Ezekiel 11

 

 

1 “Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate

of the LORD’s house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the

door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw

Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes

of the people.  2 Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men

that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city:”

Moreover the Spirit lifted me up, etc. It is noticeable that the

position to which Ezekiel was thus transported in his vision from his place

in the inner court (ch. 8:14), was identical with that which he had

just seen occupied by the cherub chariot before its departure (ch.10:19).

What he is about to see will throw light on the significance of their

departure. The gate is probably, here as there, that of the court of the

temple. Five and twenty men. The number at first reminds us of the

worshippers of the sun, in ch. 8:16; but that, as we saw, was

probably a company of priests. On the other hand, the two who are named

are styled princes of the people, which suggests a lay rather than a priestly

status, and they are seen in a different locality. Conjectures as to the

significance of the number vary.

 

  • Two from each tribe of Israel, with the king at their head.
  • Two from each of the twelve divisions of the army, each containing

twenty-four thousand men (I Chronicles 27:1-15).

  • Representatives of twelve regions of the city — a kind of municipal

council, with their president.

 

Possibly, after all, the number was used more or less vaguely — a “round”

number, as we say. It is probably safe, however, to think of them as

representing the lay element of authority. (Perhaps the general citizenry’s

role in Israel’s downfall!  “And my people love to have it so.”  (Jeremiah

5:31 – CY – 2014).  Nothing is known further as to the persons named.

Jaazaniah is distinguished by his parentage from his namesake of ch. 8:11 and

Jeremiah 35:3. Both were probably familiar to those for whom Ezekiel

wrote, as leaders of the party that was “always devising mischief,” in

opposition, i.e., to Jeremiah and the true prophets. Possibly the meanings

of the names Jaazaniah (equivalent to “God hearkens”) the son of Azur

(equivalent to “The Helper”), Pelatiah (equivalent to “God rescues”) the

son of Benaiah (equivalent to “God builds”), are chosen as with a grim

irony. The name of Azur meets us in Jeremiah 28:1 as that of the father

of the false prophet Hananiah. The death of Pelatiah was probably an

historical event to which the prophet pointed as a warning to those who,

either at Jerusalem or among the exiles, were speaking as he spoke.

 

 

Evil Counselors (v. 2)

 

Ezekiel was a true patriot; and it was accordingly to him matter of great

distress that his countrymen were misled by ungodly and self-seeking

counsellors and princes. By whatever name they are called, and to whatever gifts

or acquirements they owe their influence, there will always, in every state and in every

Church, be men who lead, who guide the thoughts and control and inspire the actions

of their fellows and inferiors. It was the prophet’s sorrow to see posts of power at

Jerusalem occupied by those who led the citizens astray and encouraged

them in their rebellion against God. His experience and reflections lead us

to think of great men who are at the same time counsellors of evil in the

community.

 

  • THE COUNSELLORS OF A NATION. ABUSE THEIR TRUST

WHEN THEY SEEK TO DIRECT PUBLIC POLICY SO AS TO

SECURE PERSONAL AND PRIVATE ENDS. That this is often done

no student of political philosophy and history, no observer of contemporary

politics in any nation, can doubt. Men profess zeal for the public good, and

upon such profession are exalted, by the favor of a prince or of the public,

to positions of eminence and power. No sooner are they securely in office

than they make use of their newly acquired power to gain some ends dear

to their own interests, passions, or prejudices. Some by oppression or

peculation amass great wealth; some find means to revenge themselves

upon their enemies and rivals; some seek to get into their own hands the

reins of supreme power; some regard office as the opportunity for

advancing their family or their friends to posts of consideration and

emolument. In public such persons speak of patriotism, of popular rights,

of disinterested devotion to the public good. But in reality they are always

scheming to secure some advantage to themselves.

 

  • EVIL COUNSELLORS ARE ACTUATED BY BASE MOTIVES.

Politicians are sometimes in the pay of their country’s enemies; they are

sometimes the instruments of a despot who seeks to rob the people of their

rights, and to establish a tyranny; they are sometimes indifferent to their

fellow countrymen’s sufferings, if only they themselves may profit by their

nation’s fall. Self is their rule, their impulse, their one consideration. What

they do they do not as unto the Lord, but unto men.

 

  • EVIL COUNSELLORS LEAD A COMMUNITY INTO ERROR

AND RUIN. The multitude ever follows the guidance of the few. The

uninstructed and ill-informed are at the mercy of their superiors. Old

Testament history abounds with instances of misleading by unprincipled

rulers. It is mentioned to the condemnation of one and another of the kings

that they “caused Israel to sin.” And what was true of the “chosen nation”

is true of every people; at some epoch or other the pride, the vanity, the

ambition, the meanness, or the selfish sloth of those in authority has led the

nations into some course of infatuated folly, and the people have suffered

for the offences of their leaders.

 

  • RETRIBUTION WILL SURELY OVERTAKE SUCH AS BY

WICKED COUNSEL LEAD THE PEOPLE ASTRAY. The time must

come when the secret purposes of wicked rulers will be BROUGHT TO

LIGHT AND EXPOSED  (Luke 12:2-3).  Some are hurled by the indignation

of the people from the lofty position to which they have been allowed to climb.

Some retain their position whilst they live, but their memory is accursed. But

of all we are assured upon the highest authority that they shall be brought

into judgment, and that their deeds shall not be unpunished.

 

3 “Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and

we be the flesh.”  It is not near, etc. The words take their place among the

popular, half-proverbial sayings of which we have other examples in ch. 8:12; 9:9;

and 18:2. As in most proverbs of this kind, the thought is condensed to the very

verge of obscurity, and the words have received very different interpretations.

 

  • That suggested by the Authorized Version. “It (the judgment of which

the true prophets spoke) is not near.”  Let us build houses, not, as Jeremiah

bids, in the land of exile, but here in Jerusalem, where we shall remain in safety

(Jeremiah 29:5).  Are we threatened with the imagery of the ‘seething pot

(Jeremiah 1:13)? Let us remember that the caldron protects the meat in

it from the fire. The walls of the city will protect us from the army of the

Chaldeans.” The temper which clothed itself in this language was that of

the self-confident boastful security of Ibid. ch.28:3; and the death of

Hananiah, the son of Azur, in that history presents a parallel to that of

Pelatiah in this.

 

  • Grammatically, however, the rendering of the Revised Version is

preferable: The time is not near for building houses; probably, as before,

with a reference to Jeremiah’s advice. “We,” they seem to say, “are not

come to that point yet. We will trust, as in the previous explanation, in our

interpretation of the

caldron.”

 

  • On the whole, I incline, while adopting the Revised Version rendering,

to interpret the words as the defiant utterance of despair: “It is no time

for building houses, here or elsewhere. We are doomed. We are destined

(I borrow the nearest analogue of modern proverbial speech) to stew in

our own juice.’ Well, let us meet it as we best may.”

 

I find what suggests this view:

 

  • in the improbability that the thought of the caldron could ever have

been received as a message of safety (compare ch. 24:3, 6); and

 

  • in the despairing tone of most of the sayings that Ezekiel records

(ch.18:2; 37:11). Probably there were, as in other like crises in the

history of nations (say, e.g., in those of the Franco-German War) rapid

alternations between the two moods of boastful security and defiant despair

the galgenhumor, the courage of the gallows, as Smend calls it; and the

same words might be uttered now in this temper, and now in that. In either

case, there was the root element of the absence of repentance and

submission.

 

 

 

The False Confidence of Unbelief (v. 3)

 

Jeremiah told the captives to settle in the land of exile and build houses

there, because the Captivity was to last for generations (Jeremiah 29:5).

But the frivolous people have rejected that wise counsel, and they declare

that such provision for exile is not necessary. “It is not time to build these

houses the prophet spoke of,” they say; “we will stay in the city, like the

flesh in the cauldron.”

 

  • IMPENITENCE CREATES FALSE CONFIDENCE. This is to be

expected, just as we see, on the other hand, that a deep sense of guilt

brings with it a fear of judgment to come. When we feel and own our sin,

we must admit that we deserve punishment, and we must see that the

ground of assurance is cut from beneath our feet. What right have we to

believe that God will shield us from harm, while we are bidding defiance to

his Law? But while a soul is impenitent the ill desert and threatening doom

are not perceived. It does not own that it should be punished. It defends

itself and shelters itself behind innumerable excuses. Moreover, the moral

sense is now blunt, and the faculty of spiritual insight blind. The messenger

of God, too, is regarded as an enemy, and therefore little attention is given

to his word. Thus arises a meretricious faith, the opposite of true faith,

THE CONFIDENCE OF UNBELIEF!

