Ezekiel 5

 

 

1 “And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s

razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard:

then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair.”

Take thee a barber’s razor, etc. The series of symbolic acts is

carried further. Recollections of Isaiah and Leviticus mingle strangely in

the prophet’s mind. The former had made the “razor” the symbol of the

devastation wrought by an invading army (Isaiah 7:20). The latter had

forbidden its use for the head and beard of the priests (Leviticus 19:27;

21:5). Once again Ezekiel is commanded to do a forbidden thing as a

symbolic act. He is, for the moment, the representative of the people of

Jerusalem, and there is to be, as of old, a great destruction of that people

as “by a razor that is hired.” The word for “barber” (perhaps “hair cutter”)

does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament, but its use may be noted as

showing that then, as now, the “barber” was a recognized institution in

every Eastern town. The word for “knife” (Joshua 5:2; I Kings 18:28)

is used in v. 2, and commonly throughout the Old Testament, for“sword,”

and is so translated here by the Septuagint and Vulgate. The prophet is to take a

sword and use it as a razor, to make the symbolism more effective.

 

2 “Thou shalt burn with fire a third part in the midst of the city, when

the days of the siege are fulfilled: and thou shalt take a third part,

and smite about it with a knife: and a third part thou shalt scatter in

the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them.” Thou shalt burn with fire, etc.

The symbolism receives its interpretation in v. 12. A third part of the people (we

need not expect numerical exactness) was to perish in the city of pestilence and

famine, another to fall by the sword in their attempts to escape, yet another third

was to be scattered to the far off land of their exile, and even there the

sword was to follow them. The words, in the midst of the city, and the

days of the siege, find their most natural explanation in ch.4:1, 5-6.

 

3 “Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy

skirts.”  4 “Then take of them again, and cast them into the midst of the fire,

and burn them in the fire; for thereof shall a fire come forth into all

the house of Israel.”  Thou shalt also take, etc. The words may point:

 

  • either to those in Jerusalem who had escaped the famine and the sword,

and were left in the land (II Kings 25:22; Jeremiah 40:6; 52:16); or

 

  • to those who should go into exile, and yet even there suffer from the

fireof God’s chastening judgments. They were, if saved at all, to be

saved “so as by fire” (I Corinthians 3:15), to be as “brands plucked

from the burning” (Amos 4:11; Zechariah 3:2). Isaiah’s thought of

the “remnant” (Isaiah 10:20-22; 11:11-16) seems hardly to come in

here. The whole utterance is one of denunciation. The act of “binding in

the skirts” implies only a limited protection. Omit “for,” and for “thereof”

readtherefrom,” s.c. from the fire (Revised Version).

 

 

A Barber’s Razor (vs. 1-4)

 

The coming siege and destruction of Jerusalem are described under the

image of the prophet shaving his head and then disposing of his hair in

various ways. The razor stands for the Divine judgment, the hair for the

people, the different treatment of the hair for the difference in the doom of

the people.

 

  • DIVINE JUDGMENT IS KEEN AS A RAZOR. Some judgments

crush, others cut. The latter do not dispose of their victims at a blow. More

is reserved for the hair that has been shaved off; for it is to be burnt, etc.

But first of all the head is shorn. Thus judgment is progressive. Now, the

first stage throws down pride, breaks up the established order, and casts

the miserable sufferers into a state of dismay. This is irresistible. Slender

hair cannot resist sharp steel. Feeble man cannot stand up against the

penetrating judgment of Heaven.

 

  • IN PUNISHING A NATION GOD PUNISHES INDIVIDUALS.

Each hair is a separate growth (“But the very hairs of your head are all

numbered.”  - Matthew 10:30), and in shaving the whole head the razor

cuts through individual hairs. It is too commonly imagined that burdens can

be shifted from the individual to the nation. But if this were universally

done there would be no gain, as the nation is nothing more than the

aggregate of the individuals that compose it; and if it were only partially

done, injustice would be inflicted on the many for the relief of the few. In

Divine judgments there is no escaping on account of the wholesale and

national character of what happens. Great general wars lay homesteads

desolate, bring mourning to separate households, impoverish private

businesses, kill individual men.

 

  • IN A GENERAL JUDGMENT THERE ARE VARIETIES OF

DOOM. The hair is to be divided out, and the several portions are then to

be dealt with in different ways. The siege of Jerusalem results in a variety

of dreadful calamities. Some of the citizens perish from fire, famine, or

disease; some are killed by the sword; some are driven into exile. No doubt

there will be varieties of doom in the future world. All will not suffer the

same penalties, and yet the just punishment of sin must be unspeakably

awful in every instance.

 

  • IN THE MOST HEAVY JUDGMENT SOME ARE SPARED.

Ezekiel is to take a few hairs and bind them in his skirts. Eight people were

saved from the Flood. Three were saved from the destruction of Sodom

and Gomorrah. The Christians who fled to Pella escaped the horrors of the

Roman siege of Jerusalem. Thus the doctrine of the “remnant” is

repeatedly exemplified. None are so obscure as to be overlooked by God.

He is not indiscriminate in His judgment. The faithful are safe in the most

overwhelming destruction. Those who are God’s true people are well

guarded and cared for by Him. (“The foundation of God standeth sure,

having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His” – II Timothy 2:19).

Such have no occasion to fear any future judgment day.

