Ezekiel 21:28 “Now you, son of Adam, prophesy, and say, ‘This is what the Lord Yahveh says concerning the Ammonites and their contempt.’ You are to proclaim, ‘A sword! A sword is drawn for slaughter, polished to consume, to flash like lightning. Ezekiel 21:29 While they offer false visions and lying lots about you, the time has come to put you to the necks of the profane guilty ones; the day has come for final punishment. Ezekiel 21:30 ” ‘Return it to its sheath! ” ‘I will judge you in the place where you were created, in the land of your origin. Ezekiel 21:31 I will pour out my curse on you; I will blow the fire of my fury on you. I will hand you over to brutal men, skilled at destruction. Ezekiel 21:32 You will be fuel for the fire. Your blood will be spilled within the land. You will not be remembered, for I, Yahveh, have spoken.'”
what about Ammon?
While the LORD is declaring his imminent judgment upon the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, one obvious thought the people of Judah might be thinking is “What about Ammon — that wicked neighbor nation who will be gloating over Judah’s destruction? Ezekiel is instructed to tell the Ammonites that they should not gloat because the same sword appointed to strike Judah will someday strike them as well. The difference is that once Babylon is through with Judah, there will still be a Judah left. But once the sword is unsheathed and aimed at the Ammonites, it will destroy utterly. Ammon will not be remembered.
LORD, give us the wisdom to refrain from envying the wicked around us who seem not to suffer as much. May we realize that your justice will be done, and leave it in your hands.
Ezekiel 21:24 “Therefore, this is what the Lord Yahveh says: Because you have drawn attention to your guilt, exposing your rebellions, so that your failures are revealed in all your actions – since you have done this, you will be captured by them. Ezekiel 21:25 And you, profane and guilty prince of Israel, the day has come for your punishment. Ezekiel 21:26 “This is what the Lord Yahveh says: Remove the turban, and take off the crown. Things will not remain as they are; exalt the lowly and bring down the exalted. Ezekiel 21:27 A ruin, a ruin, I will make it a ruin! Yet this will not happen until he comes; I have given the judgment to him.
God’s instruction for the priest was “remove the turban” and the king was to “take off the crown.” Both leaders were being judged because they had led the people astray. In every generation, there comes a time when leaders must be evaluated based on whether they are leading people toward God, or away from him.
LORD, give us righteous leaders who seek to please you more than advance themselves.
Ezekiel 21:18 The word of Yahveh happened to me: Ezekiel 21:19 “Now you, son of Adam, mark out two roads that the sword of Babylon’s king can take. Both of them should originate from the same land. And make a signpost at the fork in the road to each city. Ezekiel 21:20 Mark out a road that the sword can take to Rabbah of the Ammonites and to Judah into fortified Jerusalem. Ezekiel 21:21 You see, the king of Babylon stands at the split in the road, at the fork of the two roads, to practice divination: he shakes the arrows, consults the idols, and looks at the liver. Ezekiel 21:22 The answer marked Jerusalem appears in his right hand, indicating that he should set up battering rams, give the order to slaughter, raise a battle cry, set battering rams against the gates, build a ramp, and construct a siege wall. Ezekiel 21:23 It will seem like false divination to those who have sworn an oath to the Babylonians, but it will draw attention to their guilt so that they will be captured.
like false divination
Like the Jews in Ezekiel’s day, we are so ready to claim that other people’s ideas are false and misleading, but also so ready to trust in our own false divination. The threads that hold together our worldviews are often just as flimsy. God used the Babylonian’s divination to condemn his own people, who had forsaken him for idols, just like Babylon had.
LORD, teach us your ways and give us the wisdom to trust you, not our own ideas.
Ezekiel 21:14 “So you, son of Adam, prophesy and clap your hands together: Let the sword slap two times, even three. It is a sword for massacre, a sword for great massacre – it surrounds them! Ezekiel 21:15 I have appointed a sword for slaughter at all their gates so that their hearts may melt and many may stumble. Yes! It is ready to flash like lightning; it is drawn for slaughter. Ezekiel 21:16 Slash to the right; turn to the left – wherever your blade is directed. Ezekiel 21:17 I also will clap my hands together, and I will satisfy my wrath. I, Yahveh, have spoken.”
flash and slash
When the passers-by saw this prophet brandishing his sword, they probably thought he was loony. But it was a symbol of a coming massacre — a prophecy of a terrible ordeal in which many would lose their lives. When those who claim God for their God rebel against him, his wrath comes upon their nation.
