Friday, January 9, 2015


For the week beginning Sunday January 11, 2015

(The LORD’s sword of judgment)
Ezekiel 20-21

Ezekiel chapters 20-24 detail the history of Judah’s sin and corruption against GOD. The prophet Ezekiel had already presented us with a picture of that history in his parable in chapter 16. However, starting here in chapter 20, he begins to give us a more direct presentation of that history, and also another warning of judgment, and promise of restoration.
The chapter begins the same way that chapters 8 and 14 do, with Israel’s Church leaders coming to Ezekiel seeking a message and advice from the LORD. It is now during the seventh year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity in Babylon, and only about five years before the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
The message the LORD gives HIS corrupt leaders is, of course, not the one that they were seeking. In verse 3 the LORD tells Ezekiel to give them this message from the sovereign LORD instead; “How dare you come to ask for MY help! As surely as I live I will tell you nothing. This is the word of the sovereign LORD!”
GOD then instructs Ezekiel to bring judgment on the leaders of Israel and confront them regarding the sinful practices of their forefathers and how they themselves were continuing on in those despicable practices. The LORD wanted them to look back on those bad choices that they had made, and HE wanted them to see the evil direction in which those sinful choices had led them, and the people of Israel, who followed their instructions and leadership.
While Israel was in captivity in Egypt they had began to adopt and worship the Egyptian gods as idols, and when they were freed, many of them continued to worship those idols in secret, despite GOD’s exposing of those same “demon possessed idols” with the “ten plagues” before HE freed them. And although they had broken their vows to be loyal to GOD, GOD, WHO is faithful, did not abandon them (Vs.4-10). Even while in the wilderness of the Negev, where GOD had led them to safety, and given them HIS laws to live by at Sinai, the Israelites had already began to rebel against HIM through their detestable practices, worshipping some of the Egyptian idols that they had carried away from Egypt with them during their exodus.
GOD made plans, and even threatened to pour out HIS anger on the Israelites while they were still in the desert, but after several intercessions by Moses, GOD held back to give them more time to repent, and turn back to HIM. HE also wanted to protect the honor of HIS OWN name in front of the pagan nations around them, who might misconstrue the reason for destroying HIS people, whom HE had pledged to protect, and take care of (Vs.13-14).
GOD did, however, swear to the Israelites, while they were still in the wilderness, that, HE would not allow them to enter into “the promised land” that HE had given them, because they had “Rejected HIS laws, ignored HIS will for them, and violated HIS Sabbath days rest. And so GOD showed mercy on them, even though the Israelites, themselves, had lost their hearts to the idols of Egypt.
Judgment has never been a sign that GOD has abandoned HIS people, but rather, it should always be seen as evidence that GOD is committed to HIS people, even though they have failed miserably in their commitment to HIM. Israel deserted the GOD of their ancestors, time and time again, and began to “shack up” with other gods. But GOD has always revealed through HIS actions that HIS love for us is far greater than all of our sins against HIM.
Even though GOD extended HIS opportunities of blessings to yet a second generation of Israelites, while they were still in the wilderness of the Negev, the same response of sinful behavior was repeated by that generation. Therefore, their destruction was deserved, and based on their own demerits, not their parents. God, through HIS boundless mercies however, did not destroy the second generation for their sins, although HE did impose a certain degree of judgments against them (Vs.15-22).
The first judgment, “dispersion” (v.23), was exacted upon the nation of Israel just prior to their entry into “the promised land”. However, GOD encouraged HIS people to obey HIS covenant, and he delineated the “blessings” that would come through obedience, and the “problems” that would automatically come from disobedience (see Deuteronomy 28).
God’s second judgment was to “abandon Israel to her own sins” (v.25), by allowing her to go ahead and practice the customs of the pagan nations around her, knowing full well they could never keep their stringent laws, which also required the people to sacrifice their own children to the false gods and idols that they worshipped (v.26). And so GOD’s act of “turning them over to sin” is the way that HE allows “our sins to run their course” so that we may experience the consequences of our sins so that we can earnestly repent and be restored back into a right relationship of friendship with HIM.
After GOD delivered the second generation into the “promised land” they continued to blaspheme and betray HIM. They continued to offer up sacrifices and incense at the idol god shrine called “Bamah” (which means “High Place”), for example (v.29), and kept prostituting themselves with other detestable idols. Therefore, GOD says HE will not answer their request for help from their wicked and corrupt leaders. If they continued to desire to be like the nations around them, they would never be able to request for HIS help in their “self-imposed mess”. To the contrary, GOD says HE will bring them out of the lands of their pagan surroundings, and judge them in their wildernesses face to face. And HE will never accept gifts from a people whose hearts lie with other gods and demonic influences (Vs.34-44).
And finally in verses 45- 49 GOD instructs Ezekiel to prophesy against the fields of the Negez (the southern wilderness), and warn the demons that had been receiving the worship of HIS people that HE would burn even every green and dry tree that had been used to shade their incense altars. GOD would set every inch of the land of the Negev on fire and the terrible flames would not ever be quenched.  
In Ezekiel 21, we see what is now known as “the four messages of the sword”. Here in this passage GOD tells Ezekiel to now look toward Jerusalem and prophesy against Israel and her defiled sanctuaries. Here in verses 3-7, we see the first of those four messages:

