Ezekiel 12

 

 

1 “The word of the LORD also came unto me, saying,” This formula, so familiar

in Isaiah and Jeremiah, appears for the first time in Ezekiel, but occurs repeatedly

afterwards, especially in this chapter (vs. 8, 17, 21, 26. and again ch.13:1; 14:2, et al.).

The teaching by “the visions of God” ceases, and that of direct message or symbolic

acts is resumed. In each case the point aimed at was the same. The people who heard

the one or saw the other were to be taught how utterly groundless was the hope that

Jerusalem could hold out against its enemies. The interval between the two

was probably a short one, and the new teaching, we may conjecture, had its

starting point in the prophecies of a speedy deliverance which were current

both at Jerusalem and among the exiles at Babylon.

 

2 “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which

have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not:

for they are a rebellious house.”  Which have eyes to see, etc. We note the

words in their relation both to like utterances in the past (Isaiah 6:9; 42:20),

and by Ezekiel’s contemporary (Jeremiah 5:21), and in the future by our Lord

(Matthew 13:13), by John (John 12:40), and lastly by Paul (Acts 28:27). The

thought and phrase were naturally as ever-recurring as the fact.

 

 

Blind Eyes and Deaf Ears (v. 2)

 

  • ALL MEN HAVE ORGANS FOR PERCEIVING SPIRITUAL

TRUTH. These blind Jews have eyes and the deaf have ears. Neither class

is deformed or mutilated in respect of their organs of sense. Here is the

paradox, the surprising situation. It is men with eyes and ears who are blind

and deaf. It is no wonder that the lower animals should live without man’s

religion in a life of brutish appetite. But it is surprising that beings endowed

with higher faculties should degrade themselves to such a life. That this is

the case with the most hardened and ignorant may be proved by the

experience of life.

 

Ø      The most brutalized sinner was once a child. Then he had the child’s

wondering, open-eyed vision of truth.

 

Ø      The most degraded have been restored. Then the faculty of spiritual

perception has been reawakened. This proves that it was only

dormant, not absent.

 

Ø      Even in a condition of indifference a degraded, deadened soul may be

aroused. The bow drawn at a venture may send an arrow into a joint

of the armor of worldly thought and find the natural sensitiveness

beneath.  (I Kings 22:34)

 

  • SOME MEN HAVE LOST THE POWER. OF PERCEIVING

SPIRITUAL TRUTH. Their eyes are blind and their ears deaf. This does

not mean merely that they have not the gifts Joel referred to (Joel 2:28).

It means that they do not perceive the truth which is declared to

them by the messengers of God.

 

Ø      The words spoken are not heeded. They are mere sound.

Immediately they are spoken in the ear a rush of unsympathetic

thoughts sweeps them away. It is like sowing by the wayside.

The seed is trampled underfoot.  (Matthew 13:19)

 

Ø      If the words are attended to, the personal significance of them is not

grasped. They are mere ideas unrealized. They are not felt to have any

relation to life. Thus a biblical scholar may be blind to the truth of God.

 

  • THIS STATE OF SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS AND DEAFNESS IS

CAUSED BY SIN. The people are “a rebellious house,” and therefore they

cannot perceive the Divine message. We have come upon one of the worst

consequences of sin. It deadens the soul against its own guilt and against

the messages from God to the sinner. This is very different from intellectual

dullness. The will of God is so revealed that “the wayfaring man, though a

fool, may not err therein” (Isaiah 35:8).  Indeed, mere intellectual acumen

does very little in helping us to perceive spiritual and moral truth. God has

hidden from the “wise and prudent” what He has revealed to “babes and

sucklings  (Matthew 11:25).   The preaching of the cross of Christ is

foolishness to many of the world’s wise men (I Corinthians 1:18-19),

because they have not spiritual sympathy with it (Ibid. ch.2:14). Note the

blinding and deafening which are sometimes ascribed to God (e.g. Isaiah

6:9-10) — because it is the abuse of God’s action that leads to such a

condition, and because IT IS A CONDITION OF DIVINE JUDGMENT

are here brought back to man’s guilt.

 

  • GOD DOES NOT NEGLECT THE BLIND AND DEAF. Their state

is one of guilt — for they brought it on themselves and also one of

danger. But they are not left alone in it. Ezekiel is to proceed to more

simple and striking action, in order to extort attention from the indifferent.

We must shake the sleeper when his house is on fire. We want more

rousing preaching. God has pity on the blind and deaf, and it is according

to his mercy that every effort should be made to reach them. Christ gives

new sight and hearing (Luke 4:18).

