Judgement, Pride, Restoration

Text Ezekiel 26-28 Time 03/06/07 Place Childs Hill Baptist ChurchWe are looking at the prophecy of Ezekiel and we've come to the section where Ezekiel turns from prophesying to the people of God to prophesying to the nations around. We looked the other week at Ezekiel 25 where there is a series of short prophecies to the nations immediately to the east, south and west of the Promised Land – the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites and Philistines.
Next Ezekiel turns north, to the land we now know as The Lebanon, to the Phoenicians, and prophesies chiefly against the City of Tyre but also against Sidon. Now, when we hear the words 'Tyre and Sidon' we may well think of Jesus's words in the Gospels (in Matthew 11:20-22)
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgement than for you.
Now these prophecies against Tyre and Sidon are full of woe and fury and so it is sobering to consider what Jesus says. In God's providence these people did not get the opportunities that some in later generations have had. If they had, says Jesus, they would have repented straight away.
And what about us? Jesus has not come and done miracles in our streets but he is preached here Sunday by Sunday and there have been many, many instances of his power over the years. And have we repented from our sins? Have we turned from what displeases him? We have no excuse for not doing so. Turn from your sins and trust in Jesus Christ today. That is the lesson of these chapters.
Tyre and Sidon were city states whose wealth was built on trade. I suppose they were a little like the tiger economies of the far east today – not classic empires like America, China or Russia but powerful economically and very wealthy. We will say more as we go along. What I want us to do this morning is to consider all three chapters here (missing out 28:1-19 which we'll look at another time). It's a lot to cover still but I don't want us to be unnecessarily long over these chapters and get bogged down. So
1. Consider Tyre the rock and these words of condemnation from the Lord
You will notice that initially the pattern is the same as in Ezekiel 25 and so we can make some similar points
1. Remember who is speaking here
These are the words of God himself. 26:1 In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me. We are reminded of this at several points in these 3 chapters. This is what the Sovereign LORD says occurs several times. For example in 26:14 I the LORD have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD. When a famous or important person stands to speak everyone listens – how much more if it is God himself! These are not the words of a man but of God himself so we must listen very carefully indeed.
2. Ponder your sins and some of the ways in which you have offended GodTyre we learn is guilty of the same sin as the other nations. She (26:2) said of Jerusalem, Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper. Gloating over the sufferings of God's people is a great sin and it will be judged.
Are you guilty? Or are you guilty of other sins such as lying or stealing or sexual sin? Again I say to you, repent and trust in Christ now while there's time – Tyre and Sidon would have if they had your opportunity.
3. Recall the coming judgement on all who sinThe judgement here reminds us of the coming judgement on all the nations. I am against you, O Tyre, says God. He is against all who oppose him.
Tyre was built on the edge of the Mediterranean, partly on the mainland and partly on an island just off the coast joined to the mainland by a causeway built by Hiram I, father of the Hiram who helped Solomon build the Temple. The Hebrews used to refer to Tyre simply as 'Rock'. It is this picture that is used to spell out Tyre's doom. 26:3-6 I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock. Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets, ... She will become plunder for the nations, and her settlements on the mainland will be ravaged by the sword.The judgement is spelled out in 26:7-14 – God is going to bring Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon against them with horses and chariots, with horsemen and a great army. He will ravage your settlements on the mainland with the sword; Ezekiel describes how he'll set up siege works and build ramps and use shields and battering rams against them and demolish towers. His horses will be so many that they will cover you with dust. Your walls will tremble at the noise of the war horses, wagons and chariots when he enters your gates as men enter a city whose walls have been broken through. The hoofs of his horses will trample all your streets; he will kill your people with the sword, and your strong pillars will fall to the ground. They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea. I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more. I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt. 19-21 When I make you a desolate city, like cities no longer inhabited, and when I bring the ocean depths over you and its vast waters cover you, then I will bring you down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of long ago. I will make you dwell in the earth below, as in ancient ruins, with those who go down to the pit, and you will not return or take your place in the land of the living. I will bring you to a horrible end and you will be no more. You will be sought, but you will never again be found.A similar judgement awaits all who rebel against the Lord. I urge you to consider the reality of it. And so I urge you once again to repent and turn to Christ.
