Monday, November 20, 2017

Against Tyre (Ezekiel 26-28)

In geographical terms, Tyre was minute. In economic terms, she was highly significant. A substantial part of her strength lay in her seafaring ability. Her wealth stemmed from her extensive trading throughout the ancient world. Her people were famous for their business skills, which in turn led to her prosperity.

Tyre was an important seaport for the area which is now southern Lebanon (between Beirut to the north and Haifa to the south). The city had two harbors, one on an island just off the coast. Both her prowess and predicted downfall are described using marine allusions.

Tyre's relations with Israel had some economic factor. Hiram I supplied David with materials for building the palace at Jerusalem (2 Sa 5:11; 1 Ch 14:1). He also supplied Solomon with materials for the temple, Over a century later, king Ahad married Jezebel, a daughter of the king of Tyre (1 Ki 16:31). Through Jezebel the worship of the Tyrian god -- Baal Melqart -- was introduced into Israel.

Prior to the time of Ezekiel, Tyre had enjoyed a period of prosperity. However, Ezekiel, Jeremiah (25:22; 27:1-11) and Zechariah (9:2-7) all prophesied Tyre's suppression by the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Tyre (from 587 - 574 BC) was a hard campaign (Eze 29:18). The city eventually acknowledged Babylonian domination.

The oracles against Tyre (ch.26-28) and Egypt (ch.29-32) are instructive guides to the nature of national pride. Most people maintain some element of pride in and support for the advance of their nation. Tyre shows the arrogant confidence of self-made economic success. Her wealth was to her the sign that she was superior. She was prepared to support corrupt business practices in order to maintain that superiority. Israel's demise was simply seen as a business opportunity (Eze 26:2).

Tyre was condemned for these attitudes which are still prevalent in society today. We must not let the material success of our nation become its sole criterion of achievement.
  1. Self-satisfaction denounced (26:1-21). In the 12th year--586 BC (Eze 26:1), Tyre is rebuked for seeing the fall of Jerusalem as merely an event which will enhance her own prosperity (Eze 26:2). Therefore, God is against her and she will be pillaged and destroyed (26:3-6). Nebuchadnezzar would lay siege and bring about her downfall (Eze 26:7-14). The campaign was a difficult one (Eze 29:18); it lasted 13 years (587 - 574 BC). She will never be rebuilt (Eze 26:14). She will be dragged down to the pit and not return (26:19-21). Delight at the downfall of others is an emotion that Christians, and others, need to deal with as it is very pervasive, but not readily acknowledged.
  2. A lament (27:1-36). Tyre is likened to a marvelously-wrought merchant ship. She gloried and took great pride in her beauty (Eze 27:3-4; 16:15), being constructed from the finest materials (27:5-7). The suppliers of her timbers are her merchandise are her trading-partners. She employed many nations to build, operate and defend her (27:8-11). The extensive list of countries and products of highest quality and widest range gives a clear picture of why Tyre was famous for trading (27:12-25). Her links spread throughout most of the Mediterranean, N. Africa, Asia Minor and the Middle East. She employed foreigners in both industry and defense. Yet this ship of state was to be sunk (27:26-27); she will lose it all. Tyre would be overthrown. Her neighbors and trading partners will be appalled (27:28-36). She will be no more (Eze 27:36). Her demise not only affected her but also her local suppliers and services. Recession and economic collapse are some of the modern punishments a state may endure.
  3. Against arrogance (28:1-10). The achievement of economic wealth brought with it a sense of pride. Skill -> Wealth -> Pride (Eze 28:5). The king is depicted as believing he is as wise as a god (Eze 28:2). The prophecy warns that the penalty for such arrogance is both humiliating and final (28:7-10). It will be at the hands of Babylon, the most ruthless of nations (Eze 28:7). Since they practiced circumcision, her humiliation is to die the death of the uncircumcised (Eze 28:10). Examples of pride and subsequent fall are easy to find throughout history and today, even in the church.
  4. Expulsion from "paradise" (28:11-19). This lament depicts the rise and fall of the king, and hence of the city state itself. The imagery is strongly reminiscent of the Garden of Eden narrative. However there is no attempt to parallel the Genesis account closely. As is often the case in Ezekiel, metaphors are freely mixed, altered and adapted to suit the language of the prophecy. The poetic language serves to highlight the extent of the fall that Tyre experienced; it was like an expulsion from paradise. She who was perfect in beauty (Eze 28:12) dwelling in a paradise (Eze 28:13-14) and exhibiting blameless behavior (Eze 28:15a). But her widespread commercial activities led to oppression (Eze 28:16a). Her splendor made her conceited and corrupted her thinking (Eze 28:15b, 17).
  5. Prophecy against Sidon: "Know the Lord" (28:20-26). Sidon, Tyre's neighbor, would suffer due punishment as well. Notice the repeated phrase in a few verses (Eze 28:22, 23, 24, 26). 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 25-32)

