Ezekiel 14

 

 

1 “Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. 

2  And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,”As the result, probably,

of the previous utterances, certain elders of Israel, i.e. of the exiles in Tel-Abib,

came to consult Ezekiel, wishing to know what counsels or what predictions he

had for them. In ch. 8:1 we have “the elders of Judah,” and it is possible that there

were two groups in the Population of the town, and that these represented

Israel as distinct from Judah — a deputation, as it were, from the earlier

exiles. The term appears again in ch.20:1. More probably, however, the terms are

used interchangeably.

 

3  Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the

stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of

at all by them?” These men, etc. The prophet, taught by the word of the Lord,

reads the hearts of those who came to him. The words do not imply, rather

they exclude, the open practice of idolatry. The sin of the inquirers was

that they had set up idols (gillulim, Ezekiel’s favorite word; see note on (ch.6:4)

in their hearts. The Septuagint. gives διανοήματα dianoaemata - thoughts of

their hearts -  as if to express this. They were hankering after the old false

worships in which they had once, taken part. The stumbling block (see

ch.3:20) of their iniquity was set up there. That divided heart,

the “double mind” of James 1:8, made true inquiry, as it made true

prayer for guidance, IMPOSSIBLE!   Shall I be inquired of at all, etc.? The

at all” represents the emphatic iteration of the verb in the Hebrew. The

Vulgate, Numquid interrogatus respondebo eis? gives a fair paraphrase.

 

Idols in the Heart (v. 3)

 

  • THE HEART IS THE SEAT OF IDOLATRY. There may be splendid

temples in a city, containing innumerable idols — horrible monsters or

beautiful statues, works of marble, ivory, or gold. Yet if the people do not

worship them no sin is committed. We have many idols in our museums.

The idols in a missionary society’s museum do no harm to its custodians.

On the other hand, though no idol temple stands in our land, and the last

vestige of the old heathenism has been swept away centuries ago, and the

very notion of worshipping stocks and stones seems to us ridiculous, yet in

our hearts there may be things which alienate us from God. The essential

question is as to what is there enthroned as in the citadel of the soul.

 

  • EVERYTHING THAT TAKES THE PLACE OF GOD IN THE

HEART IS AN IDOL. It is not everything loved that we are to regard as

an idol. God does not claim the only affection of our hearts. We may love

God through the love we bear to those earthly friends who are dear to us.

But God claims the first place, the throne within. Whatever stands first in

our estimation is our god. If some human affection, pleasure, or sin takes

this pre-eminent position, and refuses to yield, when required, to the

supreme will of God, that is our god, our idol.

 

  • IDOLS IN THE HEART EXCLUDE COMMUNION WITH GOD.

It is in reference to people who cherish such idols that God asks, “Should I

be inquired of at all by them?” it is not likely that such people would be

disposed to seek counsel from the true spiritual God. The idols would seem

to be sufficient. But if they should think to add the worship of the supreme

God to that of their idols, they would find that this is impossible. There are

men for whom all access to God is cut off. They who cherish evil things or

any rival affections, made evil by rivalry with the true love of the soul for

God, find that they cannot reach to God. “Ye cannot serve God and

mammon(Luke 16:13).  Observe, however, this only applies to idolatry

in the heart.  Heathen people who follow the instincts of natural religion

and feel after the unseen spiritual God may find Him (Acts 17:27), though

they have scores of idols in their houses, because such a genuine search for

God implies the expulsion of idols from the heart.

 

  • IDOLATRY IN THE HEART WILL NOT BE NEGLECTED BY

GOD. We may disown God and substitute our idols. But He will not,

cannot, give us up. (“If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful:  He

cannot deny Himself  - II Timothy 2:13).   He is still our Lord, and

He must take note of the rebellion of His people. But He is also still our

Father, and, though we may not care for Him, He has not ceased to love

us. Therefore He will seek His idolatrous children and plague them with

many a trouble, until He has induced them to see their folly, cast their idols

out of their hearts, and welcome back their Lord to His rightful throne.

 

4 “Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord

GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in

his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his

face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that

cometh according to the multitude of his idols;”  I will answer him that

cometh, etc. The two last words represent the K’ri, or marginal reading of the

Hebrew; the “therein” of the Revised Version, the Kh’-tib, or written text.

Probably we should read, as in v. 7, “I will answer him by myself.

 

5 “That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they

are all estranged from me through their idols.” The words are a threat

rather than a promise. The “double-hearted” shall be taken in the

snare which they have made for themselves.

 

6 “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD;

Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your

faces from all your abominations.”  Turn yourselves, etc.; literally, turn them.

But there is no sufficient ground for the margin, “Turn others,” the objective

suffix being the “faces” of the following clause. In ch. 18:30, 32 the verb is

used by itself. The prophet’s call is to a direct personal repentance, not to

the work of preaching that repentance to others.

 

Repentance (v.6)

 

  • THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS SALVATION IS REPENTANCE. It is

true that God has moved towards us before we have thought of turning to

Him. It is His goodness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ibid. ch.5:8). But all

this precedes our action. When we begin to see salvation, the first step

must lead us to the wicket gate of repentance, and until that has been

passed through THERE IS NO HOPE FOR US!   John the Baptist

prepares the way for Christ. “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”

(Matthew 3:2).  We may try the short cut of pride, and think to begin the

happy Christian life without owning our sins and turning from them.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE!   The result will only be a miserable hypocrisy.

