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.
twenty-four thousand men (I Chronicles 27:1-15).
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
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,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
the true prophets spoke) is not near.” Let us build houses, not, as Jeremiah
bids, in the land of exile, but
(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.
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
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:
been received as a message of safety (compare ch. 24:3, 6); and
(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
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.”
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!
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
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.
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
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
appointed, at all events that ruin was “not near.”
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)
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
“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)
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
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
for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.”
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)
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
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)
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
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
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
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 God’s 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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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
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
Ritdah (Jeremiah 52:9-10), which was in Hamath, the northern border
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
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
The Presumptuous Security of Sinners Exhibited and Condemned (vs. 1-13)
“Moreover the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the
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
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
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
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
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)
CONDEMNED. (vs. 4-13.) Notice:
Ø The Divine knowledge of their evil designs. “Thus saith the Lord; Thus
have ye said, O house of
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
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 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
with remarkable fidelity. After they had taken
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
northern border of
the princes and nobles of
Zedekiah, and bound him in
chains, to carry him to
(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)
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
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
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.
Remonstrance and Intercession (v. 13)
It is remarkable that whilst Ezekiel was commissioned to censure and to
denounce the political action of the evil counselors of
no pleasure in the awful practical expression which the righteous Judge saw
fit to give to this censure and denunciation. It was the prophet’s business to
expose the wicked policy of Pelatiah; but this man’s death was to Ezekiel a
severe shock and sorrow, calling forth from his sympathetic and patriotic
heart the words in which he deprecated with all reverence and submission
the displeasure of the Lord.
· THE OCCASION OF REMONSTRANCE AND INTERCESSION. In
this passage the occasion was twofold.
Ø The pressure of present affliction, in the death of one of the leaders and
rulers in the metropolis.
Ø The apprehension of future calamity and disaster such as the present
affliction foreboded. What had happened to one would, in all likelihood,
happen to others. Similarly, every well wisher to his country and his
Church is, in times of trial, driven to the throne of grace for merciful
forbearance and interposition.
· THE PRESENTATION OF REMONSTRANCE AND
Ø There is an identification on the part of the suppliant of himself with his
people. After all, whatever might be the errors of any class of his
countrymen, Ezekiel was a Hebrew, and he could not but suffer in the
sufferings of his country; its misfortunes could not but afflict him; its ruin
could not but humiliate and distress him.
Ø There is an implicit admission of the justice of the Divine action; the
prophet does not complain of what had been wrought by the hand of
Divine and judicial authority. No affliction was undeserved.
Ø There is supplication that ills apparently impending may be averted. As
Abraham pleaded for
but a remnant: of that remnant shall a full end be made? As if he added,
in the language of the patriarch, “That be far from thee, Lord!”
· APPLICATION. The Christian cannot fail to be reminded, by this
passage, of THE INTERCESSORY OFFICE OF CHRIST! We have an
Advocate with the Father, appointed and accepted by that Father’s love.
Here is our refuge and our hope in the time of calamity and under the fear
of judgment. Our High Priest is a powerful and successful Intercessor.
Our sins have deserved that “a full end” should be made of humanity.
But THROUGH CHRIST:
Ø mercy is extended,
Ø clemency exercised, and
Ø salvation assured
to those who place themselves under the patronage and protection of
the great Mediator and Advocate.
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
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
who were condemned by those who had been left 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
would have a “house of God.” But this was not to be their permanent lot.
There was to be a
restoration 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
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
religious life of
Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this
mountain, nor yet
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
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
God the Sanctuary of His People (v. 16)
“Yet will I be to them as a little Sanctuary in the countries where they shall
come.” Instead of “as a little Sanctuary,” it is better to translate, “a
Sanctuary for a little.” The assurance given in the text seems strange at
first. The Lord Jehovah will be a Sanctuary to His people. He is the grand
Object of worship: how, then, can He be the place of worship? The exiles in
from their temple, with all its precious and sacred associations, they had
been ruthlessly sundered. They had long forsaken God, and at length they
became a prey to their enemies. And in this idolatrous country, while the
security, Jehovah promises the captives that he himself will be to them a
Sanctuary, and in himself he would compensate them for the loss of their
religious privileges. All those blessings which they had been accustomed to
associate with the sanctuary he would bestow upon them.
THE SANCTUARY WAS
Through centuries men had been accustomed to take refuge in sanctuaries
from the enemies or persecutors by whom they were pursued, and there
every life was held to he inviolably secure. The most implacable foe was
compelled to recognize the security afforded by the holy place (compare
I Kings 1:50-53). So Jehovah
inviolate asylum from all dangers in the land of their captivity (compare Isaiah
8:14; 32:2; Psalm 9:9; 46:1, 7, 11). The Lord was a Sanctuary for his
scattered people — a Sanctuary from the storm of persecution, from the
oppressions of their conquerors, and from the rage of their enemies. He
still sustains this relation to his people. He is still “a Refuge for us.” How
blessed that in a life so stormy as man’s often is, God is a Sanctuary unto
him! Let us hide ourselves in him.
