I’m blessed to be retired from my job, usually with long mornings when I’m not feeling too chipper from Sjogren’s Syndrome and autonomic nerve damage (dizziness, orthostatic hypotension)–resulting in the blessing of time at my computer and desk to do Bible study and prayer time. I’m presently studying the Old Testament prophecy books of Ezekiel and Daniel. I’m utilizing The NIV Application Commentary for each of these books. The series includes in each chapter the scripture reading; the original meaning (as it was written to the original generation it pertained to); bridging contexts between the Old and New Testament; and contemporary significance. This format is super helpful and clear. The writing of the authors (Duguid on Ezekiel; Longman III on Daniel) is so beautiful and concise. I’ve been sharing some of what I’ve been learning on Facebook in recent months.
Recently I read Ezekiel 23 which is about a strange, graphic metaphor, about two adulterous sisters which represent Samaria and Jerusalem. It is pretty much nasty and “r-rated”. It comes across as pretty hard to take. The point for contemporary readers is mainly to realize how heinous is sin. Sin is sin. We may try to assign new names to sin in our contemporary culture (for example “having an affair” instead of “committing adultery”) but it is still sin. Just as God’s holiness demanded that He judge and discipline Israel and Judah (His chosen people), God must and will also judge all contemporary unrepentant sinners. All people (before they trust Jesus) are under God’s wrath because of sin and imperfection, despite having some goodness or potential for goodness. The Bible is clear on this. In fact, Isaiah wrote a message from God saying all human righteousness is like a filthy rag compared to God’s holiness. Do you think Christ followers think they are sin free? Well, yes and no actually. Christ followers have simply acknowledged their sin, are sorry for it, are in the process of turning from it in our practical lives, even as we trust and believe that Jesus’s perfect sacrifice on the cross for their sin has paid their debt and justified us before God. We trust that God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit is gradually transforming us from our practical sin by grace. We know that we are ready to face God and eternity because Jesus has paid for our sin. By grace we choose to cooperate with God in obedience, and we repent when we are convicted of our failure and sin. This writing by Duguid on this topic is so beautifully done and said, that I felt I must share it. I hope this might be an illustration of how even obscure, difficult to read passages of Old Testament scripture are useful by God to speak into our contemporary lives today.
“Ezekiel 23 is incorporated into Scripture not to give its readers some kind of salacious fantasy of sex and violence, as some contemporary commentators imagine. Certainly it is intended to shock, as was the case with the other ‘R-rated’ section of Ezekiel’s prophecy (Ch. 16). But the shock is designed to jolt the comfortable into a recognition of the reality and inevitability of the judgment to come so that we might see the utter folly of trusting in anything–or anyone–less than the living God. It is intended to strip away the pretensions of the pseudo-righteous and expose the naked truth that they too deserve the full weight of God’s wrath.
There is no message of hope in Ezekiel 23 [for the original audience it was written to and for all contemporary sinners apart from Christ]. The stone is rolled away to reveal the gaping mouth of the tomb, which is ready to swallow up defiled Jerusalem, just as it had earlier swallowed up defiled Samaria. But for those reading Ezekiel 23 from a New Testament perspective, the opened mouth of another tomb speaks a word of comfort even to those as defiled as Jerusalem. Because Christ has died in our place, and more than that has risen from the dead, there is now no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus! My death is swallowed up in his victory, my defilement is replaced by his purity, credited to my account. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I too have been washed, I have been justified, and I am being sanctified. What is more, this is true in spite of the sins that I continue to commit daily. Although I am unfaithful to my commitment to God and continue to sin against him regularly in thought, word, and deed, the gospel continues to be good news for me, a sinner.” The NIV Application Commentary on Ezekiel, by Iain M. Duguid, p. 310
Believing friend, if this doesn’t wake us up to praise God, what will? Oh how I pray I will realize more and more how great is my salvation and that this will spur me on to turn away from sin more each day. I pray it drives me to desire to spend quality time alone with Jesus each day to experience the beauty of His presence. And my unbelieving friends and readers— oh how I pray God will call to your hearts and show you the reality of your sin and the blessed availability of Jesus for the forgiveness of all sin and cleansing of all unrighteousness. Forever is a long time– all will live forever either under God’s wrath/punishment or God’s mercy/reward. Is it just my opinion? No, the Bible explains this and the Bible is the reliable truth of God. Please read and consider the excellent little book “Why Trust the Bible?” by Greg Gilbert, 9Marks if you doubt the Bible as truth. I am praying.
Here is an excellent review of “Why Trust the Bible?” and the site where it is available. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/why-trust-the-bible/
Here is the commentary I am studying on Ezekiel.