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With Ezekiel 33 begins the fourth main section of this book (Ezekiel 33-39). This section deals with the future glory of Israel and can be divided as follows:
1. The faithful watchman and the faithful Shepherd (Ezekiel 33-34).
2. A renewed land (Ezekiel 35-36).
3. A renewed people (Ezekiel 37).
4. Extermination of the last enemy (Ezekiel 38-39).
The Duty of the Watchman
Here, after the announcements of judgment on seven hostile nations, Ezekiel again resumes his task as a prophet concerning God’s people. The word of the LORD comes to him (Ezekiel 33:1). The LORD again reminds him of his responsibility as a watchman (Ezekiel 33:2; Ezekiel 3:16-Ecclesiastes :). His earlier warnings of the coming of judgment by the king of Babylon, have come true, but the hearts of the people have not been changed by it. Hence, new judgments and especially the final judgment await the unrepentant, and hence Ezekiel must continue to warn. We, too, are never done warning people of the judgment to come, even though there have been so many more judgmental acts of God.
Ezekiel is to address the word to his fellow citizens and again present to them the righteousness of the LORD. He must do this by using an example from everyday life that can be understood by everyone. When the LORD announces that He is bringing the sword, that a hostile people are approaching, it is a good thing for the people to appoint a watchman. They choose someone from their area who is trustworthy and knows the area. When that man sees the enemy coming, he will blow an alarm on the trumpet, warning the people that the enemy is coming (Ezekiel 33:3; cf. Amos 3:6).
Two responses are possible to the blowing of the trumpet: ignore or listen. Those who do not heed the sound of the trumpet and are killed have only themselves to blame (Ezekiel 33:4). He has been stubborn and did not take warning (Ezekiel 33:5). It is his own fault that he was killed. However, he who he takes warning is not killed, but delivers his life.
It is also possible that the watchman is unfaithful and does not blow the trumpet when he sees the sword coming (Ezekiel 33:6). Such a watchman is a coward or a traitor. He thinks only of himself and flees to save himself or conspires with the enemy. When the sword comes and kills people, those people do die in their own iniquity, but the watchman is guilty. Judgment comes irrevocably. People who perish have themselves to blame because they have lived in iniquity, but the watchman also has his responsibility.
God has no pleasure in punishing people. Therefore, He makes them warn. If the watchman does not warn, He will require the blood of his hand. We recognize this kind of watchman in our day in preachers who preach only love, but do not give warning of judgment or even deny judgment. They are traitors and colluding with the enemy of God. People who listen to these preachers perish in their own iniquity, but the preachers will be called to account by God and judged for their negligence.
Then the LORD addresses the word to Ezekiel personally and says to him that He has appointed him a watchman over the house of Israel (Ezekiel 33:7). This shows a difference from the watchman of the previous verses, for he was appointed by the people (Ezekiel 33:2). Ezekiel is to act as a faithful watchman, warning Israel on behalf of the LORD. The LORD holds up to him the great responsibility that this task entails. He tells him that judgment on the wicked is determined, but also that the wicked must be warned (Ezekiel 33:8).
If Ezekiel does not warn the ungodly, he is guilty of the judgment that strikes the ungodly. That wicked person does die in and because of his own iniquity, but Ezekiel is blamed for not warning him. If Ezekiel did warn the ungodly, but the ungodly does nothing with that warning, then Ezekiel is free from the blood of the ungodly and he has saved his own life (Ezekiel 33:9; cf. Acts 20:26-Daniel :; 1 Corinthians 9:16). The responsibility of the watchman is strongly emphasized.
Call to Repentance
Ezekiel is commanded to go to the exiles with a specific message (Ezekiel 33:10). The LORD has heard that they have said that their transgressions and their sins are upon them and that they see no way out. Their initial optimism regarding Jerusalem, which they had thought would be spared, has turned to cheerless despair. The prophecies of Ezekiel, as well as those of Jeremiah, regarding Jerusalem have come true against their expectations. What have they to expect from life now?
In that situation, the word of the Lord GOD comes to them with the hopeful words that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ezekiel 33:11). He calls the house of Israel to repent, for why should they die? They need not die, for the door to life is open. The invitation is made to them by a loving God. We hear His urgent, pleading call to repent in the twofold “turn back, turn back”. This is how He urges them to do so!
We too may proclaim that hopeful message on His behalf to the people of the world. It is still the “the acceptable time … the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) and God through us is still begging people to be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:20).
What Ezekiel has to say to his fellow citizens, they are not hearing for the first time (Ezekiel 33:12; Ezekiel 18:29-Jonah :). God’s message is unchanging and so is His government. Sin brings judgment, no matter how much good someone may have done, and repentance brings life, no matter how much wickedness someone may have done.
What matters is listening to God and accepting what He says. This concerns both the righteous and the ungodly. A righteous person may think that his righteousness, all his good deeds, entitles him to life (Ezekiel 33:13). Such an attitude shows that he trusts in his own righteousness and not in God. In practice, therefore, he will come to injustice and will die in it.
