Undeserved Grace

Posted: August 4, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 15-16, “Undeserved Grace”

The best gift is the unexpected one.  The most treasured gifts are the undeserved ones.  Sure, we enjoy the presents we receive on our birthdays & at Christmas, but although we might rarely say so in public, these are gifts we tend to expect.  We give them & we receive them.  But because they are expected, they’re often forgotten.  What are the gifts we never forget?  The ones we never expected & those we know we never deserved.  When it’s completely unmerited, it leaves an impact – just the way it should be.

That’s how God gives His gifts of grace.  The salvation we have through Jesus Christ – the relationship we have with God because of the work done through Jesus at the cross & resurrection – those are things we should not have expected & surely did not deserve.  What we deserved was punishment & damnation because of our sin; what we receive is mercy, love, and life in Jesus.  That’s the sort of thing that leaves an impact!  That’s why we leave our sins behind.  Not because we’ve cleaned up our own act, but because we have already been cleansed by Jesus.  Now we want to live rightly in a way that is pleasing to Him.  It’s not something we’re forced to do in order to earn heaven; it’s something we get to do because heaven has already been promised.

Yet in order for us to rejoice over the free gift of grace, we must first be acquainted with the reason it is undeserved.  We cannot appreciate forgiveness if we are never aware of the judgment we faced.  Like any criminal, we have to be read the charges against us & understand the severity of our sin.  That’s what God does through Ezekiel for the Jews of Jerusalem in Chapters 15-16.  He does indeed promise grace and forgiveness, but God spends far more time detailing their sin against Him.  Why?  In order they would understand their need.  They needed to see how lost they were if they were ever to understand how great the gift of God was.  They needed to see that God’s love towards them was totally undeserved if they were to finally appreciate it for what it was.  They had given God no reason to save them, but He did it anyway.  Likewise, we give God no reason to save us, but He does it anyway.  That’s how much He loves you & me.

Ezekiel 15 – Jerusalem as the dead vine
1 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 2 “Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any other wood, the vine branch which is among the trees of the forest? 3 Is wood taken from it to make any object? Or can men make a peg from it to hang any vessel on? 4 Instead, it is thrown into the fire for fuel; the fire devours both ends of it, and its middle is burned. Is it useful for any work? 5 Indeed, when it was whole, no object could be made from it. How much less will it be useful for any work when the fire has devoured it, and it is burned?

  1. Chapter 15 is short by any standard – it’s completely tiny when compared to Chapter 16!  Though brief, it makes an important analogy and important point.  Jerusalem is compared to a grapevine, which itself is not an unusual metaphor at all.  The prophet Isaiah also compared Judah to a vineyard (Isaiah 5), as will Jesus when He condemns the Pharisees and scribes as being rebellious vineyard workers (Mt 21:33-46).  What makes this slightly different is that in the other metaphors, the nation is an entire vineyard, and the vineyard is alive, if not always producing what the Lord desired (i.e. wild grapes, Isaiah 5:2).  To Ezekiel, the city of Jerusalem (which likely extends to the entire southern nation of Judah) is a single vine, and this vine is dead.  At this point, it’s just a piece of wood.  Thus God asks Ezekiel what good can come from a dried up grapevine.  Can it be made into a piece of furniture?  No.  Can it be fashioned into anything useful?  No.  The one thing a grapevine is good for is grape production, but when that has ceased, so has the usefulness of the vine.  It’s just a twisted, thin piece of wood.  At that point, the only use it has is fuel for the fire.  It’s burned, turned to ash, and discarded.
  2. That’s bad enough for a plant – it’s worse when the plant represents God’s own people.  Vs. 6…

6 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so I will give up the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 7 and I will set My face against them. They will go out from one fire, but another fire shall devour them. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I set My face against them. 8 Thus I will make the land desolate, because they have persisted in unfaithfulness,’ says the Lord GOD.”

