August 14, 2015.
Daily Reading: Ezekiel 31-36.
Background: Ezekiel 25-30.
Concepts and Connections.
Prophecy against Pharaoh: In this chapter, the word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel to give to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, on the things that will happen to him. Though the prophecy is directed towards Pharaoh, the oracle uses the king of Assyria and the Assyrian nation as a mirror to what is going to happen to Egypt. The opening of the prophecy sets the scene for Assyria as a mighty cedar in Lebon, a great tree in which the birds of the heavens rested and in who’s shade the beast of the field stood; a tree beautiful and strong beyond compare. Notice the likening of the tree to those in the garden of Eden, and even more so, to give the metaphor hyperbolic nature. This was to indicate the power and position that Assyria held among the nations, setting the scene as a nation to who no one could compare. It is important that the oracle makes specific mention that the Lord made Assyria the great nation that it had become, as their downfall would come at the price of their pride when they rejected this idea. Because of the pride that Assyria had developed, the Lord gave them into the hands of ruthless nations, to cause the demise and destruction of the once great nation of Assyria, a nation that did not think they could fall, just as Pharaoh and the land of Egypt were thinking. But Assyria did fall, and great was its destruction. The latter portion of this oracle describes the fall and destruction of Assyria, and then the prophet leaves with these words: “This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord God.” Just as Assyria had fallen, with its king, so would Egypt and her Pharaoh. He would lie among the slain of the nations, those slain by the sword.
Oracle against Pharaoh and Egypt: A little over a year after the previous oracle against Egypt had been given (see last chapter), the word of the Lord comes again to Ezekiel to prophesy against Pharaoh and Egypt. The pride of Egypt is evident from the first line of the oracle, but what Pharaoh doesn’t know is that the Lord is in control and He was about to visit Egypt in their pride and bring destruction upon them. Notice the vivid language that is used against Egypt in v. 3-8. The Lord was about to bring destruction by the hand of the king of Babylon, and the pride of Egypt would be taken away and lamentation for the once great nation would be heard in the streets. Fourteen days after this prophecy, another word came to Ezekiel to cry a lament over the nation because of the calamity that the Lord was going to bring on them. They would be laid to rest in Sheol, or the grave, with the uncircumcised. Egypt would not be alone in Sheol, however, as she would see other once mighty nations there who too had been struck down by the Lord because of their pride and their evil ways. These nations included Assyria, Elam, Meshech-Tubal, Edom, the nations of the north and the Sidonians. Thus Pharaoh and Egypt would find their final resting place among the slain of the uncircumcised nations.
1. Watchman: See Ezekiel 3:16-21.
2. The mercy of God: Just after explaining to Ezekiel the responsibilities of the watchman, here we see an example of God’s long-suffering and willingness for all to repent and turn back to Him (see also II Peter 3:9). The Lord truly has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, as it was not that purpose for which man was made. The Lord wants the wicked to turn from their ways and seek Him, that He might blot out their transgressions from before Him. Notice this everlasting characteristic of God: He is always full of mercy and grace for those who are willing to turn and seek Him. The righteousness of the righteous will not save them when they commit injustice, nor will the wickedness of the wicked convict them when they repent and turn to God. Though we don’t get as clear of a picture of God’s love and mercy in the Old Testament (probably because we aren’t looking hard enough), here we see that this is an ever true characteristic of God. It never changes. Forgiveness and mercy have always been attributed to the Almighty. But the people wouldn’t accept His mercy, but rather said that the way of the Lord is unjust. Though He is full of mercy, He will judge according to His righteousness. Those who reject His mercy will be caught by His judgement.
3. Jerusalem struck down: The latter portion of this chapter details an oracle given to Ezekiel after a messenger has told him about the striking down of Jerusalem. Apparently Ezekiel had been mute until he recieved this message, and when he heard it, the Lord opened his mouth to speak on the attitudes of the people of Israel. They had let so much pride come in that they didn’t see the wickedness and abominations that they were doing in the sight of the Lord. They thought that since they were many people, whereas Abraham their father (to whom the promise was given about the land they were in, see Genesis 28:13) was only one, they had more of a right to the promised land than even Abraham did. Yet they could not see the evil they were doing. For these abominations, the Lord was going to bring destruction on the city and all of Israel. Their pride and spiritual adultery had separated them from their God, and their destruction was coming. Ezekiel is warned, however, that though the people will listen to his words, they will not act on them. Their listening would have no effect on their daily lives, and this would ensure the coming destruction. Ezekiel’s words would come to pass, and then they people would know that a prophet had been among them.
The Good Shepherd: The opening of this oracle is directed at the shepherds (leaders) of Israel, for they had greatly forsaken their job in keeping the sheep (the children of Israel). Note the responsibility that is laid on the leadership here, as they were the ones who were supposed to be keeping Israel on track. The leaders of the people received a stricter judment from God than the people did here (see James 3:1). Because they had not done their jobs, the Lord essentially fires them in this passage and says that He is personally going to take on their role. This prophecy gets very Messianic very quickly. After the shepherds are judged, the Lord comes in and says that He Himself will seek out His sheep than had been led astray, and gather them once again. He Himself would be their shepherd and judge between them. The Messiah is mentioned as David in verse 24, and this whole chapter has a sticking similarity and correspondence to John 10:7-18, as Jesus here describes Himself as the Good Shepherd. Once the Lord established this convenient of peace with His flock that He was guiding with His own hand, the blessings of the Lord would fall on them. Today we live in the realization of this prophecy, as we have Christ as our Shepherd. We are the sheep of God’s pasture.
Oracle against Mount Seir: In this chapter, an oracle is given to Ezekiel to prophesy against Mount Seir for the wickedness they had committed against the children of Israel. The Lord was going to bring destruction on the city so that it would be made a desolation and a waste. These people had taken advantage of the children of Israel in the day of their calamity, and had taken to them by the sword when they wanted to plunder their camp as spoils of war. Because of these crimes against the children of Israel, the Lord was going to bring destruction on Mount Seir and all Edom. They had not recognized that the Lord with His people when they took to plunder the city, but after the destruction of the Lord would come to pass, they would know that the Lord is God Almighty.
Renewal from the Lord: This chapter contains an oracle of renewal and restoration from the Lord as He was once again going to visit the affliction of His people and restore them to their health and position among the nations, gathering them from the nations that He had scattered them to. Note the hope that is held within this article, hope that was needed in a time of despair. Though punishment and judgment had come from the Lord on His people, He would once again be for them and stand with them, judging the evil deeds of the nations of the people around them. He would have concern for HIs holy name, and all those who defiled it would not go unpunished. It is important to point out that it is said that He would put His Spirit in His people when He restores them, which seems to be a reference to the Holy Spirit that is given to us today (see Acts 2:17-21, 38). He would cleanse His people and all nations would know that He is the Lord. This chapter is certainly a message of hope to the exiles that were spread throughout the land.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Luke 21-22.
Let us draw near to God.