THE SANCTUARY WAS
GOD. There God manifested Himself to His people, and made
communications of his will to them (compare Exodus 25:22; Numbers
7:89). So that the promise to be a Sanctuary unto his people was a promise
of communion with himself; that, though they were driven from the temple
of their fatherland, yet in their exile God would still commune with them.
This assurance involves more than we sometimes recognize. If we
commune with God we mast receive his thoughts. “How precious are thy
thoughts unto me, O God!” etc. Communion with God involves the
realization of his gracious presence. In fellowship there is always
friendliness. “Henceforth I call you not servants,” etc. (John 15:15).
How inspiring and blessed it is to feel the friendly presence of God with us!
We may always have this sanctuary of communion with the Highest. In all
the rush and roar and turmoil of a busy and troubled life we may realize the
safety and comfort of the sanctuary of the Divine presence. We may have a
Gerizim or a
have a holy of holies in our poor hearts, which we may carry with us into
· 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
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
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
prayed with his window open towards
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.
banks of the Chebar
to build a new temple. The splendor of
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
than gilded walls and cedar
pillars. They were to have
Ø God vouchsafes His presence to His people. He does not only give a
house of worship; He comes Himself.
Ø God’s 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 “
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 God’s 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.”
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
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
scattered, and I will give you the
Restoration and Reunion (v. 17)
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.
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 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
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
which idolatrous shrines and high places have disappeared. Paul (Romans
chapters 9-11) clings to the thought of a restoration of
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
(Isaiah 11:13). The long standing line of cleavage should disappear.
Oneness of purpose and of action would characterize the
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,
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
fulfillments as pledges and earnests of the future unity of the true
God in the heavenly
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/
hearts – Psalm 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
applicability to all who yield themselves to God, to be dealt with by His
renewing and transforming grace.
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
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.
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.”
A United Heart the Gift of God (v. 19)
“I will give them one heart.” The exiles in
addressed, had long wandered from God into idolatry. Their heart had not
been fixed or united. The promise was fulfilled in their case in this sense —
that since their return from captivity they have never lapsed into idolatry.
· THIS PROMISE IS APPLICABLE TO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH,
Oneness of interest and heart in the welfare of a Church on the part of its
members is essential to its prosperity.
Ø Oneness of heart in brotherly unity is necessary. “Behold, how good
and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” etc. (Psalm
133.). To secure this we must exercise mutual forbearance and charity, and
cultivate an affectionate regard for each other.
Ø Oneness of desire for the prosperity of the work of God is necessary.
There is reason to fear that this desire is not very deep on the part of some
Church-members, who very often grumble at what others are doing, and do
nothing themselves. If we have this desire, we shall take it to God in
prayer. We shall “keep not silence, and give him no rest,” etc. (Isaiah
62:6-7). If we have this desire, it will lead us to personal efforts to attain
its fulfillment. To retain this unity of desire we must be prepared to waive
personal opinions as to minor methods, keeping the eye steadily fixed upon
the grand objects which we are aiming at. Mutual concessions are
necessary to abiding unity. In seeking unity in the Church let us trust the
promise of the text, and use appropriate means to secure it.
· THE TEXT IS APPLICABLE TO DIFFERENT CLASSES OF
PERSONAL CHARACTER. Examples of hearts divided and purposes
unsettled are to be found in every province of life — in business, in mental
culture, in religion. Yet everywhere the thing is evil. Division is weakness.
“The roiling stone gathers no moss.” “A double-minded man is unstable in
all his ways.” (James 1:8) One-heartedness is essential to progress in anything.
The men who have attained marked success in any pursuit have followed it
steadily and persistently. Concentration is power. “Unity is strength”
everywhere and in everything. Let us specify certain characters to whom the
text is applicable.
Ø To the insincere. There are persons who are not true, whose thoughts
and words do not agree, whose appearance and reality are not harmonious.
Our text is a promise for them if they will receive it. The man of renewed
heart is honest, true. The mere form of godliness, or profession of
discipleship to Christ, will avail us nothing. Unless we have the life and
power of Christ, the name of Christian will be worse than worthless to us.
The genuine Christian is sincere and upright.
Ø To those who are endeavoring to “serve God and mammon.” It is
impossible to be at once devoted to worldly ends and to God. A worldly
spirit is incompatible with real religion. The spirit of the world is opposed
to the spirit of Christ. One or other must be supreme in us. We cannot yield
ourselves to the pursuit of the pleasures, honors, or riches of this world,
and to the service of the Lord Jesus at the same time. It is impossible to
combine the two things. God promises to give us one heart — a heart
undivided and thoroughly fixed upon Himself. Are we willing to receive the
blessing, and to receive it now?
Ø To those who “halt between two opinions.” (I Kings 18:21) Many are
wavering and undecided as to personal religion. They have not resolved to try
to combine the service of “God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24), but they have
not elected whom they will serve. They have often been religiously impressed,
but never decided. They have often felt the supreme importance of religion, but
have not yielded to its claims. They are wavering and undecided. They feel
without wisely acting. They have religious emotion, but not religious
resolution. They procrastinate the great choice till “a more convenient
season.” (Acts 24:25) They will not take the decisive step. They are not one-
hearted. Now, they may obtain a united heart from God. The hesitation which is
so injurious and perilous to them would be banished if they would accept
God’s promise in the text, and decide by His help to serve Him. He would
“give them one heart,” and sufficient strength to perform their resolution.
