We’re staying with Ezekiel this week to cover most of the second half of his prophetic ministry. As I promised last week, here’s part two of the Bible Project video on Ezekiel. We make a turn from judgment to hope in Ezekiel 34 on Thursday. The message of hope is important – especially for people who live in exile, away from their homeland. The apostle Peter speaks the same message in 1 Peter to the “elect exiles in the Dispersion” about the “living hope kept in heaven for them.” As we read Ezekiel, let’s allow the words of hope to point us to Jesus – our living hope who is seated at the right hand of the Father and interceding for us.
Today, we conclude Ezekiel’s oracle of judgment against Israel. He compares the capital cities of the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and thee southern kingdom of Judah (Jerusalem) to prostitutes, who have deserted their first love (Yahweh) and made love with many other lovers and idols. All of this unfaithfulness will be returned on them when their lovers betray them and cast them out into exile. In chapter 24, Ezekiel is again a living parable, a sign for the people of Israel. A prophetic call demands your “yes” to be on the table – your whole life, really. Even Ezekiel’s wife’s death becomes a sign of the destruction of the Temple – the delight of Israel’s eyes.
These chapters move us into judgment against the nations. Chapter 25 is a series of short judgments on Israel’s most immediate neighbors: Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia who all gloated and took revenge against Israel after her fall. The Lord is still zealous for his people and his renown. Chapters 26 and 27 confront Tyre, one of Israel’s more powerful neighbors. Because they gloated over Israel, they also will fall to Babylon and never be found again. That the Lord can judge Tyre shows he is not some little tribal deity, but he is God of the whole earth. Ezekiel’s lament in chapter 27 reveals that even a godless nation can have praiseworthy benefits and give common grace to all.
Judgment against Tyre continues with a prophecy against the prince of Tyre who, in the pride of his heart, makes himself “a god.” Ezekiel also against the king of Tyre who, it seems, is led and deceived by Satan (these phrases sound like Satan: the signet of perfection, the garden of God, a guardian cherub). Note, though, the king is still responsible for his actions. At the end of chapter 28, a final judgment on Tyre’s neighbor Sidon concludes judgment on Israel’s enemies – which clears the “briers and thorns” for the Lord to replant his people in the Land. The final chapters of today’s reading pick up the same pattern we read about Tyre – but this time about Egypt. A judgment and impending invasion by Babylon is pronounced because of Egypt’s pride, and a lament quickly follows.
We continue with judgments announced on Pharaoh, followed by a lament for him and for Egypt. Again, pride comes before the fall. And then Ezekiel looks, as it were, at the “gravestones” of all those who have fallen before and takes note of their sins. In sharp contrast to these prophecies and laments, Israel finds herself in a different situation. God has appointed Israel a watchman to warn Israel of impending danger. If they hear and repent, they will be spared. Instead, they lob accusations of injustice at their God, they listen to Ezekiel’s teaching, but fail to obey.
Today marks a change in the tone of Ezekiel. The ultimate judgment on Israel has come as the Temple is destroyed and the rest of people are sent into exile. The Lord takes issue with the leaders (shepherds) of Israel and promises a new Shepherd who feeds, tends, and cares for the flock and is an offspring of David – the kingly line which was just “destroyed” by Babylon. Chapter 35 is a brief interlude of another prophecy of destruction on Mt. Seir – in Edom. Chapter 36 is moree good news for the land of Israel, which will again be inhabited and not forgotten. The Lord has not forgotten or neglected the renown of his name. His glory will be made known among the nations when he make useless Israel useful again. He will do this not for Israel’s sake, but for the sake of his own reputation and glory. As you read chapter 36, see if you can see the seeds of Jesus’ teaching for salvation: repent and believe.
Ezekiel 37 is a famous passage. The whole chapter consists of a prophetic vision (vv. 1-14) and an object lesson explanation (vv. 15-28). It is a beautiful passage, so read it slowly and soak in its promises. We are the inheritors of this great promise in that we have the Spirit, we have been made new, and Jesus the son of David is our Good Shepherd. Chapter 38 moves us from hope for Israel into hope for the nations, personified by “Gog from the land of Magog” which is a direct reference picked up from Genesis 10. Gog (like Babylon in Revelation) is symbolic of all human rebellion against God. Here’s the point of all this destruction of Gog by earthquakes and fires: God is going to destroy all evil from the earth so that his Name will not be profaned, his people not led astray anymore, and every nation will know that the Lord is God over the whole earth and over Israel.
These chapters should be a welcome relief. Twenty-five years into exile and fourteen years after Jerusalem was captured, Ezekiel is given a vision of the New Temple from the outside to the inside. The place where so much idolatry and distastefulness occurred is being re-newed. This is setting us up for the Glory of the Lord which left the Temple to return to the Temple (which we’ll read next week).