Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 36

    Ezekiel 36 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said: Ezekiel, son of man, tell the mountains of Israel
  2. that I, the LORD God, am saying: Your enemies sneered and said that you mountains belonged to them.
  3. They ruined and crushed you from every side, and foreign nations captured and made fun of you.
  4. So all you mountains and hills, streams and valleys, listen to what I will do. Your towns may now lie in ruins, and nations may laugh and insult you.
  5. But in my fierce anger, I will turn against those nations, and especially the Edomites, because they laughed at you the loudest and took over your pasturelands.
  6. You have suffered long enough, and, I, the LORD God, am very angry! Nations have insulted you,
  7. so I will now insult and disgrace them. That is my solemn promise.
  8. Trees will grow on you mountains of Israel and produce fruit for my people, because they will soon come home.
  9. I will take care of you by plowing your soil and planting crops on your fertile slopes.
  10. The people of Israel will return and rebuild your ruined towns and live in them.
  11. Children will be born, and animals will give birth to their young. You will no longer be deserted as you are now, but you will be covered with people and treated better than ever. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
  12. I will bring my people Israel home, and they will live on you mountains, because you belong to them, and your fertile slopes will never again let them starve.
  13. It's true that you have been accused of not producing enough food and of letting your people starve.
  14. But I, the LORD, promise that you won't hear other nations laugh and sneer at you ever again. From now on, you will always produce plenty of food for your people. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  15. (SEE 36:14)
  16. The LORD said:
  17. Ezekiel, son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own country, they made the land unclean by the way they behaved, just as a woman's monthly period makes her unclean.
  18. They committed murders and worshiped idols, which made the land even worse. So in my anger, I punished my people
  19. and scattered them throughout the nations, just as they deserved.
  20. Wherever they went, my name was disgraced, because foreigners insulted my people by saying I had forced them out of their own land.
  21. I care what those foreigners think of me,
  22. so tell the Israelites that I am saying: You have disgraced my holy name among the nations where you now live. So you don't deserve what I'm going to do for you. I will lead you home to bring honor to my name
  23. and to show foreign nations that I am holy. Then they will know that I am the LORD God. I have spoken.
  24. I will gather you from the foreign nations and bring you home.
  25. I will sprinkle you with clean water, and you will be clean and acceptable to me. I will wash away everything that makes you unclean, and I will remove your disgusting idols.
  26. I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart and a desire to be faithful. You will have only pure thoughts,
  27. because I will put my Spirit in you and make you eager to obey my laws and teachings.
  28. You will once again live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
  29. I will protect you from anything that makes you unclean. Your fields will overflow with grain, and no one will starve.
  30. Your trees will be filled with fruit, and crops will grow in your fields, so that you will never again feel ashamed for not having enough food.
  31. You will remember your evil ways and hate yourselves for what you've done.
  32. People of Israel, I'm not doing these things for your sake. You sinned against me, and you must suffer shame and disgrace for what you have done. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  33. After I have made you clean, I will let you rebuild your ruined towns and let you live in them.
  34. Your land will be plowed again, and nobody will be able to see that it was once barren.
  35. Instead, they will say that it looks as beautiful as the garden of Eden. They won't see towns lying in ruins, but they will see your strong cities filled with people.
  36. Then the nearby nations that survive will know that I am the one who rebuilt the ruined places and replanted the barren fields. I, the LORD, make this promise.
  37. I will once again answer your prayers, and I will let your nation grow until you are like a large flock of sheep.
  38. The towns that now lie in ruins will be filled with people, just as Jerusalem was once filled with sheep to be offered as sacrifices during a festival. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

    Israel's relationship to God pictures all people and their relationship to God. If we are prone to be critical of Israel and her continual sin in turning away from God to idols and wickedness we should realize that we are all similarly prone. Israel's covenantal relationship to God was not due to anything special about the Hebrew people other than the faith of their father Abraham that led them into the covenant with God. Instead, the relationship was about God's holy name. It was through Israel's actions that other nations viewed God. Thus, God would restore Israel because His character was at stake, not because Israel deserved it. Nor do any of us deserve His favor.

    The first 15 verses of the chapter address the land, "the mountains of Israel." The land had been made desolate and had been plundered and mocked by "the rest of the nations all around." (36:4) Therefore, the nations all around "will endure their own insults" and the land will be restored to Israel. Once again, "I will fill you with people, with the whole house of Israel in its entirety." (36:7,10) At that time, "I will make . . . you better off than you were before. Then you will know that I am the LORD." (36:11) It is always about our relationship with God. Whether through blessing or judgment God is always striving to have relationship with us, drawing us to Himself.

    Though God will restore Israel to the "mountains of Israel," it should not be forgotten that Israel "defiled it with their conduct and actions." (36:17) That is why they had to leave the land. Both in leaving the land and returning to it, they would know that "I am the Lord." But "It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went." (36:22) In addition, "The nations will know that I am Yahweh . . . when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight." (36:23)

    In the end, "the ruined cities will be filled with a flock of people, just as the flock of sheep for sacrifice is filled in Jerusalem during its appointed festivals. Then they will know that I am the LORD." (36:38) As is mentioned frequently, this full restoration of Israel has not yet happened. It is still a future event.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 35

    Ezekiel 35 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the people of Edom
  3. and say to them: I, the LORD God, am now your enemy! And I will turn your nation into an empty wasteland,
  4. leaving your towns in ruins. Your land will be a desert, and then you will know that I am the LORD.
  5. People of Edom, not only have you been Israel's longtime enemy, you simply watched when disaster wiped out its people as punishment for their sins.
  6. And so, as surely as I am the living LORD God, you are guilty of murder and must be put to death.
  7. I will destroy your nation and kill anyone who travels through it.
  8. Dead bodies will cover your mountains and fill up your valleys,
  9. and your land will lie in ruins forever. No one will live in your towns ever again. You will know that I am the LORD.
  10. You thought the nations of Judah and Israel belonged to you, and that you could take over their territory. But I am their God,
  11. and as surely as I live, I will punish you for treating my people with anger and hatred. Then they will know that I, the LORD, am punishing you!
  12. And you will finally realize that I heard you laugh at their destruction and say their land was yours to take.
  13. You even insulted me, but I heard it all.
  14. Everyone on earth will celebrate when I destroy you,
  15. just as you celebrated when Israel was destroyed. Your nation of Edom will be nothing but a wasteland. Then everyone will know that I am the LORD.

    Edom, the descendants of Esau, were ancient enemies of Israel stemming from the conflict of Esau and Jacob over the birthright of their father Isaac. During the Exodus the Edomites refused permission for Israel to cross their land and maintained a hostility toward them ever after. Addressed in this chapter of Ezekiel was Edom's participation with the Babylonians in the capture of Jerusalem. The Lord said to Edom through Ezekiel, "Because you maintained an ancient hatred and handed over the Israelites to the power of the sword in the time of their disaster, the time of final punishment, . . . I will destine you for bloodshed, and it will pursue you." (35:5-6)

    The outcome for Edom was that the nation became "a perpetual desolation; your cities will not be inhabited." (35:9)  The Lord said to Edom that once she was brought down to desolation, "Then you will know that I am the LORD." (35:9) This message is stated over and over throughout the prophecy of Ezekiel to one nation after another. The certainty is that one day all people will acknowledge God. As the Apostle Paul states in Romans 14:11-12, "For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God." The choice is ours as to whether it is through blessing or through judgement that we come to bow before Him.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 34

    Ezekiel 34 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD God said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, Israel's leaders are like shepherds taking care of my sheep, the people of Israel. But I want you to condemn these leaders and tell them: I, the LORD God, say you shepherds of Israel are doomed! You take care of yourselves while ignoring my sheep.
  3. You drink their milk and use their wool to make your clothes. Then you butcher the best ones for food. But you don't take care of the flock!
  4. You have never protected the weak ones or healed the sick ones or bandaged those that get hurt. You let them wander off and never look for those that get lost. You are cruel and mean to my sheep.
  5. They strayed in every direction, and because there was no shepherd to watch them, they were attacked and eaten by wild animals.
  6. So my sheep were scattered across the earth. They roamed on hills and mountains, without anyone even bothering to look for them.
  7. Now listen to what I, the living LORD God, am saying to you shepherds. My sheep have been attacked and eaten by wild animals, because you refused to watch them. You never went looking for the lost ones, and you fed yourselves without feeding my sheep.
  8. (SEE 34:7)
  9. So I, the LORD, will punish you! I will rescue my sheep from you and never let you be their shepherd again or butcher them for food. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  10. (SEE 34:9)
  11. The LORD God then said: I will look for my sheep and take care of them myself,
  12. just as a shepherd looks for lost sheep. My sheep have been lost since that dark and miserable day when they were scattered throughout the nations. But I will rescue them
  13. and bring them back from the foreign nations where they now live. I will be their shepherd and will let them graze on Israel's mountains and in the valleys and fertile fields.
  14. They will be safe as they feed on grassy meadows and green hills.
  15. I promise to take care of them and keep them safe,
  16. to look for those that are lost and bring back the ones that wander off, to bandage those that are hurt and protect the ones that are weak. I will also slaughter those that are fat and strong, because I always do right.
  17. The LORD God said to his sheep, the people of Israel: I will carefully watch each one of you to decide which ones are the strong sheep and which ones are weak.
  18. Some of you eat the greenest grass, then trample down what's left when you finish. Others drink clean water, then step in the water to make the rest of it muddy.
  19. That means my other sheep have nothing fit to eat or drink.
  20. So I, the LORD God, will separate you strong sheep from the weak.
  21. You strong ones have used your powerful horns to chase off those that are weak,
  22. but I will rescue them and no longer let them be mistreated. I will separate the good from the bad.
  23. After that, I will give you a shepherd from the family of my servant King David. All of you, both strong and weak, will have the same shepherd, and he will take good care of you.
  24. He will be your leader, and I will be your God. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  25. The people of Israel are my sheep, and I solemnly promise that they will live in peace. I will chase away every wild animal from the desert and the forest, so my sheep will not be afraid.
  26. They will live around my holy mountain, and I will bless them by sending more than enough rain
  27. to make their trees produce fruit and their crops to grow. I will set them free from slavery and let them live safely in their own land. Then they will know that I am the LORD.
  28. Foreign nations will never again rob them, and wild animals will no longer kill and eat them. They will have nothing to fear.
  29. I will make their fields produce large amounts of crops, so they will never again go hungry or be laughed at by foreigners.
  30. Then everyone will know that I protect my people Israel. I, the LORD, make this promise.
  31. They are my sheep; I am their God, and I take care of them.

