Fiery outrage and furious wrath are attributes of the One who is our Creator. God is actually a living Being. Yes, “God is love,” that should be clear a bit later. He is also Holy.
“He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.” (1 Timothy 6:15,16)
The Wrath of God is more about consequences more than about God having a temper tantrum. Yet Romans 1:18-20 is all too true. All men everywhere, regardless of what they know or don't know, are without excuse because of God's revelation of Himself in nature.
For the wrath (orge) of God is revealed (apokalupto) from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress (repress) the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things..." (Romans 1:18-23)
God’s stinging indictment of mankind or many reasons can be seen throughout the entire Bible, for instance in Romans Chapter 2:
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:1-11)
The specific group of people addressed here are the self-righteous, not the flagrant sinners indicted in Romans Chapter 1, nor the Jewish people addressed in Chapter 3.
Actually ALL of us are included in one way of another in these early chapters of Romans. A way of escape is also clearly given! Trusting and serving God’s Son, Jesus Christ the Lord, is THE one way of escape that a God of love has provided to any and all of us! God is holy and righteous and just, but His "mercy triumphs over judgment." We can not earn God’s favor, get on His “good side,” nor placate Him with meritorious deeds. His help is offered free to us--purchased at enormous cost to Himself. Keep in mind that God is a Person. His mind is infinitely better than all the minds of any sage, scientist, philosopher. His emotions are far deeper than we can ever know. Glimpses? Yet, Psalm 22, for example, hints at God’s personal involvement with our race through His unique Son, Jesus.
6:1 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 2 "Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, 3 "and say, 'O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD!' Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, to the hills, to the ravines, and to the valleys: "Indeed I, even I, will bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places. 4 "Then your altars shall be desolate, your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain men before your idols. 5 "And I will lay the corpses of the children of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones all around your altars. 6 "In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate, so that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, your idols may be broken and made to cease, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be abolished. 7 "The slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the LORD.
8 "Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries. 9 "Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. 10 "And they shall know that I am the LORD; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them."
11 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, 'Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. 12 'He who is far off shall die by the pestilence, he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who remains and is besieged shall die by the famine. Thus will I spend My fury upon them. 13 'Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when their slain are among their idols all around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every thick oak, wherever they offered sweet incense to all their idols. 14 'So I will stretch out My hand against them and make the land desolate, yes, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblah, in all their dwelling places. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.'"'"
7:1 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 "And you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel: 'An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. 3 Now the end has come upon you, And I will send My anger against you; I will judge you according to your ways, And I will repay you for all your abominations. 4 My eye will not spare you, Nor will I have pity; But I will repay your ways, And your abominations will be in your midst; Then you shall know that I am the LORD!' 5 "Thus says the Lord GOD: 'A disaster, a singular disaster; Behold, it has come! 6 An end has come, The end has come; It has dawned for you; Behold, it has come! 7 Doom has come to you, you who dwell in the land; The time has come, A day of trouble is near, And not of rejoicing in the mountains. 8 Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury, And spend My anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, And I will repay you for all your abominations. 9 'My eye will not spare, Nor will I have pity; I will repay you according to your ways, And your abominations will be in your midst. Then you shall know that I am the LORD who strikes. 10 'Behold, the day! Behold, it has come! Doom has gone out; The rod has blossomed, Pride has budded. 11 Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness; None of them shall remain, None of their multitude, None of them; Nor shall there be wailing for them.
12 The time has come, The day draws near. 'Let not the buyer rejoice, Nor the seller mourn, For wrath is on their whole multitude. 13 For the seller shall not return to what has been sold, Though he may still be alive; For the vision concerns the whole multitude, And it shall not turn back; No one will strengthen himself Who lives in iniquity. 14 'They have blown the trumpet and made everyone ready, But no one goes to battle; For My wrath is on all their multitude. 15 The sword is outside, And the pestilence and famine within. Whoever is in the field Will die by the sword; And whoever is in the city, Famine and pestilence will devour him. 16 'Those who survive will escape and be on the mountains Like doves of the valleys, All of them mourning, Each for his iniquity. 17 Every hand will be feeble, And every knee will be as weak as water. 18 They will also be girded with sackcloth; Horror will cover them; Shame will be on every face, Baldness on all their heads.
19 'They will throw their silver into the streets, And their gold will be like refuse; Their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them In the day of the wrath of the LORD; They will not satisfy their souls, Nor fill their stomachs, Because it became their stumbling block of iniquity. 20 'As for the beauty of his ornaments, He set it in majesty; But they made from it The images of their abominations-- Their detestable things; Therefore I have made it Like refuse to them. 21 I will give it as plunder Into the hands of strangers, And to the wicked of the earth as spoil; And they shall defile it. 22 I will turn My face from them, And they will defile My secret place; For robbers shall enter it and defile it. 23 'Make a chain, For the land is filled with crimes of blood, And the city is full of violence. 24 Therefore I will bring the worst of the Gentiles, And they will possess their houses; I will cause the pomp of the strong to cease, And their holy places shall be defiled. 25 Destruction comes; They will seek peace, but there shall be none. 26 Disaster will come upon disaster, And rumor will be upon rumor. Then they will seek a vision from a prophet; But the law will perish from the priest, And counsel from the elders. 27 'The king will mourn, The prince will be clothed with desolation, And the hands of the common people will tremble. I will do to them according to their way, And according to what they deserve I will judge them; Then they shall know that I am the LORD!'" (NKJV)
By Derek Thomas, God Strengthens, Evangelical Press, UK, 1993
One of the most beautiful areas of Israel (then and now) is the central mountain range. which runs from Galilee in the north to the Negev highlands in the south. This range, rising in places to more than 3.000 feet (915 m.) is severed in an east-west direction by the Jezreel Valley in the north and the Negev Basin in the south. When the Israelites first settled in Canaan they found that every mountain and hill had its shrines and altars erected in honour of ancient fertility gods. Though initially these were changed so as to provide local places for true worship, the power of native religions. especially the worship of Baal and Asherah. had reasserted itself. particularly during Manasseh's reign in Judah (695-642 B.C.). During the reigns of King Hezekiah and Josiah, attempts at reform were made with considerable success. but once again the appeal of idolatry returned. A glance westward. in the direction of Israel's central mountain range, might have brought sentiment and nostalgia to many an exiled Israelite along the Kebar River in Babylon. To God. however. it was symbolic of all that was wrong with Israel and her people: they were worshiping idols in the 'high places' of Israel (6:3), 'on every high hill and on all the mountaintops, under every spreading tree and every leafy oak' (6:13; I Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10). It is this that provides the background to the opening of the sixth chapter of Ezekiel. Chapters 6 and 7 are largely taken up with predictions of doom and disaster to the nation of Israel; Ezekiel is asked to set his 'face against the mountains of Israel' and 'prophesy against them' (6:2). because God says. 'I will stretch out my hand against them' (6: 14). The repetition of 'against' continues a theme from the preceding chapter: 'I myself am against you, Jerusalem...' (5:8): 'I myself will withdraw my favour; I will not look on you with pity or spare you' (5:11).
