EZEKIEL 4:1 – 6:14 and JUDE 1–13
The Word of the Lord will now speak to the fate of Jerusalem. The coming siege is described in verses 1-17. Ezekiel was instructed to give a visual picture of the judgement that was to come upon Jerusalem. He was told to build a fort and set it in a mount. He then was told to take an iron pan and set it between him and the city. This model was to let Israel know that it was God who was besieging the city. Afterwards he was to lie on his left side for a period of 390 days. This was for the purpose of bearing the iniquity of the ten northern tribes whose judgement preceded that of Judah’s. It is interesting to note that from the time period of when the tribes divided until the fall of Babylon was a period of about 390 years. Ezekiel then had to lie on his right side for 40 days to bear the iniquity of the sins of Judah. The number 40 speaks of trial seeing that it was 40 years that Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the land. It also can speak of the 40 years that Moses was in the land of Midian where he was being prepared for leadership. It is a unique method for the preparation of a prophet. Yet in all this God was clearly sending a message as to what he was about to do. How many times and how many different ways does the Lord seek in trying to get His message across?
Ezekiel had to eat bread that was baked with cow’s dung to symbolise the severe famine that would come upon the land. It also symbolised the eating of defiled bread which was contrary to Levitical Law. The message was clear that there would be a dispersing of God’s people amongst the Gentiles. There are times in the life of a minster when God will allow certain deprivations so as to prepare the ministers and congregations for some of the hardships that may later take place. If we can allow our dependency to be upon the Lord now it will be of benefit in the days of famine and judgement. On the other hand, if we become comfortable with the world and its luxuries we may have difficulty trusting the Lord in the day of need. Imagine how much of a spectacle Ezekiel was before the people he would eventually be called to prophesy to. He has not yet entered into the fullness of his ministry so this had to be a difficult and most humiliating experience for him. Ezekiel’s experience so far is primarily two-fold. He is being prepared for the time when he will speak forth the unadulterated pure Word of the Lord to a rebellious people. All taint of human tendencies within Ezekiel had to be purged and cleansed from him. His humiliating demonstrations were serving as a message to the people as they would understand its meaning. In other words, God was speaking a message from that which Ezekiel was required to do.
Some of the judgements that will come upon Jerusalem are illustrated through other unique experiences that Ezekiel will have to endure. In the first four verses, he is instructed to take a razor and cut his hair and then divided it into three parts. The hair was to represent Israel. The first part he was to burn after the siege of the city in their midst. The second part he was to cut with a knife and the third part was to be scattered to the wind. He was also instructed to take a few pieces of hair and contain it in his skirt which would later be burned. What does all of this mean and why would a prophet who is being prepared of God be subjected to such humiliation? I can only imagine that this was a bit difficult for Ezekiel to fully reconcile. I would like to digress for a moment by looking at some key verses that are placed within the middle of this narrative. It helps to put all of this into proper context.
Eze 5:5 Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.
Eze 5:6 And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them.
How has it come to this? God has given Israel the privilege of being a nation that can reveal and show forth His greatness and His ways. God wanted Israel to be a nation that others could look toward to take guidance and instruction from. If we are called to be a witness and an example, we then need to understand the accountability required. Did Israel live up to this high calling? We find the answer in verse 6 where it states that they were even more vile than the nations they were called to be an example to. This helps us to appreciate the work and preparation that God is exacting through Ezekiel. His message, when it comes, must be clear and without human taint. The time has come when God is about to move in a profound way and he is going to use a “prophet” who will know His heart and feel His pain. So then what is the interpretation of the razor and hair account that is referred to above?
The keys to interpret this verse are found in verses 12-17. There will be 1/3 that will die by way of famine, disease and pestilence. There will be a 1/3 that will die by way of the sword in and around the city. The final third will be a people who are dispersed throughout the nations with the sword of the Lord being drawn after them. There will be no escaping the fury and wrath of the Lord when judgment ensues. We have seen during the time of Jeremiah that many were opting to leave Jerusalem thinking that they would elude the sword. (Remember Johanna in Jer 42 and 43?) The Lord is speaking the same thing only in a different way. Egypt and the world will prove to be no remedy in the day of the Lord’s wrath.
The other nations will take note of all that will befall Jerusalem. The intensity of judgement upon Israel will be so severe that it will send a message to the other nations that surround her (vs 15). It did not have to be this way nor should it be for the church of the last days. It is still God’s intention that His church be called to serve as the modicum of Truth. The prophet Daniel spoke of how there will be those who will arise in the last days to be teachers of righteousness (Dan 12:3). Which of the two groups represents where we are? Are we like Israel who has the calling to be an example to others but instead are more like the world or are we of the group that Daniel speaks of? Are we more like those seen in Eze 5:5-6 or the people cited in Dan 12:3? Let’s ponder closely over this question.
Some of the judgements upon the land are going to be pronounced. It will begin with a move against many of the idolatrous altars that have become commonplace throughout Israel. The people who once knew the benevolent hand of God have now turned to heathen idols as their source of help. It will not only be destruction upon the altars but upon the cities on which they are built. It is a thorough annihilation that God will bring; so much so that at the end they will know that it is of God (vs 1-7).
One of the hopeful truths seen in the midst of God’s judgements is the promise of a remnant that can still be among those who inhabit the promises. God was not going to let the majority of Israel enter into His promise due to their sin but the fact that there was a remnant speaks to God’s eternal promise to Israel. The message of the remnant is seen throughout scripture. There was a responsibility upon the remnant to not do the things that led Israel into sin but rather be those who place their trust in the Lord. The Gentile church represents the remnant of those who enter into the promises of Israel. Paul speaks of a remnant that comes as a result of the election of grace. It is vital that we hear and obey the Word of the Lord and learn to love Truth and His ways. This manner of life is well pleasing to God and it draws His attention on our behalf (vs 8-10).