    Ezekiel is now addressing the leaders of Israel, the shepherds. Jerusalem had fallen and the people scattered among the nations and it was due to the failure of the leaders to fulfill their role as shepherds. God's idea of leadership is different from that of man's, particularly that of a king. Man's idea of a king is of a sovereign who is served by his subjects. God's idea of a king is of one who is a shepherd who serves the people over whom he has been given responsibility. Rather than seeing first to the needs of the people, the shepherds God had appointed over Israel saw first to their own needs. God said, "Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding themselves! Shouldn't the shepherds feed their flock?" (34:2) The shepherds lived off the fat, rather the best, while the sheep went hungry. Furthermore, they had not, "strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost. Instead, you have ruled them with violence and cruelty." (34:4) The result was that they were "scattered for lack of a shepherd; they became food for all the wild animals when they were scattered." (34:5)

    The shepherds were not just derelict in their duty, they used their position to "fleece" the sheep. The people became a means to gain power and wealth. Therefore, God was against them. He was demanding to take back the sheep from these wicked shepherds and restore them. The Lord, as shepherd, would search for the scattered flock and rescue them "from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy and dark day." (34:12)  Furthermore, God will "shepherd them on the mountains of Israel." He will "tend them with good pasture, and their grazing place will be on Israel's lofty mountains." (34:13-14) Then God will "bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak, but I will destroy the fat and the strong. I will shepherd them with justice." (34:16)

    Though this judgment is aimed at the leaders, the shepherds, it does not mean that all the sheep were innocent. Beyond His dealings with the Shepherds God will also "judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and male goats." (34:17) There were those among the sheep who also took advantage of those who were weaker. They "pushed with flank and shoulder and butted all the weak ones with your horns until you scattered them all over." (34:21) Thus they kept them from feeding and drinking on God's provisions to Israel. They became fat while the weaker became lean. Those who had taken advantage will be culled out and not restored to the land. They will not be allowed any longer to trample the pasture and muddy the drinking water, figuratively speaking.

    God promised a new covenant with Israel. A "covenant of peace." (34:25) Under this covenant the Lord will be their God and "My servant David will be a prince among them." (34:24) Then Israel will live at peace and in prosperity in the land God will give back to them. As with other promises of Israel's restoration, the complete fulfillment is yet future.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 33

    Ezekiel 33 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, warn your people by saying: Someday, I, the LORD, may send an enemy to invade a country. And suppose its people choose someone to stand watch
  3. and to sound a warning signal when the enemy is seen coming.
  4. If any of these people hear the signal and ignore it, they will be killed in battle. But it will be their own fault, because they could have escaped if they had paid attention.
  5. (SEE 33:4)
  6. But suppose the person watching fails to sound the warning signal. The enemy will attack and kill some of the sinful people in that country, and I, the LORD, will hold that person responsible for their death.
  7. Ezekiel, I have appointed you to stand watch for the people of Israel. So listen to what I say, then warn them for me.
  8. When I tell wicked people they will die because of their sins, you must warn them to turn from their sinful ways. But if you refuse to warn them, you are responsible for their death.
  9. If you do warn them, and they keep sinning, they will die because of their sins, and you will be innocent.
  10. The LORD said: Ezekiel, son of man, the people of Israel are complaining that the punishment for their sins is more than they can stand. They have lost all hope for survival, and they blame me.
  11. Tell them that as surely as I am the living LORD God, I don't like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live. So if the Israelites want to live, they must stop sinning and turn back to me.
  12. Tell them that when good people start sinning, all the good they did in the past cannot save them from being punished. And remind them that when wicked people stop sinning, their past sins will be completely forgiven, and they won't be punished.
  13. Suppose I promise good people that they will live, then later they start sinning and believe they will be saved by the good they did in the past. These people will certainly be put to death because of their sins. Their good deeds will be forgotten.
  14. Suppose I warn wicked people that they will die because of their sins, and they stop sinning and start doing right.
  15. For example, they need to return anything they have taken as security for a loan and anything they have stolen. Then if they stop doing evil and start obeying my Law, they will live.
  16. Their past sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they have done right.
  17. Ezekiel, your people accuse me of being unfair. But they are the ones who are unfair.
  18. If good people start doing evil, they will be put to death, because they have sinned.
  19. And if wicked people stop sinning and start doing right, they will save themselves from punishment.
  20. But the Israelites still think I am unfair. So warn them that they will be punished for what they have done.
  21. Twelve years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, a refugee who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me on the fifth day of the tenth month. He told me that the city had fallen.
  22. The evening before this man arrived at my house, the LORD had taken control of me. So when the man came to me the next morning, I could once again speak.
  23. Then the LORD said:
  24. Ezekiel, son of man, the people living in the ruined cities of Israel are saying, "Abraham was just one man, and the LORD gave him this whole land of Israel. There are many of us, and so this land must be ours."
  25. So, Ezekiel, tell them I am saying: How can you think the land is still yours? You eat meat with blood in it and worship idols. You commit murder
  26. and spread violence throughout the land. Everything you do is wicked; you are even unfaithful in marriage. And you claim the land is yours!
  27. As surely as I am the living LORD God, you people in the ruined cities will be killed in battle. Those of you living in the countryside will be eaten by wild animals, and those hiding in caves and on rocky cliffs will die from deadly diseases.
  28. I will make the whole country an empty wasteland and crush the power in which you take such pride. Even the mountains will be bare, and no one will try to cross them.
  29. I will punish you because of your sins, and I will turn your nation into a barren desert. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
  30. Ezekiel, son of man, the people with you in Babylonia talk about you when they meet by the city walls or in the doorways of their houses. They say, "Let's ask Ezekiel what the LORD has said today."
  31. So they all come and listen to you, but they refuse to do what you tell them. They claim to be faithful, but they are forever trying to cheat others out of their money.
  32. They treat you as though you were merely singing love songs or playing music. They listen, but don't do anything you say.
  33. Soon they will be punished, just as you warned, and they will know that a prophet has been among them.

    What is it that shapes our sense of fairness and justice? Is it shaped from our thinking that seeks to justify our actions or is it shaped by God's teaching? Often one's sense of fairness is shaped by the need to justify their own actions and thus they accuse God of being unfair when they experience His judgment or are confronted with His teachings. In this chapter God explains to Ezekiel the basis of His judgment: "I will judge each of you according to his ways." (33:20) He explains what this means:  "When a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he will die on account of this. But when a wicked person turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live because of this." (33:18-19) Few are likely to argue that it is unfair for God to forgive a wicked person who turns from his wickedness. But  some will say it is not fair for God to not forgive a righteous person who turns to wickedness. But God says that though one may accuse Him of being unfair, "it is their own way that isn't fair." (33:17)

    This was the basis of God's judgment on Judah. The people of Judah relied on the past righteousness of Abraham and other patriarchs of Israel to save them though they had become a wicked people. Even after the fall of Jerusalem, those who remained in the ruins tried to lay claim to the land based on Abraham's righteousness. They said, "Abraham was only one person, yet he received possession of the land. But we are many; the land has been given to us as a possession." (33:24) But according to God's justice, it is the present, not the past, that counts. Even though God's prophets had forewarned the people of coming judgment and now they had experienced it, they refused to acknowledge God's judgment. Thus they had not yet seen the end of it.  "Those who are in the ruins will fall by the sword, those in the open field I have given to wild animals to be devoured, and those in the strongholds and caves will die by plague." (33:27) Once the land had become a desolate waste, "They will know that I am the LORD." (33:29)

    When Jerusalem fell, a messenger reached Ezekiel who was in exile in Babylon. For the past 12 years Ezekiel had been in exile, and the last 7 of those years he had been in silence only to speak God's message of judgment to the people. With the arrival of word that Jerusalem had fallen, Ezekiel's mouth was opened and he was no longer silent. Now he had a new mission. Rather than a prophet of God's judgment he was God's watchman to the people. As watchman he was to prepare the people for eventual restoration. The warnings of the watchman were to guide them away from actions that would lead to destruction. He was to help them find their way back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 32