 

  • REPENTANCE CONSISTS IN TURNING FROM THE EVIL WAY.

“Repent, and turn yourselves,” etc. It is an action, not merely a feeling. It

cannot be without deep grief of soul, yet it does not consist in the grief;

that is but an accompaniment, though undoubtedly an inevitable

accompaniment. We cannot measure our repentance by the number of tears

shed, but by the thoroughness of our revolt against our past. Neither is

there any value in the amount of time spent in abject contrition. We are not

in this way to consider whether we have repented sufficiently. The sole

question is as to the reality and thoroughness of the change by which we

turn from the old way and seek a better way.  (When I first came to

Hopkinsville in the fall of 1966, I still remember a sermon at First Baptist

Church by Sydney Maddox on repentance.  He preached that “repentance

is a turning!” – CY – 2014)

 

  • REPENTANCE IS CONFIRMED BY THE ABANDONMENT OF

THE EVIL ONCE LOVED. The penitents are to turn from their “idols.”

Insincere repentance weeps for the sins it still clings to. The action of

repentance is inward. But its consequences are seen in outward conduct.

Savonarola, when called to the dying bed of Lorenzo di Medici, refused to

offer any hope of pardon to the great Florentine, because, though he

professed great concern for his soul, and deep grief for his sins, he refused

to give back their liberties to the citizens. He would not act according to

the profession of repentance, and therefore the stern reformer justly judged

that the penitence could not be true and thorough.

 

  • REPENTANCE IS MET BY THE SAVING GRACE OF GOD. He

calls upon us to repent, hut He des not require us to create new hearts in

ourselves. He expects a sincere desire for a better way. We must show our

loathing for our old past by doing all in our power to relinquish it. Then

God gives that redeeming grace which is the new birth, and whence springs

the power for better living (“But as many as received Him, to them gave

He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His

Name.”  - John 1:12). Still, after receiving the grace, we need to

preserve the lowliness of the penitent, although all tears are wiped away by

the pardon of God. For we are always in danger of being dragged back into

out old selves. Illusion is brief but repentance is long.

 

7  For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that

sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth

up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his

iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him

concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:”

The stranger that sojourneth among you. It is noticeable that

Ezekiel uses here and elsewhere (ch.47:22-23) the familiar phrase

of the books which most influenced his teaching (Leviticus chps.16-25.;

Numbers chps.9,15; Deuteronomy passim). It is probable that some such

proselytes were found among the exiles of Tel Abib. I the Lord will

answer him by myself, etc. This, as has been seen, was probably the right

reading in v. 4. What it means is that, instead of a spoken answer by the

mouth of the prophet, there should be an answer in the discipline of life, in

the immediate utterance through the conscience, which was the voice of

God. The inquirer who came with unconfessed and unrepented hankerings

after the worship of other gods deserved and would receive no other answer.

 

 

 

God’s Answer (v. 7)

 

“I the Lord will answer him by myself.” The people inquire of the false

prophets, but God Himself will answer them. The question concerning the

coming danger will be settled by the event. That will be God’s answer, and

it will put an end to all doubt on the one side, and to all deception on the other.

 

  • THE PROMISE OF GOD’S ANSWER. There are questions which

grievously perplex us, and to which, as yet, we can get no reply. Those that

are frivolous may never be answered; e.g. Clement’s illustration, “Whether

the number of the stars be odd or even?” It can be of no use for us to know

the answer to such a question. No doubt there are also greater problems

which still do not concern us personally, and of these we may never have

the solution. There is no reason to suppose that we shall ever become

omniscient. But, on the other hand, there are deep, heart-searching

questions, which bear directly upon our life. We crave an answer to such

questions, and God will not leave us forever in the dark concerning them.

We may have our patience tried for a season, but at length the light will

dawn.

 

  • THE SOURCE OF GOD’S ANSWER. It will come direct from

Himself. The foolish Jews inquired of false prophets. (Many people

today are getting their information that they live by from false prophets,

such as college professors, philosophers, movie directors, celebrities,

politicians, propagandists guised as newsmen, etc. – CY  - 2014).  But not

even a true prophet such as Ezekiel would be entrusted with the reply.

GOD HIMSELF is to answer them. God does not act by proxy. He has

servants and agents.  But He is in them, and He can dispense with them

altogether whenever He chooses. He has direct dealings with souls. If the

answer comes from God, it must be true and sufficient. In momentous

questions concerning the soul and its ETERNAL LIFE we cannot be

satisfied with a reply from any delegated authority, not from the greatest

prophet, apostle, or archangel. We want to hear THE VOICE OF

GOD HIMSELF!

 

  • THE CHARACTER OF GOD’S ANSWER. In the present case it was

to be given by events. The destruction of Jerusalem was to be God’s

answer to the disputing Jews. That was as truly a Divine answer as a voice

from heaven would have been, for the voice would have been a shaping of

air waves, a work of God in nature. This event was God’s working in

providence. God speaks to us through His providence. History is a record

of God’s answers to man’s questions. Such an answer has many merits.

 

Ø      It is perceptible to all. The fall of Jerusalem sent a shock through the

Jewish world.

Ø      It is clear and unmistakable. God had threatened judgment. Would His

threat prove true? Who could doubt the meaning of the terrible response?

Ø      It is irreversible. An event which has once occurred can never be

undone. The lessons of history are eternal.

 

  • THE ADVENT OF GOD’S ANSWER.

