We come to a section in Ezekiel’s prophecy where it is easy to want to skip over the messages. From Ezekiel 25-33 God proclaims judgments against all kinds of nations in these chapters. But we should want to read about why the nations are coming under God’s judgment. In each condemnation God explains the sins committed that made each nation worthy of judgment. There is a common thread of explanation for why all these nations are being judged. This is also important to think about. If God condemns seven nations for basically the same sin problem, then that teaches us much about the human condition. All of these nations have the same problem. All of the nations have the same reason why God is coming in judgment. So what I want to do in this lesson is observe the common problem and what this teaches us about ourselves and our sin condition.
Overviewing the Text
Before we look at the sin, I want us to take a moment to notice the nations that are under God’s condemnation. Ezekiel 25 pronounces judgment against Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. These three nations were border neighbors to the land of Israel. Ammon and Moab were nations that came from Lot’s daughters. Edom was a nation that came from Esau who was the brother of Jacob. Then God turns his attention to Tyre and Sidon in chapters 26-28. Next, God proclaims judgment against Egypt in chapters 29-32. Egypt was a long time enemy of Israel and had failed alliances with them. Finally, Ezekiel 33 turns the attention back to Judah and Jerusalem as Jerusalem finally falls to the Babylonians.
The Common Factor
Ezekiel 28 sets forward the common factor for the rise and fall of nations. Let’s first talk about the common factor for a nation’s existence. Look at Ezekiel 28:11-15 as the prophecy is directed against the king of Tyre. Notice in verses 12-13 that God pictures Tyre being like Eden. It is described as nation of wisdom, beauty, and perfection. The nation is pictured as rich and brilliant as every precious stone. God elevated Tyre to its high status that it had (28:14). It is pictured as fulfilling God’s purpose and having access to the holy mountain of God (28:14-15). In short, God made Tyre everything that it was in power and riches. God proclaims that he raised this nation up to its great status. This is the key message that Daniel proclaimed to the king of Babylon.
This is so that the living will know that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms. He gives them to anyone he wants and sets the lowliest of people over them. (Daniel 4:17 CSB)
How did Tyre come to power? Because God elevated them to power. How did the king of Tyre become king? Because God gave him the rule over Tyre. The same is true for Nebuchadnezzar as king over Babylon. The same is true for every king, ruler, leader, president, prime minister, emperor, czar, or dictator. God is the reason a nation has beauty and power. God is the reason why a person become the leader of that nation.
So what happened? Why is Tyre being judged? Why are any of the nations going to be judged? Look at Ezekiel 28:16 where it says that through Tyre’s trade that began to be filled with violence and sinned. But what was the reason for the change? What happened that changed them to resist God’s purposes? Look at verse 17.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. (Ezekiel 28:17 ESV)
God blessing the king and nation caused them to be proud. Notice this is explored more in the beginning of chapter 28. Look at Ezekiel 28:2-10 and notice how the paragraph is seeping with pride. The king made his heart like the heart of a god, believing his power and wisdom was the reason for their greatness (28:2). He thought it was his wisdom and understanding that they had great wealth (28:3-5). This is the picture of the rise and fall of every nation. God raises up the nation and give it blessings, power, and wealth. These blessings cause the nation to think that they are like gods. They think they exist because of their own wisdom and understanding. So their pride brings them to reject the Lord and increase in sinning. Therefore, God must bring judgment against the nation for rejecting God and his purposes for them. This is the cycle of every nation.
Now I want us to quickly look at the other nations that are condemned and see that, at the heart of their sinning, is pride. In chapter 25 we read that Ammon (25:3) and Moab (25:8) were gloating over the fall of Jerusalem. Gloating over another’s misery and fall is a symptom of pride. We think we are better than the other so we rejoice over another’s misery. But I want us to think about God’s character. God does not gloat over our failures. God does not proclaim with glee, “That is what you get!” In fact, God says the opposite.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. (Proverbs 24:17–18 ESV)
Notice that the person is an enemy in this proverb. Yet we are not to be glad or rejoice when he stumbles and falls because this heart is displeasing to God. We think we are so much better and so we gloat over others.
