We continue looking at different examples of God’s provision and care in The Book of Ezekiel. In our previous episode, we explored God as father and God as the head of an enterprise. Now we move to discussing God as husband to the nation of Israel. What is our response to the ways God cares for us? He does not want us to be an adulterous people. He wants us to be conformed to the image of Christ.
So we’ve seen God as the father, and he wants his children to be constructive and not to be destructive to themselves. We’ve seen God as the manager of a great enterprise, and he wants his people in his enterprise to be useful.
God as Israel’s husband
And now we’re going to see God as the husband.
I have a friend who had been married for some period of time and found that his wife had been cheating on him. A friend sent a tape, and he had to listen to this tape that proved it. And he was so hurt. It was so visceral to him that this had happened. It was a catastrophically emotional experience because, why? Why would that be so difficult? You love your wife, and she chose somebody else. And I’ve been rejected and betrayed.
Well, that’s how God feels.
Chapter 16. Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: “Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.
Now, if we said something like that, I think we would be—There’s this, “Your mama. Your mama was a—” I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. This is a family heritage description.
As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.
No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.
What’s the picture here? Unwanted child. I mean this is a really—how could you be any more unwanted than this? Nobody cuts your umbilical cord. That means nobody even cares to be there at the birth. I mean, let’s just get this over with. Nobody picks it up. Nobody swaddles it in cloth. Nobody even washes the blood off. Just throw it out in the field. What’s going to happen to a newborn baby out in a field? You’re going to die pretty quick.
That’s the nation of Israel.
And you know the history of the nation of Israel. You can see—I mean one old man and one old woman with one child in a foreign land walking around. And, how many times—it was so fragile that the nation ever even came together. It was only God’s provision that caused it to grow up.
There’s no nation if they don’t go to Egypt because you can’t have a nation build in a grazing culture. It’s just far too diverse.
Verse 6. “And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’
I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew—pubic hair—but you were naked and bare.
“When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love—Your time to get married.
So you grew. You became sexually mature. I married you.
so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness.
In the Bible, marriage is two people having sex. That’s what marriage is. We in our culture have gotten messed up about this, that it’s some ceremony. People have sex together for a long period of time and then they decide let’s go get married. That’s not a biblical use of the term.
Having sex is marriage.
And Jesus said to the woman at the well, you said right. You’ve got five husbands; and you’re with somebody else now.
The Bible speaks very plainly about this. It’s not bashful at all because this is what marriage is. He’s marrying Israel.
Yes, I swore an oath to you—I said my vows— and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord God.
Verse 9 “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil.
I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin—that’d be a luxury—I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk.
I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck.
And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head.
Not only has this child gone from being just thrown in the field, now the child is raised, now the king of the universe has married the child, and has become a beautiful wife, made it beautiful and wealthy and immensely cared for, a treasured wife.
You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty.
Verse 14. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,”—which I had bestowed on you—says the Lord God.
“But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.
This isn’t just one affair. It’s multiple adulteries. And not just on a few people, on anybody passing by.
You took some of your garments and adorned multicolored high places for yourself, and played the harlot on them.
Some of the luxuries I gave you, you use those carnally with other men.
You have also taken your beautiful jewelry from My gold and My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images and played the harlot with them.
You made sex toys out of this stuff and did it on yourself.
This is really gross imagery.
You took your embroidered garments and covered them, and you set My oil and My incense before them.
Also My food which I gave you—the pastry of fine flour, oil, and honey which I fed you—you set it before them as sweet incense—to these other gods.
“Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured.
One of the grossest of all the pagan practices was child sacrifice. They’re actually sacrificing their children, burning them to Moloch.
—you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?
Verse 22. And in all your abominations and acts of harlotry you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, struggling in your blood.
“Then it was so, after all your wickedness—‘Woe, woe to you!’ says the Lord God that you also built for yourself a shrine, and made a high place for yourself in every street.
You built your high places at the head of every road, and made your beauty to be abhorred. You offered yourself to everyone who passed by, and multiplied your acts of harlotry.
You also committed harlotry with the Egyptians, your very fleshly neighbors, and increased your acts of harlotry to provoke Me to anger.
“Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you—
Israel’s doing harlotry with people who hate her.
One of the greatest examples I’ve seen of this in our culture comes from a book called Bringing Down the House. Bringing Down the House is about some MIT students, Asian MIT students, who figured out how to beat the odds in Las Vegas.
In Las Vegas, if they see you’re card counting, meaning you’re flipping the odds against them where you’re going to win, they ban you from the place. And they can tell you’re doing that when you vary your bets. They say if you’re good enough to beat us, then you can’t play. That ought to tell you something about that place.
And so what these guys did—and in there it was typical for Asians to come over with large amounts of money and leave it there with them. So large bets from Asians were typical. So these Asian guys, what they did is they got some—it was actually a mix. The Asian guys were the ones that actually did the betting. There were other guys that would—
So they had all these card counters, and when a deck got hot, they would have a signal. And somebody would always be betting high, but they would move from deck to deck so that they wouldn’t be detected. And they just raked in millions doing this.
Well the book also, as it’s telling you about this scheme to flip the odds on Las Vegas, it also tells you a lot about Las Vegas culture. And there’s this episode where this ghost writer who is writing the story on behalf of one of the participants in this charade goes to a strip club. And he’s talking to a lap dancer. So there’s this girl sitting on his desk. He says, you know, about halfway through the interview, his legs are falling asleep because he’s got this woman sitting on them—topless woman—and she’s like 24 or 25. And he’s interviewing her for the book.
And he finds out that she used to be in one of the premium clubs. This is like a second-tier club. But she’s now like 24, so she’s too old for the premium clubs. She’s had to come down a notch.