 

Ø      It may come unsought. The faithless Jews neglected their God, and

inquired for oracles from the false prophets. Yet He of whom they

sought no word spoke by the awful thunders of judgment.

Ø      It may come from an unexpected quarter. These unbelieving Jews

were not expecting to hear the voice of God. Therefore they were

made to hear it in most terrible tones. It is better not to wait for such

a startling reply.  God has spoken in the great events of Bethlehem

and Calvary, and there His voice is one of grace and benediction.

 

8 “And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign

and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people;

and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” To make him, add, with Revised

Version, an astonishment; or better, I will make him amazed, as in ch.32:10.

The words are an echo of Deuteronomy 28:37. The man’s punishment shall be

open and notorious, so as to strike terror into others.

 

9 “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the

LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand

upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

10 And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the

punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him

that seeketh unto him;” I the Lord have deceived that prophet, etc. The teaching

of modern thought is to soften language like this into “I have permitted him to

be deceived.” The distinction was seldom, if ever, present to the mind of

the Old Testament, or indeed of the New Testament, writers. It is Jehovah

who sends the “lying spirit” in I Kings 22:20 -23. It is He who in the

latter days shall send men “strong delusions” that they shall believe a lie

(II Thessalonians 2:11). In both cases it is implied that the delusion is a

righteous punishment, is indeed the natural, because the divinely appointed,

punishment of the sin. Populus vult decipi et decipiatur, but the very

deception is a means for undeceiving them. At last their eyes shall be

opened. The punishment of the false prophet and of those who trust him is

at once retributive, and a discipline, and, if the discipline fails for them, at

least a warning for others.

 

The false prophets of Israel were popular men but their doom was to suffer

the fate of the people they fawned upon. A moment’s reflection must make it

apparent that the favor of the world, and even the favor of the Church, are no

guarantees for the favor of Heaven; for men may be deceived or may judge by

low, unworthy standards. But appearances are so flattering that people fall into

the snare, and take comfort from the thought that all is going well with them

among men. The one vital question is, “How do we stand before God?”

 

 

The Misleader and the Misled (v. 10)

 

One of the features of Israelitish life at this epoch of the Captivity was the

evident number and power of false prophets. General excitement and

change are, of course, favorable to imposture. Men sought everywhere

for guidance, comfort, hope; but, instead of having recourse to the

authorized prophets of the Lord, they went to the pretentious and

deceptive religious guides who seem to have traded upon the misfortunes

of their country. (Does not the “Secular Press” today fit this mold? – CY –

2014).  These men were in the habit of saying what was expected

and desired, of uttering smooth things, of buoying up the people with the

hope that threatening calamities might be averted. Thus the effect of these

men’s counsels was to prevent the people from true repentance and TO

HASTEN THE COUNTRY’S RUIN!   Ezekiel was directed to denounce

These misleaders of the nation, and to declare that they should participate

in the approaching calamities. “The punishment of the prophet shall be even

as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.”

 

  • PROPHET AND PEOPLE WERE PARTAKERS IN SIN. The sin in

essence was DEPARTURE FROM GOD!   Those who should have repaired

to the Source of all wisdom and authority turned aside, and “sought unto”

ignorant, self-seeking impostors. In this they sinned; and the sin was shared

by those to whom they had recourse. These pretended prophets knowingly

misled the people; for they saw no vision and heard no voice, and their

utterances were dictated, not by the law of Divine righteousness, but by the

aims of human policy. People and prophets sinned together, and suffered

alike.

 

  • PROPHET AND PEOPLE WERE PARTAKERS IN CONSEQUENT

ERROR. The counsel which was thus given and accepted, and

consequently acted upon, led the people astray. The only hope for

Jerusalem and for the Jews was a general humiliation, confession, and

repentance, A TURNING UNTO THE LORD!   From such a course they

were deterred by the deception which they practiced upon one another,

and the delusion which they mutually encouraged. Hence the error into

which they were misled, the error of continued idolatry, unbelief, and

rebellion.  (Contrast the New Testament teaching: 

 

Ø      “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge

God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things

which are not convenient……..”  - Romans 1:28-32;

 

Ø      “they received not the love of the truth…..And for this cause

God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe

A lie” – II Thessalonians 2:10-11 – CY – 2014)

 

  • PROPHET AND PEOPLE WERE PARTAKERS IN COMMON

PUNISHMENT. It would have been unjust to punish only those who were

led astray, for their false guides and evil counselors were to blame for

misleading them. It would have been unjust to punish only the false

prophets; for these men were induced and encouraged to practice their

deceiving arts by the readiness of their dupes to receive and to act upon

their advice. Hence COMMON GUILT entailed COMMON PENALTY!

There was little distinction in crime; there was little distinction in punishment.

Retribution is a fact in the government of the Supreme, who can never look

upon iniquity. “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go

unpunished.”  (Proverbs 11:21)  but the seed of the righteous shall

be delivered!”  (Ibid.)

 

11 “That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be

polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may

be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD.”

The words come as a gleam of light through the darkness. A

restored nation, walking in the truth, the true people of God, — this lies

beyond the mystery of the evil which is allowed, or even made, to work

itself out to the bitter end.

 

God owns the souls of His people. “That they may be my people” is the

expression in regard to God’s design in the discipline of Israel. God

regards His people as His “inheritance” (Psalm 28:9).  He values them, as

His jewels (Malachi 3:17), as the “apple of his eye” (Psalm 17:8).

God’s people have rights of access and privileges to God as reconciled children.

