A Parable of Jerusalem’s Unfaithfulness
Open Your Bible
Ezekiel 15:1-8, Ezekiel 16:1-63, Ecclesiastes 12:1, John 15:1-5
Here’s a reality check I need from time to time. It comes in the form of a question: When was the last time someone else’s words about me toppled my self-perception? I may have happened to overhear them, or a brave person may have had the courage to speak them to my face.
In Ezekiel 15 and 16, the Lord God confronts severely flawed self-perceptions. First, He asks a series of questions that unravel self-deception.
The Lord—speaking through Ezekiel—lays a brilliant trap with His questions. First: “How is the wood of the vine better than . . .?” The “better than” invites a recital of all the positive qualities that come to mind. Imagine you are in an interview for a plum position and you said, “How am I best qualified for that role? Well, let me tell you!” The question is an indicator that I am preparing to explain why I am the no-brainer candidate.
Each subsequent question presumed the worst about Judah and peeled off additional layers of their faulty self-perception. With chagrin, they would realize that they’d been had. It’s as if the interviewer had asked, “How have you failed in your professional life up to this point? Explain yourself!” Was Israel of any use at all? Good grief, the wood of this vine isn’t even fit for burning (Ezekiel 15:4)! What a blow to self-esteem!
One word—“unfaithful”—connects to the next chapter, the length and content of which are devastating. I have trouble wrapping my mind around the X-rated life described there; Ezekiel does not mince words—sumptuous living, extreme indulgence, exploitation of sex and sexuality.
And then I remember with deep pain that I am surrounded by and in some cases immersed in the same horrors. Arrogance and wealthy unconcern numb my own heart. It’s all there and here. This unfaithful, promiscuous wife of the Lord was skilled in each of these—and so is our desperately sad culture.
But the devastation of God’s judgment is not the end of the story. This Lenten season reminds us that gleaming through the darkest of our valleys are the truths of God’s everlasting covenant and atonement through Jesus. Instead of being burned, charred, and useless, pruned branches will abide in the true Vine and bear fruit (John 15:1–5). Taking the place of the shameless and promiscuous wife will be the lovely bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2).
Thanks be to God!