“Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous."
The two chapters in focus today contain some of the most sexually graphic language in the entire Bible. If the Bible was made into a movie, this would be the part you would fast forward through and cover the screen, so your children wouldn’t see the imagery. Charles Spurgeon said of this section of Scripture: “a minister could scarcely ready it in public.” These passages are not meant to cultivate sexual appetites, but rather, to stir us up to see even more clearly the destructive and vile nature of our rebellion against God and to consider the sweet taste of his grace all the more. If you could summarize this sermon in one sentence, it would be: Our sin is far more destructive, horrendous, and perverse than we can imagine and God’s grace is far more glorious, good, and beautiful than we’ve ever dared to dream.
No matter how you view sin, it’s uglier.
God’s judgment is coming to God’s People and in the larger section surrounding the two passages today, his judgment is spelled out in more detail. God graciously communicates the reason for judgment–although he is not required to do so. He lovingly shares with his People the heinous nature of their sin and the judgment that was being exacted on them.
We tend to forget the weight of our sin. Small compromises over a long period of time can have a numbing effect on our conscience. Our ability to justify our sin becomes greater as we step further and further into disobedience. Sin beckons us to follow and says that life can be found in this pursuit, but we arrive on the other side of disobedience just to discover that we’ve lost a piece of ourselves in the process. The heart of our rebellion is this: True life is found apart from God. Whenever we sin, in a way, we declare to God that life is not found in him.
Ezekiel shows us that no matter how we view sin, it’s uglier. This ugliness is in us. Our rebellion has led us to take the good gifts God has provided and turned them into avenues of idolatry. Things that were meant to lead us to praise God and give him glory, we now use to worship another and glorify ourselves. Our sin is far more destructive, horrendous, and perverse than we can imagine–now matter how you view sin, it’s uglier.
No matter how you view grace, it’s greater.
There is an exposure that Israel is undergoing in these two passages of Ezekiel. Their perversion was being put on display by Ezekiel. He communicates through the metaphor of an unfaithful wife and through two promiscuous sisters, the vile nature of Israel’s idolatry and rebellion against God. As we descend into perhaps one of the darkest passages of sacred Scripture, we gain a greater vision of the grace that is on display in Jesus. In other words, the more we descend to the depths of the bad news, the more we see and savor the heights of the good news.
The chief means of our rebellion is the way by which God would infuse his life-giving power into our destruction and pain. As we look at the very center of history, the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are looking at a moment when our sin was on display. The deep and dark shame of our rebellion is fully represented on the cross. “It was my sin that held him there” is a line we all sing which speaks to the power of what was accomplished on the cross through Jesus. As Jesus took our shame on himself and carried this into the grave–he also took the life-giving power of God into the very depths of our destruction. God’s grace meets us at the very lowest and deepest point of our rebellion and sin. We are not left alone, even though this is what we deserve, but by Jesus, we are provided for, loved, cherished, purchased and made new.
As we walk through Lent together–this 40-day journey leading to Easter Sunday, be reminded that you are marked because of Jesus. You understand the reality that we are from dust and yet, because of the cross, our greatest shame becomes the way in which we give glory to God. When your life is found in Jesus, you rejoice in your weakness because then Jesus’ strength is really seen.
As John Calvin was facing death, he was lecturing through Ezekiel and he offered this prayer as he reflected on Chapter 23:
“Grant, Almighty God, since you have not only created us out of nothing, but have come down to create us again in your only begotten Son, and have taken us from the lowest depths, and come down to raise us to the hope of your heavenly kingdom–
Grant, I say, that we may not be proud or puffed up with excessive vanity; but may we embrace this favor with appropriate humility, and modestly submit ourselves to you, until we become partakers in the full of that glory which your only begotten Son has acquired for us. Amen.”
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?