And the LORD said to him, Go through the middle of the city, through the middle of Jerusalem…
The defection and idolatry already described in the previous chapter could neither be disregarded nor unavenged. A nation that bad enjoyed privileges so conspicuously great as Israel, and that had, in spite of all such privileges, apostatized from the God to whom they owed everything that distinguished them from the surrounding nations, had written its own sentence of condemnation. But the Divine retribution is never undiscriminating. The laws of national life are such that the righteous are often slain with the wicked; but their calamity is not a sign of Divine displeasure. And above this earth, upon which anomalies are ever witnessed - anomalies calling for both submission and faith - there is a region where perfect discrimination is ever exhibited. This passage teaches a precious lesson. The Judge of all the earth will do right; he will separate the wheat from the chaff. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." They bear his own mark, the impress of his own seal. They shall be delivered in the judgment that shall overtake the disobedient and rebellious. The Divine Priest of salvation himself gives the direction, "Come not near any man upon whom is the mark!"
I. THE PREVALENCE OF MORAL ABOMINATIONS IN A COMMUNITY. The various idolatries that had been brought into Jerusalem had led the population of that city into error and sin. Even in the neighbourhood and the precincts of the temple itself the worship and the practices of the heathen prevailed unchecked. A holy God, and commandments righteous and pure, were forsaken for deities and for rites which were the expression of human degradation and corruption. Where is the community in which there is nothing parallel to the state of things at Jerusalem in the time of Ezekiel? Wealth, luxury, pleasure, a worldly standard of judgment and of life, are too often substituted for the lofty and exacting religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. With irreligion come vice and crime in varying forms. Abominations are wrought in every great city in Christendom at which angels may weep.
II. THE RETRIBUTIVE JUDGMENT OF GOD. The six men with the battle axes, whom the prophet saw in his vision, were directed to execute a righteous sentence upon the inhabitants of the city; they were without pity to slay the sinful and rebellious of every age and every class. There is something awful in the resolve of the Lord, as recorded by the prophet, "I will recompense their way upon their head." No one who has studied the history of the nations of the earth will question the action of a retributive Providence. In the facts which meet us there is indeed much that perplexes us; but we are not left in doubt as to the fate of the selfish, the worldly, the unjust, the cruel, the voluptuous, in a word, the idolatrous, those who forget and forsake God. However it may be hereafter, there is no room for questioning how it is in this world with those who rebel against God.
III. THE INDIFFERENCE WITH WHICH PREVAILING INIQUITY IS TOO GENERALLY REGARDED. Such indifference is sometimes justified by argument: as when men say that the world's sin is fated and inevitable, and that it is needless and useless to trouble ourselves concerning it. But generally this is merely a sign of selfishness and hardness of heart. Men shut their eyes and deafen their ears to the evidences of prevailing sin; to recognize it would disagreeably disturb them in their pursuits, their pleasures, their dreams.
IV. THE SUFFERING AND DISTRESS OCCASIONED TO THE TRUE PEOPLE OF GOD BY THE SPECTACLE OF ABOUNDING INIQUITY. There are those, thank God, in every community of professed Christians who are not unaffected by the abominations which are done. They mark their sense of prevailing sin by their protests and rebukes, by their confessions and prayers, by their practical efforts for the improvement of their fellow men, and especially by their zeal in the proclamation of the gospel and in the furtherance of all means employed to bring before the minds of sinners the character, the ministry, the redeeming work of him who came "to seek and to save that which was lost."
V. THIS SPIRITUAL CONCERN A MARK OF GOD'S SPECIAL FAVOUR, AND A SIGN OF FUTURE SALVATION. It was a common practice, and indeed still is, in the East, to set a mark upon the forehead of the deity worshipped, and upon the forehead of the worshipper. The practice is alluded to in other passages besides this in Ezekiel. The priest and intercessor placed the sign upon those who sighed and cried because of the abominations; and they were exempted from the general calamities and destruction. In this provision is a great spiritual truth. We should commit a mistake did we understand an outward and visible sign merely. This may be present or absent. It is the Lord's own prerogative to mark his own people, to recognize their earnest spiritual concern, to assure them of his own favour and approval as partaking the sentiments, if it may so be expressed with reverence, of his own nature, and to secure them for the coming tribulation, to hide them as in the cleft of the rock, and to enrich them with the blessings of eternal salvation. There is no truer mark of the Divine Spirit than sorrow for prevalent sin, and solicitude for the cause of truth and righteousness. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
WEB: Yahweh said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry over all the abominations that are done in its midst.