Look to the Lion of Judah, the True Vine

Text Ezekiel 19 Time 05 11 06 Place Childs Hill Baptist ChurchWe come this week to the last of the visions in the second cycle of visions in the prophecy of Ezekiel. The first cycle is in Chapters 1-7 and the second in Chapters 8-19. The first set of visions began in the fourth month on the fifth day of what was Ezekiel's thirtieth year and the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin and the second set began just over a year later In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day.Now these visions are quite varied in their presentation. Ezekiel has amazing visions of God's glory; he warns the people sternly; under God he engages in drawn out symbolic acts before the people. He is able to see things happening elsewhere and sees the glory depart from the Temple. At other times he speaks plainly or he uses parables. Then here in Chapter 19 he sings. He sings a sad song – a lament, something appropriate for a funeral. He is told by God (1) Take up a lament concerning the princes of Israel. Once again he uses picture language. First he speaks about a lioness and her cubs and then of a vine in a vineyard. In some ways it is not difficult to grasp what he is saying but we do need to do two things if the chapter is going to be of any use to us. Let's ask two questions first then to help us.
1. What is the background history here?
The background to the period is set out very clearly in Kings and Chronicles so we can fairly easily see what Ezekiel is alluding to here. The people of that time would certainly have followed. As we've said before, once you know the references, it is pretty easy to see the point. So if today I talk about a man who talks to his plants and wants to be the defender of faiths travelling with the woman who would be queen to the land of jasmine and the deodar cedar, where the earthquake took place – you know that I am referring to Prince Charles's recent trip to Pakistan with his wife Camilla. In a similar way it is relatively easy to work out who is the lioness here with the strong lion cubs and the fruitful vine that is burned up.
2. What use is this chapter to us today?
We don't simply want to know about history, of course. We are concerned to know what this passage has to say to us today. What does it show us about Christ and about being a Christian? How does it help us to think about serving the Lord in our own day? You see, there is no direct reference (I believe) to Christ in this passage so how can we learn about him from it? Sometimes the way we learn about Christ in the Bible, strangely, is by seeing what is not said. Before the days of TV many people went for entertainment to what was called the music hall. A variety of artists (singers, comedians, novelty acts, etc) would perform. There was a woman in the days of music hall called Mari Lloyd. These were the days of strict censorship and every now and again Mari Lloyd would be in trouble because of something she was alleged to have said. She was never prosecuted, however, as whenever they investigated they would find that although she could be very suggestive, she never actually said anything that was prohibited. Her technique was to suggest things to people's minds without saying anything explicit. Now in a similar way, although this passage says nothing directly about Christ, a Christian cannot help thinking of Christ because of the things that are found here. This is especially so when we think of the fact that the Messiah or Christ is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. And when we read here of a branch of the vine being fit for a ruler's sceptre we are again pointed to Christ.
So with that background I want to say three things to you.
1. Realise that though individuals may be lionised they all fail in the end1. Consider the rise and fall of Jehoahaz described here
Ezekiel's lament begins by saying (2) What a lioness was your mother among the lions! She lay down among the young lions and reared her cubs. This is no doubt a reference to Hamutal. Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah was from Libnah and she was the mother of two kings. First, of Jehoahaz II. 3 She brought up one of her cubs, and he became a strong lion. He learned to tear the prey and he devoured men. Lion cubs are quite cuddly creatures but they soon grow up and are strong, fierce animals that can rip a human being apart. In a similar way, Jehoahaz grew powerful and when he was 23 years old he became the King of Israel. But he abused his power to promote idolatry. The word 'to lionise' means to celebrate a person, assigning great importance to him. That is how it was in Israel regarding Jehoahaz.
But (4) The nations heard about him, and he was trapped in their pit. They led him with hooks to the land of Egypt. Pharaoh Necho captured him and carried him off to imprisonment in Egypt. Jehoahaz died down in Egypt. He had not been king for more than three months. Some evil men last longer, of course, much longer in some cases, but they all fall in the end.
At the moment Saddam Hussein is very much in the news. In the past we have seen the rise and fall of Idi Amin and Emperor Bokassa and Ceacescu and Honecker and Pol Pot. Others will fall soon too. You get the same thing in other spheres – in the religious world, in the social world, in the world of sport and art and entertainment too. They rise, they fall.
2. Consider the rise and fall of Zedekiah described here
5 When she saw her hope unfulfilled, her expectation gone, she took another of her cubs and made him a strong lion. In between we have the 11 year reign of Jehoiachim and the very brief reign of Jehoiachin but the focus is on how Hamutal turned next to the third son of Josiah, a man named Mattaniah but whom Nebuchadnezzar gave the name Zedekiah. When he was 21 years old he became king. 6, 7 He prowled among the lions, for he was now a strong lion. He learned to tear the prey and he devoured men. He broke down their strongholds and devastated their towns. The land and all who were in it were terrified by his roaring. Although the nation was already a vassal to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, Zedekiah threw his weight about and thought that he could still be a mover and a shaker in his own corner and be someone great. But it is the same story – 8 Then the nations came against him, those from regions round about. They spread their net for him, and he was trapped in their pit. This alludes to the fearful siege of Jerusalem led by Nebuchadnezzar. As you know, Zedekiah was thoroughly defeated and carried off to Babylon. It probably had not happened at this point but Ezekiel describes it vividly (9) With hooks they pulled him into a cage and brought him to the king of Babylon. They put him in prison, so his roar was heard no longer on the mountains of Israel. That was the end of his roaring.
