The last couple of chapters have been discussing the oncoming punishment that the people of Israel are to recieve. This week is no different. It is rough to read about this because it seems that we may have no hope. Chapter 4-24 of Ezekiel are all about the terrible sin of the people and the punishment that is coming because of it. However, in chapter 25 hope does come. Just like our own lives, we do not know what to do when it is bad, then we find hope. This week further’s the conversation about the punishment of sin, but I think there may be a deeper lesson in this section.
God, once again, speaks to the people of Israel through Ezekiel proclaiming quite a calamity, “An end! The end is coming upon the four courners of the country” (Ezekiel 7:2, Goldingay). By end, He means end. God does not intend to spare or have pity upon the people of Israel. In this message, God is making sure that the people know this is a direct result of their actions by saying, “I shall put upon you your ways and your offensive practices that are within you” (Ezekiel 7:4, Goldingay). This singular event will be the a full release of the Lord’s wrath by way of rising up a gentile nation to crush the Israelites. No one will escape this punishment, and all will be treated the same. If people manage to escape, they will have to live a hard life, “Those of them that escape — they’ll escape but be in the mountains like the pigeons in the ravines, all of them moaning, each in his waywardness … They’ll wrap on sack, and shuddering will cover them, with shame on all faces and shornness on all their heads” (Ezekiel 7:16,18, Goldingay). All of the riches of the land, and precious materials made for worship, will be given over the this gentile nation as plunder. To add further insult, the gentile nation will view their plunder as ordinary, not sacred as the Isrealites did.
“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.”
— Matthew Henry
God tells the people that their coming invaders will not be nice, “I shall bring the nations that deal most badly and they will take possession of their houses” (Ezekiel 7:24, Goldingay). The people will be made to be slaves (again). Just when they think that the worst is behind them, more will follow. They will look to God, and thier leaders, and not be able to find any help or guidance. “Disaster will come upon disaster, report will follow upon report. They will seek a vision from a prophet, but instruction will perish from priest and counsel from elders” (Ezekiel 7:26, Goldingay). All of this destruction could have been avoided if the people had listened to the prophets and stayed faithful to God.
“Punishment is justice for the unjust.”
In this week’s chapter of Ezekiel, God is describing the punishment the Israelites will soon begin to recieve. I found myself thinking about a different passage while reading this one. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes about how much God does for those who follow after Him. He asks a very important question, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NLT), meaning who can stop God when He has determined to bless someone? I believe that this applies with this passage. God tells the Israelites many times that this is being done because of their own actions. They are guilty of not following after Him, after He has given them many opportunites to repent. When God is against you, how can you stop Him? In the case of this week’s passage, God is against the Israelites, not for them; He will not be stopped in punishing the great sin of His chosen people.
Since this post is coming out during Holy Week, I think it is important to remember what the Cross means in the context of this chapter. In this week’s chapter, God further describes the consequences of sin. We are sinful creatures, and this is the same punishment that we deserve for our behavior. However, 2000 years ago, God put aside His glory and humbled Himself, and became human. He lived on this earth for 30 years, teaching people how to actually live as though the “Kingdom of God is at hand.” Then, He turned His eyes towards Jerusalem, and willingly suffered the pain and disgrace of crucifixion in order to pay for the cost of our sin. He then rose from the dead as a sign that His teaching was true and right. Today, we get to look the teachings of Jesus and know the truth of God. Sin has dreadful consequences, but it is not God’s desire to punish His people for their crimes. What He wants, more than anything, is for us to repent and live with Him. Jesus gives us that possibility, and the Cross is the symbol for this truth. You do not have to suffer the punishment for your sins, Jesus already did that. You have to put your faith in Him, and listen to God. Allow Him to become your teacher, and show you have to live a life that is with Him, and not against Him.