Syncretism: the curse of apostate religion (6:1-14)
Whether it is a multi-faith worship service in Canterbury Cathedral in the late twentieth century, or the incorporation of Canaanite deities into the worship of Yahweh, Israel's God, the verdict of God is the same: 'You shall have no other gods before me' (Exodus. 20:3). Nor do we need to think of idolatry in terms of formal worship services. People's gods are what they love, see, serve and worship. It maybe the unholy trio of 's's: sex, shekels or stomach-- all three serving self; or, it may the three 'p's: pleasure, possessions or position, which John describes as 'the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does' (1 John 2:16). Verses 1-7 define for us the nature, judgment of and penalty for idolatry.
I. The nature of idolatry
Ezekiel mentions 'high places', 'altars,' 'incense altars' and 'idols' (6:3.4,6,9). The 'altars' were used for the cooking of animal meat devoted to the idol, and 'incense altars' were stands similar in appearance to the altar of incense used in Israel's worship in the tabernacle and later in the temple. Of interest, however, is Ezekiel's use of the phrase 'what you have made' (6:6) to describe their idols. It reminds us of Isaiah's references to idolatry in Isaiah 44:12-20. He pictures a blacksmith, powerful and strong enough to forge an idol in the fire, who suddenly gets hungry and faint' Or a carpenter who cuts down a tree, makes firewood with some of it to cook his dinner and makes a god out of the rest!
'Half of the wood he bums in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says, "Ah' I am warm: I see the fire."
From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says, "Save me; you are my god."
They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so that they cannot see,
and their minds closed so that they cannot understand' (Isaiah 44:16-18).
Preaching at the same time as Isaiah, but in the northern kingdom of Israel rather than in Jerusalem, Hosea depicted the nature of Israel's idolatry in starker terms:
'They sacrifice on the mountaintops
and burn offerings on the hills,
under oak, poplar and terebinth,
where the shade is pleasant.
Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution
and your daughters-in-law to adultery
... the men themselves consort with harlots
and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes' (Hosea 4:13-14).
If adultery and prostitution literally characterized what had been happening in their shrines, these terms were also descriptive of their spiritual relationship with God: they had 'adulterous hearts' and God was grieved (6:9). Pretending to have a personal and loyal relationship with Yahweh, they were intimate with other gods, too.
2. God's assessment of idolatry
Adultery is a violation of the covenant of marriage. It speaks of betrayal and disloyalty. It tells of love that has grown sour. Idols are 'evil' and idolatry 'detestable' (6:9; cf. 5:9). It is not morally neutral, or an 'alternative form of worship'. Man is not free to worship as he likes, and when the church fails to record God's opprobrium of idolatry, it fails to pronounce his verdict upon such practices. Idolatry is everywhere represented in Scripture as the greatest insult the creature can offer to the Creator. Man's religions have been his greatest crimes.
3. The penalty for idolatry
The warning of the previous chapter, that idolatry sparks off God's anger and causes it to bum against his people (5:9-11), now explodes with severity: the shrines and their contents will be utterly destroyed and idolaters will be 'slain' by the invading Babylonian armies (6:5-7). Death was the required penalty for idolatry within Israel's theocratic state (Deuteronomy 28:21), and while it may no longer be considered so in our pluralistic states, spiritual death remains God's threat for habitual, unrepentant idolaters. Idolaters, Paul warned, will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9). The prophet, having been asked to set his face against the mountains of Israel (6:2), is now asked to clap his hands and stamp his feet(6: II). This seems to represent the way Israel's enemies will respond to their downfall. The nation that had known such great privileges would 'fall by the sword, famine and plague' (6:11), and her enemies would taunt her. No matter where the people might be, they would meet with God's judgment (6: 12). Chapter 6 ends with a description of Israel's complete desolation from the southern, deserts to a city called 'Diblah' (6:14) in the north.'
The Lord-Attacker (7:1-27)
The theme of judgment continues throughout chapter 7. Referring
to himself as the Lord-Attacker, 'the Lord who strikes the blow'
(7:9), Ezekiel warns of God's judgment on 'the land of Israel'
(7:2; cf. 6:2), using the refrains: 'The end has come', 'The end
is now upon you,' 'Doom has come upon you', 'The time has come,
the day is near' and 'The day is here!' (7:2,3,6, 7, 10,12).'God's
'anger' bums against them (7:3,8); his 'wrath' is kindled (7:8,12,14,19);
he comes to 'judge' his people (7:8); he threatens to 'turn [his]
face away from them' (7:22; cf. 6:2). Ezekiel's listeners were
no doubt used to referring to God as 'Jehovah-jireh' (The
Lord will provide', Genesis 22:14) and 'Jehovah-nissi' ('The
Lord is my Banner', i.e. the Lord who protects, Exodus. 17: 15);
it must have come as a shock to hear Ezekiel refer to God as 'Jehovah-makkeh'
('the Lord who strikes', 7:9). It is all reminiscent of Isaiah's
predictions a century earlier (Isaiah 13), which warned that the
'day' of Babylonian invasion was coming (Isaiah 13:6). Constant
repetition here in Ezekiel 7 of 'the day' underlines for us how
difficult it was for the Israelites to believe that Jerusalem
could be destroyed. Amos, too, was greeted with incredulity when
he prophesied: 'Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not
light?' (Amos 5:20). It is this sense of shock that lies behind
the assertion in verse 7: 'Doom has come upon you--you who dwell
in the land,' Having known the prophecy for over a hundred years,
they still do not believe that they--of all people--deserve to
be treated in this way! They had believed, rightly, that God's
plan and purpose are invincible; but they had believed, wrongly,
that his plan and purpose included every Israelite, no matter
how they lived. The covenant curses were an integral part of God's
message (Deuteronomy 27, 28) -- a fact which the Israelites had conveniently
forgotten. Moses had reminded them in the wilderness that God
confirms his covenant (Deuteronomy 8: 18). That meant that he would
keep his promise to save his people and cause them to enter into
the richness of his blessing. But it also meant that those who
became unfaithful to his covenant would discover that they had
rejected his blessing. Their hardness of heart would lead to judgment.