The leaders of this world can seem so grand at times. They do a lot of roaring but it is all - in Shakespeare's famous words from Macbeth - 'but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.' They are but men. They cannot last. Do not put your confidence in them.
2. Realise how often a whole series of human comings and goings comes to nothing in the endFrom verse 10 Ezekiel comes at things from another angle, this time using the vine as an illustration. 10, 11 Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water. Its branches were strong, fit for a ruler's sceptre. The mother here is probably not Hamutal but David's wife Bathsheba. The vine refers to all those who have ruled over Israel and then Judah down the years from David through Solomon, when It towered high above the thick foliage, conspicuous for its height and for its many branches and on through Rehoboam and the eight good kings Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah and Josiah, and evil men like Manasseh, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah.
Down the long years God continued to provide (12) But it was uprooted in fury and thrown to the ground. The east wind made it shrivel, it was stripped of its fruit; its strong branches withered and fire consumed them. 13, 14 Now it is planted in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land. Fire spread from one of its main branches and consumed its fruit. No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler's sceptre. This is a lament and is to be used as a lament. How sad and poignant it is. Sad songs have a particular power to move us. People like them in a strange way. There was a collection just of sad songs on sale a while ago. I suppose it helps us to express the emotions we are feeling but we need to be careful. I heard of a song recently and apparently a number of people have actually committed suicide because of this song, it is so sad!
Sometimes songs sadden us in quite a superficial way but these words should move us on a deeper level. Here are the people of God and they are in a foreign land. They have no king. They have no hope of a king. Think of Psalm 137 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, Sing us one of the songs of Zion! How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? And here is another lament. The vine has been uprooted in fury and thrown to the ground. The east wind has made it shrivel, it has been stripped of its fruit; its strong branches withered and fire has consumed them. Now it is planted in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land. Fire has spread from one of its main branches and consumed its fruit. No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler's sceptre. We are told This is a lament and is to be used as a lament. We ought to use this passage to lament our troubles - personal, family, citywide, national, international. In the churches as well as in the state there are many reasons to be sad. We lack leadership. We lack strength. How lamentable it is. This song helps us to put it into words. We feel uprooted, thrown to the ground, blasted, stripped of our fruit. We feel that all our strong branches are withered and fire has consumed them. We are in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land. ... No strong branch is left ... for a ruler's sceptre.3. Look to Jesus Christ the Lion of Judah and the True VineNow that is where the chapter ends but as I said earlier, we are not going to leave it there. We must avoid that danger. On the other hand, we must also avoid the danger of trying to add a trite extra saying "but Jesus loves us and all will be okay". That would be entirely wrong. No, what we need to do is to consider our desperate situation by nature and let it sink in. We must then turn to see how the answer to this is indeed found in Jesus Christ. So we say
First, the lions come and go, the strong lions that tear their pray – in whatever field. However, in Revelation 5 we read of how John sees a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals that no-one can open. John hears that no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it and so he wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. But Then one of the elders said to me, Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. Yes, stop weeping. There is one who can deal with the problem, one who has the power to unlock the mysteries of the universe and who will never fail us. It is Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah. And how he is able to do that? Because he is not only the Lion of Judah but also the Lamb who was slain. John says Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. ... They sing You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. Yes, every man fails but the Lord does not fail. By his death on the cross he has created a kingdom that cannot fail. He has provided a way for all who trust in him to be kings and priests forever in him. O look to the Lord Jesus. Look to the Lamb who was slain. Look to the Lion of Judah!
Then, there is this sorry vine - uprooted, thrown down, blasted, stripped of fruit, withered, burnt, in a desert and lacking a strong branch for a ruler's sceptre. But you know how Jesus speaks in John 15 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Yes, Israel and its kings failed – the good ones and the bad. But here is the true vine and all who remain in him bear much fruit.
I am the vine; he says you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. Like ancient Israel then. But If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. The Father cuts off every branch in Christ that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.Here is the message then to believers Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. Of ourselves we are useless but in him we can bear fruit to God's glory – we can do what is good and right and honouring to him. Keep trusting him. Outside of him there is no hope.

The soul that sins will die so repent

Text Ezekiel 17 Time 15 10 06 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We have mentioned before Andrew Bonar's comment that if you get to heaven you may meet Ezekiel and he may well come up to you and say 'Did you read my book?' We acknowledge that the 48 chapters that form the Prophecy of Ezekiel are not the easiest chapters to tackle. There's a lot of material and the theme of judgement is very strong. Nevertheless there are famous chapters in Ezekiel. You should at least know the famous bits. Perhaps Chapter 37 and the valley of dry bones is the most famous but this is a very famous chapter too - Chapter 18. It is especially famous because it contains these well known words in verses 4 and 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die and in verse 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? and in verses 31 and 32 Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?
I want to say four things from this chapter
1. Beware of thinking that God is unfair
The basic purpose of the chapter is to show that although God is undoubtedly a stern Judge, yet he is utterly fair. Although again and again charges of unfairness are brought against God, he is in fact scrupulously fair.
The whole chapter begins with Ezekiel saying yet again (1-4) The word of the LORD came to me. He goes on, in God's name, What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? That was the proverb they used The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? In other words, it is our fathers who sinned not us, so why are we the ones who have been sent into exile in Babylon?
