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The last methods of punishment symbolised and interpreted (chap. Ezekiel 5:1-17)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—The requirements made of Ezekiel still proceed in his house. Already he has been a sign that Jerusalem would undergo a thorough siege; that specified periods of stringent suffering should be allotted to both portions of the house of Israel; that hunger, anxiety, and defilement would be encountered; and furthermore, he is to be a sign of the various forms of penalty which should be incurred as the closing manifestations of the Lord’s dealing justly with iniquities. In this case, as in the preceding three, we appear necessitated, by the very conditions of the requirement, to suppose that Ezekiel could not be expected to carry on literally the processes assigned to him. How could he, in the disabled state to which he must have been reduced if he had externally obeyed the previous requirements, shave his head and beard with a sword, or burn the appointed part of hair in Jerusalem itself? Even if it were certain that he could do so, it would be unbecoming to believe that the Lord Himself literally drew a sword after the third part of hair which was scattered to the wind. Notwithstanding these difficulties, we are sure that the actuality of the things signified was somehow conveyed to the minds of his captive countrymen—the method of doing so being unknown.
Ezekiel 5:1. “And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife”—rather sword, as in the end of Ezekiel 5:2. He was not, besides the sword, to “take a barber’s razor,” but he was to use the sword as a barber’s razor. A closer rendering of the Hebrew warrants this explanation. “A razor of barbers thou shalt take it”—i.e., the sword, as the gender intimates—“to thee;” “and cause it to pass upon thine head and thy beard.” In the hands of an earlier prophet the use of a razor had already been made significant of punishment by the Lord. “In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired … the head and the hair of the feet; and it shall also consume the beard” (Isaiah 7:20). Moreover, in accordance with biblical representations, shaving off the hair of the head and beard was one of the signs of mourning and reproach, and, besides, it was forbidden to priests (Leviticus 21:5). God, enjoining a priest to reverse his own ritual observance, would give additional emphasis to the keenness of the calamity shadowed forth: “then take thee balances to weigh and divide” (lit.) “them,” i.e., the hair. An apportionment of distinct sufferings is to be carefully measured out, so that all may feel “the judiciary providence of God.” We modify the words of an old Latin commentator, and say, “The sword or razor signifies divine vengeance, the head the city, the balances its equity, and the hair the people to whom punishments shall be distributed.” Or, as Theodoret says, “The sword indicates avenging power, the shaving of the beard the removal of grace and glory, the scales and weights the determination of divine justice.”
Ezekiel 5:2. Ezekiel is commanded to arrange the hair in proportionate parts, and to dispose of each. “Thou shalt burn with fire”—in a flame—“a third part in the midst of the city”—in the midst of the model of the besieged city which lay before him—“when the days of the siege are fulfilled”—when the days for his symbolical completion of the siege had come to an end; “and thou shalt take a third part and smite about it”—i.e., the city—“with a knife,” or sword, as Ezekiel 5:1; “and a third part thou shalt scatter in the wind.” The rest of the people have perished; this third alone survives. It must, therefore, include within itself both the poor, who might be left unsettled in Judea, as well as the numbers who had been dispersed among other countries. And there seems no valid objection against considering that it included the people of a more distant future than that which would be passed through by the living generation. The lot of the nation, as a nation, is involved in the action of the Lord. The next words show the symbol passing into a reality, while an intimation of sufferings in the land of exile is made: “and I will draw out a sword after them.” They shall not escape because of change of locality. By this procedure of Ezekiel three kinds of punishment are set forth. One part of the people dies in flames—Ezekiel 5:12 interprets this of famine and disease; a second part dies in flight, sallies, battles; the surviving part becomes “tribe of the wandering foot and weary breast.” But the people will not be absorbed or obliterated.
Ezekiel 5:3. “Thou shalt also take thereof”—from that scattered portion—“a few in number, and bind them”—this “very small remnant” of hairs—“in thy skirts,” ends of his garment. God has to fulfil His covenant of mercy; seed must be preserved as the instruments of His purposes; and Ezekiel is required to signify, by caring for the safety of a few, the eternal purpose of God. But even of this few not all would be delivered.