 

  • FALSE CONFIDENCE POSTPONES AND MINIMIZES THE

PROSPECT OF CALAMITY.

 

Ø      It postpones. Possibly the evil day may lie in the future. This much is

tacitly admitted, But it is so far away that we need not give any

consideration to it. While the prophet declares that it is at the door, the

reckless unbeliever relegates it to a region of dim futurity beyond the

horizon of practical considerations.

 

Ø      It minimizes. Even if it is admitted that the dreadful day is near, the

evil of it is made little of. “There is no need to build houses,” these

Jerusalem sinners” exclaim. The storm may come soon, but it will

quickly pass. Thus men make the least of the prospect of future

punishment. False confidence first postpones the consideration of it,

and then softens its terrors. To the impenitent sinner hell is first a far

off possibility; then, though it is a, nearer future, it is not thought to

be so unendurable as the preachers declare.

 

  • THERE IS GREAT DANGER IN FALSE CONFIDENCE. The Jews

were simply deceiving themselves. Their very language should have

revealed their folly to them. They described the city as a cauldron in which

they were as the flesh. Their only application of this metaphor was to

represent themselves as well inside the city, and therefore as not needing to

build other houses. But the prophet did not have to go far afield to find

another very obvious application of the same metaphor. The cauldron is to

be set on a fire, and the flesh is only placed in it to be seethed. The

cauldron, therefore, symbolizes a very dreadful fate (v. 7). The danger is

not the less because we close our eyes to it. Meanwhile a false confidence

hinders the impenitent from fleeing from the impending calamity and

seeking a place of refuge. Light views of sin and judgment to come

LULL THE CARELESS INTO A FATAL SLEEP!

 

 

Judgment Deferred (v. 3)

 

The evil counselors of Jerusalem did their worst to counteract the effect of

the message which the Lord’s prophets were commissioned to communicate.

Thus it came to pass that the inhabitants of the city were encouraged to neglect

the obvious duties of repentance and supplication; and, when the time of

 judgment came, WERE FOUND UNPREPARED!   The means

by which the devisers of mischief brought about this result are described in

this passage. They induced the citizens to believe that, if the threatened

judgment were ever to come, it would not be yet, not probably in their

time; and encouraged the citizens to build houses, and to live as if no

catastrophe were about to befall them. If the ruin of Jerusalem were

appointed, at all events that ruin was “not near.”

 

  • THE WAY IN WHICH SINNERS TREAT THE THREATS OF

GOD’S AUTHORIZED MINISTERS.

 

Ø      It is often the bounden duty of faithful messengers of God to foretell

the approach of chastisement and judgment. A painful duty it always is;

and it is to be feared that on this account many shrink from discharging

it.  Even the tender and gracious Jesus denounced the sins  of the

self-righteous and hypocritical, and warned such that condemnation

awaited them. No one can carry out the office of a minister of

righteousness who does not remind the unbelieving and impenitent

that “the wages of sin is death.”

 

Ø      It is observable that such admonitions are often treated with neglect

and contempt. It has been thus from the time of Noah, whose warnings

were unheeded and ridiculed by his contemporaries. The admonitions

of Christ Himself in some instances only embittered the hostility of those

whom He reproached. Every servant of God has had occasion to exclaim,

“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord

revealed?”  (Isaiah 53:1)

 

  • THE ERROR WHICH SINNERS COMMIT IN SO TREATING

GOD’S MESSAGE.

 

Ø      Many who hear the warnings and threats addressed to them give no

credit to what they hear, and do not expect the predictions to be fulfilled.

They have more confidence in their own judgment and in their own

good fortune than in the Word of the Lord. They do not wish to believe,

and they will not believe.

 

Ø      Many who do not absolutely disbelieve and reject the message,

nevertheless persuade themselves that its fulfillment will be indefinitely

deferred, and indeed is altogether uncertain. Such seems to have been

the case with the evil counselors, whose guidance was accepted in

Jerusalem.  Their answer to every prediction of calamity was this:

“It is not near!”  It is with the same excuse that the Word of God is

so constantly encountered in our own days; and there are those who

may not make this excuse in words, who yet cherish it in their hearts

and act upon it in their conduct. “Because sentence against an evil

work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men

is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

 

  • THE FOLLY AND WICKEDNESS OF SUCH TREATMENT OF

GOD’S MESSAGE. What shall be said of the attitude of those whose one

reply is this: “It is not near”?

 

Ø      They must be reminded that time, after all, is of comparatively little

importance. The main question for us is this — Is God angry with the

wicked? “God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11).

Is His wrath to be revealed against the ungodly? “For the wrath

of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and

unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness”

(Romans 1:18).  If it is so, then how can we attach great importance

to the question — Will His  wrath be made manifest this year or next

year; now or at some future time?

 

Ø      They must be reminded that the judgment foretold may be actually

nearer than is supposed or believed. It was so in the case of Jerusalem in

the time of Ezekiel. It has often been so. Men have been eating and

drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, when sudden destruction

has come upon them.  (Matthew 24:38-39; Romans 13:11-14)

 

Ø      They must be reminded that, near or far, the judgment of the Supreme

Ruler is inevitable. “Who may abide the day of His coming? and who

 shall stand when He appeareth?” (Malachi 3:2)

 

4 “Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man.

5 And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me,

Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel:

for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.”

 

  • Here is warning to the wicked. God knows all your life and thought.

You cannot hide anything from Him (compare Job 34:21-22; Psalm 139:1-6;

Hebrews 4:13). And He who knows us WILL ALSO JUDGE US!

The rememdy is “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.”

(I John 1:7)

 

  • Here is encouragement to the good. God knows your thoughts, devices,

purposes, motives. He never misunderstands you. If, like Job, you are

misjudged by man, you may say with him, “But he knoweth the way that I

take.”   (Job 23:10).  Like Hagar, you can say with her, “Thou God seest me”

(Genesis 16:13).  Therefore be encouraged

 

6 Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the

streets thereof with the slain.”  The prophet still, we must remember, in his

vision, is bidden to do his work as a true prophet, and to rebuke the defiant speech

which he had heard. As in ch. 2:2, the Spirit of Jehovah comes upon him,

and throws him into the prophetic ecstasy. It is noticeable that here, as in

(Ibid. v.3, his message is not to Judah only, but to the whole house of

Israel as represented by those to whom he spoke. I know the things. This,

as ever, was one of the notes of a true prophet, that he shared, as was

needed for his work, in the knowledge of Him from whom no secrets are

hid (John 2:24-25; Matthew 9:4; I Corinthians 14:25).  Thoughts, as well as

words, were laid bare before Him, as they were to his Lord (Hebrews 4:12-13).

 

 

God’s Knowledge of Man’s Thought (v. 5)

 

  • THE FACT. We know a few men; God knows all. None are so obscure,

or remote, or secretive as to hide from Him. We know the exterior life; God

knows the life within — every thought, and wish, and dream, and fancy.

We know in part and with many obscurities, having to piece together

scattered hints, and possibly falling into great blunders in our estimation of

our neighbors. God knows completely and without possibility of error,

searching into the deep secrets of the heart, not setting down aught in

malice, but also not blinded to sad truths by the partiality of an imperfect

love.

 

Ø      God knows our ideas. He sees when we are in error, observes the

crooked course of our ill-trained thinking, and notes the narrowness

of our notions. He also knows the true thought which is not

understood by our fellow men.

 

Ø      He knows our desires. If He does not grant them, it is not because He is

ignorant of them. Before a prayer is out of our lips the wish of it has

reached the mind of God. When we cannot find words to express the

longing of our souls, those vague, dumb desires are exactly measured

and fully comprehended by God (Romans 8:26-27).  God knows our

evil desires, the wicked wishes that have not yet found vent in wicked

 deeds.

 

Ø      He knows our sorrows. Though the heart only knoweth its own

bitterness among men, the sympathetic knowledge of God has gauged

it to the bottom. No one can say, “My grief is quite beyond

comprehension.”  No one can be utterly misunderstood. Misjudged

by man, the martyr is known to God.

