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We have been studying the Book of Ezekiel chapter by chapter. Today, we come to a new section in the book. It deals with parables. We have seen Ezekiel express his message in some crazy actions. Now he is going to express it is some crazy stories called parables. Parables are stories. Most of these stories are fictional but they tell a spiritual lesson of some kind. Jesus told a lot of parables in the NT.
That is the Jewish way of teaching. If you go to seminary, the way you are taught to teach today by explaining what the Greek and Hebrew words mean. The Jewish method was to tell stories. Most people think that Jesus invented parables. He did not. There are some parables in the OT but most Christians have not read much of the OT.
There are about nine parables in the Book of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 15, 16 and 1, we see three parables. Ezekiel 15 is the parable of the useless vine. Ezekiel 16 is the parable of the unfaithful wife. Ezekiel 17 is the parable of the two eagles. We are going to look at the first two of these parables today. In these parables, the nation of Israel is compared to two things: a grape vine and a faithless bride.
Israel the Vine
Ezekiel 15 is a short chapter. It is only eight verses. Israel is often compared to a vine in the OT. Trees are useful, even if they do not have any fruit on them, because you can get some good timber from a tree. The only good thing about a vine is the grapes on it. The vine itself is completely useless. If you want to build a house, you would not use wood from a wine. Its wood has no value at all. It is soft. You can twist and bend it. God compares Israel not to the fruit of the vine but to the vine itself.
Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it? 4 Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? (15:3-4 ESV)
God says that this kind of wood is only good for producing a fire. He says that is what is going to happen to the city of Jerusalem. Everyone in the city was not going to be burned in a fire. This is symbolic but the city was going to be completely destroyed.
Therefore thus says the Lord God: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 7 And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them. 8 And I will make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly, declares the Lord God.” (15:6-8 ESV).
How would God describe us as Christians? Do we bear fruit or are we useless to him? Jesus said that there are some professing Christians that are completely useless and only fit to be burned. Jesus also told a parable about the vine and the branches and applied this to the church but he changed the analogy. In John 15, Jesus is the vine, not Israel.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (15:5-6 ESV).
Israel the Faithless Bride
That brings us to Ezekiel 16. This is a chapter that should be rated R for mature content. It is a long chapter. It is sixty-three verses long. The SHORTEST chapter in Ezekiel is followed by the LONGEST chapter in Ezekiel. It contains one of the most vivid descriptions of grace in the entire Bible. This chapter contains the gospel.
The way God saved this woman is the way He saves us. This woman was abandoned by her parents as a baby in an open field. She was completely helpless and hopeless and left for dead. There was nothing it could do to save itself but God reach down in grace and saved it.
He said one word (“live”) and the baby lived (16:6). Then, He adopted it. He did the same for us. He reached down and called us by name. We are not saved by our works. God not only saved us, He adopted us. At the end of the chapter, God atones for the sin of this woman. This is also a very controversial chapter.
An Obscene Chapter?
This chapter has received a lot of criticism by people who do not really understand the chapter. It is often criticized because of its graphic language. This chapter contains some sexually expect language. There is a naked woman in this chapter. The word “naked” or “nakedness” is found seven times in the chapter.
There is a lot of sex in this chapter and it is not between a husband and wife. The verb “prostitute” occurs about twenty times in the chapter in a noun or verb form. The Bible says “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable.” Do you believe it? Is every verse in the Bible inspired? Yes. What about this chapter?
What about Ezekiel 16:25? One Muslim in a debate against a Christian argues that this is not inspired. He says no decent man would say that this comes from God. He says many people would be ashamed to read it.
Ezekiel 16:25 says, “Thou…hast opened thy feet to everyone that passed by” (KJV) but the NASB is more literal: “you spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry.” How could a passage like this be inspired? How could a verse like this be in a holy book? Does this verse come from God? Yes.
When we get to the end of the chapter, we will see why this chapter is inspired. The problem is people see those words and take them completely out of their context. When you take a bunch out of its context, they can mean anything. What is going on in this chapter? What is it about? In order to understand this chapter, you need to understand three things. Without understanding these three points, you will misunderstand the chapter.
First, this chapter uses figurative language
These words are not found in a romance novel. It is an allegory. The whole bible is not an allegory. Much of it is literal history but this chapter is an allegory. It is an allegory of three women.