Even as Ezekiel speaks these words, the rumbling of a Babylonian
army approaching for battle is barely three years away!
Four features of these judgment pronouncements are worth noting.
1. God's anger is personal
Stressing the use of the first person singular in Ezekiel 7:8-9 makes a telling point: 'I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices, I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you, Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes the blow.' It was the same message that Amos had preached with faithfulness about Israel's God:
'When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the Lord caused it?' (Amos 3:6).
There is more at work here than some impersonal cosmic law to the effect that sin is always followed by disaster. God himself is angry with his people because of their sin.
2. God's anger is not capricious or arbitrary
It is made clear that God's judgment is due to Israel's sin: 'I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices' (7:3; cf. 7:4,8,27). The God of Israel is different from the pagan deities to which Israel had succumbed; he is different in his wrath. He is angry with reluctance. He is slow to wrath (Psalm. 103:8) and unwilling to afflict (Lamentations 3:33). As he makes clear later in Ezekiel, he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (18:23,32). It is sin, and only sin, that causes God's anger to burn. As George Swinnock put it, 'Sin is the weight on the clock which makes the hammer to strike. '
3. God's anger is related to his covenant
God's anger is different in kind from that of the pagan deities, whose anger was malicious and vindictive. They were characterized by unpredictability. At any moment they might 'see red'. Their anger was no different from that of human beings whose anger is due to temper and loss of control. This is seen in the way some fathers discipline their children, 'as they (think] best' (Heb. 12:10). Their egos are bruised and they lash out. God never behaves in that way. His wrath is always in response 10 sin and always in proportion to the sin committed. The threefold use of the word 'repay' (7:3,4,9) suggests a principle: sin receives what it deserves from God -- no more and no less. When God judges he docs so with equity. His dealings with man are always in terms of his covenant. He has made clear the penalty for infringement and he never once operates outside of these parameters.
4. God's anger is not partial
Priests, elders, even 'the king' and 'the prince', will suffer the judgment of God (7:26-27). God is no respecter of persons. One's station in life is no safety against God 's wrath when it ignites against sin. From the highest to the lowest, there will be no escape when invasion and war strike Judah in a few years' time.
Spiritual amnesia: a deadly disease
We are prone to forget God! 'Those who escape will remember me,' God says (6:9), suggesting that they had forgotten him. This had been Moses' theme in the sermon he preached to Israel in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8). Then, as now, Israel had forgotten what God had done for them in bringing them out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 8:2-5). They had also become proud, thinking that, somehow, they deserved God's favors because they were special (Deuteronomy 8:10-18). They had forgotten God! It was the same lesson that caused the downfall of King Uzziah in Isaiah's day (2 Chronicles 26:5-16). And once again, it is spiritual amnesia that now lies behind Judah's downfall. They, too, had forgotten what they once were (16:22.43). The exile, however, will cause them to remember their sins (20:43; 36:31). Despite their forgetfulness, God does not forget. The remnant have cause to be thankful that he remembers his covenant (16:60). Expanding on this theme at length, chapter 7 suggests that a fourfold problem lay behind their deadly amnesia.
1. An arrogant heart
Ezekiel portrays a rod that has blossomed (7: 10). It is a rod of pride! When we note that the Hebrew for 'rod' (matteh) can also mean 'tribe', the allusion to Judah's arrogance becomes apparent.' God 'will put an end to the pride of the mighty' (7:24). Despite all that they had received from God, the Israelites had been guilty before of spiritual pride, boasting in the wilderness: 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me' (Deuteronomy 8:17). Those of us who are acquainted with our own hearts know how prone they are to pride. Solomon's warnings are salutary: 'When pride comes, then comes disgrace' (Proverbs 11:2). 'Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall' (Proverbs 16:18).
Arrogance is quickly followed by confidence in one's own ability to accomplish anything. In the past when enemies threatened, Israel had matched them with superior power. Once again, when Babylon comes, they will 'blow the trumpet and get everything ready' (7: 14), forgetting that unless the Lord fights for them they will be surely defeated. But they will find their strength is gone: 'Every hand will go limp, and every knee will become as weak as water' (7:17). What God said to King Jehoshaphat is a lesson we need to remember at all times: 'Listen ... This is what the Lord says to you: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's'" (2 Chronicles 20: I 5). God is the Captain of our salvation. The battle is the Lord's. Following the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses sang, 'The Lord is a warrior; the Lord IS his name' (Exodus. 15:3). Israel had forgotten it.
3. The snare of wealth
When the Babylonians arrive their wealth will be thrown into the streets, perhaps in hope of saving their lives. Their idols, adorned with precious jewels and stones, will be carried off. Wealth, Ezekiel suggests, 'has made them stumble into sin' (7:19). Affluence and prosperity can often prove to be a snare. Jesus spoke of this danger in the parable of the sower and the soils. Some soil failed to produce fruit because of the presence of thorns, which he interpreted as 'the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things' (Mark 4: 19). 'Prosperity is a gift,' Sinclair Ferguson writes. 'It can be a blessing; it is always a test.' The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (I Timothy 6: 10). Martin Luther once suggested: 'There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind, and the purse.' Jesus made it clear that mammon, an Aramaic word meaning 'wealth', is a rival god (Matthew 6:24). It was the principal cause of the rich young ruler's doom (Matthew 19:21). Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, pointed out that living for wealth is daft--because earthly treasures do not last: dangerous -- because it makes us focus on things 'below' and disastrous--because serving Master Mammon ends in shipwreck (Matt. 6:19-24). If, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, 'Our hearts have room only for one all-embracing devotion, and we can only cleave to one Lord, "then perhaps far too many of us need to cry out, 'Lord, forgive me; money has captured my heart.'
