The word of the LORD came to me again, saying,…
Very picturesque and memorable is this portion of Ezekiel's prophecies. The prophet in his vision beholds the King of Babylon on his way to execute the purposes of God upon the rebellious and treacherous prince of Judah, and upon his partakers in sin. He sees him at some point of this expedition, standing on the northeast of Palestine, uncertain whether in the first instance to direct his arms against Rabbath, the capitol of the Ammonites, or Jerusalem, the metropolis of Judah. He is at "the parting of the way," and calls to his aid, to help him to a decision, not only the counsel of the politician and the commander, but that also of the diviner. The bright arrows, on which the names of the two cities are inscribed, are drawn as in a lottery, the images are consulted, the liver is inspected by the augur. The prophet sees the resolve taken to proceed against Jerusalem; yet at the same time, he predicts that the children of Ammon shall not escape the edge of the glittering sword of retribution and vengeance.
I. DIVINE JUSTICE MAKES USE OF HUMAN AGENCIES OF RETRIBUTION, OFTEN THEMSELVES UNCONSCIOUS OF THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH THEY ARE EMPLOYED. The King of Babylon was appointed as the minister of righteous avenging upon both Judah and Ammon. Unawares to himself, he, in his military operations, was carrying out the predictions of God's prophets, and the decree of God himself. Infinite wisdom is never at a loss for means by which to bring to pass its own counsels and resolves.
II. DIVINE JUSTICE PUNISHES THE PRIVILEGED WHO ARE UNFAITHFUL TO THEIR PRIVILEGES AS WELL AS THOSE WHOSE PRIVILEGES HAVE NOT BEEN EXCEPTIONAL. Although the descendants of Abraham were selected from among the nations for a special purpose connected with God's plans for the moral government of the world, they were not thereby released from their righteous obligations, or from liability to punishment in case those obligations were repudiated. Israel's election did not secure exemption from the consequences of defection and rebellion. Rather was the guilt of the nation deemed to be aggravated by their neglect to use aright the many advantages with which they were favoured. On the other hand, the Ammonites were not secured against righteous retribution merely because they were less highly privileged than Israel. They had a measure of light, and they were responsible for walking in the light they enjoyed; and if they loved darkness rather than light, they secured their own condemnation.
III. DIVINE JUSTICE DECIDES WHICH GUILTY NATION SHALL BE CORRECTED, AND WHICH SHALL BE DESTROYED. Into the secret counsels of God it is not given us to enter. Facts are before us; and we see that, according to this prophecy, Ammon was committed as fuel to the fire, and was no more remembered; that the very name of the Ammonites vanished out of human history; and we see that the Jewish people survived, and were brought forth from the furnace into which they were cast. We can only apply to these facts our faith in the Divine righteousness, and hold fast by our conviction that in this, as in all his dealings with men, the Eternal Ruler has acted upon principles of unquestionable equity.
IV. DIVINE JUSTICE SUMMONS SINFUL NATIONS TO REPENTANCE AND NEWNESS OF LIFE. These predictions and their fulfilment in history have been recorded for our instruction. What we read in Scripture is fitted to deepen within our nature the conviction that this world is under the righteous government of God. And we shall be foolish indeed if we do not infer from this fact the necessity of repentance and of renewal; if we are not led to welcome the assurance that for the penitent there is mercy, and for the lowly, life. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,