Reading through the Old Testament gives a person perspective. As much as I want to brag about my religion being a happy message of love, I am confronted with a God of love who must act against those who rebel against him. His arms are open for those who repent and return to him, but if not, there is a sword.
LORD, we hear the sound of the prophet clapping his hands together. We see the flash and slash. Bring us all back to you, Lord, before your day of judgment comes.
Ezekiel 21:1 The word of Yahveh happened to me again. This is what it said: Ezekiel 21:2 “Son of Adam, face Jerusalem and preach against the devoted places. Prophesy against the land of Israel, Ezekiel 21:3 and say to it, ‘This is what Yahveh says: Notice I am against you. I will draw my sword from its sheath and cut off from you both the righteous and the guilty. Ezekiel 21:4 Since I will cut off both the righteous and the guilty, my sword will therefore come out of its sheath against all people from the south to the north. Ezekiel 21:5 So all people will know that I, Yahveh, have taken my sword from its sheath – it will not be sheathed again.’ Ezekiel 21:6 “But you, son of Adam, groan! Groan bitterly with a broken heart right before their eyes. Ezekiel 21:7 And when they ask you, ‘Why are you groaning? ‘ then say, ‘Because of the news that is coming. Every heart will melt, and every hand will become weak. Every breath will be discouraged, and all knees will run with urine. Notice, it is coming and it will happen. This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh.'” Ezekiel 21:8 The word of Yahveh happened to me: Ezekiel 21:9 “Son of Adam, prophesy, ‘This is what Yahveh says! ‘ You are to proclaim, ‘A sword! A sword is sharpened and also polished. Ezekiel 21:10 It is sharpened for slaughter, polished to flash like lightning! Should we be glad? The scepter of my son, the sword thinks lightly of every tree. Ezekiel 21:11 The sword is given to be polished, to be grasped in the hand. It is sharpened, and it is polished, to be put in the hand of the slayer.’ Ezekiel 21:12 “Cry out and wail, son of Adam, for it is against my people. It is against all the princes of Israel! They are given over to the sword with my people. Therefore slap your thigh in grief. Ezekiel 21:13 Surely it will be a test! And what if the sword thinks lightly of even the scepter? The scepter will not continue.” This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh.
sharpened and polished
He is a heartbroken God who lets loose a sharpened and polished sword upon his own people. Their rebellion is too great — their sin too dark for the Almighty to let it be. Thus the prophet is told to groan bitterly with a broken heart right before their eyes. He is to be a symbol of the Lord’s pain — a pain that cannot be eased without judgment.
LORD, open our eyes to your coming judgment. Help us to snatch people from Gehenna’s fire.
Ezekiel 20:45 The word of Yahveh happened to me: Ezekiel 20:46 “Son of Adam, face the south and preach against it. Prophesy against the forest land in the Negev, Ezekiel 20:47 and say to the forest there, ‘Hear the word of Yahveh! This is what the Lord Yahveh says: Notice I am about to ignite a fire in you, and it will devour every green tree and every dry tree in you. The blazing flame will not be extinguished, and every face from the south to the north will be scorched by it. Ezekiel 20:48 Then all people will see that I, Yahveh, have kindled it. It will not be extinguished.'” Ezekiel 20:49 Then I said, “Oh, Lord God, they are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just making parables? ‘”
Ezekiel faced a nation fed up with his stories. They refused to acknowledge that every word coming from the prophet was breathed out by Almighty God.
How our generation follows in those footsteps. We seek insight from every book but God’s book. We have rejected the word as just a bunch of made-up stories.
LORD, we want turn back to you. Give us an appreciation of your word that is proper for it.