4. The curse of delay
In the ensuing disaster that comes upon Jerusalem some will turn to the prophets, priests and elders for guidance (7:26). But these people will have nothing to say. It is too late: 'When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none' (7:25). This is the curse of procrastination. Had they sought peace with God earlier they would have found it; God's arms were ready to enfold them. But now it was too late. The message of these two chapters has been to show that sin cannot go unpunished. Though the 'day of the Lord' in view in these verses has consistently referred to the Babylonian invasion, it must be remembered that this even, like the Assyrian invasion of Israel earlier, was a precursor of the coming of another 'day': an eschatological day at the end of time when the whole world will appear before God's judgment throne (Isaiah 2: 12,17; Zephaniah 1: 1415). It is a scene that Ezekiel depicts, too (30:3). It is a day for which we need to be ready. Faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way to meet it. The possibility remains that we may be brought to face the judgment, only to find that it is too late for us to make peace with God. We may, like these inhabitants of Jerusalem in Ezekiel's day, wake up to find that the Jehovah-makkeh has broken through the fortifications of our lives and all attempts to find a way out are gone (cf. 7:9).
But all is not doom in these chapters God has an inviolable purpose which nothing can destroy -- not even the unfaithfulness of Israel. What emerges in this chapter of judgment is a theology of grace, and we must not lose sight of it. A remnant will be saved despite their adultery (6:8). What explains the fact that God perseveres with the incessant grumblers of Moses' day, or the apostate and thankless people of Israel of the seventh and eighth century? It is his covenant of grace! The covenant of love explains why, time and again, God steps in and rescues a remnant from among those whom he judges for their sin (Deuteronomy 7:7-9). God has determined to save his true church, and nothing will gainsay it. This had been Isaiah's word of encouragement when Assyria threatened northern Israel (Isaiah 1:9; 6:13; 8:1618; 17:6; 30:17; 41:8-9; 42:18 - 44:5). It now becomes Ezekiel's hope when Babylon threatens southern Judah, a century later (6:810). Some, by means of the trial of exile, will have cause to see the error of their ways and acknowledge their sins (6:7,10). God's purpose is to save a people for himself; saved sinners know God, But some, even then, will have cause only to acknowledge that God is Judge. Even though Ezekiel speaks of these too coming to 'know' God (6: 13,14) he is addressing here even those who perish. 'Such was the character of this knowledge'. Calvin comments, 'that it only frightened them, and did not bend them to humility.' The same discipline hardens one and softens another. It was the same with the experience of execution suffered by Jesus' companions on either side of him at Calvary. For one the cross brought about a spirit of repentance, causing him to cry out for pardon. In the life of backslidden Christians, affliction, as Martin Luther once said, is the best theologian. This was the secret that George Matheson knew:
"O joy that seekest me through pain
I dare not ask to fly from thee."
But equally, the same experience in the other criminal at Calvary hardened him further. Doubtless the same was true of some who had survived the Babylonian invasion.
These two chapters have focused principally upon the reality and nature of God's wrath. God is angry with Israel because of their sin, particularly their idolatry. There can be no truce between God and sin. Where he sees lawlessness and godlessness, he cannot but react with holy aversion. It is his very nature to react in wrath against sin and its perpetrators. Were God to be without anger towards sin, the world would have no meaning. Though these chapters are tough and unrelenting, the message of grace shines through in a remnant that God, and God alone, rescues. This is, of course, not just the story that Ezekiel tells; it is the gospel itself that threads its way from Genesis to Revelation.
Focus: Covenant violation and the book of Deuteronomy
Just before the Lord's people entered Canaan, Moses gathered them together on the plains of Moab and declared to them the Word of God. He spelled out in detail the requirements of discipleship in the kingdom of God. In summary, it was this: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength' (Deuteronomy 6:5). A generation later, Joshua, giving his final address before he died, encouraged the settled Israelites in Canaan to do the same:' So be very careful to love the Lord your God, (Joshua 23: 11). But Joshua did more than encourage the Lord's people to love God. He warned them of the consequences of not doing so. In a sermon that includes three marks of discipleship: humility (i.e. putting God first by acknowledging his power in our lives, Joshua 23:3), obedience to God's Word (23:6) and separation from the world (23:7-8), Joshua also includes a fearful note as to what those who fail to comply with these requirements can expect: defeat, discomfort and disgrace (23:12-13,15-16). Joshua was, in fact, repeating something Moses had made clear: that the covenant of God is a two-edged sword. There are promises, to be sure, and Joshua is adamant that God will keep them: 'You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed' (23:14). No doubt some of Joshua's listeners were ready to sing, 'Great is thy faithfulness' and go home after that. But Joshua is not finished. Being true to the covenant means being true to its sanctions as well its blessings. God promises to bless those who walk in his ways; but equally, he promises to punish those who do not. 'But just as every good promise of the Lord your God has come true, so the Lord will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord's anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you' (23:15-16). To use a modern phrase, this is 'the down-side' of the covenant. It is what Moses had called the 'vengeance' of the covenant (Lev. 26:25). God will be true to what he has promised - for good or ill! This is something that Moses highlighted in a remarkable chapter in Deuteronomy where he outlines the blessings and the curses of the covenant (Deuteronomy 28). A knowledge of this chapter (as well as chapters 29-32) is crucial if we are to make sense of Ezekiel, for the prophet is ministering during a time of national and spiritual collapse - a judgment brought about because the Lord has found his people guilty of violating his covenant: 'I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant' (Ezekiel 16:59). We have therefore included a summary of the kinds of things Israel were to expect for covenant violation, together with their fulfillment in Ezekiel.
|Danger from wild animals||32:24||5:16-17; 14:15,21; 33:27|
|Desolation of cities||28:52; 29:23||6:14; 12:20:14:15, 21:18-27; 33:28|
|Fire||28:24; 32:22||20:47; 21:32|
|Rejection by God||31:17-18; 23:20||10:1-22: 13:8-9|
by Ray C. Stedman
A man was up on his roof fixing his television aerial when he slipped and began to slide down toward the gutters. He tried to catch himself, but he went over the edge. He managed to grab hold of the eaves troughs as he dropped, and he hung there, suspended from the eaves. He couldn't look down and he didn't know how far it was to the ground, and in his desperation he cried out. "Oh, God help me!" And a voice replied, "I am ready to help you." And he said, "Tell me what to do." The voice asked. "Do you trust me?" He said, "Yes, I trust you." The voice said. "All right then. Let go." And man asked, "Is there anybody else up there who can help me?"