 

  • ESCAPE FROM ONE JUDGMENT IS NO ASSURANCE OF FINAL

SAFETY. V. 4 seems to teach that some who escaped from the horrors

of the siege would yet be cut off by some later calamity. God’s forbearance

is no excuse for man’s indifference. Judgment deferred is not judgment

destroyed. It is possible to turn aside from God in one’s later days after

serving Him truly in one’s earlier life, and then the safety of the Past must

give place to peril

 

5 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the

midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.”

This is Jerusalem, etc. The strange acted parables cease, and

we have the unfigurative interpretation. The words that follow point to the

central position of Jerusalem in the geography, and therefore in the history,

of the ancient East: Egypt to the south, Assyria and Babylon to the north,

and in the nearer distance Moabites and Ammonites, and Edomites, and

Phoenicians, and Philistines; to all of these Jerusalem might have been as a

city set on a hill, as the light of the Gentiles. That had been her ideal

position from the first, as in the visions of Micah 4:1 and Isaiah 2:1-2,

it was to be in its ideal future. The words are not without interest, as

probably having suggested the thought, prominent in mediaeval geography

(Dante, ‘Inf.,’ 34:115, and the HerefordMappa Mundi’), that Jerusalem

was physically the central point of the earth’s surface. So Moslems believe

Mecca to be the earth’s center, and the Greek word omphalos was applied

to Delphi as implying the same belief.

 

 

A Central Position (v. 5)

 

Jerusalem was in a central position. Palestine was in the very midst of the

nations. The highway between Assyria and Egypt ran through her territory.

Seated on the shores of the Mediterranean, she was midway between the

great empires of the East and the mysterious world of the West. England is

now in a position like that of ancient Palestine, but with a much larger

sweep of circumference. This island looks eastward to Europe and Asia,

and it is in the highway from the Old World to America. London is the

commercial capital of the world. England, more than any other country,

has interests and influence in the four quarters of the globe. (Written two

centuries ago, America has had this position of influence but in departing

from God, we are in decline and are in danger of the “barber’s razor” in

the last homily.  – CY – 2014).  Then there are individual men in central

positions. This is so of all persons in posts of authority. It is also true in a

very real sense of everybody. Each man is the center of his own horizon;

the range of his vision and voice extend in a circle all round him. Throw a

atone where you will into a pond, and at once it becomes a center of spreading

circles of wavelets. We are all centers of influence. This central position involves

great consequences.

 

  • A HIGH PRIVILEGE. Jerusalem was privileged in her position; so is

America today. The products of all the world pour into our markets. The

garnered experience of the ages and the wide wealth of thought that grows

in many minds are at our disposal. Jerusalem in the days of the prophets

had many faults, but narrow mindedness was not one. We see her seated

on the great plain of the world’s history. In like manner there is a happy

richness, a variety and breadth of knowledge, of which we in America

today are able to avail ourselves. As individuals, we are in the midst of

many enriching sources. Tennyson’s Ulysses says, “I am a part of all that I

have met.” We are able to profit by multitudinous influences from many

quarters. We should not stultify these influences by parochial narrowness,

but welcome and use all the helps God sends, e.g. in good books,

inspiriting lives, wise and good public movements.

 

  • A UNIQUE POSITION. Jerusalem was in the midst of the nations, yet

she was separate from them. She was not to follow the example of her

neighbors. She was called to a unique destiny. Alone knowing the true

God, she was to serve him in the full blaze of the world, but in separation

from the contamination of neighboring religions. This is the Christian

destiny; not to forsake society and cultivate religion in seclusion, but to live

in the world, yet free from the spirit of the world — a citizen of heaven

residing as God’s ambassador on earth.

 

  • A GREAT MISSION. Jerusalem was planted in the midst of the

nations to be a power for good among them. God did not convey His

chosen people to some distant “Isles of the Blessed.” They were set down

in the center of the great stage of the world’s history. They were a separate

people, it is true — a sort of Belgium between Egypt and Assyria — the

France and Germany of those days. But they had their mission in the end,

to give the true religion to all nations. England is most advantageously

situated for blessing other nations. We of all peoples should be a

missionary nation. The Church of Christ is in the midst of the people, not

like Noah’s ark, only destined to secure the safety of those shut up inside

it, but like leaven put into the, meal to leaven the whole lump. Every

Christian Church is in the midst of the people, in a neighborhood for

which it should be a center of light. So also individual men, according as

they are in any sort of central positions, are there for the good they can

confer. No life can be pure in its purpose or strong in its strife, and all life

not be purer and stronger thereby.

 

  • A HEAVY RESPONSIBILITY. Jerusalem is called to account.

America will have her day of reckoning. We shall all be judged, especially

as to our conduct in places of privilege and influence.

 

Ř      We are responsible for our privileges. Assyria was not judged as

Judaea; Africa and England will not be measured by the same standard.

Much is expected of them to whom much has been given.  (Luke

112:48).

 

Ř      We are responsible for our influence. The effects of our work, word,

and example will come back upon our own heads in blessings or in

curses.

 

  • A SHAMEFUL FAILURE. Jerusalem missed her great mission and fell

from her high estate. The fall of favored Palestine is a warning to

favourd England. It is possible to have every advantage and YET TO

MAKE SHIPWRECK!   Then the bigger the ship the greater the wreck.

There is something inspiriting in the thought of a mission. It helps one to

make the best use of life. The idea that we are useless will certainly lead to

indifference and paralyze our energies. But to accept a place of influence

and its privileges and then to fall, is the most culpable of all things.

