Ezekiel 7

 

 

1 “Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,”

The absence of any fresh date, and the fact that it is simply

tacked on to the previous chapter by the copulative conjunction, shows

that what follows belongs to the same group. The use of the phrase, the

word of the Lord came unto me, shows, however, that there was an

interval of silence, perhaps of meditation, followed by a fresh influx of

inspiration; and, so far as we may judge from the more lyrical character of

the chapter, a more intense emotion.

 

2 Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of

Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.”

An end, etc. The iteration of the word once more gives

emphasis. The words read like an echo of Amos 8:2. The four corners

(Hebrew, “wings”) were probably, as with us, the north, east, south, and

west. The phrase had been used before in Isaiah 11:12, and the thought

meets us again, in the form of the “four winds,” in Daniel 11:4;

Zechariah 2:6; Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27. The “end” in this

case is either that of the siege of Jerusalem, or that of the existence of

Israel as a nation. It was now drawing nigh — was, as we say, within

measurable distance.

 

 

The End is Come (v. 2)

 

  • THE END THAT SURELY COMES. Time is broken into periods; and

every period, long or short, has its certain end. The tale of life is written in

many chapters, each with its own appropriate conclusion; in some cases the

conclusion is violent, abrupt, and startling. We are surprised out of an old

settled course. The mill stops suddenly, and then the silence is alarming.

There are the greater epochs of life, when a whole volume of experience is

closed, and another must be opened, till at length we reach Finis. But

every day has its sunset. Every year runs out to December and dies its

wintry death, in spite of all the festivities of Christmas. Youth is fleeting; its

sweet springtime fast melts, its blossoms fade and fall. Life itself runs out

and reaches an end. As each period goes it vanishes, never to return. Thus

Christina Rossetti writes:

 

“Come, gone, — gone forever;

Gone as an unreturning river;;

Gone as to death the merriest liver;

Gone as the year at the dying fall,

Tomorrow, today, yesterday, never:

Gone once for all.”

 

Ø      There is an end to the day of work. The night cometh, wherein no man

can work” (John 9:4). The opportunity will pass. Let us make the most

of our strength and time while we have them.

 

Ø      There is an end to the freedom of sin. The orgies of mad self-indulgence

will not last forever. They burn themselves out in folly and shame. Then

comes the end, and AFTER THAT THE RECKONING!

 

Ø      There is an end to the discipline of sorrow. The pain will not last

forever. (“Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the

morning  (Psalm 30:5).  The doubt and mystery and darkness are

not eternal. The Christian pilgrimage is long and weary, but it is not

an infinite, endless course. The wilderness is wide, and the goal far off.

But the way will end at last in the heavenly city, the home of the soul.

 

  • THE END THAT SHOULD COME. There are some things which we

should do well to end, yet still they are with us.

 

Ø      An end should come to our life of sin. The old sin has been our

companion for years, a bad companion, corrupt and corrupting. It is

time we and it parted. It is time we turned over a new leaf and began

a better way. The old self has lived too long. Let it die and be buried.

 

Ø      An end should come to our indecision. How long halt ye between two

opinions?”  (I 18:21)  This hesitation has lasted too long. “Choose you

this day whom ye will serve.”  (Joshua 24:15)

 

Ø      An end should come to the gloom of doubt, the coldness of half-

hearted service, the lethargy and paralysis of an unspiritual religion.

“The night is far spent; the day is at hand; (Romans 13:12) 

“Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and

Christ shall give thee light!”  (Ephesians 5:14)

 

  • THE END THAT MAY COME. We contemplate possible endings

which we would fain avert, but which seem to be approaching.

 

Ø      Some of these endings are within our power, and should be kept off.

We should guard against an end to our early faith and zeal. Ephraim’s

goodness, which was like the morning cloud (Hosea 6:4), was soon

 must be said the end has come to their fervent devotion and self-

sacrificing service. Once they were bright lights of the Church, but

they have waned, and are approaching spiritual night.

 

Ø      Some of these endings are beyond our control. The home circle may be

broken, the dear countenances of the loved may smile upon us no more.

For the old fullness of friendship we may have left only blankness and

vacancy, and a bitter sense of loss. The very freshness of our soul may

be lost too, and then we look back to the old sweet years, and wonder

how we could have taken them so quietly.

 

  • THE END THAT WILL NEVER COME.

 

Ø      There will never be an end to the righteous Law of God. Right and

truth are eternal. We can never outlive their claims. If we continue

forever in opposition to them, their pains and penalties must be

always ours.

 

Ø      The love of God will never end. Modes of Divine operations may

change as circumstances alter, and new dispensations may succeed

to old dispensations — new covenants taking the place of old

covenants. But GOD DOES NOT CHANGE! There is no end to

Him. He abideth faithful. In the wreck of the universe THE ROCK

OF AGES REMAINS UNSHAKEN!   Love in His essence, God

never wearies in helping and blessing. There is no end to his

grace. “The mercy of the Lord endureth forever.” Whenever the

helpless, penitent prodigal returns, he will find his Father waiting to

welcome him.

 

Ø      The eternal life can have NO END!  The body dies. Happily there

will be an end to that. But the LIFE IN GOD ABIDES FOR

EVER!   In that life many things thought to be ended here on earth

will be recovered and will revive. Thus our past experience is not

utterly lost. It lives in memory and in what it has made us. A German

poet writes:

 

“Yesterday I loved;

Today I suffer;

Tomorrow I die.

But I shall gladly,

Today and tomorrow

Think on yesterday.”

 

3 “Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon

thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will

recompense upon thee all thine abominations.”

 Now is the end upon thee, etc. We note the repetition of this

and v. 4 in vs. 8-9, as a kind of refrain in the lamentation. Stress is laid,

and for the time laid exclusively, on the unpitying character of the Divine

judgments. And this is followed as before, in ch. 6:14, by “Ye shall

know that I am the Lord.” Fear must teach men the lesson which love

had failed to teach.

 

4 “And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I

will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall

be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.”

Thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee, etc. These

are, of course, primarily the idolatries of Israel. The people are to reap

what they have sown. Their sins should be recognized in their punishment.

 

5 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come.”

An evil, an only evil, etc. The words imply that the evil would

be unique in character, attracting men’s notice, not needing repetition.

Cornill, however, following Luther, gives “evil after evil,” changing one

letter m the Hebrew for “one,” so as to get the word “after.” For is come

read, with the Revised Version, it cometh. It is the nearness, not the actual

arrival, of the end, that is in the prophet’s thoughts. He writes in B.C. 595-

4. Jerusalem was not taken till s.c. 588.

 

6 “An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is

come.”  It watcheth for thee; better, with the Revised Version, it

awaketh against thee. So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Luther. The Hebrew presents

a paronomasia between the noun and verb — hakketz, hekitz — which

cannot be reproduced in English. The DESTINED DOOM is thought of as

rousing itself to ITS APPOINTED WORK!   The word is cognate with that

rendered awaketh in Psalm 78:65.

 

7 “The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land:

the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding

again of the mountains.”  The morning is come unto thee, etc. In the only

other passage in which the Hebrew noun occurs (Isaiah 28:5), it is translated

diadem,” the meaning being strictly a circular ornament. Here the Septuagint

gives πλοκὴ - plokae-  something twirled, out of which may come the meaning of

the changes of fortune. Possibly, as in the familiar “wheel of fortune,” that

thought was involved in the circular form by itself. In the Tahmud it appears

as the name of the goddess of fate at Ascalon (Furst). On the whole, I

follow the Revised Version, Keil, and Ewald, in giving “thy doom.” The

morning” of the Authorized Version probably rises from the thought that

the dawn is, as it were, the glory and diadem of the day. The Vulgate gives

contritio. The day of trouble; better, with the Revised Version, of tumult.