In the case of the ungodly, the opposite happens when he accepts God’s judgment on his life (Ezekiel 33:14) and repents. He shows that he has repented by practicing justice and righteousness (Ezekiel 33:15). He will make amends for wrongs done (cf. Luke 19:8). His conversion involves a condemnation of all his past sins. Of these he may know that they are forgiven and will be remembered no more (Ezekiel 33:16; Hebrews 8:12). The doing of justice and righteousness is the evidence of his conversion and of the new life he has received. He will live from this new life and remain alive.
Ezekiel’s compatriots add to their heavy-handed, unjustified statement that life has no meaning for them anymore (Ezekiel 33:10), the extremely misplaced accusation that the LORD (Adonai) does not do justice (Ezekiel 33:17). They have said that before and the LORD has answered them (cf. Ezekiel 18:25; Ezekiel 18:29). It is all shrugging off self-responsibility – still – and a denial of one’s own sins. The LORD’s dealings with the righteous who do injustice and with the ungodly who repent are grounds for them to accuse Him of injustice (Ezekiel 33:18-Psalms :).
This accusatory attitude can also be seen today. People have an opinion about God and in their foolishness think they can and do judge Him. They are full of their own good works and point condemningly at Christians who lie and cheat. They will find out that with all their so-called good works they are heavily in debt to God for not bowing down to Him as sinners. God will judge them and do with them according to their own ways (Ezekiel 33:20; cf. Romans 2:1-Leviticus :).
Message of the Fall of Jerusalem
A few months after the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel receives word of this from people who were able to escape from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 33:21). They do not bring him news that he does not already know. Ezekiel already knows because his mouth has been opened. The journey from Jerusalem to Babylon required about three to four months in those days (cf. Ezra 7:9). The evening before the refugees comes to Ezekiel, the LORD has opened his mouth which he had not been able to open until that time (Ezekiel 33:22; Ezekiel 24:25-Daniel :; Ezekiel 3:24-Daniel :).
The end of his muteness marks the beginning of a new phase in his ministry. After the announcements of judgment, from now on he will mostly make announcements of restoration.
Arrogance of the Remnant
After Ezekiel’s mouth is opened, the word of the LORD comes to him (Ezekiel 33:23). The LORD tells him that there are still people left in the devastated land (Ezekiel 33:24). These people, however, are far from humbled by the judgment that has struck them and the land. Instead, they believe they have a special claim to the land. They point to Abraham. Abraham is only by himself if he is granted the land as an inheritance. They, on the other hand, are many, so they have that much more right to the land.
These people claim the land because of their numbers compared to Abraham, while they have no part in the faith of Abraham, but continue to sin (Ezekiel 33:25). They eat meat with the blood still in it, they bow down to their stink idols and act violently against their neighbor (cf. Jeremiah 41:2-Judges :). With such ungodly behavior, how do they think they can assert a right to the land and repossess it?
They do not lean on the LORD, but on their sword (Ezekiel 33:26). With it they commit violence and loot for themselves what they think they need. They commit atrocities and take the wife of their neighbor. Thus they continue to commit the heinous sins that brought God’s judgment on Jerusalem and Judah. So how do they think they can still hold the land? This section does show how hardened they are, how jaded in their feelings of what is sin in the eye of God.
Ezekiel is commanded to announce judgment to them (Ezekiel 33:27). Wherever they are, they will perish, whether by the sword, by the wild beasts, or by pestilence. Nothing will come of their proud, misplaced expectations (Ezekiel 33:28). All life will disappear from the land and from the mountains. When the LORD has made the land an even greater desolate waste than it already is, they will be forced to acknowledge that He is the LORD (Ezekiel 33:29).
Hearing, but Not Doing
The LORD lets Ezekiel know that the exiles, his fellow citizens, are talking about him a lot (Ezekiel 33:30): ‘Ezekiel has been absolutely right, then, in his predictions of the downfall of Jerusalem. Then he is the man we should be with to hear the word of the LORD.’ Ezekiel is suddenly popular. The LORD warns him not to be mistaken about the crowds coming to him (Ezekiel 33:31). They do come to him in large numbers and flatter him greatly, but their heart goes after their gain. The call to repentance is not taken seriously by them; what matters is that something benefits them (cf. Ezekiel 22:13; Ezekiel 22:27).
It is a great trap for a servant of God when people like to come to him because he can speak so beautifully about the Lord. So they come to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:32). He can say it so beautifully. But the content of the prophet’s words does nothing at all with them. They are not open to it. They hear his words, but to their meaning they are deaf. They are hearers, but not doers of the word (James 1:22-Lamentations :; Matthew 7:24-Daniel :).
It is a matter of great sorrow for every true servant of the Lord when people love to listen to him, but that his words have no effect in the hearts and lives of the listeners. The response should not be: ‘What knowledge this man has’, but: ‘The Lord has spoken clearly to me. Now I know what to do.’
The spoken word of the LORD will not return empty (Ezekiel 33:33; cf. Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 6:7-Ruth :). Though at the time there is no humble bowing to what He has spoken through His servant, the time is coming when all that has been spoken in His Name will be acknowledged. Then all who have heard it will have to acknowledge that there has been a prophet in their midst.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 33". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
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