 

 6 “And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than

the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round

about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes,

they have not walked in them.”  She hath changed, etc. To that calling

Jerusalem had been unfaithful. Corruptio optimi pessima, and she had

sunk to a lower level than the nations round about her. For changed my

judgments into wickedness, read, with the Revised Version, hath rebelled

against my judgments in doing wickedness. The pronoun refers, not to the

nations, but to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and so in the next clause.

 

The Lord represents Himself as pained by the contempt with which Jerusalem

has treated His distinguishing mercy and favor.  He is displeased with those

who have shown so little appreciation of all that he has done for their well being. 

Now, He threatens judgments upon the disobedient, rebellious, and impenitent.

 

7 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye multiplied more

than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in

my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done

according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you;”

Because ye multiplied, etc.; better, with the Revised Version,

because ye are turbulent. The verb is cognate with the noun translated

tumult in I Samuel 4:14; Psalm 65:7; Isaiah 33:3, though it is

more commonly rendered “multitude.” It is not the verb rendered “rage” in

Psalm 2:1. The former meaning fits in fairly here, but some critics suppose

that the text is corrupt.  A conjectural emendation gives, “ye were counted

with the nations.”  Neither have done according to the judgments; better,

with the Revised Version, ordinances. Taking the words as they stand, the

words find their explanation in Jeremiah 2:10-11. In doing as the nations

(ch. 11:12; 16:47), Jerusalem had not done as they did, for they were at least

true to the gods whom they worshipped, and she had rebelled against her

God. Some Hebrew manuscripts and some versions omit the negative, but

this is probably a correction made in order to bring about a verbal

agreement with ch.11:12.

 

8 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against

thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of

the nations.”  Therefore, etc. The conjunction is emphatic. It was because

Jerusalem, in her high estate had sinned so conspicuously that her

punishment was to be equally conspicuous (compare Lamentations 4:6;

Amos 3:2).

 

 

Opposed by God (v.8)

 

We are more familiar with the idea of our opposition to God than with that

of His opposition to us, because He is long suffering and slow to anger,

while we are rebellious and self-willed. But there is a point where infinite

patience cannot restrain just wrath; where, indeed, without any conflict of

Divine attributes, the very love of God must acquiesce in His resistance to

our sinful conduct by stern measures. Then God is against us!

 

  • GOD’S OPPOSITION IS PROVOKED BY MAN’S REBELLION.

 

Ř      God is not originally opposed to any of His creatures. “He hateth

nothing that he hath made.” Nor can we suppose that God turns

against His children for reasons of His own apart from their conduct.

There is no caprice in the heart of the Immutable. It seems to some

men in their deepening adversity, as blow after blow falls upon them,

that God has become their enemy. This is a trial to faith; but true faith

should survive and cry in the tempest of trouble, “Though He slay me,

yet will I trust in Him.”  (Job 13:15)

 

Ř      The cause of Gods opposition lies in men alone. Ours is the change,

not His. The Israelites in the wilderness “provoked” him to wrath. As

He is always graciously inclined, it always lies with us to determine

whether He shall be our Friend or our Enemy. It is fearful to make an

Enemy of our best Friend. But can we expect that persistent neglect,

deepening into disobedience, and disobedience pushed to the extremity

of rebellion, should be regarded with indifference by the Lord of heaven

and earth?

 

  • THE OPPOSITION OF GOD IS UNSPEAKABLY DREADFUL. It is

dangerous for man to run counter to the will of God; it is fatal for God to

rouse Himself in opposition to man. The man who falls on the chosen Stone

is bruised, but he on whom it falls will be ground to powder (Matthew

21:44). There is in this a Divine activity. The sinner does not suffer only

negatively, by privation, by the loss of Divine grace. His doom is more than

to be cast into THE OUTER DARKNESS  and to be left there in a God-

deserted solitude. That would be bad enough. But it must be remembered

that God is active, and is ever making His will felt by His children. If a

man swallows arsenic, the poison will work in him by the exercise of its

own corrosive properties. In opposing the laws of nature we bring those

laws into active play against us. It is like running in face of an express train.

The result is incomparably worse than running against a dead wall. The

dreadfulness of the Divine opposition thus encountered is only to be

measured by the might and energy of God. The very fact that He loves us,

instead or mitigating the horror of the opposition, must heighten it, for no

plea can soften the blow when love itself acquiesces in it. If a hard master

punished we might hope to soften him, but if a God of love is against us

THERE IS NO FURTHER APPEAL!

 

  • THE DIVINE OPPOSITION IS A LESSON FOR ALL WHO

WITNESS IT. The judgments were to be executed “in the sight of the

nations.” This would add to the humiliation of the Jews. It would be a

shock to the self-complacency that was founded on the notion that for the

sake of His own honor among the heathen God would uphold His chosen

people. That notion was a delusion. GOD’S HONOR is not maintained BY

PROTECTING HIS PEOPLE IN THEIR SIN!   It is more manifest in the

impartial execution of justice without any rebate on the ground of favoritism.

God is not honored now by the simple security of His Church, but by the purity

of it. It is better for the cause of righteousness that fallen Christians should

be shamed and cast out, than that they should be petted and spared and

their wickedness hushed up. The fall and judgment of the Jews proclaimed

to all the world the unbiased righteousness of God. Certainly, if the

chosen people were not spared, no sinners can hope to escape — EXCEPT

BY THE WAY OF DELIVERANCE GOD HAS MADE THROUGH

JESUS CHRIST!  (“For the time is come that judgment must begin

at the house of God:  and if it first begin at us, what shall  the end of them

that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved,

where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”  - I Peter 4:17-18)

 

 

Divine Antagonism (v. 8)

 

That is a lawless state of society in which every man’s hand is against his

neighbor. Yet no observer of human life is insensible to the prevalence of

enmity, rivalry, opposition of various kinds, among all communities of

men. “There are many adversaries” is a complaint which every man has

made in his time. Men become accustomed to this, and regard it as a

natural accompaniment of social life. But it is something very different

when the Almighty and Righteous Lord addresses a man or a community,

and says, “Behold I, even I, am against thee.”

