God Over the Nations

Posted: September 21, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 24-25, “God Over the Nations”

The Bible contains the story of God’s workings among Israel, but is God the God of only Israel?  Absolutely not.  That is clear from the very first words in Genesis.  God created the entire universe – all peoples, all nations, all things everywhere owe its very existence to God.  That means God had the right to judge every nation, even those who do not have any covenant relationship with Him.  That is what is shown in these next several chapters in Ezekiel.

This is a new series of visions/oracles, as indicated by the date stamp given in 24:1.  To this point, all of God’s judgments have been directed at Israel, more specifically, at Judah & Jerusalem.  Samaria was briefly mentioned, but considering its history as originally being part of Israel, its inclusion is expected.  God had said much about Israel’s crimes against Him & His just judgment against them.  Of course He still loved Israel & had a glorious plan for their future, but its more immediate future included suffering.  And that suffering would be the very thing that helped Israel finally acknowledge the Lord as God.

With all of that said, God is not only God over Israel.  He is God over the entire world.  He still has a word for His own people (Ch 24), but He also has words for Israel’s neighbors (Ch 25).  These two chapters serve as a transition into the next major section of the book of Ezekiel: God’s judgment of the Gentiles.  These other nations (specifically those that neighbored Israel) had sins of their own that needed to be addressed.  Israel’s neighbors all had something in common in that they despised Israel, gloating over the Jews in the time of their distressed.  It did not escape God’s notice.  The God who judged Israel is still the God who protects Israel.  Judgment may begin with the house of God, but it certainly does not end there.  The God of Israel will judge the entire world.

Ezekiel 24 – Israel judged

  • Parable of the dirty pot (1-14)

1 Again, in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, write down the name of the day, this very day—the king of Babylon started his siege against Jerusalem this very day.

  • As FDR noted about Pearl Harbor, it was a day that would live in infamy.  This particular oracle came to Ezekiel on January 15, 588BC – the exact day that Babylon began its final siege of Jerusalem.  This is about 2½ years after the previous date given (20:1), though it’s uncertain if all of the prophecies between Ch 20-24 were all given on the same day.  In any case, it certainly was a day that the Jews would long remember.  We have 9/11 burned into our memories – the ancient Jews had the 10th day of the 10th month of the 9th year of Zedekiah.  That was the day the Babylonian armies arrived, surrounded the city walls, and starved the Jews into submission.
  • And it was on that “very day” God spoke to His prophet.  Already far off in the heart of the Babylonian empire, Ezekiel was not in any position to be able to physically help the Jews back home – but God still gave him a word.  The things that were taking place on the grounds surrounding Jerusalem were not the chance circumstances of history.  They were not world events spinning out of control.  The Babylonians were there by design – God’s design…and He wanted His people to know it.
    • It was 15 years ago to the day that our nation mourned the fallen from the 9/11 attacks.  People were grieving & searching for answers.  At that moment, much was still unknown, but one thing was clear: God was still in control.  Something horrible had happened to us as a nation, but God had not stepped off His throne.  He had not changed who He was.  That’s something we needed to be reminded of…it’s a reminder we still need.  God is still God.  He still loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son so that we might be saved.  He still desires that all people everyone repent and come to faith in Jesus Christ.  As Billy Graham said at the September 14, 2001 memorial service: “This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if those people who got on those planes or who walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon on Tuesday thought that it would be the last day of their lives. And that’s why we each must face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will.”  God is sovereign, and one day all of us will see Him with our own eyes.  We need to be ready for that day, and it is only faith in Jesus that prepares us.
  • As for Ezekiel, God had a specific lesson for His people on that day.  He wanted them to know what had happened took place by God’s design as a judgment upon their sin.  As was so often the case, God taught the lesson through a word picture – a parable.  Vs. 3…

3 And utter a parable to the rebellious house, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Put on a pot, set it on, And also pour water into it. 4 Gather pieces of meat in it, Every good piece, The thigh and the shoulder. Fill it with choice cuts; 5 Take the choice of the flock. Also pile fuel bones under it, Make it boil well, And let the cuts simmer in it.”

