EZEKIEL 20 and 21
Today, God tells a story (via his prophet Ezekiel) to the exiled elders of Judah/Israel to illustrate the ‘problem’ that he has with them and with the majority of the nation. “Let’s examine the facts of the matter”, God says, “I chose Israel and revealed myself to them first in Egypt… saying ‘Get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on… for I am the Lord your God’”. (20:5-7). The story continues with Israel’s rebellion, God’s wrath, and how the Lord reconsidered and saved Israel ‘for the sake of his Name’ (his reputation). So he brought them out of Egypt anyway.
In the desert, he gave them a wise set of laws ”…by which a person who obeys them will live”, and especially the Sabbath as a holy sign. Round Two: again, they rebelled and rejected his laws. God threatened to pour out his wrath on them, but then for sake of his Name he relented and did not destroy the nation. He did however decree that none of that generation would enter the land – but that their children would.
Even then, once in the land, the people soon rebelled again, and offered sacrifices and worship to every idol-god in the land of Canaan. They always wanted to be “…just like the nations around them” – including in the way that they demanded a king to rule over them.
God’s point to Israel/Judah is that they are ‘back in the loop’ again. They cannot presume that his grace will prevail over his anger – and indeed yet another generation will be lost to the land, driven into exile. However, the Lord will again have pity on his people and will bring them back from the nations and restore them to nationhood. This is for His name’s sake, though.
The ‘sword’ of God’s judgment will be Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar is God’s chosen instrument, for a time, to execute his righteous will. “Let the sword strike twice, even three times…” (21:14) – this may represent the successive ‘waves’ of kings being captured, and people being exiled, ending with Zedekiah’s final blinding and death at Riblah. He is the “…profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax” (21:25).
An allusion to the Messiah: “The crown will not be restored until he to whom it rightfully belongs shall come; to him I will give it” (21:27).
And finally, Babylon having fulfilled God’s purposes in judgment, will itself be judged and destroyed: “Let the sword return to its sheath… I will pour out my wrath on you… You will be fuel for the fire… You will be remembered no more; for I the Lord have spoken”.
Better to be on God’s side than against him! Whose side are you on?