Ezekiel Bible Study (A New Heart)

Ezekiel 16, Deliverance from Disgrace


There are so many pictures in the scriptures where God is trying to show us who we are, where we have come from, and what God is doing about our circumstances. The apostle Paul even proclaimed that he prayed that we would “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). The love of Christ for us is so wide and so deep that it is impossible for us to fully grasp his love for us. But that does not stop God from trying to show us. Ezekiel 16 is one of those passages in God’s word that is trying to show this truth. But it is a chapter that is easy to shy away from because it is very graphic. It is a passage that is trying to powerfully show the gravity of our disgrace due to our sinning and the amazing deliverance due to God’s love. This chapter is going to show how a terrible life of sinning can be forgiven and overcome.

God’s Love and Blessing (16:1-14)

The imagery begins with Jerusalem pictured as a rejected baby. Jerusalem’s beginnings are Canaanite begins. When you were born, no one wanted you. Your umbilical cord was not cut, you were not washed, you were not cleaned, and you were not swaddled (16:4). You were cast away as a rejected baby into an open field and all who passed by had no pity or compassion for you. You were abandoned and as good dead.

But God passed by, saw their condition, and proclaimed the word, “Live!” So God cared and blessed this child. She grew up into an adult. God covered her and made a covenant with her. He bathed her, anointed her, and clothed her. God gave her riches and fame. Her beauty grew and she was fit to be a queen. Verse 14 reveals that all of this happened because of the splendor that the Lord God granted to her.

Three Critical Failures (16:15-29)

You would wish that the story would be that they lived happily ever after. But we mess up the story of God’s love and blessings. The story takes a turn and reveals three critical failures in the people. First, you trust in your beauty and played the whore (16:15-21). Listen to those words: you trusted in your beauty. She did not commit herself to her husband who rescued her from the field. She committed herself to herself. She did not trust in her rescuing God but trusted in what God gave her. She took the riches and possessions given to her and used them to sin and serve idols (16:16-19). You even took your children and sacrificed them to pagan gods (16:20-21). It is a grave failure for us to take all the good blessings that God has given to us and use them to sin. We take our homes, our cars, our money, our televisions, our computers, and use them to sin. God is devastated that we would take what he gave us and use them against him.

The second critical failure is stated in verse 22. In all your abominations and prostitutions, you did not remember the days of your youth. You forgot where you started. You forgot that you were abandoned. You forgot that no one was going to care for you. You forgot that the one person who has shown you perfect love and perfect compassion is your God. You forgot who was with you when no one else was. You forgot who rescued you from death and brought you to life and prosperity. You forgot what God had done for you in your life.

The third critical failure is stated in verses 28-29. The Lord says that you prostituted yourself to the nations, trusting in their help rather than in the Lord. But notice was is repeated three times in verses 28-29: “you were not satisfied.” You did not choose to be satisfied in the life, love, and blessings that God gave you. You kept looking for more as if there is more to be obtained. But here is the problem. So you gave yourself to a life of sin and idolatry only to find that you were not satisfied. So you did not stop and return to the Lord who gives all things. You continued to prostitute yourself because you were not satisfied. So three key failures are identified: you trusted in your beauty, you did not remember where you started, and you were not satisfied. Why did this happen? God is now going to expose the heart of the problem with a number of pictures.

The Problem Exposed (16:30-52)

In verse 30 the Lord declares that the problem is that your heart is sick. These actions show a sick heart. It is really important that we hear this declared truth. The problem is that your heart is sick. The problem is not with God. The problem is not with everyone else. The problem is not what everyone else has done to you. The problem is that the heart is sick.

God now illustrates how sick the heart is. In verses 30-34 God reveals the sickness. You were prostituting yourself to your idols and to your sinning to everyone without payment (16:31,33,34). This is a vivid image of a prostitute paying others to do their sinful acts rather than receiving payment. It is such a shocking and jarring picture. But God is trying to say an important truth to our hearts. You are not getting anything in return when you take God’s blessings and blow them on idolatry and sins. You are not getting anything in return. You are only getting emptiness. You are only getting guilt. You are only getting pain and hurts. You are getting nothing for your sins. It is complete emptiness and not lasting joy and satisfaction. So God is going to expose this in the coming judgments (16:36-42). In verse 43 God makes the judgment clear.

“Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, I have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 16:43 ESV)

The sickness is further pictured in this paragraph. God says not only did you not remember, but you did not learn from the immorality of others (16:44-46). You did not learn from the northern nation of Israel who was destroyed for committing the same sins. Do you know what God can say to us? Your heart is sick because you not only did not remember me, but you did not learn that God judges for this sins when you see his judgments against his own people in these prophetic books. Your heart is sick because you somehow thought that your sinning would be different. Your actions are going to come back on your own hearts, just as they have with all nations and peoples in the past. You did not learn from others.

Not only this, but your heart is sick because you stopped caring about sinning (16:47-52). Look at verse 47. You not only copied their sins, but in a short time you were more corrupt than them. Look at verse 48 where God says that Sodom was not as bad as you. Friends, when you make Sodom and Israel look righteous (16:51), then you are really saying something. But this happens when we allow the culture to influence our thinking. They became like the world in their thinking and so their actions mirrored the world. But here is the nature of sin: sin leads to worse sins and greater corruption. Sin is never satisfied. Sin always wants more. Sin always wants to go wider and deeper. Sin will keep eating you alive until you cannot control it anymore. So now Jerusalem is consumed by its sinning.

God ends this section by proclaiming that the people will be ashamed and bear their disgrace for their sins (16:52). But this is a curious thing. How is God going to cause an unashamed people to be ashamed of their sins and bear their disgrace? This is a big problem today in our culture. We have removed shame. Our culture has said that no one should be ashamed of who they are or what they do. The problem is living in a shameless society means that the gospel cannot operate. What is God going to do with a people who have lost all sense of shame? Listen to the final paragraph in verses 53-63.

God’s Promises (16:53-63)

First, God says that he is going to restore his people so that they will bear their disgrace and be ashamed (16:53-54). God is still going to do good to a sinful people so that they will open their eyes and be ashamed of their actions. But look at this restoration picture carefully. Look whose fortunes are being restored in verse 53. It is not only Judah and Israel who will be restored but Sodom and her daughters. Sodom and her daughters will be restored? Is that even possible? Not only will God redeem sinful Israel, but God will also redeem the sinful cities that Israel looked down upon as being too wicked. Even a terrible life of sinning can be redeemed and restored. God’s great forgiveness is to put a sense of shame within us so that we will not return to that life of emptiness.

Second, God says he is going to remember. Look at verses 59-61. You despised the oath in breaking the covenant that God made. But God is going to remember the covenant he made and establish an everlasting covenant with his people. This is another truly amazing picture of our God. We broke the covenant but God will remember the covenant, which means he is going to keep it and establish an eternal covenant. Notice what this is supposed to do in verse 61. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed. Notice that God’s goodness is to make us ashamed of our wickedness as a guardrail to keep us from sinning further. God’s love is make us ashamed that we would ever turn our back on his love.

Third, God says he will atone for all that we have done. Look at verses 62-63. You will never open your mouth against the Lord again when he atones for your sins because of the shame of what you did. The constant mercy and faithfulness of God is astounding which is to move us to shame for our sins. God is pictured as constantly keeping his word, keeping his promises, and showing love and mercy in the face of our extraordinary defiance. God’s atonement is supposed to change our hearts, our tongues, and our lives because he has done what no one would do. God does good in the face of our persistent evil.

Sin is ugly. The wreckage of sin to our lives is horrifying. God wants us to feel the guilt and the shame of our sins. We should not be dismissive of having a sense of shame for our sins. But God does not tell us that he wants us to hang our heads in shame and leave. Rather, God tells us to use our shame to come to God’s amazing offer of his everlasting covenant of grace. Our disgrace is great. But God has delivered us from our disgrace. He restores his people, remembers his covenant, and atones for our sins.

God heals sick hearts through his covenantal goodness. Do not trust in your blessings that God gave you. Do not forget where you began, lost and dead in sin. Do not forget that satisfaction is not outside of God’s love but in it. Be ashamed of your sins and come to Jesus broken and he will heal your life and forgive your sins.

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