All I Have Left is in This Backpack

Ezekiel 12:1–16 (NKJV)

12:1 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house.

“Therefore, son of man, prepare your belongings for captivity, and go into captivity by day in their sight. You shall go from your place into captivity to another place in their sight. It may be that they will consider, though they are a rebellious house. By day you shall bring out your belongings in their sight, as though going into captivity; and at evening you shall go in their sight, like those who go into captivity. Dig through the wall in their sight, and carry your belongings out through it. In their sight you shall bear them on your shoulders and carry them out at twilight; you shall cover your face, so that you cannot see the ground, for I have made you a sign to the house of Israel.”

So I did as I was commanded. I brought out my belongings by day, as though going into captivity, and at evening I dug through the wall with my hand. I brought them out at twilight, and I bore them on my shoulder in their sight.

And in the morning the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, has not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said to you, ‘What are you doing?’ 10 Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “This burden concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the house of Israel who are among them.” ’ 11 Say, ‘I am a sign to you. As I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall be carried away into captivity.’ 12 And the prince who is among them shall bear his belongings on his shoulder at twilight and go out. They shall dig through the wall to carry them out through it. He shall cover his face, so that he cannot see the ground with his eyes. 13 I will also spread My net over him, and he shall be caught in My snare. I will bring him to Babylon, to the land of the Chaldeans; yet he shall not see it, though he shall die there. 14 I will scatter to every wind all who are around him to help him, and all his troops; and I will draw out the sword after them.

15 “Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries. 16 But I will spare a few of their men from the sword, from famine, and from pestilence, that they may declare all their abominations among the Gentiles wherever they go. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.”

Ezekiel is given a task to carry out every morning.  He is to bind up his belongings in a pack and cover his face, dig a hole in the wall of his house and carry his belongings to another place as if he is going into captivity.  When the people inquire as to what he is doing, he is to tell them that captivity is coming and everyone will do as he is doing, because the Lord is going to judge Israel.  

This sign is to demonstrate what happens when God’s people disobey and follow after other false gods.  While we may not be in danger of being carried off to the land of our political enemies today, we are in danger of a spiritual bondage related to our idolatry and sin.  We must understand that the plight of many who have gone the way of Israel in this chapter is being played out right before our eyes, and we should be aware of the bondage and pain that sin causes.  Don’t be caught up in the sinful lifestyle of our day.  Don’t be forced to stuff as many of your belingings as possible in a backpack and walk in bondage and captivity.  Live in the will of God and be blessed!

A Restored Heart (by the Power of the Spirit)

Ezekiel 11:1–25 (NKJV)

11:1 Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the East Gate of the Lord’s house, which faces eastward; and there at the door of the gate were twenty-five men, among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azzur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. And He said to me: “Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and give wicked counsel in this city, who say, ‘The time is not near to build houses; this city is the caldron, and we are the meat.’ Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man!”

Then the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and said to me, “Speak! ‘Thus says the Lord: “Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind. You have multiplied your slain in this city, and you have filled its streets with the slain.” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Your slain whom you have laid in its midst, they are the meat, and this city is the caldron; but I shall bring you out of the midst of it. You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,” says the Lord God. “And I will bring you out of its midst, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and execute judgments on you. 10 You shall fall by the sword. I will judge you at the border of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. 11 This city shall not be your caldron, nor shall you be the meat in its midst. I will judge you at the border of Israel. 12 And you shall know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor executed My judgments, but have done according to the customs of the Gentiles which are all around you.” ’ ”

13 Now it happened, while I was prophesying, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then I fell on my face and cried with a loud voice, and said, “Ah, Lord God! Will You make a complete end of the remnant of Israel?”

God showed that the false religions, and specifically the Jews involvement in them, brought judgment.  The very worship of false gods created a boiling cauldron of judgment upon Israel.  Fittingly, one of the men that God had called out for this judgment died in the middle of the prophecy.

