Ezekiel 6

 

 

1 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,  2 Son of man, set thy

face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them,  3 And say,

Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord

GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys; Behold,

I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places.”

Set thy face toward the mountains, etc. The formula is eminently characteristic

of Ezekiel. We have had it with a different verb in the Hebrew, in ch.4:3. It will

meet us again in chps. 20:46; 21:2; 25:2; 28:21; 29:2; 35:2; 38:2. In this case it

probably implied an outward act, like that of Daniel, when he, with a very

different purpose, looked towards Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10). In contrast with the

widespread plains of Mesopotamia in which Ezekiel found himself, this was

the chief characteristic of the land which he had left. The mountains

represent the whole country, including the rivers (Revised Version, here

and throughout, renders the Hebrew “water courses,” to distinguish it from

the “river” (nahar) of ch.1:1, 3, et al., and the “river” (nachal) of

ch. 47:5. Its strict meaning is that of a “ravine” or “gorge,” the

wady of modern Arabic, through which a stream rushes in the winter, but is

dried up in the summer). All the localities are named as having been alike

polluted by the worship of idols for mountains and hills as the scenes of

such worship, see Deuteronomy 12:2; II Kings 17:10-11; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6;

Hosea 4:13; for the ravines and valleys, II Kings 23:10 and Jeremiah 7:31

(the Valley of Hinnom); and more generally, Isaiah 57:5-6. The same

combination meets us in ch. 35:8; 36:5-6. In his address to the mountains,

Ezekiel follows in the footsteps of Micah 6:2. I will destroy your high places.

The words point to the most persistent, though not the worst, of all the

idolatries by which the worship of Jehovah as the God of Israel had been

overshadowed. The words of Ezekiel are identical with those of Leviticus 26:30.

The Bamoth, or high places, of Baal, are mentioned in Numbers 22:41 and Joshua

13:17, and are probably identical with the high places of Arnon in

Numbers 21:28. There they are named only incidentally, not in the way

of prohibition or condemnation. So, in like manner, in Deuteronomy 32:13

and 33:29, if the technical sense exists at all, it is referred to only as

included in the triumph of the worship of Jehovah over the hill fortresses as

the sanctuaries of other gods. The absence of the word from the Book of

Judges is difficult to explain, as it was precisely in that period of the history

of Israel, irregular and unsettled, that we should have expected to find the

people adopting the cultus of their neighbors. A probable solution of the

problem is that, so long as the tabernacle and the ark were at Shiloh, that

was so pre-eminently the center of the worship of Jehovah, that the people

were not tempted to forsake it, or to set up the worship upon the high

places side by side with it. When, after the capture of the ark, Shiloh was a

deserted sanctuary, we meet for the first time with the worship of the high

places, not as a thing forbidden, but as sanctioned by the presence of

Samuel, as the judge and prophet of the people (I Samuel 9:12-14;

10:5), the “high place” in the last passage being, apparently, the same as

“the hill of God.” In II Samuel 1:19, possibly from the Book of Jashar,

we have the elder, less technical sense of Deuteronomy 32:12 and

33:19. It would seem, accordingly, as if Samuel had acted on a policy like

that of the counsel which Gregory I gave Augustine. He found the worship

of the high places adopted by the Israelites from the neighboring nations.

He sought to turn them to the worship of Jehovah. So the writer of

I Kings 3:2 records the fact that “the people sacrificed in high places,”

because as yet, though the ark had been brought to Jerusalem, “there was

no house built unto the Name of Jehovah until those days,” and that

Solomon himself also “sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.” At

the chief of these, the great high place of Gibeon, Solomon offered a

thousand burnt offerings, and had the memorable vision in which he made

choice of wisdom rather than length of days, or riches and honor,

returning from it, as though the cultus of the two places stood nearly on an

equal footing, to offer other burnt offerings before the ark of God at

Jerusalem (I Kings 3:3-15). With the erection of the temple the state of

things was, in some measure, altered, and the temple was the one

legitimate sanctuary. When the ten tribes revolted under Jeroboam, they

were, of course, cut off from the temple services, and the king accordingly,

besides the calves at Bethel and Dan, set up high places, with priests not of

the sons of Aaron, in the cities of Samaria (I Kings 12:31; 13:32).

From that time forward the high places are always mentioned by both

historians and prophets in a tone of condemnation, whether they were in

Israel or Judah (I Kings 14:4), but they had become so deeply rooted

in the reverence of the people that even the better kings of Judah, who

warred against open idolatry, like Asa (I Kings 15:14), Jehoshaphat

(Ibid. ch. 22:43), Jehoash (II Kings 12:3), Amaziah (Ibid. ch.14:4),

Azariah (Ibid. ch. 15:4), left them undisturbed; while in the

history of the northern kingdom the cultus of the Bamoth reigned

paramount (Ibid. ch. 17., passim). It was not till Hezekiah, presumably

under Isaiah’s influence, removed the “high places” (Ibid. ch. 18:4) that

we find any serious attempt to put them down. They had been tolerated,

apparently, because, as in Rabshakeh’s taunt (Ibid. v. 22), they

were nominally connected with the worship of Jehovah. Under the

confluent polytheism of Manasseh they naturally reappeared (Ibid. ch.

21:3: II Chronicles 33:3). The reformation of Josiah was more thorough

(II Kings 23., passim;  II Chronicles 34:3), and was probably stimulated

by Hilkiah and Huldah. The discovery of the book of the Law (probably

Deuteronomy), with its condemnations of mountain sanctuaries, though, as

we have seen, the Bamoth were not prohibited by name, roused the zeal of

the prophets, especially of the priest prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and

when the Bamoth-cultus revived, after the death of Josiah, the former was

strong in his protests (Jeremiah 7:31, et al.), all the more so because

now, as in the earlier stages of their history, they had become high places

of Baal (Ibid. ch.19:5; 32:55), and were associated with abominations

like those of the worship of Moloch in the Valley of Hinnom. So it was

that Ezekiel, writing on the banks of the Chebar, is now led to place them

in the forefront of the sins of his people.

 

 

The Doom of the Mountains (vs. 1-3)

 

After leaving the low flat shores of Egypt, the traveler is struck by a great

contrast of scenery as he approaches the Holy Land, and sees the purple

mountains rising one behind another from the sand hills of Jaffa in the

foreground to the distant uplands of Judah far away in the interior of the

country. On landing he finds that traveling in Palestine is a rough

experience in mountaineering, for the territory of Israel is a mountain

country. Though Ezekiel could not see his native land from the plains of

Mesopotamia, he could turn his face westward, and, looking across the

great Syrian desert, fix his eyes in imagination on the old familiar beacons

— the more memorable from their contrast with his present tame

surroundings — and picture to himself his mountain home, with the

passion of a highlander banished to the plains. In prophesying against Israel

he then denounces a doom on the mountains.