And then they could sing, with David, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart
is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” (Psalm 57:7) Thus the text promises
to us unity and thoroughness of heart. Our own weakness we know; and how
prone to unsteadiness, change, and division our hearts are. But “God is
greater than our heart,” and He proffers to us the unity and stability which
we need. In the strength of His promise let us pray, “Unite my heart to fear
thy Name” (Psalm 86:11) and let us consecrate ourselves unreservedly unto Him.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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. 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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)
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
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.”
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)
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
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)
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
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
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.”
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)
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!”
Ø The gospel is peculiarly appropriate for those who are spiritually
captives, i.e. in bondage to
Ø fear, or
CHRIST CAME to proclaim liberty to such captives (Luke 4:15).
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Exile and Restoration (vs. 16-17)
There is a change in the tone of the prophet. A full end shall not be made of
the remnant. The metropolis shall fall, the king shall be led captive. The
enemy shall prevail. But the children of the Captivity shall not be forgotten;
they shall experience the protection and fellowship of their covenant God;
and they shall be brought back to the land of Israel, when Divine purposes
are fulfilled, and when the time is ripe.
· GOD A SANCTUARY FOR A SEASON IN A FOREIGN LAND. This
must have been a precious and encouraging assurance to the captives in
their banishment. They loved Jerusalem, and they loved the temple. Far
from the scene of their national privileges, they were yet not forsaken by
the God of their fathers.
Ø Every holy place has its true meaning and value from the residence in it
of the Eternal. It is not the costly material of which a sanctuary is built,
the labor and art with which it is decorated, the robed priesthoods who
minister, or the lavish offerings and sacrifices that are presented; it is not
these things that make a temple. It is the presence of God himself to
receive and bless the worshippers, that endears the building to the
enlightened and pious.
Ø God may manifest his presence and favour in p!aces where no sacred
edifices exist. So Jacob understood, when he awoke from his slumber and
his dream, and exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it
“Where’er they seek thee, thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground.”
Those upon the stormy deep, those in the primeval forests, those in the
waterless deserts, those in the caverns of the earth, have met with God in
the exercises of devotion. And he was a Sanctuary to his banished ones in
their captivity in the East, as near to them as he was to those still permitted
to the courts of the temple at
is with men.”
Ø Thus God’s spiritual presence may be realized and enjoyed even in a
world of sin. Earth is in a sense the scene of exile and of banishment. But
for all that, God will be to his people a Sanctuary in the place and during
the period of their captivity. His Church is his temple, and from it he never
· GOD THE RESTORER OF HIS BANISHED ONES.
Ø The dispersion and banishment are appointed for a time and for a
purpose. There were reasons why the sons of Abraham should be exiled
from the land promised to their progenitor, the father of the faithful. It was
apparent to the wisdom of God that only thus could they be preserved and
delivered from the temptations, especially to idolatry, to which they had so
often yielded. The discipline was severe, but it was effectual. The period of
exile was not prolonged vindictively.
Ø The restoration is as providential as the Captivity. The language of the
text is very emphatic upon this Feint: “I will even gather you from the
people,” etc. “He deviseth means whereby his banished ones may return.”
It was this prospect which sustained and cheered the Hebrew people amidst
disasters at home and exile abroad. The land of their fathers was their land;
and in due time they were to enter and possess it.
Ø The restoration of the Israelites prefigured the final salvation of all
God’s people. Their exile shall not last forever. There is a better country,
and the eternal abode of the blessed gathered from every land.
The Prophetic Office (v. 25)
In these few and simple words we have a declaration of the office and
function of the inspired prophet, and in a certain sense of every true
religions teacher whom God commissions to be the vehicle and conscious
agent in communicating his truth, counsels, admonitions, and
encouragements to men.
· RECEPTION. The prophet and every religious teacher must come
mediately or immediately into spiritual communication with the Divine
Ø The Source from which the communication proceeds is none other than
Ø The matter which is received is what is commonly called revelation; the
thoughts and commands and purposes of the Supreme are made known to
a human spirit.
Ø The vision, the hearing, of the prophetic soul are made ready by Divine
grace to appreciate the communication.
Ø Thus the prophet, the religious teacher, is a mediator, capable on the one
side, of fellowship with God, and on the other of correspondence and
communion with his fellow men.
Ø There are special qualifications, by reason of which he can fulfil the
commission received; he should be a man of quick intelligence, of tender
sympathy, of dauntless courage, of manifest authority.
Ø Yet his chief credentials are simple and moral — truthfulness,
conscientiousness, and simplicity of nature and habit.
The Summary Punishment of Official Guilt (vs. 1-13)
As a rule, God is extremely patient towards human rebellion. He reproves
and remonstrates and warns long before the executioner appears. Yet
sometimes he departs from this course, by a summary act of vengeance.
