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for an example to others. III. Another thing this chapter teaches us is, that the Jews, though they were extremely guilty, and upon the point of perishing, lived in profound security; that they did not apprehend the threatenings of the prophets, or at least believed it would be a long while before the threatenings would be accomplished; which security of theirs made them impatient, and occasioned their utter destruction. It is a dangerous thing to flatter ourselves when God threatens us, and to defer our conversion when he sends us warning of our danger; but a salutary dread, attended with a speedy conversion, is the sure nd only way to prevent his judgments.
Ezekiel denounces the judgment of God against those prophetsand prophetesses who falsely pretended to divine inspiration, and promised peace to the people of Israel, at a time when there was no peace for them, and they were going to be destroyed; and he threatens also such as should hearken to these false prophets, with the same miseries.
The destruction of Jerusalem fully verified all that Ezekiel had said in this chapter, and the event showed, that those prophets who desired to persuade the people that no harm would happen to them, were impostors, and that Ezekiel was really sent to them, from God. From hence we are to learn two things: I. That the ministers of the Lord commit a very great sin, and expose themselves to a dreadful condemnation, when instead of boldly reproving impenitent sinners, and threatening them with the anger of God, they soothe them in their crimes, and fill them with a false confidence. The prophet expresses the sin of these false teachers, saying, that they seduced the people, promising them peace when there was no peace; that they daubed the wall with untempered mortar; and that they sewed pillows to all armholes.
This should be a powerful engagement to all those who are called to the sacred ministry, to discharge the will of God faithfully, lest if they flatter sinners with vain and groundless promises, they expose themselves likewise to the Divine vengeance. II. Since God threatens the people with his judgments for hearkening to false prophets, it is evident that those who suffer themselves to be deceived, shall likewise bear the punishment of their iniquities; especially if they have, as the Jews had, means to be instructed in the will of God and their duty. It follows likewise from hence, that as we ought to shun false teachers and seducers, so ought we to love and hearken to those who with zeal and sincerity discharge their duty.
I. This chapter contains complaints and threatenings against the hypocritical Jews, who made as if they desired to learn the will of God, and to consult his prophets, whilst they worshipped idols, and hearkened to false prophets rather than to the true servants of God. Ezekiel tells them, the Lord was going to display his most severe vengeance on the seducers, and them that hearkened to them. II. God declares, that when he should resolve to punish a country by any of his plagues, the good in that country might be preserved, but could not save others; by which God meant to show, that the ruin of the Jews was inevitable; that he had resolved to display all his sore judgments at once upon them; and that the small number of good men that remained among them should not secure them.
I. It appears from this chapter, that it is gross impiety and hypocrisy to pretend to inquire of the Lord, and to attend to his word, while our heart is far from him, and we are resolved to persevere in our sins. II. That when God has sufficiently made known his will to men, and they, notwithstanding, err from the right way, obstinately following their own wills and imaginations, he in his just judgment forsakes them; and then meeting with seducers they give ear to lies rather than the truth. Thus it happened to the Jews; instead of following the wholesome counsels God had given them by his prophets, they adhered to impostors, and perished with them when Jerusalem was taken, as Ezekiel had threatened them. It is a dangerous thing to hearken to any other voice than that of God; who will justly punish both those who seduce others, and those who suffer themselves to be seduced. There are several important instructions to be drawn from the second part of this chapter. We here learn that the sword, famine, pestilence, and other the like calamities, are the punishments which God makes use of against countries and nations. But above all, let us seriously consider what is here said of Noah, Daniel, and Job, those holy men, so acceptable in the sight of God, that if they were among a people whom God had determined to destroy, they could not prevent their destruction. The intercession of good men prevaileth much, but is not always effectual for others; however, God takes care of his own elect, and exempts them from those punishments and miseries to which the wicked and sinners are exposed. It appears from this chapter, that Daniel was already become illustrious for his piety, among those who were carried captives to Babylon with king Jehoiakim. See Dan. i. 1—6.
God represents the total destruction of the Jews, by the similitude of a vine branch, which is fit for nothing but to be burnt.
We have here an emblem of the total destruction of the Jews, who were to be consumed by the fire of God's wrath; and likewise of the causes of their ruin, which were the sins and iniquities of that people who were like a barren vine and unprofitable branch. Our Lord makes use of the same similitude to represent what the wicked have reason to expect, when he says If any man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. And Jokn the Baptist denounced the same punishment against the unbelievers, in these words; Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Ezekiel makes use of the parable of an adulterous woman, to show that God had chosen the Jews, and had heaped his favours upon them; but they had dealt very treacherously against him, and particularly by their idolatry had broken the covenant he had made with them. He reproaches the Jews of Jerusalem, for imitating, and even exceeding Samaria, that is, the Israelites of the ten tribes, in their idolatrous worship ; and for defiling themselves with the abominations of the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans; he compares them to Sodom, which he calls their sister; and he threatens them with a dreadful and inevitable destruction: promising, however, that God would have compassion on part of them, and after he had humbled them, would receive them again into covenant with him.
What we read in this chapter represents the sin of those who have been received into covenant with God, and highly favoured, and notwithanding this, fall into ingratitude and unbelief, casting off the obedience they owe to him, which the Scripture calls spiritual adultery; to show that men, by acting thus, break the covenant they had made with God. From God's severe reproaches of the Jews for not only imitating, but even surpassing Samaria and Sodom in their wickedness, we learn that none are more guilty than those who have the greatest share of the divine favours, and have abused them; and that none are more severely punished than they. It is, however, to be remarked, that God declares, that after he had exercised his vengeance upon the rebellious and idolatrous Jews, he would remember his covenant, and pardon those who should be converted. The design of temporal judgments is to bring men to repentance, and therefore as soon as they are truly humbled, God is appeased, which is a proof of his goodness, at the same time that he is giving marks of his justice.
For the right understanding of this chapter, itmust be observed, that when the king of Babylon carried Jeconiah, the king of Judah, into Chaldea, with part of the Jews, he set Zedekiah over those that were left at Jerusalem, and made him swear fidelity to him: but Zedekiah broke his oath, rebelled against the king of Babylon, and made an alliance with the king of Egypt, and applied to him for assistance. Ezehiel prophesies in this chapter, that God would punish Zedekiah for his perjury, and would deliver him up to the Babylonians, with all his people. This the prophet represents by the similitude of an eagle and a cedar, which himself explains.
We here see Zedekiah's sin, in breaking the oath of fidelity, which he had taken to the king of BabyIan, and applying to the Egyptians for assistance; and we see likewise, how Zedekiah was punished for his perfidiousness, when God delivered him into the hand of the Babylonians, who carried him into captivity. From whence we may learn, that perj ury is one of the greatest crimes that can be committed; that this sin brings down the divine vengeance, not only