 

  • THE STRANGENESS AND WONDER OF THIS ATTITUDE. That

the heathen, who construct the character of their gods upon the lines of

their own character, should depict them as hostile, seems natural enough.

But that enlightened theists should be surprised at such a representation as

that of the text, is a consequence of the conceptions which reason and

revelation alike have taught them to form of God. Is not God on our side?

Does He not represent Himself as favorable to the sons of men — using His

power for their protection, their deliverance, their aid? How, then, can a

merciful and benevolent God be in any sense against us?

 

  • THE EXPLANATION AND REASONABLENESS OF THIS

ATTITUDE. It is clear that the Creator and Lord of all cannot be expected

to alter the principles of His government in order to accommodate Himself

to the follies and the caprices of His creatures. If a man throws himself into

mid-ocean, or into the crater  of a burning volcano, nature is against him,

and he must perish. If a man by his own action contracts disease, he must

suffer. Gravitation is not to be suspended because a foolhardy fanatic flings

himself from a tower. Nor are chemical laws to be abolished because one

ignorantly swallows poison. In all such cases, we may say with reverence,

“God is against those who act in such and such a manner.” Similarly in the

moral realm. The spiritual universe is so constituted that men cannot

violate moral law without suffering, cannot defy God with impunity. Those

who sin must sooner or later learn the fact, which no reasoning of theirs

can affect, that God is against them.

 

  • THE IMMEDIATE PURPOSE OF THIS ATTITUDE. It is evident

that, if all things were made easy and pleasant for the sinner, if there were

no check and no chastisement for his sin, such an arrangement would not

be for the sinner’s real good. On the contrary, he would be encouraged to

persevere in his evil courses. But the sinner, finding that God is against

him, is in many cases by this very fact led to consider his ways. His

experience “gives him pause.” There follows from this consciousness of

punishment the state of mind known as “conviction of sin,” and conviction

of sin may lead to repentance and to submission. Finding that, by setting

himself against God, the sinner sets God against Him, he may be led to

submission; he may ask himself, “Why should I not have God with me

instead of against me?” The beginning of the process may partake of a

selfish regard for his own interests, but he may be led on to see something

better than this — to discern the justice, the propriety, the moral excellence

of subjection to and harmony with the will which ever accords with perfect

righteousness, wisdom, and love.

 

  • THE ULTIMATE CONSEQUENCE AND RESULT OF THIS

ATTITUDE. No one who reflects upon the character of the God of infinite

justice and benevolence can suppose that He can take a pleasure in a

posture of antagonism and hostility against anything that He has made, far

less against man, whom He created in His own likeness, to show forth His

own glory. His aim is ever to bring His intelligent and voluntary creatures

into harmony with His own nature; to recover and restore, not to

overwhelm with destruction; to bring His children to exclaim, “If God be

for us, who can be against as?” (Romans 8:31)

 

9 “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I

will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations.”

I will do in thee, etc. The like words were spoken by our Lord

of the destruction of the city that was then future (Matthew 24:21); but

the words of Ezekiel manifestly refer to that which was within the horizon

of his vision, and find their parallel in Daniel 9:12; Lamentations 1:12; 2:13.

 

10 “Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the

sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee,

and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.”

The fathers shall eat their sons, etc. An echo from Leviticus 26:29 and

Deuteronomy 28:53. The words of Jeremiah 19:9 and Lamentations 4:10 imply

that horrors such as these occurred during the siege of the city by the Chaldeans,

as they had occurred before in the siege of Samaria (II Kings 6:28-29), and

were to occur afterwards in that by the Romans (Josephus, ‘Bell Jud.,’ 6:4. § 4).

The whole remnant, etc. (compare v. 2).

 

 

Abused Privilege Produces Condign Punishment (vs. 5-10)

 

This doctrine is repeated and emphasized in myriad forms. It is written, not

in sand, but on rock, and written with a pen of steel. If the men of world

do not read this lesson, the reason is evident — they are wantonly blind.

 

  • WE HAVE HERE AN INSTANCE OF EMINENT PRIVILEGE.

Jerusalem was placed in a most central position. What the heart is to the

body, what the sun is to the solar system, Palestine was among ancient

empires. Hers was special advantage for getting good and for doing good.

She was within easy reach of the civilization of Egypt, the martial power of

Babylon, the science and art of Greece, the commercial enterprise of

Phoenicia, the law making might of Rome. On every side there were

patterns to be imitated, follies to be avoided. Of all the intellectual, moral,

and commercial life of primitive man, the Jews occupied a central place.

Intercourse between the distant nations passed, in large measure, through

Palestine. Hence she had splendid opportunities for diffusing the light of

true religion far and wide. Inquirers after God ought to have found at

Jerusalem a solution of all their doubts.

 

  • PRIVILEGE ENTAILS RESPONSIBILITY. Every man lives under

the wise and righteous government of God, and every possession he holds

he holds in trust. He is a steward, who holds and uses his Master’s goods.

In proportion to the good he enjoys is the service he is required to render.

