God uses an analogy of scum in the bottom of a pot to illustrate that Jerusalem must be purged of its filthiness.
Lessons from the text
Ezekiel the Obedient Priest How much would you hand over to God? Are you willing to give your tithes? Your car? Your house? Your family?
God demanded a lot of Ezekiel. First, He struck Ezekiel dumb after he was called so that he could only speak when he proclaimed a prophecy (Eze. 3:26). Ezekiel could not talk to his wife or anyone except at God’s explicit command. Then, God tells him to lie on his side for over a year and eat a very unpleasant diet (Eze. 4:1-13). After that, God takes away his wife (Eze. 24:15-18). Would you still eagerly serve such a God?
Nonetheless, Ezekiel obeyed God. The prophet-priest demonstrated perfect loyalty to an Almighty God. As a priest, Ezekiel understood God’s sovereignty; it did not bother him that God gave him commands. He knew that as a created being, his only role was to serve his Creator. He could trust whatever God was doing to Him because he trusted God. This makes him an honorable figure in the Bible. In fact, Ezekiel is an ideal image of a life surrendered to God; whatever God asks of him, Ezekiel does. Ezekiel’s example inspires us all to be obedient to God every moment of our lives.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-2 The day listed is four years after Ezekiel was called and just over two years since the last recorded time (ch. 20). It is the same day that Nebuchadnezzar began his siege against Jerusalem (II Ki. 25:25-2). God proves that He is God by telling His prophet of events occurring hundreds of miles away. When the messengers finally arrive from Jerusalem with the news of the siege, it should convince the people that Ezekiel’s words are true, yet they will continue in their rebellion against God.
God compares Israel to a brass pot that has not been washed.
3-9 God uses the analogy of a dirty pot to describe the Jews. When food is cooked in a brass pot, the bottom collects burnt residue. If this is not cleaned, it continues to build until the pot is too filthy to be used. God is saying that the Jews have failed to wash themselves clean through repentance; their filthiness is still in them just as an unwashed pot still has its filthiness.
10-11 After the scum builds up, it can no longer be washed away; it must be burnt out using extreme heat. In this manner, God will purge the Jews; the extreme heat is the fire of His wrath. Although it will be painful, the result will be the cleansing of the Jews.
12-13 God describes the filthiness that the Jews have refused to wash out of themselves; they have chosen to believe in lies and committed both physical and spiritual adultery. The Jews have deteriorated to the point that being washed with water will no longer cleanse them; they must be burnt with fire to remove all the scum. Here, the scum is the sinful Jews; only after God removes those who refuse to repent can He rebuild Israel and restore His people to their holy purpose of serving Him and bringing His word to all the world.
14 Whatever God decrees will come to pass. One can only submit to His righteous judgments.
15-24 God uses Ezekiel as a sign to the people; as he lost his love, so, too, will the people lose what they love. This is an amazing act of obedience by Ezekiel; God has taken his wife away to make a point in a sermon to people who refuse to listen. Despite this, Ezekiel is not bitter; he simply obeys God’s commandments exactly. Just as the priest did not complain when God plucked him up by the hair of his head, Ezekiel here submits himself to God’s authority without complaint (Eze. 8:3). No matter what God does to him, Ezekiel remains faithful and obedient in his service to God.
25-27 God promises that when the messenger comes with the news of Jerusalem’s destruction Ezekiel will be able to speak again. Ever since his calling, the prophet has only been able to speak in prophecy; he could not carry on a normal conversation (3:26-27). This time of silence will end when judgment has been fulfilled on Jerusalem.
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