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SPRIGS, SALVATION, THE CASE OF ISRAEL
AND OF MANY NATIONS, THEN AND NOW -
History Does the Teaching: God makes the Point
EZEKIEL ON VIEW
ISRAEL A PECULIAR PEOPLE AT THE FIRST - A SPECIAL ONE
In Ezekiel you have a tremendous historical emphasis. Indeed, there is a particularly precise mode, whether in imagery or direct, about this revelation, as might well be found in an exhortation, confrontation and appeal right on the very brink of ruin.
There is nothing poetical about pollution and pride leading to devastation and anguish.
Nor is there about restoration and renewal, through many vicissitudes, leading to victory and the Lord Himself as Messiah, inhabiting the earth, till the nations know themselves to be arrows of pollution, pointing at pride and self-elevation, as if they were placarding the script of their own judgment on their very backs, as they fight, at length in vain.
For what do they fight ? It is to possess the world, their destinies, to elicit greatness, to avert God, and hence in practical terms, to abort the redemption and regeneration of Jesus Christ, with the same to Israel, that token and focus of the Lord's work in the installation of salvation. As Herod tried to kill Christ as an infant, and the State of Israel did kill Him as a man, so the nations, as in Psalm 2, love to revolt and find new ways to grasp the world, though it is but air they get in the end, polluted air and great anxiety (Luke 21:26). Make a new substitute Christ, make a new, non-Jewish Israel, make Islam rule Judah, destroy the plan of God, arrest its power, this becomes close to this world's innovative scenario. It is just that God does not move!
Yet this world is tense: it will not be arrested, and till the Lord intervene as promised, this same world continues its self-ruin in its jaundiced eye, seeking what is not there, and ignoring what is. Small wonder it groans as it turns, these days.
In the end, God indicates in Ezekiel 34, 37, 39:
when He will have broken, with His
own power, the terrible ones among the
and when the magnificent idea of exterminating Israel once and for all
then they will learn (Ezekiel 39:7,,11,21-29).
It is better swallow a chunk of the Chernobyl melt-down that this plan of theirs against the word of God (cf. SMR Appendix A, It Bubbles ... Ch. 10). The former has deadly radiation; but this is death itself, mortality personified!
In Ezekiel 34, we find the Lord as in Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 7-10, making clear that He Himself will come to earth as the Good Shepherd. His personal coming to replace in ONE the false shepherds, the failed ministers who disgrace themselves in their pursuits for themselves instead of for Him, and do the pastoral care as only He can. In Hosea 13:14, we find the same divine determination to destroy death IN HIMSELF, being its curse and the cure for man as ransom.
He came to suffer; He comes to rule (Luke 24:25, Mark 14:62). It is He who will judge between the fat and the lean sheep (34:20), yes "I Myself". Because those appointed disappointed, HE, the Lord Himself,
"will save My flock, and they will no longer be a prey;
and I will judge between sheep and sheep.
I will establish one shepherd over them,
and He shall feed them - My servant David.
He shall feed them and be their shepherd."
Specially, they who while bearing the name of the Lord, have been a predators both of the life of nations and their people, yes, falsifiers in their own religion, shamelessly in their regimes exploiting for their own welfare, will become prey. In particular, Israel will
"not bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore" (Ezekiel 34:29). Many will share their joy (Deuteronomy 32:43, Jeremiah 16:19-21, Isaiah 42:6, 49:6).
Yet the Gentile nations, specifically those attempting in an international concourse of grisly self-aggrandisement and efforts to dispossess Israel, will find in a confrontation to come with God Himself,
"that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity;
because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them.
I gave them into the hand of their enemies and they all fell by the sword.
According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions
I have dealt with them,
and hidden My face from them"
That long interim of Israel's sorrow (Jeremiah 30:5-10), the Lord Himself has His own time-table, and the Messiah, son of God, descendant in the maternal side from David, overcoming all (Revelation 19, Zechariah 14), will rule all.
In that sad and extended interim (cf. Hosea 1-3), Israel was indeed to become a proverbial thing, a matter of taunting (Ezekiel 5:17ff., Jeremiah 24:9-10). In what would it be taunted ? It would be, as it was, in this:
that their so great nation of the past,
who with God shamed Egypt
and overcame Assyria,
leaving a curse on Babylon (cf. Isaiah 13-14, Jeremiah 50-51 and history)
should become desolate as in Lamentations of Jeremiah,
and again, later,
should have their covenant broken in their very faces (Zechariah 11),
as they lightly esteemed, indeed officially abhorred their own Messiah
(Isaiah 49:7, 50-53).
Only by grace and mercy would this immovable covenant be applied any more (as in Micah 7:18ff., Ezekiel 36:22), and this, in terms of the Lord's faithfulness even to the unfaithful and of His unconditional provisions (Genesis 17:78-8). He would show 'pity' on His own name, which is more excellent than all.
Their history was as it is, a peculiar, a special, an extraordinary, a monumentally special thing, for had they not been brought from sin to covenantal relationship to the Lord with a wonder of mercy (Deuteronomy 32:10-15). And had they then, as a nation, not departed from this (Deuteronomy 32:16-24), and is not the grace, mercy and kindling love, and covenantal purity of the Lord so vast that
"the Lord will judge His people and have compassion on His servants,
when He sees that their power is gone"!
Is He not on record as THEN acting, meanwhile exhorting them to wake up and realise their position! (Deuteronomy 32:40-43).
"Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me,
I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal;
nor is there any who can deliver from My hand."
What then ? He will suffer derogation of His name, power and asinine nations to prey, as if it were a new form of prayer, on relics of an antiquated religion ? Scarcely,
"for I raise My hand to heaven, and say,
'As I live forever, If I whet My glittering sword,
and My hand takes hold on judgment,
I will render vengeance to My enemies,
and repay those who hate Me.
I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh,
with the blood of the slain and the captives,
from the heads of the leaders of the enemy.'
"Rejoice, O Gentiles with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants,
and render vengeance to His adversaries;
He will provide atonement for His land and His people,"
How He does this is seen, in precise particular, in Zechariah 12, following on from His ludicrous sale for the predicted 30 pieces of silver (foretold with profound irony in Zechariah 11). Then, with the Spirit of grace and supplications sweeping upon them, in deep grief, now at last, they "look upon Me whom they pierced" and mourn in repentance: at which a fountain for cleansing is opened in Jerusalem.
In this way, there comes this fresh contingent direct and sustained from antiquity, now finding to the New Covenant. It is that which Jeremiah 31:31ff. so clearly foretold, cited in Hebrews 8, and this and to the same "everlasting covenant" foretold in Ezekiel in 16:60-62, they are to come.
There is no other nation of whom all this scenario is true. None other exists which was claimed in covenant from the desert, grossly disruptive and dispersive of the covenant, ludicrously rebellious, failing in the commission to bring praise to the Lord among all nations (Isaiah 43:21), and which, instead of judicially replacing a fallen people, the Canaanites, rather learned many of their ways, who then as the Lord wrought in them, who abhorred and crucified their Lord (Isaiah 49:7, 52-53), who were much later brought back to their land (as in Ezekiel 36), and this in two stages (Ezekiel 37). OUT and then IN and then OUT and then come back IN, within a whole unique situation, they are both specific and specified. History indeed has shown no power to resist their return, or their exploits, or the furious and foretold exploits of their international enemies! (cf. SMR Ch. 9).
What part, at the spiritual level,
still remains ? First there was to be, as there has been, the physical assemblage,
the dry bones re-assembled as a vast army of re-structured persons. Yet they do
not live. Then again goes forth the command, a new one, as in Ezekiel
37:10-14). It is then that the life-giving spirit
is sent (Ezekiel 37:11ff., 37:14ff.), as paralleled in Isaiah 32:1ff.. And this,
it is as the very threshold of the coming of the
Messiah. In Isaiah 32:17 it is indeed in the very Chapter which is itself
Messianic, and deals as does Isaiah 11 at length, with His rule on the earth
(cf. Psalm 67, 72, 96:13, 98:9, Psalm 2 AND 110).
MANY IN OTHER NATIONS, GENTILES,
BRIMFUL OF PRIDE,
ARE A PECULIAR PEOPLE AT THE LAST
Thus this double restoration of Israel, the first famously past, the second still to come: this is to culminate in the coming of the Messiah personally (Ezekiel 37:24ff.), who "will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them."
