Children may not bank on the piety of parents for salvation;
nor may a community find a lightning rod against divine fury
in the presence of one or two righteous persons.
— Daniel I. Block (Ezekiel)
God never needs to justify his actions. He is ultimate reality—and what he does is right. Those two sentences would sound horrifying if applied to a human, but when applied to a benevolent creator the statements are little more than common sense.
That said, in the second half of Ezekiel 14 God decided to justify his actions for Ezekiel’s sake. God wanted Ezekiel to know that his harsh judgments were not irrational or capricious—they were fully called for by the people’s persistent sin.
In this passage we find three heroes, four judgments, and two conclusions.
. . .
God repeatedly talks about three heroes of the Jewish faith. The first is Noah. It does not take long to figure out why he was included:
Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9 NRSV)
The world in Noah’s day had grown so wicked, God decided to destroy everyone—except Noah and his family. There’s nothing in the text to suggest that Noah’s family was particularly righteous; they were saved because of Noah’s faith.
The second hero is a little more difficult to figure out: Daniel. At first glance, it seems obvious. A person who defied the king to pray and survived a night in a lion’s den would surely be a candidate for the godliness hall of fame. The problem is that Daniel was a younger contemporary of Ezekiel. He was not yet famous. The bottom line is this: we’re not sure who this Daniel that God refers to actually is.
The third hero is known to all: Job. Again, he was a clear choice:
There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (Job 1:1 NRSV)
Job’s life was thoroughly destroyed by Satan, yet he never turned away from God. At the end of Job, his health and fortune was restored to him.
Why does God keep bringing up these heroes? Even if all three lived in Israel at that time, their combined righteousness would not be sufficient to prevent God from destroying it. Sure, they would be saved, but no one else would be included.
God implies here that things were more wicked than in the days of Noah! If Noah and two other heroes were around, their righteousness wouldn’t be sufficient to save their immediate family. We know in Noah’s day, his family was saved because of him. Things were very bad.
. . .
The four judgments God brought down upon Israel were nothing new. They were included in the covenant curses that were recorded in the Law of Moses. The judgments were: famine, sword, wild animals, and plague.
These judgments show God’s sovereignty clearly. He had the power to stop the crops from growing. He had the power to move enemies to invade his own nation. He had the power to order wild animals, and even to launch a plague. God is not some tame patron-deity to be appeased by half-hearted rituals. He is the Lord of all.
. . .
Daniel I. Block in his commentary on Ezekiel draws two conclusions from this passage, and they are very applicable to our lives today.
First, God is just. It can be very difficult to see how God’s decisions are always just, especially when we are in the middle of life, experiencing pain and joy, sorrow and love; yet they are. The judgments God poured out on the Israelites in Ezekiel’s day were violent and heart-rending. Still, God justifies his actions to show he is always just. In verses 21-23, God explains that a few people will escape the judgment just to show how wicked they were and thereby vindicate God’s actions.
The second observation was this: you cannot rely on someone else for your salvation. When God chooses to judge, people stand alone before his eyes. The righteousness of your family or church is insufficient to pave your way through his wrath. A relationship with Jesus Christ—wearing his goodness in place of your own—is the only path to salvation.
. . .
Thank you, Lord, for taking the time to explain your difficult judgments with us. Your ways are inscrutable yet perfect. In Jesus’ name, Amen.