    Ezekiel 32 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Twelve years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, the LORD spoke to me on the first day of the twelfth month. He said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the king of Egypt and tell him I am saying: You act like a lion roaming the earth; but you are nothing more than a crocodile in a river, churning up muddy water with your feet.
  3. King of Egypt, listen to me. I, the LORD God, will catch you in my net and let a crowd of foreigners drag you to shore.
  4. I will throw you into an open field, where birds and animals will come to feed on your body.
  5. I will spread your rotting flesh over the mountains and in the valleys,
  6. and your blood will flow throughout the land and fill up the streams.
  7. I will cover the whole sky and every star with thick clouds, so that the sun and moon will stop shining.
  8. The heavens will become black, leaving your country in total darkness. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  9. Foreign nations you have never heard of will be shocked when I tell them how I destroyed you.
  10. They will be horrified, and when I flash my sword in victory on the day of your death, their kings will tremble in the fear of what could happen to them.
  11. The king of Babylonia is coming to attack you, king of Egypt!
  12. Your soldiers will be killed by the cruelest army in the world, and everything you take pride in will be crushed.
  13. I will slaughter your cattle that graze by the river, and no people or livestock will be left to muddy its water.
  14. The water will be clear, and streams will be calm. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  15. Egypt will become a barren wasteland, and no living thing will ever survive there. Then you and your people will know that I am the LORD.
  16. This is your warning, and it will be used as a funeral song by foreign women to mourn the death of your people. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  17. On the fifteenth day of that same month, the LORD said:
  18. Ezekiel, son of man, mourn for the Egyptians and condemn them to the world of the dead, where they will be buried alongside the people of other powerful nations.
  19. Say to them: You may be more beautiful than the people of other nations, but you will also die and join the godless in the world below.
  20. You cannot escape! The enemy's sword is ready to slaughter every one of you.
  21. Brave military leaders killed in battle will gladly welcome you and your allies into the world of the dead.
  22. The graves of soldiers from Assyria are there. They once terrified people, but they were killed in battle and now lie deep in the world of the dead.
  23. (SEE 32:22)
  24. The graves of soldiers from Elam are there. The very sight of those godless soldiers once terrified their enemies and made them panic. But now they are disgraced and ashamed as they lie in the world of the dead, alongside others who were killed in battle.
  25. (SEE 32:24)
  26. The graves of soldiers from Meshech and Tubal are there. These godless soldiers who terrified people were all killed in battle.
  27. They were not given a proper burial like the heroes of long ago, who were buried with their swords under their heads and with their shields over their bodies. These were the heroes who made their enemies panic.
  28. You Egyptians will be cruelly defeated, and you will be buried alongside these other godless soldiers who died in battle.
  29. The graves of kings and leaders from Edom are there. They were powerful at one time. Now they are buried in the world of the dead with other godless soldiers killed in battle.
  30. The graves of the rulers of the north are there, as well as those of the Sidonians. Their powerful armies once terrified enemies. Now they lie buried in the world of the dead, where they are disgraced like other soldiers killed in battle.
  31. The LORD God says: When your king of Egypt sees all of these graves, he and his soldiers will be glad they are not the only ones suffering.
  32. I sent him to terrify people all over the earth. But he and his army will be killed and buried alongside other godless soldiers in the world of the dead. I, the LORD God, have spoken.

    Ezekiel continues and concludes his message against Egypt in this chapter. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, considered himself to be a "lion of the nations," but Ezekiel tells him he is rather "like a monster in the seas." (32:2) Continuing with this imagery of Pharaoh as a monster, such as a crocodile, Ezekiel describes how he thrashed around and churned up the waters with his feet. This portrays Pharoah's activity among the nations. But God would gather "an assembly of many peoples" who would haul Pharoah up in God's net. He would be hurled up on dry land where the birds and other animals would gorge themselves on his carcass. The fall of Egypt would be troubling to many nations, for if the mighty Egypt could fall to such destruction, what might happen to them?

    Without the imagery, Ezekiel continues by telling how the "the sword of Babylon's king will come against you!" Egypt would fall "by the swords" of Babylon's warriors who were "ruthless men from the nations." (32:12) When Babylon was through with them, the streams and rivers of Egypt would no longer be muddied by the feet of man and beast. Then, "they will know that I am the Lord." (32:15) We can choose whether we will acknowledge God through His blessings or through His judgement, but sooner or later we will acknowledge Him. And why shouldn't we acknowledge our Creator? Would a parent be satisfied for a child, to whom they had given birth, to not acknowledge them as it's parents?

    Verses 17 and following of this chapter tells of Egypt's destiny following her destruction. The "hordes of Egypt" will be brought down to "the underworld," that is down to "the Pit." (32:18) In the grave, Egypt will join the "uncircumcised" who "lie slain by the sword." (32:21) A list is given of other nations Egypt will join in the grave. She will have a rather perverted sense of comfort because she is not alone in her humiliation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 31

    Ezekiel 31 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Eleven years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, the LORD spoke to me on the first day of the third month. He said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, tell the king of Egypt and his people that I am saying: You are more powerful than anyone on earth. Now listen to this.
  3. There was once a cedar tree in Lebanon with large, strong branches reaching to the sky.
  4. This tree had plenty of water to help it grow tall, and nearby streams watered the other trees in the forest.
  5. But this tree towered over those other trees, and its branches grew long and thick.
  6. Birds built nests in its branches, and animals were born beneath it. People from all nations lived in the shade of this strong tree.
  7. It had beautiful, long branches, and its roots found water deep in the soil.
  8. None of the cedar trees in my garden of Eden were as beautiful as this tree; no tree of any kind had such long branches.
  9. I, the LORD, gave this tree its beauty, and I helped the branches grow strong. All other trees in Eden wanted to be just like it.
  10. King of Egypt, now listen to what I, the LORD God, am saying about that tree: The tree grew so tall that it reached the sky and became very proud and arrogant.
  11. So I, the LORD God, will reject the tree and hand it over to a foreign ruler, who will punish it for its wickedness.
  12. Cruel foreigners will chop it down and leave it wherever it falls. Branches and broken limbs will be scattered over the mountains and in the valleys. The people living in the shade of those branches will go somewhere else.
  13. Birds will then nest on the stump of the fallen tree, and wild animals will trample its branches.
  14. Never again will any tree dare to grow as tall as this tree, no matter how much water it has. Every tree must die, just as humans die and go down to the world of the dead.
  15. On the day this tree dies and goes to the world below, I, the LORD God, will command rivers and streams to mourn its death. Every underground spring of water and every river will stop flowing. The mountains in Lebanon will be covered with darkness as a sign of their sorrow, and all the trees in the forest will wither.
  16. This tree will crash to the ground, and I will send it to the world below. Then the nations of the earth will tremble. The trees from Eden and the choice trees from Lebanon are now in the world of the dead, and they will be comforted when this tree falls.
  17. Those people who found protection in its shade will also be sent to the world below, where they will join the dead.
  18. King of Egypt, all these things will happen to you and your people! You were like this tree at one time--taller and stronger than anyone on earth. But now you will be chopped down, just as every tree in the garden of Eden must die. You will be sent down to the world of the dead, where you will join the godless and the other victims of violent death. I, the LORD God, have spoken.

    Ezekiel continues with his message against Egypt. Egypt had become a great nation and lest she think that in her greatness she was immune to defeat, Ezekiel gave a prime example by which Egypt could compare herself.  "Who are you like in your greatness?" he asked. (31:2) The answer is Assyria. Assyria was likened to a tall cedar that towered over "all the trees of the field." (31:5) Not even the trees of Eden, God's garden, could rival it. But it was God who made this tree, Assyria, tall and beautiful. Yet in her pride, Assyria credited not God but herself for her greatness. This is why God felled this great cedar that was Assyria.

    How was this tree felled? God handed it over to "a ruler of Nations." (31:11) This ruler of nations was Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The nations quaked at Assyria's downfall for it also meant the downfall of several other nations that "As its allies they had lived in its shade among the nations." (31:17)

    Again, Ezekiel raises the question to Egypt, "Who then are you like in glory and greatness among Eden's trees?" (31:18) The answer is understood. Egypt was like Assyria, and like Assyria, "You also will be brought down to the underworld to be with the trees of Eden." (31:18) If Egypt thought she could not be brought down, she just needed to look at Assyria and what had happened to her to know that what the Lord declared concerning her fate would come to pass.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 30

