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  1. An Unfruitful Vine (15:1-8)
  2. An Unfaithful Wife (16:1-63)
  3. Two Foreign Eagles (17:1-21)
  4. A Future Tender Twig (17:22-24)
Any of you that are preachers, and good preachers, and any of you that like listening to preaching will know that illustration is part of the art of preaching

Now, I did forewarn you to make sure that you read chapters 15, 16 and 17 - and I gave you plenty of notice because I told you on Thursday evening, but I'm quite sure that some of you have forgotten, or some of you have been procrastinating and haven't got round to it, and some of you are here and you didn't even know that and you may feel a bit lost tonight. So make sure when you get home, if you haven't read these chapters already, that you read them when you go home and hopefully things will be made a bit clearer to you.

What we will do is - we'll be going through the chapters tonight, and hopefully you'll get the gist of the whole thing as we go through - but to start off with we'll read the first chapter, which is the shortest, as we begin these three chapters together tonight. "And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? Or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it meet for any work? Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned? Therefore thus saith the Lord God; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them. And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord God".

We'll read the first few verses of chapter 16: "Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, And say, Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was".

The title tonight that we have for our study is: 'A Vine, A Wife, Two Eagles And A Twig'. Any of you that are preachers, and good preachers, and any of you that like listening to preaching will know that illustration is part of the art of preaching. Good illustration is essential to good preaching. The reason that is is because the illustration, if you like, is the window that shines light upon the truth. In other words, you can tell anybody a theological truth, but if you have the power to illustrate it in some way you can shine light onto that truth, if you like, then the penny drops and that truth becomes a living reality that they have grasped. The impact of illustration can be seen in much literature, and many of you I'm sure are very fond - as I am - of Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress'. That is all, simply, that Pilgrim's Progress is - it's an illustration, an allegory, a representation of the Christian life and the Christian pilgrimage - as Christian himself, that chief character, goes through life: getting saved; his burden rolling away; going through temptations, turmoils, trials; and eventually getting to that Celestial City that he has been bound for.

As we go through the Old Testament Scriptures, we find that the great prophets of God were artists in preaching by illustration. Ezekiel is one of the chief of those

But as we go through the Old Testament Scriptures, we find that the great prophets of God were artists in preaching by illustration. Ezekiel is one of the chief of those, and we're going to look at four of his illustrations tonight - he has six in the whole book, but four come together in chapters 15, 16 and 17. Greater than Ezekiel was the greatest preacher of all, our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the absolute epitome of the art of illustration. But we're going to look at Ezekiel this evening, and we see four illustrations that he gives us - an illustration in chapter 15 of a vine, an illustration in chapter 16 of a wife, then in chapter 17 the first few verses an illustration of two great eagles, and then in the last few verses of chapter 17 an illustration of a twig.

So let's look first of all at this parable and illustration of the unfruitful vine in chapter 15. The history books tell us that a gigantic golden vine decorated the temple gates, and as you walked through those temple gates you would see this great vine - and there would be, dropping from that vine, clusters of golden grapes about six feet tall. That was there for an illustration to the people of Israel themselves as they walked through the temple gates to worship the Lord. It was a reminder to them of God's true vine - Israel - that they were God's true vine, and perhaps as they walked through there they would reminisce of how they were taken out of captivity in Egypt and they were planted as God's true vine in a choice land, in a land flowing with milk and honey, the promised land.

As we go into the New Testament the Lord Jesus Himself, at least five times, uses parables that relate to the figure of the vine. Of course, we know from John chapter 15 that the Lord alluded to Himself in the flesh, the Messiah, the Christ as the true vine. So the imagery of the vine is littered right throughout the Old and the New Testament. There are three things that I want you to note about the vine, and indeed Ezekiel's illustration of it, this evening. The first thing is simply this: the vine is a common symbol for the nation of Israel. Within the Scriptures, in the Bible, the vine is a symbol and a type of God's people Israel.

