(Eze. 16:1-43; 23:1-35)
The book of Ezekiel is personally one of my favorite books of the Bible. God through Ezekiel paints descriptive and often strange pictures through Ezekiel as He condemns the “rebellious house” of Israel (2:5). However, oftentimes this book that spans 48 chapters goes overlooked and unnoticed by the Lord’s Church. So, because that is true, you perhaps might not know that there are sections within the book of Ezekiel that some folks may not be comfortable repeating. Specifically, in chapters 16 and 23, God through Ezekiel speaks of Israel and their going after foreign nations and foreign gods and uses very graphic language. I am not one who is too embarrassed to use the language of Scripture, but due to its length, I would encourage you to read those chapters in order to see what I mean. But why? Why does God have to use this graphic language?
To set up specifically what we are dealing with in Ezekiel 16 and 23, God is basically giving the same message in two different ways. In chapter 16, He paints the picture of Israel being a child that He discovered, nourished, clothed, and raised as His own (16:4-14). He did all of this only for that child to grow up to trust their own beauty and pour out their harlotry on anything that passed by it (16:15). In chapter 23, He paints the picture of two sisters named Oholah and Oholibah (23:2-4). Oholah represents Israel and Oholibah represents Judah. Both of these sisters were again the daughters of God. He raised them only for them to go after Assyria (23:5-16), Babylon (23:17-20), and Egypt (23:21). It is within the confines of these pictures that He paints for Israel and us that He uses such graphic language.
Think about where we are in history. God had already given them numerous warnings to stay faithful or else He would judge them and remove them from their land (Deut. 28:36). They have now been dragged into Babylonian captivity, and yet they are still a rebellious house. Can you imagine how fed up God must be at this point with the people who He had chosen to be holy? (Deut. 14:2). But the main reason that He would use such language is this: He wanted them to feel ashamed of their actions. So, He used language that could be shocking to some, but certainly would get His point across.
I hope that we would not question or criticize God for the language that He chose to use concerning His people. In fact, I am not convinced that He might not at times do the same for us if He still communicated the way that He did through the Old Testament Prophets. We still today ought to feel ashamed of our sin since it separates us from Him and is contrary to His holy nature (Isa. 59:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:16). However, though our actions should come with a sense of shame, because of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we do not have to be left in that shame. In fact, God has now separated us from the world (1 Pet. 2:9) and exalted us in the high and lofty position of being a part of the Body of His Son (Eph. 1:3). Let us then not take that position for granted. Let us not be as the rebellious house of Israel of old who were left feeling ashamed of themselves. But let us rather live in this exalted position “soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Tit. 2:12). – Brennan Hooper