  1. The point here is that the Jerusalem Jews didn’t leave God any options.  He cared for them as a vineyard, but they turned into a fruitless dead vine.  What could God do with them other than to judge them?  That was the only option remaining.  God promised to set His face against them and use them as fuel for the fire of His judgment.  They would go from one fire to the next, to the point that they were completely devoured – which is exactly what happened when the final siege of Jerusalem took place by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, and the sovereignty of Jerusalem was finally stripped away.
  2. What would happen at that point?  Finally, they would know that God is the Lord.  When? “When I set My face against them.”  When God judged them – when they endured their suffering – only then would they understand the scope of their sin & the reality of God’s judgment against them.  God’s faithfulness to His covenant discipline would testify of the Jews’ own faithlessness against God.  They would be brought to their knees, and that would be the final thing to humble their hearts causing them to seek the Lord.
    1. Can God use our sin to bring us to repentance?  Without question.  We have the free will to sin against God, but that doesn’t mean God will remain silent in the process.  He will chasten us (sometimes severely!), and it is often that very chastening that brings us to a point of humility and repentance.  We don’t have to let it get to that point, but God will do it if necessary.
  3. There is good news for Israel here – even in the midst of God’s promise of judgment.  Would the nation be devoured?  Yes.  Yet they would not be utterly wiped from the face of the earth.  The land would become “desolate” for a time, but there were other promises of God that the land would once more become inhabited and fruitful (11:17-20).  Was the nation a dead, fruitless vine?  Yes – but God is in the business of resurrection.  He can make dead things come to life again…even dead vines and dead nations.
    1. That is exactly the promise that we have in Christ!  In our sins, we are dead.  We have nothing to offer God except our rebellion, and because of it we are all “dead men walking.”  We face a sentence of eternal death, because that is the wages of our sin against God (Rom 6:23).  But in Christ, we have new life!  We are made into new creations with a new future.  No longer are we dried up & dead, fit for nothing but fire – now we are the children of God, bearing holy fruit to His glory.  That is His grace!  That is the wonder of His work among us!

Ezekiel 16 – Jerusalem as the harlot
1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

  1. Chapter 16 is a long one, but it’s long for a reason.  God told Ezekiel to educate the Jerusalem Jews on their “abominations” towards Him, and they were extensive!  Like Chapter 15, it relies on an extended metaphor, and one extremely fitting: harlotry/prostitution.  God frequently compares idolatry to harlotry, in that the worship of false gods is much like soliciting multiple sexual partners, rather than enjoying the safety and joy of a single relationship with the true God.  The history of God’s people is filled with idolatry, and they showed themselves to be a harlot among harlots – and that takes some time to describe.
  2. Again, we need to be aware of our sins if we are to turn from them in repentance.  We don’t like thinking upon our sins.  We’d much rather ask a quick prayer of forgiveness & go on our way as if nothing ever happened, but that’s ignoring the problem rather than dealing with it.  Yes, God offers true forgiveness & healing – yes, He calls us to move on from those things & not to dwell upon the past – but at the same time, if we never deal with the root problem, we’ll end up going right back to it again.  That’s why David asked God to search his heart to see if there was any wicked way in him, even as he called upon God to judge his enemies (Ps 139:23-24) – that’s why we need to do the same thing.  We need to examine our sins honestly as we turn from them to God.  That’s what true confession is all about: agreeing with God that our sin is sinful.  But we’ve got to know what it is if we are to confess it at all.  It’s a difficult thing to ask God to examine our hearts, but it’s needful if we are to move forward in healing & newness of life.
  3. Regarding the parable/allegory itself, please note that this is to “Jerusalem.” What God will describe to Ezekiel is a symbolic/picturesque history of the city itself, which of course stands in place for the nation and people as a whole.  I.e. to refer to “Washington DC” is to refer to the USA, even when speaking about specific aspects of the city of DC itself.  A similar thing will be seen as God introduces the origin of the city of Jerusalem as Gentile.  Vs. 3…

3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: “Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.

  1. Remember that when God first formed the nation of the Hebrews, He did so outside of the Promised Land.  The clan of Jacob that descended into Egypt grew into a numerous nation there, and God brought them from that place to the “land of Canaan.”  There were already cities in the land, and Jerusalem (Jebus) being one.  Thus it was a city founded by Gentiles, and remained unclaimed by the Hebrews all the way until David (1 Chr 11).  His army conquered the city, and he claimed it as his capital.  The point here is that Jerusalem had an ignoble beginning.  It was founded by the pagans of the land, and basically rejected by them, without any of even the most basic love and care given to it.  Like a baby abandoned by ancient parents to die of exposure, so was the city of Jerusalem.
  2. That’s when God intervened.  Vs. 6…

6 “And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ 7 I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare. 8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD.