What is an allegory? It is a story that you cannot read literally. It is figurative. It is symbolic. Animal Farm is not just a story about animals on a farm.
These three women are sisters and they represent cities. These cities are personified as women. We do that with America. America is personified as Lady Liberty. She is the lady at the beginning of movies with Columbia Pictures.
Of course, America is also portrayed as a man (Uncle Sam). This chapter portrays Jerusalem, Samaria and Sodom as women but the focus of the chapter is on Jerusalem. It is a mistake to read this chapter literally. Jerusalem is portrayed, not only as a woman, but as an immoral woman in this chapter. Jerusalem is called a prostitute. “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord” (16:35 ESV).
She is not a literal prostitute but a spiritual prostitute. This woman has eyes that go whoring after idols (6:9). She does not lust after other people but after other idols. Prostitution is just a picture of the sin that Israel committed. Their sin was actually worse than physical prostitution.
Second, this chapter uses shocking language
God is honest and frank when it comes to sin. He does not beat around the bush. He uses shocking language to reveal sin, because sin itself is shocking. Jesus also used shocking language when He talked about sin. He talks about cutting your hand off and plucking your eye out to avoid things which offend you. We do not think that idolatry is that bad. God uses shocking language to show how bad it is to Him.
Three, this chapter condemns wickedness
Ezekiel is not a porno prophet. This chapter does not encourage prostitution. It does not glorify adultery or nudity. It does not glorify wickedness, like Hollywood does. It does not excuse sin. This chapter rebukes and condemns sin. It judges sin.
There are three biblical truths that are clearly seen in this allegory. These three truths apply to us as much as they applied to the Jews. This allegory clearly teaches the human sin. It clearly teaches divine judgment on sin. It also teaches the incredible grace of God.
The Sin of Man
Again the word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her ABOMINATIONS (16:1-2 ESV). The Bible reveals sin. It reveals man’s true state. Paul said, “I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet” (NLT). It is like a mirror. It shows us what we really look like. This chapter is an exposure of sin. The light shines in the darkness.
God used Ezekiel to reveal this to Jerusalem. Sometimes, God uses people to reveal our sin to us. Sometimes we don’t realize how bad our sins really are. We know that we are sinners but do not think that our sins are that bad or that what we are doing is even wrong. That is because our hearts are deceitful above all things. Our heart lies to us. We believe what we want to believe and often do not see our true spiritual state.
God used Ezekiel to confront national sin. Sometimes, he calls on us to confront personal or national sin. Isaiah 58:1 says, “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins” (ESV).
I Timothy 5:20 says, “As for those who persist in sin, REBUKE them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (ESV). II Timothy 4:2 says, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, REBUKE, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (ESV).
Titus 1:13 says, “This testimony is true. Therefore REBUKE them SHARPLY, that they may be sound in the faith” (ESV). These are things that we do not do as much in our day. We are too tolerate and accepting. We love to blast our political enemies but we don’t like to do this in the church too much.
That means we have to actually confront people and no one likes to do that. If we confront people about their sin, they might not like us. God gave Ezekiel a hard head. He told them what God said and he did not care what they thought about him. We need to be more concerned about what God thinks of us than what people think of us.
The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel and it said, “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her ABOMINATIONS” (16:2). God said that their sin was no small matter (16:20). The word “abomination” is used about eight or nine times in the chapter. An abomination is a word used for the worst type of sins in the Bible. It refers to things that God really hates. It is used of two main things in the Bible. It is used of really bad sexual sins. It is also used of idolatry. We have a few of those in our land.
God’s covenant with Israel is pictured as a marriage. It is a covenant relationship, like marriage. This chapter portrays Jerusalem as a wife and God as her husband. Israel is the unfaithful wife of Jehovah. Israel is called “an adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!” (16:32). The bride becomes the slut.
As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. …51 Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed.
52 Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous. (16:48, 51-52).
Sodom had a reputation for evil. It was proverbial and is to this day. It has a reputation for the most depraved city on the planet. God says that Judah was worse than Sodom. It was also worse than Samaria which worshipped the golden calf. They actually looked good compared to Judah. The Philistines were ashamed of their behavior (16:27). Pagans were shocked. What was so bad about Israel’s sin?
First, she sinned despite incredible blessings.
