Ezekiel 23:25 I will direct my jealous anger against you, and they will deal with you in fury. They will cut off your noses and your ears, and those of you who are left will fall by the sword.
Mutilation was common in ancient warfare, and was also used to punish adultery. If a man’s wife had an affair, he could have her nose cut off, and have her lover castrated. God’s people committed spiritual adultery by abandoning him for other gods. God’s jealous anger was so intense that he planned to send foreign armies to mutilate their faces.
Again we see the intensity of God’s jealous anger against those who commit spiritual adultery. Paul may have had this in mind when he warned believers in Corinth not to attend idol feasts. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:22), he asked. God’s love for his people is like the love of a jealous husband; we stray at our own risk.
Ezekiel 24:16 Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.
The prophet’s wife was suddenly dead. We are not told how she died except that it happened quickly–with one blow. But in spite of his terrible loss, the prophet was not allowed to grieve. The people of God were puzzled by this and asked what it meant. The prophet explained that they too would suffer loss. The temple they loved, and the family they left behind in Jerusalem, would soon be destroyed by the Babylonians. They were not to grieve either because this was the judgment of God due to their sins (Ezekiel 24:21-23).
The death of Ezekiel’s wife was traumatic for him, but a blessing for her. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord (Revelation 14:13), wrote John. And [we] prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), wrote Paul. Whether times are good or bad, death is always a blessing for those who belong to Christ. This would have comforted Ezekiel whenever he missed his wife.
Ezekiel 33:11 I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!
The prophet explained that if a righteous person turned from their righteousness, they would die. But if a wicked person turned from their wickedness, they would live (Ezekiel 33:12). This is different than the belief that God’s eternal favor is based on whether our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds.
The New Testament strongly agrees with Ezekiel. There we read of a criminal who turned to Christ at the end of his life and was saved (Luke 23:43). But no assurance is given to anyone who turns away from Christ (2 Peter 2:21). God’s eternal favor is not determined by how many good or bad deeds we have done, but by trusting in Christ to the end.
Ezekiel 33:31-32 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. . . . Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.
The prophet was such a popular speaker that he had no problem getting a crowd. But those who gathered thought of him as little more than entertainment—like someone who sings and plays the guitar. They enjoyed his performance but had no intention of putting his words into practice.
Jesus shared the same frustration, and gave the people a warning. [E]veryone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Matthew 7:26-27). Hearing God’s word is a blessing, but we turn it into a curse, if we do not live it out.
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
The peoples’ hearts were so calloused by sin, they would never respond to God with the loving obedience he desired, so God a planned a radical surgery. I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19), he said.
A middle-aged man had heart disease and little time to live. But another man died, and his heart became available. The surgery was successful, and sometime later the man got married. His new wife was a widow, and together they learned that the heart inside his chest belonged to her former husband. Somehow, it made their love even stronger.
Now here is the point: in order to get a new heart, someone with a good heart has to die. The only person with a perfectly good heart is Jesus Christ, and he died to give us his heart. This is another way of describing what happens when the Spirit of Christ comes into us (Acts 2:38).
Reflection and Review
How is God like a jealous husband?
What hope is there for the wicked?
How has God changed your heart?