It was promised in the last chapter that when the time to favor Zion had come – especially the time for sending the Messiah into the world, and for setting up His Kingdom therein – God would cause the enemies of His people to cease, and the blessings and comforts of the Church to abound. This chapter enlarges upon the former promise, concerning the destruction of the enemies of the Church; and the next shall speak upon the latter promise of the replenishing of the Church with blessings.
Mount Seir, also known as Edom, is the enemy that is prophesied against in this chapter. Edom stood as a picture or representative for all the enemies of the Lord’s people. But so far from them being swallowed up by their enemies, the prophet declares that the worst and bitterest of all the heathen would be utterly destroyed and made desolate; and those who were now rejoicing over Israel’s calamities would themselves become a spoil, without any prospect of deliverance. God would set His face against them; and their country would be laid waste, depopulated, and made quite desolate – and they would be left that way, even when other wasted nations would be recovered.
The leading purpose of this severe and unsparing denunciation against Edom was to plainly exhibit the sharp contrast between the things that concerned them, and those which belonged to the Lord’s covenant-people. There was an apparent superiority on the side of Edom at the time when Ezekiel wrote, but the real advantage was with Israel. With the latter, despite all their desolations, there was still a seed of blessing – the Divine seed of a glorious future. But in Edom, no such seed existed; there was nothing in them except enmity to God and to holiness, and they were to expect nothing but unrelieved desolation. The thoughts that are chiefly emphasized here are that Edom’s own destructive policy was to be meted back to her in full measure, and that her destruction was to be very complete. So far from being allowed, as they themselves imagined and hoped, to step into the room of Israel and occupy what they had lost; they would not even be able to retain their own possession. And so their prospects for the future looked out upon blank and dreary desolation.
Let us pause for a moment and consider how Edom’s princes saw the whole land of Israel left desolate, and they counted upon its easy conquest so that they might take it for themselves; but there was one great difficulty in their way, which was quite unknown to them: “The Lord was there” (verse 10) – and in His presence lay the special security of the chosen land. Whatever the devices of the enemies of God’s people may be, there is still the same effectual barrier to thwart their plans. The saints are God’s heritage; He is in the midst of them, and He will protect His own. What comfort this assurance yields us in our troubles and spiritual conflicts! We are constantly opposed, and yet perpetually preserved! How often Satan shoots his arrows against our faith, but our faith defies the power of hell’s fiery darts! They are not only turned aside, but they are also quenched upon its shield – for “the Lord is there.”
It is necessary for us to understand that the words of judgment in this chapter are not merely speaking to the Edomites as men; but particularly in their character as the hereditary and sworn enemies of God’s covenant-people, whom He had chosen and blessed. As a nation that was filled with relentless hatred against the truth and people of God, the Edomites were doomed to utter destruction; and according to the Word of the Lord, they actually experienced it. While Israel rose, in Christ, to the supremacy of the world, Edom eventually vanished from the face of history. Their memorial perished, and their envy and cruel hatred are forever buried among the ruins of the nations.
But why was Edom here singled out to be the recipients of the prophet’s threatenings of destruction? It was not as if her people were the only ones who were appointed to suffer vengeance at the hand of God. However, because of the bitterness of their spite, and the intensity of their hatred to the people of God, they stood pre-eminent among the nations; and so they were fitly chosen to be the representatives of all of Israel’s neighbors. While speaking against Edom, the Lord was also speaking against all the heathen nations. Edom’s doom, as it is here delineated, is the fate of heathendom – just as in the last chapter, Israel’s promised blessedness and glory under the Good Shepherd are a representation of the high and happy destiny of all the members of Christ’s Church. Just as in the case of Isaac and Ishmael (Gal. 4:22-31), so it is here with Israel and Edom; in them, the whole human family have their representation. The one stands as a picture of all that are born of the Holy Spirit, while the other represents all that are born of the sinful flesh. These Old Testament figures and characters have passed away, but the truth couched under them eternally abides. And in that truth, as set forth in this prophecy before us, there is embodied the solemn testimony that the Edomite spirit – the carnal, unbelieving, rebellious spirit – is most surely leagued with perdition. Enmity to the cause and Kingdom of Christ is war with heaven, and it can only lead to desolation and ruin. Those who participate in this hatred cannot overthrow the Church, but they themselves shall surely be overthrown under the stroke of Divine vengeance.
O Lord, we bless Your name for preserving Your people from the hatred and enmity of the carnal, unbelieving, rebellious spirits that are found in the Edomites of every generation. We pray that each and every one of Your children may feel a growing and increasing confidence and assurance in Your loving protection! Amen.
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