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an old rusted car August 19 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Ezekiel 23, 24

Not Worth Saving

When is something not worth saving? We usually throw something out when it is rusted out, moldy or mildewed, spoiled, torn or broken. Is there ever a time when people are not worth saving? Our first response might be, “No, every person has some value.” If a person were a murderer, an extortionist, adulterer, prostitute, child abuser, thief or a drunkard and they scorned all help, would this still be true? Today we will observe such a case, but don’t worry, we will leave the reader with some hope.

Since delivering Israel out of slavery in Egypt, God had expended nearly a thousand years trying to get her to repent from idolatry and evil behavior, but she would not. Shortly after the reign of Solomon in 931 B.C. she became a divided nation. Now it was close to 586 B.C. when Judah would soon be destroyed. What caused this? God gives the answer through parables. Parables are allegorical stories.

In Ezekiel 23 God presents a parable of two adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah. The first is Samaria or the northern kingdom of Israel, and Oholibah is Jerusalem or the southern kingdom of Judah, represented by their capital cities (Ezekiel 23:4). In the parable each of God's children became prostitutes (in their idolatry and political alliances) with the nations around them. They would not repent. Oholah (Samaria) courted Assyria’s favors because it was the most powerful nation on the earth in its time (2Kings 10:32-34; 2Kings 15:19-20; 17:3-4). However, Assyria abused (attacked) her, killed her children and took the rest of her family captive (2Kings 17:5-6, 18-20). Oholibah (Jerusalem) should have taken warning from what happened to her sister; instead, she became more depraved. She also had relationships (alliances) with Assyria (2Kings 16:5-9; Isaiah 7), then Egypt, and then Babylon (2Kings 24:1). She was disgusted with Babylon (during the reign of Jehoiakim), so she rebelled and returned to her first lover, Egypt, for help, but Egypt did not help her. Instead, Babylon came and abused (attacked) her and took her family into captivity. Babylon left her a powerless nation with a weak king (Zedekiah) to rule over her as a vassal nation, but once again Oholibah (Jerusalem) allured Egypt to help her. Oholibah’s rebellion against Babylon caused the latter to starve her out and destroy her house (city).

Returning to the illustration of a previous parable (Ezekiel 11:3), Ezekiel said those in Jerusalem thought they were safe as meat inside an iron pot, (meaning Jerusalem provided an impregnable fortress for them), but God would now build a fire under them. In today’s vernacular we would say, “Your goose is cooked!” But even when the meat was cooked inside the pot, it was no good. Crust had built up in the pot and spoiled the meat. Even hotter fires would not take away its impurities. Their impurity was their lewdness. This is a reference to their idolatry and wickedness ruining their morality. The meat would not be worth saving. It would be soon thrown out.
Even the secure pot (Jerusalem) would be burned and the citizens outside of Jerusalem destroyed.

Ezekiel was then told to illustrate something no man would ever want to do. With the exiles looking on, Ezekiel’s wife dies, but he is not allowed to mourn for her. This was unthinkable for their culture. Relatives wept and wailed for the loss of their loved ones for a long time, but not now, not this time. Ezekiel was illustrating the shock and unbelievable sorrow the exiles would feel when they learned that their beloved city, their temple, and their relatives in Jerusalem were destroyed. Perhaps, because of their captivity to the Babylonians they were not be able to show any mourning. They would have to mourn in secret - no crying, no hugs, no complaints, no crying out against their captors - just quiet mourning. What a very difficult thing they would soon experience.

For a time God closed Ezekiel’s mouth. This was the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign and Jerusalem was under siege. No more prophecies for Israel would be uttered until the day of Jerusalem’s destruction. There was no more room for words; further words would be futile and fall on deaf ears. Now Ezekiel would turn his attention to prophecies about other nations, for when Judah falls they would fall as well.

In a spiritual sense, many of us know the Bible’s teaching that no one is worth saving; no one is deserving of God’s mercy (Romans 3:10-18, 23). But for the grace of God all of us would be lost (Ephesians 2:1-8). We need to respond to his grace to be saved (Romans 3:23-24; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8). However, when people continually sin and will not repent, not ever, and scorn the grace and mercy of God, and any present or future efforts will be totally futile, God says they are not worth saving. Unfortunately, they will suffer eternal judgment in hell (Revelation 21:8). We cannot know, however, when a person will reach that point because God is gracious and does not easily give up on people (2Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4-8). The Lord glories in taking worthless people and making them valuable (Romans 9:22-23), and no man comes to God unless the Holy Spirit draws him (John 6:44). Therefore, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we should pray for those who are obstinate and who do not listen, that God might be merciful to them.

Lessons to live by:

  • Learn from the lessons of punishment upon God’s people. Pay attention to the Word of God and good ministers who faithfully proclaim it.
  • Do not let your life slip into ungodliness and idolatry. Then perhaps “there will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the LORD,” (Psalm 144:14, 15, NIV).
  • God is a God of mercy and love. He only judges when absolutely necessary. If you are a Christian, pray for God to work in the hearts of those who seem to be beyond hope. Pray that God will be merciful and gracious to save them as he was to you. Do you think you are beyond hope? Do you need forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life? It can be found through Christ (more...)

Today’s Bible memory verse: Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)

End note: Many insights in the interpretation of this Bible study were gleaned from The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O. T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, pp.1270-1275.

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