 

3  Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removing, and

remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place

to another place in their sight: it may be they will consider, though

they be a rebellious house.  4 Then shalt thou bring forth thy stuff by

day in their sight, as stuff for removing: and thou shalt go forth at even

in their sight, as they that go forth into captivity.  5 Dig thou through the

wall in their sight, and carry out thereby.  6 In their sight shalt thou bear

it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover

thy face, that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto

the house of Israel.  7 And I did so as I was commanded: I brought forth

my stuff by day, as stuff for captivity, and in the even I digged through the

wall with mine hand; I brought it forth in the twilight, and I bare it upon

my shoulder in their sight.”  Prepare thee stuff for removing, etc.; better,

equipment for a journey, with the implied thought that it is the journey of one

going into exile. “Bag and baggage,” all the household goods which an exile

could take with him (Exodus 12:11, 34 may supply an illustration), were to

be brought out in broad daylight and piled up opposite his door. Then in

the twilight (Revised Version, in the dark, and so in vs. 7, 12) he was to

go forth, not by the door of his house, but by breaking through the wall

(with such walls as those of ch. 13:11 the process would not be difficult),

as a man might do who was escaping secretly from a city through

the gates of which he dared not pass (v. 5), and was to start with his

traveling chattels upon his shoulder. Lastly (v. 6), as the strangest

feature of all, he was to go forth with his face covered, as one who

wished to avoid recognition, as one also who could not see one step of the

way before him. This, it is intimated, would startle even the most careless,

and in this way he would become, as he had been before in like symbolic

acts (Ezekiel 4., 5.), as Isaiah (Isaiah 20:2) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:2)

had been before him, a sign unto the house of Israel.

 

8  And in the morning came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,

9 Son of man, hath not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said

unto thee, What doest thou?”  The commands were obeyed, and the prophet

waited fur the next inspiration, the next word of the Lord. It would seem as if

he had himself done what he was told to do without knowing what it meant. It

was not till night had passed to morning that he was able to answer the question

which the exiles asked him, What doest thou! At last the answer came.

 

10 “Say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; This burden

concerneth the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that

are among them.  11 Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it

be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity.”

Literally, the prince is this burden in Jerusalem. The word “burden,” in the

sense of “prophecy,” so common in Isaiah and Jeremiah and other

prophets, as Hosea (Hosea 8:10) and Nahum (Nahum 1:1), is used

by Ezekiel here only. Possibly he on the whole avoided it, as having fallen

into discredit through its constant use by the false prophets (Jeremiah

23:33-38), and preferred the formula of “the word of Jehovah.” As

interpreted by Jeremiah 39:4 and II Kings 25:4, the “prince” is

Zedekiah. Possibly Ezekiel avoided the title “king,” as seeing in him one

who was a ruler de facto, but not a king de jure. The facts related in

Jeremiah 39:4 exactly correspond with the symbolic act. Zedekiah and

his men of war escape from the city by night, “by the way of the king’s

garden, by the gate between the two walls,” probably enough with faces

covered, as David’s was in his flight (II Samuel 15:30), to avoid

detection, or as a sign of mourning, and through some freshly made exit

from the palace. The further significance of the covered face is found in the

fact that Zedekiah was blinded at Riblah by Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, and

from that time could not see the ground on which he trod. Those who see

in every Old Testament prediction nothing but a prophecy ex eventu infer

from this that this section of Ezekiel was written after the destruction of

Jerusalem. I do not take that view, and place it in close connection with the

preceding chapters. We note in v. 11 the peculiar phrase, “I am your

sign.” Ezekiel, in what he does in the presence of the exiles, is figuring that

which, before long, will come to pass in Jerusalem. They were to go forth

into captivity as he had gone. For they shall remove, the Revised. Version

gives, they shall go into exile.

 

 

Teaching by Example (v. 11)

 

The Jews had neglected the words of Ezekiel; the prophet is now to

attempt to rouse them by a fresh method, by an illustrative action. They

would not attend when he told them that the trouble was coining; he is

now to perform before their eyes an action illustrative of that trouble. The

inhabitants of Jerusalem refused to admit that they will be sent into

captivity, and it would seem that their friends in captivity were in sympathy

with them in this respect, and could communicate with them. So Ezekiel

packs up his goods and removes his house, as a sign of the approaching

removal of the Jews into captivity. This is the most effective method of

teaching.

 

  • WHY TEACHING BY EXAMPLE IS EFFECTIVE.

 

Ø      It is transparent.   Deeds are more visible than words. Men of

various languages can understand the same facts. The bold

outlines of an event are more readily grasped than the floating

sounds of speech.

 

Ø      It is impressive. We are struck by what we see with our own eyes far

more than by what is reported to us by others. The greatest deeds

recorded in history do not produce so much impression on us as the

much smaller things with which we have had personal contact

(I imagine that is why God has ordained for us to witness one on

One – CY – 2014); but those historic deeds are far more interesting

than abstract philosophical principles.

 

Ø      It is suggestive. Deeds are more eloquent than words. They are

many-sided, and every face; is capable of reflecting some truth.

Thus the same illustration may convey various aspects of truth to

different persons.

 

Ø      It is enduring. The memory of events remains when that of words

has faded. Nothing dies so rapidly as the influence of an orator.