  • Everyone likes a good pot of stew, and that would seem to be the picture here, but it won’t be what the people expect.  This won’t be a gently simmering dinner welcoming people home; it would be a fiery trial from which none would escape.  The pot represented the city – the meat represented the people – and the fuel & fire represented the Babylonians brought by God.  God’s “choice cuts” – His favored people would be included in the stew, and all of His people would suffer as they were cooked by the fires of judgment.
    • There’s no small irony in the picture considering that the Babylonians began a siege of Jerusalem that day to starve the people.  They would not be able to gain food; they were the food!
  • Interestingly, this is similar (and at first glance the opposite) to the word God gave Ezekiel in Ch. 11. At that time, false prophets had arisen in Jerusalem claiming that the city was a cauldron, protecting the meat inside from the forces against it.  God told them clearly that the walls of Jerusalem would provide no such protection.  He would bring the people outside of the city to be slain (11:7-10).  The reason Ch 24 does not contradict Ch 11 is that the overall picture is still one of judgment; not protection.  At this time, the city is indeed the pot, but the city becomes the very thing used by the Babylonians to bring misery and suffering to the residents of Jerusalem.  The same walls that protected them from arrows & wild beasts also kept them imprisoned inside, unable to restock their supplies.
    • What we trust, matters.  The Jews of Jerusalem trusted their city walls – they trusted their own ingenuity – they even trusted the false words of the false prophets.  All of these things failed.  Their trust should have been in the Lord.  If it had, they would have listened to Him, repented at the words of Jeremiah & other prophets among them, and perhaps lived in relative peace during the years of the Babylonian empire.  Instead, they trusted in anything but God, and found themselves in a terrible trial.  Trust God!  Even when God leads us into tough times, we know that as long as we’re following the Lord Jesus, He’ll take us through – He’ll give us what we need – He’ll provide for us the entire time.  Sure, we can choose to do things our own way & fail – or we trust God and survive!
    • They didn’t, and they suffered.  Vs. 6…

6 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the bloody city, To the pot whose scum is in it, And whose scum is not gone from it! Bring it out piece by piece, On which no lot has fallen.

  • The problem wasn’t the fire or the fuel; it was the scummy pot.  Imagine a pot that hasn’t been cleaned, and attempting to cook dinner in it.  All of the filthy residue ends up contaminating everything else that is inside.  That’s the picture here.  All of the filth from the sins of the people (the meat) ended up baked onto the pot itself (the city), and nothing inside was salvageable.  The whole city (inside & outside) was rotten, filthy, and unclean – and the whole mess needed to be dealt with by God.
  • The word “scum” could also be translated as “rust,” but that doesn’t make the description less disgusting.  The pot is still filthy.  If cookware like that was found in restaurants today, the restaurant would be shut down by the health department pretty quick! 
  • The whole idea is that the sin of the people had an effect on the city itself.  Obviously a wall is just a wall – a building just a building.  People sin; not construction projects.  But Israel’s sin had become so bad that the two could not be separated.  Remember that part of God’s everlasting covenant with Abraham was for a physical land.  God promised him a nation, a homeland, and a Messiah (blessing to the entire world).  Thus there was a connection between the blessing of God and the physical land given by God.  When the people sinned, the land itself was affected.  Thus the city was full of rust or scum, left there by the sin of its people.
    • Unconfessed sin always has consequences.  There are always lasting effects.  There are always victims.  It may not be evident at the moment, but it builds up like scum or rust.  At some point, it’s going to be obvious & drastic measures will be needed to deal with it.  Don’t let it get to that point!  As soon as sin rears its head in your life, that’s the time to deal with it through confession & repentance.  And what is the promise of Jesus?  Cleansing & forgiveness.  Want to scrub out the scum from your spiritual life?  Engage in regular cleansing through confession & faith.