 

  • THE MOUNTAINS ARE CONSPICUOUS. They were and are to this

day the leading features of the Palestine landscape. God’s judgment does

not fall in obscure corners. He is not confined to secret places. The most

public scenes witness His work. He paints His warning pictures on a broad

canvas, and lifts them up for all to see.

 

  • THE MOUNTAINS ARE LOST. Men in high places do not escape the

power of God. No position is so exalted as to be above the reach of the

Divine government. The waters of the Flood covered the mountains, and

drowned the people who vainly expected safety by climbing (Genesis

7:20). Kings are called to God’s bar of judgment. Exalted rank, high

intelligence, fame, power, influence, all come under the great sweep of

God’s rule, and may suffer punishment from His just anger.  (“And I

beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was

a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair,

and the moon became as blood;  And the stars of heaven fell unto the

earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken

of a mighty wind.  And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled

together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men,

and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman,

and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of

the mountains;  And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us,

and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from

the wrath of the Lamb:  For the great day of his wrath is come; and

who shall be able to stand?” - Revelation 6:12-17)

 

  • THE MOUNTAINS ARE HISTORIC. They carry memories of many

a glorious age. Moriah is sacred to the education of Abraham; the very

stones that now lie scattered on the hills of Bethel once shaped themselves

in Jacob’s dream as a heaven-scaling stairway; Gilboa witnessed the death

of Saul; the hills of Judah are fresh with associations of the shepherd-king.

The changeless, venerable mountains enshrine the national story. The doom

of the mountains is a doom of history. It declares failure and ruin after a

glorious past — a splendid day ending with a stormy sunset. Happily there

was a new sunrise when these same mountains were trodden by the feet of

the Saviour, and upon them the feet of the messengers of peace were seen.

(“How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace,

and bring glad tidings of good things!”  - Romans 10:15)

 

  • THE MOUNTAINS ARE MASSIVE. They are the bulwarks of

Israel. The old Amorites defended themselves in their mountain fastnesses

against the Israelite invasion. When Israel was in possession she found

these mountains to be natural fortresses. They were also hiding places.

Men in danger fled to the mountains for safety. But now the mountains

themselves are doomed. THE BEST EARTHLY REFUGE FAILS!

 The curse of sin breaks the soul’s stoutest shield.

 

  • THE MOUNTAINS ARE SACRED. They were “high places” on

which old altars have been built. There Abraham sacrificed, there Elijah

invoked the attesting fire. But the sacred associations were defiled by later

idolatrous rites, and the high places became evil places. Then no sacredness

could protect them. There is no asylum at a defiled sanctuary. Religion

joined to sin does not save the sinner; it only proclaims him a hypocrite, or

at best one who sins against light.

 

  • THE MOUNTAINS ARE FRUITFUL. Cut into terraces, their slopes

were formerly converted into vineyards, but now all round Jerusalem the

ragged lines of stone tell the tale of neglected culture and long destroyed

productiveness. A blight has fallen on the doomed mountains. The very

land has shared in the sufferings of its people. All things external as well as

spiritual SUFFER FROM THE CURSE OF SIN!   No ancient fruitfulness

will stay this curse. Under its ban, the garden of Eden becomes a waste

howling wilderness, and the fertile mountain side a desolation. 

(Deuteronomy 32:10)

 

4 “And your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken:

and I will cast down your slain men before your idols.”

5 “And I will lay the dead carcasses of the children of Israel before

their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about your altars.”

6 “In all your dwelling-places the cities shall be laid waste, and the

high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and

made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your

images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished.”

7 “And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I

am the LORD.”  Your images, etc. The “sun images” of the Revised Version

shows why these are mentioned as distinct from the “idols.” The

chammanim were pillars or obelisks identified with the worship of Baal as

the sun god, standing on his altars (II Chronicles 34:4), coupled with

the “groves,” or Asherim (Isaiah 17:8; 27:9), and wijth the “high

places” in II Chronicles 14:5. I will cast down your slain men before

your idols. As in the prophecy against Bethel (I Kings 13:2), and in

Josiah’s action (II Kings 23:16), this was the ne plus ultra of desecration.

Where there had been the sweet savor of incense there should be the

sickening odor of the carcasses of the slain. The word for “idols”

(gillulim), though found elsewhere, notably in Ezekiel’s favorite

textbooks (Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 29:17), is more

prominent in his writings (where it occurs thirty-six times) then in any

other book of the Old Testament, and means, primarily, a cairn or heap of

stones, which, like the “sun images,” came to be associated with Baal.

Ezekiel repeats both words in v. 6, with all the emphasis of scorn. He

predicts the coming of a time when the work of destruction should be done

more thoroughly than even Josiah had done it. When that time came, the

familiar formula, “Ye shall know that I am the Lord,” should receive yet

another fulfillment.

 

The inhabitants of Judah and Israel lost sight of the knowledge of God in times

of national prosperity and self-indulgence.  So has it been in the experience of many

nations. This may easily be explained. Man is a compound being, body and

soul; he is connected both with the scenes, occupations, and experiences of

earth, and with the great realities of eternity. There is much in the world to

absorb and engross human attention, interest, and concern. And it is quite

in harmony with all we know of human nature, that those whose minds are

engaged in the pursuits of time and sense should be forgetful of the higher

truths and laws of the eternal prospects, in which they may not deliberately

disbelieve. How often has it happened that, when God has satisfied a

nation’s temporal cravings, He has sent leanness into their souls! Their very

blessings, as they deem them, become the occasion of their forgetfulness of

the Giver. It is with nations as with individuals — the satisfaction of earthly

needs may silence the aspiration for heavenly good.

 

The knowledge of God may be acquired in times of retribution and suffering.

How many have found that it was good for them to be afflicted; since

before they were afflicted they went astray (Psalm 119:67, 71), whilst in

affliction they have learned to observe God’s Word! It may be objected that

the highest and fullest knowledge of God is not thus to be acquired. And this

is true; yet this knowledge may be indispensable as a stage to a knowledge yet

more precious. It may be that the first lesson to be acquired is a lesson of

submission to God’s will, of reverence for God’s righteousness. Only after

the acquisition of this lesson, it may be, does that of the Divine mercy and

compassion come within reach. When men have forgotten that the universe

is ruled by a just, wise, almighty King, from whose authority none can

escape, they must be brought to acknowledge this fact, that they may lay

down the arms of rebellion, and may seek forgiveness and find

reconciliation.