4. Consider God's great aim for you and me – that we may know that he is the LORDOnce again at the end of 26:6 we have that Then they will know that I am the LORD. It's spelled out particularly in the prophecy against Sidon (28:21-23). Ezekiel is to set his face against Sidon and say in God's name I am against you, O Sidon, and I will gain glory within you. They will know that I am the LORD, when I inflict punishment on her and show myself holy within her. I will send a plague upon her and make blood flow in her streets. The slain will fall within her, with the sword against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the LORD. The punishment of Sidon is described as God 'gaining glory for himself', 'showing himself holy within her' and enabling them to 'know that he is the LORD'. Very interestingly the same sort of language is used at the very end of this section (28:24-26) but this time in a very positive way.
As we've said before we will all one day know that God is the LORD. Every knee will bow before him, every tongue confess him. It is only a question of time. Are you going to do it now freely or are you going to wait until that final day – when you will have no choice?
2. Consider Tyre the majestic galleon and man's pride and where it leads
One is used to reading caricatures of the Bible's message. Again and again people describe what they think it says and you wonder if they've ever read it. The sort of caricature we often get is that the Bible is always trying to make us feel guilty. It just goes on about how bad we all are and doesn't seem to be able to get beyond that.
Now as one who's read the Bible many times let me assure you that is not the case. In fact the Bible is scrupulously fair in the way it describes the situation. It does not say – the world is bad and can't be enjoyed and nothing good can be said about it. Rather it recognises the world's achievements and its attraction to men. However, it does warn against glorying in these things and against pride, which is rebellion against God and which will be judged in the end.
In Chapter 27 then Ezekiel spends a lot of time building up a picture for us of the greatness of Tyre - its beauty, wealth, luxuriousness, its vast network of trading partners. Tyre, situated at the gateway to the sea was a merchant of peoples on many coasts. Again a figure is used – this time that of a ship, of a majestic galleon sailing the high seas.
1. Have you got something to be proud of?Like nations and other groupings today Tyre claimed to be perfect in beauty. This grew out of their success on the high seas which provided the wealth to make the city look so beautiful. In 27:5-11 it is described under this figure of a ship
They made all your timbers of pine trees from Senir (Mt Hermon); they took a cedar from Lebanon to make a mast for you. Of oaks from Bashan they made your oars; of cypress wood from the coasts of Cyprus they made your deck, inlaid with ivory. Fine embroidered linen from Egypt was your sail and served as your banner; your awnings were of blue and purple from the coasts of Elishah (in Cyprus) Men of Sidon and Arvad (Phoenician cities) were your oarsmen; your skilled men, O Tyre, were aboard as your seamen. Veteran craftsmen of Gebal (Byblos – another Phoenician city) were on board as shipwrights to caulk your seams. All the ships of the sea and their sailors came alongside to trade for your wares. Men of Persia, Lydia and Put (today Iran, Turkey, Lybia) served as soldiers in your army. They hung their shields and helmets on your walls, bringing you splendour. Men of Arvad and Helech (in Cilicia) manned your walls on every side; men of Gammad (we don't know where that was) were in your towers. They hung their shields around your walls; they brought your beauty to perfection.We then have a catalogue in 27:12-25 of the various peoples Tyre traded with and what they traded. There is quite a penchant for lists these days. You could all make lists. Wembley, Old Trafford, St James' Park, Anfield, Villa Park, Stamford Bridge, Goodison Park, Elland Road, Hillsborough, White Hart Lane, etc. That means something to some of you. What about zester, baking sheet, saute pan, salad spinner, oven thermometer, food processor, etc? Or Parker, Waterman, Pilot, Rotring, Pentel, Zebra, Staedtler, Berol, Sheaffer? This list here may not mean much to us but you can be sure it meant a lot to those who were in the know.
They traded with Tarshish (Sardinia or Spain), Greece, Tubal and Meshech (Turkey), Beth Togarmah (Armenia), Rhodes, Aram (Syria), Judah, Israel, Damascus and Dedan, Kedar, Sheba and Raamah in Arabia, etc. Among the items traded were everything from ivory tusks to ebony. There were metals – gold, silver, iron, tin, lead, articles of bronze, wrought iron. Precious stones including turquoise, coral and rubies. Livestock including work horses, war horses and mules and lambs, rams and goats. Food stuffs such as wheat, wine, confections, honey, oil. There were all kinds of spices and balm and cassia and calamus. There was purple fabric, embroidered work, fine linen, wool, saddle blankets and beautiful garments, blue fabric, embroidered work and multicoloured rugs with cords twisted and tightly knotted. And there were also slaves - human cargo. This is how it was and we need to get hold of it and see how lucrative, how attractive, how huge it was.