Then the nations will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 25-32 begins a series of oracles against the foreign nations surrounding Israel. Egypt (ch. 29-32) and Tyre (ch. 26-28) receive the most attention, but this oracle concentrates on Judah's immediate neighbors: Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia (ch. 25). They had regarded the downfall of Judah with delight (Ammon) and derision (Moab); they had taken the opportunity to execute revenge on Judah (Edom and Philistia). Ezekiel's oracle warns that retribution will come.

It is easy to condemn these neighbors of Israel for their attitudes to her. Yet these attitudes can be ours too when trouble befalls one of our neighbors. Meanwhile God is the God of the whole earth and is ultimately in control of the fate of nations, as of individuals.
  1. Against aggression and revenge (25:1-17): Judah's four neighbors.
  2. Against economic arrogance (26:1-28:19): Tyre and Sidon.
  3. Against imperial delusions (29:1-32:32): Egypt.
  4. God and the nations: The message.
The heat of God's anger and the bitterness of his sarcasm targeted at Israel have been heard through Ezekiel (ch. 1-24). In a few months Ezekiel will embark upon a different and positive pastoral message and ministry (ch. 33-48). In the interim, to prepare for this transition, into the gap, is a portfolio of oracles spoken against various nations (ch. 25-32). They were delivered during or shortly after the siege of Jerusalem. So it is reasonably appropriate that they are inserted at this point in the book, in view of the historical context referred to in ch. 24 and 33. They fill the gap between the announcement of the beginning of the siege (Eze 24:2) and the news of its terrible end (Eze 33:21).

There are many similarities in Ezekiel 25-32 and comparable collections of oracles against the foreign nations in Amos 1-2, Isaiah 13-23 and Jeremiah 46-51. Such chapters are remarkably similar to the prophets attacking and condemning Israel. The same forms of speech are used, the same metaphors of courtroom justice, sometimes the same accusations of sins and crimes, the same ringing words of condemnation, the same declarations of coming doom and destruction, and above all, the same ultimate speaker: the Lord (Yahweh), the God of Israel. The prophets took the words and forms and language against Israel's enemies and turned them upon Israel itself--effectively saying that God was now treating Israel as his own enemy. Beginning with Amos (ch.1-2), the other prophets followed his example, using the oracle of woe upon the enemies of God, as their sharpest weapon against Israel itself.

Ammon. They gloated over the destruction of Israel and Judah. They will be plundered by the peoples of the east [nomadic tribes; Rabbah - capital of Ammon] (25:1-5). Because they rejoiced maliciously over Israel, they will be ruined (6-7).

Moab. Because they viewed Judah with contempt, they will be taken over by the people from the east (25:8-11).

Edom. Because they took revenge on Judah, they will suffer devastation at the hands of Israel (25:12-14).

Philistia. Because they took revenge on Judah, the Kerethites and the rest of the coastal peoples will be destroyed (25:15-17).

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ezekiel 1-24 (Sep to Nov 2017)

  1. Ezekiel 1 (9/3/17) An Encounter with God (Ezekiel 1).
  2. Ezekiel 2 (9/10/17) A Spirit Driven Calling (Ezekiel 2-3a). Driven by a High Calling.
  3. Ezekiel 3 (9/17/17) The Crux of the Call (Ezekiel 3b). A Job Description with Strange Instructions and Restrictions.
  4. Ezekiel 4-7 (9/24/17) A Horrifying Message (Ezekiel 4-7).
  5. Ezekiel 8-9 (10/1/17) God's Glory Departs (Ezekiel 8-9).
  6. Ezekiel 10-11 (10/8/17) God's glory departs II (Ezekiel 10-11).
  7. Ezekiel 12-15 (10/15/17) False Bible Teachers and Idolators (Ezekiel 12-15).
  8. Ezekiel 16 (10/22/17) You Trusted in Your Beauty (Ezekiel 16).
  9. Ezekiel 16-19 (10/29/17) Face the Facts, Listen to the Truth (Ezekiel 15-19).
  10. Ezekiel 20-23 (11/5/17) Face the Facts about Your (His)Story (Ezekiel 20-23).
  11. Ezekiel 23-24 (11/12/17) The Whore, the Pit and the Wife Who Dies (Ezekiel 23-24, 16).

