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FRAMEWORKS: Ezekiel

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FRAMEWORKS: Ezekiel 20: Rebellious Israel's Failures & Purging

 

[Preliminary Comment: In chapter 14 when the elders came to Ezekiel, the Lord warned them not to ask for a ‘nice word' but told Ezekiel they were to be confronted with their sin and need to repent of it. In chapter 18 we have recently seen the Lord spelling out the guilt & repentance equation and noted as a conclusion the Lord calling on the people to actually repent.

 

 

PART 1: v.1-29: A litany of the Failures of Israel

 

v.1-3 The Lord challenges the elders who came to Ezekiel

 

v.1   In the seventh year, [probably 591BC] in the fifth month on the tenth day, some of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the Lord , and they sat down in front of me.

v.2  Then the word of the Lord came to me :

v.3  ‘Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: have you come to enquire of me? As surely as I live, I will not let you enquire of me, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

 

[Notes: The elders come to apparently seek the Lord. See the Preliminary Notes above for the approach we should expect.]

 

 

v.4-7 Ezekiel, you confront them with their past, brought from Egypt

 

v.4  ‘Will you judge them? Will you judge them, son of man? Then confront them with the detestable practices of their ancestors

v.5  and say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: on the day I chose Israel, I swore with uplifted hand to the descendants of Jacob and revealed myself to them in Egypt. With uplifted hand I said to them, ‘I am the Lord your God.'

v.6  On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands.

v.7  And I said to them, ‘Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.'

 

[Notes: As we noted above, the Lord is first and foremost concerned that the people repent. Perhaps to be able to do that they first need to be confronted with the waywardness of the nation that has been observed ever since their earliest days as a nation. In what follows we will identify the references to their rebellion throughout their history by the letter ‘R' and the judgments or corrections that Lord had had to bring with the letter ‘J'. Note the shear number of times both these things are referred to. Note also the number of times the Lord said He had had to act for the sake of His name.]

 

v.8-10 Despite becoming Egyptian in worship, God delivered them

 

v.8  [R1] ‘“But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me; they [R2] did not get rid of the vile images they had set their eyes on, [R3] nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So I said [J1] I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in Egypt.

v.9  But for the sake of my name, I brought them out of Egypt. I did it to keep my name from being profaned in the eyes of the nations among whom they lived and in whose sight I had revealed myself to the Israelites.

v.10  Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.

 

[Notes: We aren't told in the Exodus of the spiritual state of Israel in Egypt but the prophet reveals they had been following some of the idols of the Egyptians. The Lord did not let this put Him off and so He still delivered them from Egypt, despite that. One wonders if the affair of being required to do more work as slaves [Ex 5:6-] was in fact God disciplining them for their idolatry while living in Egypt.]

 

 

v.11-13 At Sinai God gave them laws – which they soon forgot

 

v.11  I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which the person who obeys them will live.

v.12  Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.

v.13  ‘“Yet the people of Israel [R4] rebelled against me in the wilderness. They [R5] did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws – by which the person who obeys them will live – and they [R6] utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So [J2] I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness.

 

[Notes: The failures of Israel in the desert, both before Sinai and ten after it, are well documented. Despite having witnessed God's incredible activity bringing the plagues on Egypt, they still had not learned to respect and obey the Lord. After Sinai this brought various acts of discipline upon them – see Numb 14:22]

 

 

v.14-17 When they failed to enter the Promised Land, He nevertheless persevered with them and did not destroy them

 

v.14  But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.

v.15  Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the wilderness that [J3] I would not bring them into the land I had given them – a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands –

v.16  because they [R7] rejected my laws and did not follow my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths. For [R8] their hearts were devoted to their idols.

v.17  Yet I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them or put an end to them in the wilderness.

 

[Notes: Their disobedience in refusing to enter the Promised Land [see Num 14] meant that generation had died off over the next forty years in the desert.]