    Ezekiel 30 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, tell the people of Egypt that I am saying: Cry out in despair,
  3. because you will soon be punished! That will be a time of darkness and doom for all nations.
  4. Your own nation of Egypt will be attacked, and Ethiopia will suffer. You will be killed in battle, and your land will be robbed and left in ruins.
  5. Soldiers hired from Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, Arabia, Kub, as well as from Israel, will die in that battle.
  6. All of your allies will be killed, and your proud strength will crumble. People will die from Migdol in the north to Aswan in the south. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  7. Your nation of Egypt will be the most deserted place on earth, and its cities will lie in complete ruin.
  8. I will set fire to your land, and anyone who defended your nation will die. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
  9. On the same day I destroy Egypt, I will send messengers to the Ethiopians to announce their coming destruction. They think they are safe, but they will be terrified.
  10. Your Egyptian army is very strong, but I will send King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia to completely defeat that army.
  11. He and his cruel troops will invade and destroy your land and leave your dead bodies piled everywhere.
  12. I will dry up the Nile River, then sell the land to evil buyers. I will send foreigners to turn your entire nation into a barren desert. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  13. All the idols and images you Egyptians worship in the city of Memphis will be smashed. No one will be left to rule your nation, and terror will fill the land.
  14. The city of Pathros will be left in ruins, and Zoan will be burned to the ground. Thebes, your capital city, will also be destroyed!
  15. The fortress city of Pelusium will feel my fierce anger, and all the troops stationed at Thebes will be slaughtered.
  16. I will set fire to your nation of Egypt! The city of Pelusium will be in anguish. Thebes will fall, and the people of Memphis will live in constant fear.
  17. The young soldiers in the cities of Heliopolis and Bubastis will die in battle, and the rest of the people will be taken prisoner.
  18. You were so proud of your nation's power, but when I crush that power and kill that pride, darkness will fall over the city of Tahpanhes. A dark, gloomy cloud will cover the land as you are being led away into captivity.
  19. When I'm through punishing Egypt, you will know that I am the LORD.
  20. Eleven years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, the LORD spoke to me on the seventh day of the first month. He said:
  21. Ezekiel, son of man, I, the LORD, have defeated the king of Egypt! I broke his arm, and no one has wrapped it or put it in a sling, so that it could heal and get strong enough to hold a sword.
  22. So tell him that I am now his worst enemy. I will break both his arms--the good one and the broken one! His sword will drop from his hand forever,
  23. and I will scatter the Egyptians all over the world.
  24. I will strengthen the power of Babylonia's king and give him my sword to use against Egypt. I will also make the wounded king of Egypt powerless, and he will moan in pain and die in front of the Babylonian king. Then everyone on earth will know that I am the LORD.
  25. (SEE 30:24)
  26. I will force the Egyptians to live as prisoners in foreign nations, and they will know that I, the LORD, have punished them.

    If people do not acknowledge God through His creation and blessings, they will come to acknowledge Him through His judgment. Repeatedly through these judgment prophecies it is stated, "They will know that I am the LORD when . . ." Regarding Egypt, it is stated that "They will know that I am the LORD when I set fire to Egypt and all its allies are shattered. (30:8 ) How much better it is to acknowledge God by following Him and worshipping Him. When obedience to God's purposes are joined with our knowledge of Him, life is much better.

    This proclamation of judgment against Egypt in chapter 30 includes her neighboring allies who made up many of the mercenary soldiers in Egypt's army. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Babylon was the instrument of God's judgment against Egypt, as it was for Judah. Beginning with verse 20, the latter part of the chapter uses figurative language to describe what will happen to Egypt. First, Babylon will break "the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt." (30:21) Egypt's "arm" was broken when she made a feeble attempt to defend Judah when Babylon retaliated following King Zedekiah's rebellion. The damage done to Egypt in "breaking her arm" was not repaired, and thus Egypt was left weakened for future defensive action. Later, God would enable Nebuchadnezzar to rebreak the broken arm and also break the other arm, leaving her defenseless to ward off Babylon's onslaught. Then Egypt would be dispersed "among the nations."

    Again, it is stated that Egypt will know that "I am the Lord," because of the Lord's judgment. "When I disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them among the countries, they will know that I am the LORD." (30:26)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 29

    Ezekiel 29 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Ten years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, the LORD spoke to me on the twelfth day of the tenth month. He said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the king of Egypt. Tell him and his people
  3. that I am saying: King of Egypt, you were like a giant crocodile lying in a river. You acted as though you owned the Nile and made it for yourself. But now I, the LORD God, am your enemy!
  4. I will put a hook in your jaw and pull you out of the water, and all the fish in your river will stick to your scaly body.
  5. I'll throw you and the fish into the desert, and your body will fall on the hard ground. You will be left unburied, and wild animals and birds will eat your flesh.
  6. Then everyone in Egypt will know that I am the LORD. You and your nation refused to help the people of Israel and were nothing more than a broken stick.
  7. When they reached out to you for support, you broke in half, cutting their arms and making them fall.
  8. So I, the LORD God, will send troops to attack you, king of Egypt. They will kill your people and livestock,
  9. until your land is a barren desert. Then you will know that I have done these things. You claimed that you made the Nile River and control it.
  10. Now I am turning against you and your river. Your nation will be nothing but an empty wasteland all the way from the town of Migdol in the north to Aswan in the south, and as far as the border of Ethiopia.
  11. No human or animal will even dare travel through Egypt, because no sign of life will be found there for forty years.
  12. It will be the most barren place on earth. Every city in Egypt will lie in ruins during those forty years, and I will scatter your people throughout the nations of the world.
  13. Then after those forty years have passed, I will bring your people back from the places where I scattered them.
  14. They will once again live in their homeland in southern Egypt. But they will be a weak kingdom
  15. and won't ever be strong enough to rule nations, as they did in the past.
  16. My own people Israel will never again depend on your nation. In fact, when the Israelites remember what happened to you Egyptians, they will realize how wrong they were to turn to you for help. Then the Israelites will know that I, the LORD God, did these things.
  17. Twenty-seven years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, the LORD spoke to me on the first day of the first month. He said:
  18. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia has attacked the city of Tyre. He forced his soldiers to carry so many heavy loads that their heads were rubbed bald, and their shoulders were red and sore. Nebuchadnezzar and his army still could not capture the city.
  19. So now I will hand over the nation of Egypt to him. He will take Egypt's valuable treasures and give them to his own troops.
  20. Egypt will be his reward, because he and his army have been following my orders. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  21. Ezekiel, when Egypt is defeated, I will make the people of Israel strong, and I will give you the power to speak to them. Then they will know that I, the LORD, have done these things.

    The focus of God's judgment now turns to Egypt. Egypt's sin was proving to be an unreliable ally to Judah. In so doing, Egypt enabled Judah's fall. Therefore, Egypt would be humbled so that Judah would never again look to Egypt for help instead of God. Judah sinned by looking to Egypt for help instead of God, but Egypt sinned by encouraging an alliance she would not honor, hoping to take advantage of Judah's plight.

    While God was judging Egypt He would also deal with Pharaoh's perception of himself as a god. He thought of himself as a god and of the Nile as his creation. But God would "put hooks in your jaws" and "haul you up from the middle of your Nile." (29:4) Pharoah, the "monster lying in the middle of his Nile," along with "the fish of your streams," which was the people of Egypt, would find themselves no longer along a fertile Nile but in a desolate desert. When this happened they would no longer think of Pharoah as a god but "all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am the LORD." (29:6)

    As happened with Judah, Egypt would be exiled. While Judah's exile was to last 70 years, Egypt's lasted 40 years. But when Egypt was restored, she would be only a "Lowly kingdom" that would "never again be an object of trust for the house of Israel." (29:14 & 16) Egypt's fall would also come at the hand of the Babylonians. Since God was using Babylon to bring judgment on Judah and the surrounding nations, He would reward Babylon with the plunder from Egypt. The siege of Tyre lasted 13 years and once Tyre fell Babylon realized little plunder from it leaving Nebuchadnezzar without the usual means to pay his army. Therefore, Egypt was God's reward to Nebuchadnezzar that would enable him to pay his army.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 28

    Ezekiel 28 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD God said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, tell the king of Tyre that I am saying: You are so arrogant that you think you're a god and that the city of Tyre is your throne. You may claim to be a god, though you're nothing but a mere human.
  3. You think you're wiser than Daniel and know everything.
  4. Your wisdom has certainly made you rich, because you have storehouses filled with gold and silver.
  5. You're a clever businessman and are extremely wealthy, but your wealth has led to arrogance!
  6. You compared yourself to a god, so now I, the LORD God,
  7. will make you the victim of cruel enemies. They will destroy all the possessions you've worked so hard to get.
  8. Your enemies will brutally kill you, and the sea will be your only grave.
  9. When you face your enemies, will you still claim to be a god? They will attack, and you will suffer like any other human.
  10. Foreigners will kill you, and you will die the death of those who don't worship me. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  11. The LORD said:
  12. Ezekiel, son of man, sing a funeral song for the king of Tyre and tell him I am saying: At one time, you were perfect, intelligent, and good-looking.
  13. You lived in the garden of Eden and wore jewelry made of brightly colored gems and precious stones. They were all set in gold and were ready for you on the day you were born.
  14. I appointed a winged creature to guard your home on my holy mountain, where you walked among gems that dazzled like fire.
  15. You were truly good from the time of your birth, but later you started doing wicked things.
  16. You traded with other nations and became more and more cruel and evil. So I forced you to leave my mountain, and the creature that had been your protector now chased you away from the gems.
  17. It was your good looks that made you arrogant, and you were so famous that you started acting like a fool. That's why I threw you to the ground and let other kings sneer at you.
  18. You have cheated so many other merchants that your places of worship are corrupt. So I set your city on fire and burned it down. Now everyone sees only ashes where your city once stood,
  19. and the people of other nations are shocked. Your punishment was horrible, and you are gone forever.
  20. The LORD said:
  21. Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the city of Sidon
  22. and tell its people: I, the LORD God, am your enemy! People will praise me when I punish you, and they will see that I am holy.
  23. I will send deadly diseases to wipe you out, and I will send enemies to invade and surround you. Your people will be killed, and you will know that I am the LORD.
  24. When that happens, the people of Israel will no longer have cruel neighbors that abuse them and make them feel as though they are in a field of thorns and briers. And the Israelites will know that I, the LORD God, have done these things.
  25. The LORD God said: Someday I will gather the people of Israel from the nations where they are now scattered, and every nation will see that I am holy. The Israelites will once again live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob.
  26. They will be safe and will build houses and plant vineyards. They will no longer be in danger, because I will punish their hateful neighbors. Israel will know that I am the LORD their God.

