Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 26 2019 - Ezekiel 16:1-22 – Unfaithful Jerusalem

These verses describe God's relationship with Jerusalem in terms of a story of an abandoned baby. The baby was born of parents who did not worship the living God and was left to die in its own blood. The Lord pictures himself as a man passing by who saw the baby and said "Live". He took the child and cared for her. When she was grown to adulthood, the Lord says, "I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine (v. 8 – remember Ruth asking Boaz to cover her with his cloak). The Lord speaks of himself as having clothed his bride in the finest of garments and jewellery and providing her with the finest of food until she "became very beautiful and rose to be a queen" (v. 13). Her beauty became famous among the nations.

The city of Jerusalem had been occupied by other nations worshipping other gods before God enabled David's army to capture it and make it his capital city. The Lord blessed David and enabled him to bring the tabernacle to Jerusalem. The Lord then enabled David's son, Solomon, to build a temple for the Lord to house the Ark of the Covenant. The temple was, in symbolic terms, the house of God, the place where he dwelt among his people. So Jerusalem became "the city of the Great King", and, in the words of Psalm 48, "the joy of the whole earth". God made a covenant with David that he would bless David's descendants and would dwell with them if only they would obey him.

But now the story of the Lord's marriage with the child he has raised from death to be his beautiful queen goes very wrong. In the parable of Ezekiel's prophecy, the beautiful woman abandons her husband and turns to prostitution. She has her beautiful gold and silver jewellery melted down and made into idols for her to worship. Even her children are sacrificed to her idols. She did not remember the one who had rescued her from death and lavished his love on her.

This dramatic story is a reflection of the history of Jerusalem, its kings, residents and the nation of Judah. They had turned from devotion to the Lord to the worship of idols. They had even brought idols into the temple of God. Later in this awful chapter of Ezekiel, the Lord refers to Jerusalem's two sisters, Samaria to the north and Sodom to the south (v. 46). Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom had been swept away into captivity many years earlier by the Assyrians. Sodom was destroyed by God in the days of Abraham for its wickedness. These three cities have now been grouped together as sisters. Jerusalem, once the glorious city where God lived amongst his people, had become like Sodom. It's a shocking picture, designed to bring the exiles to repentance.

The Lord Jesus is called the bridegroom of his people – by John the Baptist in John 3:29, by Jesus himself in Mark 2:19-20, by Paul in Ephesians 5:25-33 and in the wonderful imagery of Revelation 19:6-10 which speaks of "the marriage supper of the Lamb". The Lord Jesus looked upon us wallowing and dying in our own mess, if I can use for a moment the graphic language of Ezekiel. He looked upon us and said, "Live". More than that, he gave himself for us that we might have life.

From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy Bride;
With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

He has decked us in the glorious dress of his own righteousness and has raised us up to share his throne. How shall we respond to all of this? Surely we cannot offer him anything less than the absolute and exclusive devotion of our lives. Surely we need to take care to keep ourselves from idols, to resist and to turn away from anything that would draw us away from devotion to him.

Living and triune God, thank you for saving us and making us your own. By your Spirit, fill us with a deep sense of your love for us and fill us with such heartfelt love for you that we may not be drawn away by the idols which fascinate and preoccupy the world around us. Help us also by your Spirit to urge others to come and discover the riches and blessing of belonging to the Lamb.

Peter Misselbrook