Friday Morning Devotion (Being Trouble)

1And the YHWH’s word came to me, saying,

2Human, set your gaze toward the people of Ammon and prophesy against them. 3And command the people of Ammon to hear YHWH’s word. This is the word of the Lord YHWH: “Since you said ‘Yay!’ toward my holy place because it was destroyed, and toward the land of Isarel, because it was devastated, and toward the house of Judah, because they have gone into exile, 4take a look! I’m going to give you to the people of the east as a possession, and they will set up their encampments among you and they will place their tents among you. They will eat your fruit and they will drink your milk. — Ezekiel 25:1-4

I thought I was going to leave Ezekiel today, but that didn’t happen! This passage has a double lesson, I think. The whole of Ezekiel 25 is given to prophecies against the nations that had rejoiced at the fall of Israel and Judah, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and the Philistines. Eventually we will also find judgment on those who actually invaded Israel and Judah, but here it is simply those who rejoiced at the fall of their neighbors.

I know that many of us when we were growing up (of course we would NEVER do it now as adults!) liked to find ways to get brothers and sisters or fellow-students into trouble. Even if we didn’t actually arrange it, we sometimes gloated when a rival got into trouble. When Jesus speaks of becoming like little children, that’s not the type of behavior he means!

Paul tells us that love doesn’t rejoice at evil or injustice (1 Corinthians 13:6). And of course there was no love between these four nations and Israel or Judah. They had been at war for years. But someone should quickly point out that the fall of Judah, of which Ezekiel was speaking primarily, was something God commanded. What exactly is the problem here?

Jesus tells us that offenses must come. Indeed, if we consider yesterday’s passage and devotional, God is probably using such offenses to grow us up and bring us closer to him. But Jesus adds, “Woe to the person by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:7)!

Ezekiel here introduces us to two important lessons about God’s discipline.

First, God will use various instruments to accomplish his discipline. If you are an annoying person, God may use you to bring many other Christians to maturity. But don’t get complacent. Some people think they have permission to be obnoxious, and because people need to hear what they have to say, they are certain that they are doing God’s will in saying it. And sometimes very annoying things need to be said. Just be sure you’re being commissioned by God when you do.

But there’s a second part here. Our passage is addressed to bystanders. Do you ever rejoice, even secretly, when someone else fails? Does it make you happy to see someone receive God’s judgment? If so, watch out. You may be falling into the sin of Israel’s neighbors, and their punishment was to disappear from history. Have you ever wondered why, of all the nations in and around Palestine in ancient times, Israel is the only one that still exists with an identity that traces back more than 3,000 years? There’s no Ammon, no Moab, no Edom, and not a Philistine in sight. There is a nation of Syria, but it is essentially an Arab nation, culturally unconnected to the Syrians of that period. The same is true of Egypt. It’s something to think about!

Second, however, is that God is in control. How do I get that from this chapter? It is simply that God doesn’t just exercise sovereignty over his special people, Israel and Judah. He exercises sovereignty over the world. He doesn’t just let anything happen. There are consequences for those who rejoice or laugh, or go further than they were called upon.

The time comes when instruments of destruction fall themselves (Jeremiah 51:1-58). It may not seem like it at the time, but God is entirely in control of what is going to happen, and he will put limits on it.

That’s something we can rejoice about!

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