Ezekiel 22:17-22 (NIV) 17 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 18 “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me; all of them are the copper, tin, iron and lead left inside a furnace. They are but the dross of silver. 19 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘Because you have all become dross, I will gather you into Jerusalem. 20 As men gather silver, copper, iron, lead and tin into a furnace to melt it with a fiery blast, so will I gather you in my anger and my wrath and put you inside the city and melt you. 21 I will gather you and I will blow on you with my fiery wrath, and you will be melted inside her. 22 As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the LORD have poured out my wrath upon you.'”
On verses 17-22: Here God has another message for Ezekiel concerning “the house of Israel”, saying that the house of Israel has become dross to Him. What is dross? Dross is the impure, unwanted material which rises to the surface, scooped up and thrown away when precious metals like silver are heated in a furnace. God compared the house of Israel to dross, saying that because of their sin they had been impure, useless and ought to be thrown away. The Israelites would have resonated with this imagery, since according to scholars metallurgy was a developed science in the ancient Near East. Like metals being thrown into a furnace and melted, so the Israelites would be gathered in Jerusalem while Jerusalem is under attack. According to some scholars, this prophecy was fulfilled during the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. when King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and set fire to much of the city. It may have also found its fulfillment in 70 A.D. when Emperor Titus of the Roman Empire defeated Jerusalem, killing many Jews in the process.
What can we learn from this? While we are precious in God’s sight, whether we are ultimately useless to God or useful to Him will depend on how much we live out His Word. If we say we believe in Jesus, but we are not careful to live out our faith, we may be saved and going to heaven but we will severely limit how much God will use us on earth and bless us in eternity. But if we live out our faith, we become useful in God’s hands for His purposes on earth and we gain greater blessings for eternity. As Paul writes, “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21; see also 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Or as Jesus Himself says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13)
By the way, Ezekiel uses the term “house of Israel” over 100 times in this book. In verse 18 particularly, when Ezekiel uses the term “the house of Israel”, he seems to be referring to all the Israelites wherever they were situated, and not necessarily only the Israelites then living in Jerusalem and Judah.
Ezekiel 22:23-29 (NIV) 23 Again the word of the LORD came to me: 24 “Son of man, say to the land, ‘You are a land that has had no rain or showers in the day of wrath.’ 25 There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. 26 Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says’–when the LORD has not spoken. 29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.
On verses 23-29: Here Ezekiel receives from the Lord another message for “the land”, which is presumably Judah. He points out how 5 different groups of people in the land – princes (v25), priests (v26), government officials (v27), prophets (v28) and the people generally (v29) – have done the very opposite of what they were called to do. Instead of protecting the people, the princes of Israel would devour and destroy them (v25). Instead of upholding God’s commands and teaching the people to follow God, the priests would break God’s laws and encourage others to do the same (v26). Instead of serving the people, the government officials would extort them (v27). Instead of confronting the people with God’s truth, the prophets would whitewash the sins of the people with false visions and lying divinations (v28). Instead of taking care of one another and especially the poor and needy, the people would mistreat one another, especially the poor and needy (v29). As a result, where God had called His people to be blessed and to be a blessing, the Lord says they together have become an unclean land that is like a city without rain on a day of wrath (v24).
What can we learn from this? God’s blessing on our lives depends a great deal on how we treat the people around us. Treat the people around you well and serve them as God has called us to, and you will be blessed and be a blessing. Mistreat the people around you and don’t serve others, and you will severely limit how much blessing you give to others and receive yourself.
Ezekiel 22:30-31 (NIV) 30 “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. 31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
On verses 30-31: God tells Ezekiel that He looked for a man among them who could build up the wall and stand before Him in the gap and intercede on behalf of the people. However, He found none and thus had no choice but to punish the people.
What can we learn from this? God looks for brave individuals who will stand in the gap on behalf of their community, city, nation, or world. When we pray, sacrifice and lead to help others, it’s like we’re building up a wall of protection for our city, community and nation. The greatest example of this is Jesus Christ, who stood in the gap on our behalf, receiving God’s wrath in our stead so that we could be spared.
Thank You Heavenly Father for showing us that in many ways we get to choose how much we will be blessed and used by You. Jesus, thank You for living out God’s Word, for serving the people around You so well, and for boldly standing in the gap on others’ behalf. May I do the same so as to maximize how much You will bless us and use us to be a blessing. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!