EZEKIEL 7:1 – 9:11 and JUDE 1: 14–25
The final assault upon Israel by Babylon is now described by Ezekiel. There were times in Israel’s history where there had been partial devastation such as when the Assyrians under Sennacherib had invaded the northern territories. There have been some initial incursions into Judah but now it will be total and complete (vs 1-7).
The swiftness of this judgement is expressed in verses 7-11. It is likened to the dawning of a new day; everything is about to change. If serious contemplation were to be given to this event, one could only conclude that God majors on long-suffering. God has consistently warned and given every opportunity for Israel to prepare and make things right but it was to no avail. They are now about to know the swiftness of God’s wrath. It’s as if the people were in denial and that such a thing could never happen to them. How can we be so judgmental on their apathy when we look at what is taking place today? Are there not notable similarities? Do we not see a similar sense of being immune from the intensity of God’s wrath upon a sinful world? Can we not learn the lessons from history, especially Biblical history?
There is another lesson and warning we can glean from this chapter. In verses 11-12, it speaks of money and the economy having little or no value in the day of judgement. People will not be able to buy their way out of their predicaments; the things that were once highly esteemed will mean nothing when the Babylonians invade. It makes one wonder what will happen with the world’s over-leveraged economy in the days to come. The system in place is fuelled with nothing more than people’s dreams and ambitions without any kind of physical backing. It is not hard to determine who authors this kind of economy. The enemy’s ploy from the beginning was to sell man on debt. You can have it now without having to pay the price that the Lord has laid out. What we see today is a self-indulgent culture that pays no regard for future generations. The true riches come at a cost but they are enduring. It requires walking the highway of the Lord that is based on His terms and not man’s.
The pitiful state of the Israeli army is depicted in verses 14-18. There may have been a time when the sound of the trumpet would rally the armies to battle with success but not anymore. I cannot help but think about the American Armed Forces who are well served by many brave men and women being called to war in the near future. It sickens me that they are subjected and accountable to a corruptive culture and leadership that are making life threatening decisions on their behalf and as that of the nation. If God chooses to fight against a nation the last thing one would want to do is to go to war. The weight of what is happening today is hitting me as I meditate on the days of Ezekiel. I am fearful for what is coming.
It is clear that only repentance will be able to save the people at such times; not any accumulated riches. There are many who have a sense of foreboding who are trying to make preparations for the days of wrath but it will all be for naught. Whatever possessions that Israel does have will be taken by the Babylonians while the people suffer under famine and pestilences. In addition, their leadership (kings) will also be taken and carried away. The final straw will be seen when there is no more anointing upon the priests and prophets who are left. Let us not forget the words of Amos. There will be a famine of the “hearing of the Word of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). The wicked empire of the Babylonians is about to have its way in Jerusalem, Judah and all of Israel. It is a scene that is most difficult to contemplate.
I would like to approach this chapter a bit differently than some of the others. This is another one of those chapters that is extraordinary in so many ways. It begins with Ezekiel probably being physically stationed at Chebar and brought in the spirit to Jerusalem. It is a similar experience that Philip had in the Book of Acts where he was brought to the Ethiopian Eunuch for the purpose of ministering to him. Is it a dream, a vision or is he actually there in the city to behold the doings of the priests? There is another example we can use to help reinforce this truth. Paul made an interesting statement to the Colossian church while he was still in a prison.
Col 2:5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
Paul was in a Roman prison and yet he stated that he was able to behold their order. How is this possible? I personally feel we can put Philip, Ezekiel and Paul all into the same category. They were given the privilege of being taken in the spirit to another place or location from where they were. Perhaps, it is a glimpse or an aspect of what our glorified body will be like in eternity. In this life, our spirit is constrained within the confines of our physical body. Jesus had no such constraints after He arose from the dead. He could even appear to his own and not be immediately recognizable. So then why would Ezekiel have this ability and privilege to be taken in the Spirit to Jerusalem? It seems that is was another means of preparation for his upcoming role as a prophet to Israel. It was an opportunity for Ezekiel to see things and people as God saw them. Ezekiel had an awareness of the abominable sins of Israel but he was about to be shown just how vile the priests were. To know the heart of God and to be an expression of God’s heart as a prophet one must see people and their ways as God sees them. This will help to sharpen his message in conjunction with knowing why God is going to move in judgement with such intensity. Let’s consider a few of the verses that helps to acquaint Ezekiel with that which is going on:
Eze 8:8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door.
Eze 8:9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.
Eze 8:10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about.
Eze 8:11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up.
Ezekiel saw first-hand the idols and abominable practices that these elders and priests were offering up. Do you think God is going to hear and answer them with their open defiance? Ezekiel discerns what they say amongst one another in verse 12. They had this air of invincibility and that the Lord has forsaken the earth. In other words, they did not feel threatened by God; there was certainly no evidence of the fear of the Lord. Who then were they offering up incense to? It was to Tammuz who was the illegitimate son of the wife of Nimrod. She claimed that he was slain but then rose again. This was an abominable counterfeit to the future death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This also has significance for the last days seeing that Babylon (both mystery and natural) is again going to come into prominence in the last days.
