The prophet Ezekiel is a contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah warns of coming calamity from inside Jerusalem, Ezekiel speaks similar messages among those already taken captive. Ezekiel 22 is a summary indictment of Judah and clearly displays the reason for God’s punitive actions.
* “Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood” (22:6).
* “Slanderous men have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood, and in you they have eaten at the mountain shrines. In your midst they have committed acts of lewdness” (22:9).
* “In you they have uncovered their fathers’ nakedness; in you they have humbled her who was unclean in her menstrual impurity. One has committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife and another has lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law. And another in you has humbled his sister, his father’s daughter” (22:10-11).
* “In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain by oppression, and you have forgotten Me” (22:12).
* “There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her” (22:25).
* “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane…and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (22:26).
* “Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain” (22:27).
* “Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken” (22:28).
* “The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice” (22:29).
Ezekiel 22:18-19 NAS95 18 “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are the dross of silver…all of you have become dross, therefore, behold, I am going to gather you into the midst of Jerusalem…I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you will be melted in the midst of it…” (22:18-19, 21).
This last observation reflects God’s futile attempt to avert the disaster. Isn’t there someone – anyone – who will stand for what is right, confront evil, defend the innocent and honor Jehovah’s laws? God laments: “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” (22:30). Not literally no one, for Jeremiah and his assistant, Baruch, were holding steady. But that’s it?! God is saying that there is not enough righteousness in Judah to spare the nation; the leaven is too weak to make the dough rise. Therefore, God earlier noted: “Even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves” (Ezk 14:14).
Those words should make every one of us sit up and take notice because, we too, live in a decadent, treacherous and godless society. As God examines our nation, does He identity me – you – as someone with enough courage to “stand in the gap”?
One of the main threads running throughout the tapestry of Scripture is the “remnant principle.” Regardless of the covenant, regardless of the time in history, only a sliver of humanity will choose to be on God’s side. And God has chosen to preserve the world (or a nation) and act benevolently for the sake of the few that seek righteousness.
Thus, long ago when “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5), and he sought a man to save the human race, He found only Noah.
And when God sought a man to lead His oppressed people out of Egyptian bondage, he found Moses.
And when God sought a cadre of men in a faithless age who would honor His Son, leave the comfort of their homes and careers and risk their lives to preach a despised and rejected message, He found a few unsophisticated Galileans who changed the face of the whole world.
Being recognized by God as a light in the world is an honor and being selected by Him to be a force for good is a privilege but be warned: It is also a terrible burden to bear. Noah was sentenced to 120 years of hard labor for his exemplary faith; Moses was stuck with a rebellious, ungrateful multitude for 40 years; the apostles were hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten and homeless, “reviled … persecuted … slandered … become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now” (1 Cor 4:11-13). Being part of God’s remnant is not for the fainthearted, for we are choosing to side with the minority. Noah, Moses and the apostles – and many others besides them – made such a choice.
What a legacy! Do we have the right stuff to follow in their footsteps? Can God depend on us to be true and faithful when, so few others are?