Judah Judged [Chapters 4-24]
Sermon Two: The Desolation of Disobedience
Ezekiel's sermon comes like the first sermon after the model siege but also after the cutting of the hair and beard. The sermon has three points: first, a prediction, then a hope, and finally a moment of grief.
The Prediction (1-7)
Ezekiel was to face the mountains, hills, ravines, and valleys where Israel had practiced idolatry, and declare that a sword was coming to desolate those places of revering religious fetishes. Their idols and their pagan altars of incense would all be destroyed, and before those decadent idols, Yahweh would leave the unburied dead bodies of Israel as a reminder that idols cannot save. In truth, idols can only destroy (1-5). As the dead lie at their altars, even their altars of sacrifice become a mockery. Yahweh was doing all of this to wipe out and lay complete waste to the idol industry of Israel (6).
All Yahweh was doing to Israel came out of the gracious hope that they would come to know He was Lord alone in all the earth. This phrase, "You shall know that I am the LORD," is used over sixty times in Ezekiel. No doubt Ezekiel's main purpose was to help Israel and the world know that the true God is Yahweh (7).
Israel's Confident Hope (8-10)
Some would not experience death; some of Israel would be allowed to escape to the nations and be driven into other countries as refugees (8). Once in those countries, they would remember Yahweh and restore their relationship with Him. They would contemplate how deep their sin was, and as they contemplated the depravity of their sin, their hearts would break. They would come to realize that, in embracing the idols most justifying their lust-driven existence, they were whoring after their own lustful desires. They would come to hate what they had done—their sins and the abominations. They would hate them so much that they would even come to lament their own sinful past (9).
Through all of this, they would come to know Yahweh as their Lord and see His mercy, as Yahweh had been warning in advance, through the prophets, of what was to come. All of this was so Israel could know the gracious hand of Yahweh was still upon them (10).
Closing Lamentation (11-14)
Ezekiel was to dramatize his lamentation by clapping his hands and stamping his feet and then to speak in a tone of lamentation. Ezekiel announced that the evil abomination of idolatry would result in three major consequences:
Those who were far from the fighting would die by disease. Those who were near the fighting would die by the sword, and all those left but did not escape to other nations would die by the famine. Ezekiel explained that this was how God was going to express His anger, "by allowing" it all to happen (11-12).
Ezekiel continued his lamentation by telling Israel the good news in all of this impending disaster—they would come to know Yahweh relationally as the Lord in two ways:
1. As they would see the unburied slain scattered before their idols and around their altars in what used to be their parks and gardens and recreation areas, they would know Yahweh as Lord. What used to be the smell of sweet gardens and the aromas they made to their gods would come to reek from the stench of corpses. The smell and the sight would cause them to return to Yahweh as they escaped to other lands. They would never forget what they had seen (13).
2. They would also come to know Yahweh as the Lord as they looked upon their land once rich and flourishing but which had become so completely desolate. Riblah was a city up north in the Syrian area. Ezekiel was giving the extensive nature of the judgment: from the remote southern wilderness of Judah to the northern border of Syria, Israel would be devastated.