That is the whole point of the beginning of the passage. God said Israel like an abandoned baby, left to die, cast out in an open field. He not only adopted the baby and took care of it but the baby grew up, like a queen. She was adorned with ornaments, bracelets on her writs and a chain around her neck, a ring on her nose and a crown on her head. She was adorned with silver, gold and fine clothing (16:11-13).
Against all of these blessings, she sinned. Israel had more light than any other nation. God spoke to the whole nation on a mountain out loud. He performed all kinds of miracles right before their eyes. Instead of worshipping Him, they turned to idols, false gods that did not even exist. How many times have we done the same thing? We sin against incredible blessing.
Second, her sin went beyond ordinary prostitution
She is a prostitute. God calls her a “brazen prostitute” (16:30 ESV). What makes her so brazen? Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. 34 So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different. (16:33-34 ESV)
Some are forced into prostitution but this woman does it voluntarily. Most prostitutes are in business to make money. They sell their body to make money. God says that this particular prostitute not only does it for free but pays its clients. She takes her bridal presents and gives them away to her customers. She takes the beautiful clothes given by her husband and turns into bed sheets to have sex (16:16-17).
Third, her sin involved shedding innocent blood
20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them? (16:20-21 ESV).
This woman was guilty of murder. There is a fire burning in front of the altar and they put their own babies into this red hot fire and offered them up as a sacrifice. They were abandoned by their own parents and now kill their own kids. This happened in Jerusalem, not in some pagan nation. In fact, some of the kings of Judah did this to their children.
King Manassah did this. “And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. (II Chronicles 33:4-6 ESV).
We would never do something as foolish as this today but we do something very similar. It is called abortion. God says that they sacrifices HIS CHILDREN in these fires. Our children are not our own. They are God’s. He holds us accountable for what we do with them. The sin of Jerusalem was so extreme that God made an amazing statement.
God’s Judgment on Sin
The second lesson from this chapter is that God judges sin. He judges it in individuals. He judges it in churches. He judges it in nations. How did he judge Judah? The punishment fit the crime. A lightning bolt did not fall out of the sky. The nations she committed prostitution with were the ones who destroyed her.
I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. 39 And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places.
They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare. 40 They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry. (16:37-42 ESV).
God’s Grace to Sinners
Ezekiel 16 shows great grace in the midst of great sin. God’s grace is greater than all of our sin. Many view God as a judge. He is cold and distant. God is holy. He judges sin. We see that clearly in this chapter but we also see in this chapter that God has the heart of a lover.
There is grace all through this chapter. It starts with grace. God sees an abandoned baby girl, left to die in an open field and has compassion on that baby. He rescues that abandoned baby and it lives. It was an act of love and grace.
He blessed Israel out of extravagant grace. This baby girl grew up and was pampered with the finest clothes and jewels. She was given everything by God, as a gift of grace. At the end of the chapter, you expect God to be done with Israel after all that they did. That is how the chapter should have ended. He does judge the nation but notice how the chapter ends.
“I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, 54 that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. 55 As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state. (16:53-55 ESV).
God says that He will restore Sodom and Samaria to their former estate. That is amazing but He says something else even more incredible. God loves the child-killing whore, as one pastor described it. They did not keep their covenant with Him but He will keep His covenant with them. He says that he will ATONE for their sins. They will not atone for their sins. He will atone for their sins. Instead of abandoning them, He atones for their sin.
59 “For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, 60 yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. 61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you.
62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.” (16:59-63 ESV).
Characteristics of the Unfaithful Bride in Ezekiel 16
1. She is ABHORRED (16:5).
2. She is ABANDONED at birth (16:4-5).
3. She is ADOPTED by God (16:6-7).
4. She is ADORNED by God (16:13).
5. She is ATTRACTIVE (16:15)
6. She is AFFLUENT (16:11-14)
7. She is ARROGANT (16:15)
8. She is ALLURING (16:25)
9. She is ADULTEROUS (16:38).
10. She is ABOMINABLE (16:2, 22, 43, 47, 51, 58)
11. She is AUDACIOUS or shameless (16:30, 63)
12. She is ABASED or humiliated (16:37, 39).
13. She is ABUSED (16:37, 39)
14. She is ATONED for by God (16:63).
15. She is ASTONISHED (16:63)