It goes on to reveal that the Sovereign LORD is determined that this proverb will no longer be used in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son - both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. So that is the principle then The soul who sins is the one who will die. In other words, God is the Creator and Sustainer of each and every living person. We all belong to him and each person will stand before him as an individual to be judged regarding how he has lived. We are all responsible for ourselves and for our sins. You get the same thing in the New Testament – Galatians 6:2-5 - Yes we must carry each other's burdens to fulfil the law but Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
The wages of sin is death and so if you sin you will die. You deserve to die. When you see those notices about being fined for smoking they mean what they say. Each individual will bear his own guilt.
Now the instinct to say that God is unfair and to blame him for our sins is one that goes on to this day. People want to blame their parents, their background, their genes, their temperament – anything rather than facing up to their own responsibility. You see it in the Garden of Eden after the first sin. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. Ultimately it is God who is unfair – why did he give Eve to Adam? Why did he let Eve listen to the serpent? Why did he let the serpent do what he did? We ask these questions too. Why did everything depend on Adam? Why is one sin enough to make us all sinners? Why does there have to be a heaven and a hell? Why is my life working out as it is? Perhaps you find yourself blaming God for things or thinking he is unfair to you.
Now let's be abundantly clear, God is certainly not unfair. Indeed, the very opposite is true. To demonstrate the fact Ezekiel goes on to give examples from three different generations – first of a righteous man (the grandfather), then a wicked son and finally the grandson - another righteous man.
2. Recognise that righteousness is not genetic
You can't inherit it. Genetics is the study of how things such as diseases are passed on from generation to generation. In recent years the science has grown and has made some fascinating discoveries. I remember when I was young and they thought I probably had hay fever. Even then they were asking my parents if there was asthma or hay fever in the family. In certain cases the genes parents carry can increase the likelihood of them passing on a disease or something similar to their children. More recently some scientists have begun to wonder what else can be passed on. There has been talk of a so-called 'gay gene' – the idea that sexual orientation can be inherited from your parents although on the face of it that sounds impossible. (It's a little bit like the idea that sterility is inherited!). Similar suggestions have been made about other areas. Such suggestions are nothing new. Similar ideas were around in Ezekiel's day. They are often made in order to escape taking responsibility for our sins. However, to think that we are what we are simply because of our parents is plain wrong. Look at the example here.
1. Consider this description of the righteousness that leads to life
Ezekiel begins by describing a righteous man. Here is man of faith, a man who is trusting God. You can tell he is by his lifestyle. Ezekiel puts it very much in Old Testament terms, of course, but we can relate. So here is a righteous man who does what is just and right.
1 He is not an idolater. Verse 6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. At the mountain shrines animals sacrificed to idols were eaten.
2 He is sexually pure. He does not defile his neighbour's wife or lie with a woman during her period (something banned under Jewish ceremonial law).
3 He is not given to oppression or exploitation (7) He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. Remember how Paul tells believers (Ephesians 4:28) He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. This man (8) does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. Money is not his great passion.
In sum, He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. The verdict: That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD. Here is a true believer then, a man of God.
What about you? Are you seeking to turn from all idols and to be sexually pure and to help the needy? Such people are alive. Theirs is eternal life. Of course, we all fail to live up to the standards we ought to reach but is this the direction of your life? As you look to Christ is this where you are heading? Such people are righteous in God's eyes.
2. Consider this description of the wickedness that leads to death
It then says (10, 11) Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them):
1 He is an idolater. He eats at the mountain shrines
2 He is sexually immoral. He defiles his neighbour's wife
3. He is guilty of oppression and exploitation. He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge. He looks to the idols. He does detestable things. He lends at usury and takes excessive interest.
Well, Will such a man live? He will not! If a man's life is made up of such things how can he be saved? Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. He cannot argue that because his father was righteous he should be saved can he? No, his blood will be on his own head.
As you know, it is no good anyone here thinking that he's okay because his parents are Christians. No, God judges us as individuals and if we live ungodly lives, regardless of our parentage or coming to church or anything else -we will be judged.
3. Consider this repeat description of righteousness and how God proceeds
Next we come to the grandson. 14 But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things:
1 He is not an idolater. 15 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. At the mountain shrines animals sacrificed to idols were eaten.
2 He is sexually pure. He does not defile his neighbour's wife.
3 He is not given to oppression or exploitation. 16ff He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He withholds his hand from sin and takes no usury or excessive interest. In sum He keeps my laws and follows my decrees.
Again He will not die for his father's sin; he will surely live. It's very simple, very fair (18) only his father will die for his own sin, because he practised extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.
So don't think not having Christian parents is an insurmountable problem either. Regardless of parentage, you can be righteous if you trust in Christ and live for him. I urge you to it whatever your background
It's very fair then, yet the people were asking, as they still ask today (19) Why does the son not share the guilt of his father? But the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. Here is the principle again (20) The soul who sins is the one who will die. With regard to actual sin guilt does not pass on genetically. Just as with personal debts - they are not normally passed on from generation to generation. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.
3. Recognise your vital need of repentance and perseverance
So what shall we do about all this? You may say to me 'I can see that it depends on me. I can't blame my parents for my sins or think that because they are good I'll be okay. But I'm not sure if I'm righteous or not.' Listen further.