What then ? No other nation has ever been seen on the surface of the earth, but Israel, which can so conform or meet the specifications, even in the most basic manner. Nor are the other nations unclear as to their purpose and efforts, nor is the Lord mystical about His eventual response when, as in Romans 11, the wheel turns and at last Israel, whose removal from the tree of faith was calamitous, is brought back by re-grafting into that one faith, designated in the Old Testament, and consummated in the New.
It is in these terms, that Israel was brought both in from outside, and then out from inside, by the Lord; and that the Gentiles came in, who believed, a graft as in Romans 11. The Gentile nations have in fact fallen into such eventual spiritual disrepute, that there is a parallel to the backsliding of Israel; for they too, they thought they could take on the Lord and prove Him false. Israel sought at length to distance their own Messiah; and the Gentiles think they can take on the Lord, on topic of Israel and smash it, or bury it, or reduce it, or make it a client State, or order it about what it may and may not do in its own land. Yet their failure as in Deuteronomy 32, Micah 7, Isaiah 66, Ezekiel 36-39, is so vast as in the end to parallel that of Israel itself.
They, that nation, went into two millenia of exile. The Gentile nations who will not learn, they will find one horrendous confrontation which needs no explanation (Revelation 19:19ff.). Thus ONLY the Lord will be glorified in that day of judgment and plenitude of divine display of power (as in Micah 7:15ff., explicitly, and in Isaiah 2:17). NO FLESH will receive glory! Thank the Lord for that, for what flesh can compete with Him in purity, patience, cost coverage, peace, pardon and power, grace and all-sufficiency, plan and program, declaration and performance, love and mercy!
What follows then ? Then many Gentiles will rejoice with Israel (as in Deuteronomy 32:43, cited by Paul in Romans 15:10-12, in the same context as Psalm 117:1 and Isaiah 11:1); for theirs is this same new covenant which is to be given to a re-awakened, restored and protected Israel (Jeremiah 16:19-21, Isaiah 49:6, 42:6). It is they, from "the ends of the earth" who were prophetically heard glorifying God, amidst the cry of , Treachery! (Isaiah 24:16). Such is the glory (as in Jeremiah 16, Ezekiel 16) thus given to the Lord among believing Gentiles, that hear them singing in the very context of His saying,
"I am ruined, ruined! Woe is Me!
The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously,
indeed, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously!",
precisely as in Zechariah 11, where His sale price is noted.
Alas for the mere exponents of extinction for Israel, in direct confrontation with the Lord: they will find their swipes and disputes costly as in Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 12:4ff.; but this is the way of unbelief, to denounce, to pounce and eventually, to be repaid for their follies.
The nations will know at last why Israel suffered so (Ezekiel 39:23), Israel will know (39:28-29), and this in terms not merely of ideas and concepts, but amid contrition and with faith.
What then do we find ? In the end, the greatest thing to know is no thing at all but a personal Being the Lord (as in Jeremiah 9:23), through His definitive revelation of Himself, the eternal word of God made into flesh, Jesus Christ. Power will not alter this, for human power is puny before God; and pardon will not evacuate its reality, for clandestine pretence is known to the Lord, as in Acts 5, and hypocrisy has no place with Him (as notably shown in Matthew 23). It is good to worship the Lord, for there is NONE LIKE HIM, pure and perfect, peaceable and slow to wrath, paying enough for all, drawing all, redeeming some, despite their trespasses, and that freely (Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2).
THE SANCTIONS AGAINST PRIDE, POMP AND SELF-ELEVATION BEFORE THE LORD ARE TO BE SEEN OF OLD AND IN TIME TO COME.
IT IS HE WHO MADE THE EARTH,
ISRAEL, SALVATION IN THE MESSIAH,
AND THE OFFER OF PEACE IN GOODWILL
AND WHO WILL CONCLUDE AS HE BEGAN:
THE ROCK ON WHICH FAITH RESTS AND
THAT MASSIVE ROCK WHICH,
it is He who has acted, does act and will act.
So we find in Deuteronomy 32, Revelation 1, 19, Matthew 21:44, I Corinthians 10, Daniel 2 as in Micah 7.
He does not vary His covenant, concerning sin and death, concerning sacrifice and salvation, concerning imagery and substance, animal sacrifice and at last that ONE who in ONE sacrifice ONCE given for all, made peace for ALL who come in faith to Him, to receive it in its covenant, the grace of eternal peace, with the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:15ff.).
He does not for\sake what He has used, though long is its development, and great has been its fall.
He does not congratulate false Gentile Churches (II Timothy 3-4, II Peter 2), which forsake the covenantal faith any more than He has congratulated Israel for doing the very same thing, and hitting Him in His holiness, at the very hinge where the Old Covenant becomes the New, that is, in the Messiah.
ONLY HE will be exalted, for ONLY HE has proved free from taint, able to bear the taunts deserved by all flesh, and in faithfulness startlingly different from what is in man, wholly reliable in operation. It is specifically and spiritually, He alone who does at all times what He has said, and has spoken history to come, salvation to arrive and made it happen! It is only He who has dismissed guilt and abolished mortality for His people, all who thus in faith come to Him! What a word is this to rely on, for just as no nation is like Israel, no god is like the Lord God, the Almighty, the only Saviour and the repository for a faith that does not die, because He in whom it is vested, though He died for sin vicariously, in the form of man, has broken death vicariously. It is He only who, living for evermore, gives eternal life to ALL, whether Jew or Gentile on ONE basis ONCE made in Himself.
All things are distinct in His word: whether it be the sinner, mankind, the Saviour, Jesus Christ, Israel in its commission and in His promise and according to His divine premisses, sin or salvation.
So there is a new peculiar people, a special people, the culmination of the covenant for the old, and in this is the new Covenant forged, formed, and in Him, its formulation is given its finale (Revelation 5, Galatians 1). All things promised are done, faithfulness is shown to treachery when it repents to truth, the Lord Himself replacing the nation in its testimony in Christ, because He is faithful who does it. Indeed, He yet fulfils to the letter, as He says in Matthew 5:17ff. all that He has said. The motor is still running ... He is active before our very eyes both in salvation and repudiation, in exhortation and the exploits in history. When this earth passes, then the final fulfilment is in heaven; and while it lasts, all is ordered as announced on earth.
The impolite business of adjusting what He has said in terms of picturesque nonsense words, as if poor God could not quite articulate to those minds which irreverently thunder in presumptive sophistication against Him, is mere presumptive intrusion, inglorious extrusion, out of place like a fly on a bouquet. What is to be done ? are some to alter, to invade, to make a charade of His word in order to fulfil some philosophy ? It is presumption, as if to shove their words into His mouth, rather like poor Peter as he was when arguing with Christ contrary to His coming death! (Matthew 16:21-23). There is no-one safe from that Rock which never moves, on which a man must build, even His words, to be founded!
Alas, presumption can come like a whirlwind: as occurred so sadly in the case of King Uzziah (II Chronicles 26) who, rendered haughty by success, tried to act as a priest; or as in that oaf King Amaziah before him (II Chronicles 25) w ho insisted on a gallant clash with his Northern neighbour, only to be utterly humiliated. This merely brings shame to the name, and is no part of wisdom. What God has said is to be interpreted in, by and through itself, to the tittle, and what intrudes is like a third party in a luncheon conversation, contrary in disposition, dialogue and thrust.
Understanding does not come from telling God what He means, but from studying what He says IN and BY itself. In this, the Westminster Confession is most apt! It is a help, it says, and no such thing is to be instituted otherwise. It is the word of God only which must, by itself or necessary inference, establish all. There are no second guesses, or second bases. Helps are helps, and no more.
So will all be revealed and concluded, like a Final Degree examination. You will not find God fail in anything, as you keep to His own word: whether in the promised restoration of a uniquely definable people, or in the promised eternal life to ALL of whatever background, who have Jesus the Christ, in His biblical foreground, ruling in their lives, the Rock of their salvation, with no additives or pride, or contributions of salvation from oneself or any other source: but just as He is.
Even now, before the final day, however we find in Ezekiel great exemplars of ruin because of pride and ignoring of the Lord. Let us consider for a little ...
