“Moreover I will make thee waste, and a reproach among the nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by.” — Ezekiel 5:14
Recently I was chatting with a new acquaintance about our shared interest in cooking. Since she was familiar with the native dishes of several Asian cultures, I inquired about her nationality and asked where she had gained her culinary expertise. What I learned was both sad and inspirational.
She told me she was born in Cambodia in the late 1960s. Though her family was well off and owned a great deal of property, all of it was swept away when the Khmer Rouge came into power in 1975. That regime’s reign of terror from 1975-1979 ultimately caused the death of more than two million Cambodians. The beautiful and fertile region where my acquaintance lived was laid waste, and whole families died from execution, starvation, disease, and overwork. Her family escaped from the Khmer Rouge when she was ten years old, but she had to live in refugee camps over the border in Thailand until she was nineteen. At last, she and a few other family members were able to immigrate to the United States, where she worked for a time in several Asian restaurants. That’s where she developed her talents as a superb cook! Ultimately, she married and was able to build a whole new life for herself and her family in what she views with gratitude as the “beautiful land of opportunity.”
Listening to her tell of the destruction caused by the Khmer Rouge in her homeland made me think of the terrible devastation Ezekiel prophesied of in today’s text that was soon to occur in his native land.
People around the world view what happened in Cambodia with horror, and no doubt that was how Ezekiel felt as he relayed God’s message about the coming destruction of his homeland. The Israelites were a privileged people, but privilege involves responsibility and accountability. God’s intention was for Israel to be a witness and testimony to the heathen nations around them. Instead, the nation had gone even further into idolatrous practices than their evil neighbors.
Because of their great sin, God decreed judgment. If the people had lived in obedience to the covenant God had established with them, He would have taught the surrounding nations through the blessings bestowed upon Israel. Because God’s chosen people had broken their covenant with Him, He would teach the surrounding nations through the judgment that would come upon Israel.
God’s purposes will always be fulfilled. What is His purpose for you? Are you living in obedience to His Word? The judgment recorded in today’s text can be a warning and a reminder to us to be careful to yield to His plan and strive to please and honor Him in every aspect of our lives.
In this portion of Ezekiel 5, verses 5-11 explain the meaning of Ezekiel’s action sermon which began in chapter 4. Verses 12-17 tell the nature of God’s anger and coming judgment.
In verses 5-11, God told Ezekiel why such severe judgment would come upon Jerusalem, and reinforced its certainty. Jerusalem was His city, and He had placed it in the middle of the nations, central to routes between the ancient kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia. More importantly, Israel had always been at the center of God’s plan and work in the world. However, Jerusalem (identified as “she” in verse 6), had rejected God and become even more rebellious than its pagan neighbors. God’s chosen people had rejected Him in both worship and governance, preferring their neighbors’ gods and practices, but without assuming any of those nations’ civil or moral restraints. Neighboring countries had seen Israel’s rejection of God, and they were soon to witness Jerusalem’s punishment.
The phrase “I am against thee” appears thirteen times in Ezekiel, and in verse 8, it was a warning that God’s coming judgment would exceed what had ever been seen before. God had warned in Deuteronomy 28:53-57 that when the people continued in flagrant disobedience to Him, the cannibalism mentioned in verse 10 would be the result. Verse 11 relates that because the people had defiled God’s sanctuary by bringing pagan worship into God’s holy place, He would “diminish” them.
Verses 12-17 explain how this diminishing would occur: it would take place in the proportion of thirds suggested by Ezekiel’s prophetic actions with his hair (see Ezekiel 5:2). One third of the city’s population would die from fatal diseases and famine, one third would be killed by the sword, and one third would be scattered. Since Israel had followed the pagans in child sacrifice, they would consume their own children.
God’s righteous wrath is expressed in verse 13 by the repeated personal possessive “my” in the phrases “mine anger,” “my fury,” and “my zeal.” The phrase “shall know” is repeated fifty-nine times in the Book of Ezekiel — “ye” shall know, “they” shall know, and “the heathen” shall know. God’s people had defamed His holiness in diverse ways, and His righteous nature required punishment to the same level. The judgment against Israel and Israel’s subsequent restoration would be a testimony to God’s righteousness. The repetition of “I the Lord have spoken it” in verses 13, 15, and 17 emphasized God’s irrevocable commitment to this judgment.
II. The condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem
A. The prediction of Jerusalem’s overthrow
1. The symbolic actions against Jerusalem
b. The symbols explained (5:5-17)
(1) The cause of judgment (5:5-7)
(2) The surety of judgment (5:8-11)
(3) The description of judgment (5:12-17)
God’s purposes will always be fulfilled. When God’s judgment came upon Israel, it would fulfill God’s purpose of teaching His righteousness to the surrounding nations.