1. Recognise the vital need for you to repent from wickedness
What if you examine yourself – and I do urge you to self-examination - and you discover that you are a wicked person? These categories are not set in stone. We are no more condemned to repeating the follies of our parents than we are to repeating our own. See 21, 22 But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offences he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Think about this – God asks in 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Does God enjoy sending people to hell? Of course not. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
If only we could all see that and be truly convinced of it this morning. I know there have been cruel torturers and prison guards in the past (and no doubt in the present) who love to see people suffer. Sadists exist. But God is not like that at all. Hell gives him no pleasure at all. Oh yes, it satisfies his justice but his desire is to see people escape that horror forever in Jesus Christ. Why else would he have sent his Son?
2. Recognise the vital need for you to persevere in righteousness
On the other hand you may examine yourself and find that though you are not perfect the trend of your life is, by God's grace, going in a righteous direction. Hear this warning (24) But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. There isn't a righteous act we can do to save ourselves. We can never sit back in this life and say 'I'm okay I've done enough good to get to heaven'. It isn't like that. The wicked must always turn from sin and the righteous must never turn back to it.
Are you tempted to give up sometimes? 'What's the point?' you feel. Realise that the Christian life is a life full of righteous deeds. We are not saved by what we do but if our faith is real, it will continue to produce good deeds. A good apple tree will continue to produce fruit year after year. So the man of God is one who produces fruit in season and whose leaf doesn't wither. Don't give up!
3. Remember the fair principles on which God works
Again we have the observation (25) Yet you say, The way of the Lord is not just. And the reply Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? Yes, we blame God for so many things but we are the problem are we not? God is very fair (26) If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. It is not enough to be a Christian for one day or simply to pretend to be a Christian. It has to last all your life. Jesus speaks of seed on the path, in shallow ground or choked by thorns. There are many like that. Perseverance is so important.
Are you the persevering sort? Proverbs 24:16 says though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.
Then this word of hope (27, 28) But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. Because he considers all the offences he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die.
You look at your life and what do you see? There is wickedness all around – idols in your heart, sexual sins, a failure to care for the needy and inordinate love of money. It all looks hopeless. But listen, if you will simply turn away from the wickedness you have committed and do what is just and right, all will be well. But, you say, 'I have tried to do that and failed'. Yes, that is why you need Jesus Christ in your life. Without him not only can you not be forgiven but you will not be able to be righteous in the way you live either. Ezekiel does not spell it out here but elsewhere in Scripture it is spelled out. We must be righteous and we can only do it in him. Look to him!
Yet there is the complaint again in 29 and the question Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? You think about it.
4. A call to repent and be renewed
So this is how it is. God says to Israel, as he says to us all (30) I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. There is going to be a day of judgement. Now let's be clear about this - we will be judged then on what we have done. It isn't simply a matter of saying 'I believe in Jesus'. Faith in Christ is vital, of course. We cannot do anything truly good without that. The person who has no faith has no good deeds. If you are trusting in Christ, however, it will lead to good deeds – devotion to God, sexual purity, helping those in need, and so on. Those who have done such things will be rewarded for their good deeds. So what do we need to do? It is simple really - Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Turn away from every sin – "The dearest idol I have known what e'er that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne and worship only Thee". Forsake any and every sexual sin. Stop living for money and for things. Think about others and their needs. Do what you can to help them. Look to God for a new heart and a new spirit – things that he alone can give.
My final plea to you is this - Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! There can be no life without repentance. Repent daily. Remember the first of Luther's famous 95 theses Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said repent, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

Christ and God's Power to Bring Low or Make Tall

Text Ezekiel 17 Time 15 10 06 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We're looking at the prophecy of Ezekiel and we've come to Ezekiel 17. Once again we have a parable or allegory. We've seen Ezekiel speaking plainly and acting out little dramas to impress the truth on the people, now he is giving them parables or allegories - stories with meanings. We have had the parable of the vine in Chapter 15 and the allegory of Israel as an abandoned baby girl brought up by God in Chapter 16. Now we have a picture involving chiefly a vine and two eagles. Once again there is a word of judgement here but once again there is also a word of hope.
The word of hope again comes towards the end – 22-24: where God says I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; ... On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. It will not surprise you to be told that this is a prophecy of Messiah or the Christ. This is one of the things we want to talk about then, but let's begin by getting into our time machine and going back to the time of Ezekiel.
1. Consider the picture God uses here
1. Be thankful that God speaks with variety and in picture language
The chapter begins The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell the house of Israel a parable. Say to them, This is what the Sovereign LORD says. Hebrews 1 talks about the way God spoke to his people at different times and in different ways over the years. One of the things that will strike you about the Old Testament as you read it is its tremendous variety. God does not confine himself to just one way of communicating the truth. One of the many ways he uses is to give pictures – allegories, parables, similes and metaphors. Jesus himself often used such things. This makes things so much easier for us in so many ways. We can get pictures in our heads and actually see what God is talking about. That's one reason why we can teach the Bible even to very young children. Of course, it's important to get the meaning of what is being said but if we can at least get the pictures, it is a start. This one is fairly easy. The main things you have to think of are a vine – a plant on which grapes are growing and two large eagles.
So our first point is that God is keen to communicate with us. He wants to speak to us and to do so he uses all sorts of ways to reach us. Of course, there has to be content to the message – words, ideas, teaching – but there is a great variety. We too should be willing to be varied in our preaching and in the way we communicate to others. As long as we have biblical content there is a lot we can do.
