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The Bloody And Defiled City
When God set His name at Jerusalem and appointed it to be the capital of Immanuel’s land, He called it “the Holy City.” Such it had been in former days when His people gathered there to worship in His sanctuary, and the voice of praise and thanksgiving ascended with the smoke of the incense to heaven. But alas, all this had been changed. By the wickedness of its people Jerusalem had become so utterly denied that God was now about to forsake it completely. Instead of being a city of truth and righteousness it was filled with falsehood and wickedness; instead of being a citadel of holiness it had become unclean with the blood of thousands of little children who had been offered in sacrifice to Moloch. Idolatry with its false priests reared its horrid head in the very place where once the priests of the Lord honored His name. Time after time God had sent His prophets to protest against the evils that were manifest among His people, but things had grown worse and worse until now the city was so wholly polluted that He was about to give it over to the cruel enemies who were besieging it.
Surely, there are lessons in all this for the professing Church today. In the beginning, as recorded in the book of Acts, and as we may gather from a careful reading of the Epistles and the messages to the seven churches of Asia in the book of The Revelation, the people of God of this age of grace delighted in His Word and loved His truth, clinging to the name of the Lord Jesus and seeking to honor Him; but little by little declension came in; the Church took up with the ways of the heathen, out of which she had been called; and finally, we find the Lord Himself declaring that He is about to spue her out of His mouth. Nevertheless, so long as the Saviour tarries, a remnant will abide to whom the things of God shall be precious; but when these are taken away at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him, all that is left of Christendom will be rejected by God, and finally fall under His judgment when the Lord Jesus appears in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God.
“Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, And thou, son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? then cause her to know all her abominations. And thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: A city that sheddeth blood in the midst of her, that her time may come, and that maketh idols against herself to defile her! Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed, and art defiled in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years: therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the nations, and a mocking to all the countries. Those that are near, and those that are far from thee, shall mock thee, thou infamous one, and full of tumult”-vers. 1-5.
Ezekiel was called upon to act as a judge in the name of the Lord, bringing to the inhabitants of Jerusalem the divine indictment of their manifold crimes and offenses against the law of the Lord which they had spurned. The city had become completely defiled by the blood shed in the midst of her; that is, primarily the blood of the poor innocents, which, in their fanaticism, the people had devoted in sacrifice to their vile demon gods. Then too, we may think of blood shed because of the miscarriage of justice, when those who protested against the sins of the people were hated and slain by their fellows. Because of all this Jerusalem had become a reproach and a mocking in the countries roundabout, even as we are told in the New Testament that through apostate Judaism the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles. They who should have ever witnessed to Jehovah’s faithfulness and by holy lives have manifested their subjection to and appreciation of His Word, had sunk to so low a depth that their heathen neighbors looked on with amazement and ridiculed their pretensions of being the chosen people of the Lord.
Item after item follows, indicating the low level morally to which the leaders of Israel had sunk.
“Behold, the princes of Israel, every one according to his power, have been in thee to shed blood. In thee have they set light by father and mother; in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the sojourner; in thee have they wronged the fatherless and the widow. Thou hast despised My holy things, and hast profaned My sabbaths. Slanderous men have been in thee to shed blood; and in thee they have eaten upon the mountains: in the midst of thee they have committed lewdness. In thee have they uncovered their fathers’ nakedness; in thee have they humbled her that was unclean in her impurity. And one hath committed abominations with his neighbor’s wife; and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law; and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his father’s daughter. In thee have they taken bribes to shed blood; thou hast taken interest and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by oppression, and hast forgotten Me, saith the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 6-12.
The princes of Israel who should have led the people in devotion to the Lord, were the chief trespassers. In the guilty city the children spurned the guidance of their parents, setting light by father and mother; they oppressed the strangers who sojourned among them: they wronged the fatherless and the widow. Instead of reverently regarding the holy things of the Lord, they despised His sacrifices and profaned His sabbaths. By false accusation they caused the innocent to be put to death; and worshiped the gods of the heathen upon the high places. Abominable excesses of the vilest character were linked with all this heathen worship so that they behaved more like beasts than rational human beings.
We shrink from meditating upon or even reading the awful charges brought out in verses 10 and 11, but God draws aside the veil by which they attempted to cover their filthiness, and shows up their moral defilement in all its dreadfulness. All things are naked and open to His holy eyes, and He cannot but deal in judgment with those guilty of such sins as are here described. Bribery, and that of the worst type, was also common among them. Even the magistrates accepted gifts in order to bias their attitude toward those unjustly accused before them, so that they condemned to death the innocent that they themselves might be enriched. Extortion and covetousness were prevalent among all classes-all these evils were the result of their having forgotten God, the One who had delivered them from Egypt and had watched over them through all the years of their sojourn in Canaan.