 

Ø      God knows our sin. There is no secret place where a deed of wrong

can be done without the eye of God seeing it. Abel is murdered in

the field, but still his blood cries to God for vengeance.  (Genesis

4:10)

 

  • ITS CONSEQUENCES.

 

Ø      Hypocrisy is a mistake. It only hides our shame from the less important

spectators, while the all-seeing eye of God regards it as an addition to

the guilt which lurks beneath.

 

Ø      Postponement of punishment is no guarantee for escape. The criminal

who is not caught red-handed hopes that he will now elude the vigilance

of the ministers of justice, and the longer he remains undetected the

more confident does he grow in the assurance that he will never be

caught, until long years of immunity almost beget a feeling of

innocence.  But if God knows all, there is no escape from His anger

behind the obscuring growth of years.

 

Ø      Gods long suffering is manifest. The heathen might say, “My God

does not strike me, because He has not discovered my offence.”

But when the omniscience of God is admitted, His forbearance is

seen to be a wonder of patience and love. He knows all, and yet He

is still ready to pardon, still waiting to be gracious, nay, even still

heaping upon His sinful children many favors!

 

Ø      There is hope of salvation. If our escape lay only in our concealment

of guilt, there would always be a danger of ruin through discovery.

The criminal who has no better hope than this is standing on thin ice.

But now we see that God knows the worst of us, and yet offers

pardon and reconciliation through THE GIFT OF HIS SON,

we have the greatest encouragement TO ACCEPT HIS GRACE!

Moreover, since  He knows our troubles, hopes, fears, aspirations,

and difficulties, He can send the exact help we need.

 

 

Divine Omniscience (v. 5)

 

Among the many elements of that superiority which is distinctive of

monotheism over polytheism must be noted the perfect knowledge which

the one God possesses of all the creatures whom He has made. Men who

believe in the “gods many” of the heathen have not, and cannot have, that

constant sense of the Divine omniscience which must exercise so signal an

influence for good over the worshipper of the Supreme.

 

  • THE REASONABLENESS OF THIS DOCTRINE. We attribute to the

Deity infinite perfection; and this is not consistent with the limitation of His

knowledge. It is absurd to suppose that He who has made the mind of man

has lost the power of recognizing the thoughts and intents of the heart

which He fashioned by His power and wisdom. There is no part of His

universe in which God is not present. Much more evidence is it that the

Father of the spirits of all flesh is in possession of every secret of the

intellectual and spiritual nature of man.

 

  • THE FORGETFULNESS OF THIS DOCTRINE. It is evident that the

inhabitants of Jerusalem, and especially the false teachers and evil

counselors in the city, lost sight of this great truth. God was not in all their

thoughts (Psalm 10:4).  It may not have occurred to them, as they pursued

their selfish plans and lived their irreligious life, that every purpose and hope

was known to the Divine Lord and Judge. “All things are naked and opened

 to the eyes of Him with whom we haw to do.”  (Hebrews 4:13)

 

  • THE TERROR WHICH THIS DOCTRINE SHOULD HAVE FOR

EVIL DOERS WHO ARE REMINDED OF IT. God knows the wicked

things that come into men’s minds and are encouraged to abide there —

the injustice, the covetousness, the falsehood, the impurity, the cruelty, the

hatred, the malevolence, which are distinctive of those who depart from

God. Such qualities, even before they find expression in word and act, are

repugnant to the nature of the just and holy God. And He is not simply an

observer; He is a Judge. He disapproves and condemns thoughts,

sentiments, and purposes which are in opposition to His own laws, to His

own character. He has revealed His intention to bring men into judgment

for all their conduct, and for every secret thing, good or bad (Ecclesiastes

12:14). From this reckoning with the Judge of all there is no escape. The

prospect may well strike the impenitent sinner with dismay.

 

  • THE DISSUASIVE POWER WHICH THIS DOCTRINE SHOULD

EXERCISE OVER THOSE WHO ARE HESITATING WHETHER OR

NOT TO YIELD TO TEMPTATION. In order to resist temptation to sin,

it is not enough to guard our actions, to order aright our circumstances and

associations. It is in the mind that the real battle must be fought. And upon

this battlefield, what auxiliary is so potent and effectual as the remembrance

of the Lord’s omniscience? He is with us to assist us in the regulation of

our thoughts and desires (“There hath no temptation taken you but such

as is common to man:  but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be

tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make

a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  - I Corinthians 11:13);

for He knows alike the force of temptation, and the sincerity of our

endeavor to check and to overcome it.

 

  • THE WELCOME GIVEN BY GOD’S PEOPLE TO THIS

DOCTRINE. The same truth is a joy and consolation to the Christian,

which the ungodly man finds an occasion of distress and dread. Why is

this? It is because God has in Christ made Himself known to his heart as his

Friend and Father. Thus openness and confidence and holy intimacy prevail

between the Christian and his God. The faithful servant of God knows his

infirmities and his faults, and he is grateful to be assured that those are

known to his Father in heaven, who will deal leniently and compassionately

with them, and will assist him in overcoming them. God knows the

aspirations and endeavors of his own children (“For He knoweth our frame;

He remembereth that we are dust.”  - Psalm 103:14), is interested in every

effort to attain to a fuller knowledge of Himself, and a more constant and

practical subjection to His will. In Psalm 139, the feelings of the good man,

conscious of the Divine omniscience, find a full and most poetical and

fervent expression, There is nothing which such a man would wish to hide

from such a Friend.

 

7 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Your slain whom ye have laid

in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron: but

I will bring you forth out of the midst of it.  8 Ye have feared the sword;

and I will bring a sword upon you, saith the Lord GOD.” They are the flesh, etc.

The prophet is led to retort their derisive or defiant words. Not they, but the

carcasses of their victims, were as the “flesh” in the “caldron.” For themselves,

there was another fate in reserve. Neither to be protected by the caldron nor to

meet their doom in it, but to be brought out of it. Death, by famine, sword, or

pestilence (ch. 5:12), might be the doom of some, but for others, perhaps

specially for those whom the prophet addresses, there would be captivity

first, and death from the sword which they feared, afterwards.

 

9 “And I will bring you out of the midst thereof, and deliver you into

the hands of strangers, and will execute judgments among you.

10 Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel;

and ye shall know that I am the LORD.  11 This city shall not be your

caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; but I will judge

you in the border of Israel:  12 And ye shall know that I am the LORD:

for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgments,

but have done after the manners of the heathen that are round about you.”

The strangers are, of course, the Chaldean invaders, and the

prediction finds its fulfillment in the massacre of the princes of Judah at

Ritdah (Jeremiah 52:9-10), which was in Hamath, the northern border

of Israel (I Kings 8:65; II Kings 14:25). Then they should see that

their defiant speech as to the “caldron” and “the flesh” would be of no

avail. Thus they should know that the prophet had spoken in the name of

Jehovah, and that their punishment by the heathen was the righteous

retribution for their having walked in the ways of the heathen.

 

13 And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of

Benaiah died. Then fell I down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice,

and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?”

Pelatiah the son of Benaiah. We must remember that this a as part of the vision,

but it may be assumed, in the nature of the case, that it represented what then or

afterwards was a fact in history. Had Pelatiah died suddenly during a council

meeting? Compare the death of Hananiah in Jeremiah 28:17. As it was, even

in the vision, the death so startled and horrified the prophet, that he burst out

again into a prayer like that of ch. 9:8. Was the “residue,” the “remnant” of

Israel, represented by one of the chief counselors of the city, to be thus cut off?

