False Shepherds In Israel and The Church

The Role of The shepherd

In chapter 34 of the book of Ezekiel God is using a familiar illustration of the “shepherd” and his “sheep” to describe the leaders and the people of the Nation Israel. The Bible frequently uses this terminology to refer to the spiritual leaders with responsibility over a group of people (Psalm 78:70-72; Isaiah 44:28; 63:11; Jeremiah 23:1-4; 25:34-38). Their primary role was to guard the nation like a shepherd would guard his flock. Every society needs a recognized and well-ordered leadership for its own safeguard and prosperity. God chose elders, priests, kings and prophets to connect Him to the people in ancient Israel. There are earthly “shepherds” to carry out the Lord’s will in leading the people to God, and King David recognized this:

Psalm 23:1-6

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever. (KJV)

In this Psalm David categorized the many benefits of the Lord as our “Shepherd”, and who also is a gracious host. The Lord protected David from life’s dangers, and God’s persistent living protection enabled him to enjoy a secure communion with Him all the days of his life.

The Lord also described the future, earthly appearance of the Messiah of Israel as a “shepherd” who will feed and gently carry the young of His flock (Isaiah 40:11). The same is important in New Testament times as well (Proverbs 8:15; Romans 13:1). During His appearance in time and space as the Lord Jesus, He called Himself the “Good Shepherd”, while describing the bad shepherd as a thief and a robber:

John 10:1-16

1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me[a] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (NKJ)

The Good Shepherd (Asia Minor, c. 390; Cleveland Museum of Art)

The Shepherds of Israel

The kings and princes who ruled over the Nation Israel became evil and self-serving instead of doing God’s work ministering to the people. God was getting ready to take them to task for what they were not doing (Ezekiel 34:1-2).

Characteristics and Results of Evil Shepherds

Ezekiel 34:3-6

3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill the fatlings; but ye feed not the sheep. 4The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought back that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with rigor have ye ruled over them. 5And they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food to all the beasts of the field, and were scattered. 6My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my sheep were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and there was none that did search or seek after them. (ASV, 1901)

Wolf in sheep’s clothing – artist unknown

These appointed leaders did not serve the flock as the Good Shepherd intended them to do. At the expense of the common people they were using the offices that they held to achieve personal gain, and become wealthy. Their view of the people as a source of wealth replaced fulfilling their obligation to the Lord who had entrusted them with the administration of His love, care and accurate promulgation of His Word in an organized and systematic manner. Instead of taking their God-given role seriously, they ruled with harshness and brutality. They did not strengthen those who were diseased, they failed to adequately heal and care for the sick, and they did not care for the lost, either physically or spiritually. Through the truth of Scripture, they should have nurtured the people, and brought them to a positive, genuine relationship with God. Another error in their flagrant disregard for the people was failing to watch over them. Instead they let the sheep wander from the safety of the flock. Their shepherding of the flock was diametrically opposed to what Jesus characterized as the appropriate action of a Good Shepherd:

Matthew 18:12

12What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? (NASB)

 

Shepherd rescues one sheep – artist unknown

Sheep will wander. It is one of their characteristics, and when the sheep become scattered they are vulnerable to predatory wild animals. As much as he can, the caring shepherd will make sure they are not wandering off in a direction that will harm them. These leaders were so self-serving that they failed to provide any oversight, and did not notice, or care, that the people of Israel had left the flock in terms of spiritual purity and physical safety. When leaders abandon truth for personal gain of any sort they are placing their flocks in danger. When the message of truth is corrupted or is inadequately conveyed, a person will leave their acceptance of the authority of Scripture’s spiritual truth and is lost. They no longer have the safeguard of its protective doctrines, and are in danger of losing the path to eternal salvation.

Since the mid 1800’s many of the spiritual leaders of the Church have been abrogating their spiritual responsibility to care for their flocks. They cause many to leave because they began denying, or arguing over some of the fundamentals of the faith. Denominations and church after church have split over denials of the Trinity, the incarnation and the Second Coming. The roots of this began in Europe, particularly with German Rationalism where the inerrancy of the Scripture was denied with the development of Biblical Criticism and particularly with the “documentary hypothesis”. Julius Wellhausen was the principal developer of this concept. He insisted that human reason only, not the Bible, could be trusted. He presented the idea that the Bible, far from being God’s Word, was just a collection of human documents. These destructive denials of the fundamental truth of the Bible caused the church leaders to quote everything but the Bible, and preach everything but the gospel. Religious liberalism led to the calamities that came upon Europe such as Communism, Nazism, fascism, and promulgation of the occult. Other diseased ideas have been promoted by the absence of a spiritual core that makes up the divine life and spiritual blessing. Wellhausen and his liberalism destroyed the spiritual life in Europe, and nearly succeeded in the spiritual destruction of the United States. Today less than 1% of the population of Europe is made up of Evangelical Christians. [1]

If you think that men are not able to negatively influence others to keep them out of the Kingdom, listen to what the Lord Jesus had to say to the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:13

13But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in [yourselves], neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (KJV)

TRUTH MUST NEVER BE SACRIFIED FOR PEACE. IT NEVER WORKS!

In more recent times modern “false shepherds” have led many into a totally new phase of misleading the believer. The old phase, under the liberal intellectuals of the 1800’s, can be characterized as “destructive denials” of Scripture authority. This new phase claims to affirm the fundamentals of the faith, but they have made a paradigm shift away from the Bible as being the final authority in determining divine truth, and focus on experience as being equally valid, or taking priority over Scripture. If the Bible contradicts a particular practice, or “experience” promoted by the modern day church, then that practice is justified by them as a “new move of the Spirit”, and what the text of the Scripture actually says can be contradicted by this new “experience”. This represents itself as a more “spiritual” of a way of denying the truth of God, and therefore far more deceptive. The Holy Spirit will never move in a manner that is contrary to Scripture.

The New Evangelicalism or The Emerging Church

 The New Evangelicalism, also called the Emerging Church, is perhaps the most insidious of all the apostasies. It is characterized by catering to the desires of the people. Instead of being inculcated with God’s Word and having our personal world view and behavior be patterned after God’s Word, the New Evangelicalism gives the people what they want. One New Testament passage clearly predicts this reversal of worship of God to worshipping man:

Romans 1:25

 25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (KJV)

The idea of this new wave apostasy is to “soft-sell” the Bible and salvation. This apostasy does not want to upset anybody, there is never any mention of Hell, or the outcome of an unsaved life. Instead they offer a path away from an aimless, meaningless life here on earth. They say they “believe” strongly in salvation through Jesus Christ, but their actions differ sharply from what they say. Salvation is given lip service, and evangelism with real confrontation or teaching Biblical doctrine is thought to be too “divisive”. Usually their Bible teaching is characterized by an over emphasis on application, which is the “middle of the road” approach. Our “experiences” and “quality of life” here on earth are more important than total service to God, and the blessed assurance that He will soon come to lift us out of this sinful decaying world. Paul warned us that the end times would be characterized with a departure from sound doctrine, and from the truth:

II Timothy 4:3-4

 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (KJV)

 

From an 1871 editorial in Harper’s magazine. The fanged beasts coming from the sea are false shepherds.