  1. How did Jerusalem go from the backwater rejected town of Jebus to the mighty city of Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Israel & a respected (and even feared) city among the nations?  It was by the grace of God.  God saw the struggling city, had compassion towards it, and spoke life to it.  As it matured, it thrived, and God took it to Himself as a husband would take a bride.  He “married” the city when He designated it as the city of His temple – i.e. of His presence.  This is the very picture of grace.
  2. This is also what could easily be spoken of each one of us as born-again Christians as we are all part of the Bride of Christ.  We had our own pagan background, with no historic covenant tie between us and God.  We were rejected & wallowing in our own sin awaiting our death until Jesus showed up.  He called us out of sin & to Himself, He gave us life by His word, and He brought us into an everlasting covenant relationship with Him.  We once had nothing & were nothing, but the work of Jesus did something truly amazing: 1 Peter 2:9–10, "(9) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy."  We know what we were, and now we can rejoice in what we are.  All of it due to truly amazing grace!
    1. Never forget from whence you came!  This is part of the point that God is making with Jerusalem.  They forgot who they were & they especially forgot what God had done for them, and that’s the reason they went so far into sin.  The less we remember the immensity of God’s grace towards us, the greater our propensity to sin against Him.  Be ever amazed at His grace, His calling, and His love towards you!
  3. God goes on to describe the blessings He poured out on the city.  Vs. 9…

9 “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty.

  1. God cleansed the city from what it was, and beautified it.  He loved the city, and treated it as a king would treat his favored queen.  She was beautiful, lacking nothing.

14 Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord GOD.

  1. How true this was, especially during the reigns of David and Solomon.  Silver and gold flowed freely into the city, and people from all over the Middle East came to see the riches of Jerusalem & be astounded at the wisdom of Solomon.  Ultimately, all of it was the “splendor” of God.  It was His gifts, and His blessing.  Jerusalem prospered because God desired that it would.
  2. Yet it would not last.  Although Jerusalem reached the height of its glory in the days of Solomon, those were the days that also led to its downfall.  As Solomon’s eyes became entranced by foreign women, his heart became entranced by foreign gods, and so began the long descent of Jerusalem into idolatry.

15 “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it. 16 You took some of your garments and adorned multicolored high places for yourself, and played the harlot on them. Such things should not happen, nor be. 17 You have also taken your beautiful jewelry from My gold and My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images and played the harlot with them. 18 You took your embroidered garments and covered them, and you set My oil and My incense before them. 19 Also My food which I gave you—the pastry of fine flour, oil, and honey which I fed you—you set it before them as sweet incense; and so it was,” says the Lord GOD.

  1. Although Jerusalem was the city of God, having His own temple within, its kings and citizens were given over to idolatry.  Enamored with their own wealth, they put their trust in the gifts instead of the Giver.  Their hearts turned from God, and they began to worship the false gods of the nations that surrounded them.  The Lord graphically depicts the spiritual whoredom of Jerusalem as the city is described using gold statues as sexual items.  All the blessings that had been given them by God were used by the people in committing spiritual adultery against Him.  God had blessed them with gold & oil & food – and instead of it being dedicated to Him in worship, it was given over to the false gods of their neighbors.
  2. Keep in mind that we don’t need a statue in order to engage in idolatry.  We do exactly the same thing when we take God’s gifts and use them for our own lusts or false worship.  Instead of blessing God with our income, we give it to the idol of entertainment.  Instead of devoting our time to worshipping Jesus, we give Him the leftovers (if that).  Thankfully, that’s not descriptive of all the church at all times, but it is a danger.  We can easily walk the same road as ancient Jerusalem if we are not careful.  Jesus saved us for an active, vibrant relationship with Himself.  The moment it becomes passive as we take Him for granted is the moment we open ourselves up to the danger of idolatry.

20 “Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, 21 that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire? 22 And in all your abominations and acts of harlotry you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, struggling in your blood.

  1. It got even worse for Jerusalem.  Not only did they worship other gods with their bodies, they sacrificed their very children to them.  This is a reference to the pagan practice of sacrificing human babies to the false god of Molech.  It was an abominable ritual repeatedly condemned by God, but repeatedly engaged by the people of Israel.  By this point, they had completely forgotten the Lord their God, forgotten where they had come from, and were given over to the pagan practices of their neighbors. 
    1. The Hebrews were supposed to be an influence for good; instead they became influenced for evil.  Which are we?
  2. God goes on to describe more of their sin.  Vs. 23…

23 “Then it was so, after all your wickedness—‘Woe, woe to you!’ says the Lord GOD— 24 that you also built for yourself a shrine, and made a high place for yourself in every street. 25 You built your high places at the head of every road, and made your beauty to be abhorred. You offered yourself to everyone who passed by, and multiplied your acts of harlotry. 26 You also committed harlotry with the Egyptians, your very fleshly neighbors, and increased your acts of harlotry to provoke Me to anger. 27 “Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 You also played the harlot with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; indeed you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. 29 Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the trader, Chaldea; and even then you were not satisfied.