 

 

The Presumptuous Security of Sinners Exhibited and Condemned (vs. 1-13)

 

  • THE PRESUMPTUOUS AND FALSE SECURITY OF SINNERS

EXHIBITED. (vs. 1-3.) The twenty-five men here mentioned are not the

same as those mentioned in ch.8:16; for already they have been

slain in vision. In both places the number is a round one. And in this place

it is clear that they were leaders of the people; for they gave counsel unto

them, and two princes of the people were in the midst of them. Their

conduct shows to us:

 

Ø      Sinners boasting their security in defiance of the declarations of the

Lord by His prophets. Some of the exiles in Babylon had looked

forward to a speedy return to their own land. Jeremiah the prophet sent

to them a letter to correct this error, saying, “Build ye houses, and

dwell in them;” and assuring them that not until they had accomplished

seventy years of exile would they be permitted to return to the land of

their fathers (Jeremiah 29:1-14). In the same letter he threatened those

 that were left at Jerusalem with “the sword, the famine, and the

pestilence  (Ibid. ch. 14:12).   And these five and twenty men, in

mockery of the words of the prophet, said, “It is not near:  let us

build houses.”  They encouraged themselves and others in the opinion

that, however it might be with the captives in Babylon, they were safe

enough in Jerusalem, and need not trouble themselves about building

houses.  Moreover, Jeremiah had seen in vision a seething pot, or

cauldron, with its face toward the north, which symbolized the coming

of the kingdoms of the north against Jerusalem and against the cities of

Judah, and taking them (Jeremiah 1:13-16). And in derision of this

Prophecy these twenty-five men said, “This is the cauldron, and we are

the flesh” (v. 3).  As the flesh within the cauldron is safe from the

surrounding fire, so they regarded themselves as safe within their city

wails, whatever forces may rage outside them. They deemed their position

a secure one, and would trust to their city walls and defensive

arrangements, rather than heed the words of the Prophets Jeremiah and

Ezekiel. In most ages there have been presumptuous and profane scoffers

at the threatenings of Divine judgments (compare II Peter 3:3-4). And

in our own age there are many who persist in sin, notwithstanding the

warnings addressed to them in the sacred Scriptures. And if their own

conscience also remonstrates with and warns them, they make light of

its admonitions.  They seem to think that they can sin on with impunity,

that somehow they will escape the natural consequences of their

trangressions (compare Jeremiah 5:12).

 

Ø      Sinners in influential positions forming wicked plans and proffering

wicked counsel, and so misleading others. “These are the men that

 devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city.” They entered into

political intrigues, and formed plans of resistance against the enemy in

direct opposition to the will of God expressed by Jeremiah (Jeremiah

21:8-10; 27:8-18; 38:17-23). By following this course, these five and

twenty men had brought calamity and slaughter upon many whom they

had misled (v.6). Sin, mischievous in any one, is especially mischievous

in those who, by reason of their position and influence, lead others astray.

When leaders in society by evil and perilous examples, or politicians or

statesmen by unwise or unrighteous speeches or measures, or authors by

injurious books, mislead or corrupt others, it is unspeakably pernicious.

Great is the responsibility attached to great influence, and great is the

guilt when that influence is exerted for evil.  (“To whom much is

given, MUCH IS REQUIRED!”  (Luke 12:48)

 

  • THE PRESUMPTUOUS AND FALSE SECURITY OF SINNERS

CONDEMNED. (vs. 4-13.) Notice:

 

Ø      The Divine knowledge of their evil designs. Thus saith the Lord; Thus

have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your

mind, every one of them.” To the Omniscient all their thoughts and

purposes were fully known (compare Deuteronomy 31:21; Psalm 139:1-6;

John 2:24-25; Acts 1:24)

 

Ø      The disastrous consequences of their evil designs. “Ye have multiplied

your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain.”

At this time bloodshed and murder were terribly prevalent in Jerusalem,

and were amongst the chief crimes mentioned by Ezekiel as calling for

the Divine judgment upon the city and its guilty inhabitants (compare

ch.8:17; 9:9). And in addition, “the slain” includes those who would

be killed by the Chaldeans, already slain from the standpoint taken up

in the discourse of God. And they are said to be the slain of “the men

that devise mischief,” because their deaths were a consequence of their

evil counsels.  Who can gauge the miseries THAT ARISE IN EVERY

AGE from THE EVIL COUNSELS of”

 

o       incompetent,

o       unprincipled, or

o       wicked leaders of men?

 

Ø      The fatal issue of their evil designs. (vs. 8-13.) Here are several

points which call for brief notice.

 

o       The utter failure of their boasted security in the city.

“I will bring you out of the midst thereof, and deliver

you into the hands of strangers, and will execute

judgments among you.”

 

o       Their slaughter in the execution of the just judgment of God.

Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,

saith the Lord God .... Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge

you in the border of Israel.” And this prophecy was fulfilled

with remarkable fidelity. After they had taken Jerusalem, the

Chaldean army made prisoners of many of the chief men;

they also captured King Zedekiah as he was endeavoring to

escape by flight; and they carried them “to Nebuchadnezzar

King of Babylon, to Ribtah in the land of Hamath,” on the

northern border of Israel; and there the King of Babylon slew

the princes and nobles of Judah, and put out the eyes of

Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, to carry him to Babylon

(II Kings 25:18-21; Jeremiah 39:4-7; 52:8-11).

 

o       Their recognition of Jehovah as the true and supreme God when

it was TOO LATE!   “And ye shall know that I am the Lord”

 (we have noticed these words in ch. 6:7, 10).  It is lamentable

if we must gain the knowledge of God  BY OUR OWN

DESTRUCTION, if He in whom we live, and move, and are,

is first recognized by THE STROKES WHICH BREAK OUR

OWN HEAD!  The knowledge has here, moreover, no moral

 import. It is a mere passive knowledge, forced upon the

 ungodly, UNCONNECTED WITH REPENTANCE!

 

o       The awful earnest of the fulfillment of the words of the prophet.

“And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son

of Benaiah died.” In vision Ezekiel beheld the death of Pelatiah;

and it seems to us that he died, in fact when this prophecy was

made known unto him. This incident, whose awful character is

attested to us by the impression upon Ezekiel, symbolizes

prophetically the certainty in actual fact of the judgment of

death on the others also (compare Jeremiah 28:17). And so the

issue of their presumptuous security and wicked counsel was to

be THEIR VIOLENT AND IGNOMINIOUS DEATH!   We

]have in this an illustration of the issue of persistent wickedness.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (ch. 18:20).  “The wages

of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).  “Sin, when it is full grown,

bringeth forth death.”  (James 1:15)

 

  • THE SORROW OF A GODLY MAN IN VIEW OF GOD’S

JUDGMENTS UPON THE WICKED, “Then fell I down upon my face,

and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah, Lord God! wilt thou make a full

end of the remnant of Israel?” To Ezekiel the death of Pelatiah was an

awful pledge of the death of all the others against whom he had

prophesied; and it so deeply affected his spirit as to cause him to cry out

thus to God (we have noticed these words on ch. 9:8). Sudden or

great judgments do put the saints and servants of God upon humble,

earnest, and argumentative prayer.

 

Ø      Humble, ‘Then fell! down upon my face;

Ø      Earnest,and cried with a loud voice;

Ø      argumentative, ‘Ah, Lord God! wilt thou make a full end

of the remnant of Israel?’

 

  • CONCLUSION.

 

Ø      Learn the peril of presumption in any course which is

opposed to the will of God. 

Ø      Note the great worth to a people of wise and upright leaders.

 

14 “Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,”

The answer to that question comes as by a new inspiration

from the word of the Lord.

 

15 “Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy

kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the

inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the LORD:

unto us is this land given in possession.”  The men of thy kindred, etc. The full

force of the phrase can hardly be understood without remembering that the

word for “kindred” implies the function and office of a goel, the redeemer and

avenger of those among his relations who had suffered wrong (Leviticus 25:25, 48;

Numbers 5:8), and the point of the revelation is that Ezekiel is to find

those who have this claim on him, his true “brethren,” not only or chiefly in

his natural relations in the priesthood, but in the companions of his exile

(the Septuagint, following a different reading, gives, “the men of the

Captivity”), and the whole house of Israel, who were in a like position,

who were condemned by those who had been left in Jerusalem. As in

Jeremiah’s vision (Jeremiah 24:1-2), they were the “good figs;” those in

the city, the vile and worthless. They were the remnant, the residue, for

whom there was a hope of better things. They were despised as far off

from the Lord. They were really nearer to His presence than those who

worshipped in the temple from which Jehovah had departed.

 

16 “Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast

them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered

them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary

in the countries where they shall come.”  Yet will I be unto them as a little

sanctuary; better, with the Revised Version, a little while, as marking that the

state described was transient and provisional. For a time, Ezekiel and the exiles

were to find the presence of Jehovah manifested as in the vision of Chebar

(ch.1:4-28), or felt spiritually, and this would make the spot where they found

themselves as fully A HOLY PLACE as the temple had been. There also they

would have a “house of God.” But this was not to be their permanent lot.