Turn with me, so that I can prove that to you, to Hosea. You have Ezekiel, then Daniel, and then Hosea - chapter 10. We will be looking at a lot of Scriptures tonight, so you better wet your fingers as we go through these - chapter 10 and verse 1. Speaking of the degradation and the emptiness, spiritually, of Israel, Hosea says: "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images". Hosea says Israel is like an empty vine. That's the Old Testament, and I could show you many more instances of that imagery. But then, if you will, go to Matthew chapter 21 you will see how the Lord Jesus Christ takes up that imagery as He does in many instances. Matthew 21 and verse 33, the Lord speaks and says - again using illustration, a parable - "Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country". Now if you know that parable, you will know that the Lord begins to illustrate how He, as the son of the husbandman, had come into that vineyard Israel. He had come as their Messiah, but He came unto His own and His own received Him not - but what I want you to see is the imagery of the vine and the vineyard, speaking of Israel.

What we don't want to do tonight in Ezekiel is to confuse much of the vine imagery that there is in the word of God

Now, what we don't want to do tonight in Ezekiel is to confuse much of the vine imagery that there is in the word of God. So what I want to do is, I want to break it up into four for you. There are four ways in which Israel is illustrated in the word of God as trees, or vines. The first is this: you find the olive in the word of God - the olive tree. Then on occasions you find the fig tree. Then there is the bramble bush, and then there is the vine that we'll be thinking of tonight. Let's go through these for a moment. You don't need to turn to it, but I'm sure many of you will be familiar with Romans chapter 11. In Romans 11 the nation of Israel is typified and pictured, illustrated there, as the olive tree.

Now I want you to remember this, or write it down, that the olive tree illustrates and is representative of Israel's relationship in covenant with God. So whenever you read of Israel as the olive tree, God is illustrating the covenant with Himself that the people had. Now at the moment the nation of Israel, presently, that covenant is in temporary suspension - in other words, their fellowship with God Almighty has been cut off. They have broken their vows of the covenant, so it's in temporary suspension. Because of that God has scattered the nation of Israel all over the nations of the world, and it is us - the Gentiles - who are entering into the privileges that Israel might have enjoyed if they had obeyed the Lord, trusted the Saviour, and believed on their Messiah. Now, of course we know from prophetic teaching in the word of God that there will be a day and a time that will come - Romans 11 teaches us that the nation of Israel will be grafted in again to the vine. This time, instead of Israel being cut off and the Gentiles being put into that vine, the unfaithful Gentiles will be cut off and Israel once more will be brought into covenant relationship with their God, and they will be part of the vine. But what I want you to note tonight is that the olive tree always symbolises the covenant relationship between Israel and the Lord.

Then there is the fig tree, and that speaks of Israel not in covenant, but Israel as a nation, as a people. If I could put it to you like this: the Jews - that would be a better way to term it. The fig tree speaks to us of the Jews. Now, who are the Jews that the fig tree speaks of? Well, they are the descendants of Benjamin and Judah. The descendants of Benjamin and Judah are the people that made up the population of the city of Jerusalem. You might think in your mind that the city of Jerusalem was just full of Israelites or Jews, but that's wrong in a sense because it's primarily made up of the descendants of the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah - that is the population of Jerusalem. That is significant when we remember that it was the population of Jerusalem that the Lord Jesus wept over and said: 'Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I would have taken you as a hen gathers her chicks, but ye would not!'. Now that's significant: the nation of Israel, the Jews. That's why when the Lord Jesus passed by that fig tree that failed to bear fruit He put it underneath the curse of God. Israel, the nation, the Jews tonight, this very moment as we speak, are under the curse of God for their unfaithfulness - and there will be no fruit from the nation of Israel until they are restored again by the grace of God.

I hope you see the distinction. The olive tree speaks specifically of Israel in covenant relationship with God. The fig tree speaks specifically of the nation of the Jews, if you want to narrow it in even more: the Jewish people, the descendants of Benjamin and Judah, who dwelt in the city of Jerusalem in Christ's day. Then thirdly there is the bramble bush, and this is a very graphic illustration and picture. It speaks to us of the way Israel has become under the divine judgement of God. Because God has cursed the fig tree, like the Lord Jesus did as He walked by it that day in Palestine, it has become a bramble bush! It is no longer full of luscious fruit that benefits the nations round about her - remember Israel was born that she might shine a light unto the nations, that she might be a witness to the Gentile world around her, that she might be salt in the earth. But because she has been unfaithful, not obeyed the gospel of her Messiah, she has been cursed by God and she has become a prickly bramble bush!

