Ezekiel 6–7. Bad News For Israel. What News For Us?
Key Notes:: Four views of disasters in the world. The covenant concept in Scripture and a Puritan view of government.
In our previous two lessons, Ezekiel received a dazzling vision of God, and then was given a difficult prophetic assignment. This text details the judgment that God was bringing upon Israel.
6:1–7 Ezekiel prophesied against the mountains, hills, valleys and ravines of Israel, the sites for idol-worship. God promised to destroy them and the people with them. The environment will be ruined.
6:8–14 God will have them carried away captive to foreign lands where their wanton hearts will be broken and their eyes blinded with tears.
7:1–9 The time for repentance was past for the land of Israel. Disaster, doom, wrath, and punishment were coming. God, who is known as JHWH Jireh (“The God who provides”) and JHWH Nissi ("The Lord our banner") now is JHWH Makkeh ("The God who smites") because injustice, violence and pride have bloomed.
7:10–21 Abundance, wealth, pre-eminence were all gone. Normal activities like buying and selling stopped. There would be an effort to fight but everyone will be helpless, and terrified. Gold and jewelry will be worthless. Art objects, ornaments and images will be spoils in the hands of evil foreigners.
7:22 Even the temple, God's "precious place", will be profaned.
And they shall know that I am the Lord (6:7,10,13,14; 7:27). Some people cannot learn until they feel. But what is that to us?
•There have been four (at least) points of view of the believers' troubles in the world.
a. The early Church understood persecution as God's purification of a corrupt and worldly body of believers.
b. Luther thought that the Church was in a battle with Satan (in the form of the Pope).
c. The Puritans believed that the Church was part of their country, threatened by the wickedness of the majority and that they would suffer with the rest. They developed the covenant concept, that God makes a covenant with other nations as well as Israel, and that if that covenant were broken, the whole nation would suffer.
d. Modern Christians tend to believe that bad events are accidents or the work of Satan, since they think that God does only good. "Acts of God" referred to in insurance claims, such as tornadoes or earthquakes, are not acts of God?
•The Covenant Concept in Christian thought.
1) God's covenant with Israel for salvation applies to all who follow Abraham's faith. That is the Gospel and it is good news.
This concept can be challenged: it does not apply to nations, but only to the Church.
"He has not dealt thus with any other nation." (Psa.147:20). There is a widespread view that God's dealing with Israel was unique and her problems do not teach crucial lessons to us."He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know His ordinances. Praise the Lord!" (Psa.147–19,20)
If other nations do not know His ordinances, then the Covenant concept is unique to Israel. But if other nations do know His ordinances, the covenant requires attention. The New Testament has something to say about our relationship to the Covenant.
"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh...were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:11–12)
"...and we are God's house if we hold fast to our confidence and pride in our hope." (Heb. 3:6)
2) But then the warning to Israel also applies to believing Gentiles. That is the bad news.
"If God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off." (Rom. 11:21)
"These things happened to them as a warning..." "but they were written down for our instruction...." (I Cor. 10:6,11)
"Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it." (Heb. 4:1)
"Today when you hear His voice do not harden your hearts." (Heb. 4:7)
•The Reformers, and later the Puritans, applied these texts to their lives as a group.
"As Zwingli put it: 'the same covenant which he (God) entered into with Israel he has in these latter days entered into with us, that we may be one people with them, one church and may have also one covenant.... Christian people are now that elect race which the Hebrews once were...a people sought and obtained by the blood of Christ.'" (The Puritan Family. E.S.Morgan; Harper Torchbooks;1966, p.8–9)
"Every nation or people, the Puritans believed, existed by virtue of a covenant with God, an agreement whereby they promised to abide by His laws, and He in turn agreed to treat them well. To help carry out their part of the bargain, people instituted governments, and the business of government was to enforce God's laws by punishing every detectable breach." (The Puritan Dilemma. E.S.Morgan; Little, Brown, p.19,’58)
"But if the governors failed in their sacred task and fell prey to the evils they were supposed to suppress, then the people must rebel and replace the wicked rulers with better ones. If they did not, God would descend in fire and brimstone to punish the whole nation." (ibid.)
John Winthrop (?1605) wrote to his wife; "...the Lorde hath admonished, threatened, corrected, and astonished us, yet we growe worse and worse, so as his spirit will not allwayse strive with us, he must needs give waye to his furye at last; he hath smitten all the other Churches before our eyes, and hath made them to drinke of the bitter cuppe of tribulation, even unto death; we sawe this and humbled not ourselves, to turne from our evill wayes, but have provoked him more than all the nations rounde about us; therefore he is turninge the cuppe towards us also...." (ibid. p.29,30)
The Puritans participated in the government, protested injustice, and fought with all the legal weapons they had. When they concluded that they had failed, some became separatists, left England to her fate and came to the New World as Pilgrims.
We too have fought against the evils of our society--abortion, euthanasia, pornography, racism, persecution of the church. But there is much corruption in the Church--and we have no New World to run to. Where shall we go? What more can we do?
Let us pray for revival of the Church.