The word of the Lord came to me: 2 ”Son of man, set your face toward the Ammonites and prophesy against them. 3 Say to the Ammonites, Hear the word of the Lord God: Thus says the Lord God, Because you said, ‘Aha!’ over my sanctuary when it was profaned, and over the land of Israel when it was made desolate, and over the house of Judah when they went into exile, 4 therefore behold, I am handing you over to the people of the East for a possession, and they shall set their encampments among you and make their dwellings in your midst. They shall eat your fruit, and they shall drink your milk. 5 I will make Rabbah a pasture for camels and Ammon[a] a fold for flocks. Then you will know that I am the Lord.6 For thus says the Lord God: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel, 7 therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand against you, and will hand you over as plunder to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and will make you perish out of the countries; I will destroy you. Then you will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 25:1-7
Ezekiel is a little dark. I typically love to hang out in Isaiah because it talks so much about freedom and God turning bad things into good things, but I’m learning to love Ezekiel. Why??? Well, I heard Matt Chandler say that good news is good news because it comes in the face of, or as an answer to bad news. You don’t have cancer is good news when you’ve come face to face with the possibility (or the reality) of having cancer. Your debt has been paid is good news because it’s in the face of the bad news that you have debt. Ezekiel has a lot of bad news: Ezekiel is told to foretell the coming judgment of Israel. It’s painful. It’s dark. If you stick with it though, there is good news, too. I love Ezekiel 36 because it talks about how God plans to restore his people – great news!, all the more so because it’s in the face of so much bad news.
I am digressing, or I’m getting ahead of myself, I’m not sure which. At least I am off point. I wanted to talk about what I read this morning though, and that’s Ezekiel 25.
At this point in the book, Ezekiel has been told by God to prophesy against Israel. He is to warn them of all the bad is to come their way because they profaned God and the Holy (see Ez. 24:13, for one). They were sinful and refused to be clean from their sins. God’s judgment on Israel, however, is very clearly always intended to restore Israel, to cleanse them from their sins and help them return to God.
In Ezekiel 36, as I’ve already mentioned, Ezekiel prophesies that there will be a restoration of Israel to their God, so His judgment against them is ultimately fruitful. But that is Israel – and as God’s chosen people, they are a little bit different.
In Ezekiel 25, we see God’s judgment against other nations. Ezekiel speaks against several other nations in this chapter, and it’s not because they are unclean and disobeying God’s law (God’s law wasn’t given to them). Neither is His judgment an act of discipline for the sake of restoration. They were not his chosen people to begin with.
When Ezekiel speaks out against the other nations (as the voice of God), he explains the reasons why. There are two main reasons in Chapter 25: they gloated over Israel’s fall (the nation of Ammon in 25:1-7); they took revenge on Israel (Moab Seir 25:8-11, Edom 25:12-14, Philistia 25:15-14).
The one that gets me is Ammon. Ammon delighted to see Israel and God’s Holy places fall to sin and judgment. They may not have caused it, but they gloried in it just the same. And it made. God. Furious. He treated them just the same as He did the other nations who actually acted out against Israel and did them harm.
I’d love to think of this as just an Old Testament thing, but I don’t think it is.
I mean, that’s not to say that the nation of Ammon, or some guy named Ammon needs to be sure they don’t mock Israel. I think it’s bigger than that. I there’s a message here for me and you—and it has to do with our hearts.
How often do we see some pastor and deep down, we think he’s a fraud, a phony, an ego-maniac, or too spiritual or too good to be true…? We sit back and judge…and wait. And then, as often happens, if/when he falls publically, we rejoice and sneer and feel confirmed in our suspicions. “See, I knew something was wrong with that guy.”
The thing is, something was wrong with that guy, BUT, something was wrong with us, too. Our hearts were displeasing to God, full of judgment and hate.
It’s not that we shouldn’t have wisdom and discernment, but that we should also have love and hope. 1 Corinthians 13, right? The love chapter? Does that ring any bells? Love hopes all things and never fails. Love looks for and hopes for the best. Love looks at Israel (insert God’s people) and grieves that she doesn’t repent and turn to God on her own. Love groans when God has to step in and cleanse his chosen, because His beloved people won’t clean themselves. Love never rejoices when God has to step in with discipline, on the contrary, it aches to see the discipline was necessary. Love prays for restoration and hopes for the best—for the restoration/return of God’s people, for God’s name to be honored.
God destroyed the Ammonites (v 7). He spoke against them even before the other nations who actually acted out against Israel. Why? Because God’s main concern is our hearts. The Ammonites may not have raised a finger against Israel, but they “rejoiced with all the malice within [their souls].” And that was as big an offense as those who physically harmed Israel.
Let us not follow in their steps. Let us love as God loves, rejoicing in the purity and holiness of Him and His people, sorrowing as our very Father does when they fall, grieving when those who claim His name don’t live up to it. Let us pray for them. Let us be anxious to see them restored and repent when we find ourselves gloating in their failures.
After all, this is all about God’s name, not about theirs or ours. To HIM be all glory and honor, forever. Amen.