The word is specially used of the noise of war (Isaiah 22:5; Amos 3:9;

Zechariah 14:3). Not the sounding again upon the mountains.

The first noun is not found in the Old Testament, but a closely allied form

appears in Isaiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:30; 48:33, for the song of the

vintage. Not that, the prophet says, shall be heard on the mountains, but in

its place the cry of battle and the noise of war. The Septuagint “not with

travail-pangs,” and the Vulgate non gloriae montium, show that the word

was in both cases a puzzle to the translators.

 

8 “Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish

mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways,

and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.

9 And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will

recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations

that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD

that smiteth.”  The verses repeat, like the burden of a lyric ode, but end

more emphatically, ye shall know that I am Jehovah that smiteth.

 

10 “Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the

rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.”  It is come. Read, as before,

it cometh; and for morning, doom (see note on v. 7). The rod hath blossomed, etc.

The three verbs imply a climax. The “doom” springs out of the earth; the rod

of vengeance blossoms (the word is the same as that which describes the blooming

of Aaron’s rod (Numbers 17:8), and the phrase was probably suggested

by the history); pride (either that of the Chaldean ministers of vengeance,

or of Israel as working out its own punishment; I incline to the latter) buds

and bears fruit. In Isaiah 27:6 the word follows on “blossom,” and

therefore seems applicable to the formation of the fruit rather than the

flower. (For the image of the rod, compare Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 10:26;

Micah 6:9.)

 

 

The Day is Come (v. 10)

 

This chapter opened with a prophecy of “an end.” It now proceeds to the

annunciation of a new beginning. No end is absolutely final. In the night

which sees the death of one day a new day is born.

 

  • THE FUTURE BECOMES PRESENT. The much anticipated day at

length arrives. We are thus forever overtaking the future. However far the

future event may be, it will surely be reached, if time is the only

impediment to be got over. The day of death may be far ahead, but most

assuredly it will come. The dreaded day will come only too swiftly. The

hoped for day will also dawn, though we become weary in waiting for it.

God’s great day of doom will arrive, though the sinner mock at its tarrying.

Christ’s glorious day of triumph will also appear, though the Church grow

faint and wonders at its slow approach.

 

  • THE NEW DAY WILL BE REVEALED BY ITS OWN ADVENT.

No prediction can exactly describe the coming day, for no words can paint

the thing that has not been. We vainly try to anticipate the future, and we

blunder into the greatest mistakes. We cannot know what sorrow is till the

day of sorrow breaks, nor can we understand the joy of the Lord till a glad

day of heavenly love smiles upon us. We shall not know death till we are in

the day of death. When the new day of the life beyond dawns we shall

know its meaning as we can never guess now.

 

  • THE COMING DAY WILL HAVE A NEW CHARACTER. No two

days are exactly alike. Ezekiel was announcing a day of doom. The awful

thunders of that day are to roll over the heads of guilty and impenitent men

with a surprise and a horror NEVER ANTICIPATED IN EASIER TIMES!

Thus it was in the doom of Israel under the Babylonian invasion. But there

are brighter days to anticipate. There is the day of light after the night of doubt;

the day of joy’s sunshine succeeding the night of sorrow’s weeping; the day of

penitent new beginnings after the night of sin; the day of busy service after

the night of rest and waiting. Carlyle writes:

 

“Lo! here hath been dawning

Another blue day:

Think, wilt thou let it

Slip useless away?

“Out of eternity

This new day is born;

Into eternity

At night will return.

“Behold it aforetime

No eye ever did;

So soon it forever

From all eyes is hid.”

 

  • THE CHARACTER OF THE NEW DAY IS DETERMINED BY

OUR CONDUCT IN THE OLD DAYS. The day of doom is not the day

of fate. It is a day of judgment, i.e. of examination, discrimination, and

consequent decision. Therefore it is determined by the character of the old

days it judges. The new day may come to us as a surprise, but it will not

fall out by chance as one of storm or one of sunshine. When it arrives we

shall see that, in its deepest character, it bears the record of our

OWN PAST!

 

11 “Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall

remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of their’s: neither shall

there be wailing for them.”  Violence is risen up, etc. The “violence”

admits of the same twofold interpretation as the “pride” of v. 10.

None of them shall remain. The interpolated verb, though grammatically

necessary, weakens the force of the Hebrew. “None of them; none of their

multitude; none of their wealth.” Neither shall there be wailing for them.

The noun is not found elsewhere. Taken, as the Authorized Version takes it,

the thought, like that of ch. 24:16 and Jeremiah 16:4, is that the usual rites

of burial would be neglected, and that there would be “no widows to make

lamentation (Psalm 78:64). The Revised Version “eminency” implies

the loss of all that constituted greatness. Cornill and the Septuagint (“beauty” or

gaiety”) practically agree with this. The Vulgate gives requies, and Furst

a gathering, or tumult of the people.” Probably the text is corrupt.

 

12 “The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice,

nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.”

Let not the buyer rejoice, etc. We have to read, between the

lines, the story of Ezekiel’s companions in exile. They belonged, it will be

remembered, to the nobler and wealthier class (II Kings 25:19). They, it

would seem, had been compelled to sell their estates at a price which made

the “buyer rejoice and the seller mourn.” In each case the joy and the

sorrow would be but transient. Wrath had gone out against the whole

multitude. In Micah 2:2 and Isaiah 5:8 we have parallel instances of

the advantage taken by the rich of the distress of the old free holders. In

the story of Jeremiah 32:6-16 we have, though from a very different

point of view, the history of a like purchase, while the city was actually

surrounded by the Chaldeans. The neglect of the sabbatic year

(Jeremiah 34:8-17) makes it probable that the jubilee year also (if,

indeed, it had ever been more than an ideal) had fallen into desuetude, and

that the buyers comforted themselves with the thought that the land they

had got, on cheap terms, would belong to them and their children forever.

 

 

 

Buyer and Seller (v. 12)

 

  • RELIGION HAS A RIGHT TO BE CONCERNED WITH

COMMERCE. Religion is spiritual, but it aims at filling the secular sphere,

as the soul fills the body. The Church may be its center, as the brain is the

center of the soul’s consciousness; but every region of life is a scene for its

operation, as every limb of the body is for the action of the soul. Religion

claims a place in the shop, in the factory, in the mine, on the highway of the

sea, in the noisy streets and markets of the city. She does not claim this

place as a mere spectator or guest, to be respected in name, but not

followed with obedience, like the statue of a deceased citizen set up in a

public place to honor his memory, although his principles are derided and

travestied by the throng of present day men who crowd about it. Religion

claims to be a living presence, guiding and controlling commerce. The

relations of buyer and seller are too often treated on the ground of pure

self-interest — self-interest of the lowest kind, mere money profit.

Religion should inspire higher motives.

 

Ø      A respect for truth and justice. A Christian merchant’s word should be

as good as his bond in his counting house as well as in his home. It is

scandalous that “trust” can only go with “security.” Christian honor

should pay the debt that cannot be exacted by law. The bankrupt who

listens to the teachings of Christ will not be content to scrape through

the courts by the aid of technicalities which only enable him to cheat

his creditors. The Christian seller will not deceive the buyer, nor the

Christian buyer take advantage of the difficulties of the seller to drive

an unfair bargain. Justice means more than keeping the law — it means

fair dealing and equal treatment.

 

Ø      A recognition of human brotherhood. If I recognize my neighbor as a

brother when at church, can I pounce upon him as my prey in the

world? The “golden rule” belongs to commerce as much as to any

other part of life. But it will not be effective till a spirit of

cooperation takes the place of one of cruel, hard, selfish competition.

 

Ø      A reverence for the rights of God in the fruits of commerce. Over the

Royal Exchange, in London, there runs, in great and bold letters, the

legend, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” (Something

that the New York Stock Exchange could notice! – CY – 2014).  How

far is that the text of the words and deeds of the men who throng the

streets round this public building? If all in the earth belongs to God,

we shall have to give Him an account of our trade transactions.

