Ezekiel 23 Devotional
By Pastor Lawrence
Similar to the passage in Ezekiel chapter sixteen, once again the Lord uses a sexually explicit metaphor to describe the spiritual unfaithfulness of God’s people that leads them to break their covenant with the Lord. This time he describes Israel and Judah as two lewd sisters who play the whore on a number of occasions in search of security and prosperity from the surrounding nations. He refers to Israel as Oholah, which means “her tent,” and calls Judah Oholibah, which means “my tent is in her.” The similar sounding names are chosen to show just closely aligned these two nations were in terms of their sin. The only difference between the two is that the Lord had already brought judgment upon Israel having left her to her own devices and to her own tent. But the Lord’s tent, his holy place, was still in the midst of Judah in Jerusalem, though not for long.
Both women were impure when the Lord first betrothed them, for both had given themselves illicitly to Egypt having prostituted themselves on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, the Lord entered into a covenant of love with them and sought to bear a godly seed through them. It wouldn’t take long, though, before Oholah returned to her lascivious ways lusting after the finely dressed warriors of the Assyrian army all “clothed in purple” looking for protection under their mighty war machine. Thus instead of loving and trusting the Lord to protect and to provide for her, Oholah turned to a pagan nation and to its pagan gods. But the very thing that enticed Israel would be her undoing, for after getting into bed with Assyria, Oholah would not share in the royal robes of Assyria but would be stripped naked and shamed for her faithlessness and promiscuity. Instead of being loved by Assyria, she was despised by him and soon destroyed by his war machine.
Having witnessed all of this, her younger sister Oholibah ought to have gained some wisdom, but she not only fell into the same sin, she indulged in it with an even greater passion. Jerusalem would also sleep with the Assyrians for a time, but then we she saw the Babylonians she enticed them into her bed as well. She had merely seen pictures of the Babylonians on a wall and had sent messengers to bring them from far off to defile her all the more with their whoring lust. For she had fondly remembered her time in bed with Egypt and longed for the Babylonians to fondle her breasts all the more. The Lord describes her sexual appetite not merely in terms of having a plurality of men but even in desiring something more abominable, even bestial (see v.20). This is the type of language that the Lord uses to show just how immoral and unfaithful God’s people had really been. But as with any type of immorality, the highly anticipated moment of pleasure led only to grief and regret. Both Oholibah and Babylon despised one another after sleeping together.
And the Lord in his jealousy vowed to turn all of Oholibah’s lovers against her on every side to judge her in a manner even worse than that of her sister Oholah. Not only would she be stripped of her clothing like her sister but would be disfigured by her lovers having her ears and nose cut off by them. Not only would her children be taken from her, they would be burned in the fire. She would be forced to drink the cup of her sister down to the dregs, a cup of horror and desolation because of all her sin. She would be mocked and ridiculed for her lewdness and her unfaithfulness to her husband. Then in v.36, the Lord specifically calls upon the prophet to judge Jerusalem, to declare all her abominations including her adultery, idolatry and bloodshed as God makes her an object of terror for all to see.
There really isn’t any good news that can be found for the people of God in this particular chapter, for, here, God is pronouncing what all sinners rightly deserve: God’s jealous wrath and judgment. But it is only in light of passages such as these that we better understand the significance of the cross of Christ in bearing the sins of God’s people. For instead of parading the unfaithful wife through the city streets with her clothes stripped and her breasts torn, we see her husband bearing the wrath and fury of the Lord on the cross. He would drink the cup of terror instead of her. He would be mocked instead of her. He would receive the punishment for all her lewdness, all her lasciviousness and immorality. Eventually, the prophet Ezekiel will speak of the Christ to come who would bear her iniquities in such a marvelous ways, but for now, we are seeing what she rightly deserves and are getting a foretaste of the judgment to come through this temporary judgment that has come upon Jerusalem.