Scripture Text – Ezekiel 18-21
Responsibility is one of the major themes of these four chapters. By dealing with the subject of personal and national responsibility, Ezekiel was able to answer the frequent complaints of the people that the Lord was treating them unfairly. Responsibility and accountability are needed themes in our own day. Irresponsibility is rampant and very few people are willing to take the blame for wrongs committed or mistakes made.
National Responsibility – Continued
Please read Ezekiel 20:1-44 for the background to this section.
Israel in the wilderness (Ezekiel 20:13–826). After leaving Sinai, the Jews marched to Kadesh Barnea where the Lord told them to enter Canaan and claim their promised inheritance (Numbers 13–14). He had already searched out the land, but the people insisted on sending in a representative from each of the twelve tribes to scout out the land. They searched the land for forty days, and all of the men agreed that the land was exactly as God described it; but ten of the spies said that God wasn’t great enough to enable Israel to conquer it! This led to God’s judgment that the nation would wander in the wilderness for forty years and that everyone twenty years old and older would die during that time (see again Numbers 14). You would have thought that the Jews had learned their lesson by now, but even during the wilderness wandering, they rebelled against God and He had to punish them. Once again, it was for the glory of His name that He didn’t destroy them and start a new nation with Moses as the father. At the end of the forty years, Moses prepared the new generation to enter the land by reviewing the law and the covenants, as recorded in Deuteronomy.
Israel in the Promised Land (Ezekiel 20:27–30). Joshua brought the people into Canaan and led them in the defeat of the enemy and the claiming of the land. Before he died, he directed the assigning of the land to the various tribes, and encouraged them to claim their land. Moses had commanded the people to wipe out the godless religion of the inhabitants of the land (Exodus 34:11–17; Deuteronomy 7), and warned them that if they failed to obey, their children would become idolaters and lose the Promised Land. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. The people lusted after the gods of the land and participated in the filthy rites of heathen worship in the high places (see Deuteronomy 18:9–14; Leviticus 18:26–30).
Instead of winning the Canaanites to faith in the true and living God, the Jewish people began to live like their enemies and worship their gods! They even offered their children as sacrifices to the pagan gods, something that was expressly forbidden in the Law of Moses (2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10). Children are a gift from God, and His precious gifts must not be used as heathen sacrifices!
Israel in exile in Babylon (Ezekiel 20:31–32). This is the practical application of the message to the people of Ezekiel’s generation: they were living just like their fathers! “Even to this day” they were sinning against the Lord! Ignoring their privilege of being God’s special people (Numbers 23:9), their fathers wanted to be like the pagan nations in their worship and in their leadership (1 Samuel 8:5); and God let them have their way and then punished them. “When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do” was the philosophy of the exiles, but they had been idolaters long before they went into exile.
Israel’s future kingdom (Ezekiel 20:33–44). Remember, this all had to do with the elders wanting to inquire of God and Ezekiel had made it very clear to them why they weren’t qualified to inquire of God, but he didn’t end his message there. God in His grace gave him a message of hope for the people, though they certainly didn’t deserve it. Ezekiel described a future “exodus” of the Jewish people from the nations of the world, a return to their own land which God swore to give them. He even used the same descriptive phrase Moses used when he spoke about the Exodus—“a mighty hand . . . an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2). The “I will” statements of the Lord reveal both His mercy and His power.
“I will bring you out” implies much more than the release of the exiles from Babylon. It speaks of a future regathering of Israel from the nations of the world to which they have been scattered (Deuteronomy 30:1–8). God promises to bring them out, but He also says He will “bring you into the wilderness” where He will deal with their sins and cleanse them of their rebellion (Ezekiel 36:24–25; Hosea 2:14–15). His next promise is “I will bring you into the bond of the covenant,” teaching that Israel will be restored to her covenant relationship to the Lord and will experience the blessings of the New Covenant (Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26–27). “I will purge the rebels” and they will not be allowed to enter the land of Israel and enjoy the blessings of the messianic kingdom.
To Be Continued