posted on Feb, 23 2018 @ 05:06 PM
Ezekiel is the prophet of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
Two restrictions were imposed upon him at the beginning of his mission, either by God’s command or by his direct power.
He was not allowed to go beyond the confines of his house.
And there would be times when he was not allowed to speak.
As a result of these restrictions, the elders of the people come to visit him in groups, waiting hopefully for the possibility that his silence might
be broken and he might have a message for them.
“Then came certain of the elders of Israel to me, and sat before me” (ch14 v1).
Evidently they have come to “inquire of the Lord”, but this becomes the occasion of a fresh warning.
The problem is that these men, like most of the “house of Israel” at this time, have two strings to their bows, if not more. They have taken out
re-insurance policies. They are hedging their bets.
In short, when they are not waiting upon the prophet of the Lord, they are waiting upon the altars of other gods.
In the Lord’s eyes, they have already separated themselves from him.
Therefore the Lord loses patience and refuses to deal with them.
“Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts and set the stumbling-block of their iniquities before their faces; should I let
myself be inquired of them?”
He now declares that from this time onwards, when such a man come to his prophet with idols in his heart, “I will answer him myself”.
That is, instead of answering indirectly, through the voice of the prophet, he will answer directly, through acts of judgement.
He goes on to use stronger language.
When such a man comes to make inquiry, the Lord will “set my face against that man, will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst
of my people”.
If any prophet claims to answer his inquiry, then the prophet himself comes under condemnation.
“If the prophet be deceived and speak a word… I will stretch out my hand against him”.
For the prophet who gives a reply under those circumstances must, by definition, be answering “out of his own mind”, without hearing any word from
the Lord (though another way of putting it is that “I have deceived that prophet”).
Both parties in the deceitful transaction will be punished alike.
The object of his policy is to bring all this double-dealing to an end;
“That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, nor defile themselves any more with all their transgressions, but that they may be my
people and I may be their God”.
In other words, his long-term purpose is to bring them back to him, as a more faithful people.
In a further word from the Lord, he declares that his judgement on the land (under its current management) is final and irrevocable.
It is expressed as a general rule.
“When a land sins against me by acting faithlessly [as Israel has done]…
And I stretch out my hand against it [as he has stretched out his hand against Israel]…”
In those circumstances, he will listen to no appeals even from the righteous few.
For example, if he “breaks its staff of bread and send famine upon it”, then even the prayers of the proverbially righteous men Noah, Daniel, and
Job, will deliver nobody but themselves. The prayers of these men will not deliver even their own children.
(In theory, given the account of Daniel ch1, Daniel should have been known to Ezekiel as one of his fellow-exiles. However, Ezekiel is evidently
treating him as another man of legendary status).
Exactly the same point is made “if I call wild beasts to pass through the land and they ravage it”.
Exactly the same point is made “if I bring a sword upon that land”.
Exactly the same point is made “if I send a pestilence upon that land”.
In summary, this applies to all four major forms of judgement; the sword, famine, evil beasts, and pestilence.
The Lord will do nothing to deliver them, though some of them, perhaps, may be able to struggle out without his help; “If there should be left in it
any survivors to lead out sons and daughters…”
In that case, the current exiles will “see their ways and their doings”; they will see for themselves all the evils which were demonstrated to
Ezekiel in his vision of Jerusalem.
Then they will be “consoled for [or “reconciled with”] all the evil that I have brought”, because “You shall know that I have not done
without cause all that I have done in it”.
They will understand that it was a necessary judgement.
The next chapter (ch15) continues the judgement theme, with a version of the “vineyard” parable of Isaiah ch5.
It begins with a rhetorical question; “How does the wood of the vine surpass any wood which is among the trees of the forest?”
This is what my Latin teacher used to call “a question expecting the answer ‘No’”.
That is how the Lord answers his own question. He points out that the wood of the vine has no strength. It cannot be used, for example, as a peg to
hang cooking-vessels. If it is burned on the fire, as an inferior fuel, it is even more useless once it has been consumed.
If we object that the vine is valued for the sake of the fruit, the obvious response will be that even this value evaporates if no fruit is being
produced. That was the message in Isaiah.
The Lord then draws the moral of the allegory. The inhabitants of Jerusalem have become like a useless vine, because they have acted faithlessly. In
effect, they produce no fruit (or nothing better than the “sour grapes” described by Isaiah). Just as an unwanted vine is given to the fire, so
the Lord will “set my face against Jerusalem” and deliver up the city to destruction.
“And you will know that I am the Lord”.