Facts live forever, while words of preaching vanish almost as soon

as they are spoken.

 

  • WHAT TEACHING BY EXAMPLE IS MOST EFFECTIVE.

 

Ø      That which is human. We may take illustrations from nature, and

read “sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, and good in

everything;” but human life is more full of instruction — more

intelligible, impressive, suggestive, and enduring in its lessons.

Hence the inestimable value of honest biography.

 

Ø      That which is personal to the teacher. It is good to be able to point to

great examples in history. But when the preacher himself does some

striking deed, his influence is far greater. Ezekiel was himself to

remove in illustration of the Captivity. We can teach best by our lives.

 

Ø      That which involves self-sacrifice. Ezekiel’s action was one of trouble

and vexation. If our message costs us little, it may be lightly esteemed.

Nothing is so impressive as the evidence of pain and cost in the effort to

enlighten others. Self-denial is the most eloquent of persuasive influences.

He who thus puts himself to trouble proves his sincerity, and impresses

his neighbours with his own earnestness, and with the corresponding

weightiness of his message.

 

  • Note: All this may be most perfectly illustrated from the gospel of Christ.

Here we are taught by the facts of the life, death, and resurrection of

Christ. Those facts are seen in the personal history of our great Teacher,

and pre-eminently in His sacrifice of Himself to the truth and for the benefit

of the world.

 

12 “And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in

the twilight, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to

carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground

with his eyes.”  For that he see not, read, with the Revised Version, because

be shall not see.

 

13 “My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my

snare: and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans;

yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.”  My net also will I spread, etc.

Compare the same image in Lamentations 1:13. The prediction of v. 12 is

reiterated with emphasis. Zedekiah shall be in Babylon, yet shall not see.

Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 10. 7:2; 8:2) relates that Ezekiel sent this prophecy to

Jerusalem, and that Zedekiah, finding an apparent discrepancy in the words

that he should not see Babylon, and those of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:4; 34:3),

hardened himself in his unbelief. (Like people today who ignorantly look

for discrepancies in the Bible.  (“…..some things are hard to be understood,

which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the

other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”  II Peter 3:16 – CY  - 20-14).

There is no reason, however, for supposing that Josephus had access to any

other records than the books of the two prophets, and his narrative looks

rather like an imagined history of what might have been.

 

 

God’s Net (v. 13)

 

  • GOD SPREADS A NET.

 

Ø      God will not leave guilty men free. They have a time of liberty, but

there will be a limit to this. Though they have a long tether, some

day its end will be reached. Freedom is given to allow scope for

choice. If the power of choice is abused, the freedom will be

withdrawn.

 

Ø      God employs means for restraining the liberty of bad men. He does

not lay hold of them with His hand; He uses a net. In the present

instance the net was Nebuchadnezzar. That heathen monarch did

not know that he was a mere instrument in the hand of God; yet did

God so completely hold him in this respect that he called the man

my servant Nebuchadnezzar”  (Jeremiah 25:9). Thus God overrules

the movements of kings.

 

Ø      These means may not be perceived by the unhappy victims. The net

is a snare, and “in vain is a snare spread in the sight of any bird”

(Proverbs 1:17).  We must not suppose that God really deceives

His children. The Jews had been warned.  But their eyes were

blind and their ears deaf (v. 2). The danger is not the

less because men do not perceive it. Just when a man boasts of his

greatest triumph the meshes of a Divine judgment may be drawing

together about his doomed life.

 

  • GOD ENSNARES IN HIS NET WHOMSOEVER HE WILL.

 

Ø      He designs the net for particular persons. In the verse before us it is

spread for one man. There is no element of chance in the judgments

of Heaven. God considers the case of each soul, and acts accordingly.

 

Ø      All the men caught in Gods net are sinners. He has no terrors for the

good. He is not like the tempter, who ensnares men into evil. Every

man who is caught in God’s net of judgment has been first ensnared

in the devil’s net of sin.

 

Ø      The greatest are not beyond the reach of this net. In the present

instance the net is spread expressly to catch no less a person than

Zedekiah, the King of Jerusalem. Massive battlements and the serried

ranks of a mighty army cannot keep off the invisible entanglement

of the net of judgment.

 

  • THERE IS NO EARTHLY MEANS OF ESCAPING FROM GOD’S

NET. Its threads may be fine as gossamer, but they are strong as steel.

Zedekiah was to be taken in the snare, and brought to Babylon in so

helpless a state that he would not even see the place, for, as the event

proved, his eyes were to be put out. The king fled by night from Jerusalem,

but was caught by the Chaldeans near Jericho. As “the stars in their

courses fought against Sisera(Judges 5:20), the course of armies and

nations turned against the guilty Jews and their wicked king. There is NO

HOPE FOR THE IMPENITENT!