EGYPT, ASSYRIA, TYRE, BABYLON
have their come-uppance
as a prelude to the International Case...
SPRIGS AND TREES
Before we look at the spiritual and moral lessons so decisively expressed in Ezekiel, one little thing of massive portent needs attention. It is the use of sprigs (in Isaiah 53:2, paralleled by "a root out of a dry ground", used of the lowly estate of the Messiah on His way to growing to become the Saviour at Calvary), in their portent.
Thus in Ezekiel 17, we find a great eagle (Babylon 17:4,12), which cropped from a cedar, its highest branch, a young twig or sprig (young King Jehoiakin, foolish in his spiritual ways), and substituted King Zedekiah for him as puppet king, who was Uncle to the displaced King, now taken with many people and great plundered riches for Babylon, to that land. This poor youngster, the displaced, lived decades under arrest in Babylon before late in life, some liberality was shown him. A sprig full of promise was he, but the land was inundated with folly, and his entire regime failed and was taken. Indifferent was the twig, yes evil, but its end was if tame, at least merciful. What had Ezekiel said of the land, spiritually fallen before militarily taken ? This:
"How degenerate is your heart!" . Such is the denunciation, with the use of amorous language to describe military and cultural, yes even religious 'prostitution' or harlotry, with mind and spirit alienated from the Lord, with effrontery indulging in forbidden alliances of the heart, the very facsimile of many modern nations, which cannot placate every false way enough, even as they are spoiled, or distance themselves from the Lord Jesus Christ, with sufficient stiff arrogance of wandering, witless will, dark by closing the eyes, their hearts. So their king was, in arboreal language, 'cropped' and taken away.
Some of the residual 'seed', that is regal line in the land, was then taken and planted "in a fertile field." A covenant was made between the new king of Judah, Zedekiah, and the King of Babylon. Restless, however, and not at all humbled, this Zedekiah broke the covenant, which while not fit for an exalted being, had its points, Not satisfied with this, Zedekiah continued the assimilation of foreign and alien cultures, and became as unrepentant as could well be imagined, after so vast a desolation and denudation in the land. Despite an oath made, at the desire of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and that even in the name of GOD! Zedekiah proliferated his passions and adulterated his kingdom.
In II Chronicles 36:14-20, we see the provocation, strong in the late part of the long line of such in history, and the result
"Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much
according to all the abominations of the nations;
and polluted the house of the LORD which He had hallowed in Jerusalem.
And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers,
rising up early and sending;
because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place:
But they mocked the messengers of God,
and despised His words, and misused His prophets,
until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people,
till there was no remedy.
"Therefore He brought upon them the king of the Chaldees,
who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary,
and had no compassion
upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age:
He gave them all into his hand.
And all the articles from the house of God, great and small,
and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king,
and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon.
"And they burnt the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem,
and burnt all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its goodly vessels.
And those who had escaped from the sword, he carried away to Babylon."
Power does not come out of the mouth of a gun, in the end, but out of the mouth of God; and weakness comes not from mere weapons, but from alienation from the Lord who made us, sent His Messiah to redeem us, and does not regard lightly the people who, having been richly blessed with justice and peace and equity, nevertheless thumb the nose and mock the Lord in their solemn and serious rites of virtual divorce, this their repayment for such goodness! Isaiah 57:3-4,11-13 puts the same trend:
Naturalism and its multiplied idolatries of forces and imaginations, cultural self-worship, autonomous ignorance, epistemological chaos and metaphysical inertness alike become the lovers of the modern recidivist nation (cf. SMR Ch. 3, 10, and by contrast 5, TMR), while it cannot wait to chain the minds of the young to their idols, a socially conditioned idolatry, like teaching the young how to drink brain-stupefying alocohol, and teach them to love what is not there, till inflamed passions of this or that wild thought, bring the nation to its knees, worshipping on the smitten sands of the UN, inventing morals, and defiling them at the same time (cf. It Bubbles ... Ch. 11, News 19).
But what is it like ? Remove the leaden shield, and the radioactivity flourishes in the flesh which it corrupts; remove the word of the Lord and fealty to Him, and the artifices and fires of awful and innominate sins show themselves, seeking name and claim, and the exposure, thought to be liberation, is but seduction; and seduction is merely a step from corruption and judgment.
To revert to Ezekiel 17, we find next in the story by parable (interpreted later in the Chapter), that this other seed, that is the King Zedekiah, appointed by Nebuchadnezzar as puppet under oath, even thought of trying a protection from his oath and the land's conqueror, by turning to Egypt, a falling power at that time. This is the "other great eagle" of Ezekiel 17:7. The vine, standing for Israel, "bent its roots toward him, and stretched its branches toward him..."
The Lord, in whose name the oath of King Zedekiah to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had been made, and from whom this preliminary discipline had come (before Babylon, growing exasperated, came and destroyed Jerusalem), was unimpressed by this distasteful and unabashed pride and randomness of heart: "Will it thrive? " He asks of this "vine" (Ezekiel 17:8), Israel of that day ? "Will he not pull it up by its roots, cut off its fruit, and leave it to wither ?" This is precisely what Babylon then did!
Speaking of this renegade King Zedekiah, faithful neither to God nor to man, God declares this categorically:
"Since he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, and in fact gave his hand and still did all these things, he shall not escape."
That too happened most dramatically. Zedekiah saw Jeremiah the prophet arrested, put in prison, even in a dank well with danger of death, called upon him, found advice which if followed would yet have delivered both King and city (Jeremiah 38:14-23), but he would not take it, for a trivial seeming reason: he feared that if, as exhorted to do, he surrendered to the surrounding forces of Babylon come in vengeance, he would be mishandled and mocked by others who had surrendered. Was mockery worse than death ? Even granted a safe-conduct assurance, he did not believe, the whole problem! Hence when he later tried to escape at night, he was found, his sons killed before his eyes and then his eyes put out.
So much for the sprig and its replacement, in terms of Israel and its regal offerings.
However, there was to be, said the prophet Ezekiel, ANOTHER SPRIG. This comes later, at the end of Ezekiel 17. Again, the Lord would 'crop off from the topmost' of the branches of a high cedar,
"of its young twigs, a tender one, and will plant it on a high and prominent mountain.
On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it;
and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar.
Under it will dwell birds of every sort;
in the shadow of its branches they will dwell.
And all the trees of the field will know that I, the Lord,
have brought down the hight tree and exalted the low tree..."
Here is the eventual and only relief for Israel. Here is a planting more than parade, here is no puppet, here is not desolation but deliverance; here is contrast absolute with the contemptible, here is the spiritual sprig par excellence, sans pareil; and it is precisely in its shade and shadow, in its comfort and amplitude, that man must rest.
What Isaiah has, in parallel, in Ch. 32 is this:
"Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
and princes will rule with justice.
A man will be as a hiding place from the wind,
and a cover from the tem pest,
as rivers of water in a dark place,
as the shadow of great rock in a weary land.
" The eyes of those who see will not dim,
And the ears of those who hear will listen.
Also the heart of the rash will understand knowledge,
and the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly."
Here is the Messiah as in Ezekiel 37:24ff., and here is His rule as in Ezekiel 34, Psalm 72.
It is a small thing, a sprig, and Nazareth was no great place, nor a carpenter a great profession in this world, to have, nor was having no place to lay His head, a great pillow to possess, nor was the Cross (Isaiah 50-55), and its giving to mankind, a precious delight to brandish about in pride; but in lowliness of heart, He came, and provided shade of substance, even from the wrath of God. Thus no man need follow the ancient path of a once so recalcitrant Jerusalem or its so faithless and fearful King Zedekiah, nor seek to provoke God, to the uttermost. How ? this in to ways, firstly in scorning not only righteousness as HE who made us wants it, and secondly, in scouring out salvation, in case it should infect him! Another sprig, one planted on a mountain, in the Israel which God appointed for just that purpose (Romans 9), has come. Disregard him to join Zedekiah as a type and example if you will. Is it to be the thrill ? or just the thrust of will that WILL have its own way, though death does part you from life eternal!
