smelting August 18 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezekiel 20, 21, 22


We usually use the word purging to describe clearing impurities from our bodies. It's also used for the smelting of metals in extremely hot kilns to remove dross. In a desire for statesmanship, the term is used for getting rid of corrupt politicians. In a spiritual sense, purging is necessary for removing the sin and corruption of our souls—we need be clean before God.

Our natural tendency is to resist punishment or purging. A child, knowing he is about to be expelled from school, may make an urgent plea, trying to explain his or her misbehaviors. An adult, knowing that he is about to be fired from his job, may make an earnest plea for another chance. Sometimes a child or adult in his pride, however, believes punishment will never happen. In such cases, if a parent, teacher, or employer has been more than fair, it is best to take action. Failing to take action allows misbehavior to continue and affects the entire family, classroom, or organization. Authority and respect is lost, and, most assuredly, patience will be tried again.

The LORD had been more than fair with Israel and Judah. He delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt and protected and provided for her in the desert wilderness. He defeated her foes and allowed her to take possession of the Promised Land of Canaan. He promised that if she would be obedient, she would never fail to have a king sit on the throne. Furthermore, God would defeat her enemies and give her great wealth and peace. Israel, however, adopted the customs and idolatry of the land, became divided, and finally the northern kingdom was taken into exile by Assyria.

At the time of Ezekiel’s prophecies, Almost all the people of Israel have been removed, and Babylon has exiled most of the people of Judah. God has waited more than 100 years after Israel's exile for Judah to repent. There were some good kings of Judah, but the hearts of the people never truly repented, and they did not give up their wickedness or idol worship. Nebuchadnezzar then attacked Judah and took King Jehoiachin, his mother, his nobles, his soldiers, many people, and treasures of the palace and temple back to Babylon (2Kings 24:10-16). He then took Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, and placed him as a vassal king over the remaining people of Jerusalem (perhaps 13,800 in number. See Jeremiah 52:28-30; 4,600 is one third of the total).

The elders of Israel in exile deceive themselves into believing Jerusalem will survive this trial, and their people will soon return to their homeland—Jerusalem has always endured. One day they come to Ezekiel to inquire of the LORD to seek His favor, even though they are still worshipping idols in Babylon. They have not repented at all. God instructs His prophet to give them this answer:

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Will you defile yourselves the way your fathers did and lust after their vile images? When you offer your gifts-- the sacrifice of your sons in the fire-- you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. Am I to let you inquire of me, O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will not let you inquire of me.

“You say, ‘We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.’ But what you have in mind will never happen. As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will rule over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. (Ezekiel 20:30a-33, NIV)

God will discipline them by allowing them to be kept in Babylonian captivity for seventy years. After that, they will realize their wrong and repent, and then He will deliver them (so far, they have only been there for seven years).

Meanwhile, Jerusalem continues in great wickedness and idolatry. In addition to despising the ways of the LORD and His Sabbaths (meaning days, feasts, and even the land), they lie, steal, cheat, commit adultery and incest, murder, continue worshipping idols of the surrounding nations, and do many other unspeakable atrocities. God tells Ezekiel to face toward Jerusalem and preach against it. Then Ezekiel prophesies the death of most of the residents of Jerusalem by the sword of Babylon. This very thing will happen in 586 B.C.

Jerusalem has become desolate and her leaders and people have become worthless. They are like corrupt metal residue when precious metals are smelted in a fiery kiln. Already God has tried to get her attention through famine, plagues, and two Babylonian attacks, but she will not listen.

There is a conspiracy of her princes [her leaders] within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her.

Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.

Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain.

Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says”-- when the LORD has not spoken.

The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD,” (Ezekiel 22: 25-31, NIV).

What false hopes are some of us hanging on to? Do we think God will never discipline us just because He is patient with us now? When we are in trouble, will we make an urgent plea to Him like the elders of Israel? Will we try to talk the LORD out of executing punishment on us? Will we try the patience of Almighty God? Purging comes for those who are chronically disobedient. Of this we can be sure—because God is just and righteous—He will purge evil to show us He is the Sovereign LORD. He rules, not us.

Is there no hope for Israel? There is hope. God says to all Israel that He will restore her to her own land, not for her sake, but for His own sake (Ezekiel 20). God had promised since the days of Abraham to give them their land forever (Genesis 17:7-8). Temporarily, because of Israel’s disobedience and God’s holiness, He suspended His promise, but someday it will be renewed. Israel will get a permanent inheritance and an everlasting king, Jesus Christ. First, however, Israel will be punished and then given a new heart and attitude.

Although most of us are not Jewish, we, too, are offered a new heart and attitude. Jesus came to offer us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life. At the last supper of Christ with His disciples, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28 NIV). The Apostle Paul says, He [God] has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2Corinthians 3:6, NIV).

The writer of the book of Hebrews says“… Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…” (Hebrews 9:15a, NIV).

Like the Israelites, we, too, are offered an eternal covenant. It is tied, not to the earthly Promised Land but to heaven’s Promised Land and everlasting life (more...). However, we are disciplined if we persist in disobedience. God loves us too much to let us continue in sin. Christians must be purged of wickedness and given a clean heart for God’s blessings to be on them and not to profane His name. 1 John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (NIV). That is a message of hope!

Lessons to Live By

  • God is Sovereign, God is righteous, and He loves us.
  • We must not try God’s patience. We need to keep short accounts with Him. If we continue to sin, God must purge us of our sins because He is Holy and He wants us to be like Him.
  • We, who are true Christians, have an eternal covenant which gives us forgiveness, peace for our souls and spiritual life (more...). Let us appreciate that and serve Him today. Let us stand in the gap in an evil culture.

Focus Verse

Psalm 51:10 (NIV) “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

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A Look Ahead: When is something Not Worth Saving? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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