  1. Over and over again, the Jews were influenced by their pagan neighbors.  They immersed themselves in idolatry as they built specific places dedicated to false worship (even in the city of God, with some pagan altars even inside the temple itself!).  God had called His people out of the land of Egypt centuries earlier, but they went back to Egyptian practices.  Finally, God was forced to act in some measure, and He even allowed the Philistines to claim some of the things of Jerusalem for themselves (the reign of Jehoram – 2 Chr 21:16-17).  He allowed them to be troubled by Assyria, though God eventually delivered them.  Even then the people did not learn their lesson.  They kept on in their sin, the rumors of it extending all the way to the land of Chaldea (Babylon).

30 “How degenerate is your heart!” says the Lord GOD, “seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot.

  1. The word used for “degenerate” is interesting.  אמל – it literally refers to being hot with a fever, and thus being weak & ill.  God was saying that the Jews were sick with sin.  They were completely overtaken by their depravity, much like a person with the flu is overtaken with a virus.
  2. Sin makes us sick.  It deludes us – it deceives us.  It makes us think we’re going to prosper, when it only leads to our destruction.  How many times do we need to doubt “the wages of sin is death,” before we finally realize the Bible is true?  It is a sickness of the soul, and the only cure is found in Jesus.
    1. Are you given over in sickness?  Are you degenerate & feverish with your lust?  Throw yourself upon the mercies of Christ, asking Him to save & deliver you.  That’s exactly what He promises to do!
  3. To what extent was Jerusalem ruled by her lust?  God goes on in vs. 31…

31 “You erected your shrine at the head of every road, and built your high place in every street. Yet you were not like a harlot, because you scorned payment. 32 You are an adulterous wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband. 33 Men make payment to all harlots, but you made your payments to all your lovers, and hired them to come to you from all around for your harlotry. 34 You are the opposite of other women in your harlotry, because no one solicited you to be a harlot. In that you gave payment but no payment was given you, therefore you are the opposite.”

  1. Jerusalem was a harlot, but she was worse than a harlot.  At least a prostitute gets paid.  Jerusalem acted like a person so consumed by lust and sin that her idolatry was an addiction.  She would gladly pay for the opportunity to commit adultery against God, no longer able to act or think rationally.  Like a meth or crack addict, Jerusalem’s existence revolved around her sin.  At this point, the people couldn’t even blame temptation – they blew right past that into openly inviting sin.
  2. This is what a lifestyle of sin does to a person.  When we give way to temptation once, we’re willing to do it again a little more, a little more, a little more…and before too long a story ends up on the evening news regarding another church goer or pastor who has fallen into utter corruption.  Sin can blind someone to the point where he/she is consumed by it.  Beware!  Keep your heart humble, and your eyes upon Christ.  We don’t beat temptation by building up our resistance; we find victory only in surrender (our surrender to Christ Jesus).
  3. God had given Jerusalem a taste of judgment and discipline in the past.  Now He declares how He would allow them to experience the fullness of His wrath.  Vs. 35…

35 ‘Now then, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD! 36 Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them, 37 surely, therefore, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved, and all those you hated; I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy. 39 I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your shrines and break down your high places. They shall also strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. 40 “They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords. 41 They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; and I will make you cease playing the harlot, and you shall no longer hire lovers.

  1. Jerusalem would experience the judgment of God, and it would be both harsh and humiliating.  Because Jerusalem had sought out her Gentile neighbors and Gentile gods, the true God would allow her to be punished by the Gentiles.  The city would be judged as an adulterous wife, because that is exactly what it was.
  2. Although the Bible repeatedly uses the analogy, we don’t often equate idolatry with adultery.  Most of us would rebel at the very thought of committing adultery against our spouse, but probably think of idolatry as a “lesser” sin.  After all, everyone engages in it now & again.  While that may be true, it doesn’t make it any less sinful.  If sin could be compared (which itself is questionable), it would be truly worse.  When people commit adultery, it is a sin against another human; when we commit idolatry, it’s a sin against Almighty God.  Even so, God sees them as the same, for they are.  A wandering heart is a wandering heart, irrespective of the relationship – be it between husband and wife, or humans and God.  It undercuts every other aspect of our relationship, eroding the very foundation of any relationship.  Thus it is to be avoided at all costs.
  3. God promised to judge Jerusalem for its spiritual adultery, delivering her over to the Gentiles.  Thankfully, it wouldn’t last forever.  Vs. 42…

42 So I will lay to rest My fury toward you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be quiet, and be angry no more. 43 Because you did not remember the days of your youth, but agitated Me with all these things, surely I will also recompense your deeds on your own head,” says the Lord GOD. “And you shall not commit lewdness in addition to all your abominations.