This is always the problem of men who, because of circumstances, will not believe in God, who refuse to put their faith and trust in a God who has revealed himself to them as perfectly adequate and perfectly trustworthy and perfectly faithful.
The French philosopher Montaigne, writing quite apart from Christian revelation, said, "Every man carries within himself the history of the world." By that he meant that history is simply a written record of what is already written in the confines of the human heart. The history of the world is only an extension of any individual life. The book of Ezekiel traces the causes of the captivity of the nation Israel, and why it was in so much trouble. This is the story of the nation, but it is the story of any individual as well. And because it is the story of any individual, it is the story of the whole of mankind. The books of the Old Testament were written with this principle in mind. They are, therefore, extremely valuable for us -- what happens to the nation is exactly what happens to us. By looking carefully, we can see our problems and circumstances exemplified in the problems and circumstance set forth in these books.
Ezekiel was a captive in the land of Babylon. He had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar when the nation of Judah was taken captive, as described by Jeremiah's great prophecy. So, Ezekiel is the first prophet of the captivity. There were two prophets during the captivity -- Ezekiel and Daniel. Ezekiel was older than Daniel and prophesied during the first twenty or twenty-five years of that seventy-year period when Israel was held captive by Babylon.
The story of this book is the story of human life and the book begins with a tremendous vision of God, because all life starts with God. God is the greatest fact in existence, in history. If you are going to think about anything, you have to start somewhere. Anyone who wants to think logically about life must always begin with God. That is where the Bible begins. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This book of Ezekiel begins, then, with a mystic vision of God. The glory of the prophet Ezekiel was that he saw God more clearly than any of the other prophets. If your heart needs to be set on fire by the revelation of the character and glory of God, read Ezekiel. He is the great prophet who saw the glory of God.
The book opens dramatically with the vision that Ezekiel saw by the River Chebar in the land of Babylon:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming bronze. (Ezekiel 1:4)
That is a sight dramatic enough to arrest anyone's attention. Then he says,
And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. (Ezekiel 1:5a)
And he describes these creatures to us. Each had four faces -- the faces of a man, an eagle, an ox, and a lion. These four faces turned in every direction, faced every way. After he saw the four living creatures, he saw certain wheels. (These are described in an old song: "Ezekiel saw a wheel, way up in the middle of the air; the big wheel ran by faith and the little wheel ran by the grace of God, a wheel in a wheel, away in the middle of the air.") Ezekiel saw that these wheels were turning, one wheel within the other. As he watched he also saw a firmament above, shining in splendor, and above the firmament, as he lifted his eyes higher, he saw a throne. And on the throne sat a man.
Now, if you have read the book of Revelation you will recognize great similarities to what John saw. John also saw four living creatures. He, too, saw a throne, and on the throne a man. This, then, is a revelation of the greatness and the majesty of God. told in symbolic form.
We can't interpret all of this, because there is a mystery about the person of God. But what Ezekiel sees is, generally speaking, the power and the majesty of God. It is interesting that the four living creatures setting forth the character of God are always described as having the faces of a lion, a man, an ox, and an eagle. And throughout all of history these things have symbolically represented certain qualities. A lion is always a picture of sovereignty, of supremacy -- "the king of the beasts." A man is the picture of intelligence, of understanding. An ox is always the symbol of servitude, of sacrifice. And an eagle is the symbol of power and deity, of soaring over all creation. Now the significant thing is that the four gospels present exactly these same qualities in Jesus Christ. He appears first in the Gospel of Matthew as the king -- the lion, the king of beasts, the sovereign of all. He appears in the Gospel of Mark as the servant, the ox. In the Gospel of Luke, he is man in his intelligence, in his insight, in his understanding of life. And in the Gospel of John he is deity. These four reflect the character of Jesus Christ.
Now, even though Ezekiel doesn't understand this, even though he doesn't perceive the significance of his vision; he saw nonetheless the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6) That is because God reveals himself through Christ. Ezekiel saw as clearly as he could the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
Then Ezekiel moves quickly into prophecies that have to do with the failure of man. And these are described at great length. As Ezekiel watches in visions, he sees the glory of God departing from the temple in Jerusalem, leaving the inner court and moving to the outer court, and then rising and moving out to the Mount of Olives, and rising up from there.
Of course, this prophecy was fulfilled when our Lord moved out of the temple, down across the Kidron Valley, up the side of the Mount of Olives, and into the Garden of Gethsemane. And later, after the crucifixion and the resurrection, he ascended from that mountain into glory.
At this point there comes a lengthy passage where Ezekiel traces the degradation of man, the result of men's rejection of God's grace. And he tells how God struggles with those people, calling them; how he tries to win them, to waken them to the foolishness of turning their backs on the glory of God. At last they go through times of difficulty and heartache and punishment, as God seeks constantly to bring them to their senses, to waken them to what they are doing -- to show them that man is made to fellowship with God and that without God he only goes farther and farther into weakness and folly and degradation.
The prophet is called upon to convey God's message in symbolic and dramatic ways. On one occasion he is asked by God to lie on his left side every day for 390 days (that is more than a year of lying on his left side!), and then to lie on his right side for 40 days -- all of which is a picture of the 390 years that God had struggled to try to bring this nation to its senses and the final 40 years when judgment was imminent. God kept his hand back from judgment all those years, until at last he allowed Nebuchadnezzar to come in and sweep the people away, sacking the city and desolating the temple and taking all the people into the land of Babylon.
Here you find the reasons why man is debauched and degraded, and Ezekiel sets forth the righteousness of God's judgment. When man chooses to avoid the God who made him. what else is there but judgment? If we neglect God, who is utterly essential to our being, and we refuse to give heed to his love and his grace. then the only thing left for us is to experience the results of turning our backs to him.