7 For her blood is in her midst; She set it on top of a rock; She did not pour it on the ground, To cover it with dust. 8 That it may raise up fury and take vengeance, I have set her blood on top of a rock, That it may not be covered.”

  • This seems to be some of the sin of the people of Jerusalem.  Their hands had shed blood, and left it lying out in the open.  Whether this is a reference to idolatry, pagan practices, or the actual shedding of innocent blood is unknown.  The Jews had regularly engaged in all of these things, so any or all might be in mind.  Whatever the case, the sin was open & left unrepentant.  Nothing had been done to humble themselves before the Lord to handle things the right way.  Since Jerusalem had left the blood out in the open, so would God do with them.  He would leave them bloody and humiliated.
  • What was it that Jerusalem needed?  A covering.  They originally needed to cover the blood they had shed, but they rebelliously neglected to do so.  Thus God would not cover them.  We need a covering – and that’s what Jesus provides for us at the cross!  His blood covers over our sin, making us righteous in the sight of God.  Yet without His covering, we are left bloody and subject to judgment.

9 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the bloody city! I too will make the pyre great. 10 Heap on the wood, Kindle the fire; Cook the meat well, Mix in the spices, And let the cuts be burned up. 11 “Then set the pot empty on the coals, That it may become hot and its bronze may burn, That its filthiness may be melted in it, That its scum may be consumed. 12 She has grown weary with lies, And her great scum has not gone from her. Let her scum be in the fire!

  • God promises to kindle His wrath – not just upon the meat, but upon the pot itself.  The pot needed to be purified because its rust/scum was so ingrained upon it.  How did the cleansing come?  Through fire.  Our God IS a consuming fire!  If fire is what was needed to burn off the scum & rust, then so be it.  God is holy enough to do it.

13 In your filthiness is lewdness. Because I have cleansed you, and you were not cleansed, You will not be cleansed of your filthiness anymore, Till I have caused My fury to rest upon you. 14 I, the LORD, have spoken it; It shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not hold back, Nor will I spare, Nor will I relent; According to your ways And according to your deeds They will judge you,” Says the Lord GOD.’ ”

  • The rust/scum was the picture of blood earlier – but there was more to Jerusalem’s sin than violence (as bad as that was).  There was also “lewdness.”  The word could refer to idolatry or adultery, but it could go as far as other perversions such as prostitutions and/or incest.  Again, the specifics are not listed here, but they don’t need to be.  There are over 20 other previous chapters that detail the specifics.  The point here is that Jerusalem was corrupt from the inside-out.  Her sins were numerous & varied, and the day had finally arrived for her judgment.
  • Keep in mind that it wasn’t as if God hadn’t tried reaching out to them in the past.  As God says, “I have cleansed you, and you were not cleansed.”  Like scrubbing a pot only to find that it’s still dirty, that was God’s experience with the ancient Jews.  God had sent them prophets to give them His word, to show them to repent, etc.  God had sent previous seasons of discipline to Jerusalem, all the while allowing Jerusalem to remain relatively independent.  No more.  God had given them enough chances.  The Jews had not received His cleansing, and so God would now send His “fury.”  The word used for “fury” is appropriate in that it speaks of a burning wrath.  It would be the fire of God’s holiness that would chastise them, and they would experience it to the full.  God’s fury would be unrestrained.  He would not “hold back…spare, nor…relent.”  God’s fury would be deserved.  All of this occurred “according to [their] ways and…deeds.”  They had earned it for themselves, and despised the many opportunities God gave them to repent & be cleansed.
    • Don’t despise the many chances God gives you!  When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, deal with it immediately.

With this, the first picture comes to a close, but the oracles do not.  That very day, Babylon was in the process of starting the siege of Jerusalem, and this was the fiery wrath of God upon His people.  One would think it to be a day of mourning, and it was…but they wouldn’t grieve in the way they might expect.  God also grieved for His people, and in this was another picture He needed to share with them.  Sadly, Ezekiel would share in this & it would affect him in a most personal way.

