June 15, 2010 David Balzer

Ezekiel 24-32: Justice for all

One of the little-known things that’s come out of the latest budget is EXTRA FUNDS FOR THE TAX OFFICE. They’re going to train and employ 500 new auditors.

And they’re after the tax cheats. The property investors, and the scammers. Those with dodgy family trusts. Or off-shore companies. Those who deal in cash. Who don’t issue receipts. Who take 10% off for cash.

And so we all cheer. Because we people getting away with it. Why should WE be paying more than our share of tax because some are paying NONE?

“Justice for all,” we cheer.

It seems like a GREAT idea. Right up until the time you get the letter in the mail. The ATO is going to audit YOU. And there are stiff penalties for “mistakes”, or guesstimates, or lack of documentation.

We like the idea of justice. As long as the long arm of the law is wrapped around someone ELSE’s collar.

And it’s a similar situation at this point of Ezekiel. The nations around have been CHEERING that Israel’s finally getting what it deserves. But now God’s attention turns to THEM.

And look at how it unfolds. For 23 chapters, Ezekiel’s been WARNING Israel. Judgment’s nearly here. Repent. It’s coming. Turn around. Get ready.

And then, in Ch 24 v1, it arrives. God’s hand of judgment finally falls.

(Ezek 24:1-2 NIV)  In the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day, the word of the LORD came to me: {2} “Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day.

Jerusalem is under attack. And it’s not until three years later, that Ezekiel finally receives news that at last Jerusalem’s been conquered. Ch 33 v21.

(Ezek 33:21 NIV)  In the TWELFTH year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has fallen!”

The destruction was complete. The city was in ruins. The rest of the exiles start to arrive. And God’s people are no longer in God’s land.

But in between those two dates God’s gaze turns away from Israel. Once his punishment begins, there’s no NEED to keep warning them. And his attention shifts to THE SURROUNDING NATIONS instead.

And that’s what we see in the chapters IN BETWEEN. God’s warnings of judgment ON THE NATIONS. Israel’s neighbours. All the way from Ch 26 to the end of Ch 32.

They’d been standing on the sidelines. CHEERING as Israel suffered one embarrassment and insult after another. Like we might do as the tax office catches another crook.

But then God turns to THEM. And starts to call THEM to account. And things aren’t too comfortable under the spotlight of God’s glare.

And God chooses SEVEN of Israel’s neighbours. Some are big. Some are small. Some are influential. Some aren’t. Some are considered in detail. And others only get a brief mention.

Seven. It’s the number of COMPLETION. These nations are meant to REPRESENT/ ALL nations. In any AGE. All countries. All principalities or kingdoms. All human ORGANISATIONS. And corporations. Businesses. Teams. Towns. Families. Even individuals.

NO-ONE gets away with it when it comes to God. His justice ALWAYS catches up with you. No matter how BIG you are. Or POWERFUL. Or how LONG you’ve been around. God will catch up with you/ and call you to account. It’s JUSTICE FOR ALL.

And as we look through these chapters we see three sorts of sins. Three mistakes the nations have made when it comes to dealing with Israel. Three types of sins that God will judge them for.

Firstly, there’s GLOATING AND REVENGE. That’s in Ch 25. Then from Ch 26-28 we see the sin of ECONOMIC ARROGANCE. And finally in Ch 29-32, we see Egypt. Guilty of DIVINE DELUSIONS.

1. Gloating and Revenge (25)

Let’s skim through these chapters. First, GLOATING AND REVENGE.

Ch 25 begins with Ammon. They couldn’t wipe the smile off their faces now that Israel was getting destroyed. They were GLOATING. Look at v6.

(Ezek 25:6-7 NIV)  For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet, rejoicing with all the malice of your heart against the land of Israel, {7} therefore I will stretch out my hand against you and give you as plunder to the nations.

And Moab’s crime was similar. V8.

(Ezek 25:8 NIV)  “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘Because Moab and Seir said, “Look, the house of Judah has become like all the other nations,”

They loved to see the tall poppy get what it deserved. “Who’s so special NOW?” they were saying. A very AUSTRALIAN attitude really. Cutting down the tall poppy.

It’s like the BMW that ZOOMS past you at 150 km/h on the motorway. And then a few km’s up the road, it’s been pulled over. Caught by the police for speeding.

And don’t tell me that a little smirk doesn’t cross your face as you drive sedately past at 100! Gloating.

That’s what Ammon and Moab were doing now that Israel was suffering. “Where’s your special God NOW? WHERE did you say the land was God had given to you?”

And then there’s Edom. V12. They’re guilty of REVENGE. They see that Israel’s in trouble. And they do nothing to help. They rub it in. They glory in her shame.