The prophet sees through all the judgment that came upon this people, he sees through to the forces behind. In chapter 28 there is a remarkable passage where the prophet speaks about the judgment upon the land of Tyre and Sidon. He speaks of the prince of Tyre and, behind him, an individual whom he calls the king of Tyre.
Most Bible scholars have recognized that, because of the height of vision from which this prophet speaks, he is talking not only about the actual prince of the city of Tyre -- the man who was then on the throne in that seafaring city -- but he is looking beyond him and the visible things of Tyre, to that sinister individual he calls the king of Tyre. This king symbolizes what are referred to in the New Testament as principalities and powers, the world rulers of this present darkness who manipulate things on earth and cause events we see recorded in our daily newspapers. In other words, these are the Satanic powers.
In chapter 28 you have a passage that many Bible scholars think can be fully understood only as it applies to the fall of Satan himself. And this is one of only two passages in the whole Bible that describes the fall of Satan:
"Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I exposed you before kings,
to feast their eyes on you.
By the multitude of your iniquities,
in the unrighteousness of your trade
you profaned your sanctuaries; ..." (Ezekiel 28:17-18a)
The reason for Satan's fall is given in Isaiah 14, where the
Prince of Darkness says "I will" five times. And here
God judges that pride, which exalts self instead of God.
Now the prophet turns to the restoring grace of God. and in chapter 37 is the remarkable vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones. This, also, has given rise to well-known song. The prophet see this vision as he looks out over the valley of dry bones: the bones join together at the command of God, but there is no breath in them. And then God comes and breathes upon them and they come to life again. This picture of God's restoring grace illustrates what God intends to do with the nation Israel As far as God is concerned, it has been lying now for more the nineteen centuries in a state of death, but a day is coming when God will breathe upon this nation. Like these dry bones. it will receive new life. and God will use it to re-establish his kingdom on earth.
In chapters 38 and 39 the prophet sees into the far distant future to the last attack upon Israel, when enemies of the land will be met by heavenly forces that will judge them upon the mountains of Israel and bury them there.
Then, beginning in chapter 40, the restoration of the millennial temple is foreseen. In this great vision the prophet is shown the temple in precise detail: the glory of God returning to the Holy of Holies, the Shekinah establishing itself in the Holy of Holies once more. The book closes with the wonderful passage in chapter 47 that describes his vision of the throne of God. Underneath the throne comes the river of God, sweeping through the temple. out into the eastern side, down across the land. and into the Dead Sea to heal its waters. It is a marvelous picture of the Spirit of God in the day of the millennial kingdom.
Now that is the literal interpretation of this book -- a prophecy of the restoration of Israel. But that does not by any means exhaust the meaning of this book. If we read this as referring only to that literal fulfillment, we will miss much of the value and all of the beauty of this book. For this entire story can be applied to you as an individual. What God does on a large scale in the history of the world, he is ready to do on a smaller scale in the history of your life. As he is ready to call back out of death and to give life to a nation that turns to him in the midst of its degradation and weakness -- as he was ready to do for Israel -- so he is ready to do with an individual. Here, then, is a beautiful picture of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, making us alive in him, calling us back into the glory of the manhood and womanhood that God intends for us. Then follows a picture of the enemies we face, and how God goes before us and destroys them one by one as we walk by faith.
Finally, there is the wonderful picture of the restored temple in man. Now what is the temple in man? In the New Testament. Paul says that we are the temple of the living God. (2 Cor. 6:16) But what in us is the temple in which God dwells? It is the human spirit. Our spirit was made to be a holy of holies in which the living God dwells. The secret, then, of a full human experience -- an exciting life, a life of continuing significance and meaning -- is a life in which the resources of the Holy Spirit arc discovered. Now this is beautifully portrayed for us in this picture in the forty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel. I want to end with this, for I think this highlights the whole emphasis of the book:
Then he [the angel] brought me back to the door of the temple; and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside of the outer gate, that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.
Going on eastward with a line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the loins. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?"
Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw upon the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the stagnant waters of the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes." (Ezekiel 47:1-9)
Does that remind you of anything? Do you read in that and hear in that our Lord's words recorded in John 7 when he stood at the temple on the last day of the feast and said, "If any one thirst. let him come to me and drink...Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive..." (John 7:37-39) This is the resource of the Christian life.
Let us look at the various aspects of this resource. First of all, there is the source of the river. Where does it come from? Ezekiel said, "I saw a throne and issuing out from under the throne came the river." The waters of the Spirit come from the very throne of God, from the supremacy of his authority, the highest point in the universe, the place where our Lord Jesus received the promised gift of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
As the prophet watches, he sees that it takes its way down past the altar, the place of sacrifice. And one of the great things that we have to learn as Christians is that we can never drink of the river of the Spirit unless we are willing to do so by means of the cross of Calvary. It is only as we are willing to accept the judgment of death upon the flesh -- the natural man and his abilities, ambitions, and desires -- that we can drink of the river of the Spirit of God.
Then, notice the power of this river. It has quickly grown large enough to swim in, yet there is no other river adding to it. No tributary streams are coming in. It is a great, gushing, mighty torrent of life coming out from under the throne of God.
As you read this, notice the experience of the prophet. He is led into this step-by-step; three times he says, "And he led me through." Is God leading you through? Have you ever had that experience? The first step is to the place where the waters are ankle deep. Isn't that a picture of a man who has experienced only a shallow sense of God's grace and power in his life? He is a Christian but he is what the scriptures call a carnal Christian -- still filled with bickerings and fightings and inner turmoils. He has not learned anything of the peace of God. He is disobedient. He fights against God's grace very time he turns around. He's in just ankle deep. And a lot of people stay there.
But then the prophet says, "He led me through, and it was knee deep." The waters get hold of his knees. Have the waters got there with you yet? Have you begun to hunger and thirst and to pray and to seek the face of God? Here is a man who is not satisfied any more with just being born again. He is hungering after something. He is on his knees. He is crying out to God, yearning for more.
"And he led me through," he says, and the waters come up to the loins. It is beginning to possess him. There is less of him now, and more of the grace of God. The loins are always the symbol of power and he has come, then, to the place where he has begun to grasp something of the power of God, to grasp the fact that it is "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord" that the Christian life is lived. (Zechariah 4:6) It is not his eager desire to do something for God, or his consecrated zeal to flow it through, but rather, his quiet dependence upon an indwelling Spirit that is the secret.