And there are similar countries and organisations today for whom you could make a similar listing. Think of the trading nations – Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, China, the USA, the UK and think of the vast number of goods being traded by these nations and beyond – metals, precious stones, petro-chemicals, cereals, fruits, clothing, electronic goods, etc, etc. And it is very easy for those involved in such things to be proud of their achievements.
Do you get a certain pride when you list off certain things – your wide circle of friends, your many achievements, your favourite entertainers or sportsmen? Then beware. Remember what happened to Tyre and Sidon.
2. Be ready for the judgementTyre's magnificent achievements are not denied. They are not ignored. What they achieved was great. But where did they go wrong? They forget about God and about his judgement. 26, 27 Your oarsmen take you out to the high seas. But the east wind will break you to pieces in the heart of the sea. Your wealth, merchandise and wares, your mariners, seamen and shipwrights, your merchants and all your soldiers, and everyone else on board will sink into the heart of the sea on the day of your shipwreck. My great grandfather was a barber. One day as a boy my father was in his granfer's shop and he saw a magazine article about The Titanic. He asked granfer about it. Granfer said he had thought of going as a barber on the ship and explained what happened to it. It wasn't the first ship to go down and not the last.
Can't you see it coming? You're so proud of this wonderful ship, this magnificent galleon as it sails the high seas but do you not see that while we live just for ourselves it cannot last? There must be a judgement and one day, if you do not turn to the Lord today, your magnificent ship with everyone on board will sink to the bottom of the ocean.
3. See how people react to judgement and considerIn 27:28-36 we get the reaction of the nations around to the fall of Tyre. We had something similar in 26:15-18 Will not the coastlands tremble at the sound of your fall, when the wounded groan and the slaughter takes place in you? Then all the princes of the coast will step down from their thrones and lay aside their robes and take off their embroidered garments. Clothed with terror, they will sit on the ground, trembling every moment, appalled at you. They will take up a lament we read How you are destroyed, O city of renown, peopled by men of the sea! You were a power on the seas, you and your citizens; you put your terror on all who lived there. Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall; the islands in the sea are terrified at your collapse.Here we read The shorelands will quake when your seamen cry out. All who handle the oars will abandon their ships; the mariners and all the seamen will stand on the shore. They will raise their voice and cry bitterly over you; they will sprinkle dust on their heads and roll in ashes. There will be signs of mourning – shaved heads, sackcloth, weeping over them with anguish of soul and with bitter mourning. Then we have another lament Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea? When your merchandise went out on the seas, you satisfied many nations; with your great wealth and your wares you enriched the kings of the earth. Now you are shattered by the sea in the depths of the waters; your wares and all your company have gone down with you. All who live in the coastlands are appalled at you; their kings shudder with horror and their faces are distorted with fear. The merchants among the nations hiss at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.Sometimes we can see things better when we see it through the eyes of others. Let me ask you, what will they say about you after the Day of Judgement? Will they as it were sit on the ground, trembling every moment, appalled at you when they see what God has done. Will they be appalled and shudder with horror? Will you come to a horrible end too?
3. Consider the promise of restoration to Israel and find comfort in that
So it's all judgement again without much comfort but I want to close by drawing your attention to what we read in 28:24-26.
The glorious future for the people of God is expressed in three ways. Again we have Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD (twice) and also I will show myself holy among them in the sight of the nations. At the same time that God brings his judgement on the nations he will also bless his people. Here we are told of how God would not only defeat their enemies but also bring his people back from exile. This prophecy was fulfilled some 70 years after Ezekiel's time. It also points forward to the coming judgement and the delivery of God's people at that time.
1. (24) No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbours who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.
A day is coming, believer, when the painful briers and sharp thorns of Satan, the world and indwelling sin will be no more. Then we will know as we've never known before that God is the Sovereign LORD.
2. (25a) When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will show myself holy among them in the sight of the nations.
Even now God is gathering a people to himself from all over the world, a holy people, his very own. One by one they are gathered to heaven and soon they will all be there in the glory. Keep that day in mind.