It is indeed a great joy to be able to say, “My God.”  (I highly recommend

Deuteronomy ch. 32 v. 9 – God’s Inheritance by Arthur Pink – this web site –

CY – 2014)

 

 

The Purposes of Punishment (v. 11)

 

No thoughtful person can believe that the supreme Lord of all inflicts

punishments upon men because He delights in the sufferings of His

creatures, or is indifferent to those sufferings. This passage of Scripture,

like other passages, teaches us that, when God punishes, it is with a view

to the good of those who are punished, or of others, or of both.

 

  • THE IMMEDIATE AND REMEDIAL PURPOSE OF PUNISHMENT.

It is a question how far punishment should aim at the correction of the

individual offender, how far at the production of A WHOLESOME

IMPRESSION UPON SOCIETY!   Whether the false prophets and those

who resorted to them were spared to profit by the chastisement which

befell them, we have not the means of judging. But in any case the

punitive afflictions were intended for the general good of the house of Israel.

 

Ø      Radical error is corrected. “That the house of Israel may go no more

astray from me.”

 

Ø      The habits of transgressors are reformed. “Neither defile themselves

any more with all their transgressions.”

 

  • THE ULTIMATE AND POSITIVE PURPOSE OF PUNISHMENT.

The remedy for disease must first be applied, then health will follow. So it

is in spiritual things. Forgiveness is a means to sanctification. Salvation is

both from sin and unto obedience and holiness. Accordingly, the prophet

represents the re-establishment, the fresh ratification, of the covenant

between God and Israel as the final purpose of all the chastening inflicted.

The two sides of this covenant are presented as in their harmony and

completeness justifying the discipline appointed by Divine wisdom and

beneficence.

 

Ø      “That they may be my people.” That is, not only in name, but in

reality; not only de jure, but de facto.

 

Ø      “That I maybe their God.” That is, theirs to acknowledge with

sincere reverence, to love with devotion and fervor, and to serve

with diligence and fidelity.

 

12 “The word of the LORD came again to me, saying,  13 Son of man, when

the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out

mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send

famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:  14 Though these three

men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls

by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.”  A new section begins, implying as

before an interval of silence. What follows presents a striking parallelism to Jeremiah

15:l-2.  There also we have the “four sore judgments,” the declaration that not

even the presence of Moses and Samuel would avail to save the people.

They were obviously selected by Jeremiah as examples of the power of

intercession (Exodus 32:11-14; I Samuel 7:9; 12:23). Ezekiel’s

selection of names proceeds on a different footing. He chooses exceptional

instances of saintliness that had been powerless to save the generation in

which they lived; perhaps, also, such as were well known, not only in the

records of Israel, but among other nations. Noah had not saved the evil

race before the Flood; Job had not saved his sons (Job 1:18); Daniel,

though high in the king’s favor, had not been able to influence

Nebuchadnezzar to spare the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The mention

of this last name is significant, as showing the reputation which even then

Daniel had acquired. In v. 13, for the land, read “a land.” For staff of bread,

see ch.4:16. The phrase comes from Leviticus 26:26.

 

 

Noah, Daniel, and Job (v. 14)

 

  • THE SPLENDID PRE-EMINENCE OF NOAH, DANIEL, AND JOB.

These three men are selected from ages far apart, and from the greatest

diversity of circumstances. In temperament and external history there is

little resemblance between them. Noah the patriarch, looms on the horizon

of history in epic grandeur; Daniel is the brave hero in a tyrant’s court, and

the man of skill and science in a civilized society; Job belongs to the region

of pastoral life, and his tragic story carries us out among the Bedouin. So

wide is the range of excellence! Good men are not confined to one age, nor

to one set of circumstances, nor to one school of thought, nor to one style

of life. They are not found exclusively in antiquity, in modern times, in

town, in the country, among the great, among the simple. There is a

breadth and a variety in the possibilities of saintliness. We need not all copy

one type. He who cannot emulate the knowledge of Daniel may follow the

patience of Job. Nevertheless, in spite of these diversities, there are certain

great common features that belong to the three Old Testament saints, and

account for the present association of their names.

 

Ø      All three were holy men, true to God and upright in life. His goodness

is the greatest fact in a good man’s character, and it constitutes a bond

of union between all the true people of God.

 

Ø      All three were faithful in circumstances of isolation. They all had to

break from prevalent habits, and dare to stand alone:

 

o       Noah against the world’s sin and impenitence,

o       Daniel against heathenism,

o       Job against a false orthodoxy.

 

Ø      All three were sorely tried. The faith of each was assailed in a severe

and most exceptional manner.

 

Ø      All three were victorious by means of firm fidelity. They conquered,

and they conquered in quiet ways — by obedience, patience, faith,

and steadfastness.

 

  • THE USELESSNESS OF THE INTERCESSION OF THESE

THREE GREAT SAINTS IN THIS SITUATION.   Though Noah,

Daniel, and Job united to plead for Jerusalem, their intercession would be

all in vain.

 

Ø      This was contrary to expectation. There is power in intercession; there is

a special power in the intercession of a “righteous man” (James 5:16);

there is a still greater power in united prayer (Matthew 18:20).

Yet here the union of three of the very best men, selected from all ages,

could not secure the safety of Jerusalem (after her departure from God!)