The penalty that follows some crimes is swift and sudden. The Chaldean
nobles who laid an impious snare for Daniel were soon overtaken with
judgment. When Herod accepted the profane flattery of his courtiers, he
was soon consumed with inward disease. Ananias and Sapphira had
scarcely completed their falsehood when the sword of the executioner fell
upon them. At times God starts out of his secret place, and suddenly
vindicates his outraged majesty.
· MARK THE FLAGRANCY OF SIN IN PRIESTS AND PEOPLE. In
all probability these twenty-five men were the heads, or princes, over the
twenty-four courses of the priests, while Jaazaniah and Pelatiah may have
held a yet higher rank in the temple. It may be that Pelatiah was high priest
or ruler of the temple. Certain it is that they were “princes of the people.”
Ø Their position was one of vast influence. Their opinions would be
accepted as the opinions of the people. Their example would be widely
imitated. To a large extent, they would influence the life and conduct of the
population. As they had the privilege of access to God, and possessed the
means of knowing his will, the people would, as a matter of course, look to
them for guidance. Profanity or infidelity among the chief priests would
speedily infect the Hebrew flock. Hence, for others’ sakes, it behoved them
to be prudent, devout, and circumspect.
Ø Thy had turned Divine warning into ridicule. This seems the only
satisfactory way of explaining their boast, “We dwell securely.” “This city
is the cauldron, and we are the flesh.” Jeremiah, who still dwelt in
was towards the north.” The heads of the priestly order had parodied this,
had treated it as an image of self- security, instead of as an omen of danger.
As if they had said, “Be it so! This city, with its bastions and gates,
impregnable as brass or iron, is a cauldron, and as the flesh is safe in the
cauldrons, equally so are we!” They laughed at every intimation of danger.
In the teeth of a hundred warnings, in the teeth of a score of defeats and
overthrows, they persisted in a conviction of safety. Like fools of other
nations, they “made a mock at sin.”
Ø This senseless hardihood led to aggravated crime. One sin soon breeds
a thousand others. They, who had the administration of justice, abused
their office, and ruled with a sword of terror. Either by excessive lenity, in
not repressing crime; or else by excessive tyranny, human life was held
cheaply in the city. Death was a common occurrence, and excited no
horror. Civic strifes abounded. The number of the slain increased, and
these princes were responsible for the foul deed. They were the persons
who “had filled the streets with the slain.” The stains of human blood were
upon their skirts.
Ø The exact measure of their sin was known. Not an item in their evil
deeds was unknown nor unregistered. They had tried to conceal their
misdeeds, had endeavoured to minimize their offences, were attempting to
persuade themselves that Jehovah did not trouble about such matters. But
imagine their surprise and confusion when every iota of offence, ay, and
every secret evil thought, was fully laid out in the bill of attainder. The
amount and degree of each man’s guilt is allotted with scrupulous
· OBSERVE THE PROPHET’S COMMISSION. Ezekiel was employed
by God to convey the last remonstrance to these princes.
Ø Elevation of mind is needed to fit men for reproving sin. “The Spirit
lifted me up.” We live, for the most part, on such a low level of spiritual
feeling, that we must be “lifted up” in order to see the real wickedness of
sin, in order successfully to remonstrate with sinners. Nothing can really
“lift us up” to a nobler life but the power of the Holy Ghost.
Ø Knowledge is given to men for use. No sooner was it revealed to the
prophet who were the ringleaders in the nation’s sin, than at once the Spirit
said to him, “Prophesy against them, O son of man.” Here is work for man
which the cherubim cannot do. It is the prerogative of man that he can gain
access to the understanding, the judgment, the reason, the feeling, of his
fellow man. Therefore God uses men to convey his messages of grace and
admonition to guilty men. All the knowledge of Divine things which we
have is given us for the advantage of all. “No man liveth unto himself.”
Ø Divine command and Divine strength are given at one and the same
time. When the voice said to Ezekiel, “Speak!” “the Spirit of the Lord fell
upon him.” Duty and ability
always go together. God has Never given to man a command which he was
unable to obey. When God said to Moses, “Go forward!” God knew that
the sea would divide at the fitting time. When Jesus said to the man with a
withered band, “Stretch it forth!” he knew that along with the effort would
be imparted new strength. Some duties may appear formidable to a man
who forgets the promised cooperation of Divine grace. But whenever a
spirit of faith possesses a man, he can say, like Paul, “I can do all things
through Christ who strengthens me.” In a very terse prayer did an ancient
Father in the Church express this truth, “Give: and then commuted what
Ø The plainest reproof is the greatest kindness to men. Every accusation
of God is laid by the prophet before these guilty men. It is a false friendship
that conceals any part of the truth from our fellows, especially from
relatives and kindred. Smooth words are not always the coin of affection.
We read of one “whose words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn
swords.” Very wisely did David say, “Let the righteous reprove me; it shall
be a kindness.” It needs an abundance of wisdom, and a deep well spring of
love, to speak the whole truth to an erring friend, if we would win him
back to paths of virtue and piety. The centrifugal force of duty is often
greater than the centripetal force of kindness. Had Eli been more firm and
faithful with his sons, he might have saved the ark of God — ay, the whole
nation — from disaster. We must “speak the whole truth in love.”