Tell her, This is what the Lord says: I am your enemy, O Israel, and I am about to unsheath MY sword to destroy your people—the righteous and the wicked alike.  Yes, I will cut off both the righteous and the wicked! I will draw MY sword against everyone in the land from south to north.  Everyone in the world will know that I am the Lord. MY sword is in MY hand, and it will not return to its sheath until its work is finished. Son of man, groan before the people! Groan before them with bitter anguish and a broken heart.  When they ask why you are groaning, tell them, ‘I groan because of the terrifying news I have heard. When it comes true, the boldest heart will melt with fear; all strength will disappear. Every spirit will faint; strong knees will become as weak as water. And the Sovereign Lord says: It is coming! It’s on its way!” (NLT)

This is a passage that so perplexed the translators of the “Septuagint” (the first Greek translation of the Bible) that they actually changed the word meaning “righteous” to “unrighteous”. However, the HOLY SPIRIT has shown me that, actually, here in this passage, GOD is declaring that HE will clean up, or, “cut off” the whole defiled religious system that had been set up in Jerusalem and throughout Judah, and was falsely claiming to represent HIM, and HIS ideology.
Even the presence of a few righteous people would not prevent GOD from making a “clean sweep” of Jerusalem. Here GOD is not vowing to cut the righteous people off from HIM, but rather, when the wheat is allowed to grow with the tare, eventually the whole crop becomes “choked out” by the useless weeds that are present. Therefore, GOD will have to wipe out the whole crop and start anew (Christianity through CHRIST JESUS). The righteous, who would become a part of the “collateral damage” (suffer for goodness sake) would move on from this life to a life in eternity in Heaven with GOD, while the wicked in this passage will be cast into the eternal inferno (Ezekiel 20:47) that we know as “Hell”. This is an example of “dikaousune” a word from the biblical Greek, which describes “the goodness in GOD’s judgment”

The second message, verses 8-17 is a poetic song written in three stanzas that concern GOD’s judgment, and speaks of how a “sword” will be used by the divine executioner of GOD to punish Israel. Here Ezekiel says;

Then the Lord said to me, “Son of man, give the people this message from the Lord:
“A sword, a sword
    is being sharpened and polished.
 It is sharpened for terrible slaughter
    and polished to flash like lightning!
Now will you laugh?
    Those far stronger than you have fallen beneath its power!
 Yes, the sword is now being sharpened and polished;
    it is being prepared for the executioner.
 “Son of man, cry out and wail;
    pound your thighs in anguish,
for that sword will slaughter my people and their leaders—
    everyone will die!   It will put them all to the test.
    What chance do they have?
    says the Sovereign Lord.
 “Son of man, prophesy to them
    and clap your hands.
Then take the sword and brandish it twice,
    even three times,
to symbolize the great massacre,
    the great massacre facing them on every side.
 Let their hearts melt with terror,
    for the sword glitters at every gate.
It flashes like lightning
    and is polished for slaughter!
 O sword, slash to the right,
    then slash to the left,
wherever you will,
    wherever you want.
 I, too, will clap my hands,
    and I will satisfy my fury.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!”

·         In the first stanza GOD’s sword is sharpened and polished much like a soldier might prepare for battle so that his weapon would be most effective when the time comes.
·         The second stanza identifies who the sword is being sharpened and prepared for, and it is, of course, the leaders and the people of Judah.
·         The third stanza details the work of the sword and how it will utterly destroy Judah and the LORD’s anger against her would be satisfied.

In verses 18-27 we see the third message of Ezekiel from the LORD in this chapter. Here the LORD instructs Ezekiel to make a map and trace two routes on it for the sword of King Nebuchadnezzar to follow. HE further tells him to put a “signpost” on the road that comes out of Babylon where the road forks into two directions. One road led to Rabbah, the capital city of Ammon, and the other road led to Judah and the walled city of Jerusalem.
As the king of Babylon stands at the fork in the road he is faced with making a decision as to who to attack first, Rabbah or Jerusalem. He will call his magicians, says the LORD, who will use witchcraft to decide which way to go, and their use of divination tells them to attack Jerusalem first, and they did. The LORD told Ezekiel that the people of Jerusalem will think that it is a mistake, but the king of Babylon will remind them that King Zedekiah had rebelled against him and thereby, had broken their treaty. And so now again the Israelites guilt was crying out against them, because they had sinned against GOD and had refused to repent.
In the fourth and final message of this chapter, Ezekiel is told to prophesy against the Ammonites for their mockery. They had breathed a sigh of relief and even mocked Jerusalem when Babylon had earlier chosen to attack Jerusalem instead of them. Their magicians and false prophets had given false visions concerning GOD’s sword of judgment, and so too, they would be punished just as their neighboring Israelites were. They would die by the same sword of Babylon shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem was complete (Vs.28-32).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


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