 

Such knowledge should, and often does, lead to sincere and acceptable

piety.  Custom, tradition, superstition, are a poor and unstable foundation for

true religion. Men must know God, must know His character, His mind, His will,

in order that they may devoutly love Him and acceptably serve Him. Whilst there

is undoubtedly a kind of knowledge, merely speculative, which is compatible

with hatred of God and of His Law, there is, on the other hand, a knowledge

which leads men to appreciate and adore the Divine attributes, and to seek

participation in the Divine nature and in Divine favor.

 

“Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  (I John 5:21)  “Their idols

are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.  They have mouths, but they

speak not:  eyes have they, but they see not:  They have ears, but they hear

not:  noses have they, but they smell not.  They have hands, but they

handle not:  feet have they, but they walk not:  neither speak they through

their throat.  They that make them are like unto them; so is ever one

that trusteth in them”  (Psalm 115:4-8).  “Wooden idols are easily avoided,

but take heed of the idols of gold. It is no difficult matter to keep from dead

idols” in the form of statues or images, but guard yourselves against the

manifold forms of modern and CIVILIZED IDOALATRY!   Yield not even

the least to anything or any person who would contend for the throne of your

heart. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me  (Exodus 20:3); Hear,

O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy

God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

(Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

 

 

The Idolatry of the Land Avenged (vs. 1-6)

 

Turning from the city of Jerusalem to the land generally, the Prophet

Ezekiel addresses himself to Israel, the nation whom God had chosen, and

who had rejected God. By a striking figure of speech, he delivers his

message to the mountains and hills, the water courses and ravines of

Palestine. How dear all these features of the land of his fathers must have

been to the prophet, we can easily imagine; national and religious

associations must, in the course of centuries, have gathered round every

portion of the territory which Jehovah had given to the descendants of

Abraham. The apostrophe to the country was at the same time a word to

the nation; the people and the land were identified. The artist, the poet,

may deal with scenery apart from the living inhabitants who dwell amidst it.

But the patriot, the prophet, the preacher, love the land for the people’s

sake who make it their home. To Ezekiel the land of Israel was:

 

  • A SCENE OF IDOLATRY. Before its possession by the Israelites, the

land of Canaan was a stronghold of idolatry and of idolatrous rites and

practices of the foulest and cruelest kind. The commission which the

children of Israel received was a commission to extirpate the idolaters, and

to purge the land of its heathen abominations. Yet the candid and faithful

record of Old Testament Scripture informs us that from the first the chosen

people were led away by the example and influence of the ancient dwellers

in the land, and learned to practice the abominations they were appointed

to repress. One great aim of the seers and prophets was to reproach the

nation because of prevailing idolatry and superstition, and to summon them

to return to their allegiance, ever due to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and

Jacob. It is evident that the worship of the deities adored by the

surrounding nations was prevalent even among those who were called to a

purer faith; and that some of the kings, both of Judah and of Israel,

sanctioned and encouraged idolatrous observances and idolatrous

priesthoods. Thus the high places and the ravines of Palestine were defiled

by the rites of folly, cruelty, and lust. These heathen deities were

embodiments in imagination of the lusts which corrupt the human heart.

 

  • A SCENE OF PROPHETIC PROTEST AND REBUKE. It was a

token of Divine mercy and forbearance that the apostate Israelites were not

left to the delusions and errors, the defection and rebellion, into which they

had suffered themselves to be led. The voice of the Lord’s prophets was

heard upon the mountains, and throughout the valleys, which had been

abandoned to those who practiced the fanatical, bloodthirsty, and polluted

observances distinctive of Canaanitish and Phoenician idolatry. (For a

synopsis of the Canaanite religion and influence, see Halley’s Bible

Handbook – the last two pages on Joshua – CY – 2014).  Impressions

were produced upon individuals which resulted in a return to the service of

Jehovah. There were temporary reformations, distinguished by penitence

and by vows. But the reader of the prophetic Scriptures cannot but admit

that there was no great national movement in the right direction.

Notwithstanding faithful rebuke, severe denunciation, compassionate

promise, the people returned again and again to their former follies. It was

as though Israel had resolved that no exhortation and no threat should avail

to keep the nation faithful to Him who had exalted, defended, and

prospered it, and who had borne with the manners of the rebellious people,

not only in the wilderness, but in the land of promise. It was as though

nothing short of captivity and exile, conjoined with the destruction and

desolation of the capital, could teach the lesson which it was Israel’s

vocation first to acquire, and then to communicate to the world around.

 

  • A SCENE OF DESOLATION AND OF DEATH. The Prophet

Ezekiel speaks here with conviction and certainty. There rises before his

mind a vision which can only fill his heart with grief and mourning. It is a

satisfaction, indeed, to his righteous soul to foresee the high places

destroyed, the altars desolate, the images broken, and the works of

idolaters abolished. But this is not all. He sees the dead carcasses of the

children of Israel, the scattered bones, the slain in the midst of the city, etc.

And the vision of the depopulated land, the deserted and silent city, the

vanquished and decimated nation, profoundly affects his patriotic and

sensitive nature. It is a stern lesson, this which he has to teach; it is a

terrible punishment, this which he has to anticipate and to foretell. Yet the

lesson and the punishment are the Lord’s. It is the word of the Lord which

the prophet has to declare, the Lord of Israel who is at the same time the

King of righteousness and of judgment. God brings the sword upon His

own people; covers His own land with ruin and desolation. For His authority

must not be defied, His laws must not be broken; His name must not be

dishonored with impunity. “The way of transgressors is hard”  (Proverbs

13:15).  “The wages of sin is death”  (Romans 6:23).  Until this lesson is

learned, there is no place for the publication of clemency, for the proffer of

mercy. The Law comes before the gospel; and they who do not honor the Law

will not appreciate the gospel. It is in the midst of wrath that GOD

REMEMBERS MERCY!  (Habakkuk 3:2)

 

There is such a thing as national guilt and apostasy. In our own time,

individualism is carried to such an extreme that this fact is apt to be

overlooked. A nation sins by its collective acts, and a nation suffers the just

punishment of its evil doing. History is ever teaching this lesson, which

men — good and bad — in their absorption in personal interests, are prone

to overlook.

 

The Church has responsibility for witnessing against national errors, for

warning the people of the inevitable consequences of apostasy from God,

and for uttering clearly and boldly the mind and will of HIM WHO IS

ETERNAL RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LOVE! 

 

 

A Ruined Civilization (v. 6)

 

Palestine is now a land of ruins, and the prophecy before us predicted that

condition. But there is more behind. Houses broken down, altars

overthrown, streets grass grown, inhabited places made desolate, — these

are the outward and visible signs of a decayed and broken civilization. The

destruction of the civilization is the real disaster. This happened in Israel

when wild beasts came out from the forests and prowled over the once safe

and populous country; and it happened in another form in Europe when the

hardy barbarians poured over the plains of Italy, and destroyed, not only

buildings, but also the whole fabric of ancient society, and so ushered in the

gloom and disorder which took possession of the early part of the Middle Ages.