· SEE THE ATTENDANT ENERGY OF GOD. “It came to pass when
I prophesied, that Pelatiah died.”
Ø How foolish is carnal security. Walls that seem made of brass or granite
are weaker than paste-board, unless they have God behind them.
Foundations built by men are built on nothingness. Belshazzar conceived
secure because the enormous walls of
“in the selfsame night was Belshazzar slain.” God’s weapons of offence can
penetrate easily all the poor defences of men.
Ø Man’s opportunity is brief. It is an act of mercy that God allows any
opportunity for escape. Such favour is seldom ever shown by an earthly
king. Yet sin so blinds men that they imagine the reprieve wilt last
forever.]t does not accord with God’s wise and gracious plans to announce
when the reprieve shall absolutely close. Often it closes when least
expected. The day of salvation is the passing moment — the fleeting now.
3. The retribution of God is sometimes summary. Men often persuade
themselves that some change of circumstance, some lengthened illness, will
precede the final stroke. They lean upon a broken reed, an empty shadow.
“God seeth not as man seeth.” He had seen that Pelatiah had reached a
climax of sin, had received this special messenger with haughty scorn, was
hardening his heart under this new reproof of Ezekiel. Hence to lengthen
out his day of grace was waste of mercy, was to encourage others in sin.
Therefore it was better that the scene of trial should suddenly close. The
Lord smote him that he died. “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his
neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”
· MARK THE BENEVOLENT SOLICITUDE OF GOD’S
SERVANT. The sudden death of Pelatiah corroborated the truth (,f
Ezekiel’s message, and vindicated his claim to be Jehovah’s servant;
nevertheless, in this Ezekiel rejoiced not. He was more concerned for his
Master’s glory than for his own, more anxious about Israel’s well being
than his own advantage. He could consent to be set aside, exiled, slain, so
long as Israel’s rower and fame could be restored. Such generosity of
nature is the best qualification for a true servant of God. They who are
most like God are the most fitted to do God’s work. Moses and Paul were
eminent examples of this self-disinterestedness; best of all, Jesus the Son of
Privilege: Apparent or Real (vs. 14-21)
Every good thing is liable to abuse, and even religion is in danger of
degenerating into pernicious superstition. The outward forms often remain
— even swell into exaggeration — after the inner reality has departed. So
the Hebrews in olden time deemed themselves secure against evil, because
they had still among them the visible temple of Jehovah. They were callous
to the fact that the only value of the temple arose from its Divine
Occupant. As well might one cling to a beautiful corpse when the
indwelling spirit had tied.
channel which may convey either good or evil, fresh water or foul. It is like
a rampart, which is very useful in time of battle, if only it be filled with
brave soldiers; if left untenanted, it becomes of use to the enemy. The
existence of the temple in Jerusalem became a snare to the Jews; it made
them haughty, self-confident, boastful. In an earlier day the Jewish army
deemed itself impregnable on the battlefield, because the ark of God was
with them. So now the inhabitants of Jerusalem were over-confident of
security, because the temple of God was there. Towards their brethren in
exile they cherished an unlovely temper, a repulsive front. They imagined
that because they had been left in the city, while others had been banished,
they were the favorites of God, and that those removed to Babylon were
removed from the favour and wing of Jehovah. Again and again had this
remnant in Jerusalem been assured that they also would be removed from
the city, and would die in the border of Israel; but they persistently refused
to believe such distasteful warnings. Their continuance in the sacred city
was an injury to their character. They were fostering the worst forms of
self-conceit and self-righteousness and self-exclusiveness. They wanted to
shut themselves in, and to shut their less-favoured brethren out. So they
said, “Get you far from the Lord: unto us is this land given in possession.”
· THE LOSS OF EXTERNAL PRIVILEGE IS NOT NECESSARILY
THE LOSS OF GOD’S PRESENCE. When men desert us, God even
comes all the nearer on that account. As God had endeavoured to teach the
Jews (though with little success) that his personal presence was their only
security, so now he assures the dispersed of Israel that, if they desired his
presence, he would be to them still a “Sanctuary.” All that he had been to
them aforetime in Jerusalem he could be to them in Babylon. Alter all, their
case need not be so deplorable. Better to be in Chaldea along with God,
than in Jerusalem without him. They had supposed that God had identified
himself with that gorgeous temple in Jerusalem — that he was there in a
sense in which he could not be elsewhere. This error must be unlearnt.
Having God with us, we may have all real good.
· SEVEREST DISASTER IS OFTEN THE CRADLE OF BLESSING.
