And say to the land of Israel, Thus said the LORD; Behold, I am against you, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath…
It is a pathetic spectacle, this of the prophet, in his exile away in the northeast, turning by Divine command his gaze, sorrowful and sympathizing, towards Jerusalem, the holy places, the land of Israel. The present is sad enough, but Ezekiel has to bear the oppressive anticipation of the future. He hears the assurance of the God whom his countrymen have offended by their infidelity that worse calamity, even disaster, and death are about to befall the remnant in Palestine. The sword is about to be drawn out of its sheath, and the righteous and the wicked alike are about to feel the keenness of its edge.
I. PROVIDENCE REGARDS A NATION AS HAVING A CORPORATE LIFE. Israel was a unity, and the scattered tribes were regarded by the King of nations as one people. It is the same with other communities. Every nation has its own national life, its own organic unity. Each subject or citizen is a member of the body, and his existence has meaning in this relation and all that it involves.
II. RECTORAL LAW ACCORDINGLY DEALS WITH A NATION AS A WHOLE. The inhabitants of the earth are under moral government and control, are subject to law and to the Divine Lawgiver and Judge. God is the God of nations. So much is this the case that political authority is represented in Scripture as being a Divine institution: "The powers that be are ordained of God." As Providence designs that men should live in communities, so God determines the discipline, the moral education, through which nations must pass. God is in history; which is uninteresting and meaningless unless his hand is recognized, and the operation of his rule observed with admiring reverence.
III. THIS PRINCIPLE INVOLVES THAT THE WICKED PARTICIPATE IN THE PROSPERITY, AND THE GOOD IN THE ADVERSITY, WHICH COME UPON A NATION. Individuals are not always in sympathy with the community of which they form a part. There are other currents in a stream beside its main flow. Broadly speaking, the nation which publicly and flagrantly violates the moral law undermines its own life and prepares the way for its own dissolution. When the catastrophe comes, those who have protested against the nation's sins, and have endeavoured to stem the torrent of unbelief and ungodliness, are carried away in the general destruction.
IV. SUCH RETRIBUTION DOES NOT, HOWEVER, AFFECT THE INDIVIDUAL MORAL PROBATION OF MEN. God deals with men upon general principles - according to broad, intelligible laws. We cannot see how it could be otherwise. Yet this seems to involve many cases of individual hardship, and even injustice. How can this be avoided? The Judge of all the earth will surely do right. How, then, can we explain the fact that - in the language of Ezekiel - the Eternal, with his sword, cuts off the righteous and the wicked?
V. THIS ARRANGEMENT IS EXPLAINED BY, AND HARMONIZES WITH, THE JUDGMENT AND RETRIBUTION OF A FUTURE STATE. What we know not now we shall know hereafter. The anomalies of the present state of being are such as to suggest that this is only a probationary state, that we do not now and here see the unfolding of the complete purposes of the Lord and Judge of all. The Scriptures reveal a state in which retribution and compensation shall be complete, as we know they are not here. The righteous and the wicked shall not always be confused in one common category, and consigned to one common doom. The discrimination which is not exercised now shall be exercised hereafter. Prosperous sinners shall not forever elude the righteous judgment of God. The suffering and patience of the virtuous and pious shall one day be rewarded, not only by the approbation of the Judge, but by an everlasting recompense. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.