    We may say to ourselves something similar to this: "If God were to bless me with great things I would serve Him all my days." In reality, though, the opposite is more often true, of which the king of Tyre, mentioned in this chapter, is an example. When our lives are blessed and everything is good, how often do we credit God for our good life? By comparison, when problems come and our lives are in turmoil, how often do we blame God? Many are practical athiests when life is good. They act as if there is no God. But when life turns sour, few are truly athiests, for otherwise they have no one to blame but themselves.

    The king of Tyre had everything going for him: wealth, power, good looks, intelligence, etc. But he became so enamored with himself he began to believe himself to be a god.  Pride, one of the greatest obstacles to keep man from God, became the king's downfall. God reminded the king that he was a man and not a god, and to make His point, God was going to cause the king to die as any man dies. At that time, "Will you still say: I am a god, in the presence of those who kill you? Yet you will be shown to be a man, not a god, in the hands of those who kill you." (28:9) Following this prophecy against the king of Tyre, a lament is given for the king as if he were already fallen.

    Following the judgment against the king of Tyre are two other prophecies. One is a judgment against Sidon, and the other a foretelling of Israel's restoration. Sidon was a sister city to Tyre, located just 20 miles further up the coastline. Sidon had been an obstacle to Israel's relationship with God by introducing Baal worship into Israel through Jezebel, the daughter of a Sidonian king. Judgement against Sidon would do two things. It would cause the Sidonians to acknowledge God, and it would remove Sidon as an obstacle to Israel's relationship with God.

    The restoration of Israel to her homeland was to serve a similar purpose to the destruction of the nations around her. It would cause the nations to acknowledge God. By causing the fall of those nations that were against God and the fall of Israel who had turned away from God, and then restoring Israel when she returned to God, the nations would know that God was God. This is not yet a completely fulfilled prophecy, though. While Tyre and Sidon have been destroyed, Israel has not yet been fully restored to God and her homeland.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 27

    Ezekiel 27 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, sing a funeral song for Tyre,
  3. the city that is built along the sea and that trades with nations along the coast. Tell the people of Tyre that the following message is from me: Tyre, you brag about your perfect beauty,
  4. and your control of the sea. You are a ship built to perfection.
  5. Builders used cypress trees from Mount Hermon to make your planks and a cedar tree from Lebanon for your tall mast.
  6. Oak trees from Bashan were shaped into oars; pine trees from Cyprus were cut for your deck, which was then decorated with strips of ivory.
  7. The builders used fancy linen from Egypt for your sails, so everyone could see you. Blue and purple cloth from Cyprus was used to shade your deck.
  8. Men from Sidon and Arvad did the rowing, and your own skilled workers were the captains.
  9. Experienced men from Byblos repaired any damages. Sailors from all over shopped at the stores in your port.
  10. Brave soldiers from Persia, Lydia, and Libya served in your navy, protecting you with shields and helmets, and making you famous.
  11. Your guards came from Arvad and Cilicia, and men from Gamad stood watch in your towers. With their weapons hung on your walls, your beauty was complete.
  12. Merchants from southern Spain traded silver, iron, tin, and lead for your products.
  13. The people of Greece, Tubal, and Meshech traded slaves and things made of bronze,
  14. and those from Beth-Togarmah traded work horses, war horses, and mules.
  15. You also did business with people from Rhodes, and people from nations along the coast gave you ivory and ebony in exchange for your goods.
  16. Edom traded emeralds, purple cloth, embroidery, fine linen, coral, and rubies.
  17. Judah and Israel gave you their finest wheat, fancy figs, honey, olive oil, and spices in exchange for your merchandise.
  18. The people of Damascus saw what you had to offer and brought you wine from Helbon and wool from Zahar.
  19. Vedan and Javan near Uzal traded you iron and spices.
  20. The people of Dedan supplied you with saddle blankets,
  21. while people from Arabia and the rulers of Kedar traded lambs, sheep, and goats.
  22. Merchants from Sheba and Raamah gave you excellent spices, precious stones, and gold in exchange for your products.
  23. You also did business with merchants from the cities of Haran, Canneh, Eden, Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad,
  24. and they gave you expensive clothing, purple and embroidered cloth, brightly colored rugs, and strong rope.
  25. Large, seagoing ships carried your goods wherever they needed to go. You were like a ship loaded with heavy cargo
  26. and sailing across the sea, but you were wrecked by strong eastern winds.
  27. Everything on board was lost-- your valuable cargo, your sailors and carpenters, merchants and soldiers.
  28. The shouts of your drowning crew were heard on the shore.
  29. Every ship is deserted; rowers and sailors and captains all stand on shore,
  30. mourning for you. They show their sorrow by putting dust on their heads and rolling in ashes;
  31. they shave their heads and dress in sackcloth as they cry in despair.
  32. In their grief they sing a funeral song for you: "Tyre, you were greater than all other cities. But now you lie in silence at the bottom of the sea.
  33. "Nations that received your merchandise were always pleased; kings everywhere got rich from your costly goods.
  34. But now you are wrecked in the deep sea, with your cargo and crew scattered everywhere.
  35. People living along the coast are shocked at the news. Their rulers are horrified, and terror is written across their faces.
  36. The merchants of the world can't believe what happened. Your death was gruesome, and you are gone forever."

    Ezekiel continues his pronouncement of judgment against Tyre that began in the previous chapter. As stated there, Tyre's sin was that of gloating over Judah's destruction, primarily because her demise opened up more trade for Tyre. But to gloat over the fall of Judah was to gloat over the destruction of God's chosen people. Furthermore, it was, in the minds of the people of Tyre, a gloating over the failure of the God of Judah.

    The worldview of most nations at that time did not envision there being one God who was creator of the universe, but rather of territorial gods, with a different god or gods for each nation. Thus, the fall of Judah signaled in the minds of other nations, including Tyre, that Judah's God was inferior and could not protect her from the superiority of other nations and their gods. What Tyre and the other nations upon whom God was bringing judgment did not grasp was that the God of Judah, who is also the one and only God, was the one who brought on Judah's fall. This one and only God orchestrated Judah's fall as judgment for her sins. And through His judgment on Tyre and these other nations, this God would also show Himself to all the nations. Through their fall, their imagined gods would also fall.

    Such is the backdrop behind what we read in this chapter of Ezekiel. Ezekiel portrays poetically the fall of Tyre who is fittingly described as a ship. The sources of materials that makeup the ship of Tyre indicate the various nations with whom Tyre did business. Tyre was a commercial center of trade with over two-dozen nations. Her fall had a huge impact in worldwide trade. In this poetic portrayal, Tyre's destruction is described as a shipwreck caused by high winds from the east, which would be the nation of Babylon from the east of Tyre who destroyed Tyre. Tyre's end is described in the last verses of the chapter: "Now you are shattered by the sea in the depths of the waters; your goods and the people within you have gone down. All the inhabitants of the coasts and islands are appalled at you. Their kings shudder with fear; their faces are contorted. Those who trade among the peoples hiss at you; you have become an object of horror and will never exist again." (27:34-36)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 26

    Ezekiel 26 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Eleven years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, the LORD spoke to me on the first day of the month. He said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, the people of the city of Tyre have celebrated Jerusalem's defeat by singing, "Jerusalem has fallen! It used to be powerful, a center of trade. Now the city is shattered, and we will take its place."
  3. Because the people of Tyre have sung that song, I have the following warning for them: I am the LORD God, and I am now your enemy! I will send nations to attack you, like waves crashing against the shore.
  4. They will tear down your city walls and defense towers. I will sweep away the ruins until all that's left of you is a bare rock,
  5. where fishermen can dry their nets along the coast. I promise that you will be robbed
  6. and that the people who live in your towns along the coast will be killed. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
  7. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia is the world's most powerful king, and I will send him to attack you. He will march from the north with a powerful army, including horses and chariots and cavalry troops.
  8. First, he will attack your towns along the coast and kill the people who live there. Then he will build dirt ramps up to the top of your city walls and set up rows of shields around you.
  9. He will command some of his troops to use large wooden poles to beat down your walls, while others use iron rods to knock down your watchtowers.
  10. He will have so many horses that the dust they stir up will seem like a thick fog. And as his chariots and cavalry approach, even the walls will shake, especially when he proudly enters your ruined city.
  11. His troops will ride through your streets, killing people left and right, and your strong columns will crumble to the ground.
  12. The troops will steal your valuable possessions; they will break down your walls, and crush your expensive houses. Then the stones and wood and all the remains will be dumped into the sea.
  13. You will have no reason to sing or play music on harps,
  14. because I will turn you into a bare rock where fishermen can dry their nets. And you will never rebuild your city. I, the LORD God, make this promise.
  15. The people of the nations up and down the coast will shudder when they hear your screams and moans of death.
  16. The kings will step down from their thrones, then take off their royal robes and fancy clothes, and sit on the ground, trembling. They will be so shocked at the news of your defeat that they will shake in fear
  17. and sing this funeral song: "The great city beside the sea is destroyed! Its people once ruled the coast and terrified everyone there.
  18. But now Tyre is in ruins, and the people on the coast stare at it in horror and tremble in fear."
  19. I, the LORD God, will turn you into a ghost-town. The ocean depths will rise over you
  20. and carry you down to the world of the dead, where you will join people of ancient times and towns ruined long ago. You will stay there and never again be a city filled with people.
  21. You will die a horrible death! People will come looking for your city, but it will never be found. I, the LORD, have spoken.