 

  • CIVILIZATION MAY BE RUINED. It is more tenacious of life than

physical existence. Cities may be overthrown, and yet civilization may

outlive the shock. Rome, burnt in the days of Nero, rose again in greater

splendor; the fire of London swept away wretched tenements and

prepared for a nobler city; the great conflagrations of Chicago was

followed by the building of a new city in the smoldering ashes. But a

widespread desolation affects the sources of intellectual life and the means

of social intercourse. Roads are neglected, bridges are broken down, lonely

districts are infested with robbers and rendered unsafe for travel; there is

neither time nor energy for mental culture. Christian civilization has been

lost on the north coast of Africa, where Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine

were once shining lights; it has almost vanished from the site of the seven

Churches of Asia. Modern Egypt is far below the Egypt of the Pharaohs in

civilization: the fellaheen of today build mud hovels; their ancestors forty

centuries ago constructed the great Hall of Columns at Karnak — one of

the wonders of the world. The ancient civilization of Mexico had entirely

vanished before the discovery of South America by the importers of a new

Roman Catholic civilization.

 

  • THE RUIN OF CIVILIZATION IS UNSPEAKABLY DREADFUL.

Frightful physical sufferings often accompany it, and gross moral outrages

are then rife and go unchecked and unpunished. The refined and delicately

nurtured people are put to the most exquisite torture of mind, if not of

body. The hideous experiences of the Indian mutiny may give us some idea

as to what this means. When such violent methods are not pursued, and a

slow decay takes the place of a sudden destruction, the chronic and ever

deepening misery of the more cultivated people must be heart-rending. But

apart from the question of suffering, the very act of throwing back the car

of progress for some centuries involves a disastrous loss to the world. The

Christian civilization that has grown out of the experience of ages and

slowly ripened through generations of culture is the most precious heritage

we have received from our forefathers. Let us guard and treasure it as a

sacred trust.  (Yet the culture in the United States is in serious decline:

witness service at local fast foods; shootings in our city streets; abortion

on demand; illegality of the church’s public influence; entitlements;

ad nauseum – CY – 2014)

 

  • NEVERTHELESS SUCH A RUIN OF CIVILIZATION MAY

BECOME A MORAL NECESSITY. While outwardly brilliant, society

may be inwardly corrupt. This was the case with the old heathen nations

and to a frightful extent. Civilized wickedness means elaborate and

inventive wickedness, which bears fruits of evil ten times worse than any

that grow on the wild tree of untutored barbarism. This was evidently the

case in the histories of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Beneath the glitter of a

splendid civilization, and in spite of the high cultivation of art and

philosophy, THE HUMAN CHARACTER WAS ROTTING TO DEATH!

Something like this was approached by Israel. The very religion was corrupted.

Then it was best that the altars should be overthrown, the cities destroyed,

and the people scattered. There is no more horrible wickedness in the present

day than that of those dwellers in centers of culture who have abandoned

themselves to vice. When civilization has become effete, it is a hotbed of

moral disease, and it is best for the health of society that it should be

broken up and destroyed utterly. We cannot put new wine in old bottles.

 

 

8 “Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape

the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through

the countries.”  Yet will I leave a remnant, etc. The thought, though not the

word, is that of Isaiah 1:9; 10:20; Zephaniah 2:7; 3:13; Jeremiah 43:5. For

these, at least, the punishment would, in greater or less measure, do its work;

and, in remembering Jehovah, they would find the beginning of conversion.

 

9 “And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations

whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with

their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their

eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall loathe

themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their

abominations.”  Because I am broken with their whorish heart. The words

have been very differently rendered.

 

  • The Revised Version mainly follows the Authorized Version, but gives,

they shall rememberhow I have been broken, etc. So taken, the words

are boldly anthropomorphic, and ascribe to Jehovah the word which

implies the strongest form of human distress. The “whorish heart” of the

people has made Jehovah Himself “broken-hearted.”

 

  • Most recent critics, however, follow the rendering of the Vulgate

(contrivi), and take the verb, which is passive in form, as being like a

Greek verb in the middle voice, transitive in form, with an implied reflex

force. So we get, as in the margin of the Revised Version, “I have broken

their whorish heart.” So taken, thought and words are both connected

with Psalm 51:17, and the self-loathing that follows has its counterpart in

Job 42:6. The thought is eminently characteristic of Ezekiel (ch.20:43;

36:31), and, we may add also, of Leviticus (Leviticus 26:39-43).

 

 

Self-loathing (v. 9)

 

This very strong and very remarkable assertion concerning the remnant of

Israel that should be spared amid the destruction and desolation about to

overtake the nation and its metropolis, is a proof to every thoughtful reader

that the mind of the prophet was occupied not so much with the external

and political aspects of history as with THE MORAL!  In his view supreme

importance is attached to the result of experience upon character. So

regarded, calamity may be “a blessing in disguise.” If the chastisement of

God awakens repentance and self-loathing, one purpose at all events, and

that a most important purpose, has been answered.

 

  • SELF-LOATHING IS IN CONTRAST WITH FORMER SELF-

SATISFACTION AND SELF-COMPLACENCY. It is not natural to men

to loathe themselves, however they may be tempted to loathe their fellow

men, where there has been infliction of injury or want of sympathy and

congeniality. It is too common for men to look at their own character and

their own conduct in the most favorable and flattering light; and to speak,

or at all events to think, of themselves with approval and admiration. In

most cases a great change must come over a man’s mind in order that he

may regard his character and his life with dissatisfaction, in order that he

may hate himself.

 

  • SELF-LOATHING IS AN INDICATION OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE.

Those who admire and approve themselves are, in many instances, if not in

all, the victims of illusion. It is a rude, and yet it may be a wholesome,

awakening, which sets a man face to face with his true self. His fancied

excellences and virtues are seen to be faults. The blemishes which he has

been accustomed to extenuate appear in their real deformity. He wonders

how he could have misinterpreted his actions and misunderstood his

character. He learns to know himself, not as he has imagined himself to be

but as he really is.

 

  • SELF-LOATHING HAS ABUNDANT JUSTIFICATION IN THE

ERRORS AND FOLLIES OF THE PAST. When a man sees himself, in

some measure, as God sees him to be, then trivial faults — as they were

once deemed — become, in his apprehension serious and culpable. Sin is

the abominable thing which God hates; and it is an evidence of true

enlightenment when a man loathes his own offences against the laws of

God and the dictates of his own conscience. The unspiritual detest

deformities of body, defects of manner or of speech; the spiritually minded

are more distressed at what is morally evil than at anything of a more

external character.