The New Evangelicals believe if they do not emphasize “man-pleasing”, they will lose members of their congregation, and more importantly, their funding. A total dependence on God for their resources is abandoned for “sound business” practices or “fundamental marketing techniques.” Total reliance on God by elders through prayer and patience is exchanged for parliamentary procedure, schemes for man-made self-advancement, and the development of career goals. The pastor is considered a CEO, not the teacher of God’s Word. Mission statements and strategic plans are formulated to accommodate personal plans. The Bible is subordinated to man’s desires.

The thought of prophecy is anathema to the New Evangelical for they say it causes “division”. This “division” of course is between those non-literal Bible expositors and the literal Biblical expositors. Some have characterized the New Evangelical as being seduced by the world spirit of this present age. You can see it in the leaders who are popularized. Usually they have a high degree of prominence in the government or sports, and their testimonies are sought after for paid speaking engagements and book endorsements. But you will never see a Sunday school teacher, or poor inner city pastor held up by them as pillars of the faith. Christ went to the lowest members of society to bring the truth to the world. He did not go to the popular and prominent because they had already compromised the Truth for self gain.

The New Evangelicals represent a spirit of disobedience to, and a mood of compromise of what God has asked us to do in times of confrontation. It is a rejection of many of the difficult aspects of New Testament Christianity. They promote an attitude of “positivism” where they would rather be passive diplomats, not focused fighters, and infiltrators rather than separatists. They would not be restricted by a separationist mentality as we are asked to do if God’s word is violated. The New Evangelical would rather pursue dialog, intellectualism, and appeasement than standing firm for Biblical truth.

Our culture has become deeply entrenched with psychology, and its teachings are rapidly becoming the norm in Christian Schools and churches to “add to” or replace the teachings of the Bible. The weakness and carnality of the church in recent decades has allowed this psychological mind-set of the world to flow into the church. Psychology offer remedies outside of God’s word in the Bible, and has brought about a redefining of many foundational matters of the Christian faith. The correct understanding is that man’s condition is sin, and God’s remedy is His saving and transforming grace (Romans 5:12, 17). Psychology teaches that man must esteem himself, affirm himself, and actualize himself. All of this new thinking is coming from psychological theory, which is primarily a man-based philosophy of life. In conclusion, we are strongly warned in the word of the Lord not to be guided by the philosophy of the world:

Colossians 2:8

 8Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (KJV)

It is clear from the beginning passages in Chapter 34 of Ezekiel that man (who are “sheep”) tended to stray from God to follow his own self-willed path (Isaiah 53:6). We need to deny ourselves, take up His cross, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). We need to follow the leading of our Good Shepherd, who loves us, and died so we could be eternally secure and free. The Good Shepherd is just the opposite of the bad shepherds who let the sheep die because they cannot be bothered to do their job.

The Indictment of The False Shepherds

Ezekiel 34:7-8

7Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: 8As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely forasmuch as my sheep became a prey, and my sheep became food to all the beasts of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my sheep, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my sheep; (ASV, 1901)

Our Lord here addresses the wicked shepherds directly with the command to “hear the word of Jehovah”. God begins again to stress the situation the wicked shepherds created causing the sheep to scatter, and become prey “to all the beasts of the field”. The shepherds did not look for the sheep that were scattered. God still calls the sheep His own, which obviously means that He has never relinquished His rights to sheep entrusted to the shepherd of the flock. These wicked men were given temporary custody and this is their indictment; they failed to look after the people of God to whom they were entrusted.

This should be a sober message to anyone who has responsibilities to teach the Word of God. God is very serious about the quality of the teaching of His Word, and will chastise those who cause the sheep to scatter because of poor quality teaching, including denial of essential doctrines necessary for the sheep to flourish. The false shepherds had brought Israel to ruin, and now He would intercede to rescue His chosen people. The fact that God will cause His people to hear the truth, and bring the genuine sheep out from under false shepherds cannot be missed. There also is a component of responsibility on the sheep to seek out the truth of God’s Word where it is taught clearly, and to abandon the false teachers. Only the truly saved will seek the truth.

God Will Deliver the Sheep

Ezekiel 34:9-10

9therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: 10Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, that they may not be food for them. (ASV, 1901)

 The main objective of God in this situation was to bring about the deliverance of the sheep and their well-being. God does not desire the ruin of anyone. This text primarily rebukes Israel’s false shepherds. The sheep are meant to receive comfort, and He promises that He has not forgotten about them. The Lord God will deliver His sheep from the hand of the unfaithful shepherds, and He personally would gather His scattered sheep. Throughout the history of the Church this is also very apparent. When the shepherds have gone “bad”, and are no longer are feeding the flock of sheep, God intervenes and leads the sheep to a new shepherd who will feed them.

False Shepherds Today

Revelation chapters two and three can be seen as a chronological exposition of a broad overview of Church history. We can see the letters to the churches describe an accurate chronological depiction of the problems encountered throughout church history. The last letter to the church at Laodicea provides an clear picture of the apostasy of the visible Christian Church, also called The Church of the Apostasy, and represents Church history from A.D. 1890-to the present day:

Revelation 3:14-22

 14To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. ’17Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

“20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (NASB)

 This letter is directed to the Laodiceans, whose name means “people ruling”, and it is a church entirely ruled by men, which this is diametrically opposed to God’s ruling in the church. This is because the Holy Spirit is not present and doing His ministry of guiding, teaching, and illuminating. While this has happened throughout the history of the Nation Israel, it is far worse in the Church Age since the 1890’s. God says that in the latter times some will be led by demons away from faith in God. This is what led the Israelite shepherds away from God as they worshipped the Canaanite idols on the “high places.” The following passage clearly describes the shepherds who are given authority to bring God’s Word in the Church Age, and why they fail:

I Timothy 4:1-3

1But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons , 2by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. (KJV)

Artist Unknown

The source of the apostasy is demons. Apostates have essentially given in to seducing spirits and are preaching a system of doctrine that is a doctrine of demons. Furthermore, they speak lies through hypocrisy, and their consciences have stopped working. We can see how the shepherds through their adherence and interest in demonic activity have been led to teach a whole host of unbiblical requirements. As they turn from clearly teaching God’s Word, they deny its authority:

II Timothy 3:1-5

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (KJV)

