Old Testament reading for Monday, November 11, 2013: Ezekiel 23:1-49
1 The word of the Lord came again to me, saying: 2 “Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother. 3 They committed harlotry in Egypt, they committed harlotry in their youth; their breasts were there embraced, their virgin bosom was there pressed. 4 Their names: Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister; they were Mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem is Oholibah. Ezekiel 23:1-4 (NKJV)
Like all great literature, the Bible employs vivid illustrations to drive home its point. Ezekiel makes a powerful comparison between adultery and idolatry -- between sexual promiscuity and spiritual purity. In the first 21 verses of Ezekiel 23, there are 24 references to "harlotry", "lewdness", "lust", and "immorality."
The prophet describes Samaria and Jerusalem as sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, who fall into a terribly destructive life of harlotry. This is a picture employed often by the prophets of the Old Testament. Jeremiah decried Israel's whoredom (Jer. 3:6-10). Isaiah says "the holy city has become a harlot" (Is.1:21). Malachi said Judah had "married foreign gods" (Mal. 2:11). Perhaps most vividly, Hosea is commanded by God to "take a wife of harlotry" (Hos.1:2)! This illustrates of how God has remained faithful to unfaithful Israel.
The idea of marriage undergirds the entire Bible. Israel is married to God in the Old Testament. The Church is the Bride of Christ in the New Testament. Faithful, loving, healthy marriage relationships are a consistent image Scripture uses to describe God's plan for us (see Eph. 5:22-33).
There are so many important lessons we can draw from this picture of marriage to God. Just as faithful, monogamous marriage is an illustration of a healthy relationship with God, so also a life of promiscuity and sexual indulgence is indicative of destruction. Adultery is paralleled with idolatry. Promiscuity is an invitation to destruction. If Ephesians 5 is a description of how it goes right, Ezekiel 23 is a graphic depiction of how it can go wrong.
The first half of Ezekiel 23 is about Jerusalem's sin. The second half is about God's judgment. I do not think it is a stretch to make a connection here. There is a mirror relationship between the spiritual and the practical.
I believe the spiritual decline of America is tied to the rise of sexual chaos. I do not have the space here to describe the horrendous increase of sexual weirdness rising around us. For starts, USA Today in its Oct. 25 edition a few weeks ago, describes in a front page article what is called the "pornification" of our culture. Suffice to say that practices that once were considered aberrant and wrong are now considered mainstream. We are witnessing the normalization of destructive sexual patterns. We are living out the sequence of Ezekiel 23. The result can only be the judgment of God.
One last note: you might wonder why sexual sin is isolated as "worse" than other sins. I believe that all sin is equally offensive to Holy God. There are no minor sins in the sense that some sins are acceptable and others not. But, different sins have differing impact on those who commit them. They are all equally repugnant to God, but they differ in their devastation upon men and women.
Sexual sin strikes deeply into the core of those who engage in it. I Corinthians 6:12-20 describes this. I think this is what Paul means when he writes, "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (I Co. 6:18).
Hopefully, I will write further in the next few days about the incredible rise in sexual libertinism. Pop stars are practically performing sexual acts on stage. As a culture, we have nearly lost our ability to blush. Without sounding like a Puritanical prude, I must say that SOMETHING NEEDS TO STOP about this ridiculous slide to depravity.
I will leave such thoughts for further development another day. Meanwhile, may we who know our God and be ready to stand up for truth in our day. Amen!