  1. God’s judgment was to be sincere, but successful.  Once His wrath was poured out, it was done.  He was jealous for His people, and once their attention was once more upon Him, His great anger would quiet.
  2. Question: when does this take place?  In part, we can see it historically in the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.  Ultimately, this is fulfilled during the days of the Millennium Kingdom when the hearts of Israel are truly turned towards the Lord in faith.

That was Jerusalem as the unfaithful wife of God.  At this point, God continues to detail the sin of Jerusalem, changing the picture slightly.  The city is still pictured as a woman, but this time as one of three sisters – each of them unfaithful to the Lord, with Jerusalem being the worst.  Vs. 44…

44 “Indeed everyone who quotes proverbs will use this proverb against you: ‘Like mother, like daughter!’ 45 You are your mother’s daughter, loathing husband and children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children; your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 “Your elder sister is Samaria, who dwells with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who dwells to the south of you, is Sodom and her daughters. 47 You did not walk in their ways nor act according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you became more corrupt than they in all your ways.

  1. The sins of Sodom and Samaria are legendary.  Sodom is infamous for its destruction, whereas Samaria started out as part of the people of God, and fell into total disarray and basically lost its identity.  Here, God lists them as sisters with Jerusalem.  As with Jerusalem, both Sodom and Samaria had pagan beginnings, and lived out their days in idolatrous sin.  Yet Jerusalem went on to even greater sins.  As God spoke of her, “you became more corrupt than they in all your ways.
  2. Question: Is this even possible?  Sodom is the poster child for sin and perversion even to this day.  How could Jerusalem make the sins of Sodom look small by comparison?  Answer: because Jerusalem knew better.  Sodom had the general revelation of God in creation, and they had a single witness of the Living God in the person of Lot.  Jerusalem had the prophets, the kings, the Scriptures, the temple, the priests, and more.  Although Sodom could not claim complete ignorance, Jerusalem couldn’t claim it at all.  They knew the blessings they had received from God, and completely rejected God in the process.  Their relationship with God was greater, and thus so was their sin even worse.
    1. This is one reason it’s so tragic any time professing Christians get caught up in a scandal of sin.  We know better, or at least we’re supposed to.  Our sin not only demonstrates the sinfulness of all humans, but it brings a stain upon the reputation of Christ in His church.  Thus as Peter writes, judgment begins with the house of God (1 Pet 4:17).  We have all the more reason to walk rightly, because we walk as living witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ.

48 “As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.

  1. We tend to remember the sin of Sodom as being purely sexual, but it was far more than that.  This city was proud & selfish, oppressing the poor, allowing them to be exploited.  This was all in addition to their other “abomination.”  We ought to be careful when we treat sexual sin as worse than every other sin in the Bible.  God specifically calls out the “pride” of Sodom.  Under that charge, we are all guilty.  (Thus we are all desperate for the forgiveness and grace of Jesus!)

51 “Samaria did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they, and have justified your sisters by all the abominations which you have done. 52 You who judged your sisters, bear your own shame also, because the sins which you committed were more abominable than theirs; they are more righteous than you. Yes, be disgraced also, and bear your own shame, because you justified your sisters.

  1. God doesn’t detail the sins of Samaria to the extent that He did Sodom, but history shows terrible idolatry taking place in Samaria.  They also engaged in child sacrifice, and multitudes of evil.  Yet again, Jerusalem is shown to be worse.  Because this was the city of God, Jerusalem seemingly “justified” the sin of her sister cities.  After all, if Jerusalem could get away with her sins, why should not the lesser sins of Sodom and Samaria be excused?  Jerusalem was meant by God to be an example to all the world of what it was to be in a covenant relationship with God, and yet they treated God as if He did not exist.  If God did not act, what would that mean for the nations of the world that He did judge?  A just judge must punish crime wherever it is found – even when it is found among those whom he loves.  Justice is blind, and all must be treated the same.  Vs. 53…

53 “When I bring back their captives, the captives of Sodom and her daughters, and the captives of Samaria and her daughters, then I will also bring back the captives of your captivity among them, 54 that you may bear your own shame and be disgraced by all that you did when you comforted them. 55 When your sisters, Sodom and her daughters, return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters return to their former state, then you and your daughters will return to your former state. 56 For your sister Sodom was not a byword in your mouth in the days of your pride, 57 before your wickedness was uncovered. It was like the time of the reproach of the daughters of Syria and all those around her, and of the daughters of the Philistines, who despise you everywhere.