 

  • CHRIST HAS SPREAD A NEW NET OF SALVATION. He told His

apostles that they should be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19), and He

compared the kingdom of heaven to a dragnet (Ibid.ch.13:47). The

only way of escaping from the awful net of judgment is to permit one’s

self to be taken in the saving net of the gospel.

 

14 “And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help

him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them.

15 And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall scatter them

among the nations, and disperse them in the countries.

16 But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the

famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their

abominations among the heathen whither they come; and they shall

know that I am the LORD.” And I will scatter. The capture of the king would

naturally be followed by the dispersion of his adherents, some of whom

would fall by the sword, while a few (Hebrew, men of number, i.e. easily

counted) would escape to some neighboring country, where they might

hope to find a refuge. There they would have to tell their tale of shame,

and to let the heathen know that Jehovah was thus punishing their

abominations (compare ch.14:22-23). The prophecy ends with the

familiar formula, They shall knew that I am the Lord.

 

17 “Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,”

The opening words, The worn of the Lord came to me,

imply an interval of passivity and silence. One conscious burst of

inspiration came to an end, and was followed, after a time, by another.

 

18 “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with

trembling and with carefulness;  19 And say unto the people of the land,

Thus saith the Lord GOD of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land

of Israel; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and drink their water

with astonishment, that her land may be desolate from all that is therein,

because of the violence of all them that dwell therein.  20 And the cities that

are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall

know that I am the LORD.”  Eat thy bread with quaking, etc. No special stress

is to be laid on the fact that only bread and water are named. The prophet is not

dwelling now on the scarcity of food in the besieged city, as he had done in

ch. 4:9-17, but on the fear and terror which should haunt the lives of the

besieged. Here again we can scarcely doubt that, as in v. 11, Ezekiel was a

sign to those among whom he lived. Outwardly and visibly

he was seen after his strange flitting, cowering in a corner, as one hunted

down and dreading pursuit, with every look and gesture of extremest

terror. This was to be the portion of those who escaped and whose life was

given them for a prey”  (Jeremiah 45:5).  The strange act was to be explained

to “the people of the land,” i.e. the exiles among whom Ezekiel lived. The short

prediction ends with the usual formula. There is another interval, and then

another inspiration.

 

 

Fear (v. 18)

 

Ezekiel, in conformity with his new, desperate method of rousing the

heedless Jews, is now to dramatize Fear in his own person and action, as a

sign of the terror that will seize upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the

days of its overthrow.

 

  • FEAR ARISES FROM EVIL CAUSES. The sound and innocent soul in

healthy circumstances should not know fear. Observe some of the causes

of fear.

 

Ø      Ignorance. Fear always springs from ignorance,” says Emerson.

There is a sense of the mysterious and uncertainty about it. When we

perceive an approaching calamity, we may shrink from it and feel the

keenest distress; but the peculiar agony of fear lies in the darkness of

futurity. This, of course, implies nothing morally defective, for we

are necessarily limited.  Childish fears naturally haunt childish

ignorance. But though not morally wrong, except in the careless

and wilful, ignorance is an evil circumstance to be conquered.

 

Ø      Weakness. There is a weakness of nerve which belongs to one’s

bodily condition, and so some are constitutionally timorous. But

the worst fear springs from cowardice, i.e. from a culpable laxity

of moral fiber.

 

Ø      Guilt. Fear followed the Fall. “The wicked flee when no man

pursueth.”  (Proverbs 28:1)  We know that we deserve ill; therefore

we cannot be surprised if we are to receive it. This is an intellectual

conception; but the moral effect of sin is stronger. The man who is

conscious of his sin feels ashamed, smitten with helplessness; and

the heavens gather up black thunderclouds over his head.

 

  • FEAR IS HURTFUL.

 

Ø      It is one of the most painful elements of punishment. The murderer

suffers infinitely more agony in the condemned cell than he can ever

feel on the gallows. “There is but one thing of which I am afraid,”

says Montaigne, “and that is fear.”  (“For God hath not given us

the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

II Timothy 1:7)

 

Ø      Fear is a cause of disaster. “The direst foe of courage,” says George

Macdonald, “is the fear itself, not the object of it; and the man who can

overcome his own terror is a hero and more.” We are paralyzed by fear.

As in dreams the limbs are heavy, like lead, when a terror is approaching,

so in waking life we find that the terror which threatens fascinates us

into helplessness.

 

Ø      Worse than all this, fear is morally degrading. “Fear is cruel and mean,”

says Emerson. It is a selfish passion, and it lowers our whole tone and

character.

