Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations.”
There are a lot of ways the prophets have condemned Israel’s apostasy, but chapter 16 of Ezekiel seems to be the most powerful, as well as the most repugnant. Read the entire chapter, which is a mixture of allegories, of a newborn and of a virgin coming of marital age. It is a devastating evaluation of how one so mighty and elevated in every aspect can fall so utterly and completely.
First a newborn is depicted representing the birth of the nation as the people of God in Egypt, as their bondage to that nation developed after the death of Joseph. Normally a new born baby is given the most tender care and comfort since in no other stage of life is one so completely vulnerable. But this infant is not cared for in any of the normal aspects of new birth. No washing of the body, no cutting of the umbilical cord, no swaddling cloths, no nourishment, no bed for rest, but in its own blood and naked it is tossed out into a field despised, like so much refuse. This is how Egypt treated Israel once her population grew to a threatening proportion.
But God saw her and had compassion on her, saw this repulsive and damaged thing but felt tenderly, and took her in and cared for her, and gave her life, gave her sustenance and allowed her to grow and blossom.
“Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord GOD. “Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord GOD.
Out of pure grace and love God chose this nation out of all the others on the face of the earth and bestowed on her His majesty and glory, giving her everything a bride could want or dream. One would think that with such a magnificent husband, and such a glorious love such a marriage made in heaven would grow wildly and prosper. I know any most any marriage here on earth would be prized and protected by men and women. But what would such a husband think if after all this devotion and ravishing love his bride went behind his back and wandered the streets and gutters giving herself away to any and all of the lowest scum who couldn’t even pay for her favors, nay but was paid by her instead! How repulsive it is to see a bride beautiful beyond description and treated with all tenderness and devotion, to make herself instead the ugliest and deformed of creatures to wallow in society’s filth. That is the picture Ezekiel paints in this chapter. It is disgusting in the extreme.
It makes you wonder how such a thing could possibly happen, what would drive such a person to squander such an elevated place of splendor and majesty? Kind of like Tiger Woods who had it all, wealth, fame, accomplishments, at the pinnacle of his career, and in a flash, in the blink of an eye, it is all thrown away. And for what? For the illusion of pleasure, a clutching at the wind, in the blink of an eye. Instant gratification, instantly vanished. He is only one of many notables in society, though; there are plenty of Tiger Woods, Anthony Wieners, John Edwards, etc., etc. The American and world landscape is littered with them. But Israel was God’s own choice. Who is any better suited or capable of giving comfort and joy beyond measure. And yet, somehow it wasn’t enough for this nation of Israel. All those magnificent gifts God bestowed on her she gave away and gave them to the worst sort of bedfellows imaginable. The ones who actually hated her and only wanted to use her up and spit her out.
The chapter is almost unbearable to read, much less have to have someone speak to your face, which is what Ezekiel did, as he directed this word of the Lord to the nation.
But most amazingly, this isn’t the final word, as at the end, after the all the nations surrounding Israel used her up and left her for dead, and then God Himself trampled her in punishment for such unspeakably ungrateful and lewd behavior. But then He promised to take her back, to lift her out of the trash heap, to once again, as described in the first verses of this chapter, clean her off, bandage her up, care for her wounds, and restore her to health.
“You have borne the penalty of your lewdness and abominations,” the LORD declares. ‘For thus says the Lord GOD, “I will also do with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath by breaking the covenant. Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both your older and your younger; and I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of your covenant. Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord GOD declares.’
Amazing love indeed! What husband on earth would respond with such charity and grace? It is beyond human ability and comprehension. But nothing is impossible with God. And He keeps His promises. This should give us, imperfect creatures though we are, who still stumble and fall, an encouraging hope, to keep pursuing the closest relationship with our Lord and God, because He can keep us and protect us. He can guide us. Until He finally brings us into the glory of His kingdom, bestowing on us the ultimate of gifts. Where we can fear no more of stumbling and disappointing Him, but will see Him face to face. I can hardly wait! To Him be the glory!
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]