EZEKIEL AND THE LOVE OF GOD

world in handsEzekiel 16 is a chapter all about Jerusalem. The casual Bible reader would probably turn to this chapter and think, I don’t have to read this; this doesn’t have anything to do with me. But Paul had other ideas about parts of the Bible that have nothing to do with you:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Every verse of the Bible is inspired – “God-breathed” – and useful to you. Every verse of the Bible is important, otherwise it wouldn’t be in the Bible in the first place.

On the surface, this chapter is all about the sins of Jerusalem, but really it’s a revelation of God’s incredible love and His amazing grace. What ruined Jerusalem in history needed is what every ruined soul needs today.

1. A picture of man’s true state

“ ‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” (Ezekiel 16:6)

The Lord, through Ezekiel, traces the history of Israel in order to show the exiles why they must be judged. From the beginning, things were not good for the people of Israel. Using allegory, the Lord tells those in exile that Israel was born of mixed parentage. They were like mongrels; a low caste of people, looked down upon by everybody. In fact, Israel was the baby nobody wanted and, as was common in the nations outside of Israel, the unwanted baby was left outside to die. Had Ezekiel been preaching today, he would compare God’s people to a partial birth abortion.

Some might be offended by the comparison, and no doubt some of Ezekiel’s listeners would have been very offended by his allegory. But God never pulls any punches. God’s people needed to know exactly why Jerusalem had to be punished.

Jerusalem was totally blind to the state she was in. Heaven’s perspective saw Jerusalem as a weak, bloody mess; barely alive. Jerusalem, in spite of what she thought of herself, was helpless. But that’s not how they saw themselves, and that’s not how sinful man sees himself. Man without God always judges himself by comparison to others. He thinks, I’m not as bad as so-and-so therefore I’m a good person. But God sees that man as he truly is: a corrupt, vile, wicked, rebellious sinner “kicking about in his own blood.” God’s standard of judgment it completely different from that of man’s.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. (Romans 3:19)

Sinful man thinks he’s perfectly all right. God knows he all wrong.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

Man without Christ is “powerless.” Man without Christ is in a completely hopeless position, as Ezekiel pointed out:

No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. (Ezekiel 16:5)

Again, the Lord is speaking to the exiles in allegory, but there was a powerful and historical reality behind the allegory. Historically, God had promised to fight for Israel but God’s people continually entered into compacts with godless nations for protection. These godless nations always took advantage of Israel, yet Israel continued to turn to them instead of having faith in the promises of God.

All through their history, God could point to the numerous instances where He blessed them and caused them to prosper. But over and over again they ignored Him and refused to acknowledge His hand on them.

2. A picture of salvation

“ ‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.” (Ezekiel 16:8)

At the right time, when she was “old enough for love,” allegorically, the Lord married her. In other words, He made Jerusalem His.

First, He spoke to Jerusalem words of life: “Live,” He said to her. Only God can speak words of life; by His Word He spoke the material universe into being. His Word brings life to the sinner. Sinful man is saved by God’s Word of grace and nothing more.

Second, God covered Jerusalem; He covered her sins. He acted like Boaz, the kinsman redeemer of Ruth:

Who are you?” he asked.“I am your servant Ruth, ” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9)

The skirt of His righteousness covers all who call upon Him. God did for Jerusalem what He does for all sinners who come in repentance to Him: He covers their sins.

Next, the Lord cleansed Jerusalem:

“ ‘I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you.” (Ezekiel 16:9)

Only God is able to take your old life of sin – your old life of filth and depravity – and replace it with a brand new, sparkling clean one.

What can wash away my sins, Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Fourth, the Lord claimed Jerusalem as His very own. God took Jerusalem from the wide open fields of sin and filth and made it part of His family. From sin and hopelessness into the kingdom of grace and glory! Only God can work such a miracle in the life of the redeemed.

Fifthly, God anointed Jerusalem with oil, verse 9b. When God takes hold of a sinner’s life, He gives him a new life, and fills him with His Holy Spirit. It is God’s will that all His people be filled with His Spirit. Did you know that YOU are full of God’s Spirit? You are, if you are born again.