Ezekiel 5:4. “Then take of them again, and cast them into the midst of the fire”—a different word from that of Ezekiel 5:2, and signifying a somewhat diverse mode of suffering about to befall the reduced number of people. They were not all right in heart, the best were tainted and needed a purgation, a proof of how deplorable was the spiritual condition of the surviving people. This infliction would not be confined to the unfaithful among the gathered ones: “thereof”—from this consuming fire—“shall a fire come forth into all the house of Israel:” the doom of the few involves the doom of the whole people as such. “Judgment must begin at the house of God, and what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” A striking parallel to this declaration to Ezekiel is found in Isaiah. “And if there should yet be a tenth in it, this shall again be consumed; (yet), as the terebinth and the oak, though cut down, have their stock remaining, (even so) a sacred seed (shall be) the stock thereof” (Ezekiel 6:13).—Cheyne.
A divine interpretation of his symbolical action is given to Ezekiel. He hears words describing the guilt of and the judgments which shall fall upon Jerusalem and his people; and, first of all, there is conveyed a meaning which is to be attached to Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 5:5. “Thus saith the Lord God; This Jerusalem”—it is unnecessary to supply is—“I have set it” her, “in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.” It has been common for nations, whose means of locomotion are neither convenient nor rapid, to consider their country the central point around which other countries are clustered. Such a notion might have been accepted by the Jews in reference to Judea; but it is not with such a reference-that the situation of Jerusalem is specified here. In explaining this reference it is not requisite to point out how the Holy Land stands in relation to Egypt and Syria, to Assyria and the Isles of the Gentiles. We decline the merely local limitations as not expressive of the fact intimated, while we still perceive, in the then active influences of the world, certain advantages adhering to the site which Jerusalem occupied. The true interpretation is elsewhere. It is thus stated by Keil: “Jerusalem is described as forming the central point of the earth, neither in an external, geographical, nor in a purely typical sense, as the city that is blessed more than any other, but in a historical sense, in so far as ‘God’s people and city actually stand in the central point of the God-directed world-development and its movements;’ or, in relation to the history of salvation, as the city in which God hath set up His throne of grace, from which shall go forth the law and the statutes for all nations, in order that the salvation of the whole world may be accomplished.”
Ezekiel 5:6. “And she hath changed”—the ordinary usage of the word changed refers to murmuring, opposing, rebelling against, or some such action, and often with a statement of the object, as here, against which the act operates—she rebelled against “my judgments”—though they were known, yet were they so disregarded as to incur the crime of turning them “into wickedness more than the nations”—to a degree of evil which even the heathen could not be charged with, “and” she rebelled against “my statutes more than the countries that are round about her; for they”—of this Jerusalem—“have refused my judgments”—with a kind of disdain—“and my statutes they have not walked in them.” The penalty of such a course follows.
Ezekiel 5:7. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God;” but before announcing the doom an emphatic presentation of their unhallowed conduct is made: “Because ye multiplied”—a somewhat infelicitous rendering of a difficult term, for which a translation like “ye raged” is better, i.e., made a turmoil in acting as rebels—“more than the nations that are round about you,” and “have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments”—laws and ways of living and worshipping—“of the nations that” are “round about you.” Further on (chap. Ezekiel 11:12) Ezekiel accuses the people thus, “Ye have done after the manners (lit. judgments) of the heathen that are round about you.” There is no real contradiction between the two representations. The heathen pursued courses which were opposed to God’s will, and Israel did the same; but the former showed also that the word of the law was written in their heart, and, so far as they had obeyed that transcript, they had done that which Israel had not done. Israel had resisted both revealed and natural obligations.
Ezekiel 5:8. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God”—the suspended threatening is now pronounced—“Behold I, even I, am against thee”—a solemn asseveration that the covenanted relationship to the Lord, however boasted of, would not shield from the punishment due to Israel for their violation of the covenant. He would prove that He was not a dead God—a mere name of power and holiness—“and will execute judgments in the midst of them”—the means of punishment shall be forthcoming and effective “in the sight of the” heathen “nations.” Thus one aspect of retributive justice is unfolded—it will be public: the heathen shall know that He is Lord by the judgment which He executeth. Another is presented—it is exceptional.