Monday, November 13, 2017

Timeline of Israel and Judah (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel)

Ezekiel is easily the most bi_____ of all the prophets. He was struck d___ (Eze 3:26). He  a____ out his prophecies (ch. 4). He prophesied to the e_____. He insu____ and an_____ them with his ora____ and par_____ (ch. 16, 23). Ezekiel verses.


Isaiah prophesied around 740-700 BC, about 100 years before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, and 160 years before Cyrus, king of Media and Persia, conquered Jerusalem and Babylon in 539 BC.

Ezekiel prophesied around 590-570 BC. A contemporary of Daniel, Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC (eight years after Daniel).

  • 930 BC:   Israel divided into E______ (capital S______) and J____ (capital J_______).
  • 722 BC:   No______ Israel (E_____) defeated by Assyria (Isa 7:8-9; 2 Ki 18:9-12).
    • [740-400 BC: Isaiah's ministry]
  • 605 BC:   First siege. Those exiled include Daniel.
    • [626-586 BC: Jeremiah's ministry]
  • 597 BC:   Second siege. Those exiled include Ezekiel (Jer 52:28).
    • [590-570 BC: Ezekiel's ministry]
  • 593 BC:   Ezekiel's call; he saw visions of God (Eze 1:1-2). He was stuck dumb (3:26).
  • 592 BC:   Ezekiel transported to Jerusalem in a vision (Eze 8:1, 3).
  • 588 BC:   King of Babylon laid final siege to Jerusalem (Eze 24:1-2).
  • 586 BC:   Jerusalem/temple destroyed (Eze 33:21). Ezekiel's mouth opened (33:22).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ezekiel's Wife Dies (Ezekiel 24)

Losing your wife, the delight of your eyes

Explain Ezekiel's emotional state when he knows that God took his wife in her youth in order to be a sign to the people.

"Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure (the delight of your eyes). Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears.
 17 Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave…" (Ezekiel 24:16-17a, NLT).
Judgment (1-32): Oracles of doom
  • Jerusalem must fall (1-24)
  • Judah's enemies must fall (25-32)
Salvation (33-48): Oracles of good news
  • Jerusalem must be comforted. The gospel according to Ezekiel. The Messiah will come and save a remnant.
Face the Facts, Listen to the Truth (Ezekiel 15-19).
  • [Ezekiel 15 - A useless vineYou are useless.
  • [Ezekiel 16 - A nymphomaniac brideYou forgot God's grace and used your beauty for yourself/satisfaction (15).
  • [Ezekiel 17 - The eagle and the vineYou broke your oaths.
  • [Ezekiel 18 - Only the sinner needs to dieYou blame others and do not take responsibility.
  • [Ezekiel 19 - A lamentYour leadership sucks.
  • Ezeliel 20What you do. You make up your contrary to the facts and reality, to make yourself look good.
  • Ezeliel 21What God does. He sends Babylon as his sword of judgment.
  • Ezeliel 22Why God does it. They are corrupt beyond redemption.
  • Ezeliel 23Why it's fair. Their adulterous idolatrous hearts are insatiable and incurable.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Ezekiel 23-24

Both Ezekiel 16 and 23 are oracles dominated by the language of prostitution and lewdness, with ch. 23 intensifying the sex-related imagery of ch. 16. But the theme of both chapters highlight the passion of God in the face of Israel's unfaithfulness to his covenant, expressed in their insatiable lust after other lovers. Ezekiel simply reinforces in the mind of his audience that when God's judgment falls in 586 BC on Jerusalem, their beloved city, that judgment is as deserved as was the demise of her sister Samaria in 721 BC.
  1. The community of faith stands in constant danger of forgetting God's grace and expending its energies in the satisfaction of its own cravings. When this occurs the people of God, vulnerable to the seductive appeal of other allegiances, often sell their soulds in their misguided pursuits. But God considers devotion to any other person or object adultery, the violation of the church's marriage covenant with him.
  2. In God's eyes adultery is an abhorrent evil, not only because it perverts the sex act but especially because it violates the covenant bond of marriage. Apart from the marital covenantal commitment, all sexual activity is prostitution, and rather than offering lasting satisfaction, illicit intimacy yields contempt and disgust. The fate of Jerusalem serves as a warning for the corporate faith community as well as for individual members that marital infidelity is self-destructive, and brings upon one the wrath of God.
  3. Only by the grace of God is one able to shake the patterns of sinful behavior established in one's youth. Sin is deeply ingrained in the human race, and unless the community of faith and individuals within that community retain a vital relationship with their covenant Lord, the temptation to see one's soul to satisfy the lusts of the flesh poses an ever present danger. In the hour of crisis, those who abandon their Savior for other allegiances may find no security in their claims to covenant partnership with him. God's passion burns for his people, but if they trample underfoot his grace, the cup of his fury will be poured out on them. Accordingly, hope is to be found only in abandoning one's sinful ways and casting oneself on God's mercy.
The Boiling Cauldron (Ezekiel 24:1-14) [Jerusalem as a cooking pot]
  1. Preamble (1-3a).
  2. The popular saying (3b-5).
  3. The dispute (6-8).
  4. The counterthesis (9-13).
  5. Conclusion (14).

