Monday, 24 November 2014

(329) November 25: Ezekiel 32-33 & 1 Peter 1

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read note what sins God condemns.

To ponder:
The lament of chapter 32 is given almost two years after the previous oracle. Pharoah is likened to a lion or sea monster. He causes danger and turmoil, but God will use many people to net him, haul him onto land where the birds and beasts will feast on him. The description of his remains covering mountains and valleys portrays the fall of Egypt as total, throughout its region. And the terror of the event is stressed by the language of darkness that is also a motif for God’s judgement. The event will cause many to be appalled for their own life, in seeing how susceptible to God’s justice they are too (32v1-11). God explains the attack will come from Babylon, which will humble Egypt’s pride, overthrow her hoards, destroy her cattle and strip the land. 32v14-15 implies that contrasting the thrashing of Pharoah in Egypt’s streams (32v2), after this Egypt will know the peace that stems from more stable rule, because they will acknowledge the LORD. This may look to the inclusion of Egyptians with Israelites through faith in the Christ. Whatever the case, the lament will be sung by the daughters of the nations on seeing what will happen (32v16). No matter how justified judgement is, we should lament the fall of peoples and nations.
            Two weeks later God’s word came again, telling Ezekiel to wail or mourn for the great multitude of Egypt, consigning her and the women lamenting her from the nations, to the pit of death. The point is that presumed greatness doesn’t mean favour from God. Rather, Egypt will lie with the other Gentile (uncircumcised) nations, whose leaders will acknowledge this from the grave. What follows is a list of the great nations who are there: Assyria, surrounded by her army who once spread such terror; Elam with those from her who were slain, bearing the shame of the terror they brought on others; Meschech and Tubal too, receiving punishment for their sins; Pharoah also; Edom, despite her power; and the princes of the north and Sidonians – slain in disgrace despite their power. The stress is on the fact that those who create terror in life will all die, with a hint that they will receive the just punishment for their sin. Indeed, they will lie with the uncircumcised, implying they are not privileged in the grave with the favour of God’s covenant people. God does not show favouritism. Those who abuse the much they now have, will have little then.
            As earlier in the book, the next oracle plays on the illustration of the watchman. Those who refuse to heed his warning trumpet are responsible for their own blood as they could have saved themselves. But if the watchman doesn’t sound the warning, although the man who suffers the sword will die for his own sin, God will hold the watchman accountable. God tells Ezekiel as his spiritual watchman, that the same principles apply to his role of dissuading Israel from their wicked ways when God gives a word that they will die. Indeed, if he seeks to warn, even if a man dies for refusing to repent, Ezekiel will be saved – presumably from being put to death because of bringing about the death of others through his negligence (33v1-9). It’s a sobering parable for the preacher.
            Here Ezekiel is to express the exiles’ sense of wasting away because of their sin. As they wonder how they will survive, God declares that as surely as he “lives” he takes no pleasuring the death of the wicked, but desires that they turn from sin and live. He therefore calls them to do so. His point is that their despair still displays an unwillingness to repent and trust God for life. The principles of justice are then outlined: Those who are righteous but who then disobey will not be saved from death, even if they were told they would live when righteous. Whereas the wicked who turns from that wickedness will be saved, even if told they will die when wicked. The sense is that one’s previous life will not be taken into account. One’s spiritual state when the accounting comes is what matters. Repentance is described as doing what is just and right, putting right what one has done wrong, following God’s decrees and doing no evil (33v10-16). To all this God anticipates the exiles saying this is unjust – perhaps because they felt God should not condemn those who were once righteous if they turn to sin, or forgive those who were wicked if they turn from it. If this is correct, they are wrongly assuming a scales of judgement in which the good must outweigh the bad. God simply states it is those who think this who are not just, whereas he judges according to people’s ways (33v17-20). But what we see is that this accounting accounts for one’s response to God – whether turning from him in complacency or to him in need.
            33v21-22 records how word finally came to the exiles of Jerusalem’s fall. God had prepared Ezekiel for this the previous evening, by giving him back his ability to speak freely (fulfilling 24v26-27, see also 3v26-27). God’s word comes first about those remaining in Judah. They were reassuring themselves that just as Abraham was given the land as a possession, surely they have been given it too. To this God asks “why,” when they break his food laws, commit idolatry, rely on violence and are immoral. Perhaps by sending a message, Ezekiel is to declare that the sword, wild animals and plague will kill those in the city’s ruins, the surrounding countryside, and stronghold towns or caves respectively. The phrase “as surely as the LORD lives” not only affirms its certainty, but the fact that it is because God lives this will happen, because it comes by his hand. The point is that none will escape his judgement. So he declares he will lay the land waste, humbling Judah’s pride, and the people will then know he is the LORD (33v23-29).
            God adds that Ezekiel’s countrymen in exile are saying to one-another throughout Babylon that they should go and hear God’s message. They therefore come and sit before him. But they do not practice what he says. As with false worship today, their mouths express devotion whilst their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. It’s a challenge to those who feign spirituality by talking the talk. Prophets used to prophesy to music. So these people’s spiritual blindness is seen in the fact that they see Ezekiel’s prophecies about God’s concern for his people as nothing more than love songs sung by an able musician. They are like those who esteem the rhetorical skill of a good preacher or the capabilities of a great worship band, but do nothing about putting what they hear from them into practice. But God declares that they will know Ezekiel is a prophet rather than a celebrity when his words come true.
Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God that in grace he judges us according to our current response not past deeds. Pray that you would put what you hear from preachers or worship songs into practice.
Thinking further:
None today.

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