Ezekiel 5:9. “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like”—there would be peculiarities in the woes which should befall Israel that would be marked as unique throughout all time. If acts as shocking as those referred to in next verse are observed in the distressed periods of other nations, we must remember that when a wife or child is expelled from the home, the calamity, though similar, is far worse than when a guest or servant is expelled. Such was the relation of Israel to God that their punishment had elements of horror in it which the same suffering happening to another people had not. The primary reference of the threatening is clearly to the then existing Israel, but seems to be applied by the Lord Jesus to that generation of the Jews who were subjected to terrible calamities when Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed by the Romans. “Then the tribulation shall be such as was not since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21)—“because of all thine abominations”—a frequently used word, expressing actions and habits which, however common and palliated, were such as the Lord could not endure to hear and see in His professed people—each sin had done harm and each would be reckoned in.
Ezekiel 5:10. The punishment will be characterised by such intensity of suffering that family ties will be ruthlessly disrupted. “The fathers shall eat the sons,” as had been predicted should come to pass if they would not hearken to the Lord, but walked contrary to Him (Leviticus 26:29), “and the sons shall eat their fathers,” and all who survive “will I scatter into all the winds.”
Ezekiel 5:11. From this verse to the end of the chapter the punishment is more fully announced as from the Lord. The emphatic “therefore” (Heb.), which is prefixed to several of the declarations of this chapter, is here followed by the solemn oath, “As I live, saith the Lord God.” I, the Living One, shall die if these judgments are not executed. This oath is sustained by His self-existence—that which is the basis of all truth and reality, and a guarantee that there will be no revocation, no reversion: “He can swear by no greater.” “Surely because thou hast defiled my sanctuary.” They had entered into the place where His honour tabernacled, and taken a course there which proved how completely they had cast off His supremacy. They had not been restrained by any reverence or attachment. They had occupied it “with all thy detestable things and with all thine abominations”—wickedness of all kinds had been practised, and the way in which it was carried on is shown in chap. 8. We shall mistake this accusation if we confine its reference solely to the employment of the Temple for idolatrous proceedings. The Temple was the ideal heart of the theocracy. All spiritual energy proceeded from it; all objects of that energy reacted on it. So that if the people indulged in evil elsewhere, and came impenitent into the courts of the Lord’s house, they defiled the sanctuary, and their ears were made to tingle with the indignant remonstrance of Isaiah, “Who hath required this at your hands to tread my courts?” or with that of Ezekiel afterwards, “Should I be inquired of at all by them?” The glory due unto the name of the Lord had been polluted, and He will take steps to clear it. “I will also diminish,” our English version supplies thee. In comparing Deuteronomy 4:2, where this same Hebrew word is employed, “Ye shall not add to this word which I command you and ye shall not diminish from it,” the expression seems sufficient without adding thee. As the Israelites had taken away from the rights of God to His sanctuary, so He will diminish the benefits He had hitherto bestowed on them.
Ezekiel 5:12. An explanation is now given of the symbolical actions prescribed in Ezekiel 5:2. From this it is made clear that the fire there is to represent disease and starvation as among the destructive agencies affecting the sinful people.
Ezekiel 5:13. The menaced penalties being carried out, “mine anger shall be accomplished;” its full force will be brought to act so as to inflict every item of the penalties due to such transgressors. “And I will cause my fury to rest upon them;” it will find its goal in those who suffer from it, and there come to an end: it will have finished “His strange work.” “And I will be comforted.” We might translate, in accordance with another signification of the Hebrew, I repent myself. It is preferable to retain the translation of our version, as better expressing the idea that the old has ended and that the ground for a new procedure will be laid. (Vide Isaiah 10:24-27, in reference to Assyria.) This betokens one mode of the divine life. It is a highly figurative, and, of course, imperfect token; but, so far as we can explain, it shows that the Lord receives satisfaction in vengeance accomplished, since the violators of His honour are fairly punished and His rights are fully vindicated. A God who could not assert and maintain, at any cost, His own just and perfect authority, would be only an idol-god. Nor is it Himself alone whom the finished punishment concerns. “They,” the next verse is proof that it is other nations who “shall know that I the Lord have spoken in my zeal,” and not the prophet in over-eagerness or factiousness. The words are again repeated in Ezekiel 5:15; Ezekiel 5:17, and show that Ezekiel was speaking by direction of the living God of Israel, who would not allow His righteous laws to be trampled under men’s feet. History has become a guarantee for the divine origin of the threatenings.
