It is November 2, 2020, the day before a presidential election voting day that seems to have produced more talk, more demonstration, more speculation, and more trepidation than any presidential election in our lifetime.
Today’s assigned reading in the NIV one-year Bible is Ezekiel 3:16 – 6:14. What I have read, and how I have responded to that reading in my companion journal in the habit I have kept since Lent of this year, every morning, could be described – on the face of it – as a mini sermon on God’s wrath. Adieu, therefore, to those who are closing out of this article right now. 😉
God told Ezekiel to be a watchman – to see ahead and to warn, else he would be held responsible for what happened, that those warned could have avoided if they had heeded. “Don’t fail to carry out my instructions here, else others’ downfall will be counted against you.” (Ezekiel 3:17-19)
If a righteous person turns and does evil, any good that he or she did prior to that will not be remembered. Ezekiel 3:20 😦 That surely is one of the saddest statements in all of the Bible. We all can think of prominent, public examples. “What do you remember about so-and-so?” “His downfall.” “Her public disgrace.”
However, look at the “70×7 times” rule of forgiveness Jesus taught; look at King David’s enduring status as “a man after God’s own heart”; look at the parable of the prodigal son as a period of waywardness, anguishingly repudiated by the son, was put in the past by the forgiving father. So, we must weigh that statement in Ezekiel 3:20 against the entirety of the Bible’s message.
What God told Ezekiel, about a prior record of good being forgotten, was specific to the warnings being issued at that time: “If you leave me [God] and choose a sinful path and do not forsake that sinful path in time, your prior good record will not be taken into account when I judge you.” (This happened in Old Testament times, remember. Pre-Messiah. Pre-cross. Pre-resurrection. Pre “by grace you are saved, through faith [in Jesus], not having anything to do with your record of good or bad deeds.” See Ephesians 2:8-9)
Ezekiel was instructed to endure dire physical duress for a time, symbolically, as a message to the wicked, unrepentant people to whom God was having him speak. Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel often were required to do shockingly unusual things just to get people’s attention. That reminds me a bit of present day. Around us we see very unusual hair colors and modes of dress; body art; outlandish motor vehicles (often with offensively loud sounds). Efforts to stand out, in some cases. Efforts to express some feelings or passions that maybe the person so dressing or sounding off hasn’t even fully defined or understood. But, back to the Old Testament:
In such a setting (which, in Israel’s day, may have been characterized by strange, pagan dress and customs of the false gods and cultures surrounding them), it indeed would be difficult to show up in public and to somehow stand apart as being THE person with THE message from THE God! But that’s what those rare individuals selected to be God’s prophets were given to do. Dare we not admire their obedience? Read on, then answer that question!
Chapter 4 begins with the prophet’s obtaining a clay tablet and drawing a representation of Jerusalem on it. The tablet was subsequently besieged and battered by Ezekiel based on God’s specific instructions, as “a sign to the house of Israel.” (4:3)
The signs Ezekiel was to do after the clay tablet are appalling; physically “impossible” unless the Spirit enabled him not to go mad and not to atrophy, get bedsores, etc. (We talk about how sobering it is to fall under God’s wrath…but this Old Testament book, along with others, including Jeremiah, as well as the life of Paul the apostle given in the New Testament, remind us that it is also a very sobering thing to be singled out by God as His spokesperson!)
Ezekiel actually bargained with God on one point, and God said, “Very well; I hear you on that. So, here’s a workaround you should be okay with.” 😮 As for me, I should rather have tried to bargain my way out of 4:4-5 rather than 4:9-13!!! (Even though what bothered Ezekiel was pretty awful, too! Hint: “poop” emoticon)
It gets worse.
Chapter 4 ends with a dire foretelling of food and water scarcity. 😦
Chapter 5 reports additional strange actions as signs: weighing shaven head and facial hair on scales, then doing various symbolic things with equal thirds of it. 🤔✂️ ⚖️ #weird
Verse 5:7 is a strong indictment, indeed, against Israel! “You have behaved worse than the godless nations around you!”
The consequences of the disobedience were HORRIBLE (5:9-12). The nation handpicked by God for astonishing favor and prosperity would be a ruin and a reproach. Famine. Wild beasts. Sword. Desperation cannibalism… 😦😩
Then, the outpouring of God‘s wrath would be complete. “My anger will cease.” Ezekiel 5:13
Shifting from Old Testament to New for a moment
Chapter 6 lets up considerably on the grotesque detail of the coming calamity, but that detail in prior chapters gave me thoughts of Jesus’ anguish on the cross as He bore God’s wrath for all human sins past, present, and future. (The book of Hebrews, which I am reading concurrently with Ezekiel, gives us a clear understanding of Jesus’ role as the final and successful “high priest” – which lets us “zoom out” from the account of God’s wrath for sin that we are reading in Ezekiel. I point that out for any who may ask, “Why did Jesus bear God’s wrath later, when God had poured out such awful wrath already?”) When we focus on the crucifixion typically, we mostly talk about the horrible pain of the physical torture of that inhumanly cruel method of execution. However, in the statement of Jesus recorded in Scripture, about being forsaken by God (Matthew 27:46), there is clue that even greater suffering was happening to our Savior inwardly during those awful hours on the cross.
If you read the chapters of Ezekiel that I have read today (3,4,5) and if you have followed Israel’s pattern of unfaithfulness to God all through Exodus to Judges to Chronicles and Kings and beyond, you cannot miss HOW SIN OFFENDS loving, holy God! The outpouring of God’s wrath as judgment on sin is not to be taken lightly. And for Jesus to have endured a measure of that wrath sufficient to
▪️avenge God (see Ezekiel 5:13)
▪️conquer evil and the POWERFUL evil one
is absolutely incomprehensible to us. But He did it.
Praise the name of Jesus!
“Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:12
But why such wrath against Israel? Why?? Do not miss the repeated PURPOSE STATEMENT in all of this. It’s found in Ezekiel 5:13 and 6:14.
“Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
This was the starting point of God’s revelation to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 and to Moses in Exodus 3:1-6: Who I Am.The nation of Israel once knew deeply and appreciatively and vividly who God is. But, by the time of Ezekiel, they had forgotten God over and over again.
When God has had enough and He declares, “Enough”… watch out.
Shall we take anything away from this but an ancient history lesson?
As to whether any of this post applies to any nation other than historic Israel, well…I leave it to the reader to ponder.
The companion readings for today in the same NIV one-year Bible are Hebrews 4:1-16, Psalm 104:24-35, and Proverbs 26:27. If you want a glimpse into the greater process that has been feeding my soul day by day (and prompting some four full journals and counting, since spring of this year) , read those passages on the heels of Ezekiel 3,4,5.
P.S., I am not asking anyone reading this article to adopt my opinions. By far, that is not the intent here as I share something from a Bible reading and offer a look at what thoughts that reading has given to me. In publishing this article, implicitly I merely request the same grace anybody wishes for themselves when they post passionately about hot topics and then feel they must respond to unfriendly comments they hadn’t counted on! I do suggest to others that reading the Bible very often, with reverence and with a humble, seeking heart, is an extremely wise and valuable practice. God’s word provides the answers we need. “The word of God is living and active.” Hebrews 4:12