What's the difference between a spiritual relationship with God and a covenant with God?

Very striking symbolism, isn't it? The olive tree of the covenant of God. The fig tree of the nation that is cursed. The bramble bush, that prickly plant that is no longer a blessing to the world around, but seems to be a curse as it is cursed. But what Ezekiel speaks to us, in chapter 15 this evening, of are none of those three, but the vine. The vine speaks of none of those things, but rather it tells us of Israel looked at as a people in a spiritual relationship with God. The vine speaks of Israel's spiritual relationship with God. Now you might say: 'What's the difference between a spiritual relationship with God and a covenant with God?'. Well, a covenant with God is a legal thing, it's a material thing in a sense - a real covenant is a piece of paper, black and white, an agreement. God made an agreement with Israel that day at Mount Sinai, but that's not what we're talking about because God had a relationship with men even before that, because He had a relationship with Abraham before the covenant was ever given at Mount Sinai. We are speaking of the spiritual relationship as God's people - and because of that the vine should be bringing forth fruit.

From that spiritual relationship those people, that are God's people, are to bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to the glory of God. He says in Isaiah chapter 5 that He has planted them as a noble vine, He has cared for them, He has done everything possible for them - but there is no fruit from them. So the Lord says: 'I've done everything possible to make these people a faithful people to me, but there is no fruit coming from them - all the fruit that they have is for themselves'. Nothing had changed in Ezekiel's day, and so we're asked to consider the vine from God's standpoint. That is what we have here: the vine from God's standpoint.

That's the first thing that I want you to notice: that the vine is the symbol for the nation of Israel within the Bible. Specifically here it is a symbol for their spiritual relationship with God. Here's the second thing: the only purpose and value that the vine has is to bear fruit. That's vitally important: the only purpose a vine has is to bear fruit. As you read down this chapter - we don't have time to single out the specific verses, but from round about verse 2 right through to verse 5 - you can see how Ezekiel goes through the various uses that perhaps, maybe, a vine tree could have. He thinks about housebuilding - but it's no good for housebuilding because the wood of a vine is too crooked, it's all rickety and crooked, you couldn't build a house with it. The question is asked: could it be used for furniture? Maybe a peg to hammer into the wall to hang something on? And the answer comes back: no it couldn't, because it's too soft, you couldn't hammer it into anything. Could it be used for fuel? Maybe it's only good enough to be burnt? Well, even when it is burnt it's not good enough for fuel, because it burns so quickly and rapidly - it doesn't linger and smoulder for heat. That proves to us that the only use that a vine has is to bear fruit.

This is the awful condition and description of a people in complete disregard and disobedience to God's word. A people who reject His Son, a people who reject their Messiah and their Lord, and a people who will fail to recognise the lordship of Christ

Now the third thing that I want you to notice: because the vine has refused to perform the only purpose and prescribed duty that God has given it, God will destroy it. Now that's fundamental to our understanding of chapter 15 - God will burn it up if it does not bear fruit! We've been learning in these studies in Ezekiel that the way in which God is going to burn these people up, His chosen people in relationship to Him, is by sending the Babylonians down from the North to come and literally burn the city of Jerusalem. Now let me make an interesting allusion to the words of the Lord Jesus in John chapter 15 - and we're going to spend a bit of time on that a little bit later. Our blessed Lord said: 'If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned'.