 

  • FEAR MAY BE CONQUERED BY FAITH. Constitutional bravery

will exclude the possibility of fear. “Fear!” exclaimed the hero Nelson,

when only a boy, to his grandmother, who had asked if he had not met fear

when he had lost his way, “what is it like? I have never seen it.” Such

incapacity for fear is a splendid natural endowment, but it has not the moral

character of victory over fear in those who are capable of its pangs. The

true antidote to fear is FAITH!   We cannot know everything, and so dispel

the ignorance out of which fear springs; nor can we create in ourselves the

strength of a hero by a sheer act of will; nor can we deny or repudiate our

guilt. But we may:

 

Ø      trust God’s protection in the darkness,

Ø      lean upon His strength in the hour of need,

Ø      rely upon His pardon when we repent of sin and

Ø       turn to the grace of Christ.

 

So the feeblest can say with the Apostle Paul, “When I am weak, then am

I strong  (II Corinthians 12:10); “I will go in the strength of the Lord God”

(Psalm 71:16).  Moreover, the work of faith will be completed by love,

for “perfect love casteth out fear.”  (I John 4:18)

 

 

Deprivations Caused by Sin (vs. 17-20)

 

“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, eat thy

bread with quaking,” etc. This paragraph was addressed to Ezekiel’s fellow

exiles. “Say unto the people of the land;” i.e. of Chaldea. The design was

to discourage the false expectations of the captives, who were looking

forward to an early season of prosperity for their native land, in which they

hoped to share. To this end the prophet shows to them that, in respect to

their fellow countrymen in Jerusalem, there would be a cutting off of the

physical comforts of life, great anxiety and distress of mind, and sad

devastation of both cities and country, and all these things because of the

sins of the people, or “for the violence of all who dwell in it.” Several

things call for attention.

 

  • SIN DEPRIVING SINNERS OF THE PHYSICAL COMFORTS OF

LIFE. “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with

trembling and with carefulness; and say unto the people of the land, Thus

saith the Lord God of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land of Israel

[or, ‘in the land of Israel’]; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and

drink their water with astonishment.” These words point to the cutting off

of the comforts of life, and the possession of the mere necessaries thereof.

But not always does sin produce consequences such as this. Sin and secular

prosperity have often gone hand in hand (compare Genesis 13:10, 13;

Psalm 73:3-12; Luke 12:16-20; 16:19-26). But in these cases the prosperity

was precedent to the Divine judgment or to the full development

of sin (Genesis 15:16). When that development had taken place, and that

judgment was being exercised, there was a striking reversal of circumstances

in each case.  In the siege of Jerusalem, to which our text points, physical

comforts and luxuries disappeared, and long before its close men deemed

themselves fortunate if they could secure bread and water. And in our age

the wicked may prosper in the world and increase in riches; but in the time of

retribution, whenever it arrives, sin will be found injurious to all THE TRUE

INTERESTS OF MEN!  Sin often strips the sinner of physical comforts,

and even of the bare necessaries of life. Drunkenness, gluttony, indolence,

wastefulness, bring many a person and many a family to abject poverty and

want (compare Proverbs 6:9-11; 19:15; 23:21; 24:30-34).

 

  • SIN DEPRIVING SINNERS OF PEACE AND SERENITY OF

SPIRIT. “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water

with trembling and with carefulness.… They shall eat their bread with

carefulness, and drink their water with astonishment.” They would eat

even the necessaries of life, not in peace and comfort, but in anxiety and

alarm.  Their distress may have arisen from fear lest their scanty supplies of

food should fail them, and so they ate “their bread with carefulness.” And

to this was joined terror of their enemies who surrounded them, causing

them to take of the sustenance of life “with quaking, trembling, and

astonishment.”  It is of the nature of sin, when it is developed, to destroy

peace and calmness of mind, and to produce terror and distress. “The wicked

are like the troubled sea,” etc. (Isaiah 57:20-21). Without doubt we may often

find the wicked in their sad career untroubled either by guilt or fear; but

for everyone the time of awakening comes, and with it security departs and

terror arrives. “When the pleasure has been tasted and is gone,” says Mr.

Froude, “and nothing is left of the crime but the ruin which it has wrought,

then the furies take their seats upon the midnight pillow.” “The wicked flee

when no man pursueth (Proverbs 28:1).  “The sound of a shaken leaf

shall chase them; and they shall flee as fleeing from a sword; and they

shall fall when none pursueth.”  (Leviticus 26:36)

 

  • SIN DESOLATING THE LAND IN WHICH IT WAS

COMMITTED. “That her land may be desolate from all that is therein,

because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. And the cities that

are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate.” Instead of

“That her land may be desolate from all that is therein,” the margin reads,

from the fulness thereof.” The meaning seems to be that the land would be

stripped of all its inhabitants and of all its wealth.” The land of Israel was

once fair and fertile — “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of

fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills,” etc.

(Deuteronomy 8:7-9). In the time of Solomon the Tyrians received

large quantities of corn and wine and oil from this fruitful land (I Kings

5:11; II Chronicles 2:10). But what is its condition now? And what has

been its condition for ages past? “He turneth a fruitful land into barrenness,

for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.”The plain of Jordan, well

watered everywhere, and as the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10) is

not the only example of fertility, being changed into barrenness because of

the sins of the people. Other lands have had a similar fate, but by a different

process. There are sins by which lands are still laid waste. Indolence,

effeminacy, self-indulgence, delight in war, and social oppression, in every

age produce impoverishment and desolation in any country where they

prevail.