 

  • COMMERCE WITHOUT RELIGION WILL NOT SECURE THE

WELFARE OF A PEOPLE. People who prefer Mammon to God will

find they have chosen a hard master.

 

Ø      When commerce is prosperous, it will not satisfy the greatest needs of

men. Man does not live by bread alone, and certainly he cannot subsist

on bankers’ accounts. In Jerusalem the buyer and seller would cease to

rejoice over their bargains, would even not care for loss or gain, glad

if only they escaped with their lives. The best things cannot be bought

with money; but, happily, they can be had “without money and without

price.”  (Isaiah 55:1)

 

Ø      When national calamity comes, commerce fails. The commercial

barometer is a most sensitive test of approaching political storms.

Wickedness in business is deservedly punished in the general

calamity of a nation by the collapse of trade that is certain to be

one of the first results of the adversity.

 

Ø      COMMERCIAL SIN will be justly punished with COMMERCIAL

RUIN!   This does not necessarily happen to the individual trader

who may die rich with ill-gotten gains; but history proves it to be

true in the long run with nations.

 

13 “For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they

were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude

thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself

in the iniquity of his life.”  For the seller shall not return, etc. At first the thought

seems only to add to the sorrow of the seller. He is told that he, at least, shall not

return to his old estate. Even though they should be alive at the year of

jubilee, their exile had to last its appointed time, Ezekiel’s forty

(ch.4:6) and Jeremiah’s seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11). This,

however, did not exclude the return of their children (Jeremiah 32:44),

and in the mean time all private sorrow would fall into the background as

compared with the great public woe of the destruction of the holy city. The

vision is touching, etc. The noun is used as a synonym for prophecy, as

elsewhere (Isaiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 2:1). It may be

noted that it is specially characteristic of Ezekiel (seven times) and Daniel

(eleven times). For the Authorized Version read with the Revised Version,

none shall return, or better (with the Vulgate and Keil), the vision

touching the whole multitude shall not return, i.e. shall go straight onward

to do its work (compare Isaiah 55:11). So taken, there is a kind of play

upon the iterated word: “The seller shall not turn his footsteps back,

neither shall the prophecy.” Vestigia nulla retrorsum shall be true of both.

I take the other words, with the Revised Version, no man in the iniquity of

his life shall strengthen himself, noting the fact that the word for

strengthen is that which enters into Ezekiel’s name. It is as though he

said, “God is the only true source of strength to thee, as thy very name

bears witness.”

 

 

   The Impossibility of Becoming Truly Strong in a Life of Sin (v. 13)

 

“Neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.” This clause

has been variously rendered and interpreted. The meaning seems to be — Let no

one think that in these impending judgments he can invigorate himself in “his iniquity;

from such a source no such strengthening or invigoration of life can be derived; on

the contrary, it is this very iniquity which is bringing all to desolation and ruin.”

Two observations are authorized by the text.

 

  • THAT WICKED MEN SOMETIMES ENDEAVOUR TO

STRENGTHEN THEMSELVES IN THEIR INIQUITY. This is

frequently and variously done. Take a few common examples of it. The

dishonest bank manager or bookkeeper attempts to hide his defalcations by

manipulating the accounts, making false entries in them, etc. Many try to

conceal vice or crime by falsehood, as did Gehazi the servant of Elisha

(II Kings 5:20-27). A man who has got into monetary difficulties

through betting or gambling seeks to escape from them by theft or forgery.

Or a man has been in a position of privilege or power, and by reason of his

own misdoing he is losing that position, but he seeks to retain it by further

wrong doing. When Saul, the King of Israel, realized that the kingdom

would not descend to his heirs, and saw his own popularity waning and

David’s growing, he endeavored to secure the kingdom to his family by

repeated attempts to kill David. Or when a person has obtained riches or

power by fraud, oppression, or cruelty, and finding that possession failing

him, he seeks to retain it firmly by perpetrating other crimes. The Macbeth

of Shakespeare is a striking illustration of this. When he feels himself

insecure on the throne which he had committed murder to obtain, he says

to Lady Macbeth, the daring partner of his dread guilt —

 

“Things bad begun, make strong themselves by ill.”

 

And later, when he had incurred the guilt of another murder, and was

tormented by terrible fears, he says to her —

 

“For mine own good.

All causes shall give way; I am in blood

Stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more,

Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”

 

And thus he endeavoured to strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.

 

  • THESE EFFORTS TO STRENGTHEN THEMSELVES IN THEIR

INIQUITY MUST INEVITABLY END IN FAILURE. Let us try to show

this. We have seen that men try to strengthen themselves in iniquity by

means of falsehood. But falsehood is opposed to the reality of things, and

by its very nature cannot give lasting strength or security to any one.

Carlyle says forcibly, “No lie you can speak or act, but it will come, after

longer or shorter circulation, like a bill drawn on nature’s reality, and be

presented then for payment, with the answer — No effects.” Again, “For if

there be a Faith from of old, it is this, as we often repeat, that no Lie can

live forever .... All Lies have sentence of death written down against them

in Heaven’s chancery itself; and, slowly or fast, advance incessantly

towards their hour.” “The lip of truth shall be established forever; but a

lying tongue is but for a moment”  (Proverbs 12:19).  “He that speaketh

 lies shall perish”  (Ibid. ch. 19:9).  And turning from falsehood in particular

to sin in general, iniquity, so far from invigorating man, by its essential nature

strips him of strength and courage. Thus the guilty and aforetime brave

Macbeth cries —

 

“How is’t with me when every noise appals me?”

 

And elsewhere, Shakespeare says truly —

 

“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind;

The thief doth fear each bush an officer.”

 

To the same effect writes Wordsworth

 

“From the body of one guilty deed

A thousand ghostly fears and haunting thoughts proceed?

 

And our prophet, “How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing

thou doest all these things!” (ch. 16:30). “The wicked flee when no

man pursueth; but the righteous are bold as a lion”  (Proverbs 28:1).

The consciousness of truth and uprightness inspires the heart with

courage and nerves the arm with power.

 

“What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted?

Thrice is he arm’d that hath his quarrel just;

And he but naked, though locked up in steel,

Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

(Shakespeare.)

 

And the throne which is based on injustice, cruelty, or blood, and

maintained by oppression and tyranny, is founded upon sand and

supported by feebleness. Wickedness is weakness. it is an

abomination for kings to commit wickedness; for the throne is

established by righteousness” (Proverbs 16:12).  “The king that

faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established

forever   (Ibid. ch. 29:14).  No man can ever truly strengthen himself

in iniquity; neither can any number of men do so. The only way by which

the wicked may become truly strong is by resolutely turning from sin and

trusting in the Saviour.  “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the

unrighteous man his thoughts:  and let him return unto the Lord,

and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will

abundantly pardon!” (Isaiah 55:7)

 

14 “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none

goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.”

They have blown the trumpet. The word for “trumpet” is

not found elsewhere, but the corresponding verb is used continually in

connection with the trumpet of war, and Ezekiel seems to have coined the

corresponding substantive, not, perhaps, without a reminiscence of

Jeremiah 6:1. There may possibly be an allusion to the trumpet blowing

with which the jubilee year (see v. 13) was ushered in. The trumpet

should sound, not for each man’s return to his own estate, but for the

alarm of war and even then the consciousness of guilt will hinder men

from arming themselves for battle (compare Leviticus 26:36;

Deuteronomy 28:25; 32:30).

 

15 “The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he

that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the

city, famine and pestilence shall devour him.”  The sword is without (see ch.5:12;

6:12). Here there seems a more traceable fitness in assigning the pestilence as well

as the famine to those who are shut up in the besieged city.

