September 22: Ezek 25
September 22, 2010
Among the nations that Ezekiel singles out for attention in chapter 25 is Edom (25:12-14). 'Edom' or 'Seir' (25:8) was where Jacob's twin brother, Esau, went, and 'Edomites' is the Bible's name for Esau's descendants (Gen. 32:3). Following the siege of Jerusalem, Judah was powerless to prevent Edomite raids on southern towns and villages. It is this 'revenge' to which verse 12 refers. Obadiah adds that the Edomites even took advantage of Judeans who fled from the Babylonian armies (Obad. 14).
Ezekiel's prophecy warns that Edom's advantage is short lived. There will come a day when Judah will not only recapture its lost lands, but conquer Edom also. This appears to be a reference to the subduing of the Edomites by Judas Maccabaeus (the so-called 'Maccabaean Revolt') in 164 B.C. and John Hyrcanus, c.120 B.C. This was to be part of the Lord's 'vengeance' (25:14).
Vengeance is an important aspect of the covenant which the Bible is keen to stress (the word occurs five times in verses 14-17). Following the covenant renewal ceremonies on the plains of Moab, Israel was warned in clear terms: 'I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me' (Deut. 32:41); it was underlined later by Isaiah: 'For the Lord has a day of vengeance...' (Isa. 34:8; 61:2), and Jeremiah (Jer. 46:10; 50:28; 51:11). The 'vengeance of the covenant' is foretold in Leviticus 26:25 and expanded upon in verses 14-45, the broad truth being that God's saving work, the establishment of the covenant of grace, has two sides to it: God will save those who come to him through Jesus Christ; equally, to those who refuse to come, God will meet out the punishment that their sins deserve. It is something Paul is anxious to leave with God - we are not to take on this task ourselves (Rom. 12:19). Those within the covenant can expect to be chastised for disobedience. Those who remain unrepentant have no hope. They are a reminder to us of the need to persevere, yielding our lives as holy offerings to the Lord (cf. Heb. 12:1-14). God loves his people and will never forsake them, but he will chastise them when they fall into sinful ways. Those who abandon the Lord can expect only vengeance. It is a warning Jesus gave to an unbelieving Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).
And lest we think that this signals the debased morality system of the Old Testament, it finds expression the New Testament: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God" (Heb. 10:31).