 

  • DIVINE JUDGMENT BECAUSE OF SIN LEADING SINNERS TO

KNOW THAT JEHOVAH IS THE ONE LIVING AND TRUE GOD.

“And ye shall know that I am the Lord” (see our notes on these words in

ch. 6:7, 10; 11:10).

-

21 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

22 Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel,

saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth?”

What is that proverb, etc.? The words indicate how the previous messages

had been received. Like the men of Jerusalem, the exiles could not believe

that the judgment was so near. They said, in words that had become proverbial:

 

  • The days are prolonged. “Month after month passes” (it is obvious

that they had so passed since Ezekiel began his work), “and yet the end

comes not.” Such throughout the world’s history has been the cry of

those of little, or of no, faith (Amos 6:3; Isaiah 5:19; Jeremiah 17:15;

Matthew 24:48; II Peter 3:4).

 

  • Every vision faileth. The prophet is a dreamer of dreams. We have

heard of many such visions, yet still all things continue as they were.”

            (Ibid.)

 

The most dangerous proverbial expressions are those that flatter ourselves. With the

Jews the favorite proverb was one that postponed the prospect of the evil day and

threw doubt on the Divine message. Cynical unbelief is full of sell-assurance. But

it is not safe to trust to it simply because it may be clever or prevalent. Every idea

that denies the Divine word is sure to prove delusive.

 

This sinful misinterpretation of the

Divine dealings is not confined to that generation or to that people.

 

23 “Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will make this

proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in

Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of

every vision.”  The prophet meets the current proverb with a counter proverb

of his own: “The days are not far off, but have come near.” Compare the

language of the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), of our Lord (Ibid. ch.4:17), of Paul

(Romans 13:11). For the true prophet there is always a near fulfillment, though

there may be also an ultimate and more complete reality of which that is the

pledge and earnest. The “vision” shall not fail; every word (so in the Hebrew)

shall become a reality.

 

24 “For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination

within the house of Israel.” Flattering divination. The word is the same as

the “smooth things” of Isaiah 30:10, the “flattering lips” of Psalm 12:2-3.

The “divinations” (the  Hebrew word is found only here and in ch. 13:7,

though cognate words are found elsewhere) are so described, not without a

touch of scorn in the use of a word which is not applied to the utterance of

the true prophets, because they promised a speedy deliverance, even within

two full years” (Jeremiah 28:3).

 

 

The End of Delusions (v. 24)

 

The Jews had beer deluding themselves with a false proverb — or at all

events, with a proverb falsely applied (see v. 22). Ezekiel tells them that

such errors and those of flattering divination will both cease. There is to be

an end to error.

 

  • DELUSIONS WIN A TEMPORARY TRIUMPH. The false prophet

has his day of success. Flattering errors easily win their way into

popularity. The history of thought is largely made up of the story of errors

    their:

 

Ø      genesis,

Ø      growth,

Ø      prevalence,

Ø      triumph, and

Ø      decay.

 

This fact should guard us against accepting any motive just because it

happens to be triumphant. There are fashions in philosophy and theology.

But truth is ETERNAL and ABIDING and it is therefore simply foolish

to accept the ideas which chance to be in vogue at our own time without

further inquiry.

 

Ø      THE TRIUMPH OF DELUSIONS IS FRUITLESS. Error is always

barren of any solid results. It is darkness, death, negation. Even when at

the acme of prosperity it is but as a bubble; it has no substance in it. There

came a time when the vain vision and the flattering divination of the Jews

were to be put to the test in the siege of Jerusalem. At this moment of trial

they were found to be utterly useless. This is the fatal defect of a false idea.

We may cherish it for so long until we need to use it. But directly we put it

into practice it crumbles away.

 

Ø      TROUBLE EXPOSES DELUSIONS. So long as Jerusalem

prospered the vain visions continued, and the flattering divination was

practiced without intermission. It was the touch of real trouble that broke

the bubble. Many a comfortable soul is living in a fool’s paradise or direful

error without fear or pain until some real adversity comes. Then the utter

delusiveness of the admired notions is suddenly revealed with appalling

amazement. If we are able to hold to fatal notions till the end of life, we

shall find at last that they are but rotten planks, which will break up when

we try to float on them over the chill waters of death.

 

Ø      THE EXPOSURE OF DELUSIONS IS A BLESSING. Naturally

enough, it first strikes the helpless dupes with dismay as a pure calamity.