 

  • SELF-LOATHING MAY LEAD TO TRUE REPENTANCE, AND

SO TO FORGIVENESS AND ACCEPTANCE. To remain in a state of

mind in which repugnance to evil absorbs the whole nature is to be

abandoned to despondency. Sin is to be loathed in order that it may be

forsaken; and that it may be forsaken IT MUST BE FORGIVEN. The

Scriptures abound in denunciations of sin, but they abound also in

invitations to repentance and in promises of forgiveness. “Let the wicked

 forsake his way,” etc. (Isaiah 55:7)  Reconciliation and purity are by the

gospel assured to every PENITENT AND BELIEVING SINNER!

 

  • THUS SELF-LOATHING MAY BE A MEANS TOWARDS THE

REMOVAL OF WHAT OCCASIONED IT, AND OF THE

SUBSTITUTION OF WHAT CAN BE REGARDED WITH

THANKFULNESS AND DELIGHT. It may be said thus to work its own

cure. Or, more properly, it may induce the repenting sinner to apply to the

GREAT PHYSICIAN,  by whose remedial treatment the unsoundness may

Be removed, and spiritual health, vigor, and happiness may be restored.

 

10 “And they shall know that I am the LORD, and that I have not said

in vain that I would do this evil unto them.”  I have not said in vain, etc.

The thought of that self-loathing and repentance reconciles Ezekiel to his

work. To “labour in vain” is the great misery of all workers for God. A time

will come when he shall see that God has not sent him to such a work “in vain.”

What before was dark will be made clear unto him (compare ch. 14:23). Ezekiel’s

words, “not in vain,” are echoed frequently by Paul (I Corinthians 15:14, 58;

II Corinthians 6:1; Philippians 2:16, et al.). The corresponding phrase, “I have

broken their eyes,” sounds strange to us; but, after all, the heart is not literally

 broken more than the eyes, and figuratively the same words may be applied to

either, so that there is no need for supposing, with some critics, that a more

appropriate verb has been dropped out. Eyes and heart were alike involved

in the sin (ch. 20:7-8, 24; Numbers 15:39), and both came under the same

chastisement that was to lead them to repentance.

 

 

            The Consciousness of God (v. 10)

 

To know that God is the Lord, i.e. Jehovah, is very different from knowing

that Jehovah is God. In the latter case the true God is distinguished from

false gods, as in Elijah’s great appeal (I Kings 18:21, 39). But in the

former case, though there is no question of what God shall be worshipped,

the being and presence of the one true God need to be believed and

realized. Jehovah means, “HE WHO IS,” the Eternal, the one true selfexistent

Being. When we know that God is Jehovah we are assured of His

true, present, living existence.

 

  • WHAT THINGS HINDER US FROM KNOWING THAT GOD IS

THE LORD?

 

Ø      His invisibility. “No man hath seen God at any time.”  (I John

4:12). We sweep the sky with the telescope, but it reveals no God

sitting on the circle of the heavens. His voice is not heard in the

crash of the winter storm, or the whispering of the summer leaves.

We feel after Him in the darkness and silence, but we cannot

touch Him. Can He be if no one ever sees, hears, or

touches Him?

 

Ø      The disorder of the world.

 

o       Men seem to be free to do as they will, lawless wickedness

triumphing over innocence, vice victorious and virtue

confounded. If there is a Judge of all the earth, why does

He permit such crime against the highest law to go unchecked

and unpunished?

 

o       Nature is now known to be a battleground of fierce contending

selfishness in animal life, the vegetable world a wilderness in

which the strongest plant, though the coarsest, kills the weakest

though it be the most beautiful. Where is the God of nature?

 

o       The earthly mindedness of men. Here is the secret of the lost

vision of God. “He is not far from any one of us” (Acts

17:27).  But “our eyes are holden.” A constant traffic with

things material darkens our sight of the super-sensual.

Sin completes the fatal work, and turns the dim vision into

total SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS!

 

  • WHAT INFLUENCES WILL BRING US TO KNOW THAT GOD IS

THE LORD? Ezekiel tells us that this knowledge was to be brought about

by the judgment of God on Israel.

 

Ø      The fulfillment of prophecy. God had threatened punishment.

The Jews had doubted the warning. When it was fulfilled, they

would discover the genuineness of the message, and the real

existence of Him who sent it. The accomplished prophecies of the

Bible show the working mind of God. The life of Christ confirms

the presence of God in Messianic prophecy.  Christian history

verifies Christ’s word about the leaven hidden in the meal.

Moreover, the present fulfillment of ancient prophecy reveals

the existence among us of the same God who inspired the

prediction.

 

Ø      The exercise of power. The foolish Jews were self confident and

boastful. They thought that they were free to choose their own religion.

The great invasions and the consequent breakup of the nation humbled

them to the dust, and awoke in their hearts an alarmed consciousness

of the higher power of God who had sent this doom upon them. We

cannot see God, but we can see His work, and in this discern the

energy which witnesses to His being.

 

Ø      The vindication of righteousness. Sin does not triumph eternally. Our

induction is too narrow, our survey is too brief. A wider grasp and a

larger patience would teach us that God is in history punishing guilty

nations and advancing what is true and good and great, just as He is

in nature raising the type of being through the very struggle for

existence which, to the short-sighted gaze of the unthinking spectator,

looks as purposeless as it is painful. The grand vindication of

righteousness and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven in

the advent of the Son of man are to us the greatest proofs that

GOD IS THE LORD!

 

 

Many Lost; Few Saved (vs. 8-10)

 

The prospects of God’s kingdom on the earth have never been wholly

dark. A glint of light has always pierced the heavy clouds of gloom.

Among the diseased grapes of the cluster, a solitary sound one is found. A

thousand acorns are on the oak in autumn time; three or four only take

root and flourish. The elect are still the few. But it shall not always be so.

The turning point in their fortune is REPENTANCE!   The internal change

must always precede the external.

 

  • THE OCCASION OF THIS REPENTANCE. The occasion was

affliction. Until disaster, defeat, and exile came, no change of mind

appeared. The ploughshare of calamity broke up the hard and stolid soil, so

that the sweet energies of grace might find an entrance. Judgment alone

will not soften and subdue the proud will of man; but judgment and mercy

combined have an almighty efficacy. No teacher is so effective as

experience. The scattered few, who had escaped the all-devouring sword,

pondered, reflected, mourned.

 

  • THE REALITY OF THEIR REPENTANCE. There is a spurious

repentance which is only remorse — i.e. regret that the sin has been

detected. But real repentance has RESPECT TO GOD!   The sorrow

does not so much respect self. It is grief that God is pained — that His

heart is broken by our perversity and folly. The old selfishness has

disappeared, and God has obtained His proper place in the soul if so,

repentance is real.

 

  • THE PROOF OF REPENTANCE. The proof indicated is self-loathing,

self-condemnation. The things formerly loved are now hated.

