Thursday, March 23
God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel. He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem. The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented. But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall. So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt. This led to a revolt against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt. Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath. Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed. Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.
In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.
In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness. Each person is responsible for their own actions. Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents. Each person is responsible for their own behavior. In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad. Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.
There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18. God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die. God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil. God wants everyone to repent. If an evil person repents, God will not punish them. If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior. God is a God of both mercy and justice. He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil. This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses: 30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David. Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel. But that has been brought to an end. There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel. Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight. We live on this side of the New Testament. After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus. One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth. In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment. Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation. We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.