Ezekiel is then called to perform a type of prophetic act by smiting with his hand and stomping with his feet upon the land as sign as to what God is about to do by way of judgement. The judgements will come by way of the sword, by famine and pestilence. These verses (11-14) are a repeat as to what the Lord spoke earlier in this chapter. The fact that it is reinforced speaks to its urgency and its certainty. The dreadful judgements that come upon Israel were actually spoken by Moses in Deu 29:23. This would have never happened if Israel would have kept and upheld the law of God. It is a sobering warning for us today concerning the hearing, keeping and obeying the Word of the Lord. How much more accountable is our generation than those in times past? How much more accountable is our generation to the days of Ezekiel? We better pay close heed to the scale of judgements that came upon their generation while seeking to lay hold of the Lord in this hour.
The epistle of Jude though containing only one chapter is a potent expose of end time truths. There is so much meat and content in many of the verses many of which speak specifically target the last days. We gain some insight into the quality of character in Jude from its opening verse. He identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. He could have said that he was the brother of Christ but in humility, he sought not to exalt his position seeing the proximity he had to the Lord in his early years. If you follow the background of Jude and his brothers, you will see that this was not always the case. A transformative work was achieved in them from seeking the exalted place to choosing to assume the low place.
The primary purpose for writing this letter was because Jude was greatly concerned for the mixture and apostasy that was coming into the church. Jude was one who travelled extensively in his ministry so he was seeing first-hand the damaging effects that mixture and compromise were bringing to the body of Christ. Jude uses the term “earnestly contend” which can be translated to “agonize over” regarding the defence of the Gospel.
Jude then speaks of certain men who have crept in unawares who were ordained to a certain condemnation. Let us not be of those who say that these men had no choice in this matter; they did. God knows the decisions that will be made in one’s life and predestines such people accordingly. It is not a pre-programmed model that puts man into the position of just following along a particular script. The power of “choice” is one of the greatest privileges that God gives to man. It is how we choose to respond to “light” that determines everything. God knew how these men would respond and as a result “ordained” that they would fulfil this ministry. In the end, such men will be accountable for their choices; it is not because God pre-planned it this way. The primary issue with these men were that they were redefining the grace of God. They were allowing the subject of grace to become a license to licentious living. Does this sound familiar in light of some popular doctrines circulating today? Paul covers this subject extensively in Rom 6-8. He makes clear that it is the Law of God that allows for sin to come alive in the life of a person. Once the Law brings that sin to life what is to be done? What will be the choice and response? Paul asks the question as to whether one should continue to sin; to take license to sin because they were no longer under the law (Rom 6:15). They said yes and it is this group of people cited that Jude is referring to in verse 4. They were taking the grace of God, redefining it and essentially saying that one can sin without worry of being accountable. Paul answered NO to this question and agonized over the two natures that were at war in his life (Rom 7). So then how should we define grace? Think of grace as being like a “bridge” that takes man from his exposed state of sin into what God has called him to be. Grace does not excuse sin it gives the empowerment to overcome sin and become more like the Lord. It all comes down to CHOICE. The false teaching that was being propagated in Jude’s day was much easier to believe and apply. It is no different today when looking at much of the syrupy Gospel that is seen in today’s church.
Verses 5-7 should give all believers pause in seeing that there are three examples of those who once knew God who fell from grace. There are the Israelites, the angels who left their first habitation and the men of Sodom. The first group are the Israelites who experienced the Passover Lamb while in Egypt. The Lord destroyed those who later turned from their belief (Deu 8:2-5). The wilderness was a place of testing to see what was really in the heart of the people. Likewise today, there are many Christians who start well at the time of their salvation. Their journey as a believer will take them through situations which will test their faith. How will they respond? Will they seek grace and allow God to bring discipline into their life or will they refuse the dealings of God due to unmet expectations?
The next group mentioned is that of the fallen angels in verse 6. There is no mercy for Lucifer and the fallen angels due to the tremendous light of God’s glory that they were exposed to. They sinned in the very presence of God and they are now KEPT in chains to everlasting judgement. There are several contrasts seen in the Book of Jude. There are the believers who seek God who are KEPT by the power of God as opposed to the rebellious and backsliders who choose not to follow the ways of God who are kept to everlasting damnation. It is amazing to consider that we are KEPT to everlasting life or damnation by reason of the CHOICES we make. God is ever faithful in seeking to reach out and help us to make right choices. A continual ignorance and wilful resistance to the overtures of God that He makes towards us will result in our being confirmed on a continued path towards destruction. This is further confirmed in Rev 22:11 where we see two paths that start out closely linked but eventually diverge in two totally different directions. There is no middle ground Christianity in the last days; it is one path or the other.
We see another relevant warning in verse 7. Those who were living in Sodom and Gomorrah and partakers of its sins are now suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. The primary sin was sexual perversion and in particular homosexuality. How is it that the world is so blind to the parallels of Sodom to our day? Worse still, how is that the church hardly gives a whimper concerning this? In fact, some of the church now embraces or tolerates this sordid lifestyle. Yes, we are to reach out to the sinners in love and help bring them to a relationship with Christ. On the other hand, this lifestyle and those who tolerate, celebrate and promote it are going to hell. I personally feel that Jude drives this reality home more than most other writers. Jude’s epistle is an end time message that needs to be given a greater platform.
One of the more prominent verses in Jude is verse 11, which speaks of three men from scripture we need to be warned against. They are Cain, Balaam and Korah. If we can gain an understanding of their lives and related ministries it will help us in our core understanding in what Jude is writing. It will be picked up in tomorrow’s summary.