2. Note the main elements in the picture – the two eagles and the vine
1 The story begins with A great eagle with powerful wings, long feathers and full plumage of varied colours. It is no ordinary eagle then. An eagle obviously suggests power. We will identify the power later. The eagle comes first to Lebanon just to the north of Israel. Taking hold of the top of a cedar (the cedar is the symbol of Lebanon – they still have it on their flag today) we are told (4) he broke off its topmost shoot (the king or king and nobles then) and carried it away to a land of merchants, where he planted it in a city of traders. He also (5, 6) took some of the seed of your land (the Promised Land) and put it in fertile soil. He planted it like a willow by abundant water, and it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine. (I'm sure you know what the vine stands for!). Its branches turned towards him, (the eagle) but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out leafy boughs.
2 Then we read that (7, 8) there was another great eagle with powerful wings and full plumage. Another power then. The vine now sent out its roots towards him (the second eagle) from the plot where it was planted and stretched out its branches to him (the second eagle again) for water. It had been planted in good soil by abundant water so that it would produce branches, bear fruit and become a splendid vine.
So here is picture language, language we can all understand - a massive bird swoops down and grabs the top of a cedar and some seed from Israel and replants them as a cedar and a leafy vine. There is also a second eagle. The leafy vine reaches out to it for water with its roots and branches. Of course, this all has a meaning which we will come to but always the way to proceed is to get the picture clear first then seek to see its meaning.
3. Consider the message Ezekiel is to deliver in light of this picture
In 9, 10 Ezekiel is told to focus on the vine and to Say to them, This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Will it thrive? Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? The answer is clear All its new growth will wither. It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it up by the roots. Even if it is transplanted, will it thrive? Will it not wither completely when the east wind strikes it - wither away in the plot where it grew? Here is a message of doom regarding this vine then.
When I was in school we used to have morning assemblies and sometimes boys would be naughty and so the teacher at the front would point and say 'You boy, get out!' The trouble was that in a hall of 400 children it was not always clear who was being pointed to. Boys with tender consciences would think it must be them but the teacher would say 'No, not you'. Others were rather brazen and it could take a little while before they would get up and go. It got quite comical sometimes. Something similar can happen when we come across warnings like this one in the Bible – and there are plenty of them, especially in the prophets – we can react in one of two ways. We can say either "that surely has nothing to do with me" or "I wonder if that might be a warning for me". By far the safest way to proceed is to assume that the warning has something to say to us. Maybe we are the ones who are not going to thrive, who are going to be uprooted and stripped and wither. May be we are the ones who will wither away and not thrive. Let's at least have the possibility in mind, as difficult as it may seem to take. Is God warning me here?
2. Consider the meaning of the picture and the word of judgement it contains
1. Identify the principle elements in the picture
11, 12 Then the word of the LORD came to me: Say to this rebellious house, Do you not know what these things mean? Say to them: ... If you saw a cartoon with a bald eagle fighting a brown bear over a shamrock you would guess it has something to do with America and Russia arguing over something to do with Ireland. Now we have already guessed that the reference to a vine must be something to do with Israel. The Vine is their emblem. (We already said that the cedar stands for Lebanon). Eagles we have suggested stand for great powers. Think of how various empires, including America today, have used the eagle as an emblem. There are two here and in the explanation the two are explained to be representing Babylon, the super power of the day, and Egypt – not the power it once was but still powerful.
What we read in the Bible has a meaning. It isn't just stories like Peter Pan or Robin Hood. It isn't so much nonsense. Often it is a matter of simply reading carefully in order to find out what it means. The eagles are identified here and it is not hard to work out what the vine stands for. Once we see that the rest should follow.
2. Consider the judgement God brings on his people
So it goes on The king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and carried off her king and her nobles, bringing them back with him to Babylon. The King of Babylon at this time was Nebuchadnezzar. The King of Israel mentioned you will discover, if you read through Kings and Chronicles, is a man called Jeconiah who was carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. We then read in verse 13 how Nebuchadnezzar took a member of the royal family and made a treaty with him, putting him under oath. This refers to the way Nebuchadnezzar set up Mattaniah, son of King Josiah, Jeconiah's uncle, as a puppet king in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar gave him the name Zedekiah. Nebuchadnezzar, we are told, also carried away the leading men of the land, so that the kingdom would be brought low, unable to rise again, surviving only by keeping his treaty. This refers to how people like Ezekiel and others were taken into exile as part of God's judgement through Nebuchadnezzar.
This is a reminder that everything that happens happens because God wills it. Everything going on in North Korea and Iraq and Darfur and Zimbabwe, etc, is happening as part of God's will. Sometimes he uses wicked men to chastise his people and to bring his judgements on them. We ought to keep in mind that we are currently under God's judgement in this country and part of the reason why bad things happen is because of the sins of his people.
3. Consider the way God's people looked for help to men not God and the judgement pronounced
Instead of humbling himself before God and before King Nebuchadnezzar, what did Zedekiah do? We read (15) But the king rebelled against him by sending his envoys to Egypt to get horses and a large army. Instead of turning to God, Zedekiah looks for human help. He looks to Egypt. Will he succeed? Ezekiel asks. Will he who does such things escape? Will he break the treaty and yet escape? He should know that God hates treaty breaking, covenant breaking. Nebuchadnezzar had given him the name 'The LORD is my righteousness' (that's what Zedekiah means). Why was he not remembering that?