Turn with me to Revelation chapter 14 for a moment, and remember we're not speaking now of believers in this dispensation yet - we're talking about the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. That is what we're still talking about in Revelation chapter 14, because the Lord is speaking of that nation here, and He is in fact speaking of God's final dealings in a day yet to come with the apostate nation of Israel. Just before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Israelites Messiah, a remnant will be recognised by Him. That will happen - not all Israel will be saved in the sense of the nation and everybody that's a Jew, but true Israel - the true nation of people that will follow God will be saved. They will say: 'Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord', and the Lord will have mercy on them, defeat their enemies, and save them. He will take that remnant and recognise them, and He will plant them again in the land of Palestine. He will plant them one day to become a fruitful vine right throughout the thousand year reign of the millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But before that, in John's vision in Revelation 14, John sees a vision of a mighty angel coming forth from the temple which is in heaven. This angel has a sharp sickle in his hand. And John, as he sees this angel coming with a sickle in his hand, he hears another angel commanding the first angel to send forth, verse 18: '[Send forth] the sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe'. Now, a century and a half before Ezekiel. Isaiah said in chapter 5 of his book and verse 2 in the parable of the vineyard: 'He looked that it should bring forth grapes', God looked for fruit from the nation of Israel, 'and it brought forth wild grapes'. Not fruit, but wild grapes. Now stop for a minute and pause, here is a principle that we must learn as believers in this age: that this - and what we're going to read in Revelation - is the awful condition and description of a people in complete disregard and disobedience to God's word. A people who reject His Son, a people who reject their Messiah and their Lord, and a people who will fail to recognise the lordship of Christ.

So let's look at what happens to them. If you scan your eye down the chapter you will find this: that angel does take the sickle, and he thrusts it into the earth, and he gathers those wild grapes of the earth, and he casts them into a winepress. It says that Christ the great Judge and Warrior of God, He presses down those grapes in the great winepress of the wrath of God. That winepress is trodden outside the city, and as we read down this passage we find that that wine comes out of the press like blood. In fact, it is blood. This passage says that even the bridles of the horses feel the blood coming up to their level. It says that the blood goes as far as 600 furlongs - do you know how far 600 furlongs is? The whole length of the land of Palestine! There is a day coming when Christ will return as the Judge and the victorious King, and He will come to the nation of Israel and He will take His sickle, and He will pluck up all those wild grapes that have not borne proper fruit for Him. He will tread in His wrath, and the whole nation and land will be drenched with their blood.

Two things that are needed for a vine to bear fruit. The first is that a vine needs to be pruned, and the second thing is that it needs to abide

Is it any wonder that it's called the trouble of Jacob? Do you marvel that it is called the Great Tribulation that the world has never seen before, and then God's wrath will be poured out upon His vine? Now, after this, the Son of Man descends to take His kingdom, He descends to reign upon the earth - and He recognises a small remnant as His own vine, and He will place them in the land again, and for a thousand years there will be a presence to glorify God in His vineyard once more. But what about today? Today the Lord, as He wept over Jerusalem and said: 'Oh, I would've brought you to myself, but you would not', the Lord finished those remarks by saying: 'Behold your house is left unto you desolate' - desolate! Let me say this before we move on to the second parable: there are two things that are needed for a vine to bear fruit, just two things. The first is that a vine needs to be pruned, and the second thing is that it needs to abide.

In Ezekiel chapter 15 and verse 3 we see that the vine needs to be pruned. The Lord says: 'Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? Or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon?'. In other words, you have to cut this vine up. You have to abide in the vine - and I want us to turn to John chapter 15, because this teaching is found by our Lord in this chapter chiefly. The Lord says in verse 6: 'If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned' - pruning. Maybe you prune the roses, well if you prune vines that's how the fruit comes - you have to keep pruning it or the fruit will not come. Now, it's not a very pleasant experience - no-one likes cutting something that we think is going to bring forth fruit, it doesn't seem to make sense to cut the very life until the sap comes out. We feel that we're doing violence to life when we do that. Of course we know when we see the fruit blooming the next year that that is not the case, but pruning is a painful thing, it's a painful experience - but it's necessary to bring forth new life.

This is a spiritual principle: in our lives as believers, as God's people today, pruning is necessary to bring forth fruit in our lives. Now let's take a moment over this. I think there are some folk here this very night, and God is pruning them. Job knew what it was to be pruned. If you turn to Job, just before the Psalms, chapter 14. He describes pruning himself - Job 14 verses 7 to 9, he says: 'For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant'. It doesn't matter whether the root's rotting, it doesn't matter whether the fruit falls to the ground and rots, if it's pruned it will get the water.