  • Command for silent suffering (15-27)

15 Also the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 16 “Son of man, behold, I take away from you the desire of your eyes with one stroke; yet you shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down. 17 Sigh in silence, make no mourning for the dead; bind your turban on your head, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your lips, and do not eat man’s bread of sorrow.”

  • To this point Ezekiel has not written much about his personal life.  Initially we were told that he was a priest, the son of Buzi (1:3).  We know that he had already gone into Babylonian captivity & was somewhere by the River Chebar when he received his initial visions (1:3).  Other than that, we don’t know much.  Yet here, we learn that Ezekiel had a wife whom he loved.  She was “the desire of [his] eyes,” and the one thing we know about her is that God took her away.  There is no indication that she was struck down by God for any sort of sin, nor that she was sick and that her death was expected.  Instead, God in His sovereignty simply took her away from Ezekiel, and it would surely break the prophet’s heart.
  • That was bad enough, but what made it worse is that God forbade Ezekiel from the normal public expressions of grieving.  Keep in mind that God never commanded Ezekiel to smile & pretend nothing had happened.  He was still terribly upset & God allowed him to mourn quietly (“sigh in silence”) – but nothing else was aloud.  No hired mourners wailing in the streets – no open weeping – no rending of garments nor walking around with uncovered head or feet – no sitting in ashes, etc.  All of these things that were normally expected of Jewish mourners were to be avoided by Ezekiel.
  • Why?  Because the absence of these things would speak louder than anything else Ezekiel could have done.  Vs. 18…

18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died; and the next morning I did as I was commanded. 19 And the people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things signify to us, that you behave so?”

  • That people died unexpectedly was not unusual then (nor today); but for Ezekiel to behave this way was truly unusual.  They knew his wife had died, but yet he acted (relatively) normal.  That got a lot of attention, and they couldn’t help but ask him about it.
  • Before we get to Ezekiel’s answer, we’ve got to ask the question of why God would do this in the first place.  It seems so cruel – so unnecessary.  Why should Ezekiel’s wife die & Ezekiel suffer in this way?
    • First, remember that God doesn’t change.  God was good then, just like He is good today.  God is good, all the time.  Just because we don’t understand certain actions of God doesn’t mean that He is any less good than He’s always been.  We have to trust His basic character, just as Ezekiel did.  Death will always be tragic to us, as well it should.  It is, after all, the direct result of our sinful condition.  But this is something directly dealt with by Jesus.  The very reason Jesus came was to reverse the curse of death.  We may experience it now, but our experience with it is temporary – all due to the sheer goodness of God.
    • Secondly, Ezekiel suffered loss & grief, but so would his countrymen.  All of those currently in Jerusalem would suffer terrible hardship at the hands of the Babylonians, and all of those currently in captivity would suffer heartbreak when they heard of the destruction of their beloved city.  God’s representative shared in the suffering of His people.  What was experienced by Ezekiel is what would later be experienced by Jesus when He put on human flesh and shared in our sufferings as well.  He experienced all of our hardships & personally experienced the result of all of our sins.  God took these things upon Himself, so that we could experience His grace & power in return.
  • The Jews may have grown weary of Ezekiel’s prophecies in the past, but now they were asking him directly what had happened.  The prophet had an open invitation to speak, and he took it.  Vs. 20…

20 Then I answered them, “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 21 ‘Speak to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I will profane My sanctuary, your arrogant boast, the desire of your eyes, the delight of your soul; and your sons and daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword.