For every faculty of body and of mind, for every special advantage and gift,

he is accountable to his Maker. God has never intended that any donation

of His should terminate in the man himself. We receive in order that we

may give. The wealthy man has more service to render than the poor man.

The sage has more to account for than the fool. A man is not in the same

position morally at the close of the sabbath as at the dawn. He must, in the

nature of things, be either better or worse for every advantage he obtains.

The tree that does not bear good fruit is something worse than useless.

Each man adds something to the piety, or to the impiety, of the age. As

God had dowered the Hebrews with special privilege, He rightly expected

from them fruitful service.  (“And He looked that it should bring forth

grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.”  - Isaiah 5:2)

 

  • RESPONSIBILITY ABUSED CREATES DEADLY SIN. The sin of

the Hebrews was inexcusable. They rebelled against the light:

 

Ř      the light of nature,

Ř      the light of conscience, and

Ř      the light of supernatural revelation.

 

o       There was base neglect. God had made known to them His

infallible wisdom;  but they preferred their own foolishness.

God had deigned to weigh difficult matters for them, and to

give them the benefit of His superior judgment; but they

refused to follow. They would, at all risks, fling off restraint,

and yield to none BUT SELF!

 

o       There was positive perversion of Gods goodness. They changed

His judgments into wickedness. They made even religious

ordinances an occasion of sin. They transmuted truth into

falsehood, the house of prayer into a den of thieves. Better,

far better, not to have the sabbath, than to profane its sacred

hours. Better not to have a message of kindness than to

treat it with scorn.

 

o       Their guilt was extraordinary. It exceeded that of the nations

round about them. While they enjoyed special restraints, they

not only went to the same lengths of profane idolatry as other

nations, they went beyond them!  Although the fact of one

spiritual Deity was clearly made known among them, yet they

borrowed the idol deities of every adjacent nation, until their

Reprover could declare, “According to the number of thy cities

 are thy idols, O Israel!”  (Jeremiah 11:13)

 

o       Public warnings were lost upon them. That God had spoken by

the mouth of prophets was clear, because their predictions had

come to pass.  That God was uniformly faithful in maintaining

His Word, no sane mind could question. His judgments had fallen,

like hail, upon all the surrounding empires, and manifestly, because

of idolatry; therefore nothing short of sheer insensibility of mind

prevented their taking heed. What more could God do for them,

to bring them to repentance, than He had done? Every mouth is

silent. Their guilt had come to a head, had reached a final climax.

 

  • SPECIAL GUILT BEARS ITS PROPER FRUITAGE OF

PUNISHMENT. It is not possible that anything can sever the link between

sin and punishment. That link has been wrought by Eternal Justice.

 

o       This punishment should manifestly proceed from God. They

shall know that I the Lord have spoken it,” etc. Too often men

regard their sufferings as chance effects, misfortunes that have come

about in a haphazard way. Not so here. Even those who would not

believe that God had done them former kindness, and sent them

faithful monitors — even these shall be compelled to feel that this

punishment is from God. It shall be so public, so severe, so intimately

connected with the sin, so precisely in accordance with prophetic

warning, that GOD SHALL BE ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE

RIGHTEOUS AUTHOR!  So self-willed are some children

that nothing but the rod will induce submission.

 

o       This retribution shall be public. Though the sin be done in secret,

the chastisement shall be public. In every age, impartial justice has

sought the fullest light for its deeds. Among the ancients, law was

administered, and wisely so, in the gate. God has nothing to conceal.

To the extent that His creatures have capacity to understand, He is

prepared to reveal. It is His intention that the universe shall behold

the retributions of guilt and BE AWED THEREBY!   The

destruction of one may thus turn to the salvation of many.

 

o       This punishment shall be extremely severe. “I will do in thee that

which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the

 like,” etc.  (v. 9).  Yet, though severe, it was not too severe. It was

not more severe than the case required. The cause of justice would

not have been satisfied with less.  When God holds the scales,

punishment will be exact; it will neither be too great nor too lenient.

Guilt is proportionate to previous advantage, and retribution is in

precise measure with guilt. If we prove unfaithful, the higher we

have been lifted up by acts of kindness, the deeper will be our

fall. Capernaum and Bethsaida deserve a heavier sentence than

Tyre and Sidon. “There are first that shall be last.”   (Luke 13:30).

 

o       The guilty are to be the executors of their own fate. “The fathers

shall eat the sons… and the sons shall eat their fathers.” The

famine shall press sore; but this is not the worst feature in the

doom. Natural affection shall so decay that the father will

not shrink from slaying his own boy, and feeding on the human

flesh. Sons shall be so far lost to filial reverence that they will do

the like to their fathers. When once love to our heavenly

Father is dead, LOVE TO OUR NATURAL KIN SOON

DECAYS!   Man, cut off from God, BECOMES A MONSTER!

The beasts of the field never sink so low as man does in his last

depravity. It is an impressive fact that guilty men often execute

God’s judgments upon themselves, while yet they know it not. A

heavenly glory emanates from the cross of Jesus Christ, but

eternal shame encircles forever the gallows of Judas.

 

11 “Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD; Surely, because thou

hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with

all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither

shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity.”

