Ezekiel 21:1-7 (NIV) 1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuary. Prophesy against the land of Israel 3 and say to her: ‘This is what the LORD says: I am against you. I will draw my sword from its scabbard and cut off from you both the righteous and the wicked. 4 Because I am going to cut off the righteous and the wicked, my sword will be unsheathed against everyone from south to north. 5 Then all people will know that I the LORD have drawn my sword from its scabbard; it will not return again.’ 6 “Therefore groan, son of man! Groan before them with broken heart and bitter grief. 7 And when they ask you, ‘Why are you groaning?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that is coming. Every heart will melt and every hand go limp; every spirit will become faint and every knee become as weak as water.’ It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
On verses 1-7: In case the Israelites did not understand the message Ezekiel was sharing in Ezekiel 20:45-48, God gives Ezekiel an even clearer and more direct message to give the Israelites about the destruction that was coming to Jerusalem and Judah (the kingdom in which Jerusalem was situated). This time God gives Ezekiel the imagery of God’s sword coming against everyone in Jerusalem, on “both the righteous and the wicked” (v3-4) in relentless fashion (v5). He also tells Ezekiel to go out in front of the Israelites and groan out of grief (v6). Whenever anyone asks him why he is groaning, he is to remind them that the destruction he prophesied about “will surely take place” (v7).
How do we reconcile this prophecy that God’s sword would come against both the righteous and the wicked in Jerusalem with previous prophecies such as in Ezekiel 20:40-44 where it seems to suggest that the Lord will preserve a remnant in Jerusalem who will worship Him? Is there a contradiction? No. At some point all of these prophecies would come true, just at different times. The destruction of Jerusalem prophesied about here is likely referring to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. God bringing back a remnant to live and worship Him in Jerusalem would happen much later.
Ezekiel 21:8-17 (NIV) 8 The word of the LORD came to me: 9 “Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Lord says: “‘A sword, a sword, sharpened and polished– 10 sharpened for the slaughter, polished to flash like lightning! “‘Shall we rejoice in the scepter of my son [Judah]? The sword despises every such stick. 11 “‘The sword is appointed to be polished, to be grasped with the hand; it is sharpened and polished, made ready for the hand of the slayer. 12 Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people; it is against all the princes of Israel. They are thrown to the sword along with my people. Therefore beat your breast. 13 “‘Testing will surely come. And what if the scepter [of Judah], which the sword despises, does not continue? declares the Sovereign LORD.’ 14 “So then, son of man, prophesy and strike your hands together. Let the sword strike twice, even three times. It is a sword for slaughter– a sword for great slaughter, closing in on them from every side. 15 So that hearts may melt and the fallen be many, I have stationed the sword for slaughter at all their gates. Oh! It is made to flash like lightning, it is grasped for slaughter. 16 O sword, slash to the right, then to the left, wherever your blade is turned. 17 I too will strike my hands together, and my wrath will subside. I the LORD have spoken.”
On verses 8-17: Notice that the word “sword” comes up over and over in these verses. Here Ezekiel is prophesying further about how, after having given warning after warning for centuries, God has prepared a sword, “sharpened and polished” (v9, v11) to come against the people of Jerusalem and Judah for their idolatry. It is a sword prepared for a “great slaughter” “from every side” (v14), stationed “at all their gates” (v15). This sword, Ezekiel prophesies, is meant to enforce, execute and ultimately extinguish the wrath of God against His people’s idolatry (“my wrath will subside” – v17).
What can we learn from this? God’s wrath against sin is real. With mercy and compassion God will first give sinners ample warning, but there comes a time when God must act on His wrath against sin for the sake of His name.
We see this imagery of God bringing His sword of judgment not just here in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament as well. Jesus came into this world as the lamb of God and the suffering servant who takes away our sins. But in the book of Revelation which describes the end times, Jesus is pictured as the King of kings with a sword in His mouth. As Revelation 19:15 says, “out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” In Revelation, Jesus is the one who “will fight against” the unrepentant “with the sword” of his mouth (Revelation 2:16). In Ephesians 6:18 we learn that the word of God is called the sword of the Spirit. In Hebrews 4:12 we learn that the word of God is “sharper than any double-edged sword”, that “it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Since the sword of the Lord is not just an Old Testament concept, but a New Testament one as well, you and I have a choice: we can voluntarily let the sword of the Lord (that is, His Word) run through us now, or we can try to flee from the sword of the Lord only to have it run through us later when it is too late for us to choose. The earlier we voluntarily let the sword that is God’s Word run through us, letting His sword judge our thoughts and attitudes, the more we will experience His life and blessing both now and in the future. But if we run from the sword that is God’s Word all our lives and leave God no choice but to chase us down, His sword will eventually get to us, but in a much more painful way that does not lead to life and blessing but to death and destruction.
So while we still can, let’s surrender to the sword of the Lord, that is the word of God.
Lord Jesus, You are the King of kings. Today I recognize that I can’t compete with Your sword that is Your Word. So I choose to submit to Your Word today. Let it run through me, judging my thoughts, purging the things in me that don’t please You, and leading me to a new life in You. Jesus be enthroned as King over my life, that I would serve and follow You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!