Why should they not be permitted to dream their lives away on a bed of

roses although the volcano should be slumbering beneath? Because even

apart from consequences truth is supremely desirable, and error is an evil

thing. We ought to be thankful for a painful process which leads us out of

darkness INTO LIGHT!   But it is not necessary for us to wait for the

alarming awakening. The revelation of God in Christ and the truths of

inspiration are with us to spare us the terrible method of deliverance from

error, and to lead us out of DARKNESS INTO THE LIGHT OF CHRIST!

 

25 “For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak

shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days,

O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith

the Lord GOD.”  The thought of ver. 23 is reiterated with emphasis. The

rebellious house, whether at Tel-Abib or in Jerusalem (probably the word

is used with special reference to the former), should see the word of

Jehovah fulfilled in their own days. One notes how the prophet dwells on

the word prolonged, as though that had specially stirred his indignation. So

again

 

26 “Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying.

27 Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that

he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times

that are far off.  28 Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;

There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word

which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord GOD.”

The words imply another interval of silence, meditation,

and then a fresh utterance to the same effect as before. In this case (v. 27)

we trace a slight modification in the language of the gainsayers. They

recognize Ezekiel both as a seer and a prophet. They do not say that his

visionfaileth.” They content themselves with throwing the fulfillment into

the distant future. Their thought is that of the proverb which has been

ascribed to more than one king or statesman, Apres moi le deluge. To

these his answer is nearly in the same terms as before. Still harping on the

offensive word, he tells them that nothing that he has spoken shall be

prolonged.” The destruction of the temple and the holy city, the departure

of the Divine Presence from the sanctuary, these were already within

MEASURABLE  DISTANCE!

 

 

The Snare of Unbelief (vs. 21-28)

 

Faith has the power to make the distant near. It obliterates distance of time

and space. But unbelief reverses the effect. It looks in at the wrong end of

the telescope, and reduces realities to a mere speck. Unbelief corrupts all

blessing; it makes sour the very cream of God’s kindness. “Because

judgment is not speedily executed,” incorrigible rebellion makes a mock of

retribution.  (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

 

  • THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF DISTANT JUDGMENT IS GREAT

KINDNESS. The ancient Greeks had an adage: “The gods have feet of

wool.” But this does not describe the character of the living God. Instead

of overtaking men hastily, “He is slow to anger.” He does not willingly

afflict. “The axe is often laid at the root of the tree,” and that for a long

spell; and if repentance and fruitfulness appear, THE SENTENCE IS

GLADLY REVOKED!   The aim and purpose of our God are not

destruction, but restoration. If it is within the range of possibility to

awake the slumbering conscience, and save the man, God will do it.

To announce beforehand ordained judgments is KINDNESS

INFINITE!

 

  • DEFERRED JUDGMENT OFTEN LEADS TO MISPLACED

CONFIDENCE. The best blessings, when corrupted, become our direst

curses. Neither the bitter experience of sin, though long continued, nor the

royal clemency of God, produces any beneficial effect on some men. They

seem deaf to every appeal of prudence, insensible to every overture of

kindness. All tender feeling appears to have vanished; they have reached

already a state of hopeless reprobation. If the severity of justice for a

moment should relax, they put it down to cowardice, or weakness, or

irresolution. They say, “We shall have peace, though we walk after the

imagination of our own hearts”  (Jeremiah 18:12).  “Give a loose rein to

lust,” say they; “God doth not regard us.”

 

  • UNBELIEF PUTS FAR OFF THE DAY OF RECKONING. Its

shallow line of reasoning is this: “No punishment has fallen upon us as yet.

Today will be as yesterday, and tomorrow as today. Probably,” say they,

punishment will not come at all; or if it should, it is so far away that for all

practical purposes we may disregard it” There is a strong force of inertia in

every man’s nature. What has been, he thinks, will continue to be. “Where

is the promise of His coming?”  (II Peter 3:4)  The wish becomes father to

the thought, that punishment is dubious, problematic — a mere ghost of

probability. All the evidence of Divine rule and Divine interposition

UNBELIEF REJECTS as hypothetical craze. What cannot be seen

and handled and touched unbelief despises as unreal.

 

  • THE HOUR OF DOOM AT LENGTH SUDDENLY STRIKES.

To men it often seems a sudden event; not so to God. He has seen the

Elements preparing stage by stage, and “suddenness” forms no part of

His experience. So it has been with all the great calamities that have

overtaken men. In the period of Noah’s deluge, men saw no prognostication

of coming danger. “They bought, they sold, they married, they were given

 in marriage, until the very day that Noah entered into the ark.  And knew

not until the flood came, and took them all away” – Matthew 24:38-39).

