Tuesdays with Ezekiel (Chapter 7)

Ezekiel 7 

Like chapter 6, Ezekiel 7 contains a message from the Lord given to the prophet to deliver concerning the inhabitants still in the “land of Israel” (7:1).  Again, like chapter 6, this message concludes with the exclamatory sentence:  “and they shall know that I am the LORD” (7:27).  Between the opening and ending, the Lord pronounces the coming disaster that will destroy the nation—people and Temple.  This divine judgment will be extensive in scope, reaching to “all their multitude” (12, 13, 14; note also the use of the word “all” in verses 17, 18). 

To emphasize the definiteness and finality of what is coming, the Lord repeatedly emphasizes His settled purpose:  “An end!  The end has come upon the four corners of the land” (2); “The time has come, the day is near” (7); “Behold, the day! Behold, it comes! Your doom has come” (10); “The time has come; the day has arrived” (12). 

In this message, unlike chapter 6, there is no statement of God’s remorse or broken heartedness.  There is only a declaration of his fury:  “I will send my anger upon you” (2); “I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you” (8).  His “eye will not spare” nor will he “have pity” (4, 9). 

The reason for this furious, deadly response?  The gross, repeated sinfulness of his people.  Pride has budded like a deviant version of Aaron’s rod (10). Violence and “bloody crimes” have become commonplace (11, 23).  Idolatry—represented by golden and silver images—has replaced the true worship of YHWH (19-20). 

So the LORD says he will judge and punish “according to your ways” (3, 8, 27). He will bring in “the worst of the nations to take possession” of their homes and to “profane” the Temple (21, 24).  The marketplaces will be overrun and destroyed (13), the Temple (“my treasured place”) will be defiled (22). 

The spiritual and political leaders will be powerless to stop what God is going to do.  Prophets have no vision from God, priests have no instruction to give, and the elders have no counsel to offer (26).  The king can only mourn; the prince can only sit in despair (27).  The armies hear the trumpet call to fight but cannot marshal a defense (14).  All are “paralyzed by terror” (27).  “All hands are feeble, and all knees turn to water” (17). 

As the Israelites mourn in “sackcloth” with “shame on their faces” (16), they are painfully aware that this judgment has come upon them from the Lord.  The sobering epithet comes true:  “they shall know that I am the LORD” (27). 

Visions of God 

Sin is no small thing to God; it incites an outpouring of his furious anger.  As in previous dispatches from the LORD, this pronouncement emphasizes God’s anger (3, 8) and wrath (8, 19) that are poured out in judgment (3, 8). God’s punishment of His people (3, 4, 8) comes directly as a result of their wicked ways—their pride, idolatry and violence.  Contrary to popular understanding, God’s love does not preclude his righteous wrath and devastating judgment on sinners. 

There is an end to God’s patience.  God’s covenantal love (hesed) is unfailing, but his patience is not unending.  After sending prophetic warnings for years, after demonstrating his willingness to judge the northern kingdom of Israel, the LORD has had enough of Judah’s idolatry and infidelity.  “An end!  The end has come . . . . Now the end is upon you” (2-3).  While God is “slow to anger” (Psalm 103:8), he does become angry.  While he is patient with his people, his patience has a limit.  Don’t presume upon his grace. 

God’s judgment on wicked people can come through wicked people.  In the early part of this message, the Lord speaks of the coming judgment as His work:  “I will judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations” (3, 4, 8, 9).   Near the end of the oracle, the LORD declares this lethal judgment will come through an invading nation that pillages and slaughters.  What’s stunning is that the LORD describes the invaders He will send as the worst of nations:  “I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession . . . “ (24).  As in Habakkuk, God reveals he will use the wicked to judge the wicked (see Hab. 2-3). 

God’s judgments are intentionally instructive.  The repeated refrain in these pronouncements of destruction points to part of God’s purpose:  “and they shall know that I am the LORD” (27).  God’s covenant people will come to know him, if not by learning his word and following his ways, then through his righteous, covenant-keeping punishment of their rebellion.  God will be known and his glory will be shown.   

Words to Watchman 

Watchmen must faithfully declare God’s word—even when the task is difficult and the message is devastating.  This divine pronouncement would have been shocking and upsetting for the original hearers.  It would have been the same for Ezekiel.  He loved his people and homeland.  He, like the rest of us, would have wanted to be included in the community in which he lived and ministered.  But his message—given from God—would have alienated and isolated him from some (all?) of his listeners.  At least until it proved true, they viewed him as eccentric entertainment, a sideshow, a carnival act (33:30-33).  The consequences for faithfully discharging his duty would have been devastating for Ezekiel.  So today, preachers must be willing to suffer rejection by those who are looking for teachers who tickle their ears (2 Tim 4:2-5) with happier, affirming words. 

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