3. (25b, 26) Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbours who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.
What is in mind here is the coming return to the promised Land in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah but it looks beyond that – not to some earthly fulfilment but to the coming age when God's people will inhabit the new heavens and the new earth in safety and contentment. Are you looking to that day?

A word of condemnation from the Lord

Text Ezekiel 25 Time 20/05/07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

Over recent months we have been looking at the Prophecy of Ezekiel and so far we have looked at the first 24 chapters. Now in those first 24 chapters Ezekiel is speaking exclusively to the Jewish exiles with him in Babylon. However, now for the next 6 chapters he turns from them to address the nations around Judah – Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia and then the Phoenicians of Tyre and the Egyptians at greater length.
This is a pattern we see in other prophets. Isaiah, for example, in Chapters 13-23, has a series of prophecies against the nations including Jerusalem too. Something similar is found in Jeremiah where at the end, in Chapters 46-51, there are prophecies about the nations. The Book of Amos begins with a series of judgements on Israel's neighbours – Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Ammon, Moab and Judah itself.
So here is something interesting to start with. Even in the Old Testament, which is very much a Jewish book and very much focused on the Jews and their concerns, there is still plenty of room for prophecy to the nations around. The Old Testament has an international concern. This comes to fruition, of course, with the Day of Pentecost that we read about in Acts 2 and the beginning of the taking of the gospel into all the world.
Throughout the Bible we are reminded that this world is one world – made by God and populated by the descendants of Adam and Eve whom he made. At Babel the nations were divided but in Jerusalem on the day the Spirit was poured out they were reunited and one day there will be in heaven a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They will be wearing white robes and ... holding palm branches in their hands. And crying out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.
God is concerned for every nation, for all the nations of the world and so should we be. One of the joys of being in London is its cosmopolitan nature. Just those of us here this morning were born in may be 9 or 10 different countries at least, all quite different, but God has something to say to us all and if we are believers we are one in Christ.
Now in Chapter 25 we have a series of four short prophecies - to Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia. Perhaps the first thing we need to do then is to remind ourselves of who these peoples are.
1, 2. Ammon and Moab were Canaanite nations to the east of Judah that both found their roots in the incest between Lot and his two daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. There was a history of hostility towards Israel from the Ammonites and Moabites, who were specifically excluded from the assembly of the Lord in Moses' time. Although subdued under David and Solomon they had regained their independence again by the time of Ezekiel. The Ammonites are dealt with at slightly more length than the others here.
3. Edom was to the south of Judah and again there was a link with Israel in that the people were descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother. They had been subdued in the time of King Saul and King David but had again rebelled and were independent once more.
4. The Philistines are perhaps the best known of these four. Goliath was a Philistine you remember. They were based to the west of Judah bordering the Mediterranean Sea in the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath. Originally from Crete, Cyprus and other islands, they unusually did not practice circumcision like others in the area. They were a thorn in Israel's side throughout the period of the Judges but were eventually subdued by Samson, Saul and David.
Now in each case we have a pattern here in the prophecies against these peoples
1. First, it is announced who is speaking – more elaborately at first and then more briefly.
2. Then their sin is described. In each case it is fairly similar.
3. Their doom is announced.
4. Finally, we have the repeated conclusion to the effect and you will know that I am the LORD.
Now none of us are Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites or Philistines this morning. Those peoples have all pretty much died out. However, just as God knew all about them and what they had done, so he knows all about us and what we do. And just as God pronounced judgements on these peoples so he is judging us and will reveal his judgements in due time.
Perhaps we can best get at the teaching here and apply it to ourselves then by going at these four elements in reverse order.
1. Consider God's great aim for you and me – that we may know that he is the LORD
In verses 5, 7, 11 and 16 we have a recurring phrase - Then you will know that I am the LORD or I will destroy you, and you will know that I am the LORD or Then they will know that I am the LORD or more fully Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I take vengeance on them. Verse 14 is slightly different - they will know my vengeance, declares the Sovereign LORD.
We have already had this phrase in its various forms many times before. It starts in Chapters 6 and 7 where it occurs 6 times. It comes another 10 times in 11-16 before another glut in Chapter 20. The last time we had it was in 22:16 and 24:27 When you have been defiled in the eyes of the nations, you will know that I am the LORD. ... At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak with him and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD. It appears another 12 times in this section and then a further 13 times before the end of the book. It is clear then that both in the case of his own rebellious people and the nations around God is determined that they will know that he is the LORD.