Whatever it is, so God has acted. Indeed, He has given other nations as exemplars of pride and stubborn wilfulness, of incompetent wilfulness; for what point is there in pretending to run the universe sufficiently to keep your place in it all by yourself, who could neither decide what to be at birth, or when to come, and cannot even decide how much longer you can stay on it! Yet some try, not mistaken in this, that the adversary to God will give them help till his darkness sets and his passing strains of energy are no more.
Let's consider some of the nations shown in Ezekiel, as a larger example of the same type of thing.
Egypt, that double-dealing empire that blessed Joseph and made slaves of his descendants, whom God chastised in the Exodus and humbled, it still came back for more in the 7th century B.C.. Israel had been sending ambassadors to her (Isaiah 30). To be sure, Israel was taking an initiative in hope of deliverance from Babylon, but Egypt had not learned it to be better - just as the USA, the USSR, the EU and the UK have not in this our day - not to tangle with Israel. To say no more, it was - as it is - in a highly complex relationship with the God of all power and wisdom, whom it is quite impossible to outwit (cf. Psalm 89:11-22, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 14:27, Ephesians 1:11).
They have been chosen and in due course provided a base for the Bible and a basis for the salvation in Christ, even helping in an ironic sort of a way, by providing a judicial apparatus where some were willing to make a statedly innocent man suffer the wrath of a criminal's most extreme death. This lent wings to their dispersion, as the absence by desire, of the Prince of Peace, ENSURES war, which Israel has had in abundant measure, both as a nation since that time, when available to endure them, and as a dispersion. Alas, its people have so often felt in their exposure among the haughty nations and the persecutory. Has it not happened, merely at the apex, in such tender-hearted regimes as those of Hitler and Stalin, as a coping stone to the splendid arch of Europe, allowing Inquisitors to enquire acrimoniously of its people in the interests of world-rule aspiring Romanism (cf. SMR pp. 902-904,911ff.), which somehow has wished through certain popes to be the chief judicial and ecclesiastical authority over the entire earth.
Nations have deplored or sought to intern, export, deport or defile them. They have been bled of wealth, used as skilful, appallingly handled for centuries.
Yet God remains faithful and most determined that they should come back to their own land, despite their defalcation (as in Ezekiel 36ff., cf. SMR Appendix A), and this has been outstanding as the British Empire ruled and grew, during the 18th and 19th centuries. It WAS to happen, said the Bible, while the cognoscenti said, Oh no! It does not really MEAN Israel when it speaks of the nation once covenantally out, then in, then out again, and to return! as if the world sports such a plenitude, though in point of fact, the number of peoples in that category is ONE, just one, so that it is in this case almost as if blindness were a state of the art mode of vision. But God is not to be outwitted by theologians, princes or anybody else.
Hence they DID come back and it WAS possible, since what has HAPPENED is demonstrably possible: otherwise it could not have happened. An embarrassment to those blinded by theology or hatred alike, it nevertheless came with such miraculous power as Zechariah 12 foretold, prior to the predicted coming large-scale Israeli conversion in terms of the crucified Christ, there foretold as in Ezekiel 34,37 with Hosea 13:14, and exposed in Zechariah 12:10 as the focus of their repentance, some two and one half millenia ago, and half a millenium before they even DID it, that is crucified Him in the first place!
But that, it is the Lord. He is like that, steps and miles ahead, millenia in advance. He knows us, our ways and our history, better than any student his book! He TELLS us and has told us that He tells us, and to check it up, and we do (cf. SMR Chs. 8 and 9). Then it happened and people shrugged, very often. It was (and was to be as Christ predicted) the same with the resurrection. After resurrecting the dead while He lived, and HENCE gaining a magnificent reputation and inciting a hefty fear in those who wished to run the world in general and their temple in particular, THEIR way, God or no God, Christ or NO Christ, and then being resurrected precisely on time, on the third day as also predicted: Christ did all. But He did not have Israel back at once. There was that large predicted delay (Hosea 1-3), of many days, and many vicissitudes (as in Leviticus 26).
They as a nation, decided to wait another couple of thousand years, of no great blessedness as a result, though as contracted*1, God made sure that they continued to exist, and at last after great suffering, proceeded to return TO and AS a nation (this , in May 1948, while culminating in all of Jerusalem in 1967, with the declaration of it as Eternal Capital, in the 19080s).
God is like that. He loves doing what He says, truth dazzling in His majesty; and this world may now be in danger of forgetting what that is: it is called truthful, reliable and honourable! That is what God is, to the jot and tittle (Matthew 5:17ff.). He is it; He acts it. The two are as one, word and deed, meaning and method, declaration and doing. When James calls for something better than nominality and a 'faith' which is not sated with the merely verbal, he is in line with the reality. Actual faith acts; it works because it IS faith. Actual faith saves, says Paul; it saves because God's grace is gratuitous, self-dependent, and accepts no help in salvation (cf. SMR pp. 525-532).
God has His hand on all things (Ephesians 1:11), and when it comes to confrontation, it is simply foolish to be so reckless, heedless and fanciful, not only in heart, but in head as well. In trying to cast away the stone of Israel or Jerusalem, nations are TOLD that it will go heavily with them (Zechariah 12:1-4), as noted in the prophecies concerning the matter, told before Christ even came, in the context of His coming. When it comes to trying to 'heave it away', so to treat this restored Jerusalem, now in Jewish hands, then the problem of being cut to pieces is a large one, and the point is a predicted one; and the counter-weapon to God, it simply does not exist. The Madrid Quartet have not entirely done this, but they move in that direction; and what would lessen the reality of the confrontation which this world's powers are making with little Israel, because vastly superior forces and lands, in size, cannot handle it for themselves in the name of Allah, is in danger of being ignored. It is to be a 'heavy burden,' and from that you can get national back-ache, which no physiotherapist can heal.
Life is too easy ? Then interfering in this field is a good way to complicate it, but a bad way to show the humility and compassion, the realism and the grace which should distinguish the Christian.
What then does the history of God's dealings with man have to show us in this (far more than the history of any given empire today, for in His word, the matter is interpreted!) ? It is much and it concerns many, but its message is direct.
Egypt, having been the faithless abuser of Israel, in turning the good Joseph did for them, and their invitation for Israel to come to their land following this, into exploitation and oppression, and having suffered THEREFORE the Exodus and the plagues that went with it (cf. plagues), is in the prophets of that day, once more a snare to Israel. Certainly, Israel had been entangled wilfully with the very cultures it was to avoid, in order to show to man a better, a holy way from the Lord; but it had likewise been taught a lesson for this.
Now with Egypt it was playing a new game, one of having it as a balance to the creeping power of Babylon, at any moment ready to take a spring, like a leopard, or in this case from Daniel, a lion! Israel was then doing what Britain foolishly did, with the USA, in World War II, in inviting Russia, the USSR at that time, to help and to be helped. Evil associations used to be warned against by wise parents to growing children, but the mature civilisations, nay the powerful, these could not be troubled by such matters, and in acting against Hitler WITH the USSR, they gave some evil standing to that odious, depersonalising, Communist dictatorship with the blood of millions, rawly on its hands.
It gave to that godlessly ruled nation, a name, impetus and knowledge, and helped them oppress Europe in its East, after the war, for a generation, spoiling and despoiling, with its atheist, self-made, self-serving quasi-morals!
So was Egypt involved with Israel.
Nor was it this alone which hastened its near to terminal ruptures and ructions. In Ezekiel 29, God announces that He is against this multi-god, mini-sanctified muddle.
"Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt,
O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers,
who has said, ' My River is my own! I have made it for myself."
The first divinely revealed count against Egypt is its sense of autonomy. If the culture of the Egypt of that day wanted gods, or sought to authenticate mysteries by its charm and desire, some longstanding (like the contemporary tendency of troops to seek prostitutes in some wars, or victories, or to make sex-stations out of women in their triumphs), and yet was hardly one based on either reason or wisdom, justice or mercy, then it could have them. Yet there is a price. God was not unaware of their insolvent insolence, flirtations with feebleness and ostentation about their divine products, which become idols. This was vagrant autonomy.
There is, secondly, a naturalistic fallacy, in which Egypt liked to think of itself as so managing its Nile, that really it as good as made it! In an irrational cocoon, it worked its mystic magics, devoid of logic, and asserted itself as a power to be reckoned with. Very well, GOD Himself would then reckon with it. He likens it, with its Nile and fishing, to a great bloated water monster, beached or grounded, and with its drying scales littered with smaller fish. There is no protection there, but just a stink.