There was to be a restoration to “the land of Israel (v. 17; ch.37:21), to the

visible sanctuary, to a second temple no longer desecrated by

the pollutions that had defiled the first. As with all such prophecies, the

words had “springing and germinant accomplishments.” In chapters 40-48,

we have Ezekiel’s ideal vision of their fulfillment. A literal but incomplete

fulfilment is formed in the work of restoration achieved by Zerubbabel,

Ezra, and Nehemiah, and the hopes then cherished by Haggai and

Zechariah. A more complete but less literal fulfillment appears in the Church

of Christ as the true Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), and in the

Jerusalem which is above (Ibid. 4:26). In the fact that in the seer’s

vision of that heavenly city there is no temple, but the presence of “the

Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” Revelation 21:22), we find the

crowning development of Ezekiel’s thought. Intermediate expansions are

found:

 

  • in the gradual substitution of the synagogue for the temple in the

religious life of Israel;

  • in our Lord’s words to the woman of Samaria  “Jesus saith unto her,

Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this

mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.  Ye worship ye

know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall

worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such

to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must

worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21-24); and

  • in His promise that where two or three are gathered together in his

Name, there He would be in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).

 

The thought that it is THE PRESENCE OF JEHOVAH THAT MAKES

THE SANCTUARY,  not the sanctuary that secures the presence, Ezekiel may

have learned from the fate of Shiloh (Psalm 78:60).

 

 

Let us take hold of the principle involved in the text, which we take to

be THAT THE LOSS OF EVEN THE MOST PRECIOUS

POSSESSIONS IS MADE UP TO US BY GOD OUT OF THE

FULNESS WHICH DWELLETH IN HIM, IF HE IS OUR PORTION.

The promise of the text involved as much to the exiles in Babylon. If the

Lord is our Portion, He will afford us blessed compensations for any

privations we may be called to sustain. Let us take illustrations of this.

There are times when some of the people of God are subjected to loss of

property; their natural comforts are much diminished; many of the

enjoyments of life, which they had regarded as essential to their happiness

and almost to their life, are taken away; and they have painful misgivings as

to how they shall bear these privations in the future. We dread to meet the

shock of reduced position and straitened circumstances. But when the

shock comes, WE FIND FULL COMPENSATION IN GOD!   His grace

sustains us. His peace grows within us. His comforts delight our soul. He is

the Strength of our heart, and our Portion forever.”  (Psalm 73:26).  We are

enabled to say, with Paul, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith

to be content,” etc. (Philippians 4:11-13). The Divine compensations are also given

in painful bereavements. In your home there was a beautiful and beloved

child; you held that child as a most precious gift of God; your very worship

of God became more impassioned and devout as you thought of that living

and dear revelation of His goodness to you. Your child was to you “a little

sanctuary;” through his beloved life you drew nearer to God. Yet God

took your child away from you; and oh, the anguish of your desolate heart!

Perhaps you were in danger of thinking more of the child than of God, of

loving the gift more than the Giver, of prizing the sanctuary more than the

God of the sanctuary. And so God took away the child whom you almost

idolized. At first you were sorely afflicted, but God said, “I WILL BE TO

THEE A SANCTUARY” and gradually the troubled heart became still, and was

calmed and comforted. And now by His own love God makes up to you for

your great loss. And in coming years, when you imagine you will lack the

tender filial ministries you had anticipated from your child, He will more

than supply the deficiencies by the arrangements of HIS OWN INFINITE

TENDERNESS AND CARE!   God also compensates His people for the loss of

religious privileges. In His providence He sometimes removes us by

sickness from the services of the sanctuary, and we have a season of weary

waiting for His restoring hand. We anticipate with sadness the Lord’s day,

when His people will be worshipping in the courts of His house, and we

suffering through the lonely hours at home. But the day arrives, and with it

a joyous disappointment. GOD HIMSELF BECOMES TO US A

SANCTUARY!   He compensates us for the loss of psalmody by inspiring

diviner music in our heart, for the loss of “common worship” by giving us

deeper spiritual communion with Himself and with all holy souls, and for the

loss of sacred ministrations by the immediate and blessed ministry of His

Holy Spirit to our spirit. And so the day we dreaded was rich in present

blessing, and bright with GLEAMS OF THE GLORY WHICH AWAITS

US IN THE FUTURE!   Or in His providence God removes us to a district

where we are separated from the influence of a generous and godly friend, or

from the ministry of a valued teacher or pastor. Our regret is very keen, our

misgivings as to our future progress are serious, and perhaps our dissatisfaction

with providential arrangements is in danger of becoming great. But in this also

THE LORD BECOMES TO US A SANCTUARY!   To our increased need He

gives more of His infinite fullness. And we find that by blessing us with another

teacher or pastor, or by means of the devout and earnest study of His holy Word,

or by the ministry of good literature, or by the immediate action of His Holy

Spirit upon our spirit, He compensates us for all our losses. Herein is one of

the great blessednesses of the portion of the godly. As our need grows,

God reveals unto us His own infinite sufficiency more and more fully, and

out of that sufficiency He giveth more grace.  (“Our sufficiency is of God!”

(II Corinthians 3:5). The more loud and fierce the storm, the more closely

does He enfold us in His inviolate protection. The more numerous and urgent

our requirements, the more abundant and prompt are His supplies. MAKE

HIM YOUR PORTION and infinite resources are yours (compare Psalm 84:11;

Lamentations 3:24; Matthew 6:33; I Timothy 4:8).

 

 

The Sanctuary of the Exile (v. 16)

 

The Jews of Jerusalem boasted themselves in their temple, but with a false

confidence, for that splendid edifice was to be razed. On the other hand,

the poor exiles of Babylon looked upon their state of separation from

Jerusalem as involving a loss of the privileges of the sanctuary. Daniel

prayed with his window open towards Jerusalem, as though God were still

to be sought in the sacred city (Daniel 6:10). But Ezekiel gives the

captives the assurance that God will be their Sanctuary during the short

time of exile in the distant land of their captivity.

 

  • GOD IS THE BEST SANCTUARY. No Solomon can arise by the

banks of the Chebar to build a new temple. The splendor of Lebanon and

the skill of Hiram, together with the wealth and devotion of the Jewish

nation at the height of its glory, produced a wonder of the world, which a

feeble band of heartbroken captives could never dream of equaling. Yet

the sorrow-stricken remnant of pious Israel were to have something better

than gilded walls and cedar pillars. They were to have GOD AS THEIR

SANCTUARY!

 

Ø      God vouchsafes His presence to His people. He does not only give a

house of worship; He comes Himself.

 

Ø      Gods presence sanctifies. It is a sanctuary. The place where Moses

stood before the burning bush was “holy ground,” for God was there

(Exodus 3:5). Chaldea was far from the “Holy Land;” yet if God were

there He would make light in the center of heathen darkness. Wherever

God visits us He makes a sanctuary. The workshop is a holy place when

God is in it.

 

Ø      Gods presence saves. The temple was regarded with a false confidence

and a foolish superstition as a charmed asylum, but the event proved the

delusiveness of such an assumption. When God is with us anywhere,

however, we are safe; for He is “a Sun and a Shield.”

 

  • THIS SANCTUARY IS TO BE FOUND IN EXILE.

 

Ø      In exile from the native land. The colonist far removed from the home

and Church of his fathers, may find God in the bush or on the prairie.

Though no “place of worship” may be within his reach, he need not

feel banished from gracious influences. If his heart turn to God,

God will be with him as his Sanctuary.

 

Ø      In exile from the old delights. When trouble comes, a man is, as it were,

driven from the land flowing with milk and honey out into a waste

howling wilderness. But One is with him, and the God who met the

poor fugitive Jacob will make a Bethel in the desert of trouble.

 

Ø      In exile from heaven. We seek another country. Here we are pilgrims

and strangers; our citizenship is in heaven (Hebrews 11:13-16). 

Nevertheless, God is with us here and now to train and guard and

cheer us with THE SANCTUARY OF HIS PRESENCE!