    Ezekiel began addressing judgment against the nations surrounding Judah who gloated over her destruction. Four of these nations were addressed in the previous chapter, and the fifth, Tyre, is the focus of this chapter. Tyre and Jerusalem were rivals for control of the trade routes between Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. While Tyre dominated the sea routes, Jerusalem controlled the caravan routes. With the destruction of Jerusalem, much of the caravan trade would be diverted to Tyre's sea routes. Thus Tyre's sin was her rejoicing over the fall of Jerusalem.

    But Tyre's fall was next. After defeating Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar and his army moved on to besiege Tyre. Tyre would be so decimated that fishermen could spread their nets over her, as over the rocks, to dry their nets. Besides the prediction of Tyre's fall, God also predicted that she would never be rebuilt, which also came true. Though the surrounding area has been rebuilt, still today Tyre lies in ruins. The fall of this great commercial center sent shock waves throughout the maritime communities who were dependent on Tyre for their trade and commerce.

    Was gloating over Jerusalem's fall such a great sin deserving of such great destruction? Such would be the question raised in our finite minds. But our problem is that we don't have all the information. Nor is our sense of justice as complete as is God's. We consider events such as the fall of Tyre and pass judgment on God for allowing or causing such destruction, forgetting our lack of understanding. As Paul pointed out in his letter to the Romans, "You will say to me, therefore, "Why then does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?" But who are you--anyone who talks back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?" Or has the potter no right over His clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:19-21) As clay, we are in a poor position to be questioning the judgments of the potter.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 25

    Ezekiel 25 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD God said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the people of Ammon
  3. and tell them: You celebrated when my temple was destroyed, when Israel was defeated, and when my people were taken away as prisoners.
  4. Now I am going to let you be conquered by tribes from the eastern desert. They will set up their camps in your land and eat your fruit and drink your milk.
  5. Your capital city of Rabbah will be nothing but pastureland for camels, and the rest of the country will be pastures for sheep. Then you will know that I am the LORD God.
  6. You hated Israel so much that you clapped and shouted and celebrated.
  7. And so I will hand you over to enemies who will rob you. I will completely destroy you. There won't be enough of your people left to be a nation ever again, and you will know that I, the LORD, have done these things.
  8. The LORD God said, "The people of Moab thought Judah was no different from any other nation.
  9. So I will let Moab's fortress towns along its border be attacked, including Beth-Jeshimoth, Baal-Meon, and Kiriathaim.
  10. The same eastern desert tribes that invade Ammon will invade Moab, and just as Ammon will be forgotten forever,
  11. Moab will be punished. Then the people there will know that I am the LORD."
  12. The LORD God then said, "The people of Edom are guilty of taking revenge on Judah.
  13. So I will punish Edom by killing all its people and livestock. It will be an empty wasteland all the way from Teman to Dedan.
  14. I will send my own people to take revenge on the Edomites by making them feel my fierce anger. And when I punish them, they will know that I am the LORD God."
  15. The LORD God said, "The cruel Philistines have taken revenge on their enemies over and over and have tried to destroy them.
  16. Now it's my turn to treat the Philistines as my enemies and to kill everyone living in their towns along the seacoast.
  17. In my fierce anger, I will take revenge on them. And when I punish them, they will know that I am the LORD."

    Judah was under siege by the Babylonians as God's judgment took effect. But if God's chosen people did not escape judgment neither would other nations that had contributed to her fall, both morally and physically. God's covenant with Abraham had stated that those who blessed Israel would be blessed and those who cursed her would be cursed. We see a fulfillment of this promise with God's judgment on the four nations mentioned in this chapter.

    The four nations - Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia - had been enemies of Israel from the time of her exodus and entry into Palestine, her land of promise. Throughout her history they had attempted to possess Israel's territory and rejoiced in her defeats. In conjunction with Babylon's takeover of Judah, two of the countries - Ammon and Edom - joined with Babylon to assist in the takeover. These nations were not only pleased with Israel's defeats but also with her moral decline. In the early days of Israel's history it was known by these nations that Israel's blessings and her victories in battle were due to God. When Israel turned her back on her God, she became as the other nations both in character and in her strength. Without God she was without power.

    Therefore, these four nations would meet a fate similar to that of Judah. They would be destroyed by other nations and exiled from their lands. Those nations that joined with Babylon to defeat Judah had hopes of gaining some of Judah's territory. But God did not allow them to benefit from Judah's fall. They too would fall. Not only were they not to gain any of Judah's territory, they would lose what they had.

    Failure to recognize God's sovereignty over life is a failure to participate in the good life God gives those who join Him in His purposes. Who knows better than the Creator of the universe and of life itself how life should best be lived and enjoyed?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 24

    Ezekiel 24 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Nine years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, the LORD spoke to me on the tenth day of the tenth month. He said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, write down today's date, because the king of Babylonia has just begun attacking the city of Jerusalem.
  3. Then tell my rebellious people: "Pour water in a cooking pot and set it over a fire. *
  4. Throw in the legs and shoulders of your finest sheep and put in the juicy bones.
  5. "Pile wood underneath the pot, and let the meat and bones boil until they are done."
  6. These words mean that Jerusalem is doomed! The city is filled with murderers and is like an old, rusty pot. The meat is taken out piece by piece, and no one cares what happens to it.
  7. The people of Jerusalem murdered innocent people in the city and didn't even try to cover up the blood that flowed out on the hard ground.
  8. But I have seen that blood, and it cries out for me to take revenge.
  9. I, the LORD God, will punish that city of violence! I will make a huge pile of firewood,
  10. so bring more wood and light it. Cook the meat and boil away the broth to let the bones scorch.
  11. Then set the empty pot over the hot coals until it is red-hot. That will clean the pot and burn off the rust.
  12. I've tried everything else. Now the rust must be burned away.
  13. Jerusalem is so full of sin and evil that I can't get it clean, even though I have tried. It will stay filthy until I let loose my fierce anger against it.
  14. That time will certainly come! And when it does, I won't show the people of Jerusalem any pity or change my mind. They must be punished for the evil they have done. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  15. The LORD said,
  16. "Ezekiel, son of man, I will suddenly take the life of the person you love most. But I don't want you to complain or cry.
  17. Mourn in silence and don't show that you are grieving. Don't remove your turban or take off your sandals; don't cover your face to show your sorrow, or eat the food that mourners eat."
  18. One morning, I was talking with the people as usual, and by sunset my wife was dead. The next day I did what the LORD told me,
  19. and when people saw me, they asked, "Why aren't you mourning for your wife?"
  20. I answered: The LORD God says
  21. he is ready to destroy the temple in which you take such pride and which makes you feel so safe. Your children who now live in Jerusalem will be killed.
  22. Then you will do the same things I have done. You will leave your face uncovered and refuse to eat the food that mourners usually eat.
  23. You won't take off your turbans and your sandals. You won't cry or mourn, but all day long you will go around groaning because of your sins.
  24. I am a warning sign--everything I have done, you will also do. And then you will know the LORD God has made these things happen.
  25. The LORD said, "Ezekiel, I will soon destroy the temple that makes everyone feel proud and safe, and I will take away their children as well.
  26. On that same day, someone will escape from the city and come to tell you what has happened.
  27. Then you will be able to speak again, and the two of you will talk. You will be a warning sign to the people, and they will know that I am the LORD."

    The time had arrived for Jerusalem's fall. On the very day that God gave Ezekiel the parable told in this chapter, Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem. Her fall was to serve as a purification process for Judah. This process is described with a parable in which Jerusalem is depicted as a pot and the people as the contents of the pot. The false prophets had used a similar parable, depicting Jerusalem as a pot, but in their parable the people were safe within the pot. Thus, the people thought they were safe inside the walls of Jerusalem. There no harm would come them, so they were led to believe. But Ezekiel's parable of the pot debunked that false claim.

    In Ezekiel's parable, the pot (Jerusalem) was put on the fire (the Babylonian siege). Then water was poured into the pot along with choice pieces of meat (the people of Jerusalem). The contents of the pot were then brought to a boil (the pressure of the siege). But once the contents came to a boil the pot was found to have rust in it (the corruption of the people). Jerusalem's impurities floated to the surface fully exposed. So the contents of the pot were ruined and had to be dumped out (as the people of Jerusalem were to be drug out of the city). As those of Jerusalem had shed the blood of their victims openly, not even trying to hide their sin, their blood would be shed openly on rocks where dust would not cover it.  Once the pot was emptied of its tainted contents, God dealt with the pot (Jerusalem). Every effort to rid Jerusalem of its rust (corruption) had failed, so the empty pot was heated on the open fire until its copper glowed and the rust was consumed. God's judgment went beyond the inhabitants to include the city itself, destroying it to remove its impurities.