There is an application to Israel as in Ezekiel 29, that is linked closely to this. What will happen then, when these events come to be ? This:
"Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the Lord,
because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel.
When they took hold of you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders;
when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their backs quiver."
Reference to this broken staff, this reed posing as a staff for support, is also found in Isaiah 36:6, from the lips of a derisory Assyrian monarch, via his ambassador:
"Look, you are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans,
it will go into his hand and pierce it. SO is Pharaoh, king of Egypt to all who trust in him."
To be sure, this was propaganda, but its was usable by Assyria, because this was in fact happening.
"Woe," said the Lord (Isaiah 31:1ff.), "to those who go down to Egypt for help,
and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many,
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but who do not look for the Holy One of Israel,
nor seek the Lord!
" Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster, and will not call back His words."
God then read out a series of judgments (Ezekiel 29:1021), on this long odiously self-important land, spreading its delusive grandeurs out ready for devastations, trusting in its idols. First there would be a 40 year blight, and then, though God would have mercy that the place might continue at all, yet -
"It shall be the lowliest of kingdoms:
it shall never again exalt itself above the nations,
for I will diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore.
No longer will it be the confidence of the house of Israel,
but will remind them of their iniquity
when they turned to follow them.
Then they will know that I am the Lord God."
If it is well to know who your parents are, since they contributed to your being on this earth, then how much more to KNOW who your God is, since He made both you and it!
How many have been the nations which have served themselves of Egypt, used it, occupied it, oppressed it, kept it down since that time, when its eminence had long looked for the post of pre-eminence among the nations! Found a tower, however, on sand, and the higher to grows, the worse is its end! The word of God concerning the abasement of Egypt compared to its former glory has been fulfilled with an amplitude of detail and continuation which is truly awesome.
A LOWLY KINGDOM INDEED, AFTER THE
JUDGMENT IS PASSED
AND A WORD TO THE MIGHTY
Thus Pharaoh Necho was heavily defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish in 605 B.C., during the prophetic period of Ezekiel. There he lost all his Asiatic possessions, and indeed the land of Egypt came to be divided by Assyria into 20 districts, with a governor to rule each! After no long release, it was conquered once more by Cambyses of Persia, and became a satrapy of that empire. A short deliverance was followed by reconquest by Artaxerxes, who again made it a Persian satrapy. A few years later, Alexander the Great replaced Persia as dominant over Egypt, and then for a time it had as rulers the Ptolemies, while in 30 B.C., it became a province of Rome. governed by prefects over it. In 619 A.D., it was conquered by Chosroes II of Persia, who lost it for good in 628. Then it passed to the Saracens, and again, to the Turks.
It was governed by caliphs, later Mamluks, and in 1517, after many events swallowing others in the seedy squalor of aggressive Islam, Egypt became part of the Ottoman Empire. Truly, it had become a nation of withering, not expansion, of servitude, despite it desire for independence, sometimes found but most often lost. Under the Mamluks, Egypt continued till invaded by the French in 1798, but it reverted to the Ottoman army in Egypt in 1805, and this officially continued till 1914, though it was effectively a United Kingdom protectorate after 1882. This became formal, because of the declaration of war by the Ottoman Empire, Britain, this time, selected its own Sultan for Egypt, removing the former one. Thus Egypt continued its relatively servile status, in line with the precise prophecy made by Ezekiel around 600 B.C. over the following 2600 years.
Its monarchy was recognised by Britain in 1922, and Britain sought in particular to retain control of the Suez Canal. By a treaty, the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, Britain agreed to withdraw its troops from Egypt, except in the Suez Canal Zone (to be evacuated by 1949).
Seen as a puppet of the British, and defeated in the 1948 war with Israel, Egypt had a revolution in 1952, led by army officers, establishing the Republic of Egypt. Again in 1956, this was invaded, but through international negotiations, the attacks were withdrawn, though in 1973, the Egyptian Army, having assaulted Israel on its most solemn annual religious day, was thrust back over the Suez Canal, and surrounded, being delivered by tense exchanges by the USA and the USSR, the latter having sought some control and use in Egypt, for itself.
Since that time, it has sought peace with Israel, and in this has stood out significantly in the nations surrounding Israel; but it has suffered enormously from the huge defeat through a tiny nation, which was being oppressed and rampaged against by a whole group of nations of which Egypt was but one!
Its failure to have any pre-eminence is in the most marked contrast to its past, as Ezekiel indicated would be the case, and as to its times of subservience, these were both long and arduous, as nation after nation made use of it, occupied or directed it.
Indeed, in Ezekiel 31, Egypt in the time of its come-uppance by God, following the announcement of its somewhat painful future, was likened to a vast, gloriously beautiful tree which was to be (and was) cut down. Though "beautiful in greatness and in the length of its branches, because its roots reached to abundant waters" and though "no tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty," yet it had been in the mercy of God that this could occur.
"you have increased in height, and it set its top among the thick boughs,
and its heart was lifted up in its height,
therefore I will deliver it into the hand of the might one of the nations,
and he shall surely deal with it: I have driven it out for its wickedness" -
In the period 572-567 Nebuchadnezzar evidently led his army against Egypt, to afflict it for its vagaries, one inscription referring to a military action from him, against it. This Babylonian King had immense power in the Middle East at this time, and Ezekiel 29:17-21. refers to the Lord's giving him Egypt in recognition of his work against Tyre, with which we deal later.
Thus multitudes have abased Egypt, and both this land and Israel, as well as the nations more broadly, have been taught concerning both the will and the word of God, whether they choose to hear or 'forbear' ! Thus 'the most terrible of the nations' cut down its river-aided boughs (Ezekiel 31:12), and its ruin has been multitudinous,
"so that no trees by the waters may ever again exalt themselves for their height,
nor set their tops among the thick boughs,
that no tree which drinks water may ever be high enough to each up to them," 31:14.
It proceeds to one of the aims of this exercise (31:18).
"To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness ?
Yet you shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the depths of the earth..."
The principle is clear, and the rebuke lies potent for those who invoke it!
Is any nation
to make itself bear a
virtual persona, show its colours, reveal its heart,
to turn merely created powers into
quasi-creative wonders, and
to be found even forwarding such irrational myths by force on the immature;
while zealous for dynamic diplomatic juggling by common self-interest quotients or the like, seeking mutual advantage trading without regard to the underlying grounds of agreement between nations! Or is it to do this with indifference to the cultural and moral chasms existing between different peoples, while bearing with blatant idolatries as just part of the way of things, as if human power and not purity were to the point, and God could watch out for Himself, if He were displeased!
Will it do it, shrug the political shoulders and declare that it wants only profit, that it would co-operate with the devil if necessary, if the returns appeared good ? or speak as if in principle this was all one, made no difference!
Did not Winston Churchill who mixed some of the best of things with some of the worst, indicate that if the devil attacked Hitler, he might speak well of that evil spirit in the House of Parliament! Was not this concentration on simplicity, that is, to deal with Hitler and judge things by that: was not this a substitute for actual good and evil, which by using the USSR, with its Communism and its depersonalisation of mankind, a near approach to the devil, was itself drawing close to such spiritual squalor!
Was not the churning of millions to the charnel house in Siberia, in the Ukraine, in State-grabbing possessiveness for food, a devilish thing ? Did it stand well to use such things as that, to have alliance with such moral modes, as a power base for overcoming Hitler ? Did not Eastern Europe pay for over 40 years of hideous repression! History has words for the wise, even where morals are disjoined from life as if there were some kind of psychological leprosy, and bits dropped off!
The USA would do well to consider this as it has moved*2 from Bush to Obama with increasing indifference to truth, concerning Islam in its official US position concerning this religion, making it clear that it is a 'good' religion for all its stated aims in the Koran*3, and that it need never be confronted WHATEVER it does, while on the other hand, the actual use of militancy from the very first in Mecca, to secure by force its religious will and later in much of Europe by the same means, is notorious. In its day, it nearly grasped the world.
Has World War II and the USSR taught nothing ? has Vietnam taught no more ? or Iraq and the preliminary ' help' so sagely given to it so that it could contain the aggression of Iran, this later being removed because of various considerations, but not the aggression of Iran!