Now that's what Job said, but then Job had to go through that experience - and if you turn to chapter 17 of Job and verse 1 he describes what he felt like when he was in the middle of that pruning experience, he says: 'My breath is corrupt, my days are extinct, the graves are ready for me'. Have you ever felt like that? You've felt as if you're loathsome to other people, your breath. You've felt as if no-one wants you, your days are corrupt - you feel extinct, nobody wants you and you feel that you'd rather die - maybe you feel you're going to die. But let me tell you what happens: that's pruning that is so painful, but if you turn to chapter 42 of this book - chapter 42 and verses 11 and 12. You know what happened to Job in the interim: he lost his family, he lost his outhouses, he lost his farm, his buildings, he lost his children, he lost his cattle, he even lost the confiding of his wife and his friends - but here in chapter 42 and verses 11 and 12: 'Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house' - he had bread, but he was starving; he has a house, but his house came down around him - 'and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning'. Now that is what pruning does! Pruning is necessary to bring forth fruit in our lives - but what do we do? Let's be honest tonight, what do we do when we're pruned? We resist it: 'Lord, what are You doing that for? Lord, is there not another way? Is there not an easier way?'. We curl up like the hedgehog in fear, we don't want it to touch us. 'Lord, who let this into my life? Lord, why am I suffering?' - and we resist God breaking us.

Why are there cracks in your clay pot my friend? That the life of Jesus may flow through them

For you who are being broken I want you to turn to Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 - this is a Bible study, so let's keep the book speaking. Second Corinthians and chapter 4, and here's the answer why we are pruned as believers, verse 7: 'We have this treasure', and that's the life of God, 'in earthen vessels', that's our bodies - the life of God is in our body that's like a clay pot - 'that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus' - why? - 'that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body'. Why are there cracks in your clay pot my friend? That the life of Jesus may flow through them.

Do you see it? If you're not pruned, there'll be no fruit. That's why the writer to the Hebrews says: 'Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby'. Do you know what that means, 'Them that are exercised thereby'? It means this: whether you bear fruit or not will depend on how you're looking at your pruning. How do you see it? Is it God being cruel? Is it the devil attacking you? Maybe it is, like Job, but is God allowing it for your pruning? Oh, if you could only see that you're suffering tonight, my friend, because God wants you to be a chief saint, and He wants the cracks in your body, the cracks in your personality and your soul to be the cracks through which He seeps His life to the world around. Pruning is necessary for fruit.

Secondly, abiding is also very necessary. These children of Israel withered because they did not abide in their covenant relationship with God, isn't that plain? They didn't abide in the vows that they took, and you can see that in verse 8 of chapter 15 - but what I want you to do you is see the Lord's words in John 15 that I hope you're at at the moment. Verse 4, He says: 'Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing'. The principle applies to us today: no pruning, no fruit; no abiding, no fruit - and here's the greatest tragedy of all: no fruit, no testimony. That's what happened to Israel: there was no testimony to the nations any more for God, and there was no testimony, no fruit - that branch had to be cut away. What's our fruit? Galatians: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, temperate - is the fruit there? Come on now! For if the fruit's there the life is there.

Oh, our time is slipping away - we have 10 minutes or so. Let's look at the second parable before we go, because this is a tremendous one. Sixty three verses in this chapter, the longest chapter in the book of Ezekiel, and indeed the longest parable in the whole of the Bible. Let's go back to Ezekiel chapter 16. Now Ezekiel - I'm sure you've noticed up until now in our studies - has a knack of seeing things as they really are. He doesn't mince his words, and he doesn't do it here. What Ezekiel is seeking to do is to tear down the misconception of 'Jerusalem the Golden' - but rather in this chapter you will be horrified to find he is describing 'Jerusalem the Harlot'. The story is of an adopted girl who becomes a prostitute. As you read down through this chapter you will see some sordid detail, indeed the rabbi Eleazer Ben Harikanis (sp?) in the mission in the Jewish teaching books says this: 'This chapter should not be read in public, and it should not be translated in public' - it's so sordid! In fact the great preacher C.H. Spurgeon when he lived, in Victorian England of course, felt that - I quote: 'A minister could scarcely read this in public'. If you go home and read this it's certainly very interesting reading, because there's no decorum at all in this passage. There's no holds barred, everything is just let loose, and this lustful tirade of iniquity and prostitution - and it's from God, these words are from God!

