Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 25-28
Today’s Reflection: Ezekiel 25:17
“I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”
What is this text saying?
Ezekiel was a priest called to be a prophet, a watchman for Israel (Ezekiel 2:17). His ministry was unusual at times. Ezekiel was called not only to prophesy in speech but through the example of his own life. He was commanded by God to dramatically act out the siege and destruction of Jerusalem before it occurred (Ezekiel 4 and 5). He was even called to use personal tragedy to foreshadow the destruction that was to befall the house of Israel (Ezekiel 24:15-26).
Ezekiel was given warnings and prophecies of destruction, both to Jerusalem and of surrounding enemy nations. These outpourings of God’s judgment and vengeance were always a response to willfully and deliberately sinful behaviour. Ezekiel points out Israel’s idol worship (Ezekiel 6), and lying prophets (Ezekiel 13), among other sins, heresies and blasphemies. These warnings throughout the book end with similar language to that in Ezekiel 25:17: after the destruction you suffer at my hand, then you will know that I am the LORD.
Why is it important?
The phrase ‘then they will know that I am the LORD, when I lay my vengeance upon them’ is perhaps the most tragic and terrifying in scripture.
Terrifying because when a nation (or person) has reached a point when they are facing God’s vengeance, they are facing certain destruction, something no power in the universe can challenge.
Tragic because of that first word: ‘then’. ‘Then’ implies there was a ‘before then’. ‘Before then’ there was an opportunity to recognize the Lord. ‘Before then’ there was an opportunity to repent. ‘Before then’ there was an opportunity to turn to God, to be forgiven, and to receive mercy. And these ‘before then’ opportunities were rejected bringing about the ‘then’, and with it judgment, vengeance, and destruction.
How can I apply this?
1) You must understand the choice before you. On the surface it may seem harsh to us: recognize God or suffer His vengeance. This might sound like the demand of a dictator and many in the world reject God for this reason. But these people are living under an illusion: the idea that it is actually possible or desirable to have life apart from God.
As Paul says in Acts 17:28, ‘In him we live and move and have our being’. God is the one and only source of life. Apart from His power we simply cease to exist. All of the joys, pleasures and blessings of life come from God (Psalm 145:16). It’s ironic that atheists are able to deny God only because of the life that God continues to sustain in them on their behalf.
Because all life comes from God, any worthwhile life lived must be lived in harmony with His leading and authority. As we look at Adam and Eve’s creation and their fellowship with God in Genesis 1 and 2 we get a glimpse of what this life looks like. But rebellion against God, and against life itself, entered creation through Adam and Eve’s sin.
Recounting the serpent’s temptation and Eve’s fall in Genesis 3:1-6, there is a clear subtext in Lucifer’s words, a lie that continues to echo even today: you don’t need God to live, in fact you can have a more fun, exciting and fulfilling life without Him. Adam and Eve believed this lie for just a moment. That’s all it took for rebellion to enter into our world and bring consequences we’re still dealing with today: sin and death.
God is life, so everything that stands against Him is death, a threat to every living thing. Destroying sin destroys the system by which life is threatened, and by extension destroys death. From this we can understand that His vengeance is actually an act of love on His part. We should also note that even God’s vengeance is restrained by His mercy, for in Ezekiel God preserves a remnant people who have the opportunity for redemption and restoration (Ezekiel 39:25-29).
2) You must understand the implications of the choice before you. God’s first overture to us is always one of love, grace and mercy. He comes to us with great patience and forbearance, giving us time to see, hear, and understand His great love for us. We start out as sinners, born in sin, shaped in iniquity (Psalm 51:5), and condemned to death (Romans 6:23). But if we receive Him, through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, we are realigned with life (Ephesians 2:1-9).
If, after coming in love, our response to God is to ignore and reject Him, then we are choosing separation from Him and separation from life itself. We are in effect choosing to align ourselves with death.
Finally acknowledging God is not an option. He is the author of life. We can’t go through it without seeing Him in some way, shape or form. We can’t pass through existence without encountering His presence. Every knee will bow, every tongue will make confession to God (Romans 14:11). If we won’t recognize God through His love, redemption, grace and mercy, if we won’t receive life in Him and live under His authority for our own good, ‘then’ we will come to know God through His vengeance and our own destruction.
Ezekiel 33:11 – Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?