 

Ø      The cause of the predicted failure of such an intercession was hardened

impenitence. God is not inexorable. He is ready to listen to prayer; nay,

He is more anxious to save than we are to plead for salvation. (“The

Lord ……is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should

Perish, but that all should come to repentance.” -  II Peter 3:9).  He

sent His Son to save the world, an infinitely greater act than the most

impassioned pleading of the best men. Therefore the failure cannot

be attributed to His hardness. But it would be unjust and injurious to

spare the impenitent on any plea.

 

Ø      The intercession of Christ succeeds where that of the best of men fail.

His prayers are worth those of ten thousand Noahs and Daniels and

Jobs. “He ever liveth to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25),

and HE ALONE, bearing the weight of the whole world’s guilt,

MAKES ATONEMENT FOR THE SINS OF ALL MEN with

ample sufficiency. We could not trust to the intercession of the

saints, even if we were sure of obtaining it; and the words of

Ezekiel are only hypothetical, merely by way of illustration.

CHRIST IS OUR ONE ADVOCATE WITH THE FATHER!

(I John 2:1)  Nevertheless, for the impenitent even His mighty

intercession, which shakes the very gates of hell, is ineffectual.

Christ shed tears over Jerusalem, yet Jerusalem perished.

 

 

Illustrious Piety (v. 14)

 

Ezekiel was especially commissioned to set forth and to impress upon the

people the individual, the personal, aspect of religion. In many places, as

here, he lays stress upon the accountability of each several man to God.

One cannot deliver another from deserved punishment. Each must answer

for himself, must reap the reward of his deeds, whether good or evil. A

man’s piety cannot save his ungodly neighbor when the time of reckoning

and judgment arrives. No matter how good our friends may be, their

goodness does not excuse our irreligion. If the city has sinned, the city

must suffer. Even if the wisest and the best of men are in it and plead for it,

the city cannot be justified or spared for their sake. Men so conspicuous

for virtue and piety as Noah, Daniel, and Job have not power to save the

land from famine, from the sword, from noisome beasts, from the

pestilence, when these are sent as chastisements from the Lord of all.

 

  • THE VIRTUES FOR WHICH THESE THREE MEN WERE

CELEBRATED. Why these, rather than other illustrious instances of

human goodness, were selected is a question which cannot be answered

with certainty. But the context disposes the student of this passage of

prophecy to consider these men as instances of remarkable piety in the

midst of surrounding ungodliness.

 

Ø      Thus Noah stands in contrast with the self-indulgent and irreligious

population of the world immediately before the Flood; as a preacher

of righteousness, he protested against the sins and the secularism

and unbelief of his time.

 

Ø      Daniel also was “faithful among the faithless;” he and a selected few

were called upon to witness against the idolatry of their heathen rulers

and masters, and against much unfaithfulness on the part of their

companions in captivity.

 

Ø      Job was a true servant of Jehovah, who was encompassed by idolatries

to which he did not yield, and who alone of his own kindred was

faithful to his God in all his ways.

 

These three men all saw disasters come upon those with whom

they were associated. If they could not deliver their neighbors in the day

of judgment, if their virtues and piety availed only for themselves, was it

credible that their presence in Jerusalem would save the city and the land

from destruction? It is observable that the “righteousness” of these three

men is admitted, and with commendation, by the Lord God Himself. There

may be danger in praising and flattering the good because of their

goodness. But there are occasions when it is just and right to acknowledge

the moral excellence, the human merit, of men, always with a clear

understanding that all goodness is from God, that in His view all human

character is imperfect, and that nothing can be claimed from Him as a just

reward even by the purest and the most useful among mankind.

 

  • THE FAVOUR WITH WHICH THESE THREE MEN WERE

REGARDED. It was an honor to be selected by a good man and a

prophet like Ezekiel for special approval and commendation. But it was a

higher honor to be mentioned thus by the direction of THE LORD

GOD HIMSELF!  It is not erroneous to attribute to the Eternal a personal

interest in the sons of time, a regard of that nature with which one who

judges with justice and appreciation esteems the excellent among his fellow

beings. On the contrary, Scripture justifies us in taking such a view of our

Father God, who is never represented as indifferent and heartless, but rather

as looking with satisfaction and favor upon those who delight in His Law

and do His will. There have been occasions upon which the intercessory

prayers offered by such have been received with favor, and have been

graciously answered, to the relief and comfort of those for whom they

have been presented.

 

  • THE POWERLESSNESS OF EVEN SUCH RIGHTEOUS AND

BELOVED SERVANTS OF GOD TO DELIVER THE REBELLIOUS

FROM PUNISHMENT. It is evidently intended to convey the impression

that God was willing to do great things at the intercession of men so good

and so favored as those named; but that He would not for their sake

contradict His own declarations, reverse His own laws, and abandon His

own moral government. Hence the lesson may be learned that “every man

shall bear his own burden”  (Galatians 6:5), that in the day of account no

man shall deliver his brother. No hope can be vainer than that of those who

rely for their salvation upon the merits and influence of their family, their

friends, their Church, however dear to God. It is plain that, as religion is a

personal matter, as its claims come home to the individual, every hearer of

God’s Word is bound to use for himself those means by which he may,

BY GOD’S GRACE, be delivered from the chain of sin and THE DOOM

OF DEATH!

 

15 “If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it,

so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the

beasts:”  Noisome beasts (see note on ch.5:17).

 

16 “Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD,

they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be

delivered, but the land shall be desolate.  17 Or if I bring a sword upon

that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and

beast from it:  18 Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the

Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only

shall be delivered themselves.”

