woman considering August 19 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezekiel 23, 24 (warning: Ezekiel 23 contains adult material and may not be suitable for young readers)

Not Worth Saving

When is something not worth saving? Usually, we throw something out when it is rusted out, moldy, mildewed, spoiled, torn or broken. Is there ever a time when people are not worth saving? Our first response might be, “No, every person has some value.” If a person were a murderer, an extortionist, adulterer, prostitute, child abuser, thief or a drunkard and they scorned all help, would this still be true? Would we allow him to stay in our home or on our property? Today, we will observe awful behavior by the people of Israel, for which God will expel them from their city and land. Don’t worry; in the end there is hope.

Since delivering Israel out of slavery in Egypt, for nearly 1,000 years the LORD had tried to turn her from idolatry and evil behavior, but she would not. Shortly after the reign of King Solomon in 931 B.C., she became a divided nation. Now, it is close to 586 B.C. when Babylon destroys Judah (called Israel). What has she done that is so bad that she must be destroyed? God gives the answer through parables. Parables are allegorical stories.

In Ezekiel 23 God shares a parable of two adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah. Oholah represents Samaria (the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel), and Oholibah represents Jerusalem (the capital city of the southern kingdom of Judah). In the parable, each of God's children become prostitutes with the nations around them (in their idolatry and political alliances). They would not change and were not sorry.

Oholah (Samaria) courted Assyria’s favors because it was the most powerful nation on the earth in its time (2Kings 10:32-34; 2Kings 15:19-20; 17:3-4). However, Assyria abused (attacked) her, killed her children and took the rest of her family captive (2Kings 17:5-6, 18-20).

Oholibah (Jerusalem) should have taken warning from what happened to her sister; instead, she became more depraved. She also had relationships (alliances) with Assyria (2Kings 16:5-9; Isaiah 7), then Egypt, and then Babylon (2Kings 24:1). She was disgusted with Babylon (during the reign of Jehoiakim), so she rebelled and returned to her first lover, Egypt, for help. But Egypt did not help her. Instead, Babylon came and abused (attacked) her and took her family into captivity. Nebuchadnezzar left her a powerless vassal nation with a weak king (Zedekiah) to rule over her.

Once again Oholibah (Jerusalem), however, allures Egypt to help her. Oholibah’s rebellion against Babylon causes the abuser to surround her house (city), starve her out and destroy her.

Jerusalem thinks she is safe—the people believe the false prophecies about her—they think they are safe as meat inside an iron pot (meaning Jerusalem provides an impregnable fortress for them (Ezekiel 11:3). However, God will now build a fire under them. In today’s vernacular we would say, “Your goose is cooked!” But even when the meat is cooked inside the pot, it is no good. Crust has built up in the pot and spoiled the meat. Even hotter fires (of adversity) will not take away its impurities. Their impurity is their lewd behavior—idolatry and extreme wickedness ruins all morality. The meat is not worth saving—it will be soon thrown out. Even the secure pot (Jerusalem) will be burned and the citizens outside of Jerusalem destroyed.

God then tells Ezekiel to illustrate something no good man would ever want to do. With the exiles looking on, Ezekiel’s wife dies, but he is not allowed to mourn for her. This is unthinkable in their culture. Relatives weep and wail for the loss of their loved ones for a long time...but not now...not this time. Ezekiel is illustrating the shock and unbelievable sorrow the exiles will feel when they learn their beloved city, their temple, and their relatives in Jerusalem are destroyed. Besides their shock and numbness, perhaps, because of their captivity to the Babylonians, they will not be able to mourn. They will have to mourn in secret—no crying, no hugs, no complaints, no shouting out against their captors—just quiet mourning. What a very difficult thing they will soon experience.

This is the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign and Jerusalem is under siege. For a time God closes Ezekiel’s mouth. No more prophecies for Israel will be uttered until the day of Jerusalem’s destruction. There is no more room for words; further words would be futile and fall on deaf ears. Now Ezekiel will turn his attention to prophecies about other nations, for when Judah falls they will also fall.

In a spiritual sense, many of us know the Bible’s teaching that no one is worth saving; no one is deserving of the LORD ’s mercy (Romans 3:10-18, 23). But for the grace of God all of us would be lost (Ephesians 2:1-8). We need to respond to His grace to be saved (Romans 3:23-24; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8). However, when people continually sin and will not repent—not ever, and scorn the grace and mercy of God, and any present or future efforts will be totally futile, God says they are not worth saving. Unfortunately, they will suffer eternal judgment in hell (Revelation 21:8).

We cannot know, however, when a person will reach that point because the Lord is gracious and does not easily give up on people (2Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4-8). He glories in taking worthless people and making them valuable (Romans 9:22-23), and no man comes to God unless the Holy Spirit draws him (John 6:44). Therefore, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we should pray for those who are obstinate and do not listen, that God might be merciful to them.

Lessons to Live By

  • Let's learn from the lessons of punishment upon God’s people. We should pay attention to the Word of God and be good ministers who faithfully proclaim it.
  • We need to keep our lives from slipping into ungodliness and idolatry. Then perhaps “there will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:14, 15, NIV).
  • The LORD is a God of mercy and love. He only judges when absolutely necessary. If we are Christians, we need to pray for God to work in the hearts of those who seem to be beyond hope. Pray that God will be merciful and gracious to save them as He was to save us.
  • Do any of us think we are beyond hope? Do we need forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life? It can be found through Jesus Christ (more...)

Focus Verse

Romans 6:23 (NIV) “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

End note: Many insights in the interpretation of this Bible study were gleaned from The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O. T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, pp.1270-1275.

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A Look Ahead: Because of the bad behavior of Israel, God's Plans become Irrevocable. Is there any hope? Yes. Join us for our Next Lesson.

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