The Lord then shows Ezekiel even greater abominations that were taking place. One would assume that Ezekiel is having his capacities enlarged and his future message brewing inside with each progressive exposure to the gross sins of Israel. His early training involved humiliating personal challenges so that every hint of human taint would be purged from him. He now is gaining exposure to the very things that the Lord sees which is surely helping to cultivate his message. Ezekiel now sees them worshipping the sun with their backs towards God (vs 15-16). What is symbolised here is the full indulgent worship of the gods that the Egyptians looked towards. This was in clear violation of what God had stated on numerous occasions. The Word of the Lord was not taken seriously and they were now about to suffer the consequences. It would be akin to the church today pivoting wholeheartedly to the world instead of the Lord. It is one thing for church going people to do this but when it is the priests and leadership, it is a whole other story. God was about to release the full fury of His judgements upon His beloved Israel and it was necessary for Ezekiel to have insights as to why. When Ezekiel begins his prophetic ministry it will be without hindrance but with full authoritative thrust. Could we prophesy with such a prophetic urgency without compromise? Will we have the ability to uphold Truth and the holiness of God’s Laws without compromise? This is the challenge that confronts the church today due to a similar reality playing out before our eyes.
As we look into chapter 9, there are some interesting parallels to be drawn from the Book of Revelation. In particular the portion that speaks about the mark that the beast will place upon the forehead of those who subscribe to the Babylonian system of the last days (Rev 14:9). We will examine this in more detail when we get to the Book of Revelation however there is a mark that will be written upon the forehead of believers that we see here in Ezekiel 9. What is this mark, who receives it and what relevance does it have for the last days?
This chapter begins with insights concerning the interaction of angels with man. There are 6 men that are cited in verses 1-2 which have a slaughter weapon in their hand. There is among these men a man with a writer’s inkhorn and they all stood before the brazen altar. This man had command over the six men who had the weapons of destruction. They were not to destroy until he first went out and put a mark upon the heads of those who abhorred and took issue with the idolatry and sins of the people. This is the mark we want to aspire to, to be singled out and covered in the day of the Lord’s wrath. It can be linked to those who seek after meekness and righteousness as stated in Zeph 2:3. The children of Israel were marked in Egypt on the night of Passover as they applied the blood of a lamb to their doorposts. The enemy will counterfeit this as we near the end of days. He will seek to bring conformity to the world and in order to function and be part of his system a mark will need to be taken. The key for believers to be preserved from this pressure to conform will be in having a love for truth and righteousness (Psa 45:7). There is a blessing in mourning over the sins of a people and nation. It was an experience that Jeremiah was all to acquainted with as one of the priestly prophets to Israel (Jer 9:1). Notice what the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians. There is a blessing upon those who intercede and cry out on for the sins of a nation. God marks them and it is the kind of mark from God that we should seek after.
2Co 7:11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
This is one of the attributes of a godly priest. They come to know the sin of a nation while coming to know the heart of God. It is a process that results from a walk with God over a period of time. It is a “holy and righteous indignation” that is first realized in one’s own life before they can effectively mourn and cry out on behalf of others.
The ferocity of judgement is swift and complete with no one being spared as seen in verses 5-7. This would include women and children. This speaks to the importance of being under the shadow of the Lord’s wings in the holy of holies. This is what Psalm 91 is all about and it is a real place of protection and covering in the time of the Lord’s wrath.
Ezekiel is now prompted to enter into full-scale intercession on behalf of Israel as seen in verses 8-11. This is characteristic of many other great leaders of God at a time when the fury of the Lord is so moved against sin. The ministry of intercession will come into greater prominence in these last days.
In this the 2nd portion of Jude’s epistle we want to examine a little bit of the background of the three men noted in verses 11. Their names are mentioned for a reason and there are insights concerning their life that we need to take note of. Here is a brief review of each with some speculation as to why we need to be warned. Let’s begin with Cain.
Have you ever thought about his offering and wondered why his was rejected while Abel’s was accepted? There is an interesting rendering of the meaning of his name which helps to provide some further insight. The name Cain can be associated with the term “acquisition”. Is it possible that his offering was a conditional one with an expectation of something that he would get back in return? I bring this up due to many of the appeals that are made in church related functions. One of the most quoted verses that is given particularly at the time of the offering is seen below:
Luk 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
It is a fact that we can never out give the Lord and that He blesses the offerings and tithes of the people. The question comes down to motive. What is in our heart when we give? Is it our expectation for something that we will get in return? This is in stark contrast to the offering that Abel gave unto the Lord. He gave his very best and did not hold back. He saw the Lord as worthy of receiving his best and it is for this reason that his offering was accepted. It is in the matter of the motive of offering that brought the distinction between Cain and Abel. It is in the area of motive of the heart that will distinguish the believer’s one from another in the last days. God will be drawn towards those who have an honest, true and pure heart. This then will result in jealousy and envy from those who are not as wholehearted. It will be one of the means in how the church of the last days will divide. Too many people today call themselves Christians for what they can get out of Christianity. Abel provided an offering in recognition of what God has already done; he saw God as being worthy of his very best. Can the same be said about us? Which of the two best reflects us? God will place his seal upon those who please him while those who are otherwise will be provoked by another spirit.