More than this, the penitent passes sentence on himself. He censures

himself more severely than others censure him. His past deeds are as

obnoxious to him as a dunghill, and that dunghill is within him. His own

former self is detestable. He hates himself. No penalty seems for him too

heavy. His chief fear is lest such sin as his should be beyond the possibility

of mercy.

 

  • THE EFFECT OF REPENTANCE. The result is intimate

acquaintance with God — inward conviction of His truth and faithfulness.

This knowledge of God is knowledge gained by experience. Such

knowledge brings with it trust, admiration, love, peace; yea, life itself.

“They that know thy Name wilt put their trust in thee”  (Psalm 9:10).

Formerly they were the dupes of FALSEHOOD;  they wandered in

darkness SELF-CREATED!   Now they are smitten by the charms of

truth, and loyally follow the Truth.

 

 

     Stages in the Soul’s Progress from Sin unto Salvation (vs. 8-10)

 

“Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the

sword among the nations,” etc. These verses exhibit the exercise of mercy

even in the execution of judgment; and they indicate certain stages in the

restoration of a remnant of the people to the Lord Jehovah.

 

  • SIN LEADING TO PUNISHMENT. In dealing with previous

paragraphs we have already spoken of the sin and of the punishment of the

Israelites. Their chief sin was idolatry. It is spoken of in our text as

whoredom. The chosen people are looked upon as the wife of Jehovah

(compare Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 2:19-20). And in turning from Him to worship

idols, they played the part of a wife that is unfaithful to her husband

(compare Jeremiah 3:9, 20). And when they persisted in this infidelity,

despite exhortation, remonstrance, and warning, the righteous judgment

of God came upon them siege, famine, pestilence, sword, captivity.

Sin ever leads to SUFFERING!   Sooner or later penalty follows

transgression. “Be sure your sin will find you out”  (Numbers 32:23);

“Whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.” (Ecclesiastes

10:8)

 

  • PUNISHMENT LEAVING TO RECOLLECTION. “They that escape

of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried

captives.” The goodness of God is designed to lead men to repentance

(compare Romans 2:4); but sometimes it fails to do so by reason of the

perversity of the heart of man. Some men partake of the gifts of the Divine

goodness without any thought of the bountiful Bestower. But affliction not

unfrequently accomplishes that which prosperity failed to effect. It was in

the far country, in poverty, degradation, and destitution, that the prodigal

son came to himself, and remembered his father’s house (Luke 15:14-

17). And though Israel had forsaken the Lord, He had not forsaken them.

Even His judgments were an evidence of this (compare Hosea 2:6-7). In

wrath He remembers mercy. In His terrible visitation for their sins He spares

a remnant of them. And in the miseries of captivity that remnant remembers

Him. As a faithless wife who has deserted a good husband will almost

certainly have occasion to remember in bitterness of soul him whom she

has so basely and cruelly wronged, so the remnant of the Israelites, in the

sorrows of their exile, would remember the Lord Jehovah, whom they had

rejected for vain idols. Suffering should induce recollection and reflection.

Trials should lead us to review our life and consider our ways.

 

  • RECOLLECTION LEADING TO REPENTANCE. “When I have

broken their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and their eyes,

which go a-whoring after their idols; and they shall loathe themselves for

the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.” Where this

rendering differs from that of the Authorized Version it is supported by

Hengstenberg, Schroder, and the ‘Speaker’s Commentary.’ Amongst the

remnant of the Israelites, recollection prepared the way for repentance, of

which three aspects are here indicated.

 

Ø      Repentance in its origin. “When I have broken their whorish heart.”

Whatever may be the means by which it is brought about, penitence is

the product of DIVINE GRACE (compare Acts 5:31; 11:18). In this

Christian age, God brings gracious gospel influences to bear upon the

hearts of men by the operation of His Holy Spirit, in order to quicken

them into penitence for sin.

 

Ø      Repentance in its seat. When I have broken their heart.” Repentance

Is not merely a change of mind, but a change of feeling. It is godly

sorrow on account of sin (compare II Corinthians 7:9-10). “The

sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart,

O God, thou wilt not despise.”  (Psalm 51:17)

 

Ø      Repentance in its expression. “They shall loathe themselves for the evils

they have committed in all their abominations.” The true penitent never

seeks to excuse himself on account of his sins, or to explain them away,

or to extenuate the guilt of them. He takes shame to himself on account of

them; and humbly confesses them to God. He says, “I acknowledge my

transgression, and my sin is ever before me,” etc. (Psalm 51:3-5); “O

my God, I am ashamed and blush to lilt up my face to thee, my God:

for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass

is grown up unto the heavens.” etc. (Ezra 9:6); “God be merciful to

me a sinner”  (Luke 18:13).  It is well when recollection thus leads to

repentance unto life. It did so in the case of the psalmist: “I thought on

my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies,” etc. (Psalm 119:

59).  And David prophesied that it should be so throughout the

world: “All the  ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the

Lord,” etc. (Ibid. ch.22:27).

 

  • REPENTANCE LEADING TO DEVOUT RECOGNITION OF

GOD. “And they shall know that I am the Lord, and that I have not said in

vain that I would do this evil unto them.”  The Lord would have spoken in

vain, or to no purpose, if the event had not corresponded with the

utterance. By the correspondence of utterance and event, they know that

He who has spoken by the son of man is Jehovah — is God in the fullest

sense. They shall know Him as the living and true God in contrast to the

dead and vain idols (see on v. 7). And more than this, true

repentance leads to forgiveness and reconciliation with God; and thus the

penitent soul comes to know Him by devout sympathy and hallowed

communion with Him.

 

11 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Smite with thine hand, and stamp with

thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of

Israel! for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the

pestilence.”  Smite with thine hand, etc. The outward gestures were to

give a dramatic emphasis to the mingled indignation and sorrow with which

the prophet was to utter his woe. A like action meets us in ch.21:12. Instances

of its use for other feelings meet us in ch. 22:13; Numbers 24:10 (anger);

Jeremiah 31:19 (shame).

 

12 “He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall

fall by the sword; and he that remaineth and is besieged shall die

by the famine: thus will I accomplish my fury upon them.”

He that is far off, etc. The three forms of judgment named in

v. 11 have each their special victims. Pestilence comes chiefly on those

who are outside the city, exposed to the weather changes and the taint of

unburied corpses (v. 5); the sword of the Chaldeans on those who

venture on a sally, or try to escape from the city; famine presses heaviest

on those who are besieged within it. None can escape the judgment. The

word besieged is the same as in Isaiah 1:8; but it may have the sense,

as in Ibid. ch.49:6, of “kept,” or “preserved,” for the worst evil of the

three.