If we miss the terror and the tragedy and the abhorrence of these words, we miss God's point

You see, that's the whole point - if we miss the terror and the tragedy and the abhorrence of these words, we miss God's point. Ezekiel is not wanting to be polite about the sins of God people! In fact, this is what his job is, and this is what the job of a prophet is - to come to the people of God and to expose their sin, and to expose it in all of its of ugliness because it is abhorrent to God, and God wants us to know it's abhorrent!

God had found in a field an abandoned little baby. It was despised, it was abandoned, it was lying dying - a little baby girl, and her name was Israel. God graciously lifted up that little child and adopted it, that little rag-tag girl lying in its own blood without its umbilical cord cut yet - it hadn't been washed, it had never been cradled. God lifted it, and that was very strange in those days - we don't think there's anything strange about it, if you went out to Thorndyke Street and saw a child lying in the street in blood you would lift it - but not in those days. If you lifted every child you saw lying in blood, your house would be bursting at the seams - especially little girls. They weren't a breadwinner, they were no use to some families - as far as they were concerned - and they were frequently left out in the street to die. But the Lord lifted her up, and when she became of age He entered into the marriage bond with her. Now that would astound people of this day too, because if a man actually did pick up a baby like this it wasn't to care for it, it was to let her grow up and then make her a prostitute and get gain through it. But for a man to pick up a child like this and love that child, and actually enter into the covenant of the rite of marriage, was astounding.

But what happened is tragic. God dressed her, God put the most beautiful clothes on her, adorned her with the most costly jewels, provided the finest food available for His beloved. In verse 15 we read these tragic words: 'But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was'. That orphan spurned the love of God, the faithfulness of God. She became vain and proud, and eventually she became a common harlot on the streets. That intolerable action against her husband could not go unpunished - why could it not? Because the passage tells us that her husband wasn't just her lover, but her husband was the judge in the town. He had to be seen to do right, not in society alone, but in his very own house. So he delivered over this harlot to her murderous lovers and let them abuse her, let them punish her. Her wickedness by this time had surpassed even her older sister Samaria, that's the capital of the Northern Kingdom, that had already been judged by God from the Assyrians. Also her younger sister, named as Sodom - Sodom! Israel's sin, Judah's sin, Jerusalem's sin had exceeded the sin of Sodom!

Israel did what she did for the sin itself. She was insatiable in her lust, and if you read the history of Israel you will find that she sought security in other nations, making alliances, and didn't trust God

After He had chastened her, the miracle of it all is this: God would restore her, and God would bring her back to Himself. Why? Because He made a promise hundreds of years before to the father of the nation, Abraham - and when God makes a promise, God keeps it. It's an astounding story, isn't it? The interesting thing about it is that in the story the Lord basically says in His own terms: 'You're only a chip off the old block'. He says: 'Your father was an Amorite, and your mother was a Hittite' - and how is that in Israel, how could that be possible? It can be possible simply because the Hittites and the Amorites used to reside in what is now the city of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem used to be a pagan city before the conquest into Canaan land. What the Lord is saying is this: 'You've gone back to your roots, Jerusalem. My people, you're like the Canaanites that you were meant to have wiped out of the whole of the promised land, but you're going back to their wicked, evil practices!'. Then He says: 'You've broken my marriage vow' - and the marriage vow that Israel made with God was at Mount Sinai when God ratified his covenant with Israel, but they had broken it. Then it talks about this woman being clothed in beauty, and garments, and jewels - this is all Israel's history right from the start to the end - and that's talking about the reign of David and the reign of Solomon. You remember the Queen of Sheba came and she said: 'The half has not been told! The riches! The gold!'. Then a tragedy comes in because Solomon, in his wealth, builds temples to the false gods of his foreign wives. Then you have the sins of Ahaz and Manasseh, of idolatry - and even in chapter 16 and verse 20 you read about child sacrifice, they were offering their children to Molech!