This passage from II Timothy begins with a description of the general character of false shepherds of God Word. Many of these characteristics are true today. Verse five specifically identifies the false front put on by the shepherds. These men have “a form of godliness”, but deny the power of God’s Word. Consider apostate clergy who wear flowing clerical gowns and embrace church hierarchical titles or dress in a manner appearing to be “one of us”. They appear to have a form of “godliness”, but they deny “the power thereof”, for they have denied the true power of godliness. They claim to trust in God, but are actually trusting in worldly methodologies. They bring the world’s attractions into the church to lure the sheep into remaining, even when they stop affirming the authority of God’s Word. This is one aspect of the sheep scattering from the false shepherd that no longer carry’s the voice of God to the sheep. We are commanded to separate from them. Here are four important points to understand what this really means:

  1. Separation is not an optional part of Christianity; it is a commandment (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Cor. 6:14-17; I Timothy 6:5; II Timothy 2:16-18; 3:5; Titus 3:10; 2 John 7-11; Revelation 18:4).
  2. Separation is not mean or unloving; it is obedience to God.
  1. “Mark them . . . avoid them” (Romans 16:17)
  2. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with” (II Corinthians 6:14)
  3. “Have no fellowship with” (II Corinthians 6:14)
  4. “Come out from among” (II Corinthians 6:17)
  5. “Withdraw thyself” (I Timothy 6:5)
  6. “Shun” (II Timothy 2:16)
  7. “Purge oneself from” (II Timothy 2:21)
  8. “From such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5)
  9. “Reject” (Titus 3:10)
  10. “Receive them not into your house neither bid them Godspeed” (II John 10)
  1. Separate even from brethren who are living in disobedience, and do not follow the traditions Christ taught us (II Thessalonians 3:6).
  2. Separation is a wall of protection against spiritual danger. Failure to separate from error leaves one open to the influence of error (I Corinthians 15:33). The reason a shepherd separates the sheep from wolves is to protect them. Likewise, a faithful and godly Bible teacher will seek to separate his flock from spiritual dangers that are even more destructive than wolves. As evidence of this we see many false prophets, corrupt denominations and seminary teachings.

Another activity of the false shepherds is mockery of the fundamentals of the faith and the creation schisms or separations:

Jude 17-19

17But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (KJV)

They begin denying some of the fundamentals of the faith such as the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, the Virgin Birth, the Substitutionary death of Christ, and His physical resurrection from the dead. Then they attempt to convince some to their heresies, but not all will accept them. As the Lord said, many sheep will know His voice and only follow Him, and not a false shepherd (John 10:1-5). In the course of time this produces a split within the visible church. Throughout the Church age there has been schism after schism. Church after church and denominations have split over denials of the Trinity, the incarnation and the Second Coming.

Like the example we have in Ezekiel’s day, these scatterings of the sheep through heretical teachings and deeds of separations have become prevalent as church history has progressed from the time of Jesus to the present day. Liberalism, also called Modernism, and other attempts like them to keep God’s Word from clearly reaching the sheep have accelerated since the early 1900’s. The decade of the 1920’s was characterized by the great Modernist-Fundamentalist battles. There were many attempts to fight Modernism within the church. Toward the end of that decade, it was apparent that the Modernists were firmly in control of both the denominational church positions (this included all the major denominations except the Southern Baptist Convention) and their schools.

This led to the separatist movement of the 1930’s as the Fundamentalists pulled out of the denominations and started their own denominations or independent churches. Emerging from the United Presbyterian Church of the United States of America was a group led by J. Gresham Machen, which subsequently split into three separate denominations (Orthodox Presbyterians, Bible Presbyterians and the Evangelical Presbyterians) due to internal struggles. Out of the American Baptist Convention came the General Association of Regular Baptists (GARB). Out of the United Methodist Church came the Evangelical Methodists. The following chart is a partial depiction affirming these splits:

Protestant Denominations since Christ by http://protestantism.co.uk/denominations

Additionally, ecumenical movements have been prevalent during the 1940’s through to the present day. Ecumenism is a demonic attempt to tie “bad” teaching and practices to “good” ones, which only results in bad theology and doctrine. The fundamental Bible believers either cave in to the liberal apostates, or separate by breaking off in order to clearly receive God’s Word from other sources. In 1948, the World Council of Churches was organized on two principles: First, the unity of all the Churches in the basis of liberal beliefs; and second, the unity of all religions. In 1950, the old Federal Council of Churches was reorganized into the National Council of Churches, again attempting to unify all churches in the United States along liberal beliefs. Consequently, the visible church is primarily apostate today. Even among conservative denominations, the threat of apostasy is taking over of the theological and seminary schools and results in the supplying of liberal ministers for the pulpit.

God Affirms His Deliverance of His Sheep

Ezekiel 34:11-16

11For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14I will feed them with good pasture; and upon the mountains of the height of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie down in a good fold; and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord Jehovah. 16I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but the fat and the strong I will destroy; I will feed them in justice. (ASV, 1901)

Good Shepherd rescues His lost sheep – Artist unknown

God always will take charge of His genuine sheep even though the false shepherds ignore the sheep in order to chase after their own desires and profit. He says that He “will search for my sheep, and will seek them out”. Jesus expressed this same truth in John chapter ten. In very loving text God says that He will bring the Jews out of all the places in the world where they have been scattered, and place them again in the land of Israel. He will not allow them to suffer again anything they need because He will supply it. The Lord’s treatment of His flock is diametrically opposite to that of the false shepherds. In verse 16 God states there will also be judgment on the wealthy, or “the fat and strong” of the nation who have oppressed the poor. God’s Word tells us that excessive prosperity causes people to forget God:

Proverbs 30:8-9

8Remove far from me falsehood and lies; Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is needful for me: 9Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is Jehovah? Or lest I be poor, and steal, And use profanely the name of my God. (ASV, 1901)

All these promises to Israel and the Church seen in Ezekiel 34: 11-16 will be realized in the Messianic Kingdom.

 

Daniel E. Woodhead

 

[1] Breese, Dave, 7 Men Who Rule The World From The Grave, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 1992

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ISAIAH PROPHESIES JESUS’ APPEARANCE AND WORK

Communicating Old Testament Prophecy

OT

Artist Unknown

The New Testament frequently realizes fulfillments of Old Testament prophetic passages in various manners. Some have stated that there are in excess of six hundred allusions and quotations in the New Testament from the Old Testament. Others have alluded to the book of Revelation as having that many all by itself. Prophecy is obviously a significant component of the New Testament. Therefore, it is important for a correct reading of the New Testament to understand this issue so you can accurately assimilate the message that God is communicating. Without an appropriate understanding of the proper reading of God’s Word, it becomes “jammed up” in its meaning, and the reader will receive an erroneous message. Just as earthly warfare has combatants attempting to “jam” each other’s communications to gain an advantage, the Biblical text has an enemy that is seeking to cast doubt on God’s Word. Satan has been trying to cast doubt on what God has spoken since the Garden of Eden. He will use any means possible, including poor hermeneutics, poor grammar and incorrect theology.

It is important to understand the different written forms of texts in the Old Testament in order to understand how the prophecy came about. The same is true for all the all other biblical writers. The manner, or form, somebody says or writes in has everything to do with formulating a proper understanding of what they mean. For example, in the seventh, eighth and ninth chapter of the book of Isaiah there are discussions taking place which refer to specific activities taking place in Isaiah’s day needing resolution, but the resolutions will be completed by God at a later time. Isaiah wrote his book in standard narrative and Hebraic poetry forms, and this makes a difference in how we read Isaiah’s words. One of the keys to understanding Isaiah is to come to grips with the poetic genre of communicating. Reading poetry requires us to read it at a different pace, to pay closer attention to the text, and to remind ourselves that it is not a straight narrative, therefore we must focus on the words more intently.

He will be born of a virgin (Circa 714 B.C.)

 

‘Joseph’s dream ’ (1645) from the workshop of Rembrandt

 

Most of us are not familiar with poetry’s decorative manner of presenting concepts, and therefore understanding it does not come naturally. One factor of poetry that helps us understand it is the attempt to put God into language. Since He is outside of our experience, He not easily rendered with straightforward words. But poetry can express what has been called “divine communication” because it exceeds normal comprehension. Isaiah frequently made use of the method called “parallelism”. Simply stated, one sentence would be followed by another, but stating the same thing in a different manner. Isaiah expressed many of the offices and characteristics of the coming Messiah this way. For example, see how in about 714 B.C. Isaiah presents the characteristic of Christ as being born of a virgin, and pay especial attention to sequence in verse 14:

Isaiah 7: 1-14

  1 And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.  2 And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart trembled, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest tremble with the wind. 3 Then said Jehovah unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, in the highway of the fuller’s field; 4 and say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither let thy heart be faint, because of these two tails of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have purposed evil against thee, saying, 6 Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set up a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeel; 7 thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. 8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken in pieces, so that is shall not be a people:  9 and the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established. 10 And Jehovah spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of Jehovah thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt Jehovah. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel (ASV 1901).

Knupfer_Nicolaus-ZZZ-Queen_of_Sheba_before_Solomon

Queen of Sheba Before Solomon Nicolaus Knupfer

To give you some background on this passage, about 930 B.C. after Solomon died, there was a civil war in Israel. The name “Israel” became attached to the apostate ten tribal regions in the north. “Judah” became the name attached to the faithful southern region. Ahaz was king of Judah in the southern kingdom (Cir. 714 B.C.). As the text tells us, the king of Israel Peka, the king of Syria Rezin, and the nation Ephraim laid siege to Jerusalem. This scared Ahaz so that he thought that the Jews would be wiped out, and also the tribe of Judah through which the Messiah would come. God sent Isaiah, along with his son Shear-jashub, to comfort Ahaz by telling him that Judah would not lose the battle, or be exterminated. God, through Isaiah, then wanted Ahaz to realize that he could rely on God to provide protection for him and his people. They would not be destroyed since the Messiah had to come through the tribe of Judah, and He would be born from a virgin who would be God Himself. In the Hebrew language the word “virgin” refers to a young unmarried girl, and is pronounced ha’almah, which means “the one who is not yet betrothed.”

In the Hebrew culture under the Mosaic Law, an unmarried girl had to be a virgin or she would be stoned to death. So while the word ha’almah does not translate directly as “virgin”, this is what is understood based upon the ancient Hebrew culture. The Hebrew word for “God with us” is Emmanuel, and by specifically stating this word, God wanted Ahaz to know that just as it had been prophesied from previous times, God’s promises would come to pass. They always do. When we weary of our circumstances, remember this story that God gave Ahaz to comfort and even to rebuke (“ye will weary my God also?”) him for not trusting God to do what He said He would do. The parallelism demonstrated in this passage is that God would protect Ahaz within the immediate future, and there will be an even greater protection in the distant future when Emmanuel is born.

God Warns Isaiah Not to Be Like Many People

Isaiah 8:11-22

11For Jehovah spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, 12Say ye not, A conspiracy, concerning all whereof this people shall say, A conspiracy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be in dread thereof. 13Jehovah of hosts, him shall ye sanctify; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many shall stumble thereon, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16Bind thou up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait for Jehovah, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18Behold, I and the children whom Jehovah hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from Jehovah of hosts, who dwelleth in mount Zion. 19And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living should they seek unto the dead? 20To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them. 21And they shall pass through it, sore distressed and hungry; and it shall come to pass that, when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse by their king and by their God, and turn their faces upward: 22and they shall look unto the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and into thick darkness they shall be driven away (ASV 1901).

300px-Jesaja_(Michelangelo)

The Prophet Isaiah by Michelangelo cir 1508-1512

The only proper way to determine truth is to go to first the Word of God. Many have departed from this, and look to other sources such as personal experiences or a denomination’s hierarchy to tell us what is true. Frequently people will experience something, whether it is in the news or from a church leader, and then try to find verses to justify the activity rather than be willing to admit that the experience—no matter how wonderful or supernatural it felt—was simply not of God. As evidence they will say that they “feel better” by validating the experience with a particular verse or others, usually taken out of context from the original scripture passage, and think that this justifies the experience. God’s Word must be the primary source of truth, not any experience.

Within the Book of Isaiah God frequently demonstrates by means of comparison a difference between actual believers and those that do not believe. In verse 16 above, we see just what value each places on Scripture. The “law” is the Law of Moses, and the “testimony” is the words of the Prophets. The Believers actually believe Moses and the Prophets (The Old Testament). The non-Believers reject the Scriptures as the ultimate authority, and were trying to make God more “real in their experience” by finding gods they could see, feel, and touch. In verse 19, Isaiah warns them that they are not to go after counterfeit spirits and teachers “that chirp and that mutter.” People who follow after those “that chirp and that mutter” could have some great feelings, but Isaiah rejects all this. The only valid testimony is what he declares in verse 20: “To the law and to the testimony!” In other words, go back to the Scriptures as the only final authority. And in closing he says “if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them.” Isaiah makes it quite clear: Whatever the experiences, if it does not align with the written Word of God there is simply no morning “light” for them. A person’s failure to heed God’s Word means he has no spiritual light (John 3:19–20). God will eventually judge all Spiritists, mediums, and those who consult them (Isaiah 8:21–22). In their distress they will look up to God and curse Him, and look to the earth where they will face distress, and then be thrust into darkness (2 Peter 2:17). Ironically those who seek to consult the dead will be forced to join them!

The Light of the World Will Come

The troubles of Israel shall end through the birth of a very Special Child. This section of the prophecy actually started with chapter 7:1, and ends in this wonderful and gracious promise:

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Stained Glass Artist and location Unknown

Isaiah 9:1-7

1But there shall be no gloom to her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time hath he made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased their joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4For the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as in the day of Midian. 5For all the armor of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of fire. 6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this (ASV, 1901).

The essence of the whole section is that Israel shall not suffer from Pekah and Rezin, and her oppressors shall be Assyria and Babylon. They shall overwhelm her, crush her, lay her low, and she shall remain awhile in gloom and darkness, but later the darkness is going to end. Then a “great light” shall shine forth, first in the north, then over all the land, and “the rod of the oppressor” shall be broken. A Child shall be born, who shall bear marvelous names, and shall rule over the full kingdom of David in justice and righteousness forever. God has spoken, and God will perform this.

Verse 1 states that “contempt” was brought upon the more northern part of the Holy Land, first when it was overrun and ravaged by the Syrians (1 Kings 15:20) under Benhadad, and then when it suffered under the Assyrian attack (2 Kings 15:29) under Tiglath-Pileser. Under Gentile domination, that area was then called “Galilee of the nations” meaning the gentiles, not Galilee of the Jews. Isaiah then moves on to cite a time is coming when the people will see what God will do as stated in verse 1b where He states “He made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” This was area was the home of Jesus. He was a Galilean, and lived and ministered there. For thirty years he had lived at Nazareth, in Zebulon. There He had first come forward to teach in a synagogue (Luke 4:16–21). Also in Galilee He had done his first miracles at Capernaum, “upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali” (John 2:11; 4:54).

All the world was “in darkness” when Christ came, but especially the Jews. They had the light of God and seemingly rejected it. “The Light of the world,” “the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” first came in the North of Israel “by the way of the sea,” when Jesus came forward to teach and to preach in “Galilee of the nations.” Jesus first streamed forth His light, glorifying the Northern Israeli region on which “contempt” had long been poured. Verse 3 tells us Jesus will make the nations joyful as when a bountiful harvest is reaped. So this verse is offering relief to the people who have been deceived and downtrodden. The result will be that a very special son will come to them who will be a blessing in the northern part of Israel.

The coming of the Messiah sets the Israelites free, removes the yoke from off their neck, breaks the rod where their shoulders were beaten, and delivers them from bondage into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” In verse 4, the “yoke of his burden” is that of sin, the “oppressor” is that prince of darkness, who brought all mankind under his dominion. However Christ will break it when the Messianic Kingdom arrives, and the heavenly Kingdom will come on earth just as it is in Heaven. And then all need for military equipment will vanish as it is burned up because He will cause peace and justice to prevail on this earth.

In verse 6 we are told that a child will be born who will eventually rule the entire world. The government will indeed “be upon the shoulders” of the Messiah as He bears the work of managing the government of the entire world during the Messianic Kingdom for a thousand years:

Psalm 2:6-8

Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, You are my son; This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession (ASV, 1901).

Also in verse 6, His name will be called “Wonderful” and is a direct reference to Judges 13:18. Here Samson’s father asks the Angel of the Lord who He is, and gets the reply of “Why do you ask My name,” the Angel of the LORD asked him, “since it is wonderful.”

The word “Wonderful” can also be translated as “secret” or “extraordinary”, “supernatural”, or even “incomprehensible”. This is the nature of God. Jesus the Messiah will be a “Counsellor”, and the people will gladly listen to Him as the authoritative One. In the Messianic Kingdom many people will be anxious to hear the Messiah teach God’s ways. As the Messiah He will also be “Mighty God” who is strong, powerful, and mighty. As the “Everlasting Father” He is eternal and has no end as the Father of all mankind. The title “Everlasting Father” is an idiom used to describe the Messiah’s Deity, not His relationship to the other Members of the Trinity. He is God the Son. He will endure continually for Messiah is God. The Messiah is also called the “Prince of Peace”, the One who will bring in and maintain the time of millennial peace when the Jewish nation, and the world at large, will be in obedience to the Lord. Together, these four titles give a beautiful picture of the coming Lord that is future in Isaiah’s day (and yet future to our day too) and Messiah’s character.

According to the passage in Isaiah, verse 7 tells us this child will be born into a Jewish family of the lineage of king David with whom the control of the entire world’s government will rest. Isaiah expands on this here:

Isaiah 16:5

And a throne shall be established in lovingkindness; and one shall sit thereon in truth, in the tent of David, judging, and seeking justice, and swift to do righteousness (ASV, 1901).

Of the increase of his government and peace” there shall be no end, which means the Messiah’s kingdom shall ever increase more and more, and there shall be no limits to it. Ultimately it shall fill the world (Matthew 28:18, 19). The continual spread of Christianity tends to the accomplishment of this prophecy. “Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom” means that the Messiah is to sit on the throne of David, which signifies His Davidic descent. A gradual establishment of the kingdom as Christianity spreads is the first stage that is also taught in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven (Matthew 13:31-33). From “henceforth even forever” means the kingdom is to be both universal in respect of extent, and in respect of eternal duration. God’s jealousy of his own honor will assure the performance of all that is prophesied.

 

 

 

 

 

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God’s Grace Jerusalem’s Unfaithfulness Part V & VI The Restoration of Judah

Restoration of The Harlot and Her Sisters

This is the fifth section of the parable and is covered in verses 53-58.

 

The Orgy by William Hogarth Cir 1733

The Orgy by William Hogarth Cir 1733

Ezekiel 16:53

53And I will turn again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them. (ASV, 1901)

Now God begins to give Ezekiel the assurance that Judah would be restored. Judah and Jerusalem have been associated with their “sisters” of Sodom and Samaria, both of whom God said sinned less than Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:46-47). In the process of restoring Judah and Jerusalem into His good favor, God says that He will include both Samaria and Sodom in the deliverance. The time of this deliverance is a subject of much discussion. God must be speaking of the Messianic Kingdom when the restoration of all things on this earth will occur. This has not happened any time before in history. The inhabitants of the Southern Kingdom of Judah came back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, but there has never been a time when the sinful cities of Sodom and Samaria have been restored. God is saying that He will be fair and restore Judah’s “sisters” too. This means these cities will be restored in the Messianic Kingdom. It does not refer to the individual sinners who were within them because they will suffer the punishment of eternal fire. The wicked always receive their justified eternal punishment:

Jude 1:7

7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (KJV)

The two cities of Sodom and Samaria, which were judged earlier in history, shall also be the first to receive God’s mercy and restoration. He will then restore Jerusalem along with the other cities of Judah. These areas are located within the area given to the tribe of Judah by God (Joshua 15). This is not a restoration to their sinful state, but to their original state before the massive sinning took place.

Judah Will Be Shamed

Judah and Tamar by Cornelis van Haarlem cir 1596

Judah and Tamar by Cornelis van Haarlem cir 1596

Ezekiel 16:54

54that thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be ashamed because of all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them (ASV, 1901).

Within the restoration there will be an element of humiliation for Judah. Jerusalem will be ashamed to realize that Sodom and Samaria have been “restored” to God’s favor with her. This will be a comfort to those who saw that Jerusalem’s sins were greater than the cities of Sodom and Samaria. Both of these cities will take comfort from the fact that Jerusalem, who had “looked down on them” received the greater punishment and was only restored because they were, in other words Judah’s misfortune was a comfort to Sodom and Samaria.

The Restoration

Ezekiel 16:55

55And thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate; and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate; and thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate (ASV, 1901).

 

In the Messianic Kingdom God will provide them all a complete restoration, and this is described in Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 30:3-5

3 That then Jehovah thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither Jehovah thy God hath scattered thee 4If any of thine outcasts be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will Jehovah thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5and Jehovah thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. (ASV, 1901)

As a result of their repentance, God will exercise His tender compassion and gather the nation and bring her back to her land. He will restore all of Israel’s fortunes. This is a theme that He has frequently stated through His prophets (Jeremiah 30:18; 32:44; 33:11, 26; Joel 3:1). This great restoration to the land, which was promised to Abraham will not be fully complete until the return of the Messiah after the Tribulation, and just before the beginning of His millennial reign on the earth (Isaiah 59:20–62:12) (See also Jesus’ teaching of the regathering in Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27). This will be a time of spiritual unity under the Messiah, and material prosperity greater than the Nation Israel, or the world, has ever known (Deuteronomy 30:5).

Sodom’s Warning Ignored

The Eve of the Deluge by William Bell Scott Cir 1865

The Eve of the Deluge by William Bell Scott Cir 1865

Ezekiel 16:56-57

56For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride, 57before thy wickedness was uncovered, as at the time of the reproach of the daughters of Syria, and of all that are round about her, the daughters of the Philistines, that do despite unto thee round about.  

At the height of Judah’s prideful existence, she did not consider Sodom’s fate as a warning of what could and would happen to her through God’s judgment. The depth of wickedness in Judah was revealed during the time of the reign of King Ahaz when Judah was subjected to attacks, and was defeated by both Syria and the Philistines: 

II Kings 16:5-6

5Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. 6At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drove the Jews from Elath; and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there, unto this day. (ASV, 1901)

II Chronicles 28:16-19

16At that time did king Ahaz send unto the kings of Assyria to help him. 17For again the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, and carried away captives. 18The Philistines also had invaded the cities of the lowland, and of the South of Judah, and had taken Beth-shemesh, and Aijalon, and Gederoth, and Soco with the towns thereof, and Timnah with the towns thereof, Gimzo also and the towns thereof: and they dwelt there. 19For Jehovah brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he had dealt wantonly in Judah, and trespassed sore against Jehovah. (ASV, 1901)

Before this time when kings sinned they has some sense of modesty to keep it concealed, but during King Ahaz’s reign it was shamelessly extravagant, openly displayed, and had become so flagrant that it spread throughout the entire country. If King Ahaz and the others had taken the experience of Sodom to heart, they could have avoided the tragedy they experienced. They caused the idolatry to increase to a level not known before, and that would result in their total destruction 140 years later by the Babylonians.

Punishment Must Be Meted Out

 

Conquering of Jerusalem by Titus Painting by Nicholas Poussin 1638

Conquering of Jerusalem by Titus Painting by Nicholas Poussin 1638

Ezekiel 16:58

58Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thine abominations, saith Jehovah

God says that they have been punished for their abominations. They have suffered the result of their extreme sinfulness. He is essentially saying to them that He has punished them according to the oath he made with them in the Mosaic Covenant (Leviticus 26), a conditional Covenant made at Mount Sinai with all the children of Israel:

Deuteronomy 29:11-13

11Your little ones, your wives, and thy sojourner that is in the midst of thy camps, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water; 12that thou mayest enter into the covenant of Jehovah thy God, and into his oath, which Jehovah thy God maketh with thee this day; 13that he may establish thee this day unto himself for a people, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he spake unto thee, and as he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (ASV, 1901)

God’s Everlasting Covenant

Verses 59-63 make up the sixth section of this parable.

Ezekiel 16:59-60

59For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will also deal with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.

60 Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. (ASV, 1901)

In contrast to the Jews who did not keep any covenant with God for very long, God is now saying that He will keep His part of the covenant He made with the Nation Israel at Mount Sinai. God is steadfast in His truth and promises. “The days of thy youth” is a reference to the time between the Exodus and their entry into the Promised Land, also called Eretz Israel. Jeremiah also speaks of this:

Jeremiah 2:1-2

And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, 2Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, I remember for thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. 3Israel was holiness unto Jehovah, the first-fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall be held guilty; evil shall come upon them, saith Jehovah (ASV, 1901).

The “everlasting covenant” found in verse 60 of Ezekiel 16 is the New Covenant, which will be fully activated when the Nation Israel has experienced a national regeneration, and entered the Messianic Kingdom:

Jeremiah 31: 31-37

31Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.

 

[God Will Never Forget Israel]

 

35Thus saith Jehovah, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirreth up the sea, so that the waves thereof roar; Jehovah of hosts is his name: 36If these ordinances depart from before me, saith Jehovah, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. 37Thus saith Jehovah: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith Jehovah. (ASV, 190, bracketed title added)

The National Regeneration of Israel

Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti Cir. 1320

Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti Cir. 1320

Ezekiel 16:61-63

61Then shalt thou remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder sisters and thy younger; and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant. 62And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah; 63that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I have forgiven thee all that thou hast done, saith the Lord Jehovah. (ASV, 1901)

One of the principal reasons for the Great Tribulation is to break the will of “the holy people”, the Jews (Daniel 12:7). Their shame will be confessed according to Leviticus 26:40-42, Jeremiah 3:11-18 Hosea 5:15. The Nation Israel will plead for their Messiah to return (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:37-39). Hosea chapter five says that Jews will confess of their sins. Hosea chapter 6 follows with the leaders telling the nation to confess their sins and repent:

Hosea 6:1-3

1Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. 2After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. 3Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. (KJV)

Israel’s leaders will finally realize that the entire Tribulation, and all their previous punishment, has come upon them due to their turning away from Jehovah and the Lord Jesus. In establishing the New Covenant with Israel, God will change the relationship between them and the “sisters” of Sodom and Samaria. Jerusalem will now be responsible for them in the Messianic Kingdom. God’s judgment and subsequent restoration would have a humbling effect on the nation, and their sins of pride and idolatry would be eliminated forever.

 

Daniel E. Woodhead

 

Reference

 

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sandredin. Folio 109a. Retrieved March 19, 2016 from http://www.halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_109.html

 

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God’s Grace Jerusalem’s Unfaithfulness Part IV – The Convict Becomes a Proverb

The Convict Becomes a Proverb

 

Christ and the Woman of samaria by Pierre Mignard Cir 17th Century

Christ and the Woman of samaria by Pierre Mignard Cir 17th Century

 

Ezekiel 16:44

44Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter (ASV, 1901).

This begins the fourth section of the long parable and is found in verses 44-52. The actions of the queen were so repulsive that the people would describe them as a saying, a “proverb”, or warning to others NOT to do the same. This “proverb” is similar to what is said in modern or contemporary parlance, “like father, like son”, only here it says, “As is the mother, so is her daughter.” In keeping with the abandoned female infant who grew to be a queen, then descended into a harlot, the “proverb” takes the feminine character. Therefore how could Jerusalem, who was more depraved than ever, even consider that they would not be judged?

God Repeats Jerusalem’s Background

Ezekiel 16:45

45Thou art the daughter of thy mother, that loatheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children: your mother was a Hittite, and your father an Amorite (ASV, 1901).

The Hebrew here for “loatheth” is better translated as “vomited out in rejection”. This describes the level of intense hatred Israel had for God and her children. This adds to the motivation she had to become a harlot, destroying herself and her children in the process. By being disloyal to her God-given destiny of holiness, she rejected God. By sacrificing her children at the Canaanite altars, she shows her “loathingof them. This “vomiting out is in accordance with the Mosaic Law that stated God would not tolerate sin within the boundaries of the Nation Israel. Israel had been warned that if they did not live according to the Laws of God as laid out in the Torah, He would “vomit them out of the land” just as He rejected the Canaanites before them:

Leviticus 18:25-30

25and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land vomiteth out her inhabitants. 26Ye therefore shall keep my statutes and mine ordinances, and shall not do any of these abominations; neither the home-born, nor the stranger that sojourneth among you; 27(for all these abominations have the men of the land done, that were before you, and the land is defiled); 28that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, even the souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30Therefore shall ye keep my charge, that ye practise not any of these abominable customs, which were practised before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am Jehovah your God (ASV, 1901).

Jerusalem is Worse than Sodom and Samaria

 

Martin, John; The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; Scarborough Collections; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-destruction-of-sodom-and-gomorrah-8950

Martin, John; The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; Scarborough Collections; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-destruction-of-sodom-and-gomorrah-8950

Ezekiel 16:46-47

46And thine elder sister is Samaria, that dwelleth at thy left hand, she and her daughters; and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. 47Yet hast thou not walked in their ways, nor done after their abominations; but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast more corrupt than they in all thy ways. (ASV, 1901)

The first part had been discussing Jerusalem as an adulterous wife, and this part compares Jerusalem to her “sisters” who historically preceded her. Two cities, Samaria (from the Northern Kingdom) and Sodom (from the time of Abraham) are described as her “sisters”. Both of those areas received severe judgment for their sins. The land of Canaan can be viewed as Israel’s mother because she grew up there in its bosom. The “sister” of Sodom (along with Gomorrah) was exceedingly depraved cities during the time of Abraham. Their sins are the prototype of depravity, embodied the pride of Satan, and were intolerable to God because they took place within the Holy Land (Genesis 19:5). This city was destroyed just as the Canaanites would be destroyed. God’s charge or complaint to them is as if He is saying, “Why have you behaved in this manner? Your mother Sarah and your father Abraham lived among the Hittites and Amorites without being influenced by them.”

The “sister” of Samaria was the capital city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam when the civil war took place in 931 B.C. This was the center of pagan worship (I Kings 16:32-33). The Southern Kingdom of Judah should have learned from Samaria’s downfall. However, Judah’s transgressions were worse because their idolatry was in the Temple itself. We have seen the manner in which the elders worshipped the sun, and relieved their personal dung in the direction toward the Temple in defiance of God (Ezekiel 8:16-18).

Samaria is viewed as the bigger, or “elder” sister because when the split took place, ten of the twelve tribal regions went to the north, and only two stayed in the south. When one faces east in Israel, the north would be on the left hand and the south would be on the right hand. On the north side is Samaria’s and her “daughters”, which are the suburbs of Samaria (Numbers 21:25). Sodom is characterized as having fewer citizens than Samaria, and is situated toward the south. If Israel had not had sinned in a manner that exceeded the cities of Samaria and the city of Sodom then it would have been a small matter. But they were more corrupt and it became a very big issue to God.

The Iniquity of Sodom

 

Last Days of Pompei by Karl Briullov Cir 1799-1852

Last Days of Pompei by Karl Briullov Cir 1799-1852

Ezekiel 16:48-50

48As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. 49Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (ASV, 1901)

Even the other cities (“sisters”) did not exchange their god for nothing as the inhabitants of Jerusalem had done. Sodom’s sin was pride, which is the basis of all sin, and he gave it to the world by his pollution of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sodom’s sins were fueled by her pride, which led to her haughty unconcern for the needs of others in spite of her wealth. The Jewish non-biblical text of Tractate Sanhedrin 109a says that Sodom’s wealth came from its fertile fields that produced unlimited food, and the rich veins of gold and precious stones that ran beneath the earth (Babylonia Talmud, Folio 109a, ¶ 6). Their unlimited material wealth stimulated the bad habits of self-indulgence that led to abominations and sexual perversions. God says that because of this “therefore I took them away as I saw good.” We know from Genesis, and history, they were completely destroyed by fire and sulfur that rained down upon both Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25). The sin of Samaria, though not specifically stated, was her idolatry.

Jerusalem’s Sins Worse Than Her Sisters

Ezekiel 16:51-52

51Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters by all thine abominations which thou hast done. 52Thou also, bear thou thine own shame, in that thou hast given judgment for thy sisters; through thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they, they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou also confounded, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters (ASV, 1901).

 

But Jerusalem’s sins were so vile (“more abominable”) that in comparison, the sins of both Sodom and Samaria seemed almost tolerable. Before her own moral collapse, Jerusalem looked down on the other cities in a “self-righteous manner”. God is saying it was as if Sodom and Samaria had almost been “righteous” in comparison!

 

 Daniel E. Woodhead

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God’s Grace –Jerusalem’s Unfaithfulness Part III The Queen Becomes a Harlot

God Summarizes The Harlot’s Sins

The Eve of the Deluge by William Bell Scott Cir 1865

The Eve of the Deluge by William Bell Scott Cir 1865

Ezekiel 16:35-36

35Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of Jehovah: 36Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness uncovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers; and because of all the idols of thy abominations, and for the blood of thy children, that thou didst give unto them (ASV, 1901);

This begins the third section of the parable and is covered in verses 35-43. In this part of the parable the wronged husband is prepared to extract His vengeance from His faithless wife. Jerusalem the harlot is the queen that had become like a brazen prostitute who did not take any payment for her services to her lovers. She was an adulterous wife as well as a prostitute because she preferred strangers to her own husband. She had resorted to giving bribes to get the attention that earlier had been lavishly bestowed upon her by her admirers. God had tried to stop her descent into destruction but she would not listen to His warnings through His righteous prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel. So now God has had enough with the harlot’s behavior. He says, “thy filthiness was poured out” indicating the summary designation of all her behavior. Interestingly the Hebrew word for “poured out” is nechoshet and is used to describe the lower part of a female’s body which has the same root of nachash the word for the serpent. Hebrew’s play on words shows the source of her wickedness, Satan. Her wickedness included:

  • Exposing herself to her many lovers.
  • Worshipping pagan idols instead of her genuine husband.
  • Sacrificing her children to the pagan gods.