The following verse pretty much sums up this matter concerning Korah.
Num 16:3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?
Korah, along with Dathan and Abihu took issue with the standard that Moses was raising up before the people. Korah took umbrage with Moses by declaring that all of the people were holy and that he took too much of the leadership responsibility upon himself. All of the people were far from holy and Korah was chief among them. How does the church react today when standards of righteousness are raised or the message of the Cross is promoted? It offends many just like the Words of Christ offended the masses when he shared on being the Broken Bread from John 6. Their heart was revealed in seeing that the majority of people were merely after the signs and wonders. Korah challenged Moses on the message of holiness because it was a standard that he chose to not live up to. The teachings of Moses which consisted of the Law was offensive to him. Like in the case of Cain, the motive of the heart was revealed. The same spirit that was working in Korah and the usurpers is at work today. The church is dividing primarily over issues of doctrine. I have seen this first hand as stated in the commentary from Jeremiah 33. Korah represents leaders who will arise who take issues with the weightier teachings from the Bible. They will come against people who pursue holiness and righteousness by naming them as being exclusive and self-righteous. Their message will resonate with others who do not choose to pay the price. Korah falls into the category of teachers that will emerge in the last days that the Apostle Paul warned Timothy about.
2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
The third man mentioned is Balaam who represents one of the greatest threats to the last day church. Balaam was a recognized prophet who had authority. He was known in Israel but he was also known amongst other nations. He came on the scene at a pivotal period in Israel’s history. What can we learn from his life and ministry that will prove helpful to today’s church? Most would agree that the church stands on the threshold of a next great move. We know that there are judgements that will take place but the Bible also speaks of another great awakening. The enemy of Israel at the time of Balaam was a man by the name of Balak. He was able to influence the prophet to speak a message that would thwart the advance and influence of God’s people as they were preparing to enter into their inheritance. His prophetic ministry brought in immorality and mixture to Israel. This not only impacted Israel at the time of their advancement but had serious consequences for their future. Balaam sowed the seeds of what later became Baal worship. The chief proponent of Baal worship was Jezebel who of course was married to King Ahab. This ungodly line married into the godly line of King Jehosophat through Athaliah who was the daughter of Ahab and Athaliah. This intermarriage nearly resulted in the destruction of the royal seed of Judah (2 Kings 11). It was all made possible by the seeds sown in Balaam’s corrupted ministry. (Please see commentary from 2 Kings 11 for further details) There is a strong prophetic emphasis in today’s church and rightly so. What needs to be made clear though is that there are two prophetic streams at work. When examining the life and ministry of Jeremiah we discovered several issues of note:
1) There were two prophetic streams or voices. (Jeremiah 28-Hannaniah and Jeremiah contending)
2) A true prophet pays a very heavy price
3) The people love to hear a Word according to what is in their heart (Jer 5:31).
As with Cain and Korah the issue with Balaam and to those who adhere to his message is that of motive. What is in the heart? Do we truly want to hear the Word of the Lord or rather hear a word based on our spiritual parameters? The primary issue with these three men was the MOTIVE in their heart. Their hearts were uncircumcised and they represent elements of what can be seen today. This is why Jude places a heavy emphasis of warning upon these men and why we need to beware of their counterparts. They are in the church!
Jude makes clear in unmistakeable terms that such ministries and those who follow them have a place reserved for them in the blackness of darkness forever. Jude sounds forth a very clear warning concerning such ministries and the dangers of following after them. On the other hand, Jude places a very strong emphasis on how we are kept by the power of God. Jude does not sugar coat the responsibility we have as believers. He warns against the false teachers that have crept into the church and he warns concerning the realities of eternal judgement. He puts cold water on a pet teaching that is prominent today regarding “once saved always saved”. He also places a heavy emphasis on doing whatever it takes to keep people from going to hell (vs 23).
A key motivating factor in all that Jude shares in his brief letter is on the subject of love. As we pray in the Holy Spirit, we build up our most holy faith and we grow in the “agape” love of God (vs 21). Once we are filled with the love of God we can release His love and compassion to others (vs 22).It is true love that seeks the best interest of others; namely speaking and living the Truth. This motivation of love is what makes a true DIFFERENCE in the lives of people (vs 22). If we seek after this love and endeavour to pursue Him with all we have we will be KEPT by the power of God and have the ability then to be presented faultless before Him (vs 24). The short letter of Jude contains so many gems of end time truths and insights. If one gains a working understanding of the contents of Jude’s letter he or she will be well grounded and prepared to flourish in these last days. Such a person will also be warned to the deceptive tactics infiltrating today’s church and be in a position to sound out warnings to others.