“And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” — Ezekiel 6:7
My father was a mechanic and his father was a carpenter, so as I was growing up, there nearly always was a project happening around our house that involved building or repairing. Often I was right there trying to “help,” though I certainly had a lot to learn. Unfortunately, I ended up learning some of those lessons the hard way because I took the instructions lightly or even totally ignored them.
One such incident that stands out in my mind was when my father showed me how to hold a nail to avoid hitting my thumb with the hammer. He corrected my failure to follow his instruction a few times, but ultimately it took me hitting my thumb with considerable force — and the resulting pain and tears — before I learned that lesson.
Another simple task learned the hard way was the importance of tightening bolts on a vehicle engine cautiously. My father had warned me repeatedly not to tighten certain ones too much or they would break off. However, I thought a little tighter would always be better, so I ignored his instruction. The result was just as he predicted. That time, I also learned by experience that the process of drilling, tapping, and removing a broken bolt should be approached with great care.
My father was quick to comfort me when I hit my thumb with the hammer, and he patiently helped me remove broken bolts. However, the look on his face told me he wished I had just listened and learned the easy way!
Today’s text reminds us that if we will not listen and heed instruction from God, there will be consequences, and those consequences will not be pleasant. The Lord had given His chosen people instructions regarding how they were to live. When they rejected His commandments and turned to idolatry, He repeatedly warned them and urged them to repent. Tragically, Israel ignored the words of God’s messengers and continued in their own wicked and idolatrous ways.
Our focus verse records the result: Israel was about to suffer the disastrous consequences of disobedience. This entire chapter details how and why Israel would be punished. Because of their rebellious behavior, only a few people would escape the sword, famine, and pestilence that would devastate their land.
We too will experience disastrous results if we ignore God’s warnings and fail to repent. The results will be much more serious than a swollen thumb or difficulty in removing a few bolts. Continuing in sin will have eternal consequences! However, God’s mercy is still extended today. May we learn from the failure of Israel, and choose the easy way to learn rather than the hard way.
In this chapter, God pronounced judgment upon the high places throughout the land of Israel (verses 1-7). In verses 8-10, He promised that a remnant of the Jewish people would be spared and would truly reform. He also instructed Ezekiel to emphatically declare the desolation that would occur across the whole nation (verses 11-14).
“And the word of the Lord came unto me” in verse 1 indicated the start of a new prophecy that was received by Ezekiel sometime after his action-sermon of the previous chapters was completed. Ezekiel was to “set his face” (the face being representative of the whole), by turning in the direction of Israel and prophesying against those outside of Jerusalem.
The “mountains” and “high places” in verses 2 and 3 refer to the centers of idol worship. Heathen altars typically were erected higher than the ground around them, and were primarily built on mountains and hilltops. Josiah had destroyed these places of pagan idolatry thirty-six years earlier, but they had been rebuilt and were again in use. The phrase “I will bring a sword” in verse 3 identified Nebuchadnezzar’s coming army as God’s means of judgment against those who worshipped at such places. They would meet violent death there at the very locations where they had fled for security, and their bodies would be thrown down in front of the idols they had worshipped. The cities and dwellings of these worshippers would be destroyed along with all the labor of their hands.
In the midst of God’s warning of nationwide slaughter, Ezekiel was to remind the people of God’s grace. The word remnant in verse 8 literally means “a portion preserved.” The largest portion of those spared from Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction would be taken to Babylon as captives. God’s statement in verse 9 that He was “broken” meant that His patience was exhausted, while “whorish heart” referenced Israel’s spiritual adultery that sprang from a perverse inner spirit. Their desires (“eyes”) were still for sinful satisfaction, lusting after their false gods.
Ezekiel related that some individuals who would be scattered from Israel into exile would remember the holiness of God. According to verse 10, they would understand that God’s warnings in the Law and by the prophets had not been meaningless, and that sin had brought about their calamity. They would detest the sins they had committed and would be restored to God, fulfilling His corrective purpose in sending judgment.
Verses 11-14 summarize the rightness and severity of God’s judgment. Ezekiel’s actions in verse 11 demonstrated God’s grief and frustration. The phrase, “Thus will I accomplish my fury upon them” in verse 12 could be understood as, “This is how I will repair the damage they have done to my name.” Verse 13 is a summary of verses 6-7: in the place where the idolaters had prostrated themselves and offered sweet-smelling incense to idols, they themselves would become the offering. “Stretch out my hand” in verse 14 reinforced that the coming judgment was from God; Nebuchadnezzar was only His tool.
II. The condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem
A. The prediction of Jerusalem’s overthrow
2. The judgments upon the mountains (6:1-14)
a. The fate of the high places (6:1-7)
b. The sparing of a remnant (6:8-10)
c. The desolation of the land (6:11-14)
May God help us to pay careful attention to His instructions and to obey Him in every aspect of our lives.