14 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 15 “Son of man, your brethren, your relatives, your countrymen, and all the house of Israel in its entirety, are those about whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Get far away from the Lord; this land has been given to us as a possession.’ 16 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.” ’ 17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” ’ 18 And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. 19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.

In this passage, God tells them of how restoration will begin.  He will save a remnant, and then gather them from where they are scattered.  He will take them back to Israel, but as He does He will drive out the idols, bring them together with one heart, take out their heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.  He will call the people back to His laws and statutes.  Those who desire ungodly things will be repaid for their sins.

22 So the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was high above them. 23 And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city.

24 Then the Spirit took me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to those in captivity. And the vision that I had seen went up from me. 25 So I spoke to those in captivity of all the things the Lord had shown me.

After this vision of God’s restoration of the people of Israel, the cherubim–with the presence of the Lord–lifted up, and Ezekiel was taken to Chaldea, in the midst of the captives of Israel to tell them of the prophecy.

One of the most powerful messages of this chapter is the restoration of what was lost.  Regardless of the reason for loss (wrongdoing, sin, failure), God can and will restore those who return to Him.  Don’t stay away from God when crisis comes.  Instead, cling to Him and be restored in your heart by the power of the Spirit of God.

Coals of Fire

Ezekiel 10:1–22 (NKJV)

10:1 And I looked, and there in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne. Then He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, “Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in as I watched.

Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory. And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.

Then it happened, when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” that he went in and stood beside the wheels. And the cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, and took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed with linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings.

This recurrence of the image of chapter one is a reiteration of the fact that God Himself is sending a word or message to the nation.  God sent the man in linen from chapter nine to get fire and coals from the cherubim to scatter all over the city,  

And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone. 10 As for their appearance, all four looked alike—as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 11 When they went, they went toward any of their four directions; they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing. They did not turn aside when they went. 12 And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around. 13 As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing, “Wheel.”

14 Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. 15 And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar. 16 When the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also did not turn from beside them. 17 When the cherubim stood still, the wheels stood still, and when one was lifted up, the other lifted itself up, for the spirit of the living creature was in them.

18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

20 This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim. 21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. 22 And the likeness of their faces was the same as the faces which I had seen by the River Chebar, their appearance and their persons. They each went straight forward.

This reappearance of the wheels and the creatures and the presence of the Lord was again to establish the presence of the Lord.  However, in this case, the presence of God lifted from the temple, and fire was scattered around the city.  An interpretation of this passage could be that God was retreating from the temple because of the idolatry and sin of the city and nation.  However, He was scattering the coals over the city for the dual purpose of judgment and cleansing.  When Isaiah was touched with a coal from the altar of God, his lips were cleansed so that he could speak for the Lord.  In this case, the coals were scattered over the city in order for the ungodly to be destroyed, and the righteous to be cleansed.  Where will you stand when the coals are scattered.  Lord, let me be cleansed, not killed, by the coals of fire!

Because You Care

Ezekiel 9:1–11 (NKJV)

9:1 Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, “Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.” And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar.

Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”

To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple. Then He said to them, “Defile the temple, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” And they went out and killed in the city.

So it was, that while they were killing them, I was left alone; and I fell on my face and cried out, and said, “Ah, Lord God! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?”

Then He said to me, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of bloodshed, and the city full of perversity; for they say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see!’ 10 And as for Me also, My eye will neither spare, nor will I have pity, but I will recompense their deeds on their own head.”

11 Just then, the man clothed with linen, who had the inkhorn at his side, reported back and said, “I have done as You commanded me.”

The Lord initiated the process of identifying the faithful in Israel by seeking out those who cry and have sorrow over the sinful activities and lifestyle in Jerusalem.  These God would spare, for they would rebuild the city with integrity once the Lord began to restore.  God told the man in linen with the inkhorn among the six men who appeared (presumably angels) to go and mark the faithful.  After that, the rest of the men with battle axes would join him and they would destroy the rest of the city inhabitants who did not have the mark.  