Not only did God anoint Jerusalem, but He also crowned her:

…and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. (Ezekiel 16:12)

Remember, this is what God did for the city of Jerusalem. It became a marvel of the ancient world. We cannot imagine how glorious Jerusalem was in its heyday. Did you know that when you come to Jesus you become related to richest Person in the universe? Paul understood what it meant to be adopted into the family of God:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ… (Romans 8:16-17a)

One day, all that is the Son’s becomes ours. Blessings beyond our wildest imaginings are ours, because of what Jesus did for us.

Lastly, of Jerusalem, we read this:

And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 16:14)

Jerusalem’s fame and beauty spread throughout the ancient near east. We read how the kings and queens of other nations came to Jerusalem just to look at how beautiful it was. Jerusalem showed the glory of God, and we do too! We are God’s glory on earth. Christians are to reflect the greatness of God in a dark world.

I have given them the glory that you gave me… (John 17:22a)

The meaning of this allegory is clear. God did so much for Jerusalem throughout its history, yet they always forgot to think Him. They seldom acknowledged Him. They lived in rebellion to His laws. The application of this allegory should also be clear. The Church of Jesus Christ – you and I – is not so far removed from Jerusalem. Do we behave any better than the people of Jerusalem? We have been the recipients of the manifold blessings of God, and so many of us have grown contemptible of His presence. We rest on the righteousness of our forefathers, just as Jerusalem did. We presume on our Godly heritage while we ourselves try to live as far from God as we can and still feel safe.

Our beginnings, our backgrounds, are not so different from Jerusalem’s. We were dead in our sins. God raised us to new life. He filled us with His Holy Spirit and made us joint-heirs with Jesus.

And what do you think Jerusalem did in return for all the good things God did for her?

3. A picture of thanklessness

In every age, God has an excuse to make the exact same charges against His people as He did here in Ezekiel 16! God’s people seem to be an ungrateful bunch throughout the generations. The very blessings God showers on us just because He loves us, we turn into things that take us away from Him. Jerusalem did that; they took the good things God gave them and did for them and used them in a selfish way.

“ ‘But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his.” (Ezekiel 16:15)

We call this “religious pride,” and it plagues the Church today. It’s embarrassing to watch how different denominations lower themselves in an vain attempt to appear relevant and attract new members.

You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. Such things should not happen, nor should they ever occur. (Ezekiel 16:16)

The very garments God gave His people they now used in idolatry and apostasy. The things God gave them to draw them closer to Him they used against Him. Are we any better? Do we prefer God’s blessings to His presence? Look at your prayers. Do you spend more time praying for things or for more of Him in your life?

When we look at the Church today we see how it takes what God has given it – His Word, a Godly heritage and prosperity – and we see how it has taken those blessings and turned them against God. Preachers preach unscriptural sermons building an unscriptural system of beliefs all designed to build his church. Imagine building a church without God! What a waste.

You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. (Ezekiel 16:17)

The people fashioned male images out of the gifts God gave them. They used the gifts of God to the honor and praise of man.

Jerusalem had done a lot evil in the sight of God, but nothing was worse than this:

“ ‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.” (Ezekiel 16:20-21)

These verses are often used to preach against abortion, and rightfully so. However, there might be a deeper application here. It’s an awful charge God is making against His people; a backsliding church murders its own children. How many children grow up in the church, are exposed to false or bad teaching then leave the church as soon as they are able to? We like to blame their parents or the influence of the culture, but what if younger generations are skipping church just because they sense they’re getting junk food instead of a solid meal of God’s Word?

Jerusalem was guilty of offering her children to idols – giving them up to foreign gods. Jerusalem was doing everything she could to get as far as she could from the Covenant and from God Himself. She had forgotten what God had done for her in the past when she was nothing and had nothing. She forgot everything. How heartbreaking it must have been for Ezekiel to hear the naked truth from God.

How heartbreaking it must be for God when we forget all that Christ did for us on the Cross and all the blessings He has lavished on us.

What eventually happened to Jerusalem? She grew up and left God completely. She went completely into idolatry and turned her back of God. We have a classic picture of what Jerusalem did on a much smaller scale: Jacob and Esau. Esau sold out for a measly bowl of food. Jerusalem sold out to the nations around here. And, sadly, too many Christians today are doing exactly the same thing: selling out to the world.

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