 

Ø      For a short season. God would be the Sanctuary in exile “for a little

time,” not because He would soon desert the banished, but because He

would bring them home again. If God is with us in trouble, He will

bring us out of trouble. He is with us here for a season, that He may

lead us TO BE WITH US IN HEAVEN FOR EVER!   Christ came

into exile from heaven to be with us here on earth that He might bring

us back to God. He “tabernacled with us,” was our Sanctuary in exile

during His earthly ministry. Now He has gone to prepare a place for us

in the eternal home.  (John 14:3)

 

17 “Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you

from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye

have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”

 

 

Restoration and Reunion (v. 17)

 

  • THE DIVINE PRESENCE SECURES FUTURE SALVATION. The

promise that God will be with His children in exile “as a Sanctuary” (v.16)

is immediately followed by the assurance that He will bring them back

to their land. It is not for nothing, then, that the poor exiles have the

Sanctuary that is better than Solomon’s splendid temple — GOD’S VERY

PRESENCE!   If God is with us, the future is ours. God is not only a Stay

and a Comfort today, He holds the key of tomorrow. Therefore God only

needs to be a Sanctuary for “a little while.” Our light affliction endureth

but for a moment” (II Corinthians 4:17).  The presence of God makes the

hardship of the moment doubly endurable, first because of its own immediate

help, and. secondly on account of the cheering prospects it opens up. The light

of such a future should throw back rays of comfort into the darkest experience.

 

  • THE FUTURE SALVATION IS TO BE A GREAT RFSTORATION.

God will bring the exiles home again. This implies two things.

 

Ø      Deliverance from evil. The Jews were scattered among heathen peoples

whose alien temper and domineering spirit were sources of trouble; e.g.

Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Sin plunges us into

hurtful conditions. For wholesome discipline God’s true people may be

thrown into circumstances of persecution and peril. but this will not be

forever. If the Son of God is with the three in the furnace, He will

deliver them from it.

 

Ø      Restoration to the old home. The exiles are to return to Canaan. Souls

exiled from the kingdom of heaven by sin will, when pardoned and

renewed (see v. 19), be restored to the privileges which were the

birthright of all — for all have been children, and “of such is the

kingdom of heaven.”  Further, those who have been thus far restored

may well feel the need of a more perfect recovery to the home of God,

since this earth is not heaven, and here the people of God are “pilgrims

and strangers” seeking “another country, that is, a heavenly”

(Hebrews 11:13,16).  God’s perfect restoration includes the

bringing of His children home to heaven.

 

  • THE GREAT RESTORATION INCLUDES PERFECT REUNION.

The nation was scattered; the promise is that it shall be reunited. Sin

divides; redemption unites. ALL EVIL has a disintegrating influence on

national and family life. Its root is SELFISHNESS and selfishness implies

severance. But love is the source of the better life, and love is the closest

bond of union.  Through Christ, there will be a:

 

Ø      reunion of mankind.

Ø      reunion of individuals.

Ø      reunion of families. This begins on earth in pure home love. But it

will be completed in the great restoration of families when all can

meet in the home beyond the grave.

 

18 “And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the

detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from

thence.”  I will give you the land of Israel. The marginal references in

the Authorized Version show how entirely Ezekiel was following in the

footsteps of his master Jeremiah, as he had done in those of Isaiah, in their

prophecies of restoration. Here also the law of” springing and germinant

accomplishments” finds its application. Ezekiel (chapters 47:13-48:35) has

his ideal of a new geographical Israel, as of a new local temple, a land from

which idolatrous shrines and high places have disappeared. Paul (Romans

chapters 9-11) clings to the thought of a restoration of the literal Israel, even

while he strips it of Ezekiel’s geographical limitations.

 

19 “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within

you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give

them an heart of flesh:”  I will give them one heart. The Septuagint, following a

different reading, gives “another heart” (as in I Samuel 10:9); but the Hebrew,

represented by the Authorized and Revised Versions, is, without any

doubt, right. As in the symbolic action of the joining of the two sticks in

ch. 37:15-22, so here, the hope of the prophet, like that of Isaiah

and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:37-39), looked forward to the unity of the

restored people. Judah should no longer vex Ephraim, nor Ephraim Judah

(Isaiah 11:13). The long standing line of cleavage should disappear.

Oneness of purpose and of action would characterize the new Israel of

God. So, in our Lord’s prayer for His Church, there is the prayer that “they

may be one” — made perfect in one (John 17:21-23). Left to itself,

Israel tended, as all human communities have tended, to an ever

subdividing individualism, fruitful in sects and parties and schisms. Even

the highest of those aspirations has remained as yet without any adequate

fulfillment. The ideal unity of the Christian Church is as far distant as that of

the Church of Israel. It remains for us to welcome any approximate

fulfillments as pledges and earnests of the future unity of the true Israel of

God in the heavenly Jerusalem. In the prophet’s thoughts that unity was to

be brought about by the Divine gift of a “new Spirit,” loyal, obedient,

unselfish. We note how distinctly, whether consciously or unconsciously,

Ezekiel reproduces the thought, almost the very words, of Jeremiah

31:31-33 (Dear God, May I and we “hide thine word in my/our heart/

heartsPsalm 119:11 – CY – 2014); 32:37-39; how His words are in

their turn reproduced in Revelation 21:3-5. The eternal hope asserts itself

again and again in spite of all partial failures and disappointments. I will take

the stony heart out of their flesh. The thought is, as we have seen, identical

with that of Jeremiah 31:31-33, but the form in this instance is eminently

characteristic of Ezekiel, and meets us again in ch. 36:26. The

stony heart” is that which is “hardened” (ch.3:7) against all

impressions of repentance, to all natural or spiritual aspirations of the good.

So Zechariah 7:12-14 speaks of those who had made their hearts “harder

than an adamant stone.” So we may remember that the sin of impurity

hardens within and it PETRIFIES THE FEELING!  . Ezekiel had seen

enough of that stoniness in others, perhaps had, at times, felt it in himself.

 

20 “That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and

do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

That they may walk in my statutes, etc. OUT OF THE NEW SPIRIT

there was to grow the new life — a life of righteousness and

obedience, as in worship, so also in the acts of man’s daily life and his

dealings with his neighbors. So, and not otherwise, could the actual

relation of Jehovah correspond to the ideal, AS IT HAD BEEN

DECLARED OF OLD!  (Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12; I Samuel 12:22;

II Samuel 7:23). This, for Ezekiel, was the crowning blessedness of all,

as it had been that of earlier and contemporary prophets (Hosea 2:23;

Jeremiah 24:7). To that thought he returns again and again, as to the

anchor of his hope (ch. 14:11; 36:28; 37:23, 27-28).   (We also

have that hope - “We might have a strong consolation, who have fled

for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:  Which hope we have

as an ANCHOR OF THE SOUL!”  - Hebrews 6:18-19 – CY – 2014)

 

 

Spiritual Transformation (v. 19)

 

This promise is one of the most precious to be found in the Old Testament

Scripture. Relating as it evidently does in this passage to the nation of

Israel as a whole, it has generally been taken by Christians as having

applicability to all who yield themselves to God, to be dealt with by His

renewing and transforming grace.

 

  • THE NATURE THAT NEEDS TRANSFORMATION. This is

characterized by hardness. It is “the stony heart” which Divine grace

undertakes to soften and renew. The hard or stony heart is that which is

insensible to spiritual realities, upon which neither Law nor gospel makes

any impression, which resists every appeal whether of righteousness or of

mercy.

 

  • THE POWER THAT EFFECTS THE TRANSFORMATION. The

powerlessness of all human agency and endeavor is apparent. Man’s

influence can do much; but here is the most difficult of all problems to be

solved; here is the necessity for something more than reformation — for

actual renewal.   Hence God, the Almighty, undertakes the work Himself. He

speaks here with authority, as the Being who needs no counselor, no

helper, who has infinite resources at His disposal, who exercises His own

prerogative. It is not here explicitly stated what are the means He employs;

but we know that they are means in harmony with the moral nature of man,

that His appeal to us is an appeal of truth and love. In the Christian

dispensation, the agent of transformation is the Holy Spirit given at

Pentecost, and perpetually abiding in the Church, and the instrumentality

employed is the gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ, appropriated by the

faith of the believing hearer of the Word.

 

  • THE EFFECTS AND EVIDENCES OF THIS TRANSFORMATION.

 

Ø      Newness of spirit supersedes the old disposition to disobey and rebel.