Then he goes one step further and says, "He led me on and the water had risen and it had become a river to swim in." Here is someone who is utterly committed. He is over his head. He is out there where he is swept along in the current of God's grace. And what is the effect of this river on the land? As the prophet is led back along the banks he says, "I see trees on either side of it" -- fruitfulness. The barrenness of the land has been healed. The river is fertile; everywhere the river flows, things begin to live.
Have you learned this yet? All of this is written for us. John sees the same river, in Revelation. "Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God...through the middle of the street of the city..." (Rev. 22:1, 2). It flows right through the middle of life. Have you found the river of the Spirit yet? It is as we learn these mighty truths that Christian life begins to make sense. Until then, it is nothing but a plodding, dogged, difficult path, a struggle to try to keep things straight. But when we begin to experience the mighty, gushing torrent of the rivers of living water -- the flow of the Spirit of God right through the center of life -- everything begins to live, and life becomes significant and full for us.
The prophet sees this. And he closes this beautiful book with a description of the temple (which, by the way, may ultimately picture the resurrection body which is the new temple for God). But look at the last verse of the prophecy. He says:
The circumference of the city shall be eighteen thousand cubits. [a vast, unlimited, a great city] And the name of the city henceforth shall be, "The LORD is there." (Ezekiel 48:35)
That is what Ezekiel called it. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. They did not call themselves Christians. They were called Christians. Christian means "Christ-one" -- one who belongs to Christ. And as the people in Antioch looked at these peculiar people, they called them "Christ-ones" because the Lord was there.
Prayer: Our Father, we pray that this may be our experience, that we may see this mighty flow of the river of God in our lives and, discovering its power and its grace and its depth, commit ourselves to you so that there may be healing and fertility and escape from barrenness in our lives. Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful picture and for the truth that lies behind it. Thank you that these things can be our experience right now through Jesus Christ our Lord, the one who is the fulfillment of the image of God -- that as we look at him, we are changed from glory to glory, even into the same image. We thank you for these mighty things, and ask that they be true in our experience as well as in our faith. In Christ's name, Amen. (Ray C. Stedman, Ezekiel)
2 Kings 17:1-41
In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, but not as the kings of Israel who were before him. Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him; and Hoshea became his vassal, and paid him tribute money. And the king of Assyria uncovered a conspiracy by Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and brought no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. Also the children of Israel secretly did against the LORD their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the LORD had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger, for they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, 'You shall not do this thing.'
Yet the LORD testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, 'Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.' Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them that they should not do like them. So they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.
Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight. For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.
Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them. So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, 'The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land.'
Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, 'Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land.' Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD. However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt. The men of Babylon made Succoth Benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.
So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods--according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the LORD had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, with whom the LORD had made a covenant and charged them, saying: You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them; but the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. 'And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods. And the covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.' However they did not obey, but they followed their former rituals.
So these nations feared the LORD, yet served their carved images; also their children and their children's children have continued doing as their fathers did, even to this day.
God's promise to Abraham and the Patriarchs are unique.
"What other nation on earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name, and doing for them great and terrible things, by driving out before his people a nation and its gods?" (2 Sam. 7:23)
Abraham's seed was to include a Nation (an earthly people, "as numerous as the grains of sands on the seashore"):
"And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 'By myself I have sworn,' says the LORD, 'because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.'" (Gen. 22:15-18).
Israel is to be a model for all nations.
"Is it too light a thing that you [Messiah, son of David] should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Is. 49:6).
Israel guaranteed ultimate and specific Territorial Boundaries, see Ezekiel 47:13-48:1-35, Deuteronomy 11:23,
"Every place on which the sole of your foot (Abraham) treads shall be yours; your territory shall be from the wilderness and Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the western sea."
The nation was to be a Holy People (the nation was composed of Jews plus Proselytes) Isaiah 62:
"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
"Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: 'I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.' Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.' And they shall be called The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought out, a city not forsaken."
The Law and Promises were given to Israel: Romans 9:4, 5:
"They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen."
The Messiah was to come in the Line of David.
"Salvation (for all mankind) is from the Jews." (John 4)
A High Priest (Mortal) and a priesthood unique to Israel were given at the same time the Law was given. (See Exodus). The Levitical Priesthood also included a specific and detailed system of sacrifices to show God's provisions for all manner of sin.
The Giving of Scripture: All the books of the Bible were written by devout Jews. The Bible was given to the entire world through the Jews.
The Prophets of the OT are unique to Israel among the nations. No other nation has ever gotten the same treatment.
"What other nation on earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name, and doing for them great and terrible things, by driving out before his people a nation and its gods?" (2 Samuel 7:23)
Israel was appointed to be a light to the nations. Her future is guaranteed, in spite of past failures,
"It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:1-4)
A Temple Building in Jerusalem was to be part of the Jewish economy, and will be in the future, Ezekiel 41-43, 46.
A Throne (King David and his line). The throne was granted to the nation in perpetuity.
Thus says the LORD of hosts [to David], I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men; but I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'" (2 Samuel 7:8-16)
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." (Isaiah 9:6, 7)
Israel was the Wife of Jehovah. God had several covenants with Israel affirming His loyal-love for Israel. Hosea for instance,
"And the LORD said to me, 'Go again, love a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress; even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.' So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, 'You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.' For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days." (3:1-5)
"I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be as the dew to Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, he shall strike root as the poplar; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom as the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon." (14:4-7)
Because of Israel's unfaithfulness under the Old Covenant one can see from the typology of Hosea that God had no choice but to divorce his wife Israel. However, Hosea shows us that by grace alone God then chose to restore and remarry the nation under the gracious terms provided by the New Covenant.
Nowhere does the Bible ever assert that Israel has been replaced by the Church or that God has canceled His eternal, everlasting covenant with Abraham which guarantees the future of that nation in spite of themselves.
Israel is called God's Son. Messiah is the unique seed of Israel, the root out of dry ground.
"For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2)
Israel was an Assembly (Synagogue), a worshiping community. Israel's government (from God) involved both King and Priest. These two office are combined in Israel's' Messiah and His future place as Head over the nation, Zechariah 3.