 

 

The Hand of the Clock on the Hour of Doom (vs. 1-15)

 

The bulk of men persist in thinking of God as if He were such a One as

themselves (Psalm 50:21).  Rejecting the revelation of God’s nature contained in

Scripture, they conceive of Him as a man greatly magnified  - the infirmities

of man magnified, as well as his virtues. They know the proneness of man

to threaten and not to perform; hence they conclude that the judgments of

God, because delayed, will evaporate in empty words. God will not be

hastened. Proportionate to His immeasurable power is His immeasurable

patience. Nevertheless, EQUITABLE JUSTICE WILL BE METED OUT!

The wrath accumulates as in a thundercloud, until it is overburdened, and the

storm all the more violently breaks forth. Never yet in the history of men

HAS GOD FAILED TO VINDICATE HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS! 

Never yet has the transgressor escaped, AND NEVER WILL HE!

As surely as the sun shines, vengeance will come.

 

  • RETRIBUTION, THOUGH APPARENTLY TARDY, HAS ITS OWN

SET TIME. For the most part it is not according to human expectation.

“God seeth not as man seeth  (I Samuel 16:7).  A thousand things enter

into God’s calculation which do not enter into man’s reckoning. The clock

of heaven does not measure days and years; it measures events and necessities.

The well being of other races has to be pondered beside the race of men. Very

often the doom of the ungodly is a fixed and irreversible fact long before

that doom is felt and endured  (Genesis 15:13-16).  From that moment

gracious help is withdrawn, and the doomed man becomes the victim of

his folly. To God’s eye, the end is seen long before it is seen by man.

While he is yet promising himself much delight, lo! by an invisible

thread the sword is suspended over his head.

 

  • RETRIBUTION IS NOT A HAPHAZARD ACCIDENT. It is the

outcome of infallible wisdom and righteous deliberation. The Supreme

Ruler of heaven says, “I send.” As nothing is too great for His management,

so nothing is too minute to engage His notice. He who nourishes myriads of

myriads of blades of grass, and clothes the hills with majestic forests,

counts every hair of our heads (Luke 12:7).  Too often men are so stunned

with the blow of retribution that they count themselves only the victims of

a great catastrophe, and look on every side for sympathy. But when

conscience awakes, and connects the calamity with previous sin, then at

lengthtoo late to avert the crushing evil — they confess that it is “the

Lord that smiteth (v. 9).  “God is not mocked.” The seed we sow today

will bear its proper fruit tomorrow.  (Galatians 6:7)

 

  • RETRIBUTION FROM GOD IS MOST EQUITABLE. There are no

scales so delicately true as those in the hands of God. The judgment is

precisely” according to thy ways.” It is exact “recompense for all thine

abominations.” Often men are so blinded by the deceitfulness of sin that

they do not perceive this. But when the transient pleasure of sin has

ceased, men awake to the fact that the retribution is well deserved. This

will be the keenest sting of the suffering — that it is a just desert. If men

could only persuade themselves that they were unjustly treated, it would be

an alleviation of the woe — it would be a sweet consolation in their misery.

But such alleviation is denied them. Their own consciences will confirm the

sentence, an  out of the dark abyss the cry will rise, “Just and true are thy

ways, thou King of saints.”  (Revelation 15:3)

 

  • RETRIBUTION, IS CLEARLY FORESEEN BY THE

RIGHTEOUS. The unbeliever has no eye with which to see the kingdom

of God. The organ of vision he has first blinded, then destroyed.

 

“If I willfully keep my conscience in darkness and continue

             in errors which I might easily know to be such by a little

            thought and searching of God’s Word, then my conscience

            conscience can offer me no excuse for I am guilty of

            blindfolding the guide which I have chosen and then

            knowing him to be blindfolded, I am guilty of the folly

            of letting him lead me into rebellion against God.

 

So, too, he is blind to the significance of passing events. He does not perceive

The moral aspect of things — does not see that God’s hand is behind the

Smoke and din of war. But the man of God has learnt to see God in everything.

In all the sunshine of life he sees God, whose presence gives a brighter luster

to all earthly joy. And in all the adversities of life he learns to see the rod

and the hand that wields it. Standing by the side of God, and in full

sympathy with Him, Ezekiel saw clearly every minute detail of the

retribution that was preparing, and, until the latest moment, implored them

to escape. But he foresaw also that they would delude themselves to the

very last — would buoy themselves with false hopes.

 

  • RETRIBUTION, WHEN IT COMES, IS MOST COMPLETE. On

every side there is bitter disappointment. The earthly props on which men

were wont to rely, fail them. All the bonds of society relax and dissolve. To

resist invasion the summoning trumpet is blown; but, alas! none respond.

ANARCHY IS EVERYWHERE!   The day itself becomes night, and every

fount of joy is poisoned. Amid previous corrections and afflictions there

were many forms of gracious compensation — silver linings on the black

cloud. But NO RELIEF COMES NOW!   There is defeat and disaster on

every side. Weeping endures through a long night, without any prospect of

joy in the morning.  It is darkness without a beam of light, despair without

a vestige of hope.  Not even shall there be the sweet relief of tears; for the

hearts of men have been rendered insensible by the cursed power of sin.

They are at length “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19) — incapable of

repentance. “Neither shall there be any wailing for them  (v. 11) –

it is abasement the most profound. The first has become the last.

 

  • THIS RETRIBUTION IS THE NATURAL FRUITAGE OF SIN.

Our wise and gracious God has constructed His universe on this principle,

that every form of rebellion shall bear in itself the seed of penalty. The

pivot on which everything turns is RIGHTEOUSNESS!   There is no

occasion for God to issue any code of penalties commensurate with acts

of transgression. Sin and punishment are one and the selfsame thing.

Retribution is simply full-grown sin. It is often sweet in the bud, but the

ripened fruit is bitterness absolute. As gunpowder is, in its nature,

explosive, so that it is madness to set a light to it and expect it not to

explode; so sin is, in its very nature, destructive, and can lead to nothing

else than DESTRUCTION!   Love cements and unites; transgression

dissolves and separates. And SEPARATION FROM GOD IS RUIN!

Where God is, THERE IS LIFE; where God is not, THERE IS DEATH!

Where God is, THERE IS HEAVEN!   Where God is not, THERE

IS BLACKEST HELL!

 

16 “But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the

mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every

one for his iniquity.”  They that escape, etc. The sentence is virtually conditional.

They that escape shall, it is true, in one sense, escape the immediate doom;

but if so, it shall only be to the mountains. These were, in all times

(Genesis 19:17; Judges 6:2; I Samuel 13:6; Psalm 11:1; I Maccabees  2:28;

Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14), the natural refuge for those who fled from danger,

but even this should fail those of whom the prophet speaks. They should be like

the doves of the mountain gorges, that are fluttered at the appearance of the eagle

or the fowler, and seem by note (Isaiah 38:14; 59:11) and gesture (Nahum 2:7),

to be mourning forevermore. There also they shall lie, every man in his iniquity, and

wailing for its punishment. We are reminded of Dante’s similitudes in ‘Inferno,’

5:40, 46, 82.

 

 

Mourning (v. 16)

 

This chapter has justly been termed rather a dirge than a prophecy. Whilst

its language is in some respects special to the experience of the children of

Israel, such representations as this may well be applied to all those who

have forsaken God, and have turned every man to his own way.

 

  • THERE IS ABUNDANT OCCASION FOR MOURNING ON THE

PART OF THOSE WHO HAVE SINNED AND WHO ENDURE THE

CONSEQUENCES OF SIN.

 

  • IT IS ONLY A NATURE IN SOME MEASURE SENSITIVE AND

SUSCEPTIBLE OF BETTER FEELING WHICH IS CAPABLE OF

MOURNING. How truly has it been said that “the worst of feeling is to

feel all feeling die”! “They that lack time to mourn lack time to mend.”

