Friday, December 5, 2014


For the week beginning Sunday December 7, 2014

(GOD’s judgment on her prostitution)
Ezekiel 16-17

Being “chosen” was never supposed to be used by the Jewish people as a source of “pride”, but rather, it was supposed to be a reminder of how gracious GOD was to them when HE took something that had rendered itself to be useless and unwanted (the useless vine in chapter 15), gave it life, and then, made it into something beautiful, powerful, and respected, throughout the world.
In Ezekiel 16, GOD gave HIS prophet Ezekiel a message that strongly depicts Jerusalem as “an unfaithful wife” who prostituted herself at “no charge” to her clients. Here GOD says that the Israelites were acting no different than the Canaanite people, that HE had replaced with them, and that, they were acting as if their father were an Amorite, and their mother a Hittite (Vs.1-3).
In ancient times, female off springs were often unwanted, and were sometimes abandoned and left to die (Vs.4-5). Here GOD uses this unpleasant fact of life to depict the way HE found Israel. HE says they were abandoned at birth and no one took the slightest interest in their welfare. GOD found them, gave them life, and helped them to thrive as they grew into “a beautiful jewel”. GOD clothed them, nourished them, adorned them, made a covenant with them, and made them HIS own (Vs.6-14).
Taking up at verse 15, against the backdrop of all of GOD’s grace, Israel suddenly decided that she could live without having GOD fully involved in her life, and her pride slowly led her from under the protection of GOD, and into the vulnerable atmosphere of the world. She became like a prostitute who wouldn’t collect her fee, because she had become blinded to the fact of her own immorality. In fact, she was now actually paying the pagan partners of her “spiritual prostitution”, by using the very jewels, silver, and gold that GOD had given her, to build statutes and shrines for the men she grew to worship in the world (Vs.15-19).
The orphaned child (Israel) that GOD had saved and enriched beyond measure, was now abandoning HIM, becoming a spiritual and moral prostitute, who was exhibiting unbridled passion for the world around her. And the fact that GOD had raised her up to the highest pinnacle possible in life (GOD’s chosen people), made her actions all the more reprehensible, and her judgment, all the more certain.
Beginning in verse 35 Ezekiel delivers this resounding message of judgment against Judah for her immoral acts against the GOD WHO raised her up and gave her hope:

“Therefore, you prostitute, listen to this message from the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you have poured out your lust and exposed yourself in prostitution to all your lovers, and because you have worshiped detestable idols, and because you have slaughtered your children as sacrifices to your gods,  this is what I am going to do. I will gather together all your allies—the lovers with whom you have sinned, both those you loved and those you hated—and I will strip you naked in front of them so they can stare at you.  I will punish you for your murder and adultery. I will cover you with blood in my jealous fury.  Then I will give you to these many nations who are your lovers, and they will destroy you. They will knock down your pagan shrines and the altars to your idols.  They will strip you and take your beautiful jewels, leaving you stark naked. They will band together in a mob to stone you and cut you up with swords.  They will burn your homes and punish you in front of many women. I will stop your prostitution and end your payments to your many lovers” (Vs.35-41-NLT).

GOD’s judgment upon Judah would put an end to her prostitution, and only after her destruction would the LORD’s jealous anger be satisfied. And don’t think that GOD is being petty or vindictive in HIS actions against Jerusalem. GOD meting out judgment is a very essential part of HIS holiness.
Starting in verse 46, we see the second part of Ezekiel’s parable being laid out. It is an analogy between Jerusalem and her sisters, Samaria and Sodom. Whereas Jerusalem already had a proverb concerning her fate, here GOD gives her another one, which says, “Like mother, like daughter” (v.44). It meant that “the traits of the parent were seen in the children”, and that Judah’s actions were characteristic of her heritage. Here GOD tells Judah, through Ezekiel, that;

“Your older sister was Samaria, who lived with her daughters in the north.  Your younger sister was Sodom, who lived with her daughters in the south. But you have not merely sinned as they did. You quickly surpassed them in corruption.  As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters.  Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.  She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.  “Even Samaria did not commit half your sins. You have done far more detestable things than your sisters ever did. They seem righteous compared to you.  Shame on you! Your sins are so terrible that you make your sisters seem righteous, even virtuous.  “But someday I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and Samaria, and I will restore you, too.  Then you will be truly ashamed of everything you have done, for your sins make them feel good in comparison.  Yes, your sisters, Sodom and Samaria, and all their people will be restored, and at that time you also will be restored.  In your proud days you held Sodom in contempt.  But now your greater wickedness has been exposed to all the world, and you are the one who is scorned—by Edom and all her neighbors and by Philistia.  This is your punishment for all your lewdness and detestable sins, says the Lord” (Vs. 46-58 – NLT).