Already it began to appear that
the defeat and captivity of
needful, yea, were working good in the banished ones. Already the exiles
had lost faith in idols, and were ashamed of their past folly. Already they
found that if they returned in spirit and prayer to the true God, he would
still be their substantial Friend. The faith and courage of Daniel and other
young men in Babylon indicate the improvement in religious life which was
budding. The presence of Ezekiel as a teacher among them was an omen
for good. We have seen how (ch. 8.) the elders of Judah had sought his
presence, and this, doubtless, that they might hear some word from the
Lord. The sights of idolatry in that idolatrous land had probably sickened
their minds and filled them with disgust. Now they sorrowed over lost
privileges and lost opportunities. By the side of Chebar they “hung their
harps in the willows,” and wept. The sunshine of prosperity had spoilt their
simple faith and loyalty; but in the shades of adversity they began to learn
wholesome lessons. Here their character shall be re-created, their piety
shall be revitalized. Earthly misfortune is heavenly discipline.
within than a fortune outside us. This wealth is durable, abiding,
inalienable. No amount of money can purchase honesty, or courage, or
tender sensibility, or heart-purity.
Ø Regeneration is promised. “I will put, a new spirit within you.” The
stony heart shall be changed into a heart of flesh. Men are often too blind
to appreciate the best possessions; but when our judgment is enlightened,
we perceive that this is the richest boon God can give or man receive. This
is an inner fountain of blessing — “a well of water springing up into
Ø There follows a spirit of filial loyalty. Possessing this new nature, God’s
Law will become a delight. The sentiment of David is reproduced in them:
“Oh, how I love thy Law!” Better still; they learn to say, like Jesus, “I
delight to do thy will, O God!” The path of obedience now becomes a
fascination — a flowery mead or a fragrant grove. As the stars of heaven
observe their proper orbits, so the new-born man spontaneously runs in the
statutes of God. Obedience is no longer irksome; it is as natural as
breathing, as natural as fruit-bearing.
Ø Covenant relationship. “They shall be my people, and I will be their
God.” This covenant secures for the chosen ones the inalienable favour and
protection of God. God obtains, by mutual treaty, a new proprietorship in
these people; they, on their part, obtain a proprietorship in God. They have
a claim yielded to them by Divine condescension — a claim upon God they
did not possess before.
Ø National unity. “I will give them one heart.” Division had been one
source of weakness in the former time. Civic rivalry had been the
of national disaster. Now a better feeling shall prevail. “
vex Ephraim, Ephraim shall not envy
shall be strength.
Ø On this shall follow demolition of idolatry. “They shall take away all the
detestable things.” The more we know God — his Fatherhood, love, and
mercy — the more we see the folly and vanity of idols. The baubles that
pleased a child are despised when we become men. Our growing love to
God will make us intolerant of every rival. As the burnt child dreads the
fire, so the restored Hebrews abhorred idols. The man who has a clean
heart desires also a clean home. Real reformation begins within — at the
centre, and works outward.
Such is the series of precious donations God engaged to bestow upon his
afflicted people in exile; yet their repentance and submission was the pivot
on which all good depended. If one here and there still clung to the old
idolatry, that one should be excluded from all share in the nation’s
regeneration. His sin shall bear its proper fruit. The new covenant was to
be personal as well as national; for God will not overlook the individual in
the crowd. “Each one shall give account of himself unto God.” The one
among the guests destitute of the wedding garment was in a moment
espied by the King. Not a solitary culprit shall escape the scrutiny of God’s
eye, nor the operation of God’s Law. As the light of day penetrates every
chink and corner of our globe, so the light of God’s righteousness will
disclose every sin of man. .
God’s Knowledge of Our Thoughts (v. 5)
“I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.”
Hengstenberg translates, “And that which riseth up in your mind I know.”
The fact thus stated is —
· MOST REASONABLE.
Ø From the nature of God. Grant that God is infinite, and the statement of
our text must be true. Nothing can be so great as to overmatch his
comprehension; nothing so small as to escape his notice. Our Lord
declared the Divine interest in the smallest and lowliest things
(Matthew 6:26-30; 10:29-30). It is unphilosophical to think that even
the smallest thing is in any way unknown to him. It is limiting his
Ø From the nature of the human mind.
o It is the most wonderful creation of God. Man can reflect, reason,
anticipate, imagine. “God created man in his own image, in the image of
God created he him.” We have reason, conscience, affection, adoration.
The greatness of the human mind appears very clearly when we consider
its achievements. Mention some of them. Its capacity and impulse for
progress also indicate its greatness. “It never rests, it has never attained,
it is never perfect. Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was
invisible is its goal today, and will be its starting post tomorrow.”
o It is the sphere of the most wonderful operations. We see much of God
in his operations in matter; e.g. power, wisdom, constancy. We see more
him in his operations in mind; e.g. more marvellous power, profounder
wisdom, richer goodness. In the government of mind the righteousness,
truth, and love of God are manifested. We see most of God in his
dealings with sinful, disordered minds. The sin of man occasioned the
most glorious display of the Divine mind and will. We see the wisdom
and love of God in his method of reconciling, saving, lost men as they
were never manifested before. I do not wonder, then, that God knows
everything that arises in our mind, for our mind is his most wonderful
creation, and his most wonderful creation disorganized, ruined; and
he is engaged in saving it. How deep must be his interest in it!
· MOST WONDERFUL. Not because of anything in God as a difficulty or
hindrance to this vast and minute knowledge; but:
Ø Because of the intellectual quality of “the things that come into our
mind.” How insignificant, trifling, vain, many of them are! How few
really great thoughts ever rise in our mind! We know how trying it is to
be compelled to listen to the trivial talk of an ill-furnished mind; to hear
all the paltry details of matters in which we have no interest or concern.
Yet God knows all our petty, trifling, vain thoughts. Not one of them
escapes Him. How wonderful!
Ø Because of the moral quality of “the things that come into our mind.”
Not only are many of our thoughts insignificant and trifling, many are
also mean, corrupt, and sinful. It is painful to become acquainted with the
ungenerous or base thoughts and feelings of another’s mind and heart.
We shrink with loathing from the contemplation of the malicious or cruel
designs of any one. In our own selves there is much that we would not
that any one should gaze upon, or any mind know, so deeply are we
ashamed of it. Yet God knows every dark thought and guilty memory;
we can hide nothing from him. He regards all sinful thoughts and
feelings with unutterable hatred; yet he knows them every one. But
while hating our sin with unappeasable hatred, he loves us with
unspeakable love. He looks at our thoughts and weighs them, because
they are ours, and he would save us from the vain and sinful ones, and
inspire and strengthen within us the wise and good ones. His love for
us is as great as His knowledge of us, and leads Him to interest Himself
in all that concerns us.
· MOST ADMONITORY.
Ø No thoughts are unimportant. Since the Lord takes knowledge of, and is
so deeply interested in, all that arises in our mind, nothing there can be
trivial. You think that your foolish or vain thoughts are of no importance;
that they are not like words or actions which affect others: that thoughts
influence no one so long as they remain unexpressed. But your thoughts
give tone and colour to your mind and character. To a great extent they
arise out of your character, and they react upon your character according
to your treatment of them. If you foster the impure thought, it will make
you more impure; if you entertain the trivial thought, it will increase your
triviality. Your mind is God’s temple. Should you not take heed how you
Ø All our thoughts should be such as He approves. They should be:
o True. He exhorts us to “buy the truth, and sell it not;” to “prove all
things; hold fast that which is good.” He is himself the “God of truth.”
Jesus Christ is “the Truth.” We should cultivate the true in thought in
every department of knowledge and of life. Endeavour to think only
those thoughts which accord with the reality of things. Be true.
o Pure. Shun with loathing the unchaste desire or impure feeling. You
cannot prevent the low or foul suggestion; but you are free to welcome
such suggestion, or to shrink from it with repugnance. Welcome it, and
it will corrupt you. Resist it, and it cannot contaminate you. If you would
be free from impure thoughts, you will gain your end most swiftly and
surely by cultivating pure and beautiful ones. If your thoughts be true
and pure, God will smile approval, etc. Be pure.
o Earnest. Let not your true and holy thoughts be dreamy, visionary,
impractical. We are in a world of toil and trial, sin and sorrow, sickness
and death, a world that cries for help; and God demands earnest thought
with a view to noble life and work.
Ø 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.
“Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” “The blood of Jesus Christ
cleanseth us from all sin.”
Ø Here is encouragement to the good. God knows your thoughts, devices,
purposes, motives. lie never misunderstands you. If, like Job, you are
misjudged by man, you may say with him, “But he knoweth the way
that I take.” Therefore be encouraged.
A Suffering People Scorned by Man and Comforted by God.
“Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, thy
· A SUFFERING PEOPLE SCORNED BY THEIR BRETHREN WHO
THOUGHT THEMSELVES SECURE. (v. 15.) A considerable number
of the fellow countrymen of Ezekiel were, like him, suffering the privations
and sorrows of exile; and the people that still remained in Jerusalem,
instead of pitying the exiles, despised and insulted them. They spake of
Ø As rejected of God. “Unto whom the inhabitants of
said, Get you far from the Lord;” or, “Be ye far from Jehovah.” These
confined to the temple in that city, that the captives in
cut off from his presence, and rejected by him. They judged from outward
appearances, and concluded that, because they were still in their own land
and in the sacred city, while their brethren were in exile, they were the
favoured people of God, and their brethren were cast off by him. And they
came to this conclusion not sorrowfully because of the privations of their
brethren, but with Pharisaic self-complacency and cruel disdain.
