It is interesting to see how God orchestrates history. Nebuchadnezzar was not a nice man whatsoever, but as we see in Ezekiel 29 and as we have seen through this entire book, that did not mean that God could not use Babylon to accomplish certain tasks on earth.
In this chapter, he is going to take over Egypt.
Eze 29:19 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army.
Eze 29:20 I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord GOD.
Eze 29:21 In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
Egypt was being punished because of offending God, but it was interesting that God was using someone imperfect to punish someone who was also imperfect.
I think that we can think about this in a more positive direction. First of all, God does have a plan. He is in charge of the universe, and He is orchestrating everything that is happening.
Second, God is the type of God who is able to use imperfect people to do great things. Every person documented in the Bible outside of Jesus Christ was imperfect. Moses had faults, David stumbled and there are countless other examples. I am not saying this to provide some kind of free license to sin, but I am bringing it up because it is true. God does use imperfect people to accomplish His will, and this ought to be some comfort to us on some level.
To bring this all together, God is the master organizer. We can even see this in our own lives. When you look back at certain situations, it is amazing how everything worked out in just the way it needed to. God is good.
Generally in society today, it seems as if we have the tendency to try to make ourselves into God. We want to be in charge of the universe, and we want to hold the ultimate control. The same thing was happening to the Prince of Tyre in Ezekiel 28.
Eze 28:6 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God;
Eze 28:7 Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness.
Eze 28:8 They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas.
Eze 28:9 Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee.
Eze 28:10 Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
Clearly, God did not appreciate this attitude. Of course, the question then is why. Why does it bother God so much that people want to pretend to be Him?
I like to think of it this way. Plagiarism is a crime. If I write a book, you cannot directly copy my book. You can look at my book, and you can even my book, but you cannot take credit for the work that I have done.
God is similar. It is not right to take credit for what He has done. We can talk about what God has done, and we certainly can look at what God has done, but it would be inappropriate to say that it was our own.
I think it is pretty clear that human beings are not God. There are a host of other issues that people have to face if they try to put themselves in that position, but I don’t really need to get into that today. The main point is that God is a God of justice, and that includes justice for Himself.
In Ezekiel 27 we get to consider the city of Tyre a little bit more. It had been a blessed city. The majority of the beginning of this chapter is a list of all of the merchants who came from many other countries around the region to do business. It was a marketplace, and it was a valuable city in terms of economics.
However, even that value for the world was not going to be enough to protect it from judgment.
Eze 27:32 And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and lament over thee, saying, What city is like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea?
Eze 27:33 When thy wares went forth out of the seas, thou filledst many people; thou didst enrich the kings of the earth with the multitude of thy riches and of thy merchandise.
Eze 27:34 In the time when thou shalt be broken by the seas in the depths of the waters thy merchandise and all thy company in the midst of thee shall fall.
Eze 27:35 All the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at thee, and their kings shall be sore afraid, they shall be troubled in their countenance.
Eze 27:36 The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more.
We have two different perspectives here. On one hand, we have the perspective of all the people of the world. They are getting rich off of the city of the city of Tyre, so when the imminent judgment was going to come, they were obviously going to be very upset.
On the other hand, God is the one who has orchestrated the destruction and is perfectly just by definition. Therefore, it is not really consistent with the business interests of the world. God has something in mind that is higher than whether or not the people are going to be able to continue doing business.
This can apply to our lives as well. There are some things that can be so important for us. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but we all have something that we value, and those items might not be the things that God values.
Therefore, we need to be mindful. As best we can, we want to try to set our priorities in the way that God would view them. We are not trying to play God, but it will be easier to live our lives in the way God wants us to if we try to be sensitive to what He values. The Christian journey is about following God, so we need to keep our eyes on Him and see what He does.
Ezekiel 26 is an interesting prophecy. The city of Tyre was going to be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. This is a controversial one though because Nebuchadnezzar did not entirely destroy the city of Tyre. Half of the city was on the mainland while the other half was on an island out in the harbor. The part on the mainland was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, but the part on the island was not destroyed until later.
Now, is this a Biblical problem? It is important to look at the chapter as a whole in order to understand how this works out. First, we need to begin with the prophecy of Ezekiel.
Eze 26:3 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up.
Eze 26:4 And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock.
Eze 26:5 It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD: and it shall become a spoil to the nations.
Eze 26:6 And her daughters which are in the field shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
Notice that the subject of this part of the chapter is many nations. There were going to be multiple attacks like waves in the ocean, and as an end result, the city was going to be sacked. Given what we know about history, that is true. Between the Babylonians, the Greeks and eventually Arabic conquerors, the city was entirely demolished. Many nations did indeed destroy the entire city.
