Ezekiel 14:12-23 (NIV) 12 The word of the LORD came to me: 13 “Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, 14 even if these three men–Noah, Daniel and Job–were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign LORD. 15 “Or if I send wild beasts through that country and they leave it childless and it becomes desolate so that no one can pass through it because of the beasts, 16 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved, but the land would be desolate. 17 “Or if I bring a sword against that country and say, ‘Let the sword pass throughout the land,’ and I kill its men and their animals, 18 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved. 19 “Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath upon it through bloodshed, killing its men and their animals, 20 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness.
On verses 12-21: Here the Lord continues to speak to Ezekiel while Ezekiel is sitting down with the Jewish elders (see Ezekiel 14:1). The Lord describes four ways that He could discipline a country that is unfaithful to Him: by famine (v13-14), by wild beasts (v15-16), by sword (v17-18), and by plague (v19-20). The Lord says that in each case not even the righteousness (or moral purity) of some of Israel’s historically most godly men – Noah, Daniel and Job – could save a nation from their sins.
What can we learn from this?
With the exception of only one person, there is no one whose righteousness is so great that they could save an entire nation, or even another individual (see v14, 16, 18, 19) from their sins with their righteousness. As Psalm 49:7-8 says, “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him– the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough”. Who is the one person whose righteousness is enough to save others, even an entire nation? Jesus Christ.Jesus’ righteousness was enough to save not just an entire nation, but the entire world. Are you placing your faith in your own righteousness, or in the righteousness of Jesus to save you from your sins?
For those who try to put Noah, Daniel, Job and other individuals in the Bible on the same level as Jesus, these verses show that they’ve got another thing coming. For Jesus is in a league all His own. His righteousness far exceeds even the most spiritual sinner who has lived on this earth, for Jesus is without sin.
By referencing Noah, Daniel and Job and saying that by their righteousness they would save only themselves, does Ezekiel mean that it is possible to earn your way to heaven yourself? No. Remember that each of Noah, Daniel and Job personally asked the Lord to do what they cannot do themselves. They chose to trust in the Lord, instead of themselves.
Ezekiel 14:21-23 (NIV) 21 “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments–sword and famine and wild beasts and plague–to kill its men and their animals! 22 Yet there will be some survivors–sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought upon Jerusalem–every disaster I have brought upon it. 23 You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
On verses 21-23: Whereas in verses 12 to 20 the Lord was only speaking in hypotheticals, in verses 21-23 the Lord foretells that He will indeed judge the people living in Jerusalem using all four methods described earlier (famine, wild beasts sword and plague), possibly all at the same time. The Lord says that the elders who are sitting in front of Ezekiel will be “consoled” when they see the conduct and actions of those who are currently in Jerusalem and who will eventually be joining the elders as exiles in Babylon. Why is that? According to many scholars, it is because those people who would later be exiled to Babylon were of such a wicked and godless variety that it will be obvious to the Jewish exiles already in Babylon that God was just in causing them to be exiled. “[F]or you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign LORD” (v23).
Jesus, whereas I could not with my own righteousness save myself or anybody else, thank You that Your blood is sufficient to cover us every day on this trip. God is with you!