 

19 “Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon

it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:”  Pestilence is joined with blood,

as in ch.5:17; 38:22, as indicating its death-bearing character.

 

20 “Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord

GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but

deliver their own souls by their righteousness.  21 For thus saith the

Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments

upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast,

and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?”

 

 

The Privilege and Power of the Godly,

  Their Nature and Limitation (v. 20)

 

“Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God,”

etc. Three very distinguished men are here mentioned, two of whom had

long passed away from this world and all its scenes, the other was yet

amongst men upon earth. Yet Noah and Job are spoken of as still in being.

Absent from this world, they were yet living and present in the great

universe of God. These undesigned testimonies to man’s immortality, to be

met with frequently in the Scriptures, afford the basis for a strong

argument in support of that fact.

 

“The dead are like the stars by day,

Withdrawn from mortal eye;

But not extinct, they hold their way

In glory through the sky.

Spirits from bondage thus set free

Vanish amidst immensity,

Where human thought, like human sight,

Fails to pursue their trackless flight.”

 

Daniel at this time, like Ezekiel, was an exile in Babylon, and was eminent

both for his piety and his position. Noah, Daniel, and Job were all good

men and great men; they are enrolled amongst the most illustrious of our

race. The prophet in this paragraph predicts “four sore judgments upon

Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the

pestilence,” by reason of their idolatry and other sins.  And in the text he

declares that, when the hour of judgment arrives, even the presence of such

men as Noah, Daniel, and Job in the doomed city would not avail to save

any but their own souls.

 

  • THE PRIVILEGES OF GOOD MEN. Our text announces the safety of

good men even in the extremest dangers and the most irresistible

judgments. “They shall… deliver their own souls by their righteousness.”

History affords remarkable examples of the deliverance of the good in

times of sore peril (compare Noah -Genesis 7:23;  Lot – Ibid. 19:15-25).

But it is not often that the godly are exempted from the calamities and

judgments which befall the wicked. Thus Daniel, Ezekiel, and other holy

men were carried into Chaldea with those to whom the exile was the

punishment of idolatry, and were now suffering that exile with them.

But invariably “they deliver their own souls by their righteousness.”

If their bodies be not delivered, yet their souls are. Amid the overthrow

of cities, the ruin of countries, or even the wreck of the world, their

spiritual interests are secure. Moreover, though they are not exempt

from general calamities, yet to them the calamities wear a different

aspect from that which they present to the wicked. They are sustained

under them, and enabled to bear them with heroic patience. The suffering

which comes to the wicked as the judgment of a stern Ruler comes to

the righteous as the chastisement of a loving Father. And, by His grace,

out of the scars of suffering, God will bring  the beauties of holiness.

The darkness and anguish which embitter and  harden the heart of the

wicked (for example, Revelation 16:9), will  increase the trust and

tenderness and refine the graces of the righteous.  “Say ye to the

righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit

 of their doings.  Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him:

for the reward of his hands shall be given him.”  (Isaiah 3:10-11)

 

  • THE POWER OF GOOD MEN. Our text implies that Noah, Daniel,

and Job had power to do much for their fellow men; that they could do

much in averting destruction and saving man. The warning that these three

saints would not be able to screen them from this judgment implies the

belief on the part of the people of Jerusalem that the good men amongst

them, by their lives and prayers, would turn aside the threatening storm. If

any can turn away the judgments of Heaven from a nation of evil doers,

good men can do it. God may spare the wicked because of the righteous.

The power of good men to avert Divine wrath from a people has at least

two branches.

 

Ø      The power of moral influence with men. They are “the salt of

 the earth”  (Matthew 5:13).  Were it not for their influence society

would become hopelessly corrupt, and the storm of God’s judgment

would sweep the guilty race from the earth.

 

Ø      The power of intercession with God. We have illustrious examples of

this (compare Genesis 18:23-32; Exodus 32:11-14, 30-34; Numbers

11:1-3; 14:13-20; 16:44-50). Who can estimate the power of the

intercession of good men?

 

  • THE LIMITATION OF THE POWER OF GOOD MEN. “Though

Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall

deliver neither son nor daughter.” When the sin of a people has come to

its height, and the decree has gone forth for their ruin, the piety and prayers

of the best men shall not prevail to finish the controversy. This is here

asserted again and again, that, though these three men were in Jerusalem at

this time, yet they should deliver neither son nor daughter, not so much as

the little ones should be spared for their sakes. This shows how DARK AND

TERRIBLE  the guilt of the inhabitants of Jerusalem must have been

(compare Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14; 15:1). When the forbearance of God is

exhausted, any number of the holiest of men cannot ward off the stroke of

doom. Character may become so utterly depraved that REFORMATION

IS IMPOSSIBLE (This is why God meant for men to train up their

children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and WHY IT IS SUCH

A MISTAKE THAT AMERICA HAS MADE IN SEPARATING

HERSELF FROM CHURCH AND STATE, IN ESSENSE

SEPARATING HERSELF FROM GOD ALMIGHTY!  - CY – 2014)

and then NOTHING BUT JUDGMENT REMAINS! Moral disease may

become so deeply rooted and strong that no influence can overcome it, no

power eradicate it, and THEN DESTRUCTION IS INEVITABLE!

When the Divine means of reformation have all been tried, and all have

failed, what remains is UTTER RUIN!    Abused patience will turn at last

into INEXORABLE WRATH!

 

  • CONCLUSION.