Pride is also observed in the actions of Edom and Philistia in Ezekiel 25. Edom (25:12) and Philistia (25:15) acted revengefully and took vengeance with malice on the people of Judah. The problem of revenge is that it thinks about self. It is the same heart that we read with the king of Tyre. It is the heart that says “I” and “my.” I need vindication. I need justice. I need retribution. I need to get my pound of flesh. But God tells us not to repay evil for evil. God tells us not to avenge ourselves (Romans 12:19-20). We are told to give our enemies something to eat and drink and not to be overcome by evil (Romans 12:20-21). Pride piles on the misfortune of others. We think that this is what they deserve. What is interesting to think about is that what was happening to Judah and Jerusalem was what they deserved! It was ordained by God through the Babylonians. But that did not give them the right to show malice, gloat, or mistreat these human beings. The same level of pride is seen in Egypt which you can read in Ezekiel 29:3. The king of Egypt set himself up like he were a god, as if he made the Nile River and owned it.
This is the great cosmic problem between us and God. God wants to richly bless us. But then we forget that every blessing we have comes from God and become proud and arrogant. We start thinking that we have because of our strength. We start thinking that our success is from our wisdom. We start elevating ourselves to be gods as if we have full control and power over our future and destiny. Can you imagine if you had elementary school aged children walking around the house proclaiming their own wisdom and glory because they have so many toys, so many clothes, such good food, such a nice house, and all of the other physical blessings they enjoy? As parents we would be incredulous! We would sit them down and teach them that everything they have is because we as parents have given it to them to use. They have no room for pride. We are actively blessing their lives. In the same way, God is outraged when we look at ourselves and think that what we have in this life and any success we have is because of our own wisdom and understanding. God is outraged when a nation thinks that its power and success is because of its own wisdom and understanding. God is outraged when a leader thinks that its power and success is because its own wisdom and understanding. God topples arrogant leaders. God destroys arrogant nations. God wrecks arrogant people. The Proverbs tell us that pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18 ESV). God tells us that he opposes the proud and only gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). The apostle Paul sums up this idea in the first chapter to the Romans. Listen to what Paul says.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools…. (Romans 1:18–22 ESV)
Notice that Paul says that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. What did the people do wrong for this to happen? Paul says that God has revealed himself through his eternal power and divine nature that all can see through the creation. What was the problem? They did not honor him as God or give him thanks. They claimed to be wise.
When we look at life and say “I” and “my” we are revealing our pride. We are revealing that we are not honoring God or giving thanks to him because there is nothing that is “I” or “my” in our lives. You did not decide to be born in this country. You did not decide to be born to your parents. You did not decide to get all the advantages that came from your family. You did not decide to get the head start they may have given you. You did not decide to have the overflow of blessings that have been given to you in your life that has brought you to this point. I and my forgets that God has done everything for us. When we forget God and stop honoring him for the beauty and splendor that we enjoy, then we become arrogant. Then we gloat over other people’s misfortune. Then we try to avenge ourselves. Then we rejoice over our enemies.
God shatters the proud. We must never fail to acknowledge the source of our greatness. The greatness and prosperity of the United States is only by God’s good hand. It is not because we are so smart. It is not because we are democracy. It is not because we are built on capitalism. It is because God has established this country and made it great himself for the last 247 years. We will only continue on so long as we acknowledge God and are submissive to his purposes. Further, any greatness and success that we have in our lives is only by God’s good hand. Listen to what Paul said the Corinthians:
Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying: “Nothing beyond what is written.” The purpose is that none of you will be arrogant, favoring one person over another. For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as if you hadn’t received it? (1 Corinthians 4:6–7 CSB)
What makes us so superior? No one. We are nothing. What do we have that we did not receive? Nothing because everything we have is from God. Since we did receive everything from God, why do we boast as if we did not receive it? The problem of I and my leads to all kinds of sins which leads to our eternal destruction. Give thanks to the Lord and always acknowledge that all our beauty and splendor has come because he has determined it for our lives.