If a nation is not specifically Christian, this is nothing to the point in the personal conviction, commitment and of course, personal integrity of a leader in adhering to his religion; for if God is not enough to control his conduct, what then is! If an atheist indicates a string of rules or attitudes and proceeds to deploy these, is anyone surprised ? In increasing array, this is being done already, on relatively godless premises. Thus, on the other hand, if a Christian, without removing freedom of religion as such, but simply seeking principles that accord with justice, truth and mercy as before God, and without giving unfair advantage to those of any one religion, should similarly indicate a string of spiritual principles and proceeds to deploy these, are things any different! Does it differ, even where liberty in these things is maintained! Is the one to be 'understood' and the other an outrage! (cf. Journey to God ... Ch. 7).
Are Christian principles to be necessarily aborted and what are effectually atheist ones to be flaunted, as if some necessity obligated the political will, and an obsessive conformity to a cultural tic had gripped society ? From their earlier emphasis, there has been a growth into something VERY different in the USA, as in Britain, and alas, increasingly so in Australia, from its beginnings which as with a tree, have had very much to do with their growth and present condition, barring its more recent declivities.
Those who refuse to learn, can still be taught; and though they persecute, as is being done in the field of education atrociously in all three of these nations, whether immediately by teaching, or mediately by the media, yet their end will be just, and the Lord will hold them to account. It is when they are too tall to fall, that the resounding thud is the more momentous. Is it wisdom to ignore such things ? as others did ...
Ask Egypt, concerning drowning in your own greatness and engaging in not very charming exercises in self-will and inglorious and elevated autonomy. It is not a phenomenon limited to Egypt as Ezekiel 39:14 makes so very clear. It is better to learn this, than to earn the political urn which has been the lot of many a nation, such as Babylon, Assyria and Tyre as foretold.
There is no harm in being great; but there is much in fastening yourself to greatness, when a pilgrim, seeking it out, playing it up, making it an aim, let alone soaring into the spiritual stratosphere; and there is even more, in ignoring your Maker while glorying in His gifts! and worse, even more still, in seeking to contest with Him, bury Him, blight or smite Him or His ways with contempt, ridicule or consign it all to indifference, with a lazy smile of baseless superiority, ignoring the grace which made you, and the opportunities which allowed you your delusion.
Having seen divine principles in these national affairs, readily applied personally, in the case of Egypt, our theme needs now only some further detail for broader illustration.
In the case of Assyria, Isaiah has the case thoroughly in hand, but Ezekiel deals at length with the religious reliance on the ways of Assyria which Israel evinced, that wayward nation fascinated with the power, its protective capacity, or its rule, as seen in Ezekiel 23. Here it is set in the figure of romance. While it is in fact a religious renegacy, yet in this way there is shown the subtlety of false reliance, God charges Judah with having
"lusted for the neighbouring Assyrians, captains and rulers,
clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding on horses,
all of them desirable young men.
Then I saw that she was defiled;
both took the same way, but she increased her harlotry."
The harlotry uses the figure of marriage to the Lord as a symbol for faithful reverence and keeping of His covenant, and hence the using of other gods and reliance on other nations or their gods, is depicted as harlotry, when it becomes notorious, as it did.
In Isaiah the case of Assyria is expanded in the confrontation of Sennacherib as shown in Isaiah 37-38. Since that King dared to compare God, the God of Israel, with the idols of the nations, while engaging in other illicit propaganda, accordingly God decided to SHOW the difference in the contrast about to occur FOR Sennacherib, in this self-same case of Jerusalem. Like a hostile young bull, He indicated, would the invasive Assyrian King be led back. The Lord then struck the armies, ruined the alien assault, and sent back the defeated King to his own land where he was later killed by some of his sons. That it occurred in the temple of an idol religious entity, was almost a parallel to the downgrading of the Egyptian naturalistic gods, one by one, in the plagues on that land! So far from being able to help, these mythical entities, invented by the mind of man, a substitute for the worship of the Maker of the mind of man, became names associated with death and destruction, which is a dynamic in all unrealism. Reality does not alter because of dreams, Jeremiah is so dramatically used to point out in Ch. 23:
“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran.
I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in My counsel,
And had caused My people to hear My words,
Then they would have turned them from their evil way
And from the evil of their doings.
'Am I a God near at hand,' says the Lord,
'And not a God afar off?
Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?” says the Lord;
'Do I not fill heaven and earth?' says the Lord.
'I have heard what the prophets have said who
prophesy lies in My name,
"I have dreamed, I have dreamed!"
'How long will this be in the heart of the prophets
who prophesy lies?
Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart,
who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams
which everyone tells his neighbor,
as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.
'The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream;
And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully.
What is the chaff to the wheat?' says the Lord.
'Is not My word like a fire?' says the Lord,
'And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
'Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,' says
'Behold, I am against the prophets,' says the Lord, 'who use their tongues and say, "He says."
'Behold, I am against those who prophesy false
dreams,' says the Lord,
'and tell them, and cause My people to err
by their lies and by their recklessness.
Yet I did not send them or command them;
therefore they shall not profit this people at all,' says the Lord."
Nineveh, the capital of this crassly misled nation with its perverse glorying in itself and disregard of any actual deity to be duly worshipped, but doing what pleased it, in this most like many modern nations, was divinely given its own come-uppance. This, it has most sadly found in the sand over the centuries. Zephaniah 2:13-15 with Nahum 3:7-18 shows the prophecy along with Isaiah 37:21ff.; for Nineveh, the capital,
"is laid waste! who will bemoan her! ...
Your injury has no healing...
All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you,
for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually ?"
Continual evil and harassment, self-glorying, self-will, has prophetically as historically led to continual ruin, till in the case of Nineveh, this city once so grand, had at length to become a discovery in the sand!
Isaiah 10:1-19 has more on the Lord's dealings with Assyria, asking this:
"Shall the axe boast itself against him who chops with it ?
or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it ?
as if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up?"
Liberty has been a wonderful gift, dismally misused by the human race; but there are depths to which some go, where darkness envelops and from which there is no arising.
This brings to light the important point that misleading or seeking to mislead the very elect of God, the children of God, and especially the little ones, has heavy penalties as in Matthew 18, and the nations which destroy as far as possible, their own young in false and mystic naturalism as an enforced fantasy in curriculum imposition, are likewise asking for their reward. It would be much lighter a thing to paint over someone's car with paint, as they tried to do with that of Prince Charles recently, in a popular fury about University fees, than to paint over the child with these notions (cf. The gods of naturalism have no go! with TMR Ch. 8, Beauty to Ashes ... Ch. 3 for example).
The sheer grandeur of letting imagination rule and making up gods of forces with no faces or factualities to show themselves, and imposing them on youth, as is being done, has a certain tilt of the nose, a certain facile splendour about it; but its end is shame, and its corruptions are manifest both through the nations in their inter-relationships, many like newspaper headings from hell, and in their internally increasing indifference to the very springs of their own conduct, only the gutters being investigated, as it were, as if the basis were unblessed, unnecessary, with only the symptoms needing thought!
Ezekiel 23, in dealing with Assyria and its incursions both military and religious into disaffected Israel (though Hezekiah set up a wonderful faith-girt resistance and gained a mighty deliverance when he brought revival to the land, and with this, substantial ruin to Assyria), and her pregnant situation, went on swiftly to Babylon, as seen in 23:12-21.
In a figure, fascinated with the Assyrian model, Judah now turned her spiritual and political eyes to oncoming Babylon:
"As soon as her eyes saw them, she lusted for them and sent messengers to them, to Chaldea.
Then the Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love,
and they defiled her with their immorality; so she was defiled by them,
and alienated herself from them.
"She revealed her harlotry and uncovered her nakedness.
Then I alienated Myself from her..."
As to the judgment upon Babylon, in Ezekiel focussed in terms of its use as a disciplinary agent, this is shown in immense power in Jeremiah 50-51, as in Isaiah 13, where its end is secure and permanent.
In the latter, we find this:
"And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride,
will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
It will never be inhabited,
nor will it be settled form generation to generation ..
here time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged."