It is God's purpose to bring vengeance on these Gentile peoples for their sins, to avenge himself on them. They are to be punished. But this is put in terms of knowing the LORD.
Now we need to read that carefully. He doesn't say 'Then you will know that I am God'. Like all of us here this morning, they already knew that. Oh yes, they resisted the idea and opposed it but they knew there was a God.
'But now' says God 'they are going to know that I am the LORD.' They are going to know that he is the true God, the living God, the only God, the God of his people, the covenant God. Of course, by the time they know this it will be of no comfort to them. They will only know it because of the vengeance he will bring upon them. They will be in no doubt that it is the LORD who has punished them.
So here is pivotal truth. In the end we will all know that God is the LORD. We know that there is a God. That is not in doubt, even though some pretend that it is. But we will know the LORD himself and who he is. If we continue to resist him, we will know this only when he brings his vengeance upon his and we are judged. What I want to do this morning is to urge the fact on you and plead with you to repent now and know that he is the LORD and receive his mercy. You will know the LORD in the end. It is only a question of time. Will you know he is LORD now in this life? Or will you only come to know he is LORD when it is too late and his judgement comes upon you.
2. Recall the coming judgement on all who sin
Well, what about this judgement, this punishment? Here we have a series of therefores – in verses 4, 7, 9, 13 and 16. In each case it follows on from the statement of the nation's sin. Sin leads to judgement. So we read God saying
4, 5, 7 therefore I am going to give you to the people of the East as a possession. They will set up their camps and pitch their tents among you; they will eat your fruit and drink your milk. I will turn Rabbah into a pasture for camels and Ammon into a resting place for sheep.
... therefore I will stretch out my hand against you and give you as plunder to the nations. I will cut you off from the nations and exterminate you from the countries. I will destroy you,
9-11 therefore I will expose the flank of Moab, beginning at its frontier towns - Beth Jeshimoth, Baal Meon and Kiriathaim - the glory of that land. I will give Moab along with the Ammonites to the people of the East as a possession, so that the Ammonites will not be remembered among the nations; and I will inflict punishment on Moab.
13, 14 therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will stretch out my hand against Edom and kill its men and their animals. I will lay it waste, and from Teman to Dedan they will fall by the sword. I will take vengeance on Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they will deal with Edom in accordance with my anger and my wrath.
16, 17 therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Kerethites and destroy those remaining along the coast. I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath.
These verses then speak about defeat for these nations. Ammon will be left as a desert. I will stretch out my hand against you says the LORD and give you as plunder to the nations. The nation itself will come to an end and not be remembered. There is no more Ammon. God destroyed them. He also intends to inflict punishment on Moab and stretch out his hand against Edom to kill them. I will lay it waste says God. I will take vengeance on Edom ... in accordance with my anger and my wrath. He is about to stretch out his hand against the Philistines and destroy them. I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath he says.
Now these are temporal judgements, of course, but they point us to the final judgement itself when God will stretch out his hand against all who do not repent. He will inflict punishment on sinners in wrath and anger. Never forget that day of judgement that is coming. These people thought they would go on forever but they did not. God judged them. Are you ready for judgement?
3. Ponder your sins and some of the ways in which you have offended God
Now why were these nations to be judged as they were going to be? Again in each case – before the therefore of judgement - their sins are set out. So we read
3, 6 Because you said Aha! over my sanctuary when it was desecrated and over the land of Israel when it was laid waste and over the people of Judah when they went into exile ... Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet, rejoicing with all the malice of your heart against the land of Israel
8 Because Moab and Seir said, Look, the house of Judah has become like all the other nations, ...
12 Because Edom took revenge on the house of Judah and became very guilty by doing so, ...
15 Because the Philistines acted in vengeance and took revenge with malice in their hearts, and with ancient hostility sought to destroy Judah,
You notice that in each case it is the same sin that is highlighted – that of a bad attitude towards the people of God. Some went further in this sin than others but they were all guilty. Rather than seeing what God had done to his people and taking note and repenting they merely mock. When we see others in trouble we should rather think – it could be me next, I must repent.