And he asked her—and she was a call girl for a while; but, you know, just didn’t really like that too much. And he asked her, do you like this job?
She thinks for a minute and says, well, I like money. If I was anywhere else, I’d be a checker in a grocery store or something, and I wouldn’t have as nice a car and as nice a house. But, you know, I’ll tell you this, every one of these men that walked through the door, we smile at them, and we perform for them, and we take their money; but we hate them. We hate every one of them. Everybody comes to Vegas with their greed thinking they’re going to take something from us, but we take it from them. And we just don’t grind them into the dust so much that they don’t come back. And we turn their own greed on them.
Well that’s a nice exhibit of love and human harmony, togetherness, happiness, right? That’s really living!
It’s really dying. It’s death. It’s people that hate one another interacting and extracting from each other and sucking each other dry.
That’s what Israel’s been doing. And their punishment is I’m going to withdraw my husbandly protection from you, and I’m going to let you go live with your boyfriend. And they’re going to tear your clothes off, and they’re going to beat you, and they’re going to sell your clothes, and then they’re going to throw you out; and you can go to your next boyfriend that didn’t like you. And they’re going to beat you and take advantage of you too. And I’m going to let you have what you want.
Verse 31. “You erected your shrine at the head of every road, and built your high place in every street. Yet—I’m going to give you a little break here—you were not like a harlot, because you scorned payment.
At least the girl in the club got paid.
No, you are an adulterous wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband.
Men make payment to all harlots, but you made your payments to all your lovers—You’re worse than a harlot! At least harlots get paid! But you’re paying them!
Verse 34. You are the opposite of other women in your harlotry, because no one solicited you to be a harlot. In that you gave payment but no payment was given you, therefore you are the opposite.”
‘Now then, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord!
Thus says the Lord God: “Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them, surely, therefore, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved, and all those you hated; I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness.
So you can have sex with them all you want to, but this time it’s going to be rape.
And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy.
I will also give you into their hand—
Israel is going to be judged as harlotry would be judged in the Old Testament except instead of stoning her, he’s just going to give her over to these lovers without his protection.
You can see here the visceral reaction that God has for his people.
Is this limited to the nation of Israel? Turn to James 4. James, of course, is half-brother of Jesus, the head of the Jerusalem church. He’s writing his book to a Jewish audience, a Jewish believing audience. They would know these images and pictures well. But we’re now in the era of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
And he says this in chapter 4: Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure—Does this sound like an idol in the heart? —that war in your members?
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Does this sound familiar? If you come before me with an idol in your heart, am I going to listen to you and grant your request? Of course not! I’m not a father that aids self-destruction.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
See the Spirit is lusting against the flesh, and the flesh is lusting against the Spirit. Lust is a strong, passionate desire for something.
We tend to always have a negative connotation for that because we’re usually lusting for something that’s bad for us. But you can lust for something good too. And the Spirit is lusting against the flesh.
What are they lusting for? They’re lusting for us. The Spirit wants us to choose the Spirit to walk in; and the flesh wants us to choose the flesh to walk in. And the flesh wants us to live in the world and be comfortable with the world and be a part of the world; and the Spirit wants us to come away from the world and separate ourselves from the world and live unto God as a priest and as a king, a servant king.
And what we want to do is walk in the middle and have a little bit of both, the best of each. And that’s not possible. It’s one or the other. And when we choose the world, we’re choosing adultery.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud—
Does that sound like an idol in your heart?
—But gives grace, favor, to the humble.”
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil—this flesh and this world, that’s part of the devil’s kingdom—and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Lament and mourn and weep!
There was a tremendous lamenting for what has happened here. God doesn’t like this judgment. God doesn’t like the discipline. He doesn’t prefer it. He does it because it’s required to get us to do something that’s in our best interest.
Better for us to lament and turn.
Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Take all this thing, this pleasure, that’s making you happy, and see what it really is. It’s self-destruction.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
God is a father and really wants us to have what’s in our best interest. He wants just to grow up and become who he made us to be.
He’s the manager of a huge enterprise; he wants us to be useful. He actually wants us to grow up and be servant-kings and help him manage the enterprise. But if we’re not going to do what he asks us to do, we’re just like a grapevine. You can’t even make a peg to hang a shirt on.
And he’s our husband, and he wants us to have intimacy with him and him alone. He wants us to be a faithful wife, one that interacts with him and talks with him and as a part of his team and is a partner with him and who returns his love, his unending love.
He doesn’t want us to be an adulterer. When we go out and do as the world says to do, if we follow the world’s ways, then we’re an adulterer.
But just as he tells Israel, repent now and return. I’ll exile you if I have to. But turn now even to the last minute, he’s telling them. Turn, and I’ll take you back.
And even in the exile he says I’m doing this for your own good that you’ll come back to me.
It’s God’s goal that we be conformed to the image of Christ. He would like for us to choose the pain of following the path of obedience because that is actually the least painful route with the maximum benefit. But if we insist on going the world’s way and all the destruction that comes with that, he’ll still teach us; but it’s a massive amount of pain and loss.
We could have had intimacy with our father. We could have had advancement in this wonderful enterprise. We could have had this immense relationship with God.
And all these things have an impact on us now. And when we stand before his throne in judgment, there’s going to be weeping and loss when we realize what we could have had.
This life is a tiny little wisp of vapor of time, and it’s the only chance we get to know God by faith. And once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. And all the potential benefits of it with it. Let’s embrace that time.
By faith, let’s be faithful wives. By faith let’s be incredibly productive members of this enterprise, and let’s be obedient children.