Now you might know and be familiar with the story of Hosea and his wife - but if you think she's bad, she was only a promiscuous woman, this woman in this chapter is far more depraved than all that. I mean, when you read this it's absolutely astounding - it literally says: 'She sleeps with anyone'! The language of lust in this chapter is terrible, and the Lord says: 'Jerusalem, you're not even like a normal prostitute' - this is what God says - 'for a normal prostitute gets money for what she does, but you pay to be a prostitute!'. Isn't that amazing? In fact, I'm sure many prostitutes do what they do for material gain - not her. Israel did what she did for the sin itself. She was insatiable in her lust, and if you read the history of Israel you will find that she sought security in other nations, making alliances, and didn't trust God.

Now I want to deal with this, so please bear with me as we finish tonight. What was the reason for all this impurity? Why does God need to go into this like this? Verse 49, look at it, God tells them the start of all this terrible sin: 'Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom', and He says, 'You've got worse than her: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy'. Do you know what way another translation puts it? 'You were arrogant, you were overfed, and you're unconcerned'. Arrogant, overfed and unconcerned - do you know what that is? Put it in another word: materialism. My friend, that's the way we ought to preach today. We ought to be exposing sin.

Let's ponder for a moment as we close, in the last couple of minutes - bear with me tonight. What is the cross? I believe the church should stop trying to please people and start trying to win people - save them! The cross is the most bloody, gruesome demonstration and illustration of sin and what sin does - and when we look at the cross we feel our ugliness, we feel our sinfulness - and when we apply that bloody sacrifice, praise God, it's efficacious to our atonement! Now please rejoice with me as you look at these verses as we close. As you look at verses 53 to 59, do you know what God says? He says: 'I'm going to restore Sodom, I'm going to restore Samaria, I'm going to restore Jerusalem, I'm going to restore all that plain' - that's amazing! God is talking about what the Bible calls the times of restitution of all things spoken of by God's holy prophets. Even Sodom and her daughters would be restored! Now it's not talking about the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah - for, as Jude tells us, they're suffering the vengeance of eternal fire at this moment in time. But the miracle of God's grace and what God is going to do in the future is this: God is going to raise from the ashes, Sodom and Gomorrah as cities! God is going to put into them a regenerated people in the millennial reign of Christ to worship Him. How do I know that? Because Sodom and Gomorrah are found in the area that Abraham was promised right in the very beginning. It's amazing, isn't it? Although they forgot their legal covenant with God made at Sinai, God couldn't forget His covenant, His unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Do you know something? We mightn't live in a Sodom or Gomorrah, but our old lives were no different - but He has made out of them trophies of grace, hallelujah!

Let me say this as we finish. Listen to this, believer, that applies to us - do you know how? We've entered into the blessings. Paul could say: 'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God'. Isn't that wonderful?

'Oh perfect redemption, the purchase of God,
To every believer the promise of God.
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives'.

Praise the Lord! I have much more to tell you, two more parables to get through - but come back next week and you can hear all about those two. He's a wonderful Saviour, isn't He? It's amazing when you think of it: Sodom and Gomorrah rained down with brimstone from heaven, but there's a day coming when even those wicked, sinful places will be restored by the grace of God to praise Him. Do you know something? We mightn't live in a Sodom or Gomorrah, but our old lives were no different - but He has made out of them trophies of grace, hallelujah!

Father, we thank You tonight, we thank You for amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. Father, help us to be taken up with the wonder of it all, that He has put away our sins for ever by the blood of His cross. Glory to His name tonight, and bless us now as we leave. Amen.

Don't miss Part 11 of 'Ezekiel': "A Vine, A Wife, Two Eagles And A Twig Part 2"

Transcribed by:
Preach The Word
September 2001

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tenth tape in his Ezekiel series, titled "A Vine, A Wife, Two Eagles And A Twig - Part 1" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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