However, what do we then do with verses seven through 14? It seems to imply that Nebuchadnezzar is going to destroy the city. We know that he did not destroy the entire city, so is the Bible wrong?
Again, I don’t think so. All of the verses say that Nebuchadnezzar is going to invade and do an awful lot of damage. He did that. Anything about the entire city being destroyed refers back to the demolition at the hands of the many nations. We know that that happened, and we know that Nebuchadnezzar did damage. It seems that everything does indeed fit together in this chapter that has generated quite a bit of controversy over the years.
In Ezekiel 25, it is really interesting to hear prophecy against another nation. This time, we are talking about a few rival nations, but one of them stood out to me.
Eze 25:8 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Moab and Seir do say, Behold, the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen;
Eze 25:9 Therefore, behold, I will open the side of Moab from the cities, from his cities which are on his frontiers, the glory of the country, Bethjeshimoth, Baalmeon, and Kiriathaim,
Eze 25:10 Unto the men of the east with the Ammonites, and will give them in possession, that the Ammonites may not be remembered among the nations.
Eze 25:11 And I will execute judgments upon Moab; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
I thought this was interesting because the people of Moab were mocking the people of Israel. Their God was nothing special. They were just like all the other nations with all of their other gods.
The one true God took this personally. At the end of verse 11, it is obvious that these people were going to understand that the God of Israel was different. Yes, the people had fallen, and yes they were being punished, but it is not because the God of the Bible was deficient like any other god on earth.
I think that this is the differentiation that many people miss in the world today especially when Christians don’t act like Christians. I know that we are consistently working towards becoming more like Christ, but I also know that none of us are perfect.
The problem is that people will say that the God of the Bible is worthless because some people do terrible things and still identify themselves as Christians. It must be that Christianity is false.
I think that we have to be on the lookout for this one. It is a common tactic used against Christians, but it is not valid whatsoever. Just like it is not valid to say that all people from Massachusetts drive fast, it is not valid to say that the Bible is wrong because some Christians commit terrible actions.
Judge Christianity on its own merits as a belief system, and I think that the obvious problem with this line of thinking will be brought out.
Ezekiel 24 must have been incredibly difficult. As we find out, Ezekiel has been called to tell the people of Jerusalem about the imminent siege of Nebuchadnezzar. However, right before he is to deliver this message, his wife passed away.
Eze 24:16 Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down.
Eze 24:17 Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men.
Eze 24:18 So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.
This is a brutal situation. God obviously told him in verse 16 what was going to happen, but it is another to live through it. It is one thing to know that your spouse is going to pass away, but it is another to live through the reality of that happening.
Here is the question though. How can God do this? Ezekiel was doing exactly what God told him to do, and he was even loyal after the death of his wife. Why is it that we can be doing exactly what God tells us to do, but bad things still happen?
This is naturally a large question, and I don’t think I can answer it all in one short post. However, I think when thinking about situations like this, it is very important to remember that anytime we ask a question wondering how God can do or allow certain things happen, it presupposes that God must exist. If God does not exist, then obviously the question is not valid.
What the question does indicate is that we have a situation. We have the simultaneous existence of God and what we perceive as bad things in the world. That is the first step. From here, and maybe in a future post, we need to work on defining the relationship. However, at this point, it is certainly important to recognize the fact that it is possible to have the simultaneous existence. The existence of sadness, evil or simply bad things is not a logical problem; it is an emotional problem.
Ezekiel was a messenger to many different people for many different reasons, but much of what he ended up speaking against was the problem of idolatry. In Ezekiel 23, he was called to speak to both the people of Israel and the people of Judah. The people of Israel had wandered away from God earlier after the split of the kingdom, but Judah had remained more faithful. However, we had now come to a point in history where Judah had also fallen.
Eze 23:22 Therefore, O Aholibah, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy mind is alienated, and I will bring them against thee on every side;
Eze 23:23 The Babylonians, and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them: all of them desirable young men, captains and rulers, great lords and renowned, all of them riding upon horses.
Eze 23:24 And they shall come against thee with chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people, which shall set against thee buckler and shield and helmet round about: and I will set judgment before them, and they shall judge thee according to their judgments.
Eze 23:25 And I will set my jealousy against thee, and they shall deal furiously with thee: they shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy remnant shall fall by the sword: they shall take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue shall be devoured by the fire.