 On the day of Sodom’s doom, the sun rose over the eastern hills with

his usual splendor and tranquility (Genesis 19:23); yet before noon the

smoke of the devastation rose and smothered in silence the cries of its

dying population. “So shall the coming of the Son of man be”

(Luke 17:28-30).  (I recommend www.arkdiscovery.com and browse

the section on Sodom and Gommorah – CY – 2014).  When profligate

men least expect it the storm shall break upon their heads. Whenever

the long suffering kindness of God is made an occasion of fresh license,

be quite sure that retribution is not far away. “In such an hour as ye

 think not, the Son of man cometh.”  (Matthew 24:44)

 

 

The Human Proverb and the Divine (vs. 22-28)

 

National proverbs embody national thinking, national sentiments, national

habits. They sometimes convey counsels of wisdom. But they are

sometimes superficial and all but valueless. As in the case here recorded,

such frivolous and misleading sayings need to be replaced and substituted

by the dictates of inspiration, of infallible wisdom, and undying truth.

 

  • A SPECIOUS PROVERB OF HUMAN WISDOM.

 

Ø      Its import. This was twofold — it asserted the postponement

indefinitely of righteous judgment, and the failure of authorized

prophecy. No doubt retribution was deferred; but this, which was

a sign of Divine forbearance, was interpreted as a proof that

judgment there was none, on earth or in heaven. No doubt the

warnings were uttered long before the calamity overtook the

people; and, in consequence, the threatened, the unbelievers,

instead of using the opportunity to repent and reform, abused

it to THEIR OWN CONDEMNATION.

 

Ø      Its plausibility. It is described as a “flattering divination;” for it was

intended to fall in with and to encourage:

 

o       the carelessness,

o       the impenitence, and

o       the unspirituality of men.

 

Ø      Its illusiveness. The opponents of the inspired prophet had but a

vain vision” to boast of. Time unmasks all false, deceitful

appearances; in a short time it was seen that the proverbial

wisdom of the impenitent was utterly baseless, was indeed

nothing but folly.

 

  • A VERACIOUS DECLARATION OF DIVINE COUNSELS.

 

Ø      The proverb dishonoring to God is exposed and refuted. “I will

make this proverb to cease.” Events should make its currency

impossible. There is a destructive power in truth — it shatters

illusions to pieces. Great swelling words of vanity collapse when

they encounter the simple but authoritative utterances of

DIVINE TRUTH!

 

Ø      The truthfulness of the Lord’s prophets is established. Every word is

fulfilled. Most unlikely events come to pass in accordance with

prophetic utterance. God speaks, and the pride of the haughty is

humbled, and things that are not vanquish things that are. The

faithful admonitions of the Lord’s servants are proved to be just

and wise.

 

Ø      A new proverb is created by the action of Divine providence. “There

shall none of my words be deferred any more.” The time came, and

came speedily, when this could not be questioned. And what happened

in the days of Ezekiel has happened wherever God has spoken. For us

 it is chiefly of practical concern to notice that He who came from God

and went to God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, uttered forth

the Divine mind and will with a unique completeness; and that though

heaven and earth shall pass away, His words shall not pass away.

                        (Matthew 24:35; II Peter 3:10-13)

 

 

The Word of the Lord Vindicated by Himself (vs. 23-28)

 

  • BY ITS CONTINUED PROCLAMATION.  The people of Jerusalem

Probably thought by their disbelief and derision to put to silence the word

of the Lord by Jeremiah his prophet. But God still speaks by him, and by

Ezekiel also. “Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord God,” etc. (v. 23).

“I am the Lord: I will speak,” etc. (v. 25). “Therefore say unto them, Thus

saith the Lord God, etc. (v. 28). In this way God speaks again and again to

this unbelieving and rebellious people. He will not leave Himself without

faithful witnesses, who will speak His word even to the most sceptical and

stubborn of men (ch. 2:3-7; 3:4-11).

 

  • BY ITS FULL AND SPEEDY FULFILLMENT.   The Lord here declares

that:

 

Ø      His word should be fulfilled speedily. “Say unto them, The days are at

hand, and the effect of every vision .... I will speak, and. the word that I

shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your

days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the

Lord God....There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the

word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God.”  The

announcement of the prophet has passed into fulfillment in a terrible manner.

Scarcely five years elapsed when Jerusalem with its temple LAY IN RUINS;

and those who had filled their belly with the east wind of their proud hopes

of the future were either lost or envied the dead.

 

Ø      His word should be fulfilled completely. “The days are at hand, and the

effect of every vision.” The full “contents of every prediction” would be

brought to pass. The unbelieving and rebellious people probably thought

that even if things came to the worst, they could not be so bad as in the

prophetic representations, that Jeremiah had exaggerated the troubles that

were coming upon the nation. But “the word of every vision” WAS AT

HAND!  No partial fulfillment was about to take place. Every word of

prophetic prediction was to be realized.

 

Ø      By putting to silence the also prophets who had discredited it. “There

shall no more be any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house

of Israel.” The events that were drawing so near would confound these

prophesiers of smooth things. The complete fulfillment of the visions of the

true prophet would effectually stop the mouths of the false ones.

 

Let us realize that God’s promises are true and. reliable. The hopes which it inspires

are not delusive. For how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the Yea:

wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us.

(II Corinthians 1:20)

 

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