 

  • MOURNING FOR SIN IS MINGLED WITH SELF-REPROACH

AND HORROR. They who mourn because they have lost what was

precious to them, especially because they have been bereaved of such as

they held dear, may mourn tranquilly and holily, and with a patient

submission to the will of God. but they who “mourn, every one for his

iniquity,” cannot but feel conscience stricken because of their personal

participation in sin, and their personal guilt for sin; they cannot but accuse

themselves, and pass judgment, as it were, upon their own wrong doing

and folly.

 

  • SUCH MOURNING IS AGGRAVATED BY THE NUMBER OF

THOSE PARTICIPATING IN IT. The prophet compares the conscience

stricken remnant, distressed and weeping because of their own and their

nation’s iniquities, to a flight of doves uttering their doleful lamentations. It

is no exceptional, singular case; multitudes are involved in the common

fate, the common trouble. The feeling is heightened by sympathy. When all

heads are bowed in confession, when the utterance of contrition rises from

many afflicted hearts, when a contagion of sorrow and distress passes

through a vast congregation of humble and penitent worshippers, each is

the better able to realize his own and the common distress, and to

unburden the over-laden heart.

 

  • SINCERE MOURNING MAY LEAD TO TRUE REPENTANCE,

AND MAY ISSUE IN NEWNESS OF LIFE. There is a “godly sorrow

which worketh repentance” (II Corinthians 7:10) — a sorrow which is

not only or chiefly because of the painful results of sin, but because of the

very evil itself which is in sin, and because it is an offence against a

forbearing and gracious God. Where such sorrow is, there can be no

despair. The rainbow of hope spans the cloud, dark and heavy though

it be.

 

 

Mourning as Doves (v. 16)

 

The fugitives from Jerusalem flee to the mountains and hide themselves

there, like the doves in the valleys below, whose melancholy notes seem to

be a suitable echo to their own sad feelings.

 

  • NATURE INTERPRETS MAN TO HIMSELF. There is an

interpretation of nature by man; there is also an interpretation of man by

nature. The glad sights and sounds of spring are commentaries on the fresh

joyousness of youth. We should not know the hope and beauty of life so

well if May never came. So, also, storm, night, winter, desert, mountain,

and raging torrent open the heart of man’s grief and despair, and reveal its

desolation. The key to human passion is there. Wordsworth, the prophet of

nature, who saw deepest into her secret, discerned among the woods and

hills “the still, sad music of humanity.”

 

  • SORROW IS RELIEVED BY CONGENIAL SCENES OF NATURE.

The mourning exiles will note the melancholy tones of the doves of the

valley. To the happy these sounds come as a touching variation from the

generally pleasing aspect of nature; but to the sorrowful fugitives among

the mountains they express the sympathy of nature. It is well to cultivate

this sympathy, which is not all imaginative; “for there is a spirit in the

woods.” and hills and valleys are filled with a Divine presence.

 

  • IN THE SECLUSION OF NATURE THE DEEPER FEELINGS OF

THE SOUL FIND VENT. While among the mountains the exiles utter

their lamentations. In the city, scenes of warfare, bloodshed, fury, and

terror absorb all attention. These are the immediate and the coarser

experiences in a season of great calamity. (Within the last month there

have been numerous shooting to disturb our fair city!  – CY – 2014)

For the time they destroy the power of reflection. But in solitude and

silence men have leisure to think.  Then the sadness of the soul wakes

up, and takes the place of the agitation and distress of external

circumstances.

 

  • THE SORROW OF MAN IS DEEPER THAN THE

MELANCHOLY OF NATURE, While the doves coo in plaintive notes

that suggest to the hearer a feeling of grief, though they are not really

mourning, the exiles from Jerusalem respond to the natural notes of the

doves with utterances of true sorrow. Man is greater than nature. He has

self-consciousness and conscience. He knows his trouble and he knows his

sin. He pays the penalty of his higher endowments in the greater depth of

his fall and shame and sorrow. The whole range of nature’s experiences is

slight by the side of the lofty aspirations and profound griefs of man. Going

from the one to the other is like leaving the soft, undulating landscape of

England for the cliffs and chasms and dark valleys and the awful mountain

peaks of Switzerland. The chief difference is moral. Man alone has

conscience; he only can mourn for sin. This grief for sin — and not merely

grief on account of its penalties — is one of the deepest experiences of the

human heart. It puts leagues of space between the men who mourn like

doves, and the innocent, simple birds whose notes suggest a grief they can

never feel. But in this deeper grief is man’s hope. Mourning for sin is a part

of repentance, and it points to the day of better things, when God has

forgiven His guilty children, and when the mourning doves will be

forgotten, and the singing of the lark at heaven’s gate will be the key to a

new experience of heavenly gladness.

 

17 “All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water.”

All knees shall be weak as water; literally, shall flow with

water. So the Vulgate. The Septuagint is yet stronger, shall be defiled, etc. The

words may point to the cold sweat of terror which paralyzes men’s power

to act. The phrase is peculiar to Ezekiel, and meets us again in ch. 21:7.

The thought finds a parallel in Isaiah 13:7; Jeremiah 6:24.

 

18 “They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall

cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon

all their heads.”  They shall also gird, etc. The words become more general,

and include those who should remain in the city as well as the fugitives.

For both there should be the inward feelings of horror and shame, and their

outward symbols of sackcloth (Genesis 37:34; II Samuel 3:31-32;

II Kings 6:30; Isaiah 15:3; Jeremiah 4:8, et al.) and baldness

(Isaiah 3:24; 15:2; 22:12; Amos 8:10).

 

19 “They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be

removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver

them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy

their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the

stumblingblock of their iniquity.”  They shall cast their silver, etc. The words

remind us of Isaiah 2:20 and 30:22, with the difference that here it is the silver and

gold as such, and not the idols made of them, that are to be flung away.

They had made the actual metal their idol, and their confidence in it should

be powerless to deliver them (Zephaniah 1:18). Their gold shall be

removed; better, with the Revised Version, as an unclean thing. The word

implies the kind of impurity of ch.18:6; 22:10; 36:17; Isaiah 30:22.

Instead of gloating, as they had done, over their money, men should

shrink from it, as though its very touch brought pollution. The Vulgate

gives in sterquilinium, “to the dunghill.They shall not satisfy their

souls. In the horrors of the siege, with everything at famine prices (II

Kings 6:25), and little or nothing to be had for them, their money would

not stop the cravings of hunger. It is characteristic that he applies to riches

as such the very same epithet, stumbling block of their iniquity, as he

had applied before (ch. 3:20) to actual idolatry (compare Colossians 3:5).

 

In a famine at first the rich man may buy dear food which the poor man can not

afford to get; but when all the food is exhausted, he cannot feed on his gold

and silver. In times of great sorrow the value of gold and silver falls almost to nil.

It will not supply the vacant place of the dead, nor will it heal the smart of

unkindness or ingratitude.  He is poor indeed whose wealth consists in nothing

better than gold and silver. The worship of Mammon is a miserable idolatry,

certain to be most fatal to the most devoted worshipper — and, alas! how many

such our money loving age produces! What Wordsworth wrote of the plutocracy

of his day is little less true now.

 

“The wealthiest man among us is the best:

No grandeur now in nature or in book

Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense,

This is idolatry: and these we adore:

Plain living and high thinking are no more:

The homely beauty of the good old cause

Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,

And pure religion breathing household laws.”

 

There are circumstances which lead to the abandonment of gold and silver.

 “All that a man hath will he give for his life.” (Job 2:4)  The drowning

man will drop his money bags rather than be dragged down to death with

them. Yet there are men who behave as slaves to their money, consenting

to a slow death of exhaustion from devotion to business rather than

preserve health and life at the cost of pecuniary loss.

 

Extravagant people “cast their silver in the streets.” Money spent

in sin is worse than lost; it is invested in funds from which the dividends

will be PAIN and DEATH!

