The 21st chapter of Ezekiel deals with the nation of Israel, which was not listening to and obeying God’s commands. It’s easy to read the Bible with the mindset that ancient Israel was another time, with people that have different problems than we do. Unfortunately, the United States has a lot in common with ancient Israel (as does most of the world today). The Israelites were not listening to God. While it may seem cool not to do what God wants at times, Ezekiel has a warning for all of those who refuse to listen: God judges nations that don’t listen to his warnings. Additionally, sometimes good people are hurt when judgements come. By studying Ezekiel, we can discover what might happen to us if we refuse to listen.
When People Refuse to Listen
God usually gives warnings before he sends judgement. Unfortunately, there comes a time when God’s patience runs out. By Ezekiel 21, God has had enough with warning the people. “Behold, I am against you” the Lord says to Israel (Ezekiel 21:1). The time for warnings was over. The people were fond of sin. Psalm 66:18 warns us not to love sin, because “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” Proverbs 28:9 tells us that when we turn away from hearing God’s commandments, even our “prayer is an abomination.” When Israel stopped listening to God and started chasing after sin, God stopped listening to them. Their prayers were abominable. There are still many people in the world today who claim to know the Lord, yet cling to their favorite sins and refuse to hear.
Even God’s People Can Get Hurt
There were still some people who followed the Lord, just like there are people who follow the Lord today. Unfortunately, God’s people can sometimes get hurt from the actions of the people around them. “I will cut off both righteous and wicked from you,” the Lord proclaimed in Ezekiel 21:3. Our sins don’t just hurt us. They hurt our families, our friends, and even our nation. Ask the innocent children of alcoholic or drug addicted parents; ask the victims of a drunk driver; sin hurts even the good people. In verses 6 and 7, Ezekiel was told to publicly mourn and sigh for the people who would not listen. Although he told them that judgement was coming, they continued to go about their daily business until the judgement came.
Chances to Repent Become Dim
The closer one gets to judgement, the fewer chances a nation has to repent. Even in this dark hour of Ezekiel’s day, could there have been repentance? Perhaps. The king of Babylon was marching with his armies to put down rebellion. This pagan king was trying to decide whether to march his army towards Israel or the rebellious Ammon in verse 21. He used various pagan means to decide: shaking arrows was something like our drawing straws today. He also consulted images to see if a spirit would direct him, and had his priests look at an animal’s liver to see where it would lead him. Although these practices seem a little strange today, we don’t always look to God for our direction. Some of us consult our horoscopes or ask others for advice rather than consulting God. As the pagan king had to make a choice of which land to attack, the chances of a happy ending were nearing an end, but Israel would not repent.
Respect for the Nation Was Over
Because the nation wouldn’t listen to God, the nation lost respect. God didn’t even refer to Israel’s king as king anymore; in verse 25, he calls Zedekiah a “wicked prince”. In verses 30-32, we see God’s promise to judge the nation and send them to the destroyer. Sin, and the failure to listen to God, would destroy their generation.
“Overturn, overturn, overturn” Ezekiel exclaims in verse 27. The three times he uses the phrase refers to the last three kings whose reigns were overthrown. After Zedekiah, there would be no more kings of Israel. The next king will be Jesus, who will return in the future.
We can learn a lot from ancient Israel. Many, even among those that claim to be Christians, will not turn to God today. The world is in chaos. America is losing respect with the world, and God’s protection seems to be melting away. We can’t count on Jesus to return before we start really hurting. We need to pray for the nation and the world. We need to listen to God and repent.