Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,Ezekiel 21:9-10
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of reason.
Reference.—XXI. 9, 10.—R. A. Suckling, Sermons Plain and Practical, p. 215.
After quoting these words, John Owen adds: 'One dissolution shall come upon the neck of another, until it all issue in Jesus Christ. "I will overturn it," saith God. "But men will set it up again." "I will overturn it again," saith God, "perfectly overturn it." All men's endeavours shall but turn things from one destructive issue to another, till "all issue in one whose right it is ".'
Cromwell used this verse in his second speech to the First Parliament in 1654. 'Whilst these things were in the midst of us; and whilst the nation was rent and torn in spirit and principle from one end to the other, after this sort and manner I have now told you; family against family, husband against; wife, parents against children; and nothing in the hearts and minds of men but "overturn, overturn, overturn!" (a Scripture phrase very much abused, and applied to justify unpeaceable practices by all men of discontented spirits)—the common enemy sleeps not'.
I. Nothing is so easy as to destroy. This is a truth which is often forgotten. A man is not a genius simply because he can destroy something.
1. We are entranced and fascinated by men who have immense destructive power. This is peculiarly easy work, this work of destruction in religious subjects and religious spheres. Let me tell you why. The heart wants to get rid of God. The enemy has an infinite advantage in the preparedness of the heart.
2. The very greatness of religion is a temptation towards denial. It makes denial easy, invites destructive criticism: there is so much of it; it begins with the unbeginning; it endures to the endless end; it takes a higher range than the high firmament. Nothing is so easy as contradiction. A child can contradict a father.
II. We must be a little clearer and plainer about this genius of contradiction, and this skill of destructiveness. Suppose I say, 'You have no mind; now prove the contrary, where is your mind?' You never thought of that. 'Have you ever seen it?' Never. 'Touched it?' No. 'Where do you keep it?' You don't know. You see the preacher can contradict as well as the critic and the hearer. Do not suppose that all the intellectual vigour and mental freshness and mighty transcendental genius is on the side of contradiction; it is on the side of constructiveness, elevation, moral fruition; it is on the side of practical, beneficent holiness.
III. There is no mystery in religion that has not its counterpart in human nature. The mischief is that so many people imagine that mystery begins with the Bible. If you close the Bible you will have greater mystery without it than you have with it; you would be a greater mystery to yourself. What little knowledge you have of yourself you owe directly or indirectly to such influences as constitute the Bible. It is because man is made in God's image that he represents a thousand religious mysteries, that he is often a supreme mystery to himself.
IV. Christianity has a destructive mission as well as infidelity. Christianity wields tremendous weapons. Christianity does not come to destroy the sinner, but sin. Nothing would be so easy as to destroy the sinner, but that would have no effect upon the sin; the spirit of sin would still be the unconquered spirit of the universe. Jesus Christ therefore undertakes this work—to bear away the sin of the world; not to crush the sinner, but to bear away, away—a word without an end—the sin of the world.
—J. Parker, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 42.
Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel,
And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.
Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the south to the north:
That all flesh may know that I the LORD have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more.
Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.
And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh: and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it cometh, and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord GOD.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD; Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished:
It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree.
And he hath given it to be furbished, that it may be handled: this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer.
Cry and howl, son of man: for it shall be upon my people, it shall be upon all the princes of Israel: terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh.
Because it is a trial, and what if the sword contemn even the rod? it shall be no more, saith the Lord GOD.
Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy, and smite thine hands together, and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain, which entereth into their privy chambers.
I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that their heart may faint, and their ruins be multiplied: ah! it is made bright, it is wrapped up for the slaughter.
Go thee one way or other, either on the right hand, or on the left, whithersoever thy face is set.
I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest: I the LORD have said it.
The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city.
Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced.
For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.
At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort.
And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand.
And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end,
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high.
I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.
And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their reproach; even say thou, The sword, the sword is drawn: for the slaughter it is furbished, to consume because of the glittering:
Whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles they divine a lie unto thee, to bring thee upon the necks of them that are slain, of the wicked, whose day is come, when their iniquity shall have an end.
Shall I cause it to return into his sheath? I will judge thee in the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy nativity.
And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee, I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, and skilful to destroy.
Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for I the LORD have spoken it.