 

20 “As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they

made the images of their abominations and of their detestable

things therein: therefore have I set it far from them.”

As for the beauty of his ornament. The latter word is

commonly used of the necklaces, armlets, etc., of women (Exodus

33:4-6; Isaiah 49:18; Jeremiah 2:32; 4:30). So again in ch. 16:7, 11; 23:40.

The singular is used of the people collectively, or of each

man individually, like German man or French on. He set it in majesty;

better, he — or to give the sense they turned it to pride. Wealth and art

had ministered, as in Isaiah 2:16, first to mere pride and pomp; then they made out

of their ornaments the idols which they worshipped, and which were now,

the same emphatic word being repeated, as a pollution to them.

 

21 “And I will give it into the hands of the strangers for a prey, and to

the wicked of the earth for a spoil; and they shall pollute it.”

 I will give it. The “it” refers to the silver and gold, the “beauty

of the ornaments” thus desecrated in their use. The strangers, i.e. the

Chaldean invaders, should in their turn pollute (better, with the Revised

Version, profane it) by making it their prey. For them the idols which

Israel had worshipped would be simply as booty to be plundered.

 

22 “My face will I turn also from them, and they shall pollute my secret

place: for the robbers shall enter into it, and defile it.”

My secret place. The work of the spoiler would not stop at

the idols of silver and gold. Jehovah would surrender His own “secret

place (secret treasure in margin of Revised Version), that over which He

had watched, sc. the sanctuary of His temple, to the hands of the spoiler. In

Psalm 83:4 the same adjective is used of persons, the “hidden” or

protected ones of God. In the name of Baal-zephon, “Lord of the secret

place,” we have possibly a kindred thought. In Psalm 17:14 we have

hid treasure.”

 

 

The Averted Face (v. 22)

 

In the figurative but natural and expressive language of the Hebrews, the

shining of God’s countenance means His good pleasure and good will

towards those whom He favors, and the hiding or averting of His

countenance means His displeasure. Prayer often shaped itself into the

familiar expression, The Lord cause His face to shine upon us;” and the

displeasure of Heaven was deprecated in such terms as these: “Turn not

thy face from thy servants.” The child distinguishes at once between the

smile and the frown of the parent; the courtier is at no loss to discriminate

between the welcome and favor and the displeasure apparent upon the

monarch’s face. To the mind at all sensitive to the moral beauty and glory

of God, no sentence can be so dreadful as that uttered in the simple but

terrible language of the text, “My face will I turn also from them.”

 

  • IN THE SHINING OF GOD’S COUNTENANCE IS LIFE AND JOY.

“In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures

for evermore.”  (Psalm 16:11)  When the sun arises in his strength, and

floods the hills and the valleys, the rivers and the forests, the cornfields

and the meadows, with his glorious rays, nature returns the smiles, glows

in the sunbeams, rejoices in the warmth and the illumination. Where the

sun shines brightly, there the colors are radiant, the odor delicious, there

the music of the grove is sweet and the harvest of the plain is golden,

there life is luxuriant and gladness breaks forth into laughter and song.

And in the moral, the spiritual realm, it is the sunlight of God’s

countenance, the manifestation of God’s favor, which calls forth

and sustains all spiritual life, health, peace, and joy. “In thy favor is

life.”  (Psalm 30:5)

 

  • MAN’S UNBELIEF AND SIN OCCASION THE HIDING AND

WITHDRAWING OF GOD’S COUNTENANCE. The change is not in

Him; it is in us. When the sun is not seen in the sky, it is not because he no

longer shines, but because clouds, mists, or smoke, ascending from the

earth, come between the orb of day and the globe which he illumines. So if

God turns His face from an individual, a city, a people, it is because their

sins have risen up as a dense, foul fog, intervening between them and a

holy, righteous God. “Your iniquities have separated between you and

your God” (Isaiah 59:2).  So it was with those against whom the Prophet

Ezekiel was called upon to testify. So it is with multitudes whom the

ministers of Christ are required to address in language of tender sympathy,

yet of expostulation and reproach.

 

  • THE AVERSION OF GOD’S COUNTENANCE IS THE WORST

OF ALL CALAMITIES. It is not to be wondered at that men with their

composite nature, absorbed as they are in things which affect the body and

the earthly life, should think chiefly of the sufferings and privations in

which the moral laws of the universe INVOLVE THEM!   And these

sufferings and privations are realities which no thoughtful man can fail

to perceive and to estimate with something like correctness. Yet he

who is enlightened and in any measure spiritually sensitive cannot fail to

see that it is the regard of God Himself which is of chief import. It is

better to enjoy the Divine loving kindness (“which is better than life”

- Psalm 63:3), even in poverty, privation, spoliation, and

weakness, than to possess luxury, honor, and the delights of sense,

and to know that God’s countenance is turned away, is hidden.

 

  • A MERCIFUL GOD WILL TURN AGAIN HIS FACE AND

CAUSE IT TO SHINE UPON PENITENT AND BELIEVING

SUPPLIANTS. It is sin which conceals the Divine countenance; it is

repentance which seeks the shining anew of that countenance; and

salvation consists in the response of God to the prayer of man. Yet the

turning of His face towards us is the work of His own mercy, the

revelation of His own nature — COMPASSIONATE, GRACIOUS

AND FORGIVING!

 

23 “Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is

full of violence.”  Make a chain; better, the chain. The word is not found

elsewhere, but a kindred form is thus translated in I Kings 6:21.

Looking to the force of the verbs from which it is formed, its special

meaning is that of a coupling chain, such as would be used in the case of

captives marched off to their place of exile (Nahum 3:10). All previous

sufferings were to culminate in this. The φυρμόν phurmon - of the Septuagint

and the fac conclusionem of the Vulgate show that the word perplexed them.

Full of bloody crimes. The only passage in the Authorized Version of the Old

Testament in which the English noun occurs. Literally, judgments of blood.

The words may be equivalent either:

 

·         to “blood guiltiness” (compare the “judgment” in Jeremiah 51:9), or

 

·         to judgment perverted into judicial murder. The latter finds support in

ch. 9:9. In either case it is noticeable that Ezekiel points not only to

idolatry, but to violence and wrong, as the sins that had cried for

punishment (compare Jeremiah 22:17 as a contemporary witness).

 

24 “Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall

possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to

cease; and their holy places shall be defiled.”  The worst of the heathen;

literally, evil ones of the nations — with the superlative implied rather than

expressed. For the thought, compare Deuteronomy 28:50; Lamentations 5:11-13;

Jeremiah 6:23. The Chaldeans were probably most prominent in the prophet’s

thoughts, but ch. 35:5 and Psalm 137:7 suggest that there was a side

glance at the Edomites. The pomp of the strong, etc. Another echo of

Leviticus 26:31). The “pomp” is that of Judah trusting in her

strength. The “holy places” find their chief representative in the temple,

but, as the word is used also of a non-Jehovistic worship (ch.28:18; Amos 7:9),

may include whatever the people looked on as sanctuaries — the “high places”

and the like. The Vulgate gives possidebuut sanctuaria; the Revised Version

margin, they that sanctify them; but the Authorized Version is probably right

in both cases. Luther renders ihre kirchen, which reminds us of Acts 19:37.

 

I will bring the worst of the heathen upon them.” The objects of their

worship had reputed attributes of lust, cruelty, oppression, violence; these

attributes shall appear in the worshippers. It is a law of nature, as well as a

law of Scripture, that “they who make them are like unto them; so is every

one that bows down to them” (Psalm 115:8).  As the stream cannot rise

above its fount, so man cannot rise above the object of his adoration.

Worshippers of idols rapidly deteriorate in CHARACTER and in MORAL

QUALITY! If God is driven out of the heart, demons will speedily come in.

