Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 27: Friday
“There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her.
“Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
“Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain. Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken.
“The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice.
“I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,” declares the Lord GOD.
Friday’s Bible reading is Ezekiel 19–24—an almost unrelenting drumbeat of prophecies of the wrath of God that will fall on Judah. In the passage I quoted above, the groups mentioned encompass every person in the nation: prophets, priests, princes and people.
Chapter 24 closes the first section of Ezekiel. G. R. Beasley-Murray titles this section, Israel’s Sin and Impending Judgment, and in his introduction to Ezekiel he writes:
“After the introductory vision of chs. 1–3, Ezekiel concentrates almost exclusively on laying bare the iniquity of his people. He pitilessly drags their sins to the light and pronounces the judgment of God on them. By symbolic actions, parables, fiery oratory and logical statement he reiterates his theme of the wickedness of the nation and its inevitable destruction. The repetition of denunciation and threat of doom is so constant as to make the reader recoil in horror, especially as, whereas other prophetic works light up their threats with promises, this element is largely lacking in the first section of Ezekiel’s book. When he does allow a ray of hope to shine through, it usually glows a fiery red, so that the restoration spoken of is a shameful one and not in joy (see, e.g., 16:53–58; 20:43, 44). In this, as in other respects, Ezekiel has affinity with the author of the book of Revelation, for both works set forth, as none other in their respective Testaments, the unmitigated terror of God’s wrath.”2
After having read these chapters, I can only concur with his words. The unremitting detail of the sin of Israel and Judah, and the coming wrath of God is overwhelming, but as you read of God’s wrath, consider the cause. In chapter 20, as God retells the history of Israel, we see His forbearance and patience as Israel time after time rejects His commands, worships their own idols and lives according to their own choices of evil. Look at some of the terms in the verses above from chapter 22: devoured lives, did violence to My law, profaned My holy things, practiced oppression, committed robbery, wronged the poor and needy. These chapters teach us that yes, God is God and God is holy, and yes, the acts of rebellion and evil in these chapters fully deserved God’s wrath.
“I, the LORD, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you,” declares the Lord GOD.’”
From these chapters we should learn reverence and awe of God. From these chapters we should learn to cease being flippant about sin or callous about obedience. So much about the church in America today is a veneer; we have a shallow understanding of God, a superficial knowledge of doctrine, a surface commitment to follow Christ and to love each other.
Ezekiel goes to the hard places that teach us depth. The depth of God’s holiness, the depth of man’s sin and the depth of God’s wrath and judgment. But without learning those depths, you cannot learn the depth of God’s love, and the depth of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publication
1, 2G. R. Beasley-Murray, “Ezekiel,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie,
J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 667, 675.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter