In the previous study we saw how that, when you approach the Lord, you should do so with an undivided mind. There should be no idolatry in your life, and this is something that we need to stop and check for ourselves.
After dealing with this subject, Ezekiel returns to the theme of prophecies against Jerusalem.
The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, even if these three men – Noah, Daniel and Job – were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.
‘Or if I send wild beasts through that country and they leave it childless and it becomes desolate so that no one can pass through it because of the beasts, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons and daughters. They alone would be saved, but the land would be desolate.
‘Or if I bring a sword against that country and say, “Let the sword pass through the land,” and I kill its people and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons and daughters. They alone would be saved.
‘Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath on it through bloodshed, killing its people and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness.
‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: how much worse will it bee when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgements – sword and famine and wild beasts and plague – to kill its men and their animals! Yet there will be some survivors – sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought on Jerusalem – every disaster I have brought on it. You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign Lord.’
There are many commentators who spend a lot of time on the ‘hidden meanings’ here. For instance, I have read the suggestion that the three examples of righteous men are also a reference to the three main covenants with men made in the bible – the covenant of Noah, the promise to all mankind; the covenant of Moses, for the nation of Israel to be God’s people on earth; and the New Covenant, which the prophecies of Daniel pointed to. (Which is slightly strange, because Daniel the prophet was of the same time as Ezekiel. And so people always wonder if this was the correct Daniel, or if another…)
(I also don’t completely understand how they get to Moses from Job…)
I have also read how, when the Lord pours out great judgement, the number 4 appears to be significant. For instance we read of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
I don’t want to spend time on conjecture about those things because, whether it is interesting or not, for the sake of this passage of scripture it would miss the point.
The main point is that the Lord will do this work completely, and once begun, only those who had a special relationship with the Lord would stand any chance of survival. It will not help you if you are born into the family of a righteous or pious person, who has spent their life trying to please the Lord and to do His works. You need to have this close relationship with God for yourself.
In any situation of disaster and calamity, it is the natural instinct of parents to try to protect their children. Yet, even in the case of the most righteous parents, and those who would be spared from death, they would not be able to save their own children.
Brothers and sisters, nothing was clearer to me through this passage than one thing: you do not get to heaven because of what someone else did, you will not survive because of the prayers and faith of another, even if that is your parent or grandparent. The Lord is interested in each and every one of us. He wants to see and enjoy a relationship with each and every one of us. He certainly loves all, because He sent His son Jesus to die for us all. But when it comes to judgement, it is the faith and relationship with each individual that counts, and nothing external to that.
There can also be a tendency in parents to think that, surely a child would be spared one or other kind of suffering. But the point made by Ezekiel is clear. Whether plague or famine, wild beasts or sword, the children will not be spared.
I do not want to get into the kinds of arguments that can come out from this in a similar way to the problems people find with the book of Joshua – about the slaughter of children and babies, and even unborn babies. Whether or not such a thing is just for a just god, to kill those who did not even have the opportunity to hear and learn the gospel and to do what is right. That is indeed a very difficult area of discussion, and it is not solved by dismissing it with words like our understanding not being like god’s understanding. But such a discussion is a distraction from the main point here.
The main point is about personal relationship with God. You need to have a personal relationship between yourself and the Lord, one that grows in love and closeness over time. A relationship that results in changes in your life, because holiness and righteousness are the fruit.
None of us are acceptable to God in the natural, and were without hope. But Jesus changed all of that. He died so that we do not need to fall under the judgement of god. He took the judgement that we deserved on his own body and died for us. And if we can see that it is our own sin that drove the nails through his hands and his feet, then we are on the path to acceptance with god. As we recognise that it should be ourselves on that cross that Jesus died on, we therefore identify with his death. But if we died with him, we shall also rise with him into new life. And in this life we are now clothed in righteousness, not our own, but that of Jesus. And being clothed in Christ, we are acceptable before the Father and members of his family.
This is not something that happens because you are born an Israelite, a Jew. You are not a child of god through heredity, but by adoption. So you are not acceptable because you are born into a Christian family, or because you are English or American. You are not more acceptable because you are Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox, or any other sect. You are not acceptable because someone prays for you, or because you do good works.
One thing is clear above anything else in this passage: your survival depends on what is happening between you as an individual and god.
No-one can do this for you, you need to get on your own knees and do this for yourself.