Friday, 21 November 2014

(326) November 22: Ezekiel 24-26 & James 3

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 other nations are condemned by Ezekiel.

To ponder:
The next oracle comes on the very date Babylon besieges Jerusalem in fulfilment of Ezekiel’s prior prophecies. In the parable he is given, the city is a cooking pot, with the fire beneath it being the siege, and the choice bits of the animal being cooked, the city’s inhabitants. Because of their bloodshed, which God has seen, in wrath he commands they are taken out into exile. The deposit on the cauldron may be rust denoting the corruption of the city. The absence of lot by which God revealed his will in Israel perhaps emphasizes his rejection of the people. Instead he promises he will pile the wood high and cook the meat well, so intensifying the siege, until the impurities of the city that could not previously be removed are burned away (24v1-13).
            God continues by saying that he will not show pity or relent, judging the city according to her actions. An event with tragic prophetic symbolism is then recounted. God promises that he will take away Ezekiel’s delight – which is his wife! But he is commanded not to mourn publicly. Instead, when the people ask what this has to do with them, he is to speaks God’s word, stating that God is about to desecrate the temple, which is the delight of the people’s eyes, and have their sons and daughters left behind in Jerusalem killed. Yet the people will not mourn. This seems to be a command that they shouldn’t because the city’s destruction is deserved. But it could be a description of the fact that they won’t because they don’t truly care. Whatever the case, Ezekiel’s actions are a sign so that when a fugitive from Jerusalem arrives with the news, the people will recognise Ezekiel is a true prophet, and that his words are therefore the LORD’s. We are told that at this time Ezekiel will no longer be a sign and will be permitted to speak in a way previously forbidden – signifying the culmination of his prophecies of judgement as the city is finally destroyed (24v14-27).
            What follows are therefore prophecies against other nations. The first is against the Ammonites. Because they rejoiced at what happened to Judah, they will be conquered and settled by people from the east. Then they are told they will know God is the LORD. Yet they are also told that they will be given as plunder to the nations, and be totally destroyed as a people group (25v1-7). The same is predicted for Moab, with the fortified cities it gloried in taken. And all because, in witnessing Judah’s destruction, it rejected their unique place before God (25v8-11). Edom are condemned for taking the opportunity the Babylonian troubles brought to attack Judah themselves. Here, God promises that the people of Israel will lay the land to waste and kill its people with the sword (24v28-14). The Philistines are charged with the same opportunism, and also told they will be destroyed under God’s wrath, so they will know he is the LORD (24v15-17). It is noteworthy that Ammon and Moab were overrun by tribes people, Edom’s descendents were destroyed by Jews in the second century BC, and the Philistines simply disappeared from history around the same time. God’s word always comes to pass.
            These judgements on the nations show that peoples will be held to particular account for their attitude to God’s people. And this is especially so for Tyre, who rejoices at Jerusalem’s destruction as the trading gate to the nations, because this will cause Tyre itself to prosper. Three chapters are given to this city because of its significance. So the LORD declares he will bring Nebuchadnezzar and his army to reduce it to a ruin like waves from the sea around it. Much detail is given about what this will entail. Ezekiel says that Tyre will permanently become a bare rock, suitable only for fishing, with her settlements destroyed by the sword, her merchandise plundered, and all joy gone (26v1-14). Again, reflecting God’s grand purpose of the nations coming to acknowledge him, he states they will then know he is the LORD. This pervasive idea reminds us that on the last day when all are judged, all will acknowledge God after all.
            God continues by describing how the coastlands and their kings will tremble to witness the fall of such a significant power, telling of it in a lament (26v15-18). Echoing the flood, the judgement is described as covering the city with the ocean, and bringing it down to the pit – the place of the dead, never to be found again (26v19-21). This links such temporary judgements with the eternal judgement. To suffer death now is to face the second death beyond.

Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for acting in justice against those who harm or rejoice in the harm of his people. Pray that as non-Christians face disaster they would come to know that the LORD is God.
Thinking further:
None today.

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