Ezekiel 5:14 is a further statement of the penalty which was to be executed on the devoted city. “Waste and a reproach,” a reproach “among the nations that are round about,” and waste “in the sight of all that pass by.”
Ezekiel 5:15. “So it”—Jerusalem—“shall be a reproach,” &c. Inferences of several kinds will be drawn from the sad and ruined state of the punished people, and lessons of moral worth become distincter.
Ezekiel 5:16. According to the ground-text, Deuteronomy 32:23, “the evil arrows” here are those “of famine,” which shall be bitter and destructive and accumulative in its horrors: “I will increase the famine;” hunger upon hunger will come “upon you.”
Ezekiel 5:17. Another element of terror is mentioned for the first time, “evil beasts.” We may suppose that they are to be taken literally; but it is difficult to see how they could be a noticeable ingredient in the cup of misery which was to be drank by a beleaguered city, and Hengstenberg is probably right in referring the phrase to the heathen, on the ground that the designation of brutalised men, who have no breath from God, as beasts is deeply rooted in the Scriptures. “And pestilence and blood”—some terrific diseases—“shall pass through thee.” A solemn appeal to the certainty of the accomplishment comes in, as already, on the ground of the Lord being the speaker in reality. Repetition of the same expression is a characteristic of Ezekiel’s style.
WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS REQUIRED (Ezekiel 5:5-17)
As each stage of a physical process manifests another condition of the materials which are under the action of forces, so each stage in national affairs expresses a changed aspect of the relations between the Creator and the creature, the great King and His subjects, the Holy and the unholy. If the punitive treatment of the Jews was painfully startling, the presentation of it, which the prophet is commissioned to make, is meant to unfold, to the existing and other generations, a fresh development of the thoughts and ways of God. These verses may be held to show that the sorest penalties will be a consequence of privileges set at naught. In them observe—
I. The advantages conferred.
1. A favourable position: “Set in the midst of the nations.” It is obvious that certain countries, certain cities, are distinguished above others by climate, materials for traffic, openings to surrounding people. In some such beneficial conditions the ancient Jerusalem was situated; but above them, and of greater importance still, was the fact that there was His sanctuary—the place where His honour dwelt. Both temporal and spiritual benefits come from God, and each advantage should be regarded as enforcing a higher obligation.
2. The personal interest of God. It is He who condescends to speak to them, to punish them Himself. He did not treat them on the same lines as He did the other tribes of men. No nation had God so nigh it as this people. They were the children of Abraham, His friend. He bare them and carried them all the days of old. Whosoever touched them touched the apple of His eye. Their offences were offences against Him—not against some vague “accusation” of their own consciences. It is well to come to that position from which we see that God is with us in a wider sense than Israel surmised, that in Christ He reconciles the world unto Himself, that we stand amid the light of that life which is given to “whosoever will.”
3. Opportunity for influencing others. To fancy that this Jewish people was chosen simply to be the worshippers of the only true God is to suppose that which would not accord with other manifestations in His realm. His sun exhales vapour from water, the vapour is turned into showers, the showers fall upon the earth and make it bring forth and bud. So is it that every person is to contribute to the good of others, and so His chosen nation was to be instrumental in making known His way and saving health among the people sitting in darkness. His purposes to bless that we may be blessings are not changed. He works to form vessels fit for His use, and one of the most potent influences, with souls which have been made alive to God through Jesus Christ, should be this—the Lord my God supplies me with grace, and I should live so as to promote His holy and good claims over men. Alas! so many do not realise their position as stewards of God, and many, like the Jews, cause His name to be blasphemed instead of honoured. Yet much has been given.
II. The unhallowed disposition cherished by the advantaged. That they who have known the true God should “change His judgments into wickedness and should not walk in His statutes,” evidences their disposition to be—
1. Marked with contempt for God. Their own judgments are preferred to His. And even where there might be a formal agreement with His revealed will, it is, on their part, no submission to Him, but a carrying out of their own desires. They act as if God were of less consideration than themselves. They will not have Him to reign over them. They feel at liberty to make that which He intended for good into a means for doing wickedly. Prayers will be repeated, public worship will be patronised, and still the heart will continue to cherish its selfish, worldly pursuits, as if God could be mocked and overcome.