(See Matthew 12:43-45).  “Nature abhors a vacuum.” 

 

 25 “Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be

none.”  They shall seek peace, etc. The noun is probably to be taken

in its wider sense as including safety and prosperity, but may also include

specific overtures for peace made to the Chaldean generals.

 

 

Peace Sought in Vain (v. 25)

 

No feature of distress and horror is omitted in this prophetic description of

the effects of God’s displeasure manifested towards the Jewish people. The

burden of predicting such judgments must have been too heavy to bear:

what can be said of the state of those upon whom the judgments came?

They might well ask, “Who can abide the day of His coming?” (Malachi

3:2)  What more appalling than the account given in these few words of the

state of the people in the time of their disasters: “They shall seek peace,

and there shall be none”?

 

  • THE GREAT BLESSING OF PEACE. This may be misunderstood.

Warfare with ignorance, error, and iniquity, is characteristic of the

condition of the good man here upon earth. Our Lord Jesus saw this, and

declared, “I am not come to send peace, but a sword”  (Matthew 10:34).

The presence of evil requires that the attitude of the righteous should be one

of antagonism. But this is for a season and for a purpose. A state of

controversy and hostility is not a state in itself perfectly desirable and good.

Peace of conscience, peace with God, peace with Christian brethren, as far

as possible peace with all men, — these are blessings devoutly to be desired

and sought.

 

  • THE INCOMPATIBILITY OF SIN WITH PEACE. If peace results

from the harmony of the several parts of a man’s nature among themselves,

and from harmony between man as a moral being and his God, it is not to

be expected that, when the passions are arrayed against the reason, interest

against conscience, the subject against the rightful and Divine Ruler, there

can be peace. It is mercifully ordered that peace should flee when iniquity

prevails. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”  (Isaiah 57:21)

 

  • THE PUNISHMENT APPROPRIATE TO SIN OFTEN LEADS TO

A DESIRE FOR THE BLESSINGS OF PEACE. Men seek peace, and

there is none. Thus they are led to reflect upon the unreasonableness of

their expectation that the moral laws of the universe should be changed for

their pleasure. Tossed to and fro upon the stormy waters, they long for the

haven of repose.

 

  • PEACE IS ONLY TO BE OBTAINED UPON GOD’S OWN

TERMS OF COMPLETE SURRENDER AND SUBMISSION. It is not

to be found either by endeavoring to stifle the voice of conscience within,

or by withdrawing from a world of outward strife to some seclusion and

isolation. Both these methods have often been tried, but in vain. The

conciliation must take place within. The heart must find rest and

satisfaction in the gospel of Jesus Christ, “our Peace.” The whole nature

must, by the power of the Spirit, be brought into subjection to God. The

fountain of peace must thus be divinely opened, and “peace will flow as a

river.”

 

26 “Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumor shall be upon

rumor; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law

shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.”

Mischief… rumor. The combination reminds us of the “wars

and rumours of wars” of Matthew 24:6. The floating uncertain reports

of a time of invasion aggravate the actual misery (compare Isaiah 37:7;

Jeremiah 51:46; Obadiah 1:1). They shall seek a vision of the

prophet, etc. The words paint a picture of POLITICAL CHAOS and

CONFUSION.  The people turn in their distress to the three representativtes

of wisdom — the prophet as the bearer of an immediate message from Jehovah,

the priest as the interpreter of His Law (Malachi 2:7), the “ancients” or “elders”

as those who had learned the lessons of experience, — and all alike in vain.

(For illustrative facts, see Jeremiah 5:31; 6:13; 21:2; 23:21-40; 27:9-18; 28:1-9,

and generally Micah 3:6; Amos 8:11; I Samuel 28:6; Lamentations 2:9.)

 

 

A Vain Search (v. 26)

 

“Then they shall seek a vision,” etc. Ezekiel describes the vain search for the

assistance of a prophet’s vision in the dark days of Israel’s overthrow, and the

utter failure of that search, as one of the features of the dreadful time.

 

  • THE SEARCH. The words of true prophecy were not much valued by

the careless people in their hours of ease; but when trouble came natural

anxiety and superstitious terror combined to drive them to the sacred

oracles. The question arises — What did they wish to learn from the

prophets? There is no indication that they desired to know the will of God

and to be directed back into his way. More probably they were simply

consumed with a morbid curiosity as to their approaching doom. Was it

certain that the nation must be scattered? Now, little good can come from

such inquiries. A search into the deep mysteries of the future is not likely to

give us any very helpful results. It is in God’s most merciful method of

educating his children, to keep the future hidden, for the most part, and to

give just so much light as is needed for the day. There is, however, a better

side to this search. Trouble breaks through the thin crust of worldliness,

and reveals the essentially spiritual character of man and his needs. Then it

is not possible to be satisfied with things seen and temporal. The unseen

world that has been slighted in prosperous times is felt to be supremely real

and of profoundest interest. So the sorrow-stricken soul searches for some

voice out of the darkness beyond.

 

  • THE LOSS. The search proves to be vain and useless. The oracle is

dumb; the prophet sees no vision; the Law perishes; counsel ceases. This is

a disappointment for the boasting confidence of the people (Jeremiah 18:18).

 

Ø      There is no new inspiration. Revelation did not continue to come in an

unbroken stream of light. There were periods of darkness in the history

of Israel, when no new word of God was given. The completion of the

Bible has put an and to this kind of revelation. Yet there is the inspiring

guidance of God’s eternal Spirit and the opening of the eyes of

spiritually minded men to a personal knowledge and to new aspects

of truth. If this ceases, though the letter of revelation remains, the

quickening spirit is lost.

 

Ø      The old written word is lost. Not only is there no prophet’s vision; even

the ancient Law perishes from the priest. The ceremonial of the temple

was stopped by Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem. This was

very different from the final cessation of it when the Jewish economy

had passed away. Now the loss of the Law was premature. It would be

paralleled by our loss of the whole Bible and its guidance — a thing

that happened practically in the Middle Ages.  (For a feel of this

condition I highly recommend Amos 8 – The Blank Bible by

Henry Rogers   this web site -CY – 2014)

 

Ø      Tradition fails. This counsel of the ancients is lost in the confusion of

the scattered people. There are floating beliefs and customs of religion

that help and influence us unconsciously. In a broken, disordered

condition even these advantages may be lost.

 

  • THE SIN. The lamentable condition was part of the punishment of

Israel’s sin. This was the abuse of Law and prophecy. The law of the ritual

had been followed as a mere form, and trusted without moral obedience

(Isaiah 1:10-15). Such a desecration of religion may be justly punished

by the loss of its aid. Perhaps this would be the most merciful way to bring

people to appreciate eternal verities, if all our Bibles were lost, should we

value them more, and crave the recovery of them with a new relish? With

Israel, prophecy was degraded till, like today,  the popular prophets became

mere echoes of popular, opinions, THE POLITICALLY CORRECT! 

-          CY – 2014).  Then they were deceivers of the people  (who not so

innocently “loved to have it so” – Jeremiah 5:31 – CY – 2014) and

not only did they deserve to be swept away, but the loss of them was a

merciful deliverance to the deluded nation, There is a teaching which

can be well spared, especially in view of a higher gospel.

 

“Ring out the old,

Ring in the new;

Ring out the false,

Ring in the true.”

 

27 “The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with

desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be

troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their

deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.”

The king shall mourn, etc. The picture reminds us of

Jehoram in II Kings 6:30. The action of Zedekiah in Jeremiah 21:1

and 34:8 makes it probable enough that it was actually reproduced. A

solemn litany procession like that of Joel 1:13-14 and 2:15-17 would

have been quite in keeping with his character. The prince shall clothe

himself, etc. The noun is specially characteristic of Ezekiel, who uses it

thirty-four times. In ch. 12:12 the “prince” seems identified with the

king.” Here it may mean either the heir to the throne, or the chief ruler

under the king. The people of the land, etc. The phrase is perhaps used,

as the Jewish rabbis afterwards used it, with a certain touch of scorn, for

the laboring class. All the upper class had been carried away captive with

Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:14). Compare Ezekiel’s use of it in ch.33:2; 46:3, 9.