Now what about us? What is our attitude to the people of God? Are we glad when the church is in trouble? Do we take the attitude that the church is nothing special and suffers just like other organisations? Is there malice? Is there hostility? Now God will judge all who have such attitudes. Indeed our attitude to God's people should be the very opposite of this. When God's people are in trouble it should sadden us. We ought to have every sympathy with all who are his. It is a mark of the Christian, the person on his way to heaven, that he loves the brotherhood of believers. 1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
Of course, there are many other matters on which we will be judged on the last day – our love to God and willingness to honour him, whether we are submissive, chaste, truthful and contented. But just take this one test – your attitude to God's people. If that is not right, it is enough. We deserve God's judgement.
4. Remember who is speaking here. These are the words of God himself
Finally let's consider who speaks these words. Throughout the passage we have the recurring phrase This is what the Sovereign LORD says (6, 8, 12, 13, 15, 16). In the opening verses we read The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, set your face against the Ammonites and prophesy against them. Say to them, Hear the word of the Sovereign LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: There can be no doubt about the speaker then. It is the LORD himself, the Sovereign LORD. It is our Maker and God. Of course, the message comes through his servant Ezekiel. Ezekiel is told to set his face against the Ammonites and prophesy against them. It is not easy to preach judgement I can assure you. Yet, it is an important part of the Bible's message. This is God's Word – not mine. That is why you must believe it. Now judgement is not my only message, of course, and not the Bible's only message. In fact, the great message of the Bible is that if you repent and turn to god there can be forgiveness through the LORD Jesus Christ. The same God who speaks here of his wrath and anger and judgement is the God who so loved the world that he sent his one only Son into the world so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Trust in Jesus Christ and you can face the judgement with confidence. Refuse to turn to him and there is no hope.

Judgement Day - its misery and solemnity

Test Ezekiel 24 Time 13/05/07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
In Ezekiel 24 we have two prophecies given at around the same time. They were given in Babylon where Ezekiel and others were in exile at the time when Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, first laid siege to Jerusalem back in the Promised Land. Their purpose is to show that in all this God, as the Master of that place, is also the one who destroys it. At the end of the chapter Ezekiel is told that he is going to be silent until he receives news of Jerusalem's fall and indeed although he prophecies about other things he doesn't mention this subject again until three years later when (33:21) we read In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, The city has fallen!
The fearsome judgement of the siege of the holy city and the destruction of the Temple in 597 BC is now a long way back in history. The final judgement it points to, however, is still future. Today it is nearer than it has ever been. We need to fix our minds on that judgement and once again Ezekiel helps us to do that.
What we have in the chapter is first a parable about the judgement, "the parable of the cooking pot" we may call it. Then we have a sign about the judgement. We are told how Ezekiel's wife, who has not been mentioned until now, dies and how Ezekiel is forbidden to mourn for her.
1. Consider the coming judgement and the miseries it will bring and repent
1. Consider that God is sovereign and all days including the last are in his hand
From time to time we have references to specific dates in Ezekiel. You could make a time chart plotting the dates. The whole book begins with a date: In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (This was Ezekiel's own thirtieth birthday when he would have began his duties as a priest) On the fifth of the month - it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin - the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.
Then in 8:1 he says In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign LORD came upon me there and in 20:1 In the seventh year, in the fifth month on the tenth day, some of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and they sat down in front of me.
And now it is the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day and Ezekiel again says the word of the LORD came to me. This time God says Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. Babylon was some distance from Israel as you know and it is likely that Nebuchadnezzar's besieging of Jerusalem was known at first only because God revealed it.
This reminds us
1 That God knows all things and directs all that happens. Nothing is outside his control. Kings and armies and all else are under his rule.
2 But then there is also this record this date, this very date. We must take note of what God does. We cannot wander through life oblivious to what God is doing and so there are significant dates that we should note. We do this automatically in some cases – the day of our birth, a wedding anniversary. It is right that we note these significant occasions and remember God's providence. In school they teach children (I trust they still do) 1066, 1415, 1666, 1805, 1914, 1989, etc. I would say that a Christian living in this country should know other dates too like 1611, 1662, 1735, 1859, 1904, 1989, etc. God is at work – let us not be unaware of it.