 

13 “Then shall ye know that I am the LORD, when their slain men

shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high

hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree,

and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet

savor to all their idols.”  The thought is the same as in v. 6, but the localities

are given in greater detail. The “hills” and “mountains” were naturally the

scenes of the worship of the “high places,” and these were commonly associated

with groves of trees, as in Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6; Isaiah 57:5. In Hosea 4:13, oaks

(or terebinths), poplars, and elms are specifically named (compare

Deuteronomy 12:2; II Kings 16:4). Where they did offer sweet

savour, etc. The phrase is eminently characteristic of Ezekiel as a priest

(ch. 16:19; 20:28, 41), and is specially prominent in the books

which he must have studied. It meets us three times in Exodus, seventeen

in Leviticus, seventeen in Numbers, and seldom elsewhere. The crowning

sin, from the prophet’s point of view, was that the incense which was due

to Jehovah had been lavished on the false gods of the nations.

 

14 “So will I stretch out my hand upon them, and make the land

desolate, yea, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblath, in

all their habitations: and they shall know that I am the LORD.”

More desolate than the wilderness towards Diblath; better,

with the Authorized Version, from the wilderness. The name does not

appear elsewhere, and has not been identified. Assuming the Authorized

Version rendering, we must think of Ezekiel as naming, as Dante names the

Valdichiana (‘Inferno.,’ 29:47), some specially horrible and desolate region.

For such a region the name of Diblah (a cake of figs) does not seem

appropriate. Taking the Revised Version translation (“from the wilderness

toward Diblah”), we have a phrase analogous to “from Dan to Beersheba,”

as denoting the extent of the desolation. The “wilderness” is usually

applied to the nomad region south of Palestine, and this would lead us to

look for Diblah in the north, and so to look elsewhere than to the two

places Beth-diblathaim (Jeremiah 48:22) and Almon-diblathaim

(Numbers 33:46), both of which are in Moab. The difficulty was solved

by Jerome by the conjectural emendation of Riblah, the two Hebrew letters

for d and r being often written by copyists for each other. Riblah (it is a

suggestive fact that the two chief manuscripts of the Septuagint, the Alexandrian

and the Vatican, have Deblatha, or Deblaa, in II Kings 23:33; 25:6)

was a fortified town on the north road from Palestine to Babylon, where

the Babylonian kings used to take up their position during their invasions

of the former. Within a short time after Ezekiel wrote this chapter, it

became memorable in its connection with Zedekiah’s sufferings (compare

II Kings 23:33; 25:6, 20-21; Jeremiah 39:5-6; 52:9-10, 26). Its

probable site is fixed on the banks of the Orontes. The evidence, on the

whole, is, I think, in favor of this interpretation.  An additional fact in its

favor is that Hamath, in the same region, appears as an ideal northern

boundary in ch.47:16.

 

 

The Sorrow of the Servant of God on Account of the Sins of His People (v.11)

 

“Thus saith the Lord God; Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy

foot,” etc. Almost everything contained in the paragraph of which this

verse forms a part (vs. 11-14) has already come under our notice in

preceding portions of this book. But our text presents matter for profitable

meditation. It teaches:

 

  • THAT THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD REGARDS THE

CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF SINNERS WITH DEEP

SORROW.  “Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel!”

Idolatry was the great sin on account of which the prophet grieved.

But our text suggests that idolatry is a multitudinous sin. It comprises

many “abominations.” In the worship of Peor the worshippers committed

fornication; and in the worship of Moloch they committed homicide. In

proportion as we participate in the spirit of Jesus Christ, we shall regard

sin neither with levity, “Fools make a mock at sin”  (Proverbs 14:9);

nor with indifference; nor with extenuation of its guilt; but with deep

grief. To the holy, sin must ever cause regret and pain of heart. Ezra

mourned over it bitterly (Ezra 9:3-6); so did the psalmist (Psalm 119:136, 158),

the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17), the Apostle Paul (Romans 9:1-3),

and our blessed Lord and Saviour (Mark 3:5; Luke 13:34; 19:41-42). And

in our text, grief for the sins of the people is expressed first, and for the

miseries caused by their sins afterwards. There are many who mourn the

losses and sufferings which result from sin, but comparatively few who

mourn because of the sins themselves; yet these should awaken our

sharpest sorrow.  (I have long mourned of America’s turning her back on

God! – CY – 2014)

 

  • THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD REGARDS THE JUDGMENTS

WHICH COME UPON SINNERS WITH DEEP SORROW. “Alas!…

For they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.” “The

judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9);

and therefore His people should at least heartily acquiesce in them. But

while consenting unto them, and cordially approving their righteousness,

the godly will look with sorrow upon the woes which the wicked bring

upon themselves by their sins. Nor is there anything wrong or unbecoming

in this; for so our Lord viewed the miseries which He saw gathering over

the guilty Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44), and so the pious and patriotic Jeremiah

contemplated the captivity of the Lord’s flock (Jeremiah 13:17). One cannot

look upon calamity and suffering without sorrow, even when we know that

these are the righteous retributions of sin. And if we could do so, there

would not be anything either commendable or desirable in so doing.

 

  • THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD ENDEAVOURS TO IMPRESS

OTHERS WITH THE WICKEDNESS OF SIN AND THE DREAD

PENALTIES THEREOF. “Thus saith the Lord God; Smite with thine

hand, and stamp with thy foot.” These gestures indicate strong emotion,

which may be of various kinds. Thus Balak “smote his hands together” in

anger (Numbers 24:10); the Ammonites are represented as clapping

their hands and stamping their feet in derision of the land of Israel (ch.

25:6); and in the text these gestures are intended to express keen sorrow,

as we see from the words with which they were accompanied: “Alas for all

the evil abominations of the house of Israel!” Thus the prophet would

denote his firm conviction of the certainty of the judgments which he

announced, his earnest desire to impress the people with the reality and

solemnity of these judgments, and his grief by reason of them. His entire

being was, as it were, engaged in this expression of woe. “Words are

transient,” says Greenhill, “and leave little impression, but visible signs

work more strongly, affect more deeply, and draw the spirits of beholders

into a sympathy.” And the servants of God in our own times cannot feel

too deeply the wickedness of sin, or express their abhorrence thereof too

strongly, if that abhorrence be genuine, or manifest too great a concern

that sinners should flee from the wrath to come. If we realized:

 

Ø      the essential heinousness of sin,

Ø      the unspeakable value of the soul, and

Ø      THE AWFUL SIGNIFICANCE OF ITS LOSS

 

we should deem no action unworthy, and no effort too great, if they were

likely to lead sinners to turn from sin to the Saviour.  “I know not,” says

Richard Baxter, “what others think of these concerns, but for my own part

I am ashamed of my insensibility, and wonder at myself that I deal no more

with my own and other men’s souls, as becomes one who looks for the great

day of the Lord. I seldom come out of the pulpit but my conscience smites me

that I have not been more serious and fervent. It is no trifling matter to stand

up in the face of a congregation and deliver a message of SALVATION or

DAMNATION  as FROM THE LIVING GOD IN THE NAME OF THE

REDEEMER:  it is no easy thing to speak so plainly that the most

ignorant may understand; so seriously that the deadest may feel; and so

concerningly that contradictory cavilers may be silenced and awakened.”