“Behold, therefore, I have smitten My hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee. Can thy heart endure, or can thy hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I, Jehovah, have spoken it, and will do it. And I will scatter thee among the nations, and disperse thee through the countries; and I will consume thy filthiness out of thee. And thou shalt be profaned in thyself, in the sight of the nations; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah”-vers. 13-16.
How could the Holy One of Israel do other than express His disapproval of those who were so guilty and who gave no evidence whatever of a desire to repent and get right with Him whom they had so dishonored.
The challenge of ver. 14 might well speak to any today who are bent upon taking their own way and have refused to heed the voice of God calling to repentance and to subjection to His Word: “Can thy heart endure or can thy hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee?” Men may flaunt the will of God while in health and strength, and because sentence against their evil works is not immediately carried out they may think that God has forgotten, but the day is surely coming when He will arise in His wrath to visit upon the wilful and disobedient His indignation against sin and iniquity. What human heart can then bear up in that awful day, or whose hands will be strong enough to hold back or to resist the omnipotent power of the God they have defied? That which Jehovah has declared must come to pass; though judgment is His strange work, and He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, yet His very holiness demands that sin be punished.
How literally have verses 15 and 16 been fulfilled! For centuries, yes, for two millenniums, Israel has been scattered among the nations and dispersed throughout the countries. Eventually, as a result of the suffering they are called upon to endure, a remnant at least will face their sins, confess their iniquities, and look upon Him whom they have pierced: then their filthiness shall be consumed out of them, and they shall know that Jehovah is indeed their God. Until that day they remain among the nations as dross rather than the precious treasure they once were in the eyes of the Lord.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, the house of Israel is become dross unto Me: all of them are brass and tin and iron and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are the dross of silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because ye are all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver and brass and iron and lead and tin into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in Mine anger and in My wrath, and I will lay you there, and melt you. Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you with the fire of My wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have poured out My wrath upon you”-vers. 17-22.
The figure used in this paragraph is that of the casting of various metals into the crucible and exposing them to furnace heat in order that they may be melted together, and then the different metals be separated, one from the other. Of silver, which reflects the face of the refiner, there was very little, for few indeed heeded the voice of the Lord. The great majority were like brass and iron and lead, base metals which God could only cast away in His wrath and indignation.
We know that when Messiah comes He shall sit as a Refiner of silver, and then there will be manifested a people to the praise of the Lord who shall reflect His image and glorify Him in the earth.
The last section is a somewhat lengthy one, including verses 23 to 31.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto her, Thou art a land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey: they have devoured souls; they take treasure and precious things; they have made her widows many in the midst thereof. Her priests have done violence to My law, and have profaned My holy things: they have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they caused men to discern between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, that they may get dishonest gain. And her prophets have daubed for them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, when Jehovah hath not spoken. The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery; yea, they have vexed the poor and needy, and have oppressed the sojourner wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. Therefore have I poured out Mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath: their own way have I brought upon their heads, saith the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 23-31.
Here the Lord again emphasizes the defiled condition of the land of Israel and its barrenness because He had withdrawn the rains on account of His displeasure with His people. Moreover, there was, as it were, a conspiracy of her prophets-that is, those who professed to speak in the name of the Lord, who themselves being deceived sought to deceive the people by promising peace when there was no peace. Their soft words and false predictions proved the ruin of many souls and led to the loss of Israel’s treasure and precious things. Widows were multiplied because husbands went forth at the bidding of these prophets to defend the land when God Himself had declared He would not protect them against their enemies. The priests in the temple profaned the holy things of Jehovah as they carried on their hypocritical service. There was no longer a distinction made between the things that were of God and those that had to do with the common life of the people; neither did they discern between that which was clean and that which was unclean. The sabbaths of the Lord, which were given for their blessing, were no longer valued but rather profaned.
Again an indictment is brought against the princes because, instead of shepherding the flock, they were like fierce ravening wolves let loose upon the people, shedding the blood of the innocent and destroying souls in order that they might thereby enrich themselves. The prophets, like man-pleasing preachers today, sought to make the people comfortable in their sins, thus daubing with untempered mortar, seeing false visions and divining lies in the name of the Lord of truth. The people followed after their unreliable spiritual guides, giving themselves over to oppression and robbery and affliction, rather than aiding the poor and needy.
Under such conditions Jehovah looked for even one man among them who should act for Him, standing against the iniquities and building up the wall of the city and closing its gaps, but He found none. Ezekiel himself, we must remember, was no longer in Palestine but on the banks of the River Chebar in Chaldea. In the land itself and in the defiled city there was not one to plead for the people, save Jeremiah, whose message was spurned, and he himself cast into prison. Therefore, there was none to stand between the people and the judgment that their sins deserved; so God declared He was pouring out His indignation upon them and consuming them with the fire of His wrath-and all this because of their own wilfulness; they had taken their own way, and so brought down these calamities upon their guilty heads.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 22". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent