Bible in a Year Series - Day #243 - This post is part of a year-long series where we are reading chronologically through the Bible. Click here to learn more. You are most welcome to join along at any time.
Today's text from the ESV Study Bible: Ezekiel 16-17.
Today's narrative was perhaps one of the most disturbing sections I have read.
Although is was certainly disconcerting to have Israel's most heinous sins brought again before us, it was absolutely forbidding to read God's graphic, and sexual first person metaphor.
As we read this, we must remember that Israel had become so twisted that they were offering their children as live sacrifices to Molech, there were female prostitute "priests" in God's holy temple, people had sexual intercourse with idols, and the wealth given to Israel was the great seductress that eventually lead the would be whore (Israel) completely away from her Husband (God).
Here's this from the InterVarsity Press New Bible Commentary:
"Israel is depicted as a wildly adulterous wife, engaging in prostitution with the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians. Her retribution would come at the hands of the very lovers she had pursued.
The imagery may seem strong for modern tastes, but the choice of metaphor was quite appropriate. In her international dealings Israel had readily absorbed other religions, beliefs and practices. Her social intercourse had exposed her to many pagan ideas. Some of these included child sacrifice and idol worship (20, 21), but another important strand included cultic sex practices. Sexual activity was not included in worship rituals purely for the gratification of the participants but was linked to fertility, and fertility, when applied to the land, meant food and survival. Nevertheless, lust and promiscuity must still have had a presence in the cult activities.
The practices condemned in this chapter include sex acts with idols (17) and cultic prostitution (16, 24, 25, 31). It seems that the cultic prositution which had been part of the ritual ‘in the high places’, i.e. the mountain shrines (16) came to be practised openly in the streets of Jerusalem itself (24, 25).
An interesting twist to the sexual theme of the chapter is that Sodom and Samaria are cited as sisters in sin to Jerusalem (46-47). Yet the sin of Sodom that is emphasized is her arrogance and lack of social concern for the poor and helpless (49-50). Jerusalem is cited as being more committed to iniquity than her sisters. Furthermore, both Sodom and Samaria would be restored, compounding Jerusalem’s shame (53-55). Yet there is hope. After Jerusalem’s downfall and punishment the same suitor who rescued her at birth (4-7), took her in marriage (8), and clothed her in finery, would still remember his promise to her (59-62).
The love of God towards his people is often likened to the love of a husband for his wife, but where a mortal husband might reject, despise, even hate a promiscuous unfaithful wife, God is patient and just and will remember his promises to his people even when they stray."
I suppose what really drives the dagger of this metaphor into my heart is that I too have played the whore at various times in my life.
Now, let's be clear. I certainly haven't participated in the montrous crimes depicted here. Nonetheless, there have been times in my life where the wealth given to me from God has indeed seduced me away from my Creator. As I was reading the section where the wife turns from God to play the whore, I deeply felt the sting of that great sin.
As we read this section, and feel the stinging shame from our own "nakedness", it is only then that we can appreciate perhaps God's greatest attribute: grace!
How thankful then must we be for the last four verses of this chapter:
“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.” (Ezekiel 16:59-63)
In the comings weeks and months, we are going to gaze upon the atonement that God here speaks of, and then we will weep at the indescribable beauty, and sacrificial love of the husband Yahweh.