3 Finally, we ought to be aware too that one day in the calendar, the last day, will be here.
2. Consider the parable of judgement used here
Now, in the light of this fact Ezekiel is told to tell the people a parable Tell this rebellious house a parable and say to them: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Put on the cooking pot; put it on and pour water into it. Put into it the pieces of meat, all the choice pieces - the leg and the shoulder. Fill it with the best of these bones; take the pick of the flock. Pile wood beneath it for the bones; bring it to a boil and cook the bones in it. You have the picture then – a great cooking pot or cauldron full of water and in go the various ingredients – choice pieces of leg and shoulder. It is then brought to the boil with a fire underneath.
And what it means, if it is not already clear, comes out in verse 6 For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the city of bloodshed, to the pot now encrusted, whose deposit will not go away! Empty it piece by piece without casting lots for them. 9, 10 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the city of bloodshed! I, too, will pile the wood high. So heap on the wood and kindle the fire. Cook the meat well, mixing in the spices; and let the bones be charred. The rebellious house is going to be ruined, Jerusalem the city of bloodshed is going to be besieged and the fierce heat of the Babylonian army will make those inside suffer as if they were in a boiling cauldron. The picture harks back to what had been said in Ezekiel 11 and in Jeremiah 1:13-15 where Jeremiah sees a boiling pot, tilting away from the north and the LORD says From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms, ... Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. People thought they would be safe in the iron cauldron of Jerusalem but instead they were about to face great suffering in that pot.
Here is powerful picture of judgement then – being boiled in a cauldron. Think of the intense heat. Next time your cooking or watching someone cooking have this in mind. The 19th Century Scots minister Robert Murray M'Cheyne stopped one day to take shelter from a sudden downpour in a roadside quarry. There was a fire in a furnace of the engine shed where he was standing with a group of workmen. He asked them what that fire reminded them of. That was all; but the way in which he spoke made his words burn in the hearts of those who heard him, and at least one was converted.
3. Consider the judgement pronounced here
1 So first we have this picture of intense heat, of fire
This is a common picture of hell –
9, 10 I, too, will pile the wood high. So heap on the wood and kindle the fire. Cook the meat well, mixing in the spices; and let the bones be charred.
2 There is also the idea of being consumed
6 Empty it piece by piece without casting lots for them. The people will eventually be brought out of Jerusalem like meat out of a pot but it will be to the sword or exile. Nebuchadnezzar would not draw lots as was sometimes done and only a proportion of the people (often one tenth hence decimation) would be taken – no, all would go.
3 Further, the city itself would be burnt up
11 Then set the empty pot on the coals till it becomes hot and its copper glows so its impurities may be melted and its deposit burned away. This reminds us that at the judgement not only will all the unrepentant be judged and destroyed but so will the earth itself.
What a fearful judgement lies ahead. Are we ready? We must repent. An old rabbi used to say to his students "Make sure you repent the day before you die". They would say "but when do we know it is our last day?" and he would say "we don't, so we need to repent every day!". He was right.
4. Consider the judgement – its basis and cause
It is important that when we think about the judgement that we think correctly about its basis and cause. In verse 14b we read You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Sovereign LORD. This is the basis for it – what we do. Romans 2:6-10 says the same thing God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Unbeliever – you have no good deeds, all are bad. You are doomed.
Believer – all your bad deeds are forgiven, you will be rewarded for your good deeds.
Particular sins are condemned here
1 Bloodshed
7-9 For the blood she shed is in her midst: She poured it on the bare rock; she did not pour it on the ground, where the dust would cover it. To stir up wrath and take revenge I put her blood on the bare rock, so that it would not be covered. Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the city of bloodshed! ... They were shameless in their bloodshed. We see something of that in our own land in our own day. It is a fearful thing.
2 Impurity
More generally he speaks of (6) ... the pot now encrusted, whose deposit will not go away! 12, 13 It has frustrated all efforts; its heavy deposit has not been removed, not even by fire. Now your impurity is lewdness. Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided. They would not be cleansed. Are we like that? Refusing to repent, to be washed. Beware!
5. Consider the judgement – its decisiveness
14 I the LORD have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. Think of how it is with exams in school or college – the day comes and you're there. The invigilator says “Pens down”. This is how it will be when the final day of judgement comes.