Same sin with Philistia. Revenge. V15. They saw that Israel was down for the count. So they thought they’d step in and take a good hard KICK. Take advantage of her weakness.

And God’s not impressed.

2. Economic Arrogance (26-28)

The next sin is that of Tyre. Into Ch 26. In fact Tyre takes up THREE chapters from 26 to 28.

And their sin was one of ECONOMIC ARROGANCE. They saw that Israel was DOWN, but rather than seek revenge. They saw a chance for economic advantage. An opportunity to make a buck. To prosper at Israel’s expense.

Israel’s lying in the dirt. They didn’t slip the boot in, they just stole her wallet. Look at Ch 26 v 2

(Ezek 26:2-3 NIV)  “Son of man, because Tyre has said of Jerusalem, ‘Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I WILL PROSPER,’ {3} therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.

And rather than feeling guilty about their exploitation. They were PROUD of it. Proud of their hard-nosed business sense. Their hunger for a bargain. Look over at 27:3.

(Ezek 27:3 NIV)  Say to Tyre, situated at the gateway to the sea, merchant of peoples on many coasts, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘You say, O Tyre, “I am perfect in beauty.”

They LOVED what they’d become.

And even worse. They reckoned that THEY were the cause of all their prosperity. It was THEIR intelligence. Their planning. In other words. They were masters of their universe. They thought they were GOD. 28.2

(Ezek 28:2 NIV)  “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.

And over near the end of Ch 28, Sidon gets a similar serve from God. They were partners with Tyre in all her sins.

That’s 6 nations.

3. Divine delusions (29-32)

The seventh nation is Egypt. And Egypt gets blasted for FOUR WHOLE CHAPTERS. From 29 to 32. It’s like God’s been saving up his best ammunition for last.

And Egypt’s guilty of DIVINE DELUSIONS. Thinking they were god. Look at what God says against their Pharaoh. 29.3

(Ezek 29:3 NIV)  Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “THE NILE IS MINE; I MADE IT FOR MYSELF.”

The great river Nile flowed through Egypt. And brought Egypt fertility and prosperity, and food and life. It DEFINED who Egypt WAS. It was its LIFEBLOOD.

And yet, Pharaoh was guilty of taking CREDIT for something God had provided. Thinking that HE was the reason the country had everything. It’s PRIDE. Blatant and blasphemous ARROGANCE. And God won’t STAND for it.

Notice how he calls Pharaoh a great monster lying among the streams. The picture is of a crocodile swimming in the river.

But look what God’s got planned for Pharaoh the crocodile. In the very next verse. It’s worse than any crocodile hunter.

(Ezek 29:4-5 NIV)  But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. {5} I will leave you in the desert, you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air.

A decaying crocodile carcass, picked over by the scavengers. That’s the awful picture.

And the message keeps getting hammered-in. Ch 30. Ch 31. Ch 32. And that’s how these chapters FINISH. With the bodies of Pharaoh and his armies laid out on the ground for everyone to see.

Judgment. Destruction. Against all seven of Israel’s neighbours.

2. So What?

Well, perhaps you’re asking, “So what? What’s it all got to do with me?”   Fair question. It’s certainly a long way from the 21st century. In Western Sydney.

Or is it?

I think there are three lessons we can learn from these chapters. Lessons that never change. Whatever age we live in. Or country we inhabit.

  1. God will judge EVERYONE. No-one escapes.
  2. God’s GOAL is that EVERYONE will KNOW HIM.
  3. God’s goal is to restore HIS PEOPLE.

1. God will judge EVERYONE. No-one escapes.

First lesson, God will judge everyone.

Seven nations. Some were big. Some were small. Some had been around for AGES. Others were relative newcomers. Some were guilty of MORE WICKEDNESS than others.

But the end was the same. God’s judgment caught up with them all eventually.

NO ONE IS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO OUT-MUSCLE GOD. FAST ENOUGH TO OUTRUN HIM. RICH ENOUGH TO BUY HIM OFF.

And that’s true TODAY. Whether we’re talking about Kerry Packer or Bill Gates. Whether we’re talking about IBM or BHP. Whether we’re talking about The Rolling Stones or The Brisbane Broncos.

Every COUNTRY, and CORPORATION, and TEAM, and PEOPLE GROUP. Every SPORTING TEAM, and SCHOOL.

Every FAMILY. Every INDIVIDUAL.

NO-ONE MISSES OUT ON GOD’S JUDGMENT.

And that means EVERYONE NEEDS JESUS. HE’S THE ONLY HOPE.

God’s goal is that EVERYONE will know him.