  • What had happened to Ezekiel would happen to Israel.  The prophet had lost the desire of his eyes; so would the nation.  They would experience the loss of Jerusalem, the temple, and countless lives of those within.
  • Who would do it?  God!  “I will profane My sanctuary.”  The holy temple had been set apart by God & at one point even indwelled by the Spirit of God, but now this place would be turned over to the Gentiles.  God personally brought the Babylonians to the gate of Jerusalem & He would allow them to come in & burn the temple to the ground.  Truly it would be profaned.  The Jews may have boasted in the beauty of this place in the past – but it would be ripped from them, to the point that future generations would have to re-lay a foundation before any rebuilding could begin.
  • What would the Jews do when this desecration finally came?  The siege had begun, but the destruction of the temple wouldn’t take place for months yet to come.  But when it did, the people would be left in shock and grief.  Vs. 22…

22 And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your lips nor eat man’s bread of sorrow. 23 Your turbans shall be on your heads and your sandals on your feet; you shall neither mourn nor weep, but you shall pine away in your iniquities and mourn with one another. 24 Thus Ezekiel is a sign to you; according to all that he has done you shall do; and when this comes, you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.’ ”

  • As Ezekiel grieved, so would the people: silently.  Why?  Because ultimately the Jews would know that their grief was deserved.  Yes, their hearts would be broken, but they wouldn’t get the opportunity to grieve openly & wail.  Instead, the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be sent on a POW march by the Babylonians, and the Jews who were already outside of the city would understand this as the fulfillment of prophecy.
  • What God acts, we know it!  When it comes to His discipline, we might not always like it, but we can always recognize it.
  • That was the word God gave Ezekiel to deliver to the Jews in captivity, but God wasn’t done speaking to Ezekiel himself.  Vs. 25…

25 ‘And you, son of man—will it not be in the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that on which they set their minds, their sons and their daughters: 26 on that day one who escapes will come to you to let you hear it with your ears; 27 on that day your mouth will be opened to him who has escaped; you shall speak and no longer be mute. Thus you will be a sign to them, and they shall know that I am the LORD.’ ”

  • God reassures Ezekiel that he would not be alone in his suffering & grief.  His people would go through the same pain.  Not that Ezekiel’s grief would be easy to handle, but at least he could know that God had a plan for it all.  The sovereignty of God is a firm foundation to cling in times of trial!
  • Ezekiel would suffer in silence now, but he wouldn’t always be silent.  He would not always grieve.  Yes, his wife would always be gone & Jerusalem would indeed be destroyed, but his nation would not be exterminated.  Eventually, fugitives would join Ezekiel & the others in captivity, and that’s when the prophet’s message would change from judgment to hope.  To this point, the main focus of the oracles had been judgment & the wrath of God, preparing the Jewish people for what was about to happen with the Babylonians.  Now that day had arrived, and those prophecies would be fulfilled.  But God wasn’t done with His people.  There were more prophecies to be given, and those would have to do with restoration.  Ezekiel would then be able to speak forth words of hope, continually pointing his neighbors back to their covenant-keeping God.

Ezekiel 25 – Israel’s neighbors are judged
All of that was God’s word to His own people – but they were not the only people in the world.  Other nations had sinned, and would likewise face their own judgments.  That’s where the prophetic attention turns in the next several chapters.  Obviously God does not address every nation in the world – He concentrates His attention on the nations with whom the Jews would be most familiar: their neighbors.  After all, these are still the Hebrew Scriptures, which would be primarily read by Hebrews.  Initially the prophecies focus on the nations most closely related to the Hebrews, all of which shared borders with Israel.  With these first few prophecies, a certain pattern can be seen: the nation is identified – the crime is detailed – the judgment is declared.  The Almighty Judge cast His verdict upon the nations, and it was all declared through Ezekiel.

  • Against Ammon (1-7)

1 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face against the Ammonites, and prophesy against them. 3 Say to the Ammonites, ‘Hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you said, ‘Aha!’ against My sanctuary when it was profaned, and against the land of Israel when it was desolate, and against the house of Judah when they went into captivity, 4 indeed, therefore, I will deliver you as a possession to the men of the East, and they shall set their encampments among you and make their dwellings among you; they shall eat your fruit, and they shall drink your milk. 5 And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels and Ammon a resting place for flocks. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”

