July 3, 2015.
Daily Reading: Ezekiel 13-18.
Background: Ezekiel 7-12.
Concepts and Connections.
Speaking for God when He did not speak: Ezekiel is sent by the Lord with an oracle against the prophets of Isreal in this chapter, because the prophets were speaking lies, telling of false visions. They would said “Declares the Lord!” When the Lord had not spoken to them. They even expected Him to fulfill their visions, even though they were not from Him. The people of the Land (and perhaps the prophets themselves) had been deceived, hearing a false message of hope while the true prophets of the Lord were being overlooked. The prophets would prophesy peace, when their was no peace, just as Jeremiah also pointed out (see Jeremiah 6:13-14, 8:10-11). They were misleading the people, and for this, the Lord was about to bring punishment on their own heads. The walls they had consecrated would be torn down and all would know the Lord. Their visions would not come true, but rather the opposite, destruction would come on the city. Ezekiel was also sent to prophecy against the women of the land who prophesied, and perhaps were partaking in dark magic and divination (see Deuteronomy 18:10). They were against the righteous and for the wicked. For this, their hunting of souls, the Lord was against them as well, and their punishment would come and all would know that He is the Lord.
1. The elders and their idols: The Lord gives Ezekiel a message for the elders who have come to sit before him, likely as an inquiry of the Lord. However, the elders had a problem, and that was that they had taken their idols into their hearts, and the Lord was angry that they would even have the audacity to come before Him to inquire of Him while they were serving idols in their heart. Thus, the Lord said that He Himself would answer them on the day they came, but not in the way that they wanted Him to. He would make them a disgrace and a byword to the people. The prophet would be deceived and speak a word that was not true, and they would be punished before the people, and they would know that He is the Lord.
2. Not even Noah, Daniel and Job: There is an interesting discourse from the Lord given in the latter portion of this chapter that details how set His punishment was against Jerusalem. He was about to send sword, famine, wild beasts and pestilence upon the city to destroy it, and He would not relent of His disaster, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were all there to defend the city to Him. It is interesting that these three characters were chosen. Noah was a righteous man who lived in a time where there was only evil in the hearts of men continually, and only he and his family were saved when the Lord destroyed the earth with a deluge (see Genesis 6). Daniel lived in the time of Babylonian captivity, but he fully trusted in the Lord, no matter what his enemies did to him (see Daniel 1). Job was probably the most righteous man on earth during his days (see Job 1-2), which speaks to how bad Jerusalem was at this point if Job would not even have found favor in the sight of the Lord to deliver them. All three of these very righteous men, if they were present and together sent up their cries to the Lord to deliver Jerusalem, He would not have relented of His destruction, but only saved them alive. This was to emphasize the determination and set plan of God for the sins of the people. However, He would not make a total end to all HIs people, but would rather leave some, and they would know that the Lord had brought about this disaster due to their wickedness.
A useless vine: Here the Lord compares His people to the vines that hang from the trees that are good for nothing. No man uses the vines to make anything, or to hang anything on it. It is only thrown into the fire, and then how much more is the charred middle useless. As the vine was, so were the people. The Lord was about to throw them into the fire because of their faithlessness. The Lord and set his face against His people because of their abominable acts.
The rise, fall, and renewal of God’s people: In this chapter, the Lord Ezekiel an oracle to make known to the people in which He describes metaphorically the rise, fall and future renewal of the covenant with Him. In this metaphor, Israel is depicted as a child who is born in the land of Canaan without pity, tossed in her blood into the open field after she is delivered, with no one to take compassion on her. Then the Lord sees her, has compassion on her and brings her under His wing. He brings her up, gives her fine clothing and jewelry and presents her as a beauty to the nations. She had gone from unloved to divinely loved. However, when she had grown into her prime, she forgot what the Lord had done for her, but rather trusted in her beauty and riches that had be divinely supplied, and played the whore with the nations around her and their gods. Then she went even further, playing the whore with other nations, never being satisfied fully but always longing for more. Because of this, the abomination that she had partaken in, the Lord gave her into the hands of her enemies, for even her enemies were ashamed at her lewdness. And she still played the whore. Nothing would satisfy. Because of this, destruction was coming on them, as disastrous time when God would release His wrath on them. Then He would be satisfied, His anger quelled, for she will have been punished sufficiently for her whoring. In the latter days, He would establish His everlasting covenant with His people, and they would know that He is God.
Parable of two eagles and a vine: In this chapter, another parable is given to the people. In it, a great eagle comes to Lebanon and takes a topmost, young twig from a cedar and traded it with the merchants for the seed of the land. The eagle then took the seed and planted it in a well watered area, and it grew to be a vine that produced branches and put our boughs. But then another eagle came, and the branches of the vine bent and went towards that eagle instead of the one who had planted the seed originally. The question is then proposed, will it thrive? This was a parable describing the children of Israel, who had been taken into captivity by Babylon (by the hand of the Lord) and subsequently rebelled, sending ambassadors to Egypt to get their help against Babylon. The question is posed to them, will they thrive? The answer to the vine was no, for the original eagle pulled up the branches and it would wither away when the east wind hit it. So to would the children of Israel wither under the judgment of the Lord, for Egypt would not help them. In their rebellion, they would be crushed by the hand of Babylon, and Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed (see II Kings 25). However, there is a seed of hope at the end of this chapter, as the Lord Himself would take a young, tender twig, and plant it on a high mountain for it to grow into a nobel cedar, and all will know that He is the Lord.
Everyone is responsible for their own soul/sin: There was a proverb going around in these days that said ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,’ meaning that the son of a wicked man would pay for the sins of his father (see also Jeremiah 31:27-30). The Lord came to Ezekiel and asked why the people said this proverb, as it was not true. The Lord holds all souls, and each soul is responsible for their own sin. The son is not responsible for his father’s sin, nor is the father responsible for his son’s sin. Then the Lord gives an example of a righteous man, who does things that are pure and good, who fathers a son who is wicked and violent. The father, then, is not responsible for his son’s sin (the story assumes the father raised the child in a good way, for the father was a righteous man). Then this wicked son fathers a child who sees the wickedness of his father and turns from it, doing what is right once again. This son should not be punished for his father’s sin, for he is a righteous man. The soul that sins, he shall die. This seems to pose a problem for the concept of ‘original sin,’ as each soul is responsible for their own sin, and not the sin of their father. Then the steadfast love of the Lord is displayed, as it is said that when an unrighteous man turns from his wickedness to the Lord, he would deliver his soul as the Lord would have mercy on him and let him live. Note that the Lord says He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. However, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness, then he would be responsible for sin and bring destruction upon himself. The people didn’t think that the way of the Lord was just, but it was actually their ways that were not just. He was beckoning them to repent and come back to Him, turning from their evil ways and delivering their souls. The Lord has not pleasure in the death of anyone. He was calling them to turn and live.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Luke 15-16.
Turn and live.