August 22nd, 2021 - Ezekiel 24-28
We begin today with a parable of a cooking pot, and at first glance this seems positive. It brings expectations of good food and fellowship. Various choice pieces of a sacrificial animal had been gathered, a fire was kindled under the pot, and the contents were brought to a simmer. But like many parables, there is a twist at the end. What should have been a tasty meal became a foul mess. The choice pieces of meat that had gone into the pot were corrupt and rotten when they came out. The pot represented Jerusalem, and its contents would be burned and destroyed. Ezekiel had been warning of this and now it was happening. In one translation we read in verse two that the king of Babylon is beginning his attack. Translated literally this means ‘is leaning on’. The same terminology is used when a worshiper pressed their hands down on the animal they had brought to be sacrificed. Jerusalem was thus identified as the sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered to the glory of God. The people had rebelled against both Babylon and the Lord. The cooking pot was beyond cleaning. Jerusalem was full of the blood she had shed and left exposed. The Old Testament required that the blood of animals that was shed for meat was to be covered by dirt. But by leaving the blood of her innocent victims exposed, Jerusalem was doubly guilty and her own blood would be splashed on the rocks. God even declared that He would make the cooking pot,Jerusalem, as red hot as the refiners furnace but even that would not clean the city and her people. All that remained of Jerusalem was judgement without pity because of her wickedness.
And then life turned even worse for Ezekiel. Here we see the fullness of Ezekiel’s part in the message of the Lord demonstrated. The Lord took the life of Ezekiel’s wife and he was not allowed to mourn the loss of his deepest treasure openly. He was a priest so there were restrictions on mourning anyway but his lack of mourning was also a sign that showed what was about to happen to Israel. God would take away the place that Israel’s heart took delight in…the temple in Jerusalem. God was going to desecrate it and destroy the sons and daughters they had left behind in Jerusalem. On that day the people would behave as Ezekiel. They would not mourn in public and in the context of such a terrible and complete desolation, only internal grief could be observed. In the midst of all of this gloom and doom and woe, when a survivor arrived in Babylon to confirm the fall of Jerusalem there would also be a sign of hope for the people. Ezekiel’s voice would suddenly return and he would once again be able to pray to God for the people and intercede on their behalf. The final destruction of Jerusalem would be the end of God’s wrath and fury and Ezekiel would finally be able to speak words of hope to the shattered remnant of the exiles so that they might know the Lord.
What follows are oracles against the nations with a particular focus on the city of Tyre. There are six shorter oracles against Judah’s immediate neighbors, in clockwise geographical order, followed by a seventh oracle against Egypt. Through their experience of God’s judgement, the nations would recognize God’s sovereignty over all things. One of the key purposes of these oracles against the nations was to affirm that the negative side of God’s covenant with Abraham was in force. This is the part that says “I will curse those who curse you.” No one can assault God’s people and get away with it, even when God’s people are under judgement themselves. So here are the oracles. Because the Ammonites rejoiced over Judah’s downfall and celebrated the destruction of the temple they too would experience invasion and destruction. Other people would eat their produce and the people would be exterminated, just as had happened to Judah. The Ammonite gods would not be able to save them and they would come to know that the Lord is the one true God. The people of Moab thought they could attack Judah as though it was like any other nation. Even though Judah had been disobedient and they were being punished that did not give anyone else license to harm them. Like Ammon, the Moabites would be removed from the register of nations and left perpetually desolate. So, Ammon and Moab gloated at Judah’s downfall, but Edom actually participated in it. They cut down fugitives and handed survivors over to the Babylonians. They settled old scores that dated back to the days of Jacob and Esau, and they took advantage of the situation to get as much for themselves as they could. In return, the Lord would desolate their land. The Philistines had a long standing contempt for Judah. Their crimes are not specified but the Lord took notice of their behavior and He pledged to return vengeance for vengeance. They too would recognize the Lord’s Sovereign power. The Kerethites were a Philistine tribe and it is believed that all of the Philistines came originally from the island of Crete.