Imagine if that were said of Moscow, Washington or London, or Paris, and then APPLIED historically for 2500 years! God knows what He is doing, says what He deems fit, and does it.
Thus, when Saddam Hussein tried strenuously to rebuild some little things, architectural trinkets to show some power from the past, his efforts soon deteriorated and he was hung. That is a past not to be re-invented, and the glory of Iraq which tried to re-invent itself, has passed with its occupation, internal wars, Islamic internecine conflict and harassment by Iranian terrorists.
Tyre is one more defiant piece of majesty, which was to become, and duly became a residue of vainglory. In Ezekiel 27, its coming case is reviewed.
"O Tyre," the Lord says in Ezekiel 27:3, "you have said, 'I am perfect in beauty'. Your borders are in the midst of the seas, your builders have perfected your beauty."
The Lord traces the building of its greatness, grandeur, civilisation, as if this maritime dominion, like a prelude to the British Empire, were itself one vast boat.
"They made all your planks of fir trees...
They took a cedar from Lebanon to make you a mast...
Those from Persia, Lydia and Libya were in your army as men of war;
they hung shield and helmet in you; they gave splendour to you ...
They made your beauty perfect."
So we find throughout 27:5-11.
It then lists a host of nations trading with this commercial hub and centre of Tyre.
In the next Chapter, we find the prince of Tyre addressed.
"Because your heart is lifted up, and you say, 'I am a god I sit on the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas,'
yet you are a man, and not a god, though you set your heart as the heat of a god."
The point of the arrogant, self-majestic-marvel-model, which is the prince of Tyre, is made stronger by irony:
"Behold you are wiser than Daniel! There is no secret that can be hidden from you!
With your wisdom and understanding, you have gained riches for yourself ...
and your heart is lifted up because of your riches."
The wisdom of Daniel was most plainly and statedly a gift from God when His servants were held in peril of their lives, and He used this to show to Nebuchadnezzar, along with more direct methods (Daniel 4), and to the Court, including the prognosticators and the magicians, the Chaldeans, where real wisdom and practical knowledge and predictive power actually lay, once and for all. It is not, said Daniel, for any special wisdom of mine that this comes. God willed it, gave it and protected us!
Yet Tyre, without such a demonstration as that through Daniel, nevertheless loved to exult in its vision, wisdom, knowledge, aptitude and power like a god! How many modern companies are in the same ... boat!
Hence destruction, after some centuries, was assured for the Lord so determined it, and used this vast invitation, at last, with a divine answer, that many might awake from their own sleep!
"Your riches, wares, and merchandise ...
and the entire company which is in our midst,
will fall into the midst of the seas on the day of your ruin.
The common -land will shake at the sound of the cry of your pilots,"
He says in Ezekiel 27:27-28, continuing the maritime metaphor, in a most earthy fashion.
In Ezekiel 28:17, God reveals, exposes the background to the very spirit which came to reside in Tyre. Just as He often in the Psalms addresses Himself to the coming Messiah or has Him speak proleptically, as David's words of his own day, project themselves into the coming realm of the Son of David, who is the Son of God (Psalm 2, 72, Isaiah 11): so here in Ezekiel's prophecy, there is a projection backwards not to the coming consummation, but to the past basis for this self-adoring Tyre.
"You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you;
you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways, form the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you."
That is found in Ezekiel 28:14, and in 28:13, we have this further itemisation:
"you were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering ..."
Most beautiful in its awesome directness and strength of warning is the word found in 28:17. It is variously translated,
"you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour," the heart having been "lifted up", or as in the AV (grammar modernised), "You have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness."
The Berkeley Version has this:
"You became puffed up with pride because of your beauty,
and your wisdom became corrupted by reason of your splendor."
In fact, the preposition in view, translated "by reason of" or "for the sake of", is a very deep one, giving a sense of something resting on something else, which may be in space or in reason, and it can indicate the means or the cause, in the sense that in some way, one of the things in view rested on the other! Hence it could be taken to mean that the brightness led on to the corruption, as an operative cause, dazzling even its possessor; or that the splendour formed an attractive source and so the corruption rested on it. The underlying thought is this: that brightness, mishandled, misconstrued, misunderstood, misused, let to corruption, that the splendour it could bring, became the downfall it brought.
In such cases, one seeks two major foci:
1) what is the underlying power in the thrust of the thing; and
2) what are the options for its expression.
If the latter has an open door, with no known obstruction, then both senses are taken, as from a brilliant Author, and the underlying sense of motion or meaning, is reserved for either. So here. It could not handle brightness, so brightness handled it, to its ruin! Self-control and godliness is necessary with any gift, and it was lost here, and so both the gift and its glowing, the splendour and its showing passed away, inglorious in corruption which had had splendour.
Thus there were results.
Hence (Ezekiel 28:17):
"I have cast you to the ground and exposed you for kings to gaze at you ...
All who know you among the nations are appalled at your fate;
for you have become a horror; you shall be no more forever."
And once again, so it has been; for though abundant water, we are told, continues to be available in the former site of Tyre, yet it remains without its fallen city.
Who does not tire of the terror of Tyre, the mighty nation syndrome, whether Germany or France under Napoleon, or Stalin murdering in millions in the USSR, or Mao in China, or any other tyranny combined with the intoxication of pride, whether against one's fellows, or more ultimately against the very Being of the God who made it!
This is the last case for our thought today. Poor Moab! and in this one echoes the lament of the Lord Himself; for though He loves, He does not maintain madness in His creatures in the end, and where His divine compassion and yearning is at length, as foreknown to Him in His integrity, to the last resisted in recalcitrance, perversely redirected like unwanted mail, then the realities being bare, they are given due care as to the outcome, though there be lamentations as in the case of Christ's tears, to be witnessed in Luke 19.
As to Moab, one sees its past in Jeremiah 48,
" 'We have heard of the pride of Moab (He is exceedingly proud),
of his loftiness and arrogance and pride, and of the haughtiness of his heart.
'I know his wrath, says the Lord, but it is not right';
His lies have made nothing right.
Therefore I will ail for Moab, and I will cry out for all Moab; I will mourn for the men of Kir Heres...
"Therefore My heart shall wail like flutes for Moab,
and like flutes My heart shall wait..."
Since the heart was lifted up
AGAINST the LORD Himself, an idle chatter and vanity based literally on nothing,
then in the site where all these evil accretions accrue, the word comes:
"Make him drunk, because he exalted himself against the Lord.
Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he shall also be in derision.
For was not Israel a derision to you ? Was he found among thieves ?
For whenever you speak of him, you shake your head in scorn."
Ezekiel 25:8-11 reveals the same thing concerning Moab.
Moab and Mt Seir have something to say about Israel. What is it ?
"They say this:
"Look! The house of Judah is like all the nations.' "
So the God who made it, who has disciplined it, who has made all men, who has great things in store for the mission and commission to Israel still pending at that time, even the coming of the Saviour for all men, especially those who believe (I Timothy 4:10), He has nothing at all to do with it, that is the reasoning involved and which the Lord takes such care to rebut, being neither author nor ground of confusion. So then, the knowledgeable conceive that His plans are equivalent to zero, and arrogance knows it all and rebukes the Lord for trying to make a difference. Israel is like all the other nations ? It has no plan, place, position, future ? In fact, the Lord has plans and they move with history to their culmination; but since here is a short-circuit in this verbal parade, then let there be judgment for it, now also. Seek to obliterate the truth and take care that it does not obfuscate you, and lead to your own destruction (Matthew 21:44). The Lord is compassionate, but He does not indulge corruption, which merely destroys what might save!
Result in setting, for Moab:
"Therefore, behold, I will clear the territory of Moab of cities ...
to the men of the East I will give it as a possession ...
and I will execute judgments upon Moab and they shall know that I am the Lord."
Here is the practical expression of this lofty, God-non-fearing, idling self-idolatry which liked empty talk, in that it dared to make of its fallen self, a beacon for comparison with an Israel it despised!
Is there not something to learn from this, then ? Be careful you nations who now despise it and act blithely or even blitheringly despite it, and read Micah 7 for your discomfort now, rather than for your judgment when it is too late! God has His own ways, and sinners who know it all by their own culture or cultivated gods with no basis in reason or verified revelation, have something to learn, as at the end of Ezekiel 37, in Deuteronomy 32, in Isaiah 66 and in Isaiah 2 and Micah 7 (cf. SMR, TMR, Deity and Design ..., Light Dwells with the Lord's Christ, Secular Myth ...).