Ø As having no portion in the
assumed that they who had gone into captivity had forfeited their estates,
and that those estates should become the property of those who remained
in the country. They said, “Unto us is this land given in possession.” That
which they unjustly denied to their exiled brethren they claimed for
themselves. They arrogated to themselves an exclusive position as a people
near unto the Lord, and exclusive possession of the land which he had
given unto the whole of the Israelites. By their spirit and conduct these
and call themselves Christians,” and who claim that only in their
community can salvation be found, that only as administered amongst them
are the sacraments valid, and that the Church of which they are members is
the only true one. They could heartily join with the self righteous people of
temple of the Lord, are these.” But not they who think themselves holiest
and nearest to God, or who have the greatest reputation for religion
amongst men, are most highly esteemed by him, but rather “the poor in
spirit,” the “lowly in heart.” “The high and lofty One that inhabiteth
eternity, whose name is Holy, dwells with him that is of a contrite and
humble spirit.” It was not the proud Pharisee, but the penitent publican,
that” went down to his house justified:… forevery one that exalteth himself
shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
· A SUFFERING PEOPLE VINDICATED AND COMFORTED BY
THE LORD GOD. (vs. 16-20.) The despised captives are vindicated and
consoled by several gracious and encouraging assurances, which we will
Ø That they were the true people of God. “Son of man, thy brethren, thy
the men of thy kindred, and all the house of
Prophet Jeremiah had already declared that the Israelites who were in exile
better in the sight of God than those who remained in
(Jeremiah 24.). And now Ezekiel is told that his true brethren, brethren in
well as according to the flesh, are to be found, not in
but among the exiles by the river Chebar. To them, as Hengstenberg points
future of the
destruction.” “All the house of
since there was in
amongst the exiles there were some who were not faithful to the
Lord Jehovah (ch. 14:1-5). But, in the main, the true
For, not in
different in this respect was the Divine estimate from that of the Pharisaic
dwellers in the sacred city I And may it not be in our day that to him who
“seeth not as man seeth,” not they who boast their privileges and piety, but
the despised and- lowly, are the genuine Israel of God?
Ø That they should find in the Lord God ample compensation for their
lost privileges. “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.” It is more correct to translate, “I will be
to them a Sanctuary for a little” time or season, referring to the
comparatively short period of their captivity. Though they were far
removed from their “holy and beautiful house,” yet they should have
communion with God; for he himself would be present with. them, and the
realization of his presence transforms any place into a hallowed temple.
The people of
to the temple at
this impression, the Prophet “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the
presence of the Lord.” The Lord God, in assuring them that he would be to
them as a sanctuary during their exile, corrects this error, and gives the
germ of the precious truth that the devout and humble spirit may offer
acceptable worship and hold blessed communion with him anywhere. And
in this assurance we have an anticipation of the inspiring declaration of our
Lord, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall
worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” etc. (John 4:23-24). In the
presence of God with them as a Sanctuary the exiles would findcompensation
for their enforced absence from their homes and from the
temple and its ordinances. We have here a test of godly character. When
the heart is truly and thoroughly right with God it finds compensation in
him forevery privation and loss. The assurance that we have him for our
Portion will sustain and satisfy us in time of sorest need, and enable us to
“Jesus, to whom I fly,
Doth all my wishes fill,
What though created streams are dry,
I have the Fountain still
Stripped of mine earthly friends,
I find them all in One;
And peace and joy that never ends,
And heaven in Christ begun.”
Ø That they should be restored to their country and privileges by the Lord
God. “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
and I will give you the
the Lord says to the exiles, “I will give you the
the promise was fulfilled when “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus King
to rebuild the temple of the Lord Jehovah — a permission of which more
than forty thousand availed themselves. “It is well for us,” says Matthew
Henry, “that men’s severe censures cannot cut us off from God’s gracious
promises. There are many that will be found to have a place in the holy
land whom uncharitable men, by their monopolies of it to themselves, have
secluded from it.”
Ø That they should receive from the Lord the highest spiritual favors.
(vs. 18-20.) Here is the assurance unto them of four spiritual blessings.
o Unity of heart towards God. “I will give them one heart, and I will put
a new spirit within you.” Their heart had long been divided between the
true God and idols, but it should be fixed upon him. By means of the
discipline of the Captivity, their hearts were united to fear his Name.
Such, in fact,
has been the case; for since their return from
have not bowed down to idols.
o Tenderness of heart towards God. “And I will take the stony heart out
of their flesh, and give them an heart of flesh.” By resisting his will and
Word and by persisting in sin they had hardened their hearts; and he
promised to give them a heart “soft and susceptible of the impressions of
Divine grace. The promise is essentially Messianic, although a beginning
of its fulfillment is already to be recognized in the period immediately
after the return from the exile” (Hengstenberg). Resistance of Divine
influence and rebellion against Divine commands still harden human
hearts. “Take heed… lest any one of you be hardened by the
deceitfulness of sin.”
their heart as to be “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:18, 19). It is only God
by His grace that can change the stone to flesh, and make the hard heart
tender in penitence and piety.
o Conformity of conduct to the will of God. This follows as a
consequence of the change of heart. The renewed heart leads to a
reformed life. Their reformation had two chief aspects — the
renunciation of their sins, particularly the complete severance of
themselves from idolatry (v. 18), and their positive compliance
with the holy will of God. This was the end aimed at in putting the
new spirit within them: “That they may walk in my statutes, and keep
mine ordinances.” The piety of the heart must and will be seen in the
practice of the life. If the fountain be purified, the stream will be pure.
o Confirmation in the most exalted and blessed relationship. “And they
shall be my people, and I will be their God.” This follows in natural
order what has gone before. By the renewal of their hearts he restores
them to Himself as His chosen people; and by the obedience of their
lives to Him they testify that He is their God. This relationship is the
richest of all blessings; it comprises all needful good, and crowns every
other blessing. If “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall want nothing.”
“If God be for us, who can be against us?” “Whom have I in heaven
but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My
flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the Strength of my heart, and
my Portion forever.”