The Lord was sending His judgment on the city for their idolatry and sin.  The faithful were marked for salvation.  The rest were to be destroyed.  Our world today is full of sin, and judgment will come.  How can you be saved?  By repentance, by contrition and sorrow you will be saved.  By submission and obedience you will live saved.  By love and compassion and witnessing, you will share saved.  How can I  be saved from an adulterous and perverse and idolatrous generation?  Because you care….

Thumbing Your Nose at God

Ezekiel 8:1–18 (NKJV)

8:1 And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. Then I looked, and there was a likeness, like the appearance of fire—from the appearance of His waist and downward, fire; and from His waist and upward, like the appearance of brightness, like the color of amber. He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my hair; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, lift your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance.

Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.” So He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was a hole in the wall. Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig into the wall”; and when I dug into the wall, there was a door.

And He said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.” 10 So I went in and saw, and there—every sort of creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls. 11 And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and in their midst stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan. Each man had a censer in his hand, and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’ ”

13 And He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing.” 14 So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the Lord’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.

15 Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.” 16 So He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.

17 And He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”

The people of God had turned fully to idols.  God appeared to Ezekiel in an awesome form of fire to show Himself as God.  He opposed the image of jealousy (pride), homages to animals and creeping things painted on the walls of the court, the god Tammuz, and the sun god.  The sun worshippers actually turned their backs to God to worship.  In verse 17, the Lord sums up the sordid series of actions by saying that Judah has “put the branch to their nose.”  The meaning of this is unclear (although speculation is myriad), but signifies an act of insult toward God.  

Ultimately, the actions of God’s people leads God to judgment against them, and violence is to fill the land.  This is further confirmation that the sinful idolatry of Judah will lead to judgment and violence.  This is a picture of how God’s people have forsaken what they know to be true and right, and have run after practices that are unholy and damning.  Don’t follow this example.  Don’t thumb your nose at God.  He is God.  Worship and obey Him and be blessed!

Judgment Comes Swift and Severe

Ezekiel 7:1–27 (NKJV)

7:1 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “And you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel: ‘An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land.
3 Now the end has come upon you,
And I will send My anger against you;
I will judge you according to your ways,
And I will repay you for all your abominations.
4 My eye will not spare you,
Nor will I have pity;
But I will repay your ways,
And your abominations will be in your midst;
Then you shall know that I am the LORD!’

5 “Thus says the Lord GOD:

‘A disaster, a singular disaster;
Behold, it has come!
6 An end has come,
The end has come;
It has dawned for you;
Behold, it has come!
7 Doom has come to you, you who dwell in the land;
The time has come,
A day of trouble is near,
And not of rejoicing in the mountains.
8 Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury,
And spend My anger upon you;
I will judge you according to your ways,
And I will repay you for all your abominations.

9 ‘My eye will not spare,
Nor will I have pity;
I will repay you according to your ways,
And your abominations will be in your midst.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD who strikes.

10 ‘Behold, the day!
Behold, it has come!
Doom has gone out;
The rod has blossomed,
Pride has budded.
11 Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness;
None of them shall remain,
None of their multitude,
None of them;
Nor shall there be wailing for them.
12 The time has come,
The day draws near.

‘Let not the buyer rejoice,
Nor the seller mourn,
For wrath is on their whole multitude.
13 For the seller shall not return to what has been sold,
Though he may still be alive;
For the vision concerns the whole multitude,
And it shall not turn back;
No one will strengthen himself
Who lives in iniquity.

14 ‘They have blown the trumpet and made everyone ready,
But no one goes to battle;
For My wrath is on all their multitude.
15 The sword is outside,
And the pestilence and famine within.
Whoever is in the field
Will die by the sword;
And whoever is in the city,
Famine and pestilence will devour him.

This passage details the many ways in which judgment will be measured out upon Israel.  Sudden doom, no mercy, a rod for wickedness, and an incapable army that cannot fight.  Israel will be overwhelmed in a weak state of existence.  