What is the dorman and indeed dynamic lesson to be considered ? It is for many, this: Learn now then while learning can be helpful, and pity yourselves rather than pitting your strength as your will and haughty self-assurance directs! Seek God and fear Him, watch His word and obey it, and do not try to legislate where He has legislated already, as if to control God. Then if this be your way, you are like the prince of Tyre, or Sennacherib.
As was the case with the latter (Isaiah 37), words will not help you; the facts speak volumes, and God has spoken in one volume, the Bible, and in another, your physical body, in the DNA. Let it not become an acronym for DO NOT be ARROGANT! Man is not the mountain, but as a babe, in the first place, is derived and has not arrived at some place of magnificent power, but must come through the door like anyone else in this world of fallen mankind (John 10:9), to where the Maker of his matrix, and the moulder of his mind, and the formulator of his will is to be found, where His word stands distinct and distinctive, testable, invested in history, attested in Christ, beyond all, above all, for all.
It is precisely the 'drunkenness' of abrupt power which aborts itself against the Rock immovable, defined in the Bible as God and His word (Matthew 7, Psalm 62:2,6,, Deuteronomy 32:4, 18,3,37, Isaiah 44:8, 51:1, I Corinthians 10); and it is this which asks to be smashed by the truth (Matthew 21:44). Alas, Moab, said the Lord, in review, "has settled on his dregs, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into captivity..." Affliction is by no means to be despised if it awakens the mind and stirs the soul to actual life! Poor Moab! Like Jerusalem of old, if only he had learned, in time! Alas for the nations today, if only they would learn in time!
Alas for individuals erecting their cities before God with a smirking smile of 'no religion' or this or that idol! If only they could learn in time (cf. Luke 19:42ff.).
Some may, and then there is more rejoicing in heaven than over 99 already in place before God, for just one... just one more!
Christ indicated that the breed, the generation, Israel, would not pass till all was fulfilled. WHEN He came back, they would be there. WHEN He was about to come, Jerusalem would be there under their control (Luke 21:24, Zechariah 14:5, Matthew 24:34). As noted in Acts 1, the time and seasons for this return are not to be divulged, only the data surrounding it, abundantly now in place (cf. SMR Ch. 8, Answers to Questions Ch. 5). The whole race, breed, brood of Israel therefore would at such time whatsoever as that happened, BE there, in their land, not pass away, and with them, a Jerusalem no longer trodden under the foot of the other nations.
It is in place. After some 2000 years, this non-repetitive, epochal thing has happened, and how many millions seek for it to unhappen.
Whatever God says, He contracts to do (Psalm 138:2, Matthew 5:17ff., Jeremiah 23). He has the power. He does it. He does it with principles of grace and compassion, mercy and truth; but in the end, He does it. He knew all about it and through and beyond it before it ever was; and so it happens. What else could it do!
In resurrecting Lazarus, after deliberately waiting for four days before the removal of death (John 11), He provided both the maximal motivation for the contending religious authorities to expose Him if by any means they could, for this thing was too dramatically complete to avoid by any propaganda, as leaders realised, and with this, the unanswerable exercise of power. As to abolishing death, He made the point that He could DO it as an agent of His Father, BE in it and coming out of it, break it, as the Redeemer whose defeat of death was authentication of authorisation to be in that position (Romans 1:4, John 10:18).
In being undiscoverable except on His own terms, after the resurrection, though these included among witnesses, both one and many (I Corinthians 15), He showed Himself no puppet but prince, no captive but Conqueror, thus unavailable as a trophy of State-over-God conflict, or Church (Jewish) over Messiah pretension. There would be no triumphant march with a fallen Christ in tow. He walked out on them, right from the tomb.
He ran things as God always does, on His own terms. How EASY to be available after being killed and stowed, with a guard! How certain it would be that it could not happen, that He should escape death and guards alike; but God had predicted otherwise (cf. SMR Ch. 6), and confirmed it from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ often enough (cf. Matthew 17:22-23, 27:34, Mark 9:31, 10:34, Luke 9:22, 13:22, 24:7, John 1:29), as to fact, as to timing for His arising.
The tomb was marked in the consciousness of the disciples as is a red marking pen coverage of print (Luke 23:55); for if HE had to go, with what a solemn sacredness would they wish to know where to perform the burial rituals with extra relish, for One so great as this.
The truth was marked, the State had failed, the Jewish Church (as in Acts 7) had failed; God had succeeded, and used with others, fishermen to proclaim the simple fact. There was no sustainable catch here, for the fish got away, and indeed the fish symbol became famous for its insistence on the Deity and Salvation in Jesus Christ, in terms of the Greek acronym.
What the most strenuous of adversaries, the most petulant of haters, the most sophisticated of lawyers COULD not do- because it was not possible - in rejecting Christ with reason, including ANY particle of the Bible which He should fail to meet in its exceedingly multiplied references to what the Messiah would be, when He would come and what He would do: this was a function of God. Therefore, it could not be done. God secured the resurrection as all the ingredients of power and wisdom before it, in Christ, He being all-powerful. Man had to fail. He always has done so and will do so, in this, that he is both wrong and impotent before God. Justice and truth grind down his pretences.
So was it with Jesus Christ. Again the contest comes: Israel with Jerusalem, this is another case for the improvident unbeliever. Man cannot STAND to see standing and readily demonstrable proof of God, and will go to almost any length to remove it, whether by false sect, false religion, false prophet, war or persecution.
Hostility to Him, in this world, after all the pseudo-religious shams are past, is vast, a gaping chasm in the earth: it as in the parable of Luke 19:11-27, and the more endorsed in Luke 20:9-19. The extension in the world is seen in Revelation 19:19ff. as in Revelation 13.
Love for Him is special, as all love is, and as with other lusts, it is pre-occupation with what does not matter that spoils and soils. This world ? says James, DO NOT LOVE IT! As in too hot weather, there is abundant need of a change (John 3), even to the point of regeneration in this world, in its members, one at a time. This is the time for it. There is no time like it.
See on Bush and his prayer breakfast - Dastardly Dynamics ... and Immovable Faith Ch. 10, including *2;
Red Alert 6, 8, 13; and on Obama and his Cairo speech, for example - The Unsearchable Riches of Jesus Christ Ch. 3.
Islam in word and need attracts some attention.
See Divine Agenda Chs.
3 (an overview of religious truancies, including Marx, Darwin and Koran)
Highway to Hell - (Koran citations in both,
with ideational parallels in perspective, in the latter two; and in
the former, futile depravities in endless ideologies such as
has shown so significantly, Islam ablaze without glory),
cf. Overflight in Christ Ch. 1 (and the Koran's musings);
More Marvels ... Ch. 4, esp. *4,
together, more generally with
SMR pp. 829ff. , 1080
Dancers, Prancers, Lancers and Answers Ch. 3, *1A
(misconceptions about the Cross, variable and mutually conflicting, on the part of the Koran
Lord of Life Ch. 3 (and force), 1081ff. (and faith),
Outrageous Outages ... Ch. 5;
His Wounds Opened Eternity Ch. 4; 3
Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 9,
Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 8 (in perspective), see also *1,
1493 (esp. Britain and sharia);
News 138, Beauty for Ashes Chs. 4, 7
BARBLISS 5, Acme ... Ch. 9 , Great Execrations ... Ch. 3, SMR p. 1O88D - three major religions in some ways in concert, astray.
News 138, Beauty for Ashes Chs. 4, 7, SMR pp. 1074ff., esp. 1079, 1081ff.
(These latter show this religion, with the other three major conspiracies towards the ultimate - why conspiracies ? It is because men conspire, or breathe plans together for a control, rule or oversight not ordained by God: these are breaths of man, and the breath that matters is that of God, in and by which all scripture is inspired by Him (II Timothy 3:16, Isaiah 8:20), in the Book of the Lord (Isaiah 34:16), the Bible, and sustained and implemented by Him (Matthew 26:54ff.). Other ideas for rule are always unruly, since they always tend to use power for what neither reason nor truth compels.).
See also SMR pp. 822ff., 986ff., 1O88D.