    Ezekiel told his parable to the Jewish people who were in exile in Babylon along with himself. He told them the parable on the morning Jerusalem was attack. That same evening his wife died. Her death represented the death or loss of Jerusalem and its people. God instructed Ezekiel not to openly grieve her death. "You must not lament or weep or let your tears flow. Groan quietly; do not observe mourning rites for the dead." (24:16-17) The following morning when Ezekiel's wife was to be buried, the people asked him to explain what all this meant. They recognized there was a significance to it. So Ezekiel explained that God was "about to desecrate My sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the desire of your heart. Also, the sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword." (24:21) When this happened they would do as Ezekiel had done and not openly mourn their loss. Those who had lost loved ones could not mourn with those who had not, for all of them will have lost loved ones. They will have to mourn in silence.

    Soon a messenger would come to them with news about the destruction of Jerusalem and its people. When this happened, they would all know that God is God. All that was spoken through His prophet Ezekiel will have come to pass and they will know it is of the Lord.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 23

    Ezekiel 23 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, listen to this story about two sisters.
  3. While they were young and living in Egypt, they became prostitutes.
  4. The older one was named Oholah, which stands for Samaria; the younger one was Oholibah, which stands for Jerusalem. They became my wives and gave birth to my children.
  5. Even though Oholah was my wife, she continued to be a prostitute and chased after Assyrian lovers.
  6. She offered herself to soldiers in purple uniforms, to every handsome, high-ranking officer, and to cavalry troops.
  7. She had sex with all the important Assyrian officials and even worshiped their disgusting idols.
  8. Once she started doing these things in Egypt, she never stopped. Men slept with her, and she was always ready for sex.
  9. So I gave Oholah to the Assyrian lovers she wanted so badly.
  10. They ripped off her clothes, then captured her children and killed her. Women everywhere talked about what had happened to Oholah.
  11. Oholibah saw all this, but she was more sinful and wanted sex more than her sister Oholah ever did.
  12. Oholibah also chased after good-looking Assyrian officers, uniformed soldiers, and cavalry troops.
  13. Just like her sister, she did vulgar things.
  14. But Oholibah behaved worse than her sister. Oholibah saw images of Babylonian men carved into walls and painted red.
  15. They had belts around their waists and large turbans on their heads, and they reminded her of Babylonian cavalry officers.
  16. As soon as she looked at them, she wanted to have sex with them. And so, she sent messengers to bring them to her.
  17. Men from Babylonia came and had sex with her so many times that she got disgusted with them.
  18. She let everyone see her naked body and didn't care if they knew she was a prostitute. That's why I turned my back on her, just as I had done with her older sister.
  19. Oholibah didn't stop there, but became even more immoral and acted as she had back in Egypt.
  20. She eagerly wanted to go to bed with Egyptian men, who were famous for their sexual powers.
  21. And she longed for the days when she was a young prostitute, when men enjoyed having sex with her.
  22. The LORD God said: Oholibah, though you no longer want to be around your lovers, they will surround you like enemies, when I turn them against you.
  23. I will gather all the handsome young officials and the high-ranking cavalry officers from Babylonia and Assyria, as well as from the Chaldean tribes of Pekod, Shoa, and Koa.
  24. Their large armies will come from the north with chariots and wagons carrying weapons. They will wear shields and helmets and will surround you, and I will let them judge and sentence you according to their own laws.
  25. I am angry with you, so I will let them be very cruel. They will cut off your nose and ears; they will kill your children and put to death anyone in your family who is still alive.
  26. Your clothes and jewelry will be torn off.
  27. I will stop your wickedness and the prostitution you started back in Egypt. You will never want to think about those days again.
  28. I, the LORD God, am ready to hand you over to those hateful enemies that you find so disgusting.
  29. They will cruelly take away everything you have worked for and strip you naked. Then everyone will see you for the prostitute you really are. Your own vulgar sins
  30. have led to this. You were the one determined to have sex with men from other nations and to worship their idols.
  31. You have turned out no better than your older sister, and now you must drink from the cup filled with my anger.
  32. I, the LORD God, gave your sister a large, deep cup filled with my anger. And when you drink from that cup, you will be mocked and insulted.
  33. You will end up drunk and devastated, because that cup is filled with horror and ruin.
  34. But you must drink every drop! Then smash the cup to pieces and use them to cut your breasts in sorrow. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  35. You have completely rejected me, and so I promise that you will be punished for the disgusting things you did as a prostitute.
  36. The LORD said: Ezekiel, son of man, it's time for you to tell Oholah and Oholibah that they are guilty. Remind them of their evil ways!
  37. They have been unfaithful by worshiping idols, and they have committed murder by sacrificing my own children as offerings to idols.
  38. They came into my temple that same day, and that made it unfit as a place to worship me. They have even stopped respecting the Sabbath.
  39. (SEE 23:38)
  40. They sent messengers to attract men from far away. When those men arrived, the two sisters took baths and put on eye shadow and jewelry.
  41. They sat on a fancy couch, and in front of them was a table for the olive oil and incense that had belonged to me.
  42. Their room was always filled with a noisy crowd of drunkards brought in from the desert. These men gave the women bracelets and beautiful crowns,
  43. and I noticed that the men were eager to have sex with these women, though they were exhausted from being prostitutes.
  44. In fact, the men had sex over and over with Oholah and Oholibah, the two sinful sisters.
  45. But good men will someday accuse those two of murder and of being unfaithful, because they are certainly guilty.
  46. So I, the LORD God, now say to these sisters: I will call together an angry mob that will abuse and rob you.
  47. They will stone you to death and cut you to pieces; they will kill your children and burn down your houses.
  48. I will get rid of sinful prostitution in this country, so that women everywhere will be warned not to act as you have.
  49. You will be punished for becoming prostitutes and for worshiping idols, and you will know that I am the LORD God.

    Ezekiel's prophecies were aimed primarily at Judah, but in this chapter both Israel and Judah are involved, both depicted as sisters who turned to prostitution. However, Israel's inclusion is primarily as a comparison to give perspective to Judah's sin. Judah watched as Israel turned her back on God, turning to the nation of Assyria for the help she should have sought from God. Thus, the imagery of this chapter is of her prostituting herself to Assyria. Whereas chapter 16 was about Judah prosituting herself to idols, this chapter focuses on unfaithfulness with other nations. Since Israel turned to Assyria for the help she should have sought from God, God used Assyria for her punishment. After becoming a vassal of Assyria, Israel became disenchanted with the relationship and tried to disentangle herself from the alliance, turning this time to Syria and Egypt for help. This caused Assyria to turn her wrath on Israel, and thus the nation to which Israel had turned for help became the one to destroy her.

    Having watched Israel's sin and demise, Judah should have known better, but she instead followed in Israel's footsteps, sinking even lower than Israel. In the beginning, Judah also curried the favor of the Assyrians rather than relying on God. Meanwhile, Israel had banded together with Syria in an attempt to oppose Assyria. Thus, Israel tried to bring Judah into the alliance with Syria against Assyria. When Judah refused, Israel and Syria attack her, causing Judah to go to Assyria for help. In so doing, Judah became a vassal of Assyria, having followed directly in the footsteps of Israel. After a century of oppression at the hands of Assyria, Judah turned to Babylon for help, eventually becoming a vassal of Babylon. She found Babylon to be a harder taskmaster than Assyria and tried to escape Babylon's dominance which led to Babylon's attack on Jerusalem and the final destruction of Judah, which is the focus of Ezekiel's prophecies.

    Ultimately, the nations to which both Israel and Judah turned to for help became the source of their demise. God's orchestration of our punishment for sin is often simply to allow our sin to take its natural course. Sin can, and usually is, its own punishment. As obedient followers of God we are still prone to sin, but through repentance and seeking God's help, He helps us out of the sin and its outcomes. But without turning from the sin or seeking God's help, we are left to the downward spiral sin takes in our lives. Unless we at some point turn to God, this spiral will take us to the bottom and our own destruction. This is well documented in the histories of Israel and Judah.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 22