  • Ammon was a son of Lot, the nephew of Abraham.  Historically, they had always caused problems for the Hebrews, and all of that would now come home to roost.
  • The crime?  Gloating.  They celebrated over Israel’s misery.  Speaking in the prophetic past-tense, God declares how the Ammonites would laugh when Babylon desecrated the temple.  Yes, this was God’s righteous judgment upon His people, but that was no excuse for other nations to enjoy Israel’s misery.
  • The judgment?  God would give them misery of their own.  Just like Israel was overrun by foreigners, so would Ammon.  Other nations would come from the east (the various empires of the Babylonians, the Medes & Persians, the Nabateans, etc.), and Ammon would themselves suffer the same fate.  Just as all of the Jewish possessions were taken, so would those of Ammon.
  • All of this is reiterated in vss. 6-7…

6 ‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you clapped your hands, stamped your feet, and rejoiced in heart with all your disdain for the land of Israel, 7 indeed, therefore, I will stretch out My hand against you, and give you as plunder to the nations; I will cut you off from the peoples, and I will cause you to perish from the countries; I will destroy you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

  • When Ammon celebrated at Jerusalem’s downfall, they basically threw themselves a party.  They hated God’s people, and cursed them…and that was the problem.  This goes back to the initial covenant that God gave to Abraham: Genesis 12:1–3, "(1) Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. (2) I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”"  With all of the physical blessing promised by God to Abraham came also the promise of protection.  He would bless those who blessed Abraham & curse those who cursed him.  What had Ammon done?  They cursed the covenant descendants of Abraham, the Hebrews.  Thus God brought His mighty wrath against them, allowing them to feel the full onslaught of the curse.
    • What was in force then is still in force today.  God’s covenant promise to Abraham has not abated.  The blessing given to all the world has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but God still promised a nation (Israel), a land, and His protection.  Governments ought to think twice before cursing the modern state of Israel, and they certainly ought to be generous in their blessings towards it.
  • Did you notice what the result is of God’s judgment of Ammon?  The same as God’s judgment of Israel: “then you shall know that I am the LORD.”  Would the Ammonites know Him in faith?  Not likely.  The Ammonites (like many other ancient nationalities) would perish from history.  But when their destruction came, they would certainly know it was the God of Israel who brought it.
    • Whether people die in faith or still fighting against God, all peoples everywhere will one day know Him as the Lord!  When we see Jesus at the judgment, His identity will be unmistakable.
  • Against Moab (8-11)

8 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because Moab and Seir say, ‘Look! The house of Judah is like all the nations,’ 9 therefore, behold, I will clear the territory of Moab of cities, of the cities on its frontier, the glory of the country, Beth Jeshimoth, Baal Meon, and Kirjathaim. 10 To the men of the East I will give it as a possession, together with the Ammonites, that the Ammonites may not be remembered among the nations. 11 And I will execute judgments upon Moab, and they shall know that I am the LORD.”

  • Moab was the other son of Lot, also a perpetual pain in Israel’s side.
  • The crime?  Boasting.  Ammon celebrated Jerusalem’s downfall; Moab boasted that Jerusalem had been cut down to size.  They weren’t the privileged people that they thought they were – the Jews had gotten what was coming to them, and their God had not protected them.  Obviously, that wasn’t the case at all!  It was true that God had removed His hand of protection, but they were still His covenant people.  The Jews may have violated the covenant & thus God had cast them off for a while, but ultimately, God would bring them to a place of restoration.  God’s covenant promises are inviolable & irrevocable.
  • The judgment: like Ammon, the Moabites would be wiped from the earth.  Their land was to be given over completely to other people, and their culture would barely be remembered.  Likewise, it would be through God’s judgment that the Moabites finally saw the God of Israel for who He is.
  • Against Edom (12-14)

12 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them,” 13 therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also stretch out My hand against Edom, cut off man and beast from it, and make it desolate from Teman; Dedan shall fall by the sword. 14 I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel, that they may do in Edom according to My anger and according to My fury; and they shall know My vengeance,” says the Lord GOD.

