Ezekiel 28:20-26: Manifest Holiness

It is only in the light of God’s hatred and abhorrence of sin
that we can really see His love,
and appreciate the wonder and the glory of the Gospel.
— D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (The Plight of Man and the Power of God)

We tend to think that God has two faces: justice and mercy, anger and love, judgment and kindness. This passage shows us that God is one.

A Father’s love can take two forms with different children. With a stubborn rebel, love takes the form of discipline. With a tear-filled mourner, love takes the form of comfort. Two responses, one love.

. . .

You might wonder why Sidon is included here. In earlier days, she was a major Phoenician trading port; by Ezekiel’s day she was humbled by the power of Tyre. Unlike the other five nations that were judged in 25:1-28:23, we don’t learn much about her. In fact, we don’t even know the reason why God determined to judge her. Our only hint comes from Jeremiah 27:3-6 (NRSV):

Send word to . . . the king of Sidon by the hand of the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to King Zedekiah of Judah. . . . It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the people and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever I please. Now I have given these lands into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

The king of Sidon sent an envoy to Jerusalem to revolt against Babylon, but God made it clear that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was his chosen tool. They were rebelling against God.

. . .

The most important reason why Sidon is included here, is to provide a contrast with Israel.  The three verses that follow (vv. 24-26) are very strategically located:

  • 25:1-28:23: 6 nations are judged in 97 verses
  • 28:24-26: good news for Israel
  • 29:1-32:32: 1 nation is judged in 97 verses

These three verses are located centrally for a reason. They explain why God judged the nations the way that he has. Compare what God said to Sidon with what he said to Israel (emphasis mine):

To Sidon:

They will know that I am the LORD when I execute judgments in it, and manifest my holiness in it. (v. 22, NRSV)

To Israel:

When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall settle on their own soil that I gave to my servant Jacob. (v. 25, NRSV)

In both situations, God has one concern: to manifest his holiness. When God’s holiness meets sinful nations, it results in judgment. We see this with the seven as well as with Israel. However, when God’s holiness meets a humbled nations to whom he had made promises in the past, it results in restoration. One God. One purpose. Holiness.

. . .

The danger in all of this judgment is that people would believe that Yahweh was conquered by the gods of the Babylonians. The fate of a people in that era naturally reflected the fate of their patron deity. By restoring Israel after judgment, God showed the world his holiness. He declared that he is the one true God, who had even used foreign nations to accomplish his will.

God is still concerned that his glory and holiness be shared today. Today, however, every believer is a temple—a place where heaven and earth intersect. In Jesus, God has chosen anyone who believes him to be his representatives—he has not confined himself to a specific nation any longer.

The question is simple: are we doing a good job reflecting God’s glory through us into the world, or are our mirror-lives dulled?

. . .

Holy God, help me in every area of my life to reflect your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 28:11-19 | Adam Again

Ezekiel 29:1-16 | Nile’s Crocodile >

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