Ezekiel 9 & Psalm 48

Ezekiel 9

    Then he cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying, “Bring near the executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.” And behold, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his weapon for slaughter in his hand, and with them was a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist. And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar.

    Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist. And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house. Then he said to them, “Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out.” So they went out and struck in the city. And while they were striking, and I was left alone, I fell upon my face, and cried, “Ah, Lord GOD! Will you destroy all the remnant of Israel in the outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?”

    Then he said to me, “The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice. For they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see.’ As for me, my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will bring their deeds upon their heads.”

    And behold, the man clothed in linen, with the writing case at his waist, brought back word, saying, “I have done as you commanded me.”

(Ezekiel 9 ESV)

Psalm 48

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

    Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
        in the city of our God!
    His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
        is the joy of all the earth,
    Mount Zion, in the far north,
        the city of the great King.
    Within her citadels God
        has made himself known as a fortress.
    For behold, the kings assembled;
        they came on together.
    As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
        they were in panic; they took to flight.
    Trembling took hold of them there,
        anguish as of a woman in labor.
    By the east wind you shattered
        the ships of Tarshish.
    As we have heard, so have we seen
        in the city of the LORD of hosts,
    in the city of our God,
        which God will establish forever. Selah
    We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
        in the midst of your temple.
    As your name, O God,
        so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
    Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
        Let Mount Zion be glad!
    Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
        because of your judgments!
    Walk about Zion, go around her,
        number her towers,
    consider well her ramparts,
        go through her citadels,
    that you may tell the next generation
        that this is God,
    our God forever and ever.
        He will guide us forever.

(Psalm 48 ESV)

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


IF EZEKIEL 8 DESCRIBES THE CORRUPT worship that was going on in Jerusalem in the years leading up to her destruction in 587 B.C., Ezekiel 9 describes something of what God does about it.

There is both a negative component and a positive element. In his vision, Ezekiel hears God call for “the guards of the city” (9:1)—more precisely, the exe- cutioners of the city. Six men arrive, “each with a deadly weapon in his hand” (9:2). A seventh man, clothed in linen, has a writing kit at his side. God com- missions him to put an identifying mark on the foreheads of those who will escape slaughter; he commissions the executioners to go through the city “and kill, with- out showing pity or compassion” (9:5), beginning at the sanctuary itself. “So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple” (9:6).

As they proceed with their grisly task, Ezekiel cries out, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?” (9:8). The Lord responds with a devastating indictment (9:9-10) that includes a word-play: the people of Israel insist the Lord does not “see” (or “look”), so the Lord resolves not to “see/look” on them with pity or spare them. He is resolved to “bring down on their own heads what they have done” (9:10).

The positive element has already been alluded to. Not everyone is destroyed. The seventh man, the man with the writing kit, goes through the city putting a mark on the foreheads “of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it” (9:4). The executioners are strictly forbidden to harm these people (9:5). Note well: those who are spared are not those who simply sit on the sidelines, but those who actively grieve over the spiritual degradation of the city. They may not have the power to effect change, but they have not sunk into the lassitude of careless indifference. And God spares them.

Of course, all that is described here takes place within Ezekiel’s visionary world. In the real world, we are not to think that all the righteous and only the righteous escaped all of the sufferings associated with Nebuchadnezzar’s siege: the Bible is full of stories in which righteous people suffer (e.g., Naboth the vineyard owner). What this vision does mean is that God himself ordains the judgment, and God himself vindicates those who are covenantally faithful. Similar symbol- ism is picked up at the end of Revelation 13 and the beginning of Revelation 14 (see vol. 1, meditation for December 23).