I will do unto them, etc. The chapter, or rather the whole

section from ch. 1:1 onwards, ends with an iterated assertion of the

EQUITY OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS.   Then also they shall know

that  I am the Lord, Almighty and all-righteous.

 

Justice shall finally be paramount!  “They shall know that I am the Lord.”

Although they would not know Him as Friend and Benefactor, they shall

know Him and acknowledge Him as the Vindicator of right. The spirits in

hell confess him, while blind and ungrateful men ignore Him.We know

thee who thou art” (Luke 4:34).  Righteousness is endowed with a

deathless life; and out of all present confusion and strife it shall come to the

surface and be by all honored. The lesson which men will not learn in the

days of prosperity THEY SHALL LEARN IN THE DARK HOURS OF

ADVERSITY!   They shall know that JEHOVAH IS SUPREME! 

Yet such knowledge does not save; it leads only to deeper despair. It had

been a long fight between self-will and God’s will; and men often flatter

themselves they are going to conquer. But the termination is always the

same: GOD OVER ALL!

 

 

The Dread Development of Moral Evil (vs. 23-27)

 

“Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes,” etc. This paragraph

suggests the following observations.

 

  • THAT PERSISTENCE IN SIN LEADS TO PLENITUDE OF SIN.

“Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of

violence.” The wickedness of the people had grown to such an extent that

the darkest crimes were everywhere prevalent and predominant. The city

was filled with outrage, and the country with blood guiltiness. Sin, unless it

be striven against and resisted, increases both in measure and in power,

until it attains unto terrible fullness and maturity. As in holiness, so also in

wickedness, full development is reached gradually. Peoples and nations

arrive at thorough moral corruption not with a bound, but step by step. But

unless checked, wickedness ever tends to that dreadful goal (compare

Genesis 15:16; Daniel 8:23; Matthew 23:32; I Thessalonians 2:16).

 

  • THAT PLENITUDE OF SIN USHERS IN THE AWFUL

JUDGMENTS OF GOD. Because of the fullness of wickedness, the

calamities announced by the prophet were coming upon the people. This is

explicitly stated in vs. 23-24. The prevalent iniquities of Israel were the

meritorious cause of the stern judgments of the Lord. Several features of

these require notice.

 

Ø      They were of dread severity. They were to be carried into captivity. To

set forth this truth Ezekiel is summoned to “make a chain.” And, as a

matter of fact, Zedekiah the king was bound with fetters of brass, and

carried to Babylon (II Kings 25:7). And a post-exilian poet speaks of

the miserable captivity of the people (Psalm 107:10-12). Their homes

were to be seized and held by their enemies. “I will bring the worst of the

heathen, and they shall possess their houses.” Their sanctuary was to be

profaned. “Their holy places shall be defiled.” The reference is to the

temple, their “holy and beautiful house.” The prophet speaks of it as

theirs, not Gods, probably to indicate that God had already forsaken

the sanctuary which they had defiled. “Woe be to us when our

sanctuaries are nothing but our sanctuaries!” Anguish was to take hold

upon hem. “Destruction cometh;” literally, “standing up of the hair

cometh.” If we accept this view of the word, it denotes extreme

anguish or horror by one of the physical manifestations thereof, as in

‘Hamlet’ (act 1. sc. 5) —

 

“I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word

Would harrow up thy soul; freeze thy young blood;

Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres;

Thy knotted and combined locks to part,

And each particular hair to stand on end,

Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.”

(Shakespeare.)

 

Ø      They were to come in terrible succession. Mischief shall come upon

mischief, and rumor shall be upon rumor.” “Mischief” fails to fully

express the force of the original word. Fairbairn renders it “woe;” Cheyne,

ruin;” Schroder, “destruction.” Woe upon woe, misery upon misery,

would befall them. Calamities would rush upon them in troops. As the

king of Egypt was visited with plague after plague, so the strokes of

the Divine judgments are sometimes sternly repeated, each stroke for

a time being the harbinger of others.

 

Ø      Even the mightiest would be unable to stand against them. I will also

make the pomp of the strong to cease.” Jehovah by His servant Moses

had threatened the Israelites with a dreadful series of punishments if

they persisted in rebelling against Him, including this, “I will break

the pride of your power” (Leviticus 26:19). When the Omnipotent

arises for judgment, the most powerful creature is impotent to

withstand Him. “Hast thou an arm like God?”

 

  • THAT IN TIMES OF SORE DISTRESS THE WICKED SEEK

HELP OF THE LORD OR OF HIS SERVANTS. “They shall seek

peace, and there shall be none;… they shall seek a vision of the prophet.”

“Peace” is not an adequate rendering of the Hebrew here.. Professor Cheyne

translates, “safety;” and Schroder, “salvation.” In their overwhelming

calamities the Israelites would seek the help which they had despised in the

time of their prosperity. So the proud Pharaoh, when the plagues were

upon him and his subjects, repeatedly called for Moses and Aaron, and

besought them to entreat the Lord. on his behalf. So also the perverse and

rebellious Israelites applied unto Moses when they were smarting under the

Divine chastisements (Numbers 11:2; 21:7; compare Psalm 78:34-37).

And the presumptuous Jeroboam, soon as his hand was smitten with

paralysis, entreated the prayers of the prophet whom a moment before he

was about to treat with violence (I Kings 13:6). By thus seeking

deliverance from God in the time of their distress, the wicked bear witness

to their sense of the reality of His Being, and of their need of Him. And by

seeking the intercession of His faithful servants they unwittingly testify to

the worth of genuine religion.

 

  • THAT MEN WHO HAVE REJECTED GOD IN SEASONS OF

PEACE MAY SEEK HELP FROM HIM IN SEASONS OF DISTRESS,

YET NOT OBTAIN IT. “They shall seek peace, and there shall be none;…

then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the Law shall perish from

the priest, and counsel from the ancients. The king shall mourn,” etc. The

following points require brief notice.

 

Ø      Deliverance from trouble, and direction in trouble, sought in vain.

The Israelites seek for safety, but find it not; for prophetic guidance,

but it fails them. The prophet or seer has no vision for them; the

priest has no instruction in the Law or in religion; the ancients or

wise men have no counsel for their life and conduct. Saul, the King

of Israel, presents a mournful illustration of this (I Samuel 28:6, 15).

“Because I have called, and ye refused,” etc. (Proverbs 1:24-31).

 

Ø      Failure to obtain help in trouble producing great distress. “The king

shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation,” etc. The

distress is general. The king, the prince, and the people all feel it. The

calamities are not partial or sectional, BUT NATIONAL!   The distress

is very great. The king mourns in deep inward grief; the prince clothes

himself with horror, is as it were wrapped up in terror; and the hands

of the common people tremble.

 

Ø      The righteousness of these judgments. “I will do unto them after their

way, and according to their deserts will I judge them.” The dealings

of the Lord with them would be regulated by their conduct. His

judgments would correspond with their lives and works. THEY

WOULD REAP THE FRUIT OF THEIR DOINGS!

 

Ø      The righteous judgments of God leading to the recognition of Him.

“And they shall know that I am the Lord.” In this day of their

calamity they will feel and acknowledge the supremacy of Jehovah.

(See our remarks on v. 4, and on ch. 6:7, 10.) Let us seek to know Him,

not in His judgments, but in His mercies; not in wrath, but in love.

“And this is life eternal, that they should know thee THE ONLY

TRUE GOD, and Him whom thou didst send, even JEUS

CHRIST!”  (John 17:3)

 

 

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