 

 

v.18-26 He spoke to the next generation but they too rebelled

 

v.18  I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols.

v.19  I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

v.20  Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.'

v.21  ‘“But the children [R9] rebelled against me: they did not follow my decrees, they were not careful to keep my laws, of which I said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them,' and they desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said [J4] I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness.

v.22  But I withheld my hand, and for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.

v.23  Also with uplifted hand [J5] I swore to them in the wilderness that I would disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries,

v.24  because they had [R10] not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their parents' idols.

v.25  So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live;

v.26  I defiled them through their gifts – the sacrifice of every firstborn – that I might fill them with horror so that they would know that I am the Lord .”

 

[Notes: The next generation continued to receive God's guidance but still failed to adhere to it. e.g. Num 21 – grumbling against God, Num 25:1- with the women of Moab.]

     

     

v.27-29 In the Land they had been idolatrous

 

v.27  ‘Therefore, son of man, speak to the people of Israel and say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: in this also your ancestors [R11] blasphemed me by being unfaithful to me:

v.28  when I brought them into the land I had sworn to give them and they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they [R12] offered their sacrifices, made offerings that aroused my anger, presented their fragrant incense and poured out their drink offerings.

v.29  Then I said to them: what is this high place you go to?”' (It is called Bamah to this day.)

 

[Notes: Their disobedience and rebellion had continued in the land with idolatry abounding as has been seen earlier in the book.]

 

 

PART 2: v.30-49: A Purging will come

    

 

v.30,31 Don't expect God to listen when you sacrifice your children to idols

 

v.30  ‘Therefore say to the Israelites: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: will you defile yourselves the way your ancestors did and lust after their vile images?

v.31  When you offer your gifts – the sacrifice of your children in the fire – you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. Am I to let you enquire of me, you Israelites? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord , I will not let you enquire of me.

 

[Notes: As previously declared in the Preliminary Comment, the Lord will not deign to answer these elders while they refuse to repent and continue to countenance the evil of idolatry and child sacrifice.]

 

 

v.32-34 You may want to be idol worshippers like the rest of the world but I won't let that happen

 

v.32  ‘“You say, ‘We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.' But what you have in mind will never happen.

v.33  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will reign over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath.

v.34  I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered – with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath.

 

[Notes: Their attitude, in their continuing idolatry, suggests they want to be like every other nation but they are the people who covenanted with God on Mount Sinai to be different, so He will yet discipline them and gather them back to their Land.]

 

 

v.35-38 I will purge you in a place of judgment and cleansing

 

v.35  I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you.

v.36  As I judged your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign Lord.

v.37  I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.

v.38  I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

 

[Notes: To be able to do that He must first purge them through judgment and they must change. Failure in Babylon to do that may mean they will leave Babylon but it will not be for their own land again.]

 

 

v.39,40 I will bring about a faithful remnant

 

v.39  ‘“As for you, people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: go and serve your idols, every one of you! But afterwards you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols.

v.40  For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord, there in the land all the people of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts, along with all your holy sacrifices.

 

[Notes: They may want to hold on to their idols for the moment but eventually they will listen to Him and only then will He return them to their own Land.]

 

 

v.41,42 I will restore you to be a holy people worshipping me in the Land

 

v.41  I will accept you as fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will be proved holy through you in the sight of the nations.

v.42  Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your ancestors.

 

[Notes: They will return as a holy worshipping people whose worship will be as incense before the Lord, and then they and the world will know this is a work of God.]

 

 

v.43,44 You will detest and abhor your past when you look back

 

v.43  There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done.

v.44  You will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name's sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices, you people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.”'

 

[Notes: There will come a time, after they are cleansed, when they will look back in horror to what they were like before they were originally taken.]

 

 

v.45-49 Even in the south I will send a purging judgement

 

v.45   The word of the Lord came to me :

v.46  ‘Son of man, set your face towards the south; preach against the south and prophesy against the forest of the southland.

v.47  Say to the southern forest: “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to set fire to you, and it will consume all your trees, both green and dry. The blazing flame will not be quenched, and every face from south to north will be scorched by it.

v.48  Everyone will see that I the Lord have kindled it; it will not be quenched.”'

v.49  Then I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, they are saying of me, “Isn't he just telling parables?”'

 

[Notes: Those in the south may hear all these warnings to Jerusalem and think they are secure and able to continue their idolatry, but they aren't! Destruction will come to them as well.]

    

     

Continue to Chapter 21