All three of the cities mentioned, Samaria, Sodom, and Jerusalem could be likened to each other, because all three had chosen the lifestyle of a prostitute against GOD, by way of their idolatry and other sins. Sodom was destroyed by fire from Heaven (Genesis 18-19), and Samaria, at one time, the capital city of Northern Israel, was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and so, how could Jerusalem, whom GOD says had done much worse than those  other two, expect to fare any better than they did?
And even though the people of Israel never showed any real commitment to GOD’s covenant, GOD certainly did show HE was committed to them. That is why the restoration of Jerusalem would be assured, and GOD would actually go beyond this mess with HIS wife, Israel, and make an atonement so great, that it would not only reclaim HIS chosen people, but would also draw to HIMSELF, all the Gentile nations of the world, as well.
In Ezekiel 17 we find the parable, or the “allegory” (hidah) of the two eagles. These parables depict the rebellion of King Zedekiah of Jerusalem, against King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king whom GOD appointed to ultimately destroy Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
In verse 2 Ezekiel is told by GOD to deliver this message (Vs.3-10), in the form of a riddle, to the people of Israel;

“A great eagle with broad wings and long feathers,
    covered with many-colored plumage,
    came to Lebanon.
He seized the top of a cedar tree
     and plucked off its highest branch.
He carried it away to a city filled with merchants.
    He planted it in a city of traders.
 He also took a seedling from the land
    and planted it in fertile soil.
He placed it beside a broad river,
    where it could grow like a willow tree.
 It took root there and
    grew into a low, spreading vine.
Its branches turned up toward the eagle,
    and its roots grew down into the ground.
It produced strong branches
    and put out shoots.
 But then another great eagle came
    with broad wings and full plumage.
So the vine now sent its roots and branches
    toward him for water,
even though it was already planted in good soil
    and had plenty of water
so it could grow into a splendid vine
    and produce rich leaves and luscious fruit.
 “So now the Sovereign Lord asks:
Will this vine grow and prosper?
    No! I will pull it up, roots and all!
I will cut off its fruit
    and let its leaves wither and die.
I will pull it up easily
    without a strong arm or a large army.
 But when the vine is transplanted,
    will it thrive?
No, it will wither away
    when the east wind blows against it.
It will die in the same good soil
    where it had grown so well.”

In this enigmatic verse of scripture, “the first eagle” represents Nebuchadnezzar, and “Lebanon” (the land of great cedars) represents Jerusalem. The eagle goes to Lebanon (Jerusalem) and clips “the top of a cedar tree” (King Jehoiachin), and replants the bough in a city known for trade (Babylon). This referred to Nebuchadnezzar’s previous attack on Jerusalem in 597 B.C., when he re-established his control over the city, and then, deposed King Jehoiachin, carrying him back to Babylon in chains.
Nebuchadnezzar was not totally heartless in his siege, however, as he also took with him several young Jewish nobles (some of the seeds of the land) who could carry on in their tradition of worshipping the Almighty GOD of Heaven WHO sent him. And although he had greatly weakened Jerusalem, he did not totally destroy it at this time. Instead, he placed Zedekiah (a low spreading vine) in charge of Jerusalem as a “Vassal King”, and had him to “swear by the GOD of Israel” to be loyal to him.  
Then another eagle (Egypt) came along and influenced Zedekiah to break his oath, join them, and rebel against Babylon, and the plan of GOD. The results of Zedekiah’s rebellion, of course, were a disaster and “the low spreading vine” (Zedekiah) was stripped of its fruit.
In verses 22-24, in order to keep the people from becoming totally dejected and without hope, GOD promises through HIS prophet Ezekiel, that HE will take “another tender shoot” (JESUS) from “the top of a tall cedar” (the Davidic Line), and plant it on the top of Israel’s highest mountain. It (JESUS) will become a noble cedar, sending forth branches and producing seed. “Birds of every sort” (Jews and Gentiles) will come to rest in it, finding shelter in its branches. And all the trees will know that it is HE, the LORD, WHO cuts down the tall tree, and helps the short tree, to grow tall. It is GOD WHO makes the green tree wither, and HE has the power to make the dead tree, live again.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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