Now God, who is the faithful husband in this parable, will curse her as He had promised many years ago in His covenant with the Nation Israel:

Deuteronomy 28:15-23

15But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day, that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. 16Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. 17Cursed shall be thy basket and thy kneading-trough. 18Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, the increase of thy cattle, and the young of thy flock. 19Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. 20Jehovah will send upon thee cursing, discomfiture, and rebuke, in all that thou puttest thy hand unto to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the evil of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. 21Jehovah will make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest in to possess it. 22Jehovah will smite thee with consumption, and with fever, and with inflammation, and with fiery heat, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. 23And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron (ASV, 1901).

The Lord Will Bring The Lovers Against Jerusalem

Titus Destroying Jerusalem by Wilhelm von Kaulbach Cir 1845

Titus Destroying Jerusalem by Wilhelm von Kaulbach Cir 1845

Ezekiel 16:37

37therefore behold, I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them against thee on every side, and will uncover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness. (ASV, 1901)

All the nations will join in the plunder of Jerusalem. Even former allies like Egypt, Assyria, and the Chaldean (Babylonians) will join together with their perpetual enemies such as the Philistines to plunder Jerusalem. The Jews bonded together with these pagan nations, and assimilated their despised religious idolatry into Jehovah God’s pure relationship with them. In the Mosaic Law a harlot’s punishment is prescribed and included tearing off the clothes, public humiliation in nakedness, public trial, public stoning till death, dismemberment of the body, and burning of their house (Leviticus 20:10–12; Deuteronomy 22:22). Israel will likewise be exposed to attack without any protection.

Disgrace Will Come Upon Her

Joseph's disgrace upon hearing that Mary was pregnant. By Gaetano Gandolfi cir 1790.

Joseph’s disgrace upon hearing that Mary was pregnant. By Gaetano Gandolfi cir 1790.

Ezekiel 16:38

38And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will bring upon thee the blood of wrath and jealousy (ASV, 1901).

Israel’s guilt is now summed up and her punishment announced. It will correspond to the sins she has committed. Her sins are made the means of her reparation. She will be punished as the adulteress she is, and condemned to public shame. Because she had openly carried out her sin, she shall be openly exposed and made a spectacle to the world. God will disgrace before the world those who exchange the offer of a relationship with God for love of the world. The Babylonians hurled stones on Jerusalem during the siege, and slew the people with the sword thereby fulfilling the Mosaic Law’s punishment of an adulteress. God clearly states “I will bring upon thee the blood of wrath and jealousy”, which represents God pouring out His jealousy on Jerusalem, by shedding the blood of his unfaithful wife, Israel, by Him, her spiritual husband.

The Harlot’s Paramours Become Her Persecutors

Ezekiel 16:39-40

39I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thy vaulted place, and break down thy lofty places; and they shall strip thee of thy clothes, and take thy fair jewels; and they shall leave thee naked and bare. 40They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords. (ASV, 1901)

Those nations with whom she sinned become the instruments of His judgments. “Vaulted place” is the same high places that are cited in Ezekiel 16:24. The “vaulted place” is literally a fornication chamber. This is connected with the impure rites of idolatry, and spiritual fornication on the “lofty places.” During their invasions, the Babylonians treated these places as local sanctuaries, and laid them waste.

The clothes and the jewels are all outward tokens of stateliness and prosperity. They will take both clothes and jewelry from the harlot, and leave her naked. Stripped of the riches she had received from God, but had lavished upon her lusts, she should no more be able to gratify herself in this way. She had fully proved her Canaanite descent. The final punishment of stoning and being thrust through by the sword will destroy both city and kingdom and Jerusalem will be laid waste. This “stoning” and “thrusting through” will not completely annihilate the people, just Jerusalem, because other verses say the Jews will never be completely rejected by God (Leviticus 26:44-45; Jeremiah 31:35-37).

The City Will be Burned

 

Jerusalem Burning by David Roberts Cir 1850

Jerusalem Burning by David Roberts Cir 1850

Ezekiel 16:41

41And they shall burn thy houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women; and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou shalt also give no hire any more (ASV, 1901).

The punishment of death within the Mosaic Law was made more ceremonially severe by burning the corpse after it had been stoned or run through with a sword (Leviticus 20:14; 21:9). In a like manner, the burning of the houses can be regarded as intensifying the punishment. The judgment being executed is “in the sight of many women” refers to the many heathen nations surrounding Jerusalem, according to the description of Jerusalem, or Israel, as an unfaithful wife. It is a humiliating punishment to an adulterous woman to be exposed for this before other women. Accordingly the humiliation of Israel’s punishment will be to stand exposed in its sin before the eyes of all other nations. This is the way in which God will put an end to the fornication (“give no hire any more”), and appease His wrath and jealousy upon the harlot. It is His way to cause a person to cease to be or do anything. Since other passages discuss the burning of the city of Jerusalem, this prophecy had a literal fulfillment as well (II Kings 25:9; Jeremiah 52:13).

God’s Wrath Will End

The jealousy of the injured husband is appeased by the execution of the judgment. God had earlier declared this in chapter 5 before all the captives were in Babylon:

Ezekiel 5:13-14

13Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my wrath toward them to rest, and I shall be comforted; and they shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken in my zeal, when I have accomplished my wrath upon them. 14Moreover I will make thee a desolation and a reproach among the nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by. (ASV, 1901)

Ezekiel 16:42-43

 42So will I cause my wrath toward thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry. 43Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast raged against me in all these things; therefore, behold, I also will bring thy way upon thy head, saith the Lord Jehovah: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness with all thine abominations (ASV, 1901).

God, the husband of Israel, is now saying that He has been satisfied with the punishment they deserved that He personally meted out to them. The cause or source of Jerusalem’s sin was her failure to remember the Lord’s gracious favor. All her grandeur came as a result of His blessings. Therefore when she turned from Him she was cutting herself off from the only true source of blessing. He became enraged because it was Him who had raised her to greatness. As God said through Isaiah “they rebelled, and grieved his Holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them” (Isaiah 63:10). By saying in verse 43 that “thou shalt not commit this lewdness with all thine abominations”, He is saying He will leave them with a sense of guilt that revolts and shocks them.

 

Daniel E. Woodhead

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