And that leads onto the second lesson for us. God’s goal is that EVERYONE will KNOW him. Over and over again in these chapters, we read. “Then they will KNOW that I am the LORD”. “Then they will KNOW that I am the LORD”. Then they will know my VENGEANCE. Then they will KNOW…. Then they will KNOW. …

15 times from Ch 25 to 32!

When God executes his judgment on nations. On individuals. His goal is that they might KNOW him. Recognise his hand. Discern the RIGHTNESS and JUSTICE of his actions. Acknowledge his power and glory and honour. Even as they’re being punished.

And, in these chapters of Ezekiel at least, There’s no real hint that it’s SAVING knowledge. That it’s knowledge that leads to TRUST in God. And LOVE for him. It’s simply recognising his JUSTICE.

And one day. That will be true for EVERYONE who refuses to turn to God in repentance. And follow his Son Jesus. They will KNOW/ the ETERNAL justice of God. ETERNAL anger and punishment. Separation from God, and anything good, FOREVER. And that’s FAR worse than any picture we get of punishment in the Old Testament.

And so, the conclusion is the same as for the first lesson. Everyone needs Jesus.

c. God’s goal is to restore HIS PEOPLE.

The third lesson/ is that God’s goal is to restore HIS PEOPLE.

For all the times that phrase is repeated, (Then they will know that I am the LORD). There’s one EXCEPTION.

It’s in Ch 28. And some bright spark’s worked out that it’s EXACTLY in the MIDDLE of these chapters. 97 verses from the start of Ch 25. And 97 verses from the end of Ch 32. We get a little paragraph that doesn’t seem to fit in.

Ch 28:24-26. Turn there with me. In the midst of all the punishment against the nations, there’s this little paragraph that promises HOPE to ISRAEL.

And what’s so profound about it/ is that the LITERARY structure. Reflects the HISTORICAL situation. Just like the structure of these verses, Israel is SURROUNDED by bigger nations. Nations who think THEY’RE in control. But it’s really ISRAEL’s God who controls these nations. HE will judge them. And wipe them out. All for the sake of little Israel. Right there IN THE MIDDLE.

The centre-piece of God’s judgment on the nations. The hinge on which all that judgment swings. His purpose behind it all. It’s to do with ISRAEL. And as we read this little paragraph, we make sense of how it fits in. Picking it up from v23, God’s just finishing with Tyre.

(Ezek 28:23-26 NIV)  I will send a plague upon her and make flow in her streets. The slain will fall within her, with the sword against her on every side. THEN THEY WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD.

And then we get to Israel’s paragraph. The absolute CENTRE of these verses.

{24} “‘No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they (I think that’s the neighbours) will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. {25} “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I WILL SHOW MYSELF HOLY AMONG THEM IN THE SIGHT OF THE NATIONS. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. {26} They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. THEN THEY WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD THEIR GOD.'”

God’s whole purpose in destroying the enemies of Israel/ is so that ISRAEL might be protected. And allowed to return to the land. With the briers and thorns and bumps removed.

“I will show myself holy among THEM (that’s Israel) IN THE SIGHT OF THE NATIONS”

The nations will know that God is God when they see the way he RESTORES HIS PEOPLE. And when he brings them back. When he blesses them with Paradise again. And what’s the final result of that whole process? “Then THEY (Israel) will know that I am the Lord THEIR God.”

What a difference ONE WORD makes. THEIR God. Not just God. But THEIR God. Whose plans are for THEIR benefit. Whose power is displayed for THEIR protection.

And WHEN did all these promises come to God’s people? In the midst of the siege on Jerusalem. In the midst of God PUNISHING HIS PEOPLE. His hand of discipline is HEAVY on those he loves.

But the word of comfort is ALSO there. His promise is given that there is PURPOSE in it all. A PLAN. That it WON’T last forever. He’ll soon destroy THE ENEMIES. And restore his people to the land.

And it’s true for us, too. Our non-Christian friends or family or neighbours or workmates. May look at us and scoff. “What’s being a Christian ever done for you? You’re life’s just as messed-up as MINE. What’s so good about God? Where was he when your child got sick. When you lost your job? When your house was burgled?”

But God’s purposes are that GOOD will come about FOR HIS PEOPLE. In the midst of all the ridicule and pain and tough times. Even when it doesn’t look like things are any different from the people around us. In the end, God brings GOOD for his people.

God’s message is that, one day, justice is coming on EVERYONE. No-one will escape. Everyone needs Jesus.

One day soon the scoffers will know better. They’ll see God for who he really is. And so they need to know Jesus.

And one day God will bring PARADISE for his people. And he’ll be right there with us. It’s a future that’s only for those who know Jesus.

Paradise. I can’t WAIT. How about you?

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