It is a familiar message which the Lord has revealed to me, time and again, during my prayers, reminding me that when His judgement comes, no one will escape. The Lord spoke to me the Word of His grace through the five oracles of the sword in Ezekiel 21:1-32, which I now share with you.
The prophet Ezekiel faithfully delivered the first message from the Almighty God which was entrusted to him in v1-7, saying:
“The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuaries. Prophesy against the land of Israel and say to the land of Israel.” Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am against you and will draw my sword from its sheath and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked. Because I will cut off from you both righteous and wicked, therefore my sword shall be drawn from its sheath against all flesh from south to north. And all flesh shall know that I am the LORD. I have drawn my sword from its sheath; it shall not be sheathed again. As for you, son of man, groan; with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan before their eyes. And when they say to you, Why do you groan? you shall say, Because of the news that it is coming. Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming, and it will be fulfilled, declares the Lord GOD.”
In his obedience to God and in expressing his bitterness of grief and concern, the prophet Ezekiel carried out the commands of the Lord. He prophesied His Word against the inhabitants of the land of Israel: towards Canaan, the holy land; Jerusalem; the holy city and; the temple, the holy house of God. The first Word the Lord spoke to Ezekiel (vv1-7) indicate signs of sadness and calamities leading to universal judgement and destruction. Israel is privileged and honoured that our merciful God sent her prophets and prophecy; however, ungrateful Israel despised them and instead, turned against them. The ‘sword’ of v3 refers to Nebucchadnezzar and Babylonia, which when drawn and commissioned, “both righteous and wicked” will suffer. This indicates that no one will escape – both good and evil suffer in the common national calamities. It also speaks to the greatness of God’s displeasure against the land of Israel; and what the Lord has declared, He will fulfill.
In vv8-17, Ezekiel announced the second message from God:
“And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus says the Lord, say: A sword, a sword is sharpened and also polished, sharpened for slaughter, polished to flash like lightning! (Or shall we rejoice? You have despised the rod, my son, with everything of wood.) So the sword is given to be polished, that it may be grasped in the hand. It is sharpened and polished to be given into the hand of the slayer. Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people. It is against all the princes of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with my people. Strike therefore upon your thigh. For it will not be a testing–what could it do if you despise the rod?” declares the Lord GOD. “As for you, son of man, prophesy. Clap your hands and let the sword come down twice, yes, three times, the sword for those to be slain. It is the sword for the great slaughter, which surrounds them, that their hearts may melt, and many stumble. At all their gates I have given the glittering sword. Ah, it is made like lightning; it is taken up for slaughter. Cut sharply to the right; set yourself to the left, wherever your face is directed. I also will clap my hands, and I will satisfy my fury; I the LORD have spoken.”
Here, Ezekiel delivers the second message from God in a Hebrew poem, a song of the sword which is sharpened and polished to be given to the scepter of dominion, the Chaldean, against Judah (for God calls Judah, “My son”). The destroying sword of Babylon despises the scepter of Judah and every other nation, from the south to the north. Ezekiel was commanded to cry out to the inhabitants and governments of the land of His coming judgement against them; all of whom will fall in His wrath by His sword of justice. Whichever instruments God uses in executing his judgements, He will wield them with strength, courage, and fury, according to the needs of His purpose. The sword of the Lord will subject all to the ordeal of unsparing trial; men slain by violence and force, a fall from security and pride, a time of painful lamentation. After the sword executes the will of God and just vengeance is taken, the rage of the Lord shall cease.
The third oracle of the sword in vv18-24 reads:
“The word of the LORD came to me again: As for you, son of man, mark two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to come. Both of them shall come from the same land. And make a signpost; make it at the head of the way to a city. Mark a way for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites and to Judah, into Jerusalem the fortified.
For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination. He shakes the arrows; he consults the teraphim; he looks at the liver. Into his right hand comes the divination for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to open the mouth with murder, to lift up the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up mounds, to build siege towers. But to them it will seem like a false divination. They have sworn solemn oaths, but he brings their guilt to remembrance, that they may be taken. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have made your guilt to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear–because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand.”
