Week 48, November 21-25
God sends a prophetic word to Ezekiel that compares the northern and southern kingdom to two women of ill repute. In the same way that a wild woman whores herself (Ezekiel’s word!) with any willing partner, so too have God’s people played the whore with foreign nations, seeking safety and security the arms of another. The names given to these women, Oholah and Oholibah, mean something like “her tent” and “my tent”, signifying that the northern kingdom had made their own temple or place of worship even while God still have his true temple in Jerusalem. The prophetic word is full of sexual imagery, which shows how graphic of a sin idolatry is. It might be off-putting to us, but consider how “off-putting”, to say the least, our sin is to the Almighty. The penalty of Ezekiel 23 is defined is Ezekiel 24—Jerusalem will fall.
In another prophetic act, Ezekiel’s wife will die. But in a twist, he will be kept from mourning for her. The point is to show the people that in the same way God took what Ezekiel prized the most, he will also take their city and temple.
What follow are a series of prophecies against various nation-states. What concerns us most in this section is Ezekiel 28, which is often used to portray the fall of Satan. While there may be some truth to the idea that Ezekiel 28 portrays the fall of Satan by way of allegory, it certainly does not mean that primarily.
To begin with, God tells Ezekiel to actually address the prince of Tyre, who was a real person, not a prophetic figure of Satan. Verses 2-10 are a prophecy about the death of the prince of Tyre. To say that he made his heart like the heart of a god or that he says he is a god is not unusual for a pagan king. Kings truly believed they were deity. We should not assume that Ezekiel is speaking about the fall of an angel that took place before Genesis 3 out of nowhere. This is interpretation by free association. Context, context, context!
Most of the support for this passage being about the fall of Satan comes in verses 11-19. The only reason that people think Satan used to be the most beautiful angel is because of verse 12. There is no other reference to the beauty of Satan in all of Scripture. It does mention that the king of Tyre was in Eden, which does require some interpretation (but I would argue far less interpretation than arguing this is about Satan). What does it say the man in Eden was doing?
This being in Eden is covered with the stones that covered the breastplate of the priests. Where does it say that Satan served any priestly function? But let’s remember that the garden of Eden was in fact intended to be God’s temple. God would live and walk in the garden with Adam. And Adam would “guard” and “keep” the garden, which are the same two words used for the job that the priests would do in the temple. This more clearly aligns with the king of Tyre being a type of Adam than of Satan. The language and books that follow Genesis are clearly meant to present Adam as a king-priest in the temple of God.
This type of Adam is even said to be an anointed guardian cherub. Cherubs always have a guardian function, and Satan does not. He is the accuser, not a guardian. God placed Adam in the garden, not Satan. Have you ever wondered why Satan was allowed in the garden to begin with? It was Adam’s sin of failing to guard the garden that allowed Satan into the garden. Because of Adam’s sin, he was cast from God’s holy mountain when “unrighteousness was found” in him. This passage is one of many prophecies or laments against pagan kings. There is no reason to isolate this one as secretly referring to the fall of Satan. Ezekiel is simply comparing the king of Tyre, with all his power and might, was like Adam—he was a great man on the earth, but his sin and rebellion will cause him to fall.
A couple of early church fathers argued that Jesus saying he saw Satan fall like lighting in Luke 10:18 is referring back to Isaiah 14. But in Luke 10, context shows that Jesus is referring specifically to the casting out of demons that he just sent his apostles out to do. And since this passage in Ezekiel somewhat resembles Isaiah 14, some have argued that they are both referring to the same moment in time. But careful reading suggests otherwise.
The people have been warned repeatedly not to run to Egypt for safety. If God has ordained judgment, there is nowhere to flee. Because of the sin of the people and of Egypt’s own sin, Pharaoh will die. Read carefully and you will find other references to Eden, equating Assyria to a tree planted in God’s garden. But no one argues that the king of Assyria is Satan!
God sends Ezekiel as a watchman on the wall of a city. If God sends a warning and Ezekiel fails to spread the word, then the blood of the people are on him. But if he is faithful to the word, the blood of the people are on their own hands. A man’ will die for his own sins. As Jerusalem falls, Ezekiel prophecies against her shepherds. The religious and political leaders utterly failed in their responsibilities to teach and protect the people of Israel. But God is the good shepherd, and he will seek out his people. He will gather his sheep for whom he will provide in abundance.
When we think of the human body, we think of the dangerous parts as the fists. But James says the most dangerous part is the tongue. Our words have a significant power which we often neglect. It’s such a great evil that no one can tame it. Because it is so destructive, only God can tame it. We must seek to only speak what builds up and edifies, not that which destroys and tears down. We must seek wisdom, which God gives in abundance.
The tongue is not the only danger the church faces. One of the other great threats is worldliness infecting the church, whether it be in worship, discipleship, or in missions. We must not think pragmatically about these things. Sometimes it’s scary how powerful the words “We’ve never done it like that” can be. It’s as if that statement overrides the word of God. If Scripture is the highest authority, then it must decide these things for us. We cannot seriously think we are doing God’s will if we are not starting with Scripture and not our own thoughts and traditions.
