Friday, January 23, 2015


For the week beginning Sunday January 25, 2015

(The adultery of two sisters)
Ezekiel 22-23

As Ezekiel continues on with his stern messages concerning the certainty of Judah’s judgment to the leaders and people of Jerusalem, we see three themes developing here in chapter 22 that further highlight the nation’s defilement and judgment. First of all we see in verses 1-16, a message from the LORD on how HE is ready to judge HIS once beloved Jerusalem, who had now tainted the whole nation of Judah with her public display of ungodly behavior and corruption, even inside the church.
In verses 1-3 the LORD asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, are you ready to judge Jerusalem? Are you ready to judge this city of murderers.” It is as if now GOD is charging Ezekiel with the responsibility of being a “prosecuting attorney”, or a “judge” against Israel. Here in this passage GOD arms his prophet with the facts of HIS case against Jerusalem, so that he could confront her with her serious violations of the “Mosiac Law”.
In verses 6-12 GOD cites several sins that directly and specifically violate HIS “Ten Commandments”. They are;

·         Social injustice (v.7) – Fathers and mothers were contemptuously ignored (parental authority undermined). Resident foreigners were forced to pay for protection. Orphans and widows were wronged and oppressed.
·         Apostasy (v.8) – GOD’s holy things were despised inside the church, and HIS Sabbath day rests were also violated.
·         Idolatry (v.9) – the church was filled with idol worship, false witnessing, and lewdness.
·         Immorality (Vs.10-11) – adultery, incest, and rape was common.
·         Greed (v.12) – loan sharks and extortionists were everywhere.

When people cease to care, religion, morality, social customs, and values, all cease to function as mortar that holds together a society, and maintains ancient faith. Whenever the attitudes and behaviors that are detailed here in verses 7-12 begin to dominate society, it is a clear signal that that society is near the point of collapse.
The undermining of parental authority, government injustices that clearly take advantage of the poor and helpless among us, leadership that is indifferent to the best interest of those whom they are suppose to be serving, and an overwhelming indifference to the things of GOD, all stand as a clear indication that the end of GOD’s tolerance toward humanity is near.
We sorely need to apply the criteria presented to us here in the book of Ezekiel and decide for ourselves just where our own society stands at this point in our existence under GOD. Whenever we neglect GOD and move away from HIS spiritual foundation, our whole nation will automatically become corrupt and immoral, and just like other world dynasties of the past, ultimately we will fall.
In the second theme that is presented in this chapter, we see an analogy of a “refining furnace” (Vs.17-22). Here the LORD tells Ezekiel,

Son of man, the people of Israel are the worthless slag that remains after silver is smelted. They are the dross that is left over—a useless mixture of copper, tin, iron, and lead.  So tell them, This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you are all worthless slag, I will bring you to my crucible in Jerusalem.  Just as silver, copper, iron, lead, and tin are melted down in a furnace, I will melt you down in the heat of my fury.  I will gather you together and blow the fire of my anger upon you, and you will melt like silver in fierce heat. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have poured out my fury on you” (NLT).

This analogy suggests that GOD will turn Jerusalem into “a furnace of affliction” or a “smelting pot of judgment” that would melt away and separate all of the worthless slag, or “dross” from the valuable silver. Most of the people in Israel had become like “useless dross” to GOD, because of their sin against HIM. Here GOD says that, after HE separates the dross from the silver, HE will then melt down the useless dross (burn the useless sinners) with the heat of HIS wrath.
In the third and final theme, or message (Vs.23-31), GOD focuses Ezekiel’s attention on “the sins of the church leadership” and their terrible “mixing of the holy with the profane” in the church, something that the modern-day church is extremely guilty of doing also. Here GOD tells Ezekiel;

 “Son of man, give the people of Israel this message: In the day of my indignation, you will be like a polluted land, a land without rain.  Your princes plot conspiracies just as lions stalk their prey. They devour innocent people, seizing treasures and extorting wealth. They make many widows in the land.  Your priests have violated my instructions and defiled my holy things. They make no distinction between what is holy and what is not. And they do not teach my people the difference between what is ceremonially clean and unclean. They disregard my Sabbath days so that I am dishonored among them.  Your leaders are like wolves who tear apart their victims. They actually destroy people’s lives for money!  And your prophets cover up for them by announcing false visions and making lying predictions. They say, ‘My message is from the Sovereign Lord,’ when the Lord hasn’t spoken a single word to them.  Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice.
 “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.  So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