In the third Word of judgement, Ezekiel was commanded by the Lord to announce to the exiles, the Ammonites of Rabbah and Judah of Jerusalem, of the coming sword against them. He was told to guide the army of the king of Babylon with signs to either strike the Ammonites at Rabbah or Judah in Jerusalem. Since many of the inhabitants of Judah had taken shelter in Jerusalem, the interests of the country were bound up there. Just as Ezekiel predicted, Nebuchadnezzar’s march was determined by divination and they proceeded to Jerusalem and besieged it. However, the Israelites (Judeans), who themselves swore oaths, were not moved to repentance. They rejected Ezekiel’s prophecy as false divination even though it reminded them of their guilt; and they were captured.
Ezekiel announced the fourth warning from God in vv25-27:
“And you, evil leader of Israel, you will be killed. Your time of punishment has come! The end is here! This is what the Lord GOD says: “Take off the turban! Take off the crown! The time has come to change. The important leaders will be brought low, and those who are not important now will become important leaders. I will completely destroy that city! But this will not happen until the right man becomes the new king. Then I will let him have this city.”
Turning from the general crowd, Ezekiel addressed Israel’s godless King Zedekiah and conveyed to him God’s judgement of destruction upon his kingdom, brought about by his faithless breach of oath. The monarchy is never to be restored, until it is forever in the hands of the Messiah. This appears to foretell the position of the Jewish nation to the present day, with the troubles of states and kingdoms as they make way for the establishment the Messiah’s kingdom on earth. The wisdom of the Lord leads all to adopt His grand designs as in the midst of the tremendous warnings of wrath, there is mercy of hope.
In the fifth oracle of the sword, the Lord told Ezekiel in vv28-32:
“Son of man, speak to the people for me. Say this, This is what the Lord GOD says to the people of Ammon and their shameful god: “‘Look, a sword! The sword is out of its sheath. It has been polished. The sword is ready to kill. It was polished to flash like lightning! Your visions are useless. Your magic will not help you. It is only a bunch of lies. The sword is now at the throats of evil men. They will soon be only dead bodies. Their time has come. The time has come for their evil to end. Put the sword back in its sheath. Babylon, I will judge you in the place where you were created, in the land where you were born. I will pour out my anger against you. My anger will burn you like a hot wind. I will hand you over to cruel men. Those men are skilled at killing people. You will be like fuel for the fire. Your blood will flow deep into the earth–people will never remember you again. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
Ezekiel took up the Song of the Sword, this time directed against the Ammonites: for their sins, for their reproach of Israel in the day of her afflictions, for watching Jerusalem’s destruction with insulting delight. The diviners of the Ammonites made false prophecies of victory, but they would never recover their power and in time, be wholly forgotten. For Judah there is yet hope, but for Ammon, irremediable ruin.
Our unchanging, sovereign God is the same yesterday, today and forever. As we remember our God whose love is unending and unfailing, let us also remember that He is holy, righteous and just. Psalm 7:11-13 reminds us that: “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.”
Isaiah 30: 9-11 further reminds us of how God see His rebellious people: “These people are like children who refuse to obey. They lie and refuse to listen to the LORD’S teachings.” They tell the prophets, “Don’t see dreams about things we should do. Don’t tell us the truth. Say nice things to us and make us feel good. See only good things for us. Stop seeing things that will really happen. Get out of our way. Stop telling us about the Holy One of Israel.”
The Lord is gracious, compassionate and merciful (Exodus 34:6) to those who are sincere even if they are immature in their faith. Jesus is ready to forgive any who will run to Him and not away from Him. His kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
May the grace and mercy of the Lord grant us faith, obedience, discernment, godly wisdom and understanding of His Word and His Truth as His glory unfolds in our lives.
Amen and Amen!