Scripture: Ezekiel, chapters 12-14; Revelation, chapter 5
Ezekiel 14:12-14 (NASB) – Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, if a country sins against Me by being unfaithful, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it, and eliminate from it both human and animal life, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only save themselves,” declares the Lord.
Revelation 5:1-5 (NASB) – I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it.
Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to be able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Observations: Bible scholars have noted that there are a number of similarities between Ezekiel and the Revelation. For example, the four living creatures of Revelation 4 resemble the four living beings in Ezekiel 1. However, there is at least one major difference in these prophecies. Ezekiel focuses primarily on the judgment on Judah; Revelation focuses on Jesus’ triumph over evil.
Ezekiel: Our passage today from Ezekiel chapters 12-14 talks about the coming exile, and the reason for it. They are “a rebellious house.” They “have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear” (12:2). False prophets have led the people astray (chapter 13). The people “have set up their idols in their hearts.” They also “have put in front of their faces the stumbling block of their wrongdoing” (14:3). As a result, God’s judgment was about to take place.
The passage that begins in Ezekiel 14:12 is titled “The City Will Not Be Spared” in the NASB. The point that God makes is that His judgment would come. When it did, there would be no righteous person to save the people. Even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Jacob, were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only save themselves.
Throughout their history, the people of Israel had grown accustomed to great leaders rising up to deliver them. Moses brought them out of bondage in Egypt. Joshua led them into the Promised Land and helped them establish themselves there. After Joshua’s time, judges would rise up periodically to deliver the people and turn them back to God. David established the kingdom in righteousness. Solomon took Israel to its greatest glory with the dedication of the Temple. And yet the people continued to rebel against God.
Now, Ezekiel says, judgment is coming – and there will be no great deliver to save the people. Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in their midst, by their own righteousness they could only save themselves.
Revelation: Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to be able to open the scroll and its seven seals. The three righteous men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, couldn’t save the people – but Jesus did! He has overcome so as to be able to open the scroll and its seven seals. And just so we don’t miss what that means, John tells us. Those closest to God’s throne make it clear in their song after the Lion who is the Lamb appears:
Worthy are You to take the scroll and to break its seals; for You were slaughtered, and You purchased people for God with Your blood from every tribe, language, people, and nation. He conquered sin and death and hell, and offers salvation to all who believe. The three righteous men mentioned by Ezekiel couldn’t save anyone else by their righteousness, but by His righteousness Jesus has made salvation available to everyone!
Application: Stop weeping! As John experienced his vision of God’s throne, he wept because no one was worthy to open the seals. I think at times we may weep because we look around and see a lot of sinful behavior and not much that reflects the presence of God in our world. While I think it’s appropriate for us to weep over sin, we should not lose sight of the fact that what we see is not the final picture. The elder told John not to weep, and to look – because there was more to the story. In the same way, there is more to the story that what we see. But we are also not called to just “look”; we are called to take part in God’s redemptive work.
I’ve reflected quite a bit lately on the fact what “what we do matters.” There’s no question that it’s true, but the reason why it matters is what is most important. What we do matters as a demonstration of what God has done for us and is doing in us. Our actions are not saving us; they are our response to the salvation that God has given to us. Jesus didn’t “just” pay the price for our sins; he purchased people for God. If God has purchased us, we belong to Him – and our actions should reflect that. As Revelation 5 ends, “every created thing which is in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, or on the sea, and all the things in them” join together in a great song of praise: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion forever and ever.”
Prayer: Father, You are worthy. Jesus, You are worthy. Holy Spirit, you are worthy. To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion forever and ever. You are worthy because You have made it possible for us to be redeemed and transformed into the image of Jesus. Help us to live each day in ways that reflect His image and the Spirit’s presence in us. Amen.