Israel was to be blessed under the Old Covenant , and the New Covenant was promised to them long ago to bless them in spite of their failure under the Old. (See for example Jeremiah 30-31).
Israel may be Compared to the Physical Body of the New Adam (Ray C. Stedman)
Israel Compared...With The Church
Part Two of a two-fold Promise to Abraham: The church to be a Nation (a heavenly people, "as numerous as the stars in the heavens"). Abraham is "the father of all who believe."
The church is a peculiar people (drawn from all nations). The church is a new body of Jew and Gentile, (Ephesians 2:14-3:6)
All believers today belong to the Melchizedek Priesthood. This is a superior priesthood to that of Levi under the Old Covenant, Hebrews 5-9.
Jesus is our Great High Priest (Immortal).
The Church is the Body of Christ, Ephesians, 1 Cor. 12-14. Christ is the Head of the Body. Where the Head is, so also is the Body. In the mystery of the incarnation Jesus the Son of God has made Himself one with His covenant peoples.
Spiritual Gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to all members of the Body of Christ, 1 Cor. 14, etc.
All believers today are called "Sons of God. " The disciples of Jesus are all called by the Lord Jesus "friends of God," a term originally given to Abraham by God.
Believers today are "Joint-Heirs with Christ."
The Church is the Bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:25-33, 2 Cor. 11:2)
"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband."
The church as the ekklesia is a special body of people called out of the world system to be a special, unique, separated, distinctive people.
Jews and Gentiles without distinction make up the Body of Christ. No land is promised to the church, nor an earthly inheritance. The church is not given a sword, nor is she to team up in partnership with governments.
Members of the church are members one of another. There is no hierarchy in the church, all are brothers and sisters. Authority is given on the basis of servant lifestyle. There is no clergy/laity distinction in the NT church.
The Church is a Temple made up of Living Stones. The church gathers together as a worshiping community. Collectively the church is a dwelling place or habitation for God the Holy Spirit.
The church's ultimate dwelling place is the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city.
From the old fallen race of Adam, God is making "One New Man." This new Adam is symbolized by the two communities of the redeemed: Israel and the church. The church represents the soul of the New Man, Israel, the body. God Himself is the Spirit. (Ray C. Stedman). The churches role in the present age was a "Mystery Hidden from Ages Past"
The church as "The Pearl of Great Price" is the special object God's grace and protection and mercy.
The New Covenant ("enacted on better promises"), is given to the church prior to Israel's final restoration under this same New Relationship with God as foretold by the prophets.
Israel Compared With...The United States
The United States does not have a covenant relationship with God. God is not a respecter of persons or of nations, hence all nations receive even-handed treatment from God.
Gentile nations will be judged in the future by how they have treated the Jews (Joel 2, Matthew 25:31ff).
The U.S. is one of "goyim"--the gentile world powers, therefore largely pagan. We are still living in "the times of the gentiles" when Israel is not center-stage among the nations and gentile powers rise and fall. The Gentile nations seethe with restlessness, often against Israel (Psalm 2), full of selfish ambition, greed, rivalry and special interests.
The US was founded on some Biblical principles and some devout Christians were numbered among the founding fathers. The US has been relatively free and has been an ethnic melting pots for various peoples and cultures.
Nations who bless the physical descendants of Abraham, that is, the Jews, are blessed by God. The U.S. has generally treated the Jews well. The U.S. was the first nation to support the Statehood of Israel in 1948. The U.S. has generally supported Israel as a nation up to the present time.
God to Abraham:
"And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." (Gen. 12:2, 3)
U.S. churches vigorously supported world evangelism for many decades. God has honored this obedience to His call to world evangelism, and to giving and sacrifice.
The United States has had a vigorous church in times past. As a result God has showered blessings on us, the descendants of the godly saints of previous generations.
There is still a small godly remnant in this country. Many of these godly people are in the heart of the country rather than in the major cities.
The Mass Media as a group is very largely anti-Christian these days. Good News goes unreported. Bad News makes all the headlines. It is very difficult for us to assess the true spiritual "state of the nation."
Educators have largely followed a Secular Humanistic Philosophy for many decades which is in fact anti-Christian. As a result our educational system is largely bankrupt.
The U.S. has been reasonably philanthropic and humanitarian as a world power.
The economic philosophies upon which our free enterprise, capitalistic economy have been based are not necessarily correct, sound, or Biblical.
Democracy is a weak form of government, Daniel 2, and the U.S. is most closely connected with the Roman Empire as it is described in Daniel 2 and Revelation. Many ideals of American life were originally derived from Greek and Roman values and philosophy.
God appoints rulers over all nations, Isaiah 40. God appoints different types of governments over different nations as it pleases Him. The US has been fairly thoroughly evangelized and many have rejected the gospel. The result is God has abandoned many to the deception described in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12:
"The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
Much of the church in the U.S. has apostatized or has been severely compromised. We are now living in the Laodicean Age of the Church (Rev. 3).
Much of the church in this country has been inundated and compromised by the world. This can be corrected by repentance and reform and renewal. Wealth and affluence and freedom from persecution are generally detrimental to the spiritual life of the church.
The salt has largely lost its saltness and the lampstands have been removed from countless churches, therefore human evil has not been restrained or corrected. Only the church has the light, knowledge and power to deal with fundamental human problems.
The present times of stress and distress are clearly predicted in the NT. For example, 2 Tim. 3:1-5:
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people."
The church is a nation within a nation and to some extent "as the church goes so goes the nation." God may yet grant a revival in our country if the church wakes up. In any given church, no matter its condition or it faults, God promises great rewards to overcoming saints, (Revelation 2, 3)
On the other hand Scripture does not predict a world wide revival of the church at the close of our age. The next major event will be departure (rapture) of the true church, preparing the way for the end-time tribulation.
Is God Ruthless?
Is God Angry?
On Everlasting Destruction
God's Land -- God's People
The Antichrist--Coming World Leader
Israel, the Church and the United States Compared
Israel's Birth Pangs
God's Long Term Purpose for Israel
Israel, the Key to World Peace
The Hidden of the Lord
Hiding in the Rock
When a Nation Dies
Notes by Lambert Dolphin
Email is welcome
Lambert Dolphin's Place
Recent and Recovered Articles
Newsletters Old and New
April 20, 2022.