2. Consider the coming judgement and how solemn it will be and repent
Sometimes the prophets had to do strange things, things that were not easy. Jonah was sent to preach to the pagans of Nineveh and ended up being swallowed by a whale. Amos the farmer was sent to prophesy not in his native Judah but in Israel. Hosea was told to marry a woman even though he knew she would turn out to be an adulteress. Here we read of how Ezekiel is told that his wife will die and when she does he is forbidden to mourn for her.
1. Consider the sign of judgement used here
The sign was in two parts
1 He was to suddenly lose his wife
She was to die. God did warn him shortly before but it must have been a bitter blow. 15-17 The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes.
Several things arise from this
First, far from being a hindrance to spirituality a good wife or husband can be a real blessing. Ezekiel was truly spiritual and he was a married man. It is a false spirituality that supposes that marriage precludes spirituality.
Second, one of the greatest comforts in life is companionship and fellowship, especially in marriage. No doubt that was how it was with Ezekiel and his wife. Be thankful for your spouse. Be thankful for friends.
Third, God refers to Ezekiel's wife as the delight of your eyes. How Ezekiel loved to look at her day by day and see not only her loveliness but her love for him. The same face that had attracted him as a young man continued to delight him now she was older. That is how it should be in a marriage.
Fourth. But she died quite suddenly and it is a reminder that nothing we have or hold dear in this life is guaranteed to last. We don't know how soon the delight of our eyes may be snatched away and become the despondency of our eyes. Death is all around us and the time is short. So (to quote 1 Corinthians 7:29-31) From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
Fifth. When we suffer a loss like Ezekiel suffered we must recognise God's hand in it. With one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. God takes from us sometimes what we treasure most. He gives, he takes. He has the right to do as he chooses with what is his own, after all.
Sixth. At times of great sorrow we may be free to mourn as Ezekiel was not but we must endeavour like he did to continue in our duties as far as we can. We will probably find sadnesses more easy to bear if we do that for if we keep ourselves in the love of God all will be well.
18a So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died.
2 He was not to mourn
15-17 Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners.
This was the hardest thing about it, perhaps. Yet, Ezekiel was obedient. Sometimes God asks to do hard things, unusual things .We ought to seek to be obedient whatever God demands.
18b The next morning I did as I had been commanded.
2. Consider the meaning of the sign of judgement used here
19 Then the people asked me, Won't you tell us what these things have to do with us? This is a good question. They knew that Ezekiel loved his wife and that he would not react to his wife's death in this way unless there was some good reason. And so they ask what he is showing them. We ought always to be eager to see what God is teaching us.
1 The meaning is that just as the delight of Ezekiel's eyes was suddenly taken from him so the delight of their eyes was about to be taken too. They did not have a proper reverence for the Temple but they did have a carnal one and now Nebuchadnezzar was about to destroy that very potent symbol of their pride. 20, 21 So I said to them, The word of the LORD came to me: Say to the house of Israel, This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary - the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. ... See verse 25 ... their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes, their heart's desire. Part of God's final judgement will be the removal of all men's privileges in Christ. Out will go their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes, their heart's desire.
2 Not only that but also The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. Their very own children will die at the hands of the enemy. And again this is a feature of the judgement – the loss of loved ones. We need not only to repent but to warn our loved ones.
3 Further, they will also not mourn. He goes on (22ff) And you will do as I have done. You will not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners. You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. Exactly why would the people not mourn? Commentators are divided – was this a cynical command, they don't care anyway? Would they be beyond grief, overwhelmed or perhaps there would be so many troubles they would not keep up? Will they not dare to mourn before their captors? Is he speaking of capital punishment without opportunity for mourning? Perhaps the nearest we can get is to say that they will not have hearts, nor time, nor money for the ceremonies of grief. They will be so entirely taken up with solid substantial grief that they will have no room for the shadow of it. Further, everyone will be mourning anyway so there will be no need to distinguish themselves. What will be needed will be tears of repentance but they will not come.
This is a contrast with hell. Hell is described as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is only in heaven that there are no tears.
3. Consider again that God is sovereign and must be acknowledged
Consider these final verses and remember that God is in control and he must be acknowledged to be in control.
24 Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.
25-27 And you, son of man, on the day I take away their stronghold, etc - on that day a fugitive will come to tell you the news. At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak with him and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD.
See it now and repent and run to Jesus Christ.