  • The family line gets closer to Israel here.  Edom was descended from Esau, the twin brother of Jacob/Israel.  But again, like the other family clans, Edom had clashed with Israel for generations on end.
  • The crime: Unjust vengeance.  Unlike some of the other nations, Edom actually had legitimate reason to be upset with the Israelites.  Different Judean kings had extended their influence over Edom, and the Edomites were able to throw them off from time to time.  Nevertheless, the judgment of Israel was up to God; not Edom.  When Edom acted against Israel, apparently they acted in an unjust way & God promised to judge them for it.
  • The judgment: God’s vengeance.  Edom had acted vengefully against Israel; God would act vengefully against Edom.  Again, His covenant promise to curse those who cursed Israel was in full effect.
  • Against the Philistines (15-17)

15 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because the Philistines dealt vengefully and took vengeance with a spiteful heart, to destroy because of the old hatred,” 16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will stretch out My hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the remnant of the seacoast. 17 I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I lay My vengeance upon them.” ’ ”

  • The Philistines had no ancestral tie to Israel, but they certainly had a long history of enmity against them.  The Philistines serve as the primary enemy of Israel throughout the book of Judges, and will into the reign of Saul & David.
    • FYI, this is where the name “Palestine” comes from.  The Romans wanted a way to subjugate the Jews even in terminology, so they gave the land the name of the historical enemy of the Jews.  The Palestinians of today have zero ancestral ties to the Philistines of old; the Arabic people who migrated into the land simply took the name to themselves when it suited them.
  • The crime: Vengeance & spite.  Like the Edomites, the Philistines acted in vengeance against Israel, taking advantage of Jerusalem’s weakened condition.  Yet unlike Edom, they had no reason for doing so.  The only reason the Philistines acted was because that was what they always did.  They had an old grudge, and saw an opportunity to exercise it.
  • The judgment: God’s vengeance.  The Philistines were seafaring people, and God promised to strike them wherever He found them.  He would cut them off, and let them feel His wrath, which itself would be a testimony unto Him.

Conclusion:
Whether Jew or Gentile, the wrath of God is fierce to behold!  For His own people, God promised that the Jews would experience His fiery purifying anger & that they would grieve immensely, though silently in awe at what God had done.  At the same time, there was hope.  God’s wrath, though terrible, was not the end.  There was a future yet in store for them.

For the enemies of God’s people, the future wasn’t so bright.  They would also experience the fierce anger of God, but for them, it would mean the end.  They had cursed the people God had declared as blessed, and they brought the curse of God down upon their own heads.  They would still know the Lord as God, but at that point it was too late.

Does God discipline His own people?  Yes.  But if He does that, how much more ought we expect God to judge those who don’t belong to Him? Again, judgment rightly begins at the house of God, but it doesn’t end there.  All people everywhere will one day stand before God for judgment, and they will have to give account to Him.  At that point, there will be only one question that matters: do you belong to Him as one of His people?  In other words, are you a Christian?  Do you belong to God through Jesus Christ?  If so, there is glorious hope!  There is a marvelous future!  If not – then you will still know the Lord as God, but it will be too late.  (Don’t wait until that point!)

As uncomfortable as the message of God’s judgment can be (even as a Christian), there is still some wonderful news here for us.  (1) No matter what we do, God is still jealous for us.  He was in the very process of judging His own people, but that didn’t stop Him from taking furious vengeance upon the enemies of the Jews.  God may have been angry with the Jews, but He still loved them.  Likewise with us.  There are times that we sin & rightly earn God’s just discipline, but He never stops loving us.  He never stops rising in our defense.  He is still our God, and will always act as such.

(2) Although we face the discipline of God, we never face the wrath of God!  The wrath of God is something that Jesus took upon Himself when He went to the cross.  All of the fiery anger of God that should have been poured out on us to burn off our scum & rust went on Jesus instead.  Did God hold back His wrath?  Absolutely not – it went on Jesus to the full.  And now it’s done.  Completely done – forever.  Praise the Lord!  Every time we read of God’s judgment, it should always take our mind to the cross, because it was there that our judgment was fulfilled.  And that is a reason to praise Him.

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