I would say that at first glance this passage might be difficult to
understand if one were assuming it was about judgment day. God is talking
about bringing physical judgment on the city of Jerusalem and on Judah for
their unrighteous deeds. In fact, that is the main subject of Ezekiel
chapters 20-23. Israel had sinned greatly, individually and as a nation
for many generations. God was about to pronounce judgment on his people.
This is exactly what he had told his people would happen if they turned
from him all the way back in Deuteronomy. For example, read Deuteronomy
28:15-68. In this passage, God specifically stated that if Israel became
hard of heart and failed to obey God’s commands he would bring a nation to
destroy them and to scatter them. This is exactly what Ezekiel was
announcing. In fact, only a few years after this prophecy, in 585 BC,
Jerusalem was attacked, defeated and destroyed by the armies of Babylon,
exactly as Ezekiel prophesied. The temple was leveled and for seventy
years sacrifice for sins ended. In this horrible destruction of Jerusalem,
both the righteous and the unrighteous suffered greatly.

When God brings physical judgment on a nation, both the godly and the
ungodly will suffer. This may seem unfair upon first consideration, but
when God judges a nation, as he surely has a right to do, the suffering of
both the good and the evil is inevitable. However, the righteous may
suffer physically, but they will not lose their place in heaven if their
heart is devoted to God. This is a general law of human existence. God
causes the rain to fall on the good and the evil. Some of the blessings of
God will fall on those who do not even acknowledge him. Sometimes, even
good people are caused to suffer because of the sins of others, but in the
end, God will reward them for their righteous life. God does not promise a
care-free life to those who turn to him. There are blessings in this life
for those who take the yoke of Jesus Christ, of course, but disciples of
Jesus will still suffer through hard times, sickness and eventually death.
The righteous in Jerusalem who suffered in the destruction which Ezekiel
prophesied in chapter 21 are an example of this. If we will rely on God,
our true reward is in heaven. I hope this makes the statements in Ezekiel
21 make sense for you.

John Oakes, PhD

Comments are closed.