Ezekiel 7:1-9: Your Ways

Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works;
evil works do not make a wicked man, but a wicked man does evil works.
— Martin Luther (The Freedom of a Christian)

The first thing to notice at the start of chapter seven is the fragmentary nature of Ezekiel’s prophecy.  Gone are logical, lengthy sentences; enter the harsh cry of a prophet shocked at what he has heard.  The sky is falling.  The end is upon you.  An end!

Translators argue whether the words in this chapter should be interpreted as poetry or prose.  One thing is certain: traditional literary conventions have been thrown away.  The urgency of Ezekiel’s message breaks through the barriers of literature.

. . .

I feel the need to warn you.  As we travel deeper into Ezekiel’s milieu, God’s messages get harder—not lighter.  In the third part of the book, God will begin to give Ezekiel messages of hope.  However, until we get there, there are a lot of harsh judgments to face.

We need to keep two things in mind as we pray and meditate on these verses:

  1. This judgment is not an isolated, capricious act of God.  This is the culmination of centuries of God warning his people about the dangers of disobedience.  At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds Israel of the blessings and curses that come from obedience or disobedience.  In judging Israel, God is being faithful to his word.  Few things are more damaging to a child than a parent who threatens but never executes discipline.  Ditto for God’s children.
  2. Sin is much more dangerous than we commonly recognize. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan wrote, “A man may cry out against sin of policy, but he cannot abhor it, but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it.”  If you find yourself shocked at God’s actions, ask him to give you an idea of how much he hates sin.

. . .

The heart of this judgment is found in God’s declaration, “I will judge you according to your ways” (v. 3, cf. 4, 8, 9, NRSV).  Verse 4 could literally be translated, “I will put your ways upon you”.  Take a minute to absorb the sheer terror of that line.  Imagine how you would fair if God appeared to you and said, “I am going to judge you according to your works”!

This is where I cannot help but look forward some 600 years to the gospel proclamation.  If any sin (disobedience, rebellion, etc.) against God earns us a death penalty, none of us would survive.  The gospel offers death-row sinners this gracious message: If you turn from your sins, and trust Jesus to save you; God will judge you on the basis of Jesus’ works—not your own.

Is that fair?  Not really—it’s something Jesus chose to do because he loves us desperately.

. . .

Gracious Father, thank you for not judging me the way I deserve.  My own righteousness crumbles like moth-eaten rags before your holiness.  Thank you for your grace and mercy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 6:11-14 | Say, “Ah”

Ezekiel 7:10-24 | Throwing Silver >

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One Response to Ezekiel 7:1-9: Your Ways

  1. Robin August 17, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    Having begun my journey through the Bible in the Old Testament, I have struggled for years with the apparent harshness of God’s judgement, even being tempted to “ignore” the Old Testament because I assumed Jesus took care of all that and we didn’t need to be concerned with judgement anymore, just grace.

    However, as I have matured as a Christian (translation: as I have fallen hard and been rescued by God more times than I can say) and as I have been watching the world around and within me for some time now, I see that nothing really has changed when it comes to God. When he says he doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), God means it.

    Death was and still is the natural and fitting consequence of sin (Romans 6:23). God never over- or under-judges: “You are righteous, Lord, and your laws are right” (Psalm 119:137). I would think that most of us have grown to accept the physical laws of the universe we occupy. I don’t know anyone who would argue against, say, the law of gravity as it applies to us here on earth. If there are sound physical laws, then why would there not also be spiritual laws (and consequences of breaking them)?

    Even for those of us who have been “made alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-10), the consequences of sin still work in our bodies, i.e., unless we are blessed enough to be spirited away like Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), our bodies are going to return to the dust.

    Why do I say all this? I say this for two reasons: 1) In order to be able to fully trust God, as the Bible commands, we need to understand and believe that his judgements are ALWAYS right and fair, no matter how harsh they may seem. If we don’t understand now, we know that someday we will; and 2) Being able to compare the Old and New Testaments is the most amazing opportunity to see the GRACE of God at work! When things go wrong, I can say, “Well, that’s what I can expect in a sinful, dying world.” When I see beauty and goodness, I get super-duper (it’s ok: I have little kids :)) excited because THAT’S GOD’S GRACE! Even though he could have left us all to rot in our sin, even before the “creation of the world,” God chose his Son to redeem us:

    “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:18-21).

    And THIS was written in the Old Testament, before Jesus became flesh: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentation 3:22, 23).

    Amen to that!

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