So here is the verdict (16-18) As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, he shall die in Babylon, in the land of the king who put him on the throne, whose oath he despised and whose treaty he broke. Pharaoh with his mighty army and great horde will be of no help to him in war, when ramps are built and siege works erected to destroy many lives. He despised the oath by breaking the covenant. Because he had given his hand in pledge and yet did all these things, he shall not escape. Despite the advice of Jeremiah and other good men this young man was determined to rebel but it all came to nothing as predicted here. In 589 BC Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and then plundered it. Zedekiah tried to escape but was captured.
So often when we're in trouble our instinct is to look to men rather than to God. We think the answer is in them but the answer is always rather in God and we must always look to him. Don't make the mistake Zedekiah made. He looked to Egypt and it got him nowhere. Look rather to God for his mercy. We may need to be humbled but he will hear us if we cry to him.
4. Hear this word of judgement on oath breakers
19-21 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: As surely as I live, I will bring down on his head my oath that he despised and my covenant that he broke. I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare. I will bring him to Babylon and execute judgement upon him there because he was unfaithful to me. All his fleeing troops will fall by the sword, and the survivors will be scattered to the winds. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken. After letting him see his own children die, the cruel Babylonians blinded him and took him to Babylon where he lived out his days, as stated here. To break your promise is never right. Zedekiah's behaviour was inexcusable and he was made to suffer the consequences.
What will happen to you if you are unfaithful – to your wife, your business partner, your creditors, the people you work for, your customers, your fellow believers, your friends? We must be honest and upright whatever it costs. God hates anything else and will judge covenant breakers. We must be holy and if we are not then there will be judgement.
3. Look to Christ the low, dry Tree that will grow tall and strong
So again it is the tale of human folly and the judgement of God. It is a comfort to know that things don't just happen in a random way but are all part of God's plan but again it is a message of warning and judgement. It all seems rather bleak then but just at the end there is another word of hope, a word that takes us forward all the way to the time of the coming of Messiah. So
1. Consider what God says he is going to do
22, 23a This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. This time it is not an eagle – not a power, not even a superpower – but God himself. He is the one who now takes a shoot from the very top of a cedar, the one who takes that tender sprig and plants it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel he plants it.
Here we have a clear reference to the coming of Messiah, the Christ. Nebuchadnezzar and those who have followed him can do a lot, under God, but God himself has his own plans. He has sent Messiah to this earth – a tender sprig – a mere man he is and yet somehow he is God come to us in the flesh. Of the line of David he has now been exalted in Israel and has completed the work God had fro him to do. Do you see the connections?
2. Consider the glorious future envisaged for his Messiah
It goes on, it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. That last phrase is one that Jesus himself takes up when he describes the growth of the kingdom of God. It starts like a grain of mustard seed but becomes a great tree like this one.
Again isn't that what we have seen happen? There were just 12 disciples at the beginning. Say 500 trusted in him when he ascended into heaven. And then the Spirit was poured out and 3000 believed on the Day of Pentecost. Then the gospel went out from Jerusalem to all Judea and into Samaria and to the ends of the earth. It has come to this land and to many, many nations all over the world. Thousands and millions have come to trust in the Lord. I want to urge you once again, if you have never come to find shelter under his shade to do so today. If you are joined to him you can bear fruit to God's glory. Outside him you can do nothing. Don't look to the so called powers of human ability but look to him. He alone can make a difference.
3. Learn the lesson set out so clearly here
The final verse sums things up All the trees of the field will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it. God, on the one hand, is able to bring down the tall tree and dry up the green tree. Some are so proud, so full of themselves. They think that they need nothing. But God can bring them low – he will.
Are you proud? Are you full of self? Realise that God can bring you low in moment. He raises up and he brings down as he will. Humble yourself before him.
On the other hand he is also able make the low tree grow tall and make the dry tree flourish. Are you a nobody, a nothing: Do you see how weak and lowly you are? Are you poor in spirit? Then there is hope for you. It is people like that that God uses. O cry to him to show you mercy and to use you in his service today.

Words of Judgement and Hope

Text Ezekiel 15, 16 Time 08 10 06 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
I want us to return today to the Book of Ezekiel, to chapters 15 and 16. I remind you that Ezekiel had been expecting that when he reached the age of 30 he would begin work as a priest, as his father and grandfather before him had. However, on his thirtieth birthday Ezekiel was not even in the Promised Land. He was far away from the Temple in Babylon along with others who'd been carried off into exile at this time.
However, God was not finished with Ezekiel. Far from it. God appeared to him in an amazing vision of his glory there in Babylon and he learned that though he was not going to be a priest, a representative of the people before God, he was going to be a prophet, speaking to the people on God's behalf.
We've looked at Chapters 1-14 - chiefly words of judgement exposing the wickedness and sin and false teaching characteristic of God's people at this time. Ezekiel has been asked to do some rather strange things to get over to people just how dire the situation is and how vital it is that they repent. It can't have been easy to take a stand in the way that was required but Ezekiel was faithful.
This week I want us to look at one very short chapter and one rather long one. Again it's mostly words of judgement but also as before there are words of hope. I've said to you before that these chapters are not easy to read in some ways, but they're good for us. To help us through there are gems of encouragement every now and again and if you look out for those you won't get discouraged. Let me point out the words of hope now. They are near the end of our reading.