Because thou hast defiled my sanctuary, etc. For the full

account of the nature of the abominations which are thus spoken of, see

notes on ch. 8. This was, after all, the root evil of all other evils. Pollution

of worship, the degradation of the highest element in man’s nature, passed

into pollution and degradation of his whole life. Even in our Lord’s acted

teaching, in John 2:15-16 and Matthew 21:12, we have the same

principle implied. Therefore will I also diminish thee, etc. The italics

show that the last word is not in the Hebrew. The Revised Version margin

suggests two other renderings:

 

  • Therefore will I also withdraw mine eye that it shall not spare; and

 

  • Therefore will I hew thee down. To these we may add the Septuagint

I will reject, and the Vulgate I will break in pieces, which apparently,

limply a different reading. Most recent critics suggest conjectural

emendations of the text. I incline to rest satisfied with the Authorized

Version, and to explain it by ch. 16:27. The word implies not only

the decrease, but THE ENTIRE WITHDRAWAL OF JEHOVAH’S

FAVOR!   Possibly there is an implied reference to the command of

Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32.  Jerusalem had “diminished” from the Law of God,

had, as it were, erased the commandments which were of supreme obligation,

and therefore, as by a lex talionis (law of retaliation), God would diminish her.

Neither will I have any pity. The words are, of course, anthropomorphic, and

have therefore to be received with the necessary limitations. As the earthly

minister of justice must not yield to a weak pity which would be incompatible

with the assertion of the eternal law of righteousness, so neither will the

Supreme Judge. There is a time for all things, and justice must do its work

first, in order that there may be room for pity afterwards. For other assertions,

which seems strange to us, of this unpitying character of God, see ch.7:4, 9;

8:18; 9:10, et al.; Jeremiah 13:14.

 

 

Diminishment (v. 11)

 

The wicked nation is to be punished by being diminished (i.e. if we accept

the Authorized Version, confirmed as it is by the majority of the Revisers).

 

  • POPULATION IS DIMINISHED. After the exile Palestine was

thrown back almost to the condition of a wilderness, and lions came up

from the desert to the once thickly peopled country (II Kings 17:25).

But even before the exile, war, famine, and plague reduced the population.

Professor Seeley has shown that the chief cause of the overthrow of Rome

by the Teutonic invaders was the great depopulating of Italy that took

place under the empire. (Think of the 55 million aborted children in the

United States – CY – 2014)  The strength of a nation is in its people

more than in its wealth.

 

  • GLORY IS DIMINISHED. Instead of the growth of honor and fame

among the nations which was seen under Solomon, the Hebrew nation is

now to shrink in importance, and so to fall into a position of insignificance.

This has happened to Greece, Rome, Spain, Holland. It seems to be

happening in the United States today and that rapidly.  I was at

McDonald’s a few minutes ago and was talking to a friend about

this very thing.  CY – 2014)   We have no assurance that our proud

American flag shall always float in glory. For our national sins God

may permit it to be trampled in the mire.

 

  • POWER IS DIMINISHED. In regard to national movements this runs

parallel with the previous thought, but in individuals it has a wider scope.

The final punishment of sin is DEATH!  The prior penalties of sin are

dying, i.e. a reduction of spiritual life, activity, and power. The once fruitful

tree is now barren. He who was most successful in spiritual work now feels

himself failing in all he attempts. His influence shrinks into insignificance.

Sin has paralyzed his soul.

 

  • THE VISION OF TRUTH IS DIMINISHED. Doubts succeed to the

formerly growing knowledge of truth. The eyes of the soul become dim.

God, who was once near, seems to withdraw Himself into the darkness.

The whole spiritual world, which had shone on the soul in full-orbed

splendors, wanes and fades, and passes in gloom out of sight. The things

unseen and eternal, which had been the very universe of existence, melt

into vague shadows, and float out of consciousness like the summer clouds

that disappear while we gaze at them.

 

  • THE JOY OF SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE IS DIMINISHED. That joy

can only be bright when the soul’s life is fresh and strong. A dull apathy

comes with the reduced spirituality. A very weariness succeeds to the old

earnest gladness of service. The May time of the soul has gone, and a

November gloom has taken its place.

 

There is hope still. Diminution is not extinction. The tree

is hewn down, but the stump may sprout (Isaiah 6:13). The Jews

diminished by Nebuchadnezzar were restored under Cyrus. It is good in

some way to feel diminution if pride is thereby also diminished. In the

humility of shame the penitent may hope for his restoration to a new and

more sound vigor by the merciful Saviour, who will not break the bruised

reed nor quench the smoking flax (Isaiah 42:3).

 

12 “A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine

shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall

fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part

into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.”

A third part of thee, etc. (see note on v. 2). The strange

symbolic act is now interpreted. I will draw out a sword, etc. The phrase

recurs in ch.12:14, and is found in Leviticus 26:33 — an echo,

like so many other passages in Ezekiel, from what seems to have been his

favorite storehouse of thought and language (Leviticus 17-26.).

 

13 “Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury

to rest upon them, and I will be comforted: and they shall know

that I the LORD have spoken it in my zeal, when I have

accomplished my fury in them.”  I will cause my fury to rest upon them, etc.;

Revised Version, I will satisfy, etc. The phrase meets us again in ch. 16:42;

21:17; 24:13. To “rest” here is to “repose” rather than to “abide.” The

thought is that a righteous anger, like that of Jehovah, rests (i.e. is quieted)

when it has done its work, and that in this sense God is “comforted,” either

as rejoicing in the punishment of evil for its own sake (as in Deuteronomy 28:63;

Isaiah 1:24), or because the punishment does its work in leading men to

repentance. Israel may be comforted, because God is comforted as He sees

that His judgments have done their work, and that His wrath can find repose.

Have spoken in my zeal. The thought implied is that what is spoken in the

earnest purpose of “zeal” will assuredly be carried into execution (compare

Isaiah 9:7; 37:32). Men might deride the prophet’s warning as an idle threat.