2. More guilty than that of the heathen. The Jews gloated over the ignorance and low hopes of the uncovenanted peoples, and yet the latter had been more faithful to their streaks of light than the Jews to their dayspring. There is no monopoly by the Jewish people of this inconsistency. Not a few among Christians take pleasure in telling of the cruelties, falsehoods, lusts which are observed among the tribes and people who are not Christian, and turn such sad aspects into a means of setting off how much purer and better a state is their own. The comparison is often very unfairly made. And even if it were not—if the sins of heathendom were gross and numerous beyond those of Christendom—the rules of Christ are too often toned down and laid aside, both in the practice of Churches and the conduct of individuals. Their guilt in tampering with duty is far more offensive than that of the heathen can be. “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!”
III. The severe punishment which manifests the guiltiness of those who have received much. When favoured children go out of the ways of their Holy Father, they walk upon hard, thorny, desolate tracts, where they perish.
1. In those troubles they are treated by the Lord Himself. “Behold I, even I, am against thee.” Secondary agents will be employed, but in poverty or losses, diseases or hostile actions by other people, are to be recognised weapons wielded by the Lord against whom we have sinned. He does not abdicate His authority to things which cause pain and ruin, so that they do their will. We receive evil from His hand as well as good. And emphatically so if we have been living in open sins against Him. It is always a difficult matter to say what the sins are which bring about special stripes from the Lord; but there need be no difficulty in acknowledging that He “will execute judgments in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes,” and that those judgments need not be the same for the same sins. Dishonesties, untruths, intemperance, will produce misery sooner or later, but the misery which comes in consequence of such transgressions is very different in its actions upon the individual sinners and their families. God knows how to deal out in perfect wisdom the sufferings appropriate to the several cases, and the keenest pang of their suffering ought to be this, “My King, my Father, has become mine enemy, and fights against me.”
2. The punishment is intense. “I will do that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like. Neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity.” There will not be a grain of excessiveness in the punishment: it will be balanced to a hair’s weight by the amount of sin. The perfect Judge alone can so accurately poise the scales; but none who know the right will fail to see that, however unparalleled the severity may seem, it is altogether proportioned to the offences, and will exhibit the magnitude of the guilt incurred.
3. The lesson is intended to be widely taught. The Lord will not do “His strange work” in secret. Other souls must be made to hear and fear, and His judgments shall be shown to “the nations round about in the sight of all that pass by.” They will be differently affected by the lesson. Some will utter reproaches, others will frame taunts, and others will be instructed; but in some sort of dim form those proceedings against sin will make their principle enter into the thoughts of men, and contribute to the shaping of that unwritten law, with its penalty for wrong-doing, which has become established among nations who have lived in different spheres of growth. Where do we not find the maxim, that the heavier the punishment, the greater the guilt?
IV. The continued maintenance of the justice of God’s rule. “I the Lord have spoken it”—however unlike it may appear that He should punish so, however awful the sufferings inflicted may be. “The divine righteousness remains always equally energetic.”—Heng. Ezekiel is a medium for conveying the denunciations, but below those denunciations it is to be believed that righteousness and truth stand. They will not be moved by the assaults of men, let men beat against them as they will. And the prophet is a pattern from whom all preachers and teachers may learn to let the thoughts of God so enter into them, that when they do tell, as tell they must if they will be faithful servants, of the “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth” which shall be endured by those who make light of the Son of God, they should do it, not with extravagance or with mitigation, but with the strictest adherence to the manifestation made of the terror of the Lord. The gospel enters into no terms with those who forsake the Lord; it insists on repentance or destruction. If He is “not willing that any should perish,” He would sooner see them perishing than that they should continue persistently to defile His holy presence. In Churches and out of them the solemn asseveration holds sway, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?”
