Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying,…
Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, etc. "We have here," says Hengstenberg, "one of the grandest prophecies of Ezekiel. The prophet surveys in the Spirit of God the whole of the development of Israel, the past and the future." In this development we have the following stages: The condition in which the Lord found his people; the condition to which he raised them; their shameful departures from him; his severe judgments upon them; and their restoration to his favour. Each of these developments of Israelitish history may be viewed as an emblem of man's moral condition or relations with God, or of God's dealings with man. It seems to us that it would be unwise to attempt to deal with the chapter as a whole in one homily. We shall therefore consider its chief paragraphs separately. In the section before us we have two graphic pictures.
I. A PICTURE OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY AND DESTITUTION, OR OF THE CONDITION IN WHICH THE LORD FOUND HIS PEOPLE.
1. Their depraved moral parentage. "Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the laud of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite." The people of Israel are here designated "Canaanites," to indicate their degraded moral character and condition. "The Amorites and the Hittites are two chief Canaanitish tribes, that elsewhere so often represent the whole of the Canaanites; the Amorites already, in Genesis 15:16, where they specially represent the Canaanitish people in their sinfulness." Moral character and conduct are often viewed as indicative of moral parentage. "When men live according to the courses, natures, manners of others, they are styled their sons, or children." Thus the Jews are called "sons of the sorceress," etc. (Isaiah 57:3). The Jews in the time of our Lord's ministry upon earth claimed to be "Abraham's seed They said unto him, Abraham is our father." But Jesus said unto them, "Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:33-44). And St. Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, called Elymas the sorcerer a "child of the devil" (Acts 13:10). The tendency to sin which characterizes human nature indicates sinful parentage. The doctrine of original sin has often been stated in a very objectionable mariner. But there is a basis of fact underlying that doctrine. It is certain that human beings manifest in early life a proclivity to sin. The modern scientific teaching as to inherited tendencies conducts to the conclusion that we inherit a depraved moral nature.
2. Their destitute moral condition. "And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut," etc. (vers. 4, 5). These verses point to the condition of Israel in Egypt, where the family grew into a nation, or the nation may have said to have been born. There was nothing there to foster the moral life and health of the young nation. Nay, more, their physical condition was one of cruel oppression and bitter persecution (cf. Exodus 1:7-22). They were abhorred, afflicted, and brutally ill treated. But the verses illustrate man's spiritual condition apart from the grace of God and the provisions of that grace. Man is morally unclean as an unwashed infant, morally neglected as an uncared for infant, left to live or die, no one taking an interest in its condition, and being completely incapable of self-help. Is not that a picture of man's spiritual state apart from the grace of God? We inherit a sinful nature. We cannot convert or sanctify ourselves, or even do anything with a view to such results without Divine influence. We cannot repent except as we are summoned and strengthened to do so from heaven. And man cannot save us if he would; forevery man is a sinner, and needs salvation himself. Neither can angels save us. Their utmost wisdom, love, and might are inadequate to the difficult task. God alone has pity enough and power enough for this work. If he leaves us we must perish. If we are to be saved he must begin and carry on the gracious work. And we rejoice to know that he does not leave any people to perish without witness of himself, or without some gracious influences from him (cf. Acts 14:17; Romans 1:19, 20; 1 Timothy 2:4).
II. A PICTURE OF DIVINE CONDESCENSION AND FAVOUR, OR THE CONDITION TO WHICH THE LORD RAISED HIS PEOPLE. (Vers. 6-14.) Here, as Fairbaian observes, "everything is fragrant with the matchless grace and loving kindness of God."
1. God graciously regarded them in their outcast condition. "I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted [Revised Version, 'weltering,'] in thine own blood." He looked compassionately upon the Israelites in their afflictions and sorrow in Egypt. "The Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt," etc. (Exodus 3:7-10). He saw our race ruined by sin, and of his own free and unmerited grace he had pity upon us. We had no claim upon his compassion or assistance. By our sin we had forfeited every title to his favour. We had no grace or beauty to commend us to his regard. We were rather, as in the picture drawn by the prophet (vers. 3-6), fitted to awaken repulsion. Yet God looked upon us in mercy; and he did so of his own good pleasure. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us," etc. "God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
2. God conferred life upon them. "I said unto thee in thy blood, Live!" He saw the Israelites in Egypt as it were naked, abhorred, and perishing, and he designed them for life, and caused them to live, notwithstanding the cruelty, of their oppressors. And it is God of his grace, through Christ Jesus and by his Word and Spirit, who quickens dead souls into life. "God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ," etc. (Ephesians 2:4-10; cf. Colossians 2:13; John 3:5-8).
3. He blessed them with growth and increase. "I caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field," etc. The explanation of this verse is in Exodus 1:7, 12. The great increase of the children of Israel excited the fears of the Egyptian monarch, and led him to oppress them; "but the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew." Their growth was of God, and accorded with his great purposes concerning them. Spiritual growth in the individual is the product of Divine influences. God quickens and sustains and increases the life of the soul. Hence St. Paul prays "that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power by his Spirit in the inner man," etc. (Ephesians 3:16-19). The increase of the Church also is of him. "The Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved" (Acts 2:47). "I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6).
4. He took them into union with himself. "Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee," etc. (ver. 8). The child is represented as having now arrived at womanhood. The casting of the skirt over her is an action indicative of taking her under one's protection with a view to betrothal (cf. Ruth 3:9). And keeping up the figure, the espousals are indicated by the words, "Yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee,... and thou becamest mine." This covenant was entered into at Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:3-8; Exodus 34:27). "What grace when the Holy and Almighty One condescends to enter into covenant with so sinful and miserable a people!" And still God graciously enters into covenant with all who heartily believe on his Son Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 8:6-13). In this covenant we give ourselves to him as loyal subjects and servants; and in addition to many other blessings, he gives himself to us as the crowning blessing of the covenant. And if we are in this covenant, we may without presumption address him as our Father and our God (cf. John 20:17). "The Lord is my Portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him."
5. He sumptuously clothed and adorned them. "Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee," etc. (vers. 9-14). The washing and anointing (ver. 9) are suggested by the custom in the East of purifying the bride for her royal husband (cf. Esther 2:12). Israel is represented as having been thoroughly cleansed and anointed as the bride of the Lord. Then the prophet speaks of the dress and jewellery of the bride.
(1) The clothing and adorning were glorious. "I clothed thee also with broidered work," etc. The reference is to the condition of the people daring the reigns of David and Solomon, before the kingdom was divided, when they were at the height of prosperity and power. God clothes his people with "the beauty of holiness." They have "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit." "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation," etc. (Isaiah 61:10; and cf. Luke 15:22).
(2) The clothing and adorning were admired. "Thy renown went forth among the nations for thy beauty." The renown of the Israelites and their king is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 17:8, 21. When men are clothed with the beauties of moral excellence they awaken the admiration of the world. Men respect genuine religion when they see it embodied in human lives.
(3) The clothing and adorning were of God. "It was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God." The prosperity, power, and glory of Israel came from him. And Christians have not a righteousness of their "own, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." He arrays them in glories like his own. "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Spiritual, unfading, and eternal are the garments and glories in which God invests his people. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,