Part of worldliness is the temptation to presume upon tomorrow. If the church is rightly to live in anticipation of Christ’s return, it is theologically presumptuous to treat tomorrow as if it is a certainty. Other worldly concerns are those such as money. Finances has such a stranglehold on many of us. To prioritize luxury over worship, discipleship, and missions is to speak one way and live another. Finally, while the world strives to safety, the church must be ready for and anticipate persecution and suffering. While we never hope for it, we recognize that as the world hated the Lord, so will they hate us. So, we live in a pattern of prayer, which is powerful for changing us.
1 Peter 1-4
Peter clearly claims to be the author of the letter while using a secretary to do the writing (Silvanus; 1 Peter 5:12). He open with a highly Trinitarian prayer, attributing foreknowledge to God the Father, sanctifying power to God the Spirit, and sacrificial obedience to God the Son. Peter refers to Jesus as our living hope. The resurrection of Jesus proved his claims to divinity, and now he ministers in heaven. Even under the trials of this world, the object of our hope is so great and powerful that it overshadows any suffering we experience now. Even the prophets of the Old Testament looked forward to the hope we have see with our own eyes. They placed their faith in the same promises we do, but we have the benefit of looking back at the finished work of Christ while they had to look forward in faith.
The Christian life is a call to holiness. We are no longer slaves to the old man but are a new creation. So, we must conform to who we are, not stay in bondage to who we were. Peter says that we were “ransomed” with the blood of Christ. There was an insurmountable debt we owed to God himself we could never repay. Christ ransomed us from that wrath we so rightly incurred. But now that we are purified by his blood, we have been born again to an unending life. God’s word must be preached!
As a new creation, we are also forming a new spiritual house. Under the old covenant, there was a temple in which the presence of God dwelt. But now, he dwells in his own people. The church, the people of God, is his temple now. The same attributes of Israel are now said to be true of the church—a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people possessed for and by God. Any theology that wants to make too much separation between Israel and the church is to be disregarded.
Our great hope also has ramifications for our time on this earth. We should respect those in authority over us, because God has placed them there; they are God’s agents to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Do governments do this perfectly? No. Do they often actively work against this mandate? Yes. But the principle of submission to godly governments stands. The church does not establish a theocracy like Israel, but neither do we submit to ungodly laws. We must obey God and not men. When governments resist God and legislate like a nation that hates God, the church follows the teachings of Scripture over against wicked mandates.
Peter moves to the local level and addresses husbands and wives. Wives should submit to their husbands and be respectful to them. One reason given is that it exhibits Christlike conduct and might be key to husbands being won to Christ. This is one way the Christian family stands out. Another way is by the way the women of the family dress themselves. They would focus on the beauty of the inner woman instead of outer appearances. It is not a call to not take care of yourself but a call to pay attention to the heart and mind over above the quality of ones clothes. One example of this done well is Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
Husbands should not act as tyrants but should be understanding and accommodating. Husbands do not submit to their wives. Women are not to be treated as less-than; but because of creation order, there is a family order. Peter makes that clear by saying that husbands should honor their wives. Women being the “weaker vessel” is likely nothing more than a reference to the general stature of a man over a woman. Feminism despises anything less than artificial equality, but Christianity loves and thrives under the created order.
Returning to the theme of suffering, Peter encourages his readers to not seek vengeance. If the church receives the blessing of Abraham, then like Abraham, we are to be a blessing to the world, even those who persecute us. If we seek the good of society, there will be those who hate us, but there will be those who listen. Seeking the good of society means speaking biblical truth into the public square, not pandering to the zeitgeist. Because of a generation’s worth of hard work and seeking the public good, the wickedness of Roe v. Wade was overturned. Part of that success was because the church was zealous for what was good, others came to share the perspective of the dignity of all human life.
Chapter 3 carries a couple of interpretive difficulties. When Peter says that Christ proclaimed to the spirits in prison, I believe the best contextual clues point to the understanding that as Noah was a herald (or preacher) of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), he preached repentance toward God’s promises, which would be fulfilled in Christ. Because of their continued rebellion, those spirits are now in prison, having died in the flood. Christ was even proclaimed to them, which fits with the one message of salvation for all time.
The second difficulty is tied to the first. While comparing our salvation to the days of Noah, Peter compares baptism to the flood. He also says that this baptism saves us. All that Peter is saying is that we are brought through the waters of judgment in the same way that Noah was. Peter is not advocating a salvific view of baptism, meaning that baptism actually brings about salvation. He knows no true Christian who rejects baptism. It is the contemporary church who has belittled baptism. Therefore, to be a Christian is to be baptized. Our baptism does not reflect a clean body but rather a clean conscience before God.
While still writing about suffering, Peter writes that when we are willing to suffer, sin suffers. Sin loses its power over us. So, we should not seek to turn away from suffering as a good and natural part of the Christian life. Didn’t Christ suffer far more than we have and will? Besides, Peter writes, the end of the age is approaching. Our suffering is a temporary station. Don’t suffer for stupid reasons which you bring on yourself. But when you suffer for doing good, take peace in the fact that the time is near.
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