The implications of this oracle for the people of God of any age are sobering. There is no security in tradition or position in the kingdom of God if the claims of privilege are not matched by love for God and one's fellow human beings. Singing songs about the promises of God is no substitute for obedience to him. Indeed, the true kingdom is often found among those whom the spiritual elite have written off. The message of Ezekiel is that there is hope for the rejected, but for those who make empty claims of status before God the prospects of an encounter with him are frightening.

The End of an Era (Ezekiel 24:15-27) [Ezekiel's wife dies]

This is the last of the judgment oracles in the first part of Ezekiel (ch. 1-24).

  1. The disturbing human propensity to transform legitimate religious symbols into idolatrous images. Ideally the city and its temple symbolized God's presence among his people. But instead of providing a place where they could come humbly for an encounter with him, it had become a source of cultural pride. Instead of the people finding their security in relationship with God, his residence had become the focus of their affections and the (false) basis of their hopes. The tragic events of 586 BC serve as a warning for all who are tempted to make the same mistake.
  2. Nothing, not even the temple, is more sacred to God than a sanctified people. For > 300 years Solomon's temple had stood as a magnificent symbol of God's glory and holiness. This was his earthly residence, the place he had chosen for his name to dwell. Through its service and ritual his sanctifying grace was dispensed to all who sought him in spirit and in truth. But formality had replaced authentic faith. The symbol had displaced the reality as the center of people's affections. Although the temple was as dear to God as Ezekiel's wife was to the prophet, not even the sanctuary was immune to his wrath. Not until the people had been sactified through the work of God's Spirit (36:16-38) could they expect him to resume his residence in their midst.
  3. The message of God is proclaimed most powerfully when it is incarnate in the life of the messenger. While few will be asked to go to the lengths of this remarkable prophet, the implications of this oracle for those who are called to be agents of God are staggering. The cost of bearing in their bodies the message they proclaim is often high. In an earlier age God had tested Abraham by demanding of his his son Isaac, but that story had a happy ending (Gen. 22). It will not always be that way. The call to divine service cost Ezekiel his wife, the delight of his eyes. Although the text is silent on the struggle that must have raged in the prophet's soul over God's absurd demand, this was no less a test of faith for him than the sacrifice of Isaac had been for the patriarch. He could have rebelled against this intrusion into his personal affairs, but he did not waver. In his reaction to his wife's death, he was a sign for his people. But in his response to the hand of God, he is a model for all who follow in his professional train.
The bitter experiences of life are not always signs of God's indignation toward the individual. Upon encountering a blind man, Jesus' disciples asked, "Who sinned..." to which Jesus replied, "Neither..." (Jn 9:1-4). Although it did not lessen Ezekiel's personal pain in walking through the valley of deepest darkness, the knowledge that God was not angry with him could offer some comfort. The prophet cold also take hope in knowing that his role as suffering servant would ultimately lead to the renewed knowledge of God among his people.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

History with an Attitude (Ezekiel 20; 20-24)

