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"The End Has Come" (Ezekiel 7) August 22-23

Chapter 7 is a continuation of the prophetic message we've been reading, emphasizing the point that because the people have refused to come to know God through seeking and following His will, they will come to know Him in a different way—through His severe judgment (7:4, 9, 27). God's warning here to the "land of Israel" (verse 2) was likely given during the 390 days of mock siege that represented the punishment on the northern 10 tribes (compare 1:1-2; 4:5; 8:1). Since the ancient fall of Israel happened long before Ezekiel wrote, his warning in this chapter is of Israel's destruction in the end time—indeed, the time leading into "the day of the wrath of the Lord" (7:19). Of course, as with the other prophecies of this section, there was some application to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in Ezekiel's own day. But, again, the message is mainly for Israel at the end of this age.

The term "four corners of the land" (verse 2) conveys the total destruction God will bring. This is not a partial or regional calamity. Ezekiel, as God's watchman, is required to thunder this warning loud and clear, even though his immediate audience was in captivity in Babylon. Accounts of what he said may well have been passed on to those Jews living in Jerusalem. And through the transmission of the sacred text across the centuries, we have his warnings today.

God explains that the Israelites are guilty of "abominations" (verses 3-4, 8-9)—terrible, loathsome sins—even in their religion, which is idolatrous (verse 20). The abominable practices are so bad that God declares He will not spare or have pity in the time of punishment—the severity of punishment conveying the severity of wrongdoing. Verse 9 introduces a terrifying new name for God in this context of punishment: YHWH makkeh, "The Eternal who strikes the blow."

The ominous sense of impending doom is palpable. "Numerous short sentences and the repetition of words and phrases express the intensity of the message. The recurrence of the word 'end' [five] times in the first six verses stresses the finality of the judgment (cf. Amos 8:2). Judgment had come! Imminency was heightened by the reiteration of the verb 'coming' (seven times in [Ezekiel 7] vv. 5-12); the repetition of 'now' (vv. 3, 8 {NIV, 'about to'}); and the use of terms like 'time,' 'day,' and 'is near' (v. 7)" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on verses 1-4).

Notice the rendering of this passage in the New Living Translation: "Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to Israel: The end is here! Wherever you look—east, west, north, or south—your land is finished. No hope remains, for I will unleash my anger against you. I will call you to account for all your disgusting behavior. I will turn my eyes away and show no pity, repaying you in full for all your evil... With one blow after another I will bring total disaster! The end has come! It has finally arrived! Your final doom is waiting! O people of Israel, the day of your destruction is dawning... Soon I will pour out my fury to complete your punishment for all your disgusting behavior. I will neither spare nor pity you. I will repay you for all your detestable practices... None of these proud and wicked people will survive. All their wealth will be swept away. Yes, the time has come; the day is here!" (verses 2-12).

Verse 10 appears to be saying, "The rod [of punishment] has blossomed [because] pride has budded [among God's people]." That is, the people are ripe for judgment since their arrogance has reached its zenith. Verse 11 may be saying that violence among God's people has produced the consequence of a "rod of wickedness"—that is, a rod necessitated by wickedness, a rod for dealing with wickedness. Alternatively, the verse may mean that "the violent one" (NIV)—that is, the enemy of God's people—has risen up as a punishing rod (meaning either Babylon or, in an ultimate sense, Satan).

Verses 12-13 seem to imply that people in difficult financial circumstances will be forced to sell property at low prices, but that in the end this will be irrelevant. The New Living Translation adds clarity: "There is no reason for buyers to rejoice over the bargains they find or for sellers to grieve over their losses, for all of them will fall under my terrible anger. And if any merchants should survive, they will never return to their business. For what God has said applies to everyone—it will not be changed! Not one person whose life is twisted by sin will recover."

The message continues with a reminder of the three-fold punishment coming from God: sword, famine and pestilence (verse 15). When the warning sounds, people will be too weak or too afraid to fight (verses 14, 17). The initial survivors will be like birds driven from their roosts, separated from their kind, making mournful noises like the dove. These people are described as clothed in sackcloth and shaved bald, symbols of humiliation and shame in Middle Eastern cultures to this day (verses 16-18). In the bleak despair of the Great Tribulation, as the Day of the Lord approaches, they will finally come to view their money, which they had practically worshiped before, as worthless, unable to truly provide them with what they need, and they will toss it away (verse 19).

God says: "They were proud of their gold jewelry and used it to make vile and detestable idols [as they do even still]. That is why I will make all their wealth disgusting to them. I will give it as plunder to foreigners from the most wicked of nations, and they will defile it. I will hide my eyes as these robbers invade my treasured land and corrupt it" (verses 20-22, NLT). Again, this happened to a degree when ancient Jerusalem was invaded and plundered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It happened again when the Romans, imperial successors to the Babylonians, invaded Jerusalem in apostolic times. It will happen on the greatest scale, as primarily foretold in these verses, when Israel and Judah are both invaded and destroyed by the end-time revival of Rome and Babylon.

Finally, God orders that a chain be prepared (verse 23). Chains were used for binding criminals or enemy prisoners. Indeed, the surviving Israelites will be bound in chains and led away into slavery—just as the Jews experienced when Nebuchadnezzar's forces invaded Judah and centuries later when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. Recall also that the northern tribes were taken captive by the ancient Assyrians more than a century before Ezekiel's prophetic ministry. And lest this seem only the stuff of ancient history, we should remember Nazi Germany, in which multitudes of Jews were forced to toil in slave labor camps and vast numbers were led away to be exterminated. As horrifying as it is to contemplate, such days will come again, and are prophesied to be even worse.

People will turn to religious and civil leaders for help, but these will have no answers, not understanding the truth of God's Word (verse 26). They will have ignored the warnings prior to this. And now it will be too late. They will be judged according to what they deserve (verse 27). That would be a dire predicament for any of us. We all should deeply consider this and ask God to lead us to repent of our own sins now and receive God's merciful grace, before such judgment falls—and pray that others will recognize their own sins and repent as well. God's truth is available to us right now as we study His Word. Let's make good use of it.

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