16 ‘Those who survive will escape and be on the mountains
Like doves of the valleys,
All of them mourning,
Each for his iniquity.
17 Every hand will be feeble,
And every knee will be as weak as water.
18 They will also be girded with sackcloth;
Horror will cover them;
Shame will be on every face,
Baldness on all their heads.

19 ‘They will throw their silver into the streets,
And their gold will be like refuse;
Their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them
In the day of the wrath of the LORD;
They will not satisfy their souls,
Nor fill their stomachs,
Because it became their stumbling block of iniquity.

20 ‘As for the beauty of his ornaments,
He set it in majesty;
But they made from it
The images of their abominations—
Their detestable things;
Therefore I have made it
Like refuse to them.
21 I will give it as plunder
Into the hands of strangers,
And to the wicked of the earth as spoil;
And they shall defile it.
22 I will turn My face from them,
And they will defile My secret place;
For robbers shall enter it and defile it.

The survivors of God’s wrath will be in mourning, and will throw away their gold and jewels, and everything once considered valuable will be discarded for the sorrow they experience.

23 ‘Make a chain,
For the land is filled with crimes of blood,
And the city is full of violence.
24 Therefore I will bring the worst of the Gentiles,
And they will possess their houses;
I will cause the pomp of the strong to cease,
And their holy places shall be defiled.
25 Destruction comes;
They will seek peace, but there shall be none.
26 Disaster will come upon disaster,
And rumor will be upon rumor.
Then they will seek a vision from a prophet;
But the law will perish from the priest,
And counsel from the elders.

27 ‘The king will mourn,
The prince will be clothed with desolation,
And the hands of the common people will tremble.
I will do to them according to their way,
And according to what they deserve I will judge them;
Then they shall know that I am the LORD!’ ”

Losses include idolatrous inhabitants flooding the land, pride will be destroyed, loss of property, reverence, and direction from God through the prophets.  The king will mourn and the law will perish.  Commoners will tremble.  Judgment will come, and it will be swift and severe.  Don’t transgress against God until that happens in your life!

Dead Before An Altar

Ezekiel 6:1–14 (NKJV)

6:1 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, ‘O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God! Thus says the Lord God to the mountains, to the hills, to the ravines, and to the valleys: “Indeed I, even I, will bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places. Then your altars shall be desolate, your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain men before your idols. And I will lay the corpses of the children of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones all around your altars. ezek 6 idolsIn all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate, so that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, your idols may be broken and made to cease, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be abolished. The slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord.

In this prophetic speech against Israel, Ezekiel establishes the weakness of idols and the power of Yahweh.  Symbolically, he speaks of laying the bodies of the Israelites before their idols, as if they are an offering unto the destroyed, impotent figures that Isreal chose to worship.  This act is to establish that the only true God is Yahweh, the Lord!

“Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries. Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them.”

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God had chosen Israel long before to be His people, a light among the nations.  He never intends to totally annihilate the Israelites, but rather longs to chasten them, that they might return to Him in repentance and holiness.  His desire is that they might know “that I am the Lord.”  Therefore, He promises to leave a remnant.

11 ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, ‘Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. 12 He who is far off shall die by the pestilence, he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who remains and is besieged shall die by the famine. Thus will I spend My fury upon them. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when their slain are among their idols all around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every thick oak, wherever they offered sweet incense to all their idols. 14 So I will stretch out My hand against them and make the land desolate, yes, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblah, in all their dwelling places. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.’ ” ’ ”

The Lord God commands that the hearer express themselves aggresively in their  “indignation tempered by grief and sadness.”*  It would be akin to the response when an individual walked into their home and found their family murdered, slaughtered by an intruder.  Yet the Lord does not limit this sorrow to the immediate confines of the cities, but also to anyone who is in the hills, mountaintops, and groves.  This is all in response to the idolatry of the nation.  God intends to be known as the Lord.  We must turn to God today, making Him known as the Lord of the whole earth.  If not, we may find ourselves dead before the altar of our false gods.

*Allen, Leslie C. Ezekiel 1–19. Vol. 28. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.