The recipients of GOD’s judgment in this passage are the princes, (or royal family, including Zedekiah) (v.25), the priests (the religious leaders) (Vs.26-27), and the prophets (false prophets, magicians, palm readers, etc) (v.28), who lead the people astray, and also those common folks (v.29) who mimic the oppressive acts and ways of their leadership against their own peers.
The royal family used their power to extract riches from the people, and they concocted unjust government schemes against the weak and the poor, to legally extort and take their money and possessions, sometimes even killing people in the process. They were like “lions”, plotting their conspiracies, while stalking their prey (vs.25). 
The priests, who morally, were no better than Zedekiah and his royal family, used their power in the church, to pretty much do the same things that the royal family did. As church leaders, the priests violated GOD’s laws and defiled the church by “mixing the holy with the profane” things of this world. For example (modern-day), they could no longer see the difference between what is holy (i.e. praise dancing), and what is not (i.e. miming). In addition, they were not instructing, training, or teaching the people in the ways of GOD, and, in fact, they failed to even enforce the laws of GOD, period. Nor, did they keep HIS Sabbath days (v.26). And so the priests had become like “wolves”, who tear apart their victims (destroy the lives of the congregation) for the sake of money (v.27).
The false prophets in this passage were constantly announcing false visions that they claimed came from GOD, when GOD hadn’t told them anything at all, in fact, they didn’t even know GOD. They were the ones who were hired by the church leaders, and were used to “whitewash” over the “spiritual cracks” in the wall caused by their “mixing of the holy with the profane”, their idol worship, and other sins (v.28).
Over time, even the common people begin to further oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive the strangers among them of justice (v.29). GOD says HE searched high and low for a righteous person who could stand in the gap so that for that person’s sake, HE might spare Jerusalem, but none was to be found (Vs.30-31).
In Ezekiel 23 GOD uses the parable of “the two adulterous sisters”, “Oholah” and “Oholibah” to illustrate the unfaithfulness of Israel, and the certainty of HIS judgment against her. “Oholah”, which means “her tent”, and is probably in reference to the illicit worship centers that were set up in Dan and Bethel, represents “Samaria”, the capital of northern Israel. “Oholibah”, which means “MY tent is in her”, is more than likely a reference to the fact that GOD’s temple is in Jerusalem. She (Oholibah) represents “Jerusalem”, the capital of Judah, or southern Israel.
Even though GOD chose both of these sisters and made them HIS own, giving them many sons and daughters, they both still became “prostitutes” in Egypt, of their own free will, when they were very young (Vs.2-3). Then later, after GOD had retrieved them both, and returned them to HIS home (the “promised land”), Oholah, the older sister, begin to lust after her neighbor, the Assyrians. She became attracted to the young handsome men of that nation and began to prostitute herself to their idols, once again defiling herself, and proving that when she left Egypt, she did not leave the “spirit of prostitution” behind. Adultery was still in her spirit (Vs.5-8), and so GOD allowed her to be turned over to her lovers, and they stripped and killed her, and took all of her children and put them into slavery. Oholah’s name became known to every woman in the land as a sinner who received exactly what she deserved (Vs.9-10).
Even though Oholibah, the younger sister, had seen what her older sister’s sins had done to her, she still eagerly followed along in her footsteps anyway. In fact, she became even worse than her sister, totally abandoning herself to her own lust (v.11), not only defiling herself with the Assyrians (see King Ahaz - 2 kings 16 & Isaiah 7), but she also later became infatuated with the culture and idol gods of the Babylonians and began a relationship with them and invited them to her home (Vs.16-17) (see Hezekiah - 2 Kings 20:12-19). However she later became disgusted with them after she found out how brutal they were. As a lover they were extreme domestic batterers (physically abusive) (see 2 Kings 24).
Afterwards GOD became disgusted with Oholibah just as HE was with her older sister, because she had given herself to other gods and satisfied their lust (v.18). She even prostituted herself again in Egypt (King Zedekiah) remembering her sinful youth when she allowed herself to be fondled and caressed by them (Vs.18-21).
In verses 22-49 details GOD’s judgment on both Oholah and Oholibah, who had committed, both, adultery (by worshipping other gods) and murder under GOD (by sacrificing their children in the fires of Molech). In addition, they had defiled GOD’s temple by “mixing the holy with the profane” (worshiping GOD in ways that are pleasing to them, instead of pleasing GOD by following HIS directives for HIS Church), “making stuff up” from the “human ingenuity” of the world, thinking all the while, that it is pleasing to GOD. They also were terribly guilty of violating GOD’s Sabbath Days, which GOD says, “are intended as a sign to remind us that HE is the LORD our GOD” (Ezekiel 20:20).
Here in this passage GOD says that they will both “drink from the same cup of terror”, a cup that is large and deep, and in deep anguish, they would both drink of it to the very last drop. Then they will smash the cup and beat their own breasts in anger, and bear the full consequences of their lewdness and prostitution (Vs. 32-35).
This chapter concludes with GOD listing four purposes, or reasons, for judging HIS sinful people.

·         To end wickedness in the land (v.48a)
·         To instruct others of the consequences of sin (48b)
·         To punish those who are guilty (v.49a)
·         To bring to all people, to the saving knowledge of GOD (v.49b)

And GOD’s purpose for judgment in this world still holds true in this day. Stay tuned.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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