When the people of Israel had gone so far from God that He could tolerate their sins no longer, He promised judgment upon His people. It wasn’t just because of whatever unbelievers there may have been in the land, it was because those who were supposed to represent Him had turned their hearts away. Throughout the writings of the prophets, we see that it was the leaders of Israel and the holy men who decided pagan gods were more worthy of worship than the One true God. Because these men should have known better, since they were learned and knew the Scriptures more than anyone, when they spurned Yahweh, He called them out for special judgment.
In Ezekiel 14 the Lord has the prophet address the elders, the men of authority who had taken their idols into their hearts (Ezekiel 14:3). This sin angered God since it caused these men to lay the idols as a stumbling block before the rest of the people. In other words, the transgressions of the elders caused those who followed them to likewise sin. To top it off, they consulted false prophets asking for a Word from the Lord. God told them to repent, for these iniquities were bringing punishment upon all parties: leaders, prophets, and the entire house of Israel.
The infidelity of Israel throughout every strata of society left Yahweh with no alternative. Ezekiel 14:12-14 reports:
And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God.”
As He often did, God decreed certain punishments that He would send to cause affliction upon the unfaithful. One thing we see is that the Lord had three main judgments He inevitably brought, but He also had a couple more in reserve. The first noted above is famine. This always causes great hardship. Surely God does this so that some people will realize that only He can provide the bread of life.
The other two primary means of afflicting His people were by the sword and pestilence. Ezekiel 14:17,19 describe these in this instance. War and plague of some nature tore down society and weakened it to the point of surrender. That capitulation might be to the foreign power coming against the nation or in the personal life of someone who comes to understand how weak and broken he is.
In this case where God is pronouncing judgment, He also unleashed wild beasts (Ezekiel 14:15). How awful that a person couldn’t turn around without the fear of being devoured by a wolf, lion, or bear! Is there an antidote for fear? Yes, only the Lord.
The final judgment, not noted directly in our text today was captivity. Once God sent hostile invaders into Israel and they overcame the nation’s defenses, the attacking army often removed the people from the land to live in a strange and alien place. Home becomes a distant memory.
God makes a declaration in these various verses in Ezekiel 14 that brings one mini ray of hope. He speaks of Noah, Daniel, and Job. Note what He says above: even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness. The fact that they were righteous in God’s eyes is the redeeming factor for them, even in the midst of great judgment. He repeats this several times: faithful Noah, Daniel, and Job are the ones whom God would deliver even within great affliction.
But then God goes further in bringing this tiny hope. He says in Ezekiel 14:21-22:
“For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! But behold, some survivors will be left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out; behold, when they come out to you, and you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, for all that I have brought upon it.”
God speaks here of a remnant, survivors from the terrible judgment that He will deliver. They will be brought out as an encouragement and consolation.
Isn’t it just like God to give His people a Word that shows His love and care for them? When all seems lost, when spiritual darkness has overtaken the land because the hearts of the people are far from Him, yet for those who continue to serve and honor the Lord, He makes a way. There is always a remnant whom He saves.
So it will be with us in these current times. The world en masse has spurned God. It follows pagan gods, places idols before Him, and worships self. Mankind has reached the tipping point where there is no possibility of God relenting from the punishment He must bring upon this unbelieving world.
But just like in the past, there is a believing remnant, those of us who have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. He will deliver us and no others. Once He removes us then He will lower the hammer. The judgments He has pronounced will include the sword, famine, and pestilence. I have no doubt He will also release wild beasts to torment the unfaithful and cause many to go into captivity.
It’s a bleak picture that the Bible paints for the future. Thankfully, our escape from these horrors is in the Person of Jesus. It is because of His shed blood and our trusting in Him that we have hope. He died for us to take away our sins. He rose from the dead to demonstrate that we will likewise rise to join Him in glory. He is coming back in the clouds to snatch us from this alien landscape and then to the earth once more where He will bring an end to unrighteousness.
Jesus is our one true and only hope in these last days. Thank you, Lord, for showing us the way!