Ezekiel 33 & Psalm 81-82

Ezekiel 33

    The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.

    “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

    “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

    “And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

    “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”

    In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, a fugitive from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has been struck down.” Now the hand of the LORD had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came; and he had opened my mouth by the time the man came to me in the morning, so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute.

    The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, the inhabitants of these waste places in the land of Israel keep saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he got possession of the land; but we are many; the land is surely given us to possess.’ Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: You eat flesh with the blood and lift up your eyes to your idols and shed blood; shall you then possess the land? You rely on the sword, you commit abominations, and each of you defiles his neighbor's wife; shall you then possess the land? Say this to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: As I live, surely those who are in the waste places shall fall by the sword, and whoever is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in strongholds and in caves shall die by pestilence. And I will make the land a desolation and a waste, and her proud might shall come to an end, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that none will pass through. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations that they have committed.

    “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. When this comes—and come it will!—then they will know that a prophet has been among them."

(Ezekiel 33 ESV)

Psalm 81

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. Of Asaph.

    Sing aloud to God our strength;
        shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
    Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
        the sweet lyre with the harp.
    Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
        at the full moon, on our feast day.
    For it is a statute for Israel,
        a rule of the God of Jacob.
    He made it a decree in Joseph
        when he went out over the land of Egypt.
    I hear a language I had not known:
    “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
        your hands were freed from the basket.
    In distress you called, and I delivered you;
        I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
        I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
    Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
        O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
    There shall be no strange god among you;
        you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
    I am the LORD your God,
        who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
        Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
    “But my people did not listen to my voice;
        Israel would not submit to me.
    So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
        to follow their own counsels.
    Oh, that my people would listen to me,
        that Israel would walk in my ways!
    I would soon subdue their enemies
        and turn my hand against their foes.
    Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
        and their fate would last forever.
    But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
        and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

(Psalm 81 ESV)

Psalm 82

A Psalm of Asaph.

    God has taken his place in the divine council;
        in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
    “How long will you judge unjustly
        and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
    Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
        maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
    Rescue the weak and the needy;
        deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
    They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
        they walk about in darkness;
        all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
    I said, “You are gods,
        sons of the Most High, all of you;
    nevertheless, like men you shall die,
        and fall like any prince.”
    Arise, O God, judge the earth;
        for you shall inherit all the nations!

(Psalm 82 ESV)

The following is taken from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God series...


EZEKIEL 33 MARKS A TURNING POINT in the book. Chapters 33—37 record ora- cles related to the fall of Jerusalem. Although the warnings and calls for repen- tance continue, one now hears a rising note of comfort. As long as the exiles found it difficult to believe that Jerusalem could fall, Ezekiel was full of warning. Once the fall has taken place, God in his mercy gives Ezekiel words that will comfort the exilic community, nurture their faith, and steel their minds and wills.

Before that turning point arrives, the first half of the chapter returns to a theme first introduced in 3:16-21: Ezekiel the watchman. The theme returns because Ezekiel now begins a new phase in his ministry. In a sense, he is being recom- missioned. At the same time, the news he is about to deliver regarding the fall of Jerusalem provides the people with a new opportunity to repent and trust God. So the first half of the chapter (33:1-20) divides naturally into these two themes. On the one hand, God reminds the prophet of his awful responsibility as a watch- man (33:1-9). He is committed to standing somewhat apart from his fellow exiles. He must keep a vigil, listen to God, and proclaim faithfully what God tells him to say, warning of judgments to come and eliciting faith in God’s faithfulness. On the other hand, the people are called to respond to the watchman’s warnings (33:10- 20). They are neither to trust their own righteousness nor to slide into fatalism. The appropriate response is always to heed God’s watchman, for God himself is the One who declares, “As surely as I live . . . I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (33:11).

So the news arrives: Jerusalem has fallen (33:22). Ezekiel is now released from the silence God earlier imposed: he can converse openly and can say things other than what was given to him as a prophet. But all that he says in the rest of this chapter are more words from the Lord. He has two themes. (a) Regarding the peo- ple left among the ruins of Jerusalem, they are ever the optimists. They think they will reestablish themselves, even though they have not renounced their sins. So God will continue his chastening until there is only desolation, so that they will learn that he is the Lord (33:23-29). (b) As for the exiles whom Ezekiel addresses directly, they have learned to enjoy listening to him, as one enjoys listening to a gifted orator—but they have not learned to repent.

Where are the closest analogies to such stances today?