For example, 16:53, 60-63
However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them, ... Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. ... I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD.It's a little bit like going to the doctor or dentist. No-one wants to be told that they have bad teeth or serious problems with heart or lungs. If there's something wrong it's not nice to sit and hear it. But then when the doctor says 'But we can do something for you. There is hope' you revive. So remember there is some good news tucked away in these chapters but first the bad news
1. Realise how useless we are to God
Chapter 15 is very brief and uses a very simple picture to emphasise how bad things were for the Jews at this present time. As we often mention, the vine was the symbol of Israel and so just as if you read about a rose you might be expected to think of England so when you read about a vine, think of ancient Israel, the Jews.
1. Consider the picture1 Recognise the uselessness of vine wood
1-3 The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, how is the wood of a vine better than that of a branch on any of the trees in the forest? Is wood ever taken from it to make anything useful? Do they make pegs from it to hang things on? Well, no in fact vine wood is pretty useless. You don't grow vines for wood but for grapes. So, though the Jews were rather proud of their emblem the vine, in some respects it stands for being useless.
2. Recognise the even greater uselessness of burnt vine wood
4, 5 And after it is thrown on the fire as fuel and the fire burns both ends and chars the middle, is it then useful for anything? Well, that's an easy one. If it was not useful for anything when it was whole, how much less can it be made into something useful when the fire has burned it and it is charred?
2. Understand the meaning
The meaning comes in verses 6-8. God says: As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem. I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the LORD. I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful, declares the Sovereign LORD. Already Israel has suffered. Fire had come out from Babylon and burned many and there was worse to come. For 70 years the land was going to lie desolate. The cause of all this is Israel's unfaithfulness.
Here's the situation then. By nature his people are useless. God didn't choose them because they were anything special, because they were greater than other nations. By nature they're as useful as vine wood. And we're all the same. We're as useful to God as a bucket with holes, a car without wheels, sandpaper with no sand on, a gun without bullets. He does not need us. But God is eager to take us and use us and make us useful in his service so he blesses us. He gives us Bibles and preachers and many other good things. Yet what do we then do? We are unfaithful and so his judgements come upon us and if we were useless before then we are made even more useless. The handle is broken on the bucket with holes, the car without wheels has no steering wheel either, the sandpaper is charred and the gun with no bullets has a faulty trigger. It's not easy to think of ourselves in such terms but better to face up to the truth than go on in ignorance. We're useless, indeed so often less than useless. Left to ourselves we are without hope.
2. Consider how unfaithful God's people can be
Chapter 16 is much longer and more elaborate but again a picture is used. It's really an allegory that gives the history of Israel in brief under the figure of a woman whose birth, upbringing, marriage, success and conduct are described to show how wicked and ungrateful God's people have been. We can divide it into several sections. Ezekiel is to listen to what the LORD says in it and so confront Israel with their detestable practices.
1. Consider how God's people were neglected and despised at the beginning
So first we go back to the time of Abraham and the Patriarchs. Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. Abraham was actually from Chaldea but God called him to live in the land of Canaan, the land of the Amorites and Hittites and so that is where it all began. Ezekiel says (4, 5) they lay like a baby with the cord uncut, unwashed and bloody, not rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths (as was the norm for babies). No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather they were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. This sums up the general attitude people had to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were despised nobodies. They were unimportant as far as the world was concerned. They were nothing special. Nobody cared about them. Yet God chose them. Remember, God chooses nobodies. There is an encouragement in that.
2. Consider how God took care of them and brought them up
Next we come to the period when they went down into Egypt for safety in Jacob's time. It is put like this - God says (6, 7) Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, Live! He made them grow like a plant. They grew up and developed as it were, becoming like a beautiful jewel, all grown up and beautiful, despite their origins. It was God who saved them from famine in Canaan and took them down to Egypt where they grew in size under his care. He provided for them there. When God takes hold of people he starts to work on them and he keeps on working. He transforms them.
3. Consider how God made them his covenant people
Next comes the Exodus and the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai. Verse 8 Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, Israel was now a large community I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness a typical way of speaking of their rescue from their troubles in Egypt. He brought them out into the desert and gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. It is really at Sinai that they formally become the people of God, his old covenant people. Covenant is a very important idea in the Bible – an agreement between two or more persons. It is his way of working with men. First under the Old Covenant then under the New but always by a covenant of grace.
4. Consider how God showed kindness to them and blessed them
Next they come into the Promised Land. (9) I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you is a very clever allusion to the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan and what accompanied it. The Lord goes on (10-13) about how he clothed them with an embroidered dress and good sandals and linen and garments as well as jewellery – bracelets, necklace, a nose ring, earrings and a beautiful crown. Gold, silver, fine linen, costly fabric, embroidered cloth – only the best. And they ate fine flour, honey and olive oil. All the blessings of the Promised Land are thus summed up. At the end of verse 13 we read You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendour I had given you made your beauty perfect. By this time we are thinking chiefly of the age of King David and King Solomon. What glorious days they were! When God begins to bless a people what blessings there are!
5. Consider how they descended into increasing idolatry
But then we read (15-19) how they trusted in their beauty and used their fame to become a prostitute that is to go after other gods. They lavished favours on anyone who passed by .... It speaks of them using their garments for gaudy high places where they prostituted themselves. Such things should not happen, nor should they ever occur. They took gold and silver given to them by God and used it to make idols to bow down to and used their embroidered clothes to put on them and offered God-given oil and incense before them. The food God provided - fine flour, olive oil and honey – they offered as fragrant incense before them. This refers to their pride and their turning to idols. It is not something that happened just in the time of David or Solomon or after but something that was a recurring temptation for Israel and one they often fell into, though it got worse in many ways as time went on. We must always watch out for pride.