GOD’S COMFORT IN PUNISHMENT ACHIEVED
“I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted” (Ezekiel 5:13)
There are conventional ideas about God, just as there are about what is proper procedure in society. Conventionalisms cannot hold their ground in the latter when a strong, clear impulse from the realities of life breaks upon them; and, in the former, superficial conceptions regarding divine procedure will be tested and remodelled when men, who see visions of God, set forth their impressions of Him “who ruleth by His power for ever.” Their utterances may sound as if bordering on what is harsh and untenable, or as if altogether too familiar; but they will lay open aspects of the Almighty which, from one cause or other, have been dimmed and disturbed. Thus it might happen that deep convictions of the pity of the Lord for suffering, and His patience with wrong-doers, would foster a mode of speaking of His dealings with people whom He had favoured, as if He could be nothing but soft and soothing and pleading, as if in His nature there were no materials for an unflinching resolution to see right done, even though the punishment of the wrong-doers was unexampled. Then a holy man will exclaim, in the word of the Lord, “I will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh;” or, “Ah! I will ease me of mine adversaries.” Lax notions are shaken off, and we learn to think that “our God is a consuming fire,” who is comforted when His fury has found a resting-place. Making allowance for the somewhat figurative turn of these words, we can perceive in them—
I. All punishments are measured. He that maketh the stormy wind to fulfil His word, that says to the sea, “Hitherto thou shalt come and no further,” He says to every consequence of sin, “Thou shalt not put a hair’s weight of distress more than I appoint.” Men may talk of the germs of disease which settle upon a vine as if they will increase so as to destroy it, unless checked by human appliances; politicians may speak of armies invading a country as if they would ravage it till it was made waste, unless human diplomacy intervene. It is not often considered that behind every disease and every army the Divine Will means to control each, and exactly fix what it shall do. We are under a Lawgiver whose prerogative can never be contravened, and who claims to define every event by His hidden or revealed decree. Every sufferer may believe that he bears just what and just as is suitable to perfect righteousness and wisdom.
II. Right is vindicated. When the evil ways of men have taken them into woe then the Judge of the earth is satisfied, for they have received the due reward of their deeds. This means more than is often understood by the expression, “Sin is its own punishment.” If that were all the punishment, then every prosperous tyrant, every unconfessing murderer, every successful mercantile swindler, every unabashed liar would have endured all possible suffering. The sin, the very thing which stands out as the worst of evils to a holy mind, being regarded as an advantageous proceeding by the unholy, could hardly be punished in the actor, since he delights in it or is unimpressed by its vileness. Thus viewed there would be little in sin to fear; it could be made a subject for despisal; and the moral order would be abandoned. It is not, however. God’s rule is not so feeble and uncertain in its operation as to let it be. “He sitteth on the throne judging right,” and He executes punishments which prove that there are retributions attached to the committal of sin entirely independent of the thoughts of sinners about their conduct. These retributions will find out their appropriate objects, as a resting-place is found, and will remain till the just award has been measured off. It is an awful fact for those who have sinned and have not repented. To neglect its bearing, to refuse to face its reality may be common, but the sentence against evil will not be annulled. Let those who reject Christ Jesus realise the solemn contents of the words, “He that believeth not, the wrath of God abideth on him”—His fury rests upon them. Then, when bitter wrong has been righted, when vengeance has placed its marks upon the rebellious, when the hideous past has been swept over by an obliterating storm of justice, then the Holy One sees that right has proved its power to crush wrong and maintain its supremacy, and He is comforted.
III. The ground is cleared for a new movement. The Lord is not comforted merely because He sees the flaunting edifices of wrong utterly in ruins. Withered, scattered leaves form materials for the growth of a coming spring; the refuse of fallen buildings becomes a location in which plants and insects make a home, and the desolation of a country or the depression of a people gives an opening through which stirring influences may enter. Gibbon’s statement in “The Decline and Fall”—that when “the fierce giants of the North broke in” upon an enervated people who were but “a race of pigmies,” they “mended the puny brood”—asserts this principle. By Ezekiel’s time the Israelites had become boasters, sensual, hypocrites; the covenant God made with their fathers had been shivered into fragments; what good could accrue from the continuance of such a state of things? Abolish it or suspend it, and a way will be opened for operating in new methods of righteousness, wisdom, and grace. That opening is a comfort to the Lord. He will enter upon a course from which higher and better results will be attained. The old has vanished, the new will arrive. So the Lord Jesus refers to Jerusalem and says, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate”—that is the close of the bad past—and He goes on to add, “Ye shall not see Me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is the pledge of better movements.
1. “The Lord reigneth, let the people tremble.” He “will execute judgment upon all, and convince all that are ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed.”
2. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.” However long His will may be disobeyed, yet a King shall reign in righteousness. “Also unto Thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy, for Thou renderest to every man according to his work.” Judgment and mercy shall complete the purposes of Him who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26