 

 

The Outstretched Hand (v. 14)

 

We usually picture to ourselves God’s hand stretched out to help and heal.

Here, however, we see a prediction of the same exertion of Divine energy

for a contrary purpose — to smite and make desolate. The prediction

suggests certain features of Divine chastisement.

 

  • IT IS OCCASIONAL. “I will stretch out my hand.” This refers to one

definite act, not to a perpetual treatment. “He will not always chide”

(Psalm 103:9).  “The mercy of the Lord endureth forever(Ibid. ch.

136:1).  But His anger and punishing are limited to occasion and necessity.

The very fact that men refuse to believe in the wrath of God bears testimony

to His long suffering. In life-giving energy God works unceasingly, so that

“in him we live, and move, and have our being”  (Acts 17:28).  It is an

eternal truth, not representing a sudden interposition, but the normal order

of providence, that “underneath are the everlasting arms”  (Deuteronomy

33:27).  Nevertheless, there are occasions when another mode of

action is necessary, and the hand of God must smite in anger.

 

  • IT BELONGS TO THE FUTURE. God says He will stretch out His

hand. It is not yet done. Future punishment will be far worse than any

present sufferings of sin. It is impossible for us to measure that punishment

by what we now experience, because sentence is not yet executed. But if

the punishment is future, there is a possibility of its being averted, or of the

sinner finding some means of escape. The warnings of Scripture are not

written in order to fix our doom, but for the very opposite purpose, to

drive us to the refuge of REPENTANCE and PARDON!

 

  • IT IS FAR-REACHING. The hand stretched out signifies God’s

action at a distance. Though locally close to all, He is spiritually far off from

those who have forgotten His presence, forsaken His way, and wandered

into remote tracks of sin. Yet God can reach the most distant sinner. He

met Jonah on the ocean. It is impossible to flee from God. Our utter

neglect of God does not cause His utter neglect of us. The godless will be

judged by God. This is a most merciful fact. To be abandoned by God

would be worse than to be punished by Him. Left alone to our self chosen

fate, we should perish in the outer darkness. The outstretched hand of God,

which extends to the most remote, is their one ground of hope, even

though at first it only reaches them to smite.

 

  • IT IS WIDE IN ITS GRASP. It is not said that God’s finger will

touch a distant people, but that His hand will be outstretched. There is

breadth and comprehensiveness in the image. It suggests a large sweep of

Divine energy. There is to be a national judgment. The greatness of the

number of guilty persons will be no safeguard in the day when God comes

to judgment. (In other words, there will not be safety in numbers because

“everybody is doing it.”  - CY – 2014).  There is, indeed, a sense of security

in the consciousness of companionship. But if the many sin, the many

must suffer. On the other hand, the wide grasp will reach those who seek to

elude it by subtlety, singularity, and subterfuge. There is no possibility of

escaping general punishment by a secret withdrawal from the scenes of

ordinary evil to a peculiar region of our own wickedness.

 

  • IT IS POWERFUL. When God stretches out His hand He is evidently

about to exert some mighty energy. He is awake and active in our midst.

Then the fertile land may become a desert. This fearful manifestation of

God will assuredly prove His present power. Woe to them who wait for

such a proof before giving heed to God!

 

 

The Earnestness of the Minister (vs. 11-14)

 

Earnestness is simply a fitting sense of duty. Earnestness is the outcome of

reality. If a man has real conviction of his duty, and real compassion for

others, he must be in earnest. Genuine earnestness is not equivalent to

noise, display, hysterical excitement. It is wise and appropriate expression

of feeling, and suitable to the occasion.

 

  • EARNESTNESS IS MANIFEST IN GESTURE AND ACT, AS WELL

AS IN SPEECH. The man who has a due sense of his momentous office

will adopt every device that will gain a hearing or leave due impression

upon his hearers. Earnestness is contagious. If the speaker is in earnest, the

hearer will feel the glow. There is eloquence in a look, in a tone, in a

movement of the hand, in a gesture of the body. Tears are impressive

appeals. God commands this whole-souled earnestness. To get an entrance

for God’s message into human hearts, every door must be tried, every

avenue explored. To the extent that we can reach and move the obdurate

souls of men, we are responsible for the result.

 

  • EARNESTNESS IS SEEN IN UNTIRING REPETITIONS OF

GOD’S MESSAGE. It may be an irksome task to the prophet to repeat

often the same facts and counsels; but he is not to think of himself, nor of

his own tastes. He is a servant, not a master. To repeat the same things is

proof of their real and vital importance. We cannot substitute other

messages, because other messages have not the same importance. The

constant dropping of water wears out even granite rocks; and, to conquer

the callous natures of men there is required “line upon line; precept upon

precept; here a little, and there a little.”  (Isaiah 28:10)

 

  • EARNESTNESS IS SEEN IN ADDRESSING EVERY SIDE OF

MAN’S NATURE. Some men are moved by fear, some by shame, some by

the prospect of public dishonor. Many principles of human character are

common to all men, yet do not dwell in men in equal proportions. In some,

the moral sense is paramount. In some, feeling is predominant. In some,

judgment and the logical faculty are supreme. The earnest prophet will

appeal to each principle in turn. The approaching overthrow of the idols

would impress some minds, The slaughter of their brethren and children

beside the idolatrous altars would affect others. Exile and plague and

premature death would touch the hearts of many. And the prospect of

desolation in their own loved land ought to have moved the souls of all

true Israelites. Every face of the rebellious citadel must be assailed.

 

  • EARNESTNESS IS SEEN IN UNSELFISH CONCERN FOR THE

HONOUR OF GOD. Over and over again is the statement repeated, as if

on this the prophet delighted to dwell, “They shall know that I am the

Lord.” (I think this phrase is used 62 times in Ezekiel.  See Ezekiel –

God’s Use of the Word Know – this web site – CY – 2014)

Not for a moment did the man of God forget that he was standing

in the stead of God, and spake as the “Spirit gave him utterance.” He was

identified with God’s cause indissolubly. God and he were one. And

although the interval of disorder and disloyalty might be long, the final

outcome was glorious to contemplate — an object pleasing to every

devout eye — GOD SHALL BE KNOWN AND HONORED!   The certainty

of ultimate success fosters present courage, and inspires true earnestness.

 

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