Ezekiel 20:39 ” ‘As for you, house of Israel, this is what the Lord Yahveh says: Go and serve your idols, each of you. But afterward, you will surely listen to me, and you will no longer defile my devoted name with your gifts and idols. Ezekiel 20:40 For on my devoted mountain, Israel’s high mountain – the declaration of the Lord Yahveh – there the entire house of Israel, all of them, will serve me in the land. There I will accept them and will require your contributions and first gifts, all your devoted offerings. Ezekiel 20:41 When I bring you from the peoples and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, I will accept you as a pleasing aroma. And I will demonstrate my devotion through you in the sight of the nations. Ezekiel 20:42 When I lead you into the land of Israel, the land I swore to give your fathers, you will know that I am Yahveh. Ezekiel 20:43 There you will remember your ways and all your deeds by which you have defiled yourself, and you will detest yourselves for all the evil things you have done. Ezekiel 20:44 You will know that I am Yahveh, house of Israel when I have dealt with you for the sake of my name rather than according to your evil ways and corrupt acts. This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh.'”
Note the two things that God expects to happen as a result of the exile. First, his people will learn to see themselves as they really are. They will detest themselves because of their idolatry and compromise.
Second, they will learn to see God as who he really is. They will know that God is unique.
LORD, give us true knowledge of ourselves and a true appreciation of you.
Ezekiel 20:33 As I live – the declaration of the Lord Yahveh – I will reign over you with a strong hand, an arm stretched out, and wrath poured out. Ezekiel 20:34 I will bring you from the peoples and gather you from the countries where you were scattered, with a strong hand, an arm stretched out, and wrath poured out. Ezekiel 20:35 I will lead you into the open country of the peoples and enter into judgment with you there face to face. Ezekiel 20:36 Just as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the open country of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you. This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh. Ezekiel 20:37 I will make you pass under the branch and will bring you into the bond of the covenant. Ezekiel 20:38 I will purge you of those who rebel and transgress against me. I will bring them out of the land where they live as foreign residents, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am Yahveh.
Ezekiel predicted a new wilderness experience for his people. Just as they were taken out of Egypt and judged in the open county, so not they will be taken out of the promised land and judged in exile. Only those who purge themselves of their idolatry will be rescued. Many will die in the new wilderness.
Are you living in God’s promised land today, or are you in the open country? Is there still some dross to melt away? Let your repentance be a complete turn — away from sin and toward God. Let your faith be full power.
Ezekiel 20:30 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord Yahveh says: Are you defiling yourselves the way your fathers did, and prostituting yourselves with their repulsive things? Ezekiel 20:31 When you offer your gifts, sacrificing your children in the fire, you still continue to defile yourselves with all your idols today. So should I let you investigate me, house of Israel? As I live – this is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh – I will not let you investigate me! Ezekiel 20:32 ” ‘When you say, “Let us be like the nations, like the clans of other countries, serving wood and stone,” what is on your breath will never happen.
zero toleration of toleration
There is one thing our Lord will not tolerate, and it seems to be the very thing many in this generation seek to do. Our Lord does not tolerate compromise by those who claim to belong to him.
We cannot even come close enough to investigate him if we insist on following the world in its pursuit of idols.
LORD, purge us of our hypocrisy and open the door once again to a right relationship with you.
Ezekiel 20:27 “Therefore, son of Adam, speak to the house of Israel, and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord Yahveh says: In this way also your fathers blasphemed me by committing treachery against me: Ezekiel 20:28 When I brought them into the land that I swore to give them and they saw any high hill or leafy tree, they offered their sacrifices and presented their offensive offerings there. They also sent up their pleasing aromas and poured out their drink offerings there. Ezekiel 20:29 So I asked them, “What is this high place you are going to?” And it is still called Bamah today.’
this high place
Another tradition that the people in Hosea’s time had adopted is the worship of false gods at high places throughout the land. God confronts them with a question about that curious tradition. God wanted worship only directed toward him and performed at his temple.
Believers today are not restricted as to where we worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the place of worship no longer matters, but what matters is worshiping in spirit and truth.
So, why did it matter to God then? It mattered because the high place was a place to worship another god. That is always wrong.
You and I need to be careful about the traditions we adopt. Some of them can lead us away from God,\ rather than towards him.
LORD, give us the courage to scrap all traditions that challenge our exclusive devotion to you.