will hold us accountable, not in spite of the grace we have received, but because of it.

7 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Because you have multiplied disobedience more than the nations that are all around you, have not walked in My statutes nor kept My judgments, nor even done according to the judgments of the nations that are all around you’— 8 therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Indeed I, even I, am against you and will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations.

  • God makes it plain here: "Because you have multiplied disobedience more than the nations…"  Judah had more than earned the judgment God placed upon them.  They did not merely neglect the commands of God; they proactively sinned against Him.  They multiplied their sins, going beyond what the other nations had done.  Again, because they received more revelation from God, they bore a greater responsibility – which they spurned.
  • The result was that God Himself turned against His own people.  Notice the emphasis here on the first person.  "I, even I, am against you…"  God Almighty – the Creator God – the Sovereign God – the Commander of the Heavenly Armies – the God of Israel – this God turned against Israel.  As the author of Hebrews wrote, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!” (Heb 10:31)  When God turns against you, all hope is lost.  It doesn’t matter a lick how strong you might believe you are, how much wealth you possess, how many abilities you have, or how numerous an army you might command – if God is against you, you are overwhelmingly outnumbered!
    1. Of course the reverse is true as well.  If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)  THAT’s the promise we have when we are in Christ Jesus!

9 And I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again, because of all your abominations. 10 Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments among you, and all of you who remain I will scatter to all the winds.

  • The Jews had sinned like no one else, so God would punish them like no one else.  Again, they had been granted privileges unheard of throughout the world, so their responsibility to God was great.  They were unique among the nations in spurning God with the knowledge they had been given, so God’s judgment of them would be truly unique, though absolutely just.  In this, it was not unlike Jesus’ condemnation of the cities of Galilee for their rejection of Him.  If the things Jesus had done in Chorazin or Bethsaida had been done in Tyre & Sidon of the Gentiles, they would have repented. (Mt 11:21)
  • How bad would it be?  Cannibalism.  In the siege, fathers would eat their own children – something so grotesque that it is almost unimaginable.  Even so, it was sadly true at various points in Israel’s history.  When Syria besieged Samaria during the days of Elisha the prophet, women argued with one another over whose son they would eat next (2 King 6:27-29).  It happened with Israel, and God promises that it would happen to Judah as well.  God had warned them against this very thing centuries earlier when originally giving the Hebrews His covenant law (Dt 28:53), yet they ignored the warnings, pursued their sin, and inherited all of the terrible consequences that followed.

11 ‘Therefore, as I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will also diminish you; My eye will not spare, nor will I have any pity.

  • Although the Jews committed many sins (several of which will be pointed out in the chapters to come), the main one in view here was their defilement of the temple.  They had defiled God’s house, so He would defile them.  This is the righteous justice of God on display.  We praise God that He is the merciful God & the loving God – but we can never forget that He is also the just God.  He sees every sin, and every sin must have an answer.
  • For Judah’s idolatry, the answer was God’s pitiless treatment of them by the hands of the Babylonians.  How bad is it when God does not show pity?  He is the compassionate God, yet He would show no compassion to His people…at least, not yet.  God DOES show compassion to those who are humble – to those who are broken & crying out for mercy, repenting towards God.  Yet to the hard-hearted & proud, God is pitiless.  His character has not changed, but His disposition has.  The good news is that He gives us the choice in what disposition of His that we face.  We can go against Him in arrogance, or we can go to Him in humility.  Again: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

12 One-third of you shall die of the pestilence, and be consumed with famine in your midst; and one-third shall fall by the sword all around you; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them. 13 ‘Thus shall My anger be spent, and I will cause My fury to rest upon them, and I will be avenged; and they shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it in My zeal, when I have spent My fury upon them.

  • At this point, God gives the explanation of how Ezekiel’s hair was to be used.  Again, each third of the people would die in different ways, with the exception of aforementioned remnant, which would be (mostly) preserved.  In this, God’s anger would be “spent” – it would be emptied upon Israel.  In their sin, they built up the measure of God’s wrath against them – in His judgment, that same wrath would be poured out. 
    1. There’s good news even for Israel here: once the wrath was spent, it was spent.  They would not perpetually remain under the judgment of God.  God did not forever abandon or forsake His people.  They had judgment to face, but eventually that judgment would end, and they would have the opportunity to experience His mercies again.
  • Obviously the judgment of God is something no one would want to face!  And praise God we don’t have to.  Jesus took God’s anger on our behalf as our propitiation.  He became a true substitutionary sacrifice in our place, and He took all of the wrath of God that was owed to us, and satisfied it completely.  That’s what the word “propitiation” means.  The bottom line is that God was angry with Jesus instead of us, and because of Jesus’ work, God has no more anger left for us.  It was completely spent.  (So praise God for Jesus!)

14 Moreover I will make you a waste and a reproach among the nations that are all around you, in the sight of all who pass by. 15 ‘So it shall be a reproach, a taunt, a lesson, and an astonishment to the nations that are all around you, when I execute judgments among you in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes. I, the LORD, have spoken.

  • For all the signs Ezekiel would perform to the nation, the nation itself would become a sign to the world.  The Jews would become a living lesson to the Gentiles around them of what the fury of God looked like.  God had a better plan to use the Jews as a light for the world, showing the world the grace and compassion of God.  Instead, their sin meant that they would be a far different example, and this was something that would not be avoided.  Once the LORD had spoken it, it was sure to come to pass.

16 When I send against them the terrible arrows of famine which shall be for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, I will increase the famine upon you and cut off your supply of bread. 17 So I will send against you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I, the LORD, have spoken.’ ”

  • As in vs. 8, notice the emphasis on the first person.  Who promised to do all of this?  The Lord God.  Yes, Babylon would be the tool of judgment, but they would be a tool only.  God Himself claimed sole responsibility.  It was His sword of judgment to be brought against Judah.  Just like Ezekiel was to sweep a sharp sword over his head and beard in the sign, so would God sweep His sharp sword over His people.  The wrath they experienced was not the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon; it was the wrath of God.

Conclusion:
Four signs.  God told Ezekiel to picture the coming siege – to demonstrate the years of sin/punishment – to illustrate the extent of defilement – and to show the extent of destruction.  These were not fun signs for Ezekiel to act out, but then again, much of what God gave the prophet to say wasn’t fun to speak.  Yet it needed to be said.  The people needed to know what was yet to come in regards to their judgment, because that was the extent of their sin against God.  They didn’t just rebel “a bit” – they were facing the onslaught of the wrath of their Creator against them.

So what needed to be their response?  Humble repentance.  They could not carry on in the way that they had – something had to give.  Only a heart change would keep them from continuing in their current direction, and God did what was necessary to get their attention.

He’ll do what is necessary with us as well.  Look around at the signs!  Pay attention to the things God is saying to you.  Is there a besetting sin in your life from which you need to repent?  Do it!  Is there an act of obedience you’ve thus far put off?  Get to it!  Don’t ignore the signs that God provides you in your life & especially through His word.  He speaks clearly; all we need to do is open our eyes & ears & pay attention.

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