In 20, 21 there is specific reference to the worship of Molech which involved child sacrifice - you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. What made it all so bad was (22) that in all their detestable idolatry they did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood. They refused to go back to God. Indeed they forgot him. Sometimes we just have to stop and remind ourselves who we are. It is like the parable of the Prodigal Son.
It goes on (23-26) Woe! Woe to you .... They also built a mound for themselves and made a lofty shrine in every public square. At the head of every street they had these shrines where they could prostitute themselves with increasing promiscuity. They did not care which gods they went to – even Egyptian gods, for example. They thus provoked God's wrath with their increasing promiscuity. Such things happen today. People who profess to be Christians end up chasing after all sorts of false gods – money, fame, enjoyment, etc.
6. Consider how God gave them over to their enemies
27-29 So God stretched out his hand against them and they lost territory to enemies. I gave you over to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were shocked by your lewd conduct. There were Philistine invasions later in time as well as earlier on. In their insatiable lust they pursued Assyrian gods too and still not satisfied the gods of Babylonia too. The temptations are sometimes too much for the professing people of God. So often they are just like the rest.
3. Consider these words of judgement against the wicked
So in the light of this we have the understandable words of judgement found here. Verse 30 How weak-willed you are, declares the Sovereign LORD, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! They were, the Lord suggests, worse than prostitutes as they didn't even do it for profit! They scorned payment. They were supposed to belong to God – in covenant with him but they utterly failed. He calls Israel an adulterous wife! They prefer strange gods to the true God. Like so many today they run after any old god they see – any old false idea.
35, 36 Therefore, you prostitute, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says: because of all their detestable idols, etc therefore I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you found pleasure, those you loved as well as those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around. Then God's people would be stripped bare and exposed. He is referring to the way the very gods and ideas they worshipped will be turned against them in the form of the nations where the false gods were invented.
It is going to be like the way an adulteress or a murderer was supposed to be dealt with then. The blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger is going to come on you he says. They will be handed over to their lovers who will tear down their idol shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewellery and leave you naked and bare. A mob will come and stone them and hack them to pieces with their swords. Houses will burn. There will be punishment. Their idolatry will end. Why? Note this (43) Because you did not remember the days of your youth but enraged me with all these things, I will surely bring down on your head what you have done, declares the Sovereign LORD. Did you not add lewdness to all your other detestable practices? What a warning the history of Israel is! Turn from idols, turn from sin before God's wrath comes. Run from sin!
Have you ever watched a boxing match? It's not a nice sport in many ways. Sometimes you'll see a man hit another one forty, fifty a hundred times but he's still standing. What the boxer who is going to win has to have then is what we call a killer instinct. He's got to carry on fighting until his opponent either gives in or drops to the canvas. Ezekiel is a bit like a boxer here. He's thrown several punches already but now he moves in for the kill with one more powerful move.
He says (44, 45) Everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: Like mother, like daughter. You are a true daughter of your mother, who despised her husband and her children; and you are a true sister of your sisters, who despised their husbands and their children. What daughter? Who is Israel's daughter? Who is her sister? We've already established that her mother was a Hittite and her father an Amorite (45) but then he says (46) Your older sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom! This is the connection – 47, 48 - You not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. God solemnly declares that they are worse even than Sodom was. It reminds us of Jesus's words about the day of judgement being easier for Sodom than for the places where he preached. We would have to admit to our shame that this is true of our own society. It is worse than Sodom.
And so Ezekiel reminds us of the sin of Sodom - arrogance, smugness and complacency. They did not help the poor and needy. They were proud and guilty of detestable sins. That is why Sodom was destroyed, of course. The Jews were much worse than Sodom, much worse than the Samaritans who they so despised. 52 Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.Later on he says (56) how they would not even mention Sodom at one time but now they also are under God's judgement. It is their turn to be scorned now - by the daughters of Edom and all her neighbours and the daughters of the Philistines, etc. They must bear the consequences of their lewdness and detestable practices. Verse 59 I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. If we sit here thinking we're not as bad as Sodom or Samaria or the Jews - how foolish! Isn't the same weak will in us? Aren't we also prone to wander into idolatry? Worse, are we covenant breakers? We must repent then. What hope is there otherwise?
4. Consider these words of hope for sinners
It's all pretty bleak in many ways. But now before we close, let's looks at these words of hope that are also there.
1. The end of wrath
The first is in 42 Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry. God is not only slow to anger but it is true to say that as far as this world is concerned his wrath does pass. Because of his mercy his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)
2. Restoration
Then in 53-55 there is a wonderful However - However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them, so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in giving them comfort. And your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to what they were before; and you and your daughters will return to what you were before. The promise is of restoration not only for Israel but for Samaritans and Gentiles too. This is pointing us forward to the coming of Messiah and the salvation that he brings. Whether your background is religious or not, no matter how far you've strayed, there is yet hope if you will turn to the Lord again. He will restore.
3. Covenant renewal
Finally, 60-63 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Here we are pointed to the new covenant in Christ. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. The vision is of worldwide growth. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my covenant with you not by Sinai but by the new covenant in Christ. So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, (as Jesus has now done on the cross) you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation. Being a Christian involves shame. We have to confess our sins. We cannot deny them. How prone to wander we are. But there is hope too, covenant hope in Christ. Look to Jesus Christ.