Rewriting Sacred History (Ezekiel 20) [The pattern of history; Retelling history; History with an attitude; Know your history; History that screams, "You're a sinner"; Don't assume blessing; Don't assume security; The delusion of the exiles; Don't delude yourself]
  1. The call for Israel's arraignment (1-4).
  2. The indictment of Israel: The nations history of rebellion (5-31).
    1. Israel's rebellion in the distant past (5-26).
      • Phase I: Rebellion in Egypt (5-9).
      • Phase II: Rebellion in the desert (10-17).
      • Phase III: Rebellion in the desert: the second generation (18-26).
    2. Israel's rebellion in the recent past (27-31).
      • Phase IV: Rebellion in the land (27-29).
      • Phase V: Rebellion in exile (30-31).
  3. The future transformation of Israel (32-44).
      • Phase VI: Israel in the desert of the peoples (32-38).
    1. The transformation of Israel (39-40a).
    2. God's acceptance of Israel (40b-42).
    3. Israel's response to God's action (42-44).
The Avenging Sword of God (Ezekiel 21; 20:45-21:32) [Babylon as God's Sword of Judgment]
  1. The riddle of the sword (20:45-49; 21:1-7).
  2. The song of the sword (8-17).
  3. The agent of the sword (18-27).
  4. The taunt of the sword (28-32).
What is the theological significance in the quartet of oracles devoted to the sword of God?
  1. God becomes the enemy of those who claim to be his people but refuse to accept the responsibilities accompanying that privilege. The sword in Ezekiel 21 functions as a frightening instrument of providential fury unleashed against his own people -- the benefactors of his covenant. The notion or idea or utterance is divine wrath is reprehensible to many, that it should be directed at his own people in intolerable. But God's application of principle is not affected by human sentimentality. If "his people" spurn his grace, they cannot expect to be spared the fate of the wicked.
  2. The Lord is faithful to his word. This applies not only to his promises of presence and well-being, but also to his warnings of judgment for apostasy and infidelity (Lev 26; Deut 28). Parroting covenant promises is no substitute for obedience and offers no immunity from divine wrath. In the end the sword fell on the nation, precisely as Moses and Ezekiel had forewarned. Contra Ezekiel's contemporaries, this did not signify divine betrayal of covenant promises, but the rigorous fulfillment of its fine print.
  3. God can achieve his divine agenda through those who do not worship him. The achievement of the divine agenda is not bound by human definitions of propriety. In these oracles God's will was revealed through pagan divination and executed through pagan instruments. However, the end does not justify the means, nor does the commission offer immunity from divine scrutiny to the agent. Those charged with fulfilling God's commission must still account to him how they executed the charge.
Woe to the Bloody City (Ezekiel 22) [Judgment on Jerusalem's Sins]
  1. The indictment of Jerusalem - the bloody city (1-16).
    1. The call for Jerusalem's arraignment (1-2).
    2. The summons to Jerusalem (3).
    3. The announcement of the charges (4-5).
    4. The presentation of the evidence (6-12).
    5. The announcement of the sentence (13-16).
      1. A society that thrives on violence not only self-destructs but will also have to contend with God.
      2. Community leaders bear special responsibility for the maintenance of justice and the welfare of its citizenry.
      3. Knowledge of the will of God is no substitute for obedience to that will.
      4. Although humans may renege on their covenant commitments, God will not.
  2. The judgment of Jerusalem: In the smelter of God's wrath (17-22).
    • The nation may consider itself precious metal in God's sight, but this is a delusion. For the people to become what God wants them to be, they must be subjected again to the refiner's fire. This time, however, it is the fire of divine wrath, which is terrifying as painted in this oracle. Like the gardener who cuts off fruitless branches and casts it into the fire (Jn 15:1-11), it serves as a warning for all who claim security in divine election but refuse int heir lives to reflect the glory of the divine Elector. God's passion for a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special treasure, has not diminished (1 Pet 2:9).
  3. The rationale for the judgment of Jerusalem: The unmanned breach (23-31).
    1. The thesis statement (23-24).
    2. The crimes of Israel's leaders (25-29).
    3. God's response to the crimes of Israel's leaders (30-31).
      1. The call to leadership is primarily a call to responsibility, not privilege.But power has the baneful (deleterious, detrimental, harmful) tendency to transform noble lions and majestic wolves into cannibalistic beasts. The people of God are not immune from the temptation to exploit positions of power for personal advantage and thereby threaten the vitality of the community. Those who pervert "Thy kingdom come" to "My kingdom come" invite the wrath of God.
      2. Whatever responsibilities other leaders have, those called into divine service are charged with maintaining the sanctity of God. This is accomplished by the scrupulous personal observance of sacred-profane distinctions and the indoctrination of the people of God with the same sensitivity. The absence of such distinctions leads to theological and moral anarchy and, even more seriously, the desecration of the reputation of God.
      3. The survival of the church depends on the positive response of leaders to the call of God to stand in the breach. This call is not fulfilled by professional self-gratification or plastering decayed walls with reassuring pronouncements of peace. The breach is defended and the wrath of God averted with compelling appeals for repentance from sin and a new commitment to God.
O Oholah! O Oholibah! (Ezekiel 23) [Two adulterous sisters]
  • The opening formula (1).
  1. The introduction of the accused (2-4).
  2. The historical background of the case (5-35).
  3. The case against Oholah and Oholibah (36-49a).
  • The concluding formula (49b).
The Boiling Cauldron (Ezekiel 24:1-14) [Jerusalem as a cooking pot]
  1. Preamble (1-3a).
  2. The popular saying (3b-5).
  3. The dispute (6-8).
  4. The counterthesis (9-13).
  5. Conclusion (14).
The End of an Era (Ezekiel 24:15-27) [Ezekiel's wife dies]