Meditations from Ezekiel: 12. Big Picture Judgment
Ezek 5:8,9 “I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again.”
Recap: Now I am aware that it is not very edifying to read through page after page of judgment warning but it is, I believe, important to see the clarity with which these words of judgment come through Ezekiel to the exiles and no doubt to Jerusalem. In the few verses we have seen so far, in respect of Jerusalem, the Lord has spoken of “her wickedness,” (5:6) so that she has been, “more unruly than the nations around.” (5:7)
The Coming Destruction: So now the Lord speaks: “I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations.” (v.8) and “Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again.” (v.9) He reiterates that famine will come and they will be scattered (v.10) and states as the reason for this, “because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices.” (v.11) and then yet again reiterates the death that will come (v.12)
The end product of all this, He declares, will be that, “I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by. You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke.” (v.14,15) This He reiterates in verses 16 & 17.
Their Idol Worship: In Chapter 6 the Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy against the mountains of Israel (v.1), and to the hills, ravines and valleys (v.3a) and says, “I will destroy your high places. Your altars will be demolished and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will slay your people in front of your idols. I will lay the dead bodies of the Israelites in front of their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars.” (v.3b-5) So, to recap, the coming destruction is made clear but so also is the cause of it – their idol worship which is extensive throughout the land. The extent of this destruction is clearly beyond Jerusalem, and will include cleansing the whole land: “Wherever you live, the towns will be laid waste and the high places demolished, so that your altars will be laid waste and devastated, your idols smashed and ruined, your incense altars broken down, and what you have made wiped out.” (v.6)
A Saved Remnant: as always with the judgments of the Lord, there will be a faithful remnant who will be saved: “But I will spare some, for some of you will escape the sword when you are scattered among the lands and nations.” (v.8) Now the reason or perhaps the by-product of this will be that, “in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me–how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. And they will know that I am the LORD; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them.” (v.9,10) i.e. not only will the saved remnant act as a reminder to other nations what the Lord has done, but they themselves will come to see the awfulness of what has happened and why it happened. It will be part of their cleansing process so that in the years to come, many of them will be able to return to the Land. In the remaining verses of chapter 6 the Lord reiterates the coming destruction and the reason for it.
Now! In Chapter 7 the Lord sweeps away any possibility of misunderstanding about WHEN this will happen. He declares its immediacy: “The end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land,” (v.2) and “Disaster! An unheard-of disaster is coming. The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! Doom has come upon you,” (v.5-7) and, “The day is here!” (v.10) and, “The time has come, the day has arrived.” (v.12) There is indeed no room left for doubt.
Everyone: In the verses that follow, again any doubts as to WHO will be included is swept away: “none of the people will be left,” (v.11) “Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd,” (v.12) “for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life.” (v.13) “Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague.” (v.15) and in the remaining verses of the chapter this is spelled out in detail.
Recap the Clarity: Let’s recap what we have seen in the words spoken by the Lord describing all that is coming from 5:5 onwards:
- Jerusalem’s wickedness is worse than surrounding nations (5:5-7)
- The punishment will be because of their idolatry (5:8,9)
- So destruction will come via famine and sword (5:10-13)
- Surrounding nations will see this destruction by famine, plague and sword. (5:14-17)
- This destruction will include the whole land because of the idol worship at the ‘high places’ (6:1-7)
- But there will be a remnant saved to act as a reminder and to be hanged ready for the future (6:8-10)
- Famine, plague and sword will cleanse the land (6:11-14)
- The time has come, it is now (7:1-12)
- This destruction will include everyone in the land, in the city or the country, from the greatest – king and princes, prophet and priest – to the lowest (implied) (7:12-27)
There are two point to be emphasised: first, is that the Lord does nothing without telling His prophets (Amos 3:7) and telling the occupants of the Land. The Lord looks for repentance and that follows the bringing of His word. Today that word is the Gospel, it is that simple. Second, the Lord holds a people or a nation responsible and when they turn from Him He acts to bring discipline to correct their folly, but that is often very slow and may not be seen for decades. We, within the West, are in such a period now.