Ezekiel 21 has the prophet attempting again to deliver the news that destruction is coming. “I am against you; and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked”. The usual way to travel from Babylon to Jerusalem was by a semi-circular route that avoided the Arabian desert by following the Euphrates River to the north-west then turning south towards Judah. Ezekiel paints that picture as he talks about destruction coming from the south to the north, but the people don’t get it. So he tries again to tell the story.
This time, he doesn’t talk about God’s destruction as fire, but rather as a sword. And God has him “groan with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan in their sight” as well. God wants Ezekiel’s story to not only get their attention, but connect with their emotions and make them realize this isn’t something to ignore. It is a message of urgency and discipline, and God wants His people to hear it clearly. Ezekiel is told how to respond when the people were questioning his grief. God says tell them “Because of the news that is coming; and every heart will melt, all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will be weak as water”.
Ezekiel does a great job acting out what God is planning to do. The Judeans had not listened earlier so God used a stick to discipline them, but now He would use a sword from Babylon to destroy them. It’s a strong punishment. The Babylonians are on their way and the king used three superstitious methods to determine which way to go: drawing lots (using arrows for lots), consulting idols, and looking into the liver of a sacrificed animal. It didn’t seem to cross his mind to seek God’s direction, or actually to listen to what Ezekiel has already told him.
Why is this happening? “Because you have made your iniquity 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 will be seized with the hand”. God was all their sins. That was why Jerusalem and the Judeans were doomed. And unfortunately we are in the same boat. Our sins will doom us if we don’t address them. The good news for us is that God sent Jesus Christ to the Cross to offer us a way to be freed from the penalty of our sin – a gift of grace which we can receive through repentance and relationship. In Ezekiel’s case, there was no repentance and God says “I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and I will give you into the hand of brutal men, skilled in destruction”. We can have a very different outcome if we’ll allow the blood of Jesus to cover our sin and we receive God’s grace through His death, burial and resurrection!