“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem…” Darkness and ambiguity hung over the vision at the end of the previous chapter, as far as the precise locality was concerned; but now that uncertainty is entirely removed. The region of judgment and desolation is here expressly stated as being the land of Israel – especially Jerusalem and its holy places. And if any doubt had remained as to the extent of meaning indicated in the former vision by the burning up of “every green and every dry tree,” the declaration in this chapter that the sword of judgment was to cut off both “the righteous and the wicked” would have set it completely at rest. The sword of the Lord’s judgment was to pass through the whole land, and it would accomplish such a sweeping overthrow that all persons – without exception – would be made to suffer in the fearful catastrophe. However, even in the midst of the outward calamities which were about to burst like a mighty tempest over the land, this did not prevent special interpositions of Providence being exercised on behalf of the pious remnant who still continued faithful to the Covenant of the Lord. It was this distinguishing goodness that was represented by the sealing of God’s servants upon the forehead in chapter 9; while here, on the other hand, it is the general desolation itself which is contemplated by the prophet.
Verses 8-17 contain a general description of this fearful devastation which was to be made by the Lord’s sword of vengeance, and of the painful and agitated feelings which this terrible spectacle produced in the heart and mind of the prophet. The coming judgment is represented as a sweeping calamity – making a circuit around the whole land, and reaching even as high as the king and the princes. The prophet then proceeded (verses 18-27) to more particularly describe the nature of the terrible visitation which was to be employed as the Lord’s sword of vengeance. This remarkable passage pictures King Nebuchadnezzar in a state of hesitation – trying to decide whether he should take the road that led to Rabbath in the land of Ammon, or the road to Jerusalem in Judah. He was ultimately brought to his final decision upon the latter route by using sorcery and witchcraft. The details that Ezekiel spoke of concerning Nebuchadnezzar’s advance to Jerusalem were a picture, in a vision, of what would actually happen in the regular course of events. All would occur precisely as if the lively scene here described were to pass into reality. Nebuchadnezzar would assuredly use the means and methods of his false and superstitious religion to direct his march toward Jerusalem with his army and implements of war.
However, the grand point in this description is the view that is given of the senseless security of the people at Jerusalem (verses 23-27). The ominous cloud of judgment was gathering in the north, and the Lord’s tremendous fury was about to discharge itself upon their heads. These people were ready to believe every divination among themselves that fell in accordance with their own vain and corrupt imaginations; but they would pay no regard either to the oracles of superstition, or to the solemn utterances of God’s Holy Spirit, when they spoke against the obstinate and perilous course that they were pursuing. They were determined to remain confident and secure to the last, but this evil was destined to come upon them as a resistless whirlwind of destruction. And in order to show that the approaching storm of violence and uproar was to be all directed by the hand of Him Whom they had so long offended and provoked by their sins, the king of Babylon and his forces are now lost sight of, and Jehovah alone seems to speak and act. It is He Who brings into remembrance the transgressions of the people, and punishes them for their sin. Yet at the same time, it is not His intention to ruin everything in complete and final destruction; He only desires to level with the dust that which is so offensive to the eye of His holiness. The period of trouble and desolation in Judah had a limit; it was only to last until One would come Who would reform the disorder and reverse the ruin. In the midst of this terrible judgment, the diadem would be taken from the head of the high priest, and the crown would be removed from the head of the king – until One would come, to Whom those symbols of holiness and authority rightly belonged. We can have no hesitation in understanding this Person to be Jesus Christ, the Messiah! It is true that some partial, temporary, and fluctuating possession of these priestly and kingly honors and dignities were regained after the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity. But the real priestly dignity and the proper regal glory are only to be found in the person of the Messiah. It is Christ alone Who was spoken of in chapter 7:14: “And he” – the Branch – “shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory; and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a priest upon his throne!” Thus, when He came to fulfill His earthly ministry, the priestly diadem and the kingly crown were to unite upon His holy head; and in the meantime, everything else was only preparatory and imperfect.
With this glimpse of coming revival and future glory peering through the dark cloud of judgment and tribulation over the Lord’s Covenant-people, the chapter closes with the prophet’s announcement of the doom of the Ammonites (verses 28-32) – in which there is no such perspective of future recovery. In the destruction of the Ammonites, we see a picture of the ruin of all the enemies of Jehovah and His people.
Lord, we praise You as the One to Whom the holy diadem and the royal crown truly belong, for You are both our King and our Great High Priest! Amen.
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