Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday, January 23 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 45-46; Psalm 18; Matthew 18.
Today's scripture focus is Ezekiel 25.

Judgment on Gentile Nations—Ammon
25 And the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face toward the sons of Ammon and prophesy against them, 3 and say to the sons of Ammon, ‘Hear the word of the Lord God! Thus says the Lord God, “Because you said, ‘Aha!’ against My sanctuary when it was profaned, and against the land of Israel when it was made desolate, and against the house of Judah when they went into exile, 4 therefore, behold, I am going to give you to the sons of the east for a possession, and they will set their encampments among you and make their dwellings among you; they will eat your fruit and drink your milk. 5 I will make Rabbah a pasture for camels and the sons of Ammon a resting place for flocks. Thus you will know that I am the Lord.” 6 For thus says the Lord God, “Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the scorn of your soul against the land of Israel, 7 therefore, behold, I have stretched out My hand against you and I will give you for spoil to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and make you perish from the lands; I will destroy you. Thus you will know that I am the Lord.”

8 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Because Moab and Seir say, ‘Behold, the house of Judah is like all the nations,’ 9 therefore, behold, I am going to deprive the flank of Moab of its cities, of its cities which are on its frontiers, the glory of the land, Beth-jeshimoth, Baal-meon and Kiriathaim, 10 and I will give it for a possession along with the sons of Ammon to the sons of the east, so that the sons of Ammon will not be remembered among the nations. 11 Thus I will execute judgments on Moab, and they will know that I am the Lord.”

12 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Because Edom has acted against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has incurred grievous guilt, and avenged themselves upon them,” 13 therefore thus says the Lord God, “I will also stretch out My hand against Edom and cut off man and beast from it. And I will lay it waste; from Teman even to Dedan they will fall by the sword. 14 I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel. Therefore, they will act in Edom according to My anger and according to My wrath; thus they will know My vengeance,” declares the Lord God.

15 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Because the Philistines have acted in revenge and have taken vengeance with scorn of soul to destroy with everlasting enmity,” 16 therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will stretch out My hand against the Philistines, even cut off the Cherethites and destroy the remnant of the seacoast. 17 I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes; and they will know that I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance on them.”’”

So here we make a transition in the book of Ezekiel from prophesying about Samaria and Jerusalem to the surrounding peoples; the enemies of Israel.  They're not going to escape unscathed by any means!

Rayburn gives us a few important points to note when it comes to the judgement of the nations:

1.  First, as in every case of divine judgment, people get what they deserve and only what they deserve. Here, as in every judgment account in the Bible, a point is made of the fact that those being punished are guilty. In each of these four prophesies the sin for which they are to be punished is at least generally described. Much more of course is assumed but the particular sin is described. Ammon did this, Moab that, and so Edom and Philistia. They sinned against God and man and are to be punished for their sins. The fact that they were unrepentant, refused to acknowledge that what they did was wrong, as is the case today, does not make their guilt less but more.

2.  Second, the nations will be judged according to the light that they have, not according to the revelation of God’s will as it was given to Israel. In all the prophesies of the judgment of the nations that we find in the Bible, and there are many chapters of them in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and elsewhere, men are condemned for violations of the moral law, the law that is written on the hearts of all mankind, the law that human beings universally confess to be good and right by holding others to precisely that same standard, even though they violate it a thousand times a day.

So here. Ammon and Moab, Edom and Philistia are not condemned for failing to offer sacrifices to Yahweh, the nations never are, or to worship at the temple in Jerusalem, or to practice the laws of jubilee. They are condemned because they were cruel, because they stole what did not belong to them – attacking and sacking Jewish cities –, because they took advantage of the weak, and because they murdered other human beings.  God does not charge men and women with a fault and will not punish men and women for what they did not know to do or for what they did not know not to do. He judges them with strict justice according to standards of conduct they knew very well and failed to meet. And not failed only, but comprehensively and willfully failed to the harm of other human beings and to the disgrace of the God who made them and wrote his will upon their hearts. This is everywhere the Bible’s viewpoint. Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia knew better than to do what they did. That they did it anyway strips from them every pretense of an excuse as it does vast multitudes of human beings today.

3.  The severity of God’s judgment is likewise adjusted precisely to meet the measure of the crime. All nations are not simply destroyed root and branch. Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia are destroyed never to rise again. Those peoples were destroyed and their remnants absorbed by other peoples. But not so Egypt. You remember perhaps that amazing prophecy at the end of Isaiah 19.

“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be a third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.’” [19:23-25]

There is a great deal about the judgment of the wicked over which Holy Scripture draws a veil. We are told of the punishments of the wicked almost entirely in figurative language. The horrific punishments described here in Ezekiel 25 were death and destruction in this world and they took place just as described but they serve only metaphorically as we have seen on many occasions previously in the first 24 chapters so did the punishments threatened to Jerusalem, they served metaphorically, indications, foretastes and anticipations of the judgments to come at the end of the world, as did, for example, the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah. But what we do know is that it is just – in all things perfectly just –, it is precisely suited to the crimes against God and man that were committed, it is adjusted according to the light and the knowledge that people had, and, as a consequence, there will be no grounds for complaint on the great day.

I also thought it interesting that Rayburn says at the beginning of this sermon that Babylon is not named in these chapters.  I hadn't noticed, as we are just beginning this section of the book, and likely wouldn't have noticed anyway, but he says that because Babylon was the instrument of God's judgement, the sword in His hand, so to speak, it is not named in this section of Ezekiel as one of the nations to be judged.  Instead, more prophesying is done against the next victims of Babylon's ambition instead.  These eight chapters, in a way, give us a wider sense of the scale of the impact of Babylon’s imperial designs on the nations of the ancient world. A few of the sixteen nations will be mentioned only in passing. Four of Egypt’s allies are mentioned in chapter 30:5 as about to suffer catastrophe at Babylon’s hands otherwise nothing is said of them.

Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Ezekiel 26-27.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Genesis 47-48; Psalm 19; Matthew 19.

1 comment:

Tammy said...

God's perfect justice is amazing. I, too, had not noticed that Babylon was missing from the list.