Being faithful to God means being faithful to declare an unpopular message. Ezekiel was faithful to do just that, even when it meant the loss of his wife. How faithful are we to follow the Lord and deliver His message?
Bad News and More Bad News
If you have ever had to deliver bad news to someone, you probably spent some anxious moments trying to decide exactly how to do it—when to deliver it, how to begin it. Imagine how difficult it would be to spend most of your life, giving people bad news. Well, in a way, that was the life and ministry of the prophet Ezekiel. We are now in chapter 22, and he is about to deliver more bad news to the exiles about his judgment of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem.
The chapter opens with God saying to Ezekiel in verse 2, “Will you judge the bloody city? Then declare to her all her abominations.” Ezekiel is being called here to act as prosecuting attorney or judge to bring an indictment against Jerusalem, which here represents all of Judah. Chapter 20 was the evidence presented in court, as it were, detailing the long history of Israel’s rebellion against God. But now it is the sins of this current generation that are presented as evidence; and the bad news is that they are guilty as charged.
There is a long list of sins presented in verses 3 through 12. And leading the list are bloodshed and idolatry. Because of these two sins in particular, the Lord says in verse 4, “The appointed time of your years has come. . . . I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery.” The people had violated their covenant with the Lord. As one author wrote; “Rather than loving God [they] had turned to idolatry; and [their] love for . . . fellow Israelites had been replaced by treachery.”
The politicians and religious leaders have led the way. They are guilty of executing innocent people, treating parents hatefully, and taking advantage of orphans and widows. They have practiced idolatry, financial fraud, adultery, and the list goes on and on. But here’s the big one—the Lord says to them in verse 12, “But me you have forgotten.”
The evidence is overwhelming; the verdict is guilty, and the sentence is pronounced: “I will scatter you among the nations” (verse 15). Verse 21 describes God’s judgment very poetically: “I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it.” God is not only a God of deliverance; He’s also a God of justice.
To this day, the world does not want to hear this bad news. The world still chooses to sin; and it follows this same list: idolatry, immorality, fraud, bribery, cruelty, greed, and lust. They have forgotten God. And whenever a person or a nation forgets God, the restraints are gone, and everything is permissible. But the consequences are going to remain the same—a person’s life is going to self-destruct; a nation is going to self-destruct.
Now in a second prophecy, the Lord says in verse 18, “The house of Israel has become dross to me.” Here the Lord pictures a furnace into which metal ore is placed for refinement. The Israelite people are like the worthless dross, the impurities that float to the surface and are removed. Only in this case, the dross is going to be put back into the fire again.
Now as we arrive at Ezekiel chapter 23, we find the entire chapter is an allegory picturing Judah’s political “adultery.” God’s people have been seeking protection from pagan nations rather than the Lord, and this is spiritual infidelity.
Two sisters are introduced: Oholah and Oholibah. Oholah represents the city of Samaria, Israel’s capital, which has long since been conquered by Assyria. Oholibah represents Jerusalem, Judah’s capital.
These sisters are pictured as two women who enthusiastically give themselves to prostitution. Oholah lusted after the Assyrians, and verse 7 says she “defiled herself with all the idols of everyone after whom she lusted.” As a result, verse 10 tells us she was given over to her Assyrian lovers, who ended up killing her.
Now even though Oholibah (Judah/Jerusalem) saw what happened to her sister, she keeps on prostituting herself to these pagan nations. She invites their idolatrous practices back into Jerusalem.
So, the Lord says in verse 22, “I will stir up against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you.” Down in verse 35 the Lord says to her, “Because you have forgotten me . . . you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring.” And in verse 49 He says, “You shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and you shall know that I am the Lord God.”
The Lord is saying, “You are going to find out that I didn’t go anywhere. I am still here. You might forget me, but you cannot erase me.”
Now here in chapter 24, the judgment arrives. The first verse gives the precise date the Lord’s word comes to Ezekiel:
In the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, write down the name of this day, this very day.”
On our calendar today, this would be in January of 588 BC. On this very day, the Babylonian king came up against Jerusalem.
The destruction is described poetically as a boiling pot of water with pieces of meat in it. The pot, or cauldron, represents Jerusalem. It is described as corroded or rusted. The pieces of meat represent the people, who are taken from the pot, one by one, indicating they will be removed from the city. When the pot is empty, it is then burned up. This portrays the burning of Jerusalem, which will be utterly consumed by fire.
Imagine how bad this bad news was to the people of Judah and the exiles hoping in Jerusalem’s survival as the Lord delivered this message in verse 14:
“I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged.”
This is tragically, horrifically bad news indeed.
Having given this prophecy through Ezekiel, the Lord now has an extremely painful assignment for His prophet. The Lord says to Ezekiel, “I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you” (verse 16). That is, Ezekiel’s wife is about to die! We do not know if she has been sick for some time or this will be some sudden illness, but here is the Lord’s painful assignment: He tells Ezekiel that he is not to mourn or outwardly grieve her death.
Sure enough, Ezekiel’s wife dies that evening. When the exiles ask about his strange response since there are no tears and sorrow, Ezekiel explains:
“Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary … the delight of your eyes . . . and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind [in Jerusalem] shall fall by the sword . . . and you shall do as I have done . . . You shall not mourn or weep.” (verses 21-23)
Just as Ezekiel was devastated by the loss of his wife, so the captives in Jerusalem and exiles will be devastated by Jerusalem’s destruction and the massacre of their children that follows; but they are not to mourn because the judgment from God is deserved.
These chapters are filled with bad news and more bad news. But these chapters remind us that God is holy and He will eventually judge sin. By the way, what chance do you have before a holy God? I’ll tell you—you don’t stand a chance unless you have found salvation in the Son of God who took your judgment on the cross. (@end) He died for you—paid for your sins—so you could be spared eternal judgment from God. Praise His name forever!
With that, we have come to the end of Ezekiel’s prophecies of God’s judgment on Jerusalem and Judah. The book shifts gears in the next chapter as we shall see.