|@September 27, 2023||ESV (2016)||ESV Prophets Plan 2023|
Review conducted using the TGC’s Knowing the Bible: Ezekiel by Michael Lawrence. All pull quotes are taken from this resource.
Marriage is a picture of the gospel, hardwired into creation. But this also means that adultery, and sexual immorality in general, is also a picture of something: idolatry. Ezekiel is not the only prophet to develop this theme, though he might be the most graphic. God hates adultery not only because of the harm it does to marriage but also because he hates idolatry, the spiritual adultery that physical adultery depicts.
I’ve never really made the connection of seeking fulfillment of selfish desires as idolatry, but it absolutely makes sense. It is elevating something to primary status that is not than God.
God declares that he will establish his new covenant when “I atone for all that you have done” (Ezek. 16:63). Atonement is the act by which two parties are reconciled. God does not state in Ezekiel 16 how such atonement will take place, but the rest of the Bible makes clear that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22).
This is a good definition of atonement as well as how blood is requisite for reconciliation with God. Blood must be shed either by us or by Him; the former being tainted with sin and an unacceptable payment and the latter being of the perfect, sinless Lamb, fully accepted by the Father.
In Ezek. 17:22–24, God promises that he will plant a “sprig” that will grow up into a “noble cedar.” And in Ezek. 21:25–27, amid the prophecy against Zedekiah, God declares that there will not be another king “until he comes, the one to whom judgment belongs, and I will give [the crown] to him.” In the midst of judgment, God’s plan all along is to send a true and better king who will deliver his people. That King is Jesus.
In reading this, it strikes me how amazingly accurate were Ezekiel’s prophecies as well as their undeniable fulfillment in Jesus.
It is tempting to read providence, as Ezekiel was enabled to do in chapter 21. God is in control of history, and though events may seem to happen by chance, God is directing everything to the end that he has determined. But while we know that God is in control, and while we know how the story of history will end, unless God reveals the meaning of any specific event, we are cautioned against drawing direct cause-and-effect conclusions. Unlike Ezekiel, we are not prophets.
This is such a good reminder to stay in our lane and to not project meaning into situations or circumstances. Only God is able to view full picture and has chosen what He has deemed pertinent to reveal to us. Humanity is entirely dependent on God as thus entirely inappropriate for us to try to push into God’s territory of omniscience.
Throughout its history, Israel’s enemies were the nations surrounding her, and the battles they fought were against flesh and blood. But with the coming of the Messiah and the new covenant, the battle has shifted. God’s people, drawn now from every nation, are still beset with enemies, but those hostile forces are no longer flesh and blood but “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” As such, our weapons in the fight are no longer political and military but are the spiritual weapons given to us in the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:12ff.).
This connection between the foreign enemies of Ezekiel’s day and the spiritual forces of our day is intriguing. Admittedly, I am not as mindful of this ongoing spiritual battle as I should be. It is very real, very present and we are to dwell in its crossfire until we are called home or Jesus returns in final victory.
“Then they will know that I am the Lord” is repeated 18 times in these eight chapters. Most of these references have to do with the nations that God is judging. While it is true that, on the last day, knowledge of the Lord will be universal, it is not the case that all such knowledge will lead to salvation. There is a difference between knowing the Lord as judge and knowing the Lord as the one who took that judgment on your behalf. The former knowing leads only to a “fearful expectation” (Heb. 10:27), while the latter leads to “great joy” (Jude 24–25).
The “knowing the Lord as judge and knowing the Lord as the one who took that judgment on your behalf” is compelling as it captures the key difference in perspective among mankind. Jesus’s role as righteous Judge is universal, a reality that everyone will eventually face. It is only those fully surrendered to Jesus as both just and the Justifier who will be in right standing before Him on the day of judgment.
“As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (33:11). Contrary to the common misconception that God delights in zapping sinners with his thunderbolts, judgment is his “alien work,” as the Puritans used to put it. His “native” work is salvation. And so, his call to repentance is not that of a cosmic killjoy who wants to spoil our fun but rather the call of a loving Creator who desires to see his creatures live.
It is so helpful to be reminded here that God’s “native” work is salvation. What pleasure would God have in arbitrarily condemning His creation? It makes no sense. He seeks primarily to bless and so His wrath must then be understood as the righteous response of a holy God to our sin and rebellion.
As usual, another great review day. The themes of God’s grace in these chapters and of His heart for people to know, abide and worship Him are palpable. Not a lot in terms of application but good to reflect on God’s character and masterful work of redemption.
Commentaries & Resources Used
- ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Guardian Press, 1976)
- The Bible: A Reader’s Guide (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
- The Infographic Bible (Zondervan, 2018)
- ESV Digital Scripture Journal (Crossway, 2019)