“And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” — Ezekiel 9:4
Even in the midst of great calamity, God sees those who want to follow Him, and He is well able to work on their behalf. During World War II, Jim Williams was one who experienced God’s preservation. Although Jim had not been raised to know about salvation, while in his early twenties he attended a church service and responded to the truth he heard. God saved his soul and changed his life.
Later, he was inducted into the United States Army and assigned to the Medical Corps of the Third Division. On November 8, 1942, his unit went to Casablanca, Morocco. He said, “Shortly after midnight, we landed between two enemy forts and then descended from our troopship on rope ladders into landing crafts. Powerful shore lights from both forts were turned on us and soon the night was ablaze with tracer bullets, artillery shells, and bombs. I remember the Lord assuring me that He would see me through and I would return home again.
“In the next eighteen months we made amphibious landings in Italy. When you see death all around you, it is a great feeling to know the Lord is with you. I can’t tell you the many times my life was spared during those eventful days. In 110 days in Anzio, Italy, we were bombed 288 times and under continual artillery fire. Land mines were everywhere. One evening, while we were going to pick up some wounded men on the battlefield, a large artillery shell burst close to our ambulance. A piece of the shell came through my helmet, entered my neck, and almost severed the main nerve. I was in a hospital for a while and then back to the front.”
Eventually it was time for Jim to return to the United States. He said, “I will never forget when our ship came into Newport News, Virginia. It was nighttime and when we came in sight of the blaze of lights on shore, what a shout went up! It was a hospital ship and many were seriously wounded, but we were happy to be home again.” Day by day, God had spared his life, and Jim ultimately arrived safely home.
In our text today, God gave Ezekiel a vision of a man with a writer’s inkhorn, and this man was instructed to put a mark on those who were righteous. This identification was to preserve them from the coming destruction.
While God often intervenes and preserves a person in times of danger, even more importantly, He offers spiritual protection. He has promised eternal life for those who call upon Him for salvation and then continue to trust and obey Him. We want to be among those who, like the men referenced in our focus verse, “sigh and that cry” because of the evil abounding in the world. At the same time, we can keep our eyes on God and believe that one day, He will deliver us from all the problems on this earth and take us to Heaven.
In chapter 9, Ezekiel’s vision that began in chapter 8 continued, and he was shown that the abominations previously described would be judged and the idolaters killed. In response to God’s cry, six heavenly beings appeared in his vision, each carrying a weapon designed for destruction. They entered by the north gate, indicating the direction from which God’s judgment at the hands of the Babylonian army would come. They reported for duty at the brazen altar — the place where fire symbolized God’s holiness and the blood sacrifice portrayed His grace — indicating the coming destruction would propitiate (or placate) God’s wrath.
Ezekiel observed that the Shekinah glory of God had left its place in the Holy of Holies (the “cherub” of verse 3 representing the Ark of the Covenant as a whole) and was at the threshold of the Temple. There, God commanded the man with the inkhorn to place a mark of protection on those who mourned over the abominations taking place. This indicated that in the slaughter to come, God’s mercy would spare the righteous. In verse 4, the identification of the city of Jerusalem as the scene of judgment addressed the prevailing belief that God would never judge or allow destruction of His “holy city.”
Orders were given to the heavenly beings for the immediate execution of those not marked as righteous, with judgment beginning at the Temple. Since the Temple and its courts had already been defiled by the people’s abominations, they were instructed to disregard the defilement caused by the bodies of those they slew.
In verse 8, Ezekiel cried out for God’s mercy, fearing that the coming judgment on unrighteousness would bring an end to the Jewish nation. The word “residue” implies that those who had already experienced great calamity would be worn down to dust. The people’s attitude indicated they were consciously aware, in the midst of their rebellion and disregard, of Jehovah’s righteousness. In verse 11, the man with the inkhorn reported that he had completed his task.
II. The condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem
B. The transgression and fall of Jerusalem
2. The vision of the slain by divine avengers (9:1-11)
a. The summons of the executioners (9:1-2)
b. The command to mark and destroy (9:3-7)
c. The consternation of the prophet (9:8-10)
d. The completion of the task (9:11)
God places His mark of protection upon the righteous. We want to be among that number!