 

Ø      Our subject speaks earnestly to parents concerning the salvation of

their children. If you would have your children saved you must begin

to work early and wisely (Deuteronomy 6:4-12; Ephesians 6:4).

While the chains of evil habits are unforged, and the heart

is susceptible of sacred impressions, and the conscience sensitive,

and the sympathies tender, we must seek the salvation of our children

if we would secure it. (Remember that “The chains of habit are

too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken!!  Also,

“It is easier to take your children in to Sodom than to lead them

Out!” CY  - 2014).  Oh, the time may come when the holiest of

men “shall deliver neither son nor daughter” from the storms of

God’s judgment!

 

Ø      Our text reminds us all that salvation is a personal concern. Our

continuance in sin may lead, nay, must lead, to a moral condition in

which the prayers of the most loving and sainted parents may avail

nothing for their own son or daughter. You must believe on

Jesus Christ for yourself, repent of your sins yourself. You must

work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” 

(Philippians 2:12).  There is no working by proxy here. “Each one

of us shall give account of himself to God.”  (Romans 14:12).

Therefore “strive to enter in by the narrow gate,” (Matthew 7:13).

“Give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure.”

(II Peter 1:10)

 

22 “Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought

forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto

you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be

comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem,

even concerning all that I have brought upon it. 23 And they shall comfort

you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have

not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.”

The words end with a gleam of hope shining through the judgments. For Ezekiel,

as for Isaiah, there is the thought of a “remnant that shall return” (Isaiah 10:20-22).

It has been questioned whether “the ways and the doings” which are to bring

comfort to men’s minds are those of the evil past or of the subsequent repentance.

I incline to the view that they include both. Men should see at once the severity

and the goodness of Jehovah (Romans 11:22). His punishments had not been

arbitrary nor excessive. They had also been as a discipline leading men to repentance.

In each of those facts there was a ground of comfort for men who asked the

question, which Abraham asked of old, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth

do right?” (Genesis 18:25). In either aspect men will recognize that

God has not done without cause all that He has done. In this way the

prophet seeks, as others have done since, to justify the ways of God to

man. Ezekiel’s word for “remnant” is, it may be noted, not the same as

Isaiah’s, its primary significance being “these that escape.” Ezekiel does

not quote the earlier prophet, though his thoughts are in harmony with him.

 

 

Human Atonement Valueless (vs. 12-23)

 

The hopeful among the Jews probably remembered that in times of former

correction God had yielded, in some measure, to the intercessions of the

saints. If they had not gained all that they asked, they had gained some

advantage. Why might that not occur again? Might not God concede some

of His demand? This was impossible, for the first necessity was that

righteous government be maintained. No good can ever come to men by

TAMPERING WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS! 

 

  • SIN AGAINST GOD IS AN IMMEASURABLE EVIL. It is a common

thing for men to affect surprise at the severity of God’s chastisement.

(How can a Just God allow such thing to happen?  I heard this often

in secular circles in comments on various things that happen in our society!

CY – 2014).  Yet this is only an outcome of their ignorance. They have no

conception of THE TREMENDOUS EVIL OF SIN!  Its magnitude defies

all human measurement. We cannot follow it into all its ramifications of

mischief. We see the beginning of the vicious stream; the ending is beyond

our sight. It is an injury to the moral universe, and we cannot estimate it.

Had Eve foreseen all the painful results of taking the forbidden fruit,

surely she would have resisted the tempter.  (Had Abraham known

of the modern jealousies between the Jews and the Arabs, no doubt

he would have thought twice before going into Hagar! – CY – 2014)

 

  • FLAGRANT SIN DEMANDS EVERY SORT OF PENALTY. It is

not always possible for men to discriminate between great sins and small;

yet even men can discover when sin becomes rapidly contagious, and when

it is largely influential for evil!  When a man, by a plausible embellishment of

vice, entraps ten thousand others into the snare, and makes his vice

fashionable, popular, universal, — his sin is heinous.   (Like “Jeroboam,

who made Israel to sin.”  (I Kings 14:16 and many other places – CY – 2014).

As for a disease that has become epidemic the severest remedies are employed,

so when a sin becomes national, terrible chastisement is demanded. To

vindicate His righteous law, God sometimes employs the scourge of pestilence;

sometimes famine; sometimes war; sometimes a plague of locusts. But

when iniquity breaks out with virulence, or becomes aggravated and

stubborn, He will combine all his methods of chastisement, in order to

cleanse the land. Always His punishments are well apportioned, never

excessive. The balance is in the hand of Infinite Wisdom.

 

  • MEN ARE INFLUENTIAL FOR GOOD ACCORDING TO THEIR

RIGHTEOUSNESS. The messenger of Jehovah singles out for mention

three men who were eminent for piety and faith. His language implies that

if any men could prevail with God to abate His penalties, these were the

men. It was useless for him to make mention of men of inferior piety. Any

righteous man would not suffice. To have any hope of success, he must be

a man of transcendent purity. This conviction was universal in the minds of

the people. It was founded on reason, on experience, on the records of past

history.

 

Ø      Had not Moses gained a respite for the nation by his righteous

intercession?

Ø      Had not Samuel averted the stroke of Divine anger from Israel?

Ø      Had not Noah’s righteousness secured the safety of seven persons

beside himself? Why should it not be so again?

Ø      Daniel was living among them — a man eminent for loyalty to Jehovah.

Ø      Were not Jeremiah and Ezekiel interceding for the people?