IT WOULD PROVE ITSELF TO HAVE COME FROM GOD!

 

14 “Moreover I will make thee waste, and a reproach among the

nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by.”

In the sight of them that pass by. The phrase reminds us of

Lamentations 1:12; 2:15: and the latter was probably a conscious

reproduction of it. The scorn and mockery of the heathen who rejoiced in

her humiliation were to be the keenest pang in the punishment of the guilty

city.

 

15 “So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an

astonishment unto the nations that are round about thee, when I

shall execute judgments in thee in anger and in fury and in furious

rebukes. I the LORD have spoken it.”  A reproach and a taunt, etc.

An echo of Deuteronomy 28:37. The accumulation of synonyms in both

clauses of the verse is eminently characteristic of Ezekiel’s style. Word

follows word, like the strokes of a sledge hammer. The word for “instruction”

is that which occurs so often in the Book of Proverbs (1:2-3, and in twenty-two

other passages). In Deuteronomy 11:12; Isaiah 53:5; Jeremiah 30:14,

the Authorized Version renders it “chastisement,” and that sense is

manifestly implied here. Jerusalem was, as it were, to be THE  GREAT

OBJECT LESSON IN GOD’S EDUCATION OF MANKIND!   And the

final stroke of all is that the words were not the prophet’s own, but

“I the Lord have spokes it.” The words reappear in v. 17.

 

 

The Shame of Moral Shipwreck, and Its Lessons (vs. 14-15)

 

All the nations round about were to be witnesses of the shipwreck of

Israel. The eyes of the world are upon the Church. No single Christian man

can fall without his ruin being observed by many neighbor’s. The city set

on a hill cannot be hid in its prosperity and splendor; much less will it be

unnoticed when it is wrapped in flames, and even later when its melancholy

ruins tell the world a tale of fallen greatness. The spectacle is striking; the

thoughts which it suggests should be instructive. Let us note four things

about this moral shipwreck.

 

  • IT IS CULPABLE. The condition of Israel is to be “a reproach,” i.e.

blame will be attached to it. Nations must stand the chance of war, in

which the most just and brave may suffer grievous loss; and yet history

rarely, if ever, shows an instance of a people crushed and exterminated

without any fault of its own. Moral corruption precedes total national

overthrow. This was certainly the case with Israel, which fell in its

wickedness, and was scattered for its sin. Misfortune may visit the Church,

or an individual good man — such as Job — without guilt on the part of

the sufferer, because a wholesome discipline or some other high and distant

Divine purpose of love is to be wrought out through this means. But utter

shipwreck of life does not come without moral delinquency. Unhappily, the

reproach does not cease with the guilty person; it is laid against the cause

of Christ, and it brings dishonor on His Name. This new “reproach of

Christ” is the greatest hindrance to the progress of the gospel, and far more

of a stumbling block than the old shame of the cross.

 

  • IT IS SHAMEFUL AND DEGRADING. The evil condition of the

fallen nation will be “a taunt.” Contempt will succeed to the old respect.

The Church may expect to meet with opposition from the world, but she is

indeed in an evil state when she has earned its contempt. To be despised

wrongfully through the pride and superficial judgment of others is a fate

which brave men can learn to endure. But to merit contempt is to lie in

abject wretchedness. When Christian men fall from their pure profession,

they sink into this most shocking ignominy. Even godless people can look

down upon them, and taunt them with their high pretensions and boasted

attainments and prized privileges.

 

  • IT IS INSTRUCTIVE. The condition of the people will be “an

instruction.” (A case study – CY – 2014).  As “no man liveth to himself,”

so also “no man dieth to himself”  (Romans 14:7).  The ruin of nations is a

lesson to the world. History is studded with beacon warnings. The greatest

nations have been defeated and destroyed. The prosperity of the Church in one

age has been succeeded by corruption and shame in another. Men called

pillars of the Church have fallen. People praised as “ornaments” of society

have left tarnished reputations. Such sights not only warn us against pride and

self-assurance; in searching for the explanation of them we may learn many a

lesson as to the causes of success and failure, e.g. that SECRET SIN LEADS

TO OPEN SHAME, that past prosperity will not prevent present failure, that a

good name is not an impregnable bulwark, that to forsake God is to COURT

RUIN!

 

  • IT IS ASTONISHING. Israel’s state will be “an astonishment.”

 

Ř      It surprises the sufferers. (“And knew not until the flood came,

and TOOK THEM ALL AWAY”  (Matthew 24:39).  They never

expected such a fall. Living in a fool’s paradise, they spent their

days at their ease till the crash came.  Careless Christians are

surprised at their own shipwreck.

 

Ř      It surprises the onlookers. It is contrary to expectation founded on

previous observation and confident pretensions. Can the long successful

nation fall, and the people favored of Heaven be abandoned to ruin?

THERE WILL BE MANY SURPRISES IN THE FUTURE

JUDGMENT  (See I Timothy 5:24-25) because ignorance of the awful

power of moral law and of the just retribution of God destroys men’s

expectations of the punishment of sin. To some it will come with a

shock of amazement,  unless they now turn to THE REDEMPTION

OF CHRIST!

 

(All that happened to the Jews and Jerusalem were foretold in Leviticus,

Deuteronomy and other places in the Old Testament.  What happened was

not to be unexpected!  The same can be said for the policies in the United

States today!  CY – 2014)

 

16 “When I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, which

shall be for their destruction, and which I will send to destroy you:

and I will increase the famine upon you, and will break your staff

of bread:”  The evil arrows of famine, etc. The thought of the “arrows”

of God’s judgment may have been taken from Deuteronomy 32:23, 42,

and occurs frequently also in the Psalms (Psalm 7:13; 38:2, et al.).

