This chapter is one of those that I would much rather skip over. It begins with one last visual aid added to the previous ones in chapter four. Ezekiel is instructed by God to shave his head and beard, divide up the hair, burn some, strike some with a sword, scatter some in the wind, place some in his garments, and burn the rest. The application of this visual aid is spelled out clearly, God is judging His people because of their rebellion and His wrath is about to be poured out upon them. Judgment and wrath are topics I think we all try to avoid.
I have a friend who is known for her compassion. She loves people and spends her life taking care of those who are suffering. Often she has sleepless nights thinking about and praying for people who are struggling. She loves them all, not just the ones who love her back, and even misses sleep over people who don’t like her for whatever reason. This lady does not want anyone to suffer even if some might consider her to be an “enemy.” My compassionate friend once read these passages in Ezekiel and thought of God’s judgment as very arbitrary and unfair to punish people so severely. But as she continued to study Scripture, she has learned that we cannot take these types of passages, pluck them out of their context, and read them isolated from the past and the future of Scripture.
Scriptures in the past (those passages written before Ezekiel) reveal centuries of God promising blessings for obedience and warnings of discipline and punishments that follow rebellion. So the people are not caught by surprise nor are they ignorant of what they have done. Israel’s past also reveals centuries of godly men and women which reminded the nation of God’s love and passionately appealed to the people to return to godliness. It also reveals that when His people repented in the past, God received them back into His fold. Ezekiel chapter five does not present an arbitrary God, but a just God who keeps His promises.
As we cannot read chapters like this isolated from the past, we cannot read them isolated from the future either. In today’s reading, we see that even though we tend to minimize sin, God takes sin seriously, especially the sin of those who know better. In tomorrow’s reading, we will see that whenever God brings judgment, He also provides grace. Amen.
Dr. Eric Bates, Pastor
Gulf States Conference