Every reader of the New Testament knows what stress is laid upon the new

covenant, the new birth, the new life, newness of the spirit, etc. In fact, this

verse from Ezekiel is peculiarly in harmony with the Christian dispensation

and all that belongs to it.

 

Ø      Unity of heart is one form of newness; for it comes to supersede the

division and opposition which prevail where God’s authority is rejected

and where God’s Word is despised. It is our Lord’s prayer concerning the

members of His Church, that they “all may be one” — one in Him and in

the Father, and so one each with the other.  (John 17:21)

 

Ø      Sensitiveness is what is intended by the heart of flesh. The nature which

God by His grace renews is a nature which responds to the love of God by

gratitude, faith, and consecration. A heart delighting in what pleases God,

dreading what offends Him; a heart loving all whom God loves, and

inspiring a life of scrupulous and hearty obedience; — such is the new

heart, the heart of flesh, which is the best gift of God to His children.

 

“A heart resigned, submissive, meek,

My dear Redeemer’s throne;

Where only Christ is heard to speak,

Where Jesus reigns alone.”

 

 

The Heart of Flesh (vs. 19-20)

 

Two mistakes are commonly made by well meaning social reformers:

 

o       Too much faith is placed in external improvement, and

o       too much power is credited to man.

 

It is not perceived that the greatest evil is in the heart, and that the only cure can be

found in the help of God. but both of these deeper truths are recognized in the

passage before us.

 

  • THE NATURE OF THE GREAT CHANGE. V. 17 had promised an

external restoration; now we have the assurance of an internal

transformation. It is the heart that is to be changed. The very center of the

being must be renewed. For this David prayed (Psalm 51:10). The need

of it was pointed out to Nicodemus by Christ (John 3:3). Note the

characteristics of the new heart.

 

Ø      Unity. “One heart.” The internal discord will cease. A man with

divided affections is like a two-hearted monster and “is unstable

in all his ways”  (James 1:8).  . But doubtless the unity here referred

to is social. Sin having brought quarrels among men, the new state

will be one of harmony.

 

Ø      Life. The old heart was of stone, and therefore dead. The new heart is

of flesh, and living. Sin deadens the soul. The death of sin is the

resurrection of the better nature.  (Romans 6:11-13)

 

Ø      Susceptibility. The stony heart cannot feel. This is the dangerous result

of sin. The conscience is seared. The guilt of sin and its danger are not

felt. The appeals of Divine grace are unheeded. Tears are wasted on a

marble statue. Rain and sunshine cannot fertilize a granite rock. But the

new heart is tender. As when Moses strikes the rock the streams flow,

so when God’s Word reaches the stony heart with the power of His

Spirit a new feeling is awakened.

 

Ø      Naturalness. The new heart is of flesh, not of some rare ethereal

substance. The Christian is not to have the heart of an angel, but just a

man’s true natural heart. The Christian is the true man. Christianity is

in harmony with nature. Inhumanity is unnatural. The lack of natural

affections is a sign of unspirituality. Cold saintliness is not an effect of

God’s grace, but a product of man’s perversity. God puts a heart of

flesh in the flesh. Thus there is harmony, and all is natural.

 

  • THE SOURCE OF THE GREAT CHANGE. God promises to effect

this wonderful transformation. Only He can do it. We can change our

clothes, our habitation, our outward manners, but not our hearts. The

depth of the change renders it too much for man. So does the previous

condition of those on whom it has to be wrought. As the heart is of stone,

it is too cold to feel its need, and too dead to strive after a better condition.

In this hardness and indifference the hapless condition of the sinner is

completed. Even the penitent cannot create in himself a clean heart. But left

to himself, man is not likely to become penitent.

 

Find a thing which has created itself?  If you had no existence, how could

you create yourself?  Nothing cannot produce anything!  How can a man

recreate himself?  A man cannot create himself into a new condition when

he, himself, has no being in that condition!  Charles Haddon Spurgeon

 

Now, God promises to do what man can never accomplish for himself. He will

take away the old evil — remove the heart of stone. He will give a new nature

the heart of flesh. He will also inspire power into this new nature by putting

a new spirit” in His children. This is done by the gift of His Holy Spirit.

 

  • THE RESULTS OF THE GREAT CHANGE. This change takes

place in the heart; it is inward, and therefore secret. But its consequences

cannot be hidden, for out of the heart are “the issues of life” (Proverbs

4:23).  No one can have the heart of flesh and behave like a being of stone —

cold, unsympathetic, inactive. Two consequences are noticed.

 

Ø      Obedience. The heart of flesh is given that God’s people may walk in

His statutes and keep His ordinances and do them. We cannot truly

obey God UNTIL WE LOVE HIM!   When the heart is right with

God the most natural result is that the conduct should be right also.

Yet, be it observed, this is not to be regarded as a merely necessary

result of God’s action within us, for v. 20 describes a purpose rather

than a certain result. God gives a heart of flesh “that” His people

may walk,” etc. It is still left with them to exert themselves in the

way of obedience.

 

Ø      Adoption. “Thy seed shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

God owns His renewed people as His children; they own Him as

their Father. The right heart is AT ONE WITH GOD!

 

 

Mutual Possession (v.20)

 

This language is of frequent occurrence in Scripture, and applies to the

relation between Jehovah and His chosen and covenant people Israel. It is

ideal, for, as a matter of fact, the descendants of Abraham and of Jacob

were constantly in rebellion against God, and alienated from Him by their

wicked works. Yet it was actually true of an election within the nation.

And it remains forever applicable, in strict and literal truth, to all those who

receive Divine grace, acknowledge Divine authority, and rejoice in Divine

communion.

 

  • THE OBEDIENT ARE CLAIMED AND OWNED BY GOD AS HIS

PEOPLE. “They shall be my people,” says the Eternal. They are His:

 

Ø      To possess. They are His property, and they bear upon them His mark.

Ø      To control. They are His servants, yielding themselves to Him, and

their powers as instruments in His service.

Ø      To love. God loves His own people, as a father loves his own children, as

a husband loves his own wife.

Ø      To bless. The Lord is mindful of His own. There is nothing that is for

their good which he withholds from them.  (“No good thing will He

withhold from them that walk uprightly.”  - Psalm 84:11)

 

  • GOD IS CLAIMED AND OWNED BY THE OBEDIENT AS THEIR

GOD. On this account:

 

Ø      They reverence Him. Let others offer their adoration where they will,

the Lord, say they, is our God, and Him only will we serve.

Ø      They trust Him. His ways may sometimes be unkonwn, and His counsels

perplexing; but He is theirs, and therefore they will not withdraw their

confidence from Him.

Ø      They glorify him with all their powers. To them there is no limit to their

Lord’s claims and authority; He has but to say, Go, and they go; Come,

and they come; Do this, and it is done.

Ø      They hope in his promises. He has given them His word that they shall be

brought to everlasting salvation; and the assurance, coming from their own

covenant God, inspires them with a bright and consolatory hope. “This

God is our God forever and ever; He will beour Guide, even unto

 death.”  (Psalm 48:14)

 

21 “But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their

detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their

way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.”  But as for them, etc.

We note the peculiar phraseology. The heart of the people walks not simply

after their detestable things, but after the heart of those things. There is, as it

were, a central unity in the evil to which they unite themselves, just as the

heart of man turns to the heart of God when the two are in their IDEAL

RELATION TO EACH OTHER.  For those who did this, whether in

Jerusalem or among the exiles, there was the prospect of a righteous retribution.

The words close the message which Ezekiel heard in the courts of the temple

in his visions, but which he was to deliver (v. 25) to them of the Captivity.

 

22 “Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside

them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.

23 And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and

stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.”

Another stage of the departure of the Divine glory closes the vision. It had

rested over the middle of the city. It now halts over the mountain on the east

side of the city, i.e. on the Mount of Olives (II Samuel 15:30; Zechariah 14:4).

Currey mentions, but without a reference, a Jewish tradition that the Shechinah,

or glory cloud, remained there for three years, calling the people to repentance.

What is here recorded may have suggested the thought of Zechariah 14:4.