    Ezekiel 22 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Some time later, the LORD said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, are you ready to condemn Jerusalem? That city is filled with murderers, so remind the people of their sins
  3. and tell them I am saying: Jerusalem, you have murdered many of your own people and have worshiped idols. You will soon be punished!
  4. Those crimes have made you guilty, and the idols have made you unacceptable to me. So your final punishment is near. Other nations will laugh at you and make insulting remarks,
  5. and people far and near will make fun of your misery.
  6. Your own leaders use their power to murder.
  7. None of you honor your parents, and you cheat foreigners, orphans, and widows.
  8. You show no respect for my sacred places and treat the Sabbath just like any other day.
  9. Some of your own people tell lies, so that others will be put to death. Some of you eat meat sacrificed to idols at local shrines, and others never stop doing vulgar things.
  10. Men have sex with their father's wife or with women who are having their monthly period
  11. or with someone else's wife. Some men even sleep with their own daughter-in-law or half sister.
  12. Others of you accept money to murder someone. Your own people charge high interest when making a loan to other Israelites, and they get rich by cheating. Worst of all, you have forgotten me, the LORD God.
  13. I will shake my fist in anger at your violent crimes.
  14. When I'm finished with you, your courage will disappear, and you will be so weak that you won't be able to lift your hands. I, the LORD, have spoken and will not change my mind.
  15. I will scatter you throughout every nation on earth and put a stop to your sinful ways.
  16. You will be humiliated in the eyes of other nations. Then you will know that I, the LORD God, have done these things.
  17. The LORD said:
  18. Ezekiel, son of man, I consider the people of Israel as worthless as the leftover metal in a furnace after silver has been purified.
  19. So I am going to bring them together in Jerusalem.
  20. I will be like a metalworker who collects that metal from the furnace and melts it down. I will collect the Israelites and blow on them with my fiery anger. They will melt inside the city of Jerusalem
  21. (SEE 22:20)
  22. like silver in a furnace. Then they will know that I, the LORD, have punished them in my anger.
  23. The LORD said:
  24. Ezekiel, son of man, tell the people of Israel that their country is full of sin, and that I, the LORD, am furious!
  25. Their leaders are like roaring lions, tearing apart their victims. They put people to death, then steal everything of value. Husbands are killed, and many women are left as widows.
  26. The priests of Israel ignore my Law! Not only do they refuse to respect any of my sacred things, but they don't even teach the difference between what is sacred and what is ordinary, or between what is clean and what is unclean. They treat my Sabbath like any other day, and so my own people no longer honor me.
  27. Israel's officials are like ferocious wolves, ripping their victims apart. They make a dishonest living by injuring and killing people.
  28. And then the prophets in Israel cover up these sins by giving false visions. I have never spoken to them, but they lie and say they have a message from me.
  29. The people themselves cheat and rob; they abuse the poor and take advantage of foreigners.
  30. I looked for someone to defend the city and to protect it from my anger, as well as to stop me from destroying it. But I found no one.
  31. So in my fierce anger, I will punish the Israelites for what they have done, and they will know that I am furious. I, the LORD, have spoken.

    The chapter opens with a question posed to Ezekiel by God: "Son of man . . . Will you pass judgment against the city of blood?" This is followed with the requirement that if he is to pass judgment, "Then explain all her abominations to her." (22:2)  It is as if Ezekiel was to serve as a prosecuting attorney or judge and must present the charges supporting a judgment of guilty. And so verses 3-16 present the charges. The list includes: bloodshed (v. 9), idolatry (vv. 3, 4); murder (v. 6); contempt of parents, oppression of strangers, orphans and widows (v. 7); desecrating the temple and breaking the Sabbaths (v. 8); slander, idolatry and lewdness (v. 9); immorality (v. 10); adultery, incest (v. 11); bribery, usury, extortion, and forgetfulness of the Lord God (v. 12).

    Given the list of charges against the people and leaders of Judah, they are pronounced to be as dross, the worthless byproduct produced from the purification of precious metals. God would gather the people into Jerusalem "Just as one gathers silver, copper, iron, lead, and tin into the furnace to blow fire on them and melt them, so I will gather you in My anger and wrath, put you inside, and melt you." (22:20) As the fire separates the precious metal from the dross, so the fire of God's fury will separate the wicked from the just. And this is what happened with Judah. As the Babylonian army invaded Judah, the people in the countryside fled to the protection of the city walls of Jerusalem only to find they had entered God's furnace.

    The final verses of the chapter describe the widespread nature of the sins of Judah. The national leaders were guilty of these sins from the kings to the priests to the prophets. But not only did the leaders oppress the common people, the common people oppressed the helpless. God sought a leader who would "repair the wall and stand in the gap." (22:30) That is, someone who would lead the nation back to God. If one were found, the nation might not be destroyed. But none was found who would stand in the gap.

    What is the root or foundation of my desire to follow God? Am I really following the lead of others who follow God? In other words, do I have a second hand religion that I will abandon should those I respect fall away from God? Is that the nature of my relationship to God? If so, it will not serve me well nor will I serve God well. Rather than such a relationship with God carrying me through the difficult times of life, which will surely come, it will instead fall apart.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 21

    Ezekiel 21 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said:
  2. Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the places in Jerusalem where people worship. Warn everyone in Israel
  3. that I am about to punish them. I will pull out my sword and have it ready to kill everyone, whether good or evil.
  4. From south to north, people will die,
  5. knowing that my sword will never be put away.
  6. Ezekiel, groan in sorrow and despair so that everyone can hear you.
  7. When they ask why you are groaning, tell them you have terrifying news that will make them faint and tremble in fear and lose all courage. These things will happen soon. I, the LORD God, make this promise!
  8. The LORD said:
  9. Ezekiel, son of man, tell the people of Jerusalem: I have sharpened my sword to slaughter you; it is shiny and will flash like lightning! Don't celebrate-- punishment is coming, because everyone has ignored my warnings.
  10. (SEE 21:9)
  11. My sword has been polished; it's sharp and ready to kill.
  12. Groan in sorrow, Ezekiel; the sword is drawn against my people and their leaders. They will die! So give up all hope.
  13. I am testing my people, and they can do nothing to stop me. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  14. Ezekiel, warn my people, then celebrate my victory by clapping your hands. My vicious sword will attack again and again, killing my people with every stroke.
  15. They will lose all courage and stumble with fear. My slaughtering sword is waiting at every gate, flashing and ready to kill.
  16. It will slash right and left, wherever the blade is pointed.
  17. Then I will stop being angry, and I will clap my hands in victory. I, the LORD, have spoken.
  18. The LORD said:
  19. Ezekiel, son of man, mark two roads for the king of Babylonia to follow when he comes with his sword. The roads will begin at the same place, but be sure to put up a signpost where the two roads separate and go in different directions.
  20. Clearly mark where the two roads lead. One goes to Rabbah, the capital of Ammon, and the other goes to Jerusalem, the fortified capital of Judah.
  21. When the Babylonian king stands at that signpost, he will decide which way to go by shaking his arrows, by asking his idols, and by carefully looking at the liver of a sacrificed animal.
  22. His right hand will pull out the arrow marked "Jerusalem." Then he will immediately give the signal to shout the battle cry, to build dirt ramps to the top of the city walls, to break down its walls and gates with large wooden poles, and to kill the people.
  23. Everyone in Jerusalem had promised to be loyal to Babylonia, and so none of them will believe that this could happen to them. But Babylonia's king will remind them of their sinful ways and warn them of their coming captivity.
  24. Ezekiel, tell the people of Jerusalem and their ruler that I, the LORD God, am saying: Everything you do is wicked and shows how sinful you are. You are guilty and will be taken away as prisoners.
  25. And now, you evil and wicked ruler of Israel, your day of final punishment is almost here.
  26. I, the LORD God, command you to take off your royal turban and your crown, because everything will be different. Those who had no power will be put in charge, and those who now rule will become nobodies.
  27. I will leave Jerusalem in ruins when my chosen one comes to punish this city.
  28. The LORD God said: Ezekiel, son of man, the Ammonites have insulted Israel, so condemn them and tell them I am saying: A sword is drawn, ready to slaughter; it is polished and prepared to kill as fast as lightning.
  29. You wicked Ammonites see false visions and believe untrue messages. But your day of punishment is coming soon, and my sword will slaughter you!
  30. Your days to punish others are over, so put your swords away. You will be punished in the land of your birth.
  31. My furious anger will scorch you like fire, and I will hand you over to cruel men who are experts in killing.
  32. You will be burned and will die in your own land. Then you will be forgotten forever. I, the LORD, have spoken.

    The message of chapter 21 actually begins with verse 45 of chapter 20. 20:45-49 describes Judah's destruction by fire, but the people chose not to understand it saying that Ezekiel was speaking in riddles. So God changed the imagery from fire to the sword and was more pointed about the location of the destruction. Instead of the "forest land of the Negev," as it was described in 20:46, the sword in chapter 21 comes "against My people" and "against all the princes of Israel!" (21:12) The language is plain enough to be understood, but if the people choose again not to understand it, there will be no doubt about the message once the sword actually arrives against the people and princes of Israel.

    Judah's power of denial was enormous, though. Verses 18-27 foretell Nebuchadnezzar's march from Babylon to retaliate against Judah for her betrayal of the oath she had taken to be loyal to Babylon's rule. Judah was one of three countries seeking independence from Babylon's rule, thus breaking their oaths of loyalty. The other two were Tyre and Ammon. When Nebuchadnezzar marched from Babylon with his army he had to choose which of these three countries to attack first. Since Tyre was the most difficult of the three to attack, he eliminated it from his initial attack plan. To choose between Judah or Ammon he used divination by casting lots with arrows, consulting his idols, and examining the liver. God directed the results of all three means to point to Judah. Then, even as the Babylonian army set up siege ramps around Jerusalem, the people refused to believe Nebuchadnezzar would succeed, saying that his omens were false. "It will seem like false divination in the eyes of those who have sworn an oath to the Babylonians" (21:23) Even with the Babylonian army pounding on the gates of the city, the people of Judah refused to believe the word of God through the prophets, denying their guilt and the reality of their judgment.

    There was no turning away of Judah's judgment, though. It was certain. "The day has come for your punishment." said the Lord, "Things will not remain as they are; exalt the lowly and bring down the exalted. A ruin, a ruin, I will make it a ruin! Yet this will not happen until He comes; I have given the judgment to Him." (21:25-27)