Israel Is Doomed
1The Lord God said:
2Ezekiel, son of man, face the hills of Israel and tell them:
3Listen, you mountains and hills, and every valley and gorge! I, the Lord, am about to turn against you and crush all the places where foreign gods are worshiped. 4Every altar will be smashed, and in front of the idols I will put to death the people who worship them. 5Dead bodies and bones will be lying around the idols and the altars. 6Every town in Israel will be destroyed to make sure that each shrine, idol, and altar is smashed—everything the Israelites made will be a pile of ruins. 7All over the country, your people will die. And those who survive will know that I, the Lord, did these things. 8I will let some of the people live through this punishment, but I will scatter them among the nations, 9where they will be prisoners. And when they think of me, they will realize that they disgraced me by rebelling and by worshiping idols. They will hate themselves for the evil things they did, 10and they will know that I am the Lord and that my warnings must be taken seriously.
11The Lord God then said:
Ezekiel, beat your fists together and stomp your feet in despair! Moan in sorrow, because the people of Israel have done disgusting things and now will be killed by enemy troops, or they will die from starvation and disease. 12Those who live far away will be struck with deadly diseases. Those who live nearby will be killed in war. And the ones who are left will starve to death. I will let loose my anger on them! 13These people used to offer incense to idols at altars built on hills and mountaintops and in the shade of large oak trees. But when they see dead bodies lying around those altars, they will know that I am the Lord. 14I will make their country a barren wasteland, from the Southern Desert to the town of Diblah in the north. Then they will know that I, the Lord, have done these things.
“Poetic justice” occurs when the judgment for a wrong action corresponds directly to the action itself (for example, those who live by the sword will die by the sword). In this passage, the poetic justice is that the very things with which God’s people were using to commit their abominable actions against the Lord – the idols, the pagan altars, the high places with their altars and sacred tree groves – become the target for his judgment. The high places and the altars will be demolished, the idols will be smashed, and the people worshipping the idols at those locations will end up being slain at those very locations (vv 1-7a, 11-14).
Messages like this are not easy to hear, because we like to think of God as one who loves us, not as one who punishes us for our sin. But we need to realize that God takes the first two commandments very seriously. We should not worship any other god but him and the use of idols in worship is strictly prohibited (Exod 20:3-5a). God jealously desires us to worship him alone, and not to settle for worshipping something that is so much less than he is. Although we may no longer be tempted to worship pagan gods and their physical idols, we always need to be careful about allowing our heart to be drawn away from the Lord and directed toward other things.
But judgment is never God’s final word. In the midst of the punishment, God will preserve a remnant (vv 7b-10), whose hearts will remember him, who will be ashamed of what they have done, and acknowledge him.
Lord, who alone is deserving of worship, keep my heart in full devotion and allegiance to you. Show to me anything that draws my allegiance away from you, and give me a sense of how you deserve my undivided worship. Amen.