  1. When the Babylonian captivity ended, it did not end only for the Jews – it ended for all of the peoples of the Middle East.  Thus all people were allowed to return.  Even so, we know that Samaria did not return to the influence it once had, and Sodom is hard to find anywhere in history at all outside of Genesis.  So when will they be restored to this extent?  This is likely another reference to the Millennial Kingdom.  The Lord Jesus will rule from the nation of Israel, specifically from the city of Jerusalem, but there will be other cities as well.  Apparently, God will allow Sodom and Samaria to be rebuilt, though they will be ruled over by God’s people.

58 You have paid for your lewdness and your abominations,” says the LORD. 59 For thus says the Lord GOD: “I will deal with you as you have done, who despised the oath by breaking the covenant.

  1. All sin has a price, and Jerusalem will have “paid” dearly.  They had broken the “covenant” God made with them in the past, and it would be easy to end the account there.  They were beloved by God – they betrayed God – God delivered them over to judgment – and that’s it, right?  Wrong.  God had a wonderful future in store for His people & favored city.  He dealt with them justly in the past, and He will deal with them mercifully in the future.

60 “Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. 61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed, when you receive your older and your younger sisters; for I will give them to you for daughters, but not because of My covenant with you.

  1. Would Jerusalem be punished?  Yes.  Would they stay punished?  No!  Although Jerusalem had repeatedly forgotten God, God promised to “remember [His] covenant” with them.  In fact, God promised to go beyond the old covenant, and “establish an everlasting covenant” with the nation – the same “new covenant” spoken of by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31) and officially instituted by Jesus during the Last Supper.  This is a covenant that would never end, and never be broken.  Of course God would always be faithful to Israel, but in this new relationship, Israel would always be faithful to God.  Although this is already in action for the church today, when will it happen with Israel?  Most likely it will begin during the Great Tribulation when Israel finally comes to faith in Jesus, and it will continue on into the Millennial Kingdom and beyond.  During those years, they will be able to look back on their days of rebellion, see them for what they were, and be ashamed.
  2. Yet God is not limited to the terms of the covenant – He can even go beyond it in His grace, as He promises to do with Jerusalem’s “sisters,” Sodom and Samaria.  These cities will be given to Jerusalem in grace, just as God referenced in vs. 57.
  3. If the state of Jerusalem’s former covenant with God could be characterized as rebellion, how will the state of its future covenant be?  Faith.  Vs. 62…

62 And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, 63 that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your shame, when I provide you an atonement for all you have done,” says the Lord GOD.’ ”

  1. Finally, they will know God as their God!  This is the constant theme throughout Ezekiel, and there will be glimpses of faith as the Jews see the outpouring of God’s wrath & discipline, but the fullness of their faith finally comes when they experience a renewed covenant and relationship with God with Jesus Christ as their King.  When they finally see Jesus in faith, they will finally know God as the LORD, the covenant-keeping I AM of Israel.
  2. And what will they have in that day?  “Atonement” – peace – a covering over of their sin.  Finally their sins of the past will remain in the past as the blood of Jesus covers it.  What Jerusalem is promised is what we already experience.  Our sins are covered – we have atonement with God (at-one-ment).  There is no separation between us because Jesus bridged that separation at the cross & resurrection.  Praise the Lord!

It was a long list of sin, with just a few glimpses of grace.  Yet that long list makes those glimpses all the greater!  Did Jerusalem deserve any mercy from God, any renewed covenant with Him?  Absolutely not.  They had already received mercy, and they despised it.  They sunk lower & lower into sin, being completely consumed by it – driven sick & feverish over it.  God rightly promised their punishment, and so it came.

That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t.  God went up & beyond!  He promised grace – He promised renewal – He promised a forever future. 

This is our promise as well!  We deserve nothing from God except punishment.  We give God no reason to save us, but He reaches out to us through Jesus anyway.  That’s how much He loves us – that is the extent of His grace.  The darkness of our sin is overwhelmed by the light of God’s glorious love, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

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