The message against Tyre, Israel’s neighbor to the northwest is much longer. It takes the form of three parallel panels, each presenting a variation on the same message…Tyre would come to a horrible end and exist no more. February 3, 585 B.C. was about seven months after the fall of Jerusalem. Like everyone else, Tyre rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem. This eliminated a rival trading center and opened up new trade routes and markets for Tyre. But, the many nations with which Tyre wanted to trade would instead come against her equipped for war and like Jerusalem, she would become plunder for their armies. Tyre lay on a small costal island and the armies would come at her like the waves that crashed over and over along the coast. In 26:7-11, Tyre’s destruction is described in great detail, meaning it was sure to happen. The end result was exactly what had been predicted. Tyre would become a bare rock, a desolate haunt for local fishermen to spread their nets to dry. No longer would Tyre be an international trade center for caravans and trading vessels. The historian Josephus wrote that the Babylonians besieged Tyre for 13 years but it was not until the time of Alexander the Great that it was finally totally destroyed. Tyre’s fall would impact trade partners far and wide. Even foreign rulers would be forced to abdicate. The funeral song for Tyre would be taken up and sung from place to place, and God would demonstrate His sovereign power by utterly destroying Tyre.
In fact, it would be like Tyre had sunk to the depths of chaotic ocean waves with all of her inhabitants condemned to the pit where the unrighteous dead reside, never to return. Chapter 27 is a funeral song that contrasts past glory with present loss. The song speaks of Tyre being a trading center and gateway but again, the conclusion is that Tyre will come to a horrible end and will exist no more. Again we get great detail of Tyre’s past greatness using the metaphor of a great sailing ship, made out of the very best resources from the surrounding nations. The crew was gathered from the nations, all the most famously skilled men in the world. Sidon, Arvad, and Gebal were Mediterranean coastal towns. Persia was far to the east over land and Lydia was northwest in what is now Turkey. Libya was southwest on the shore of the Mediterranean. Helech is in Cilicia, near Tarsus on the northeast shore of the Mediterranean, and the location for Gammad is uncertain though it may have been in northern Syria. Tyre traded with merchants from all of these places and you could find anything you wanted in Tyre. Tarshish was in the distant west, perhaps Spain. Tubal, Meshech, and neighboring Beth-togarmah were regions in Anatolia, now modern day Turkey. Dedan was a central Arabian oasis, and Minnith was east of the Jordan River, a good source of wheat. This is just a smattering of the places listed who traded with Tyre. The ship known as Tyre was seemingly unsinkable and laden with all sorts of wonders, but she would be no match for the mighty eastern gale known as Babylon. Anyone who had dealings with her now joined the lament for her lost way of life, as well as for their misfortune.
Chapter 28 comprises the third panel against Tyre. Here the ruler of Tyre is condemned for his pride. He personifies the city of Tyre, so his fate represents Tyre’s fate. In his arrogance he claimed divinity and the power that goes with it, claiming to sit on a divine throne. But he was only a man. Both Tyre and Babylon were real places and their kings were real men whose great power was matched by great pride. Some look at the political powers that oppose God as agents of the evil one. So, the demise of human rulers foreshadows God’s ultimate triumph over all the forces of darkness. Every single power that sets itself up against the living God will be brought to destruction. The king of Tyre’s claim to divine status was based on his wisdom and wealth. His wisdom had made him very rich and those riches made him very proud. Proverbs 16:18 reminds us that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. The Babylonian army would come against him with swords and cut him down to size. In fact he would be put to death by the Babylonians and his final resting place a would not be with the gods but in a pit, the residence of the dead. He would die in the heart of the sea, just like the city. Even worse, he would die outside a covenant relationship with God. Verses 12-19 seem like a very gracious eulogy but in reality it is no more than a sarcastic lament. Ezekiel mocks the king of Tyre, claiming he was present in the garden of Eden where he had access to the holy mountain of God. Ezekiel even satirizes his claim to an even higher place than Adam.
The sarcastic description of the king of Tyre ‘s greatness and pride sets him up for his coming fall. He wasn’t even close to being a deity. He defiled the holy ground of his sanctuaries and that meant he would have a horrible end. The exalted captain would go down with his glorious ship and be brought to nothing by the hand of the Lord. There are no specific charges against Tyre’s neighbor Sidon but they were most likely guilty of the same offenses. Sidon’s rejoicing at Judah’s destruction would cost them dearly as well. Sidon would receive a three fold judgement of plague, blood, and the sword, coming from every side. Not only would the Lord reveal His holiness by judging the nations for their pride, arrogance, and enmity towards His chosen people, but He would gather His people back to the promised land of Israel. They would live in safety and prosperity and everyone would know that the Lord was the sovereign Lord of the covenant.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
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