We may remember that it was from this spot that Christ “beheld the city, and

wept over it” (Luke 19:41); that from it HE, TRUE SHECHINAH, ascended

into heaven. Here, perhaps, the dominant thought was that HE remained for

a time to direct THE WORK OF JUDGMENT!  And so the vision was over,

and the prophet was borne back in vision to Chaldea, and made known to the

exiles of Tel-Abib the wonderful and terrible things that he had see.

 

 

The Withdrawal of the Presence of God from a Guilty People

       (ch. 10:4, 18-19; here, vs. 22-23)

 

“Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over tile

threshold of the house,” etc. These verses, which are all essentially related

to one subject, suggest the following observations.

 

  • THAT GOD NEVER WITHDRAWS HIS GRACIOUS PRESENCE

FROM A PERSON OR A NATION UNTIL THEY HAVE QUITE

FORSAKEN HIM. The chosen people had despised His laws; they had

turned aside from His worship for the most debasing idolatries; they had

filled the land with their violence; they had denied His observation of their

lives, and His interest therein; and they had persecuted His prophets who

called them to repentance. They had abandoned Him provokingly and

persistently; and now He is about to take from them His gracious presence.

That presence He never withdraws from any individual or from any

community until He has been rejected — driven away, as it were, by

heinous and continued sin. In proof of this we may refer to the following

and other portions of the sacred Scriptures: I Samuel 15:23, 26; 28:15-18;

I Chronicles 28:9; II Chronicles 15:2; Psalm 78:56-64; Jeremiah 7:8-16.

 

  • THAT GOD WITHDRAWS HIS GRACIOUS PRESENCE FROM A

PERSON OR A NATION VERY GRADUALLY. We have an intimation

of His leaving the temple in ch.9:3, where the glory of God departs

from the holy of holies to the threshold of the house, by which is meant

the outermost point, where the exit was from the court of the people into the

city.” In v. 4 the prophet beholds the same movement repeated. Then in vs.

18-19 the Lord’s complete abandonment of the temple is symbolically exhibited.

And in ch.11:22-23 the symbol of the gracious presence departs from the city,

and makes a temporary sojourn on the Mount of Olives before forsaking the

land. Thus step by step the symbol of the glory of the Lord goes away from

them. It is as though He forsook them with great reluctance. By His servant

Hosea He expresses the same truth: “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?

how shall I deliver thee, Israel?” etc. (Hosea 11:8). It seemed, too, as though

He would be entreated by them not to depart from their midst, and moved

away so gradually in order that they might so entreat Him. And if God

withdraws Himself, or withholds His gracious influences from any one, He

does so, as it were, with measured steps and slow. Men are not left to

themselves and their own devices hastily. God waits long to be gracious

unto man. He does not depart from any one until He has received great and

protracted provocation. He is “the God of patience” (Romans 15:5); and

“He delighteth in mercy.”  (Micah 7:18)

 

  • THAT WHEN GOD WITHDRAWS HIS GRACIOUS PRESENCE

FROM A PERSON OR NATION THEY ARE BEREFT OF HIS

PROTECTION. Shortly after Ezekiel had seen the glory of God pass away

from the holy of holies to the threshold of the house (ch. 9:3), the

destroying angels began their work of slaughter in the temple. And before

the complete destruction of the city, the glory of God departed from it to

the Mount of Olives. When the Lord had quite withdrawn His gracious

presence they were at the mercy of their enemies, and troubles came upon

them fast and furiously. “When the sun is in apogee, says Greenhill, “gone

from us, we have short days and long nights, little light but much darkness;

and when God departs, you have much night, and little day left, your

comforts fade suddenly, and miseries come upon you swiftly.” What a

tragical example of this we have in the case of King Saul! When God had

departed from him, and answered him no more, neither by prophets nor by

dreams, he was sore distressed, and the terrible end was close at hand

(I Samuel 28:15-20; 31.). This is to be forsaken indeed, when God

prepares to forsake us. Lo! then more than ever darkness comes over all

the powers of man’s spirit and over his life, and even trusted, loved

countenances of friends go into shadow. Good thoughts grow ever fewer,

impulses to prayer ever more rare; admonitions of conscience cease; the

holy of holies in the man becomes empty down to the four walls and the

usual pious furniture.

 

 Let us “Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil

heart of unbelief in falling away from the living God: but exhort one another

day by day, so long as it is called Today; lest any one of you be hardened by

THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN!”   (Hebrews 3:12-13)  And let us pray,

“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.”

(Psalm 51:11)

 

24 “Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the

Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision

that I had seen went up from me.  25 Then I spake unto them of the

captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me.”  (I wonder

what they thought!  What do you or I think about this today? – CY – 2014)

 

 

Reaching to the Captives (v. 25)

 

  • THE PREACHER MUST START FROM A REVELATION MADE

TO HIMSELF. The prophets were seers. The apostles were eyewitnesses

of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. No preacher can go forth with

God’s Word unless he has first received THAT WORD!  For it is not his

business to gather congregations merely to hear his “guesses at truth,” nor

is he called to set before men his most profound speculations, if those

speculations are only wrought out of his own ideas. He is a messenger —

therefore he must bear a message; a herald — therefore he must have a

gospel to proclaim. Where shall the modern preacher find his Divine word?

He cannot pretend to be an Ezekiel at home among the cherubim, to whom

the inmost wheels of the Divine mysteries seemed to be revealed.

Nevertheless, he has his revelations:

 

Ø      In the Bible. Of all men the preacher is called to be a diligent student

of this rich storehouse of revelation. The modern preacher does not see

Ezekiel’s cherubim, but he can read the New Testament, of which

Ezekiel knew nothing; and the gospel story of Jesus of Nazareth is a

greater revelation than the visions of an Old Testament prophet.

 

Ø      In experience. Every preacher must have his own vision of Scripture

truth. We can only speak what we have seen and heard. The truth

must be interpreted by experience.

 

Ø      By the Holy Spirit.  “He will guide you unto all truth.”  (John 16:13)

“Holy men of God spake as they were moved by THE HOLY

GHOST!”  (II Peter 1:21)

 

  • THE PRIVATE REVELATION OF TRUTH IS GIVEN FOR

PUBLIC DECLARATION. Ezekiel might have thought himself a rarely

privileged soul, and have considered his visions as choice mysteries to be

kept secret, and not to be waisted on unsympathetic ears, like pearls cast

before swine, if he had not understood his duty as a prophet of Israel too

well to make such a mistake. Freely he had received, freely he must give.

(Matthew 10:8)  All who know God’s truth are under sacred obligations

to do what in them lies TO DECLARE THAT TRUTH!   It is not possible

for every one to be a preacher by word of mouth. Still, in some way

missionary enterprise should follow the reception of Divine truth. We who

have the gospel are bound to give it to those to whom it is yet an undreamed

secret.

 

Ø      This declaration is to be unreserved. Ezekiel spoke all the things.

Some were obscure; some might cause offence; some might be

abused. Yet he was not at liberty to hold back anything. The

preacher must not shun to “declare the whole counsel of God.” 

(Acts 20:27)

 

Ø      This declaration is FOR ALL!   It was given to Ezekiel’s neighbors,

the captives, without distinction. As there are no esoteric truths in

God’s revelation, so there is no spiritual aristocracy of the initiated.

The only limit is our capacity to receive. “He that hath ears to hear,

 let him hear.”  (Matthew 11:15; 13:9; Revelation 2:7)

 

  • THE DECLARATION OF DIVINE TRUTH IS ESPECIALLY

NEEDED BY THOSE WHO ARE IN TROUBLE. Ezekiel spake unto

them of the Captivity.”

 

Ø      It is a peculiarly Christian duty to bring the consolation of God to the

troubled. This is suited to the sorrowful. Lighter thoughts may amuse in

hours of ease. But when darkness gathers about the soul, nothing short

of THE DEEP VERITIES OF GOD will satisfy!   Those verities may

not be always pleasant. Much that Ezekiel saw filled him with distress.

Still God’s truth is all wholesome and healing, and His last words are

His best, as Ezekiel’s hearers must have found when the prophet

concluded with the wonderful promise of the “A NEW SPIRIT!”

(v. 19)

 

Ø      The gospel is peculiarly appropriate for those who are spiritually

captives, i.e. in bondage to

 

Ø      superstition,

Ø      doubt,

Ø      fear, or

Ø      sin.

 

CHRIST CAME to proclaim liberty to such captives (Luke 4:15).

 

 

 

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