By Benjamin H. Liles
So, I was reading Ezekiel 19 tonight and a huge portion of it stands out to me like a glaring sore thumb. But before I fully address Ezekiel 19's lamentation here, I want to point out what God told Israel through His prophet Samuel: "And the LORD said to Samuel, 'Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them out of Egypt, even to this day--with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods--so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.
"And [Samuel] said, 'This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day" (1 Samuel 8:7-9, 11-18, New King James).
Why is this relevant to the text of Ezekiel 19? What is the point of me even mentioning it? There are clearly two different Israelite kings mentioned who scholars believe are mentioned within Ezekiel 19. Both of them consider that Ezekiel 19:1-4 talks about King Josiah, who is mentioned in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Kings 23, and the second is King Jehoiachin--Josiah's son--who is mentioned in 2 Kings 24:8-17. When I looked at both texts it makes sense why scholars believe these two men are talked about.
Considering King Josiah, we read that he was a just king, a king who ruled with the fear of God (see 2 Kings 23:1-3). The reforms he passed to the people of the kingdom of Judah were the burning of idols and he banned idol worship (see 2 Kings 23:4-6). He also made a lot of inroads for the people of Israel to honor God by reinstituting Passover (see 2 Kings 23:21-25). The one thing King Josiah did that was possibly wrong was in meeting Pharaoh Neco of Egypt, for he was killed in battle (see 2 Kings 23:29). This pretty much matches what Ezekiel is saying within those first few verses of Ezekiel 19.
So, the kingdom of Judah made the grandson of King Josiah through his son Jehoiakim king--Jehoiachin: "Then the nations from the surrounding provinces set out against him. They spread out against him. They spread their net over him; he was caught in their pit. They put a wooden yoke on him with hooks and led him away to the king of Babylon. They brought him into the fortresses so his roar could no longer be heard" (Ezekiel 19:8-9, Holman Christian Standard).
We read of King Jehoiachin in 2 Kings 24:8-14 that Babylon came and laid siege to Jerusalem, taking captive the King of Judah, his household, his servants, captains and all his officials. The only thing that Nebuchadnezzar left behind were "the poorest people of the land" (2 Kings 24:14c).
The rest of what we read of the kingdom of Judah is that it is made desolate: "But it was plucked up in fury; it was cast down to the ground; and the east wind dried up its fruit. Its strong branch was torn off so that it withered; the fire consumed it" (Ezekiel 19:12, New American Standard).
But here's where things get interesting, however. God doesn't abandon his plans. He recalled His promise to David, the one that God loved most. This man, even though he sinned greatly against the God most High, he was still regarded as "A man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 16:6-13). It is why God promised David an everlasting kingdom, unlike Saul's kingdom which was lost.
God had Nathan, tell David, His servant thus: "I will provide a homeland for my people Israel, planting them in a secure place where they will never be disturbed. Evil nations won’t oppress them as they have done in the past, starting from the time I appointed judges to rule my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever" (2 Samuel 7:10-13, New Living Translation).
This King did in fact come. He came giving blind men their sight. He came healing all sorts of diseases and afflictions, even going so far as to cast out demons! And this is the same One who was crucified. He died in our place! He was put in a borrowed tomb. And yet because He obeyed His Father to the end, the Father raised Him to hold power over sin and death. Just as Jesus told Nicodemus, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:13-17, New King James).
So, then, this is the application of Ezekiel 19 and what the gospel message makes clear:
- Put off your evil, selfish, self-serving ways and allow Jesus Christ to heal you; to restore you in Him.
- Allow Him to cleanse you, to make you His child.
- Let Him be your rightful King.
- Desire to do those things which are right and good and put away all forms of temptation and evil, such as idol-worship, sexual desire, the love of money (I mean greed here), anger, malice and bitterness.
And that's the big thing there, two things stand out here to me: 1) God does the big bulk of the work, on us, in us and through us; 2) We do some lifting, but God does the heavy lifting--our role is submitting to Him, and to get the things He wants out of our lives out. You don't have to come to Him all cleaned up, that's His job. We come to Him in our mess. I did, my wife did, all sorts of men and women have come to Christ in the mire if filth of sin and Christ did the rest when we allow Him the right to do so. Remember: He came NOT to condemn, but to redeem and restore.
Friend, you're here to understand why God does what He does. It's not that He hates you or desires to see you suffer. He doesn't. He's doing what He is to show you His presence in your life. That discipline and rod you feel? He desires to bring you back in. You may not see it that way, but He is. The circumstance you find yourself in He's using that to show you His great and unfolding love. No man comes to God without revelation of his sins. And without the ability to see ourselves in the light of God's law we have no need of a Savior, which we have in Jesus Christ. Are you willing enough to allow God's word, His holy scripture do something amazing in your life? It is by His power and strength, through the Spirit that we are made righteous in our faith of what Jesus Christ has done. He loves you enough to take your burdens, your failures, your entire mess, so that you can rest, have peace and no longer be anxious. Are you ready to allow Him the right to rule your heart and mind?
I want to close with these words: "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. These three things remain: faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love" (Matthew 22:37-39, New King James). Be blessed, be at peace in Him, and may His love richly dwell within your hearts. In Jesus Christ's name I pray. Amen.