Clothed in the language of poetry, the attributes of Jehovah included those

of the Far-darter of the Greeks. Which shall be for their destruction,

etc.; better, as Revised Version, that are for destruction. Ewald looks on

the noun as a personification, like Abaddon, also translated “destruction” in

Job 28:22 and Proverbs 15:11, and renders the words, “that are

from hell;” but there seems no special reason for assuming such a meaning

here. It is noticable that, as in the symbolism of ch.4:9-17, the

famine is more prominent in Ezekiel’s thoughts than the other

punishments.

 

17 “So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall

bereave thee: and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and

I will bring the sword upon thee. I the LORD have spoken it.”

Evil beasts, etc. These appear in like connection in Ezekiel’s

favorite textbooks (compare Leviticus 26:6, 22; Deuteronomy 32:24).

They reappear in ch.14:15, 21. Historically, we have an

example of the suffering thus caused in the lions of II Kings 17:25,

when towns and villages were deserted, and the unburied carcasses of those

who had died by famine, or pestilence, or the sword, were everywhere to

attract them from afar. This was, of course, the natural and inevitable

result. Pestilence and blood, etc. As this is followed by the work of the

sword, “blood” probably points to some special form of plague, possibly

dysentery (Acts 28:8, Revised Version), or carbuncles, like Hezekiah’s

boil (Isaiah 38:21). The same combination appears in ch.14:19; 28:23.

 

 

The Divine Remonstrator (vs. 11-17)

 

It is clear as daylight that the root sin of the Jews was UNBELIEF!   Although

the prophets of Jehovah brought incontestable evidence that they spake in

God’s Name, and spake only words of truth, the people closed their ears,

and treated the warning with contempt. They were in love with sin, and

were resolved not to part from it. Proofs that God spake through the lips

of these prophets were abundant.

 

  • THERE WAS THE REPEATED ASSERTION OF HONEST MEN

THAT GOD SPAKE BY THEM. Ezekiel was known to be a true man. It

was known that he had no private interests to serve. It was acknowledged

that in all the relations of human life he was honorable and faithful. He

was known to be a devout man, a man of prayer. What other explanation,

therefore, could men put upon his earnest, heart-stirring appeals than that

God spoke by him? If his reproof of sin was true, then God spoke through

him. If he made known the might and righteousness of Jehovah, Jehovah

spoke through him. If his purpose was to deter from sin and induce

repentance, it was evident to every honest mind that it was true, as Ezekiel

related,  “I the Lord have spoken it!”

 

  • THE PARTICULARIZATION OF COMING JUDGMENTS

PROVED THAT THE MESSENGER SPAKE IN GOD’S NAME. The

retribution was not announced in vague, general terms. There was revealed

a wise discrimination in dealing out judgment to wrong doers. “A third part

shall die with the pestilence;” “A third part shall fall by the sword;” “I will

scatter a third part into all the winds.” Severe as the threatening was, there

was nothing improbable or unnatural in it. Pestilence was a common

disaster, and if a hundred families, now and again, were carried off by its

virulence, why may not a third of the nation? So with famine; so with the

sword. In a time of severe drought, famine and pestilence often went hand

in hand. The flower of the nation being destroyed, some martial neighbor

would gladly seize the opportunity for invasion. Resistance would end in

terrible defeat; and, for the residue, banishment was decreed. Both man and

nature are the servants of God; often are they combined to execute His will.

If we escape one minister of vengeance, it is only to be overtaken by

another.

 

  • THE REVEALED PURPOSE OF THE RETRIBUTION WAS TO

SATISFY GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS. “Then shall mine anger be

comforted.” God accommodates Himself, in His speech, to the manners of

men. There can be no rest for Him so long as guilt stalks abroad

unpunished. There is disturbance in His moral universe. There is pain in

every loyal angel’s breast. Fallen spirits are encouraged in their rebellion.

The moral force of law is weakened. His own veracity is at stake while sin

is unpunished. Therefore, to maintain the interests of universal justice, to

maintain in tranquility His own throne, to uphold order everywhere, SIN

MUST BE STAMPED OUT!   There is disease in the system, and no rest

can be enjoyed until health be restored. The principles and attributes of

God’s nature can only then settle into complete harmony when sin is

chastised.

 

  • THE EVIDENT INTENTION OF THE REMONSTRANCE

PROVED THAT IT WAS FROM GOD. “I the Lord have spoken it.”

No sane mind could doubt that the motive of such repeated remonstrance

Was love — wise and far reaching love. The ancient Greeks had a proverb,

“The gods have feet of wool.” They were supposed to overtake men

noiselessly and without warning. Not so Jehovah. In His most severe

retributions kindness is yet manifest. Faithful expostulation and tearful

warning PRECEDE FINAL DESTRUCTION!  The good of His creatures

is a superlative motive in His bosom — a motive that reigns side by side with

THE MAINTAINANCE OF LAW!   If the good of the sinner himself be

hopeless, then the good of others is sought. These earnest pleadings with men

declare most emphatically His condescension, His patience, His self-sacrificing

love.  This is not after the manner of men. If offenders against God would

only reflect, they would confess that such remonstrance was a remonstrance

of eternal Love — THE COUNSEL OF THE LIVING GOD!

 

 

 

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