 

If anything could save the nation from utter destruction, surely it was the

righteous zeal of these godly men!

 

  • YET HUMAN RIGHTEOUSNESS IS INCOMPETENT TO ABATE

A SINGLE PENALTY FROM OTHERS. A man’s personal righteousness

will always serve as a screen for himself, never as a shield for others. Far

be it from God to destroy the righteous with the wicked!  (Genesis 18:25).

This would be to obliterate eternal distinctions. This would be for God

to act against Himself.  The righteous are safe when dangers are thickest.

They have an invulnerable panoply. And the prayers of the righteous have

often gained temporary advantages for the unrighteous. Such intercession

has obtained a brief respite for repentance — has obtained a postponement

of the catastrophe. Yet as a righteous man, however zealous, has no power

to transform the moral nature of another man, he cannot deliver him WHEN

GOD APPEARETH FOR JUDGMENT!   ETERNAL JUSTICE IS

THE MAIN PILLAR OF THE UNIVERSE,  and, if justice fails, the

universe wilt be shivered.

 

  • MUCH LESS CAN HUMAN RIGHTEOUSNESS AVERT FROM

MEN ALL DIVINE PENALTIES. This is an argument ad hominem. If the

righteousness of the best men that ever lived cannot quench one fiery dart

of God’s vengeance, much less can it quench all the darts in God’s quiver.

There was a propriety in every particular form of chastisement which God

employed; it would therefore be unbecoming every attribute of His nature

to suspend that chastisement, while the causal sin yet remained. Men little

surmise the terrible necessity there is for retribution, because THEY DO

NOT PERCEIVE THE MAGNITUDE OF SIN!   It is a fearful thing

to provoke the anger of the living God.  (“For our God is a consuming

fire! - Hebrews 12:29)

 

  • GOD WILL ULTIMATELY MAKE HIS WISDOM AND

RIGHTEOUSNESS CLEAR TO MEN. It is possible that the elders of

Israel did not immediately acquiesce in the first necessity for this severe

course. They did not know the full extent of Israel’s sin. Ignorance is often

the root of discord. But God would spare a few — most probably the best

of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. These should in due time be conveyed

to Tel-Abib, and join the older members of the Captivity. But so base and

intolerable will the characters of this remnant appear, that the elders

themselves will confess that God’s judgments were not a whit too severe

that a less chastisement would be inadequate. This act of God exhibits

the graciousness of His character. He deigns to explain and to justify His

ways unto His trustful children. “The secret of the Lord is with them that

fear Him, and He will show them His covenant”   (Psalm 25:14).  He

takes them into his fullest confidence.

 

 

Purpose in Providence (v. 23)

 

There is mystery in God’s providence in nature and in the world.  There are

difficulties which puzzle and perplex us when we are suddenly confronted

with situations in life!   Job said, “Lo, these are but the outskirts of His ways:

 and how small a whisper do we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power

who can understand?”  (Job 26:14).  We know that God has mind, and that

He exercises what with us would be called forethought.  The righteousness

and love of God make it certain that he does not act without a cause..

 

  • THE CAUSE OF GOD’S ACTION WILL RE ULTIMATELY

DECLARED. It is impossible for us to see it yet, for we cannot look

beyond the grave, nor can we scale the heights of Divine thought in the

infancy of our spiritual experience. The schoolboy cannot see the utility of

all his lessons. But if he has been well taught in boyhood, when he is a man

he will look back on the hard training with appreciative satisfaction, and

will therefore order a similar process for his children. It would not be well

for us to see the end yet, for we must be trained by faith. But earthly

experience often throws back light on dark passages of life, and they then

flash into a new meaning which calls forth gratitude as well as wonder.

Beyond this world the fuller explanation will come. (I personally believe

that it will take eternity to understand it all!  - CY – 2014)  For our

light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more

exceeding and ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY!”  (II Corinthians 4:17).

 

 

The Righteousness of God Vindicated (v. 23)

 

The Lord, by the prophet, assures the troubled exiles that they should know that

He had not done without cause all that He had done in Jerusalem.

 

  • This conviction would be wrought by the manifestation of the

wickedness of the people. “Therein shall be left a remnant that shall be

carried forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto

you, and ye shall see their way and their doings,” etc. The remnant that

should be carried into captivity would make it clear, from their degradation

and sin, that the judgments inflicted upon Jerusalem were deserved by the

guilty inhabitants thereof. The exhibition of their wickedness would

manifest the justice of God in their punishment. The pious exiles in Chaldea

would perceive “that such corruption had deserved such destruction.”

God’s righteousness is clearly manifest in those that perish, as well as by

means of those that escape.”

 

  • This conviction would bring peace to the good. “Ye shall be comforted

concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem,” etc. The comfort

lies in the justification of the ways of God. Their painful doubts as to His

righteousness would be destroyed. Their faith in Him would be established.

And faith brings PEACE and REST to the soul.

 

  • The production of this conviction was ordered by God. He did not chide

or condemn them for their painful doubts; but promised them evidence for

the invigoration and confirmation of their faith. And He so controlled

events as to bring about this result. It appears from this that He is

concerned:

 

Ø      for the vindication of His own righteousness, and

Ø      for the peace of His people.

 

Wherefore in His own time He will remove every cloud that veils the

rectitude of His works and ways, and make it apparent to the whole

intelligent universe that all His purposes and operations are just and true.

Jesus said, “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed;

 neither hid, that shall not be known.  (Luke 12:2)

 

 

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