I think that there is a powerful lesson here for us. The nation of Judah had indeed been blessed by God. However, even with all of the evidence leading them to believe that it was worthwhile to follow God, they still wandered away.
Here is a little thought experiment. As we know, Zedekiah was the King of Judah when the Babylonians came. There were 19 kings by my count between the reign of David and the reign of Zedekiah.
We know that David died approximately in 970 BC and Jerusalem fell in approximately 586 BC. That is 384 years of spiraling downhill. While there certainly were some improvements along the way, the trajectory was generally downhill until it hit rock bottom.
It is a shame though. You think about a nation that was on top of the world. David was a man after God’s own heart, and although he certainly had many, many flaws, he led Israel in the ways of God. They were a nation that valued and worshipped God. They then became a nation that was about to be judged by God for falling away to idols.
It kind of makes you think of another nation that was founded in Biblical principles but continually slid away for approximately 400 years. We need revival.
In Ezekiel 22, God is explaining the consequences of idolatry. In the middle of His explanation, we receive a very interesting hypothetical question.
Eze 22:14 Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do it.
God is going to bring judgment on the people of Israel, and He asked the people if they think they are going to be able to hold on under the judgment of God.
This implicitly brings up two questions. The first is whether or not people are strong enough to endure under the judgment of God. To think about it, let’s consider Noah’s Ark. Other than Noah’s family that was saved through the grace of God, was anyone able to survive? Did God say that He was going to destroy every living thing but then some person outsmarted Him and built a raft? No. The judgment of God was done because it was what God willed. Therefore, I think it is pretty safe to say that we cannot resist the judgment of God if it is what He has chosen.
The other question is similar. Can we be strong at all without God? For example, God might not be actively bringing judgment as He did for Noah or the people of Israel. However, what if we did not have the strength of God? What if He simply decided not to be with us anymore? Could we do anything?
Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
I think about this on a few levels. On one hand, this verse in particular is speaking about fruit, so that brings to mind the fruit of the spirit. We cannot do anything that will please God without the work of Jesus. However, on another level, this makes me think about the fact that God holds together the universe. He is the architect, and as easily of God created the universe, He certainly has the power to destroy it. Therefore, the second question is also safe to answer in the negative. Any strength that we have is a consequence of what God has given.
God is good all the time. He is always just and righteous. Part of that justice is the right to judge, and God does hate sin. The people of Israel were facing the prospect of having to stand against God, and it is quite clear that we simply cannot do that.
I think that it is so tragic to read about the fate of Israel in Ezekiel 21.
Eze 21:2 Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,
Eze 21:3 And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.
Eze 21:4 Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the south to the north:
Eze 21:5 That all flesh may know that I the LORD have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more.
I think that this passage speaks to our responsibility as Christians to be involved in our nation. Notice that both the righteous and the wicked are going to be pulled apart as a result of the sins of the nation. It is not as if God said that there was going to be a special bubble and the righteous people were going to be allowed to remain as the nation of Israel. The nation was going to fall as a whole, and everyone had to handle the consequences.
As Christians, I presume that we don’t want to end up in this type of situation. We don’t want to have to live through what the people of Israel went through. Therefore, it seems to me that the way that Israel could have avoided this punishment by taking the right direction earlier. If the people had come back to God, it never would have gotten that far.
We have the message that will bring people back to Christ. We have the truth that will bring people to repentance. Our nation still might go down the wrong path, but our nation also has the potential for revival. We know why the people of Israel went down, so as Christians, I feel that we have a responsibility to do what we can to try to bring people to the right path.
As I was reading Ezekiel 20, I was struck by how many times my Bible used the term “polluted.” I am reading from the King James Version (I like it), and it seemed like almost every other verse brought this word out and somehow pointed towards the people of Israel. Here is one example for you.
Eze 20:30 Wherefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations?
Eze 20:31 For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be enquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be enquired of by you.
I don’t know if Ezekiel could have had any concept of the amount of pollution that one day would occupy the earth, but when I read this, this is a very strong word. It is not as if they are just a little bit dusty or dirty. They are full on polluted. I am visualizing the ocean after an oil spill. Pollution is a big deal that radically alters the landscape and hurts everything in it.
This is how seriously God takes sin. It is something that is corrupting. It is something that necessarily separates us from God. Kind of like the pollution ruins the natural environment, sin ruins the relationship with God.
I don’t think that we always take this perspective though. I know that it is really easy for me to try to justify doing something wrong because it is no big deal. However, sin is sin, and they all separate us from God.
The silver lining of course is that even though sin is a big deal, God is also forgiving. He is faithful and just.