Thursday, 13 November 2014

(318) November 14: Ezekiel 4-6 & Hebrews 10:1-23

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

To discover:­
As you read note why God says he is bringing judgement on Jerusalem.

To ponder:
God instructs Ezekial to draw Jerusalem and act out a siege against it as a sign to Israel. The iron wall between the prophet and the city, with the ramps and siege works in place most likely signifies the strength of God’s hostility as he turns his face to Jerusalem (4v1-3). We should remember that although Ezekial is in exile, the siege of Jerusalem during king Zedekiah’s reign was yet to happen (see 2 Kgs 25). Next, Ezekial is to lie on his side to bear the sin of Israel and Judah respectively. The numbers are much debated. The 390 days probably refers to the years of rebellion of both the north and south since the days of Solomon, with the 40 days referring to the extra years Judah rebelled on her own after the northern kingdom was conquered by Assyria (4v4-6). The point is that the coming destruction of Jerusalem was a long time in coming, and a fitting punishment for such persistent sin. Indeed, God himself says he will tie Ezekial with ropes until he has finished lying on each side, signifying that the siege of Jerusalem will not end until the people’s sin is fully paid for (4v7-8). Likewise, the experience of unbelievers at the final judgement will be in proportion to their sin.
            The call of Ezekial to prophesy with “bared arm” is a military gesture demonstrating that God is fighting against his own people (4v7-8). The meagre rations the prophet must live on demonstrate the scarcity of food during the siege, and the use of human excrement (considered ritually unclean) for fuel, speaks of the defiled food that would then be eaten in exile, and so the loss of the ritual cleanliness which was necessary to be a worshipper of God (4v9-16). The point is that the people will then be just like the nations. In kindness, however, God changes his stipulations for Ezekial because of his concern at being defiled. Here the prophet’s anxiety contrasts the flippancy of the Jews with regard to true worship.
            In what follows, Ezekial has to shave and divide up his hair into three and deal with each in a way that signified those dying in the city by plague or famine, by the sword outside, and those scattered to the nations (5v1-2, 12). From the latter hairs, Ezekial is to tuck some away implying that a remnant of the exiles will be kept safe. But by then burning a few of these, he shows that God’s anger against Jerusalem would spread to those amongst the exiles and remnant too – referring, perhaps, to the final judgement of any who do not truly love God (5v3-4). At this point God declares through Ezekial that Jerusalem had actually rebelled in her idolatry more than the countries around her, which is why God will inflict a punishment on her, the like of which will never again be seen, in which the people will resort to cannibalism, and God will withdraw his favour without pity (5v5-12). After this, he says his anger will cease and the people will know that he himself had spoken through Ezekial, and with zeal, ie. passionate anger at Israel’s sin (5v13). The city will then be a ruin, rebuke and warning amongst the onlooking nations, presumably of the consequences of sin (5v14-17). In speaking to the exiles, Ezekial is no doubt implying that they too should learn from what they will soon hear has taken place. This is no doubt why the awfulness of what occurred must be considered and preached today.
            In chapter 6 Ezekial is to prophesy against the land of Israel, declaring how God is going to bring the sword, destroying the places of idolatry and slaying the people infront of their idols. The scattering of their bones around the altars implies they are desecrated. And this is all so that, when recalling the words of the prophets, the people will know that God is the LORD – and, by consequence, their idols are false (6v1-7). God goes on to speak of how some will escape death by being taken into exile, where they will remember him, loathe themselves for their evil and idolatry, and recognize that he is the LORD and didn’t threaten the calamity in vain (6v8-10). Again, this urges those already in exile to the same. Indeed, it is the result meditation on these things should bring today, with an awareness of how certain judgement is when God predicts it.
            At this point the LORD instructs Ezekial to highlight the awfulness of what is coming by clapping, stamping and crying out “Alas” because of Israel’s sin and the destruction it has provoked. He then declares his wrath will reach all – those “far away” and already in exile, those “near” and so living around Jerusalem, and those who “survive” the destruction of the Judean towns around the city only to die of famine in the siege (6v11-12). The point is that all who have sinned will we punished, until God’s wrath is spent. He reiterates what this will mean in the land, making it a desolate waste, and again asserts that this is so that the people will know he is the LORD (6v13-14). Alongside all the evidence surrounding Christ, the fulfilment of all the prophets’ predictions in the exile, as recorded for us in scripture, is yet another proof to us that the God of Israel is the one true God.
Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for his concern that people are not left in their denial of him. Pray that your faith that the LORD is the true God would be strengthened as you read Ezekial.

Thinking further:
None today.

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