Ezekiel 23:32-35 (NIV) 32 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “You will drink your sister’s cup, a cup large and deep; it will bring scorn and derision, for it holds so much. 33 You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, the cup of ruin and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria. 34 You will drink it and drain it dry; you will dash it to pieces and tear your breasts. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD. 35 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you have forgotten me and thrust me behind your back, you must bear the consequences of your lewdness and prostitution.”
On verses 32-35: Earlier in verse 31, God says to the nation of Judah, “You have gone the way of your sister [Israel], so I will put her cup into your hand.” In other words, because Judah put her hope in other nations instead of God, just as her “older sister” Israel did before her, Judah would suffer a similar fate as Israel: she would be controlled, held captive and shamed by the very nation that she idolized. Judah would drink the same cup of suffering that Israel drank. Here in verses 32-35 God continues to speak using this cup imagery. Because Judah had forgotten God and thrust God behind her back (v35), Judah would bear the consequences of her sins by drinking a “cup of ruin and desolation” (v33), a cup that would bring her “scorn and derision” (v32). As “large and deep” (v32) as this cup of suffering would be, Judah would “drink it and drain it dry” (v34).
Similarly, in exchange for all the times that we have forgotten God and thrust God behind our back, we deserved to drink a cup of suffering as well, the suffering of being separated forever from God. But Jesus came to drink that cup of suffering for us. It was not easy for Jesus to do. At one point Jesus even prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” (Matthew 26:39) But out of love for us and out of obedience to His Father, Jesus drank our cup of suffering, taking on the ruin, desolation, scorn and derision that were meant for us. It is only because Jesus drank our cup of suffering that now we get to “lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:13).
Ezekiel 23:36-49 (NIV) 36 The LORD said to me: “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then confront them with their detestable practices, 37 for they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands. They committed adultery with their idols; they even sacrificed their children, whom they bore to me, as food for them. 38 They have also done this to me: At that same time they defiled my sanctuary and desecrated my Sabbaths. 39 On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house. 40 “They even sent messengers for men who came from far away, and when they arrived you bathed yourself for them, painted your eyes and put on your jewelry. 41 You sat on an elegant couch, with a table spread before it on which you had placed the incense and oil that belonged to me. 42 “The noise of a carefree crowd was around her; Sabeans were brought from the desert along with men from the rabble, and they put bracelets on the arms of the woman and her sister and beautiful crowns on their heads. 43 Then I said about the one worn out by adultery, ‘Now let them use her as a prostitute, for that is all she is.’ 44 And they slept with her. As men sleep with a prostitute, so they slept with those lewd women, Oholah and Oholibah. 45 But righteous men will sentence them to the punishment of women who commit adultery and shed blood, because they are adulterous and blood is on their hands. 46 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Bring a mob against them and give them over to terror and plunder. 47 The mob will stone them and cut them down with their swords; they will kill their sons and daughters and burn down their houses. 48 “So I will put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not imitate you. 49 You will suffer the penalty for your lewdness and bear the consequences of your sins of idolatry. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.”
Verses 36-49: God commands Ezekiel to confront Oholah (symbolizing Israel) and Oholibah (symbolizing Judah) regarding their sins (“their detestable practices” – v36). These sins include:
Worshiping idols (v37)
Sacrificing children as part of worshiping such idols (v37)
Defiling God’s sanctuary by using the temple in ways that did not please God (v38). (In verse 39 God even recalls a time when the people of Israel and Judah entered the temple and used it for unholy purposes on the same day that they had sacrificed their children to idols.)
Desecrating the Sabbath day that God had instituted by refusing to acknowledge Him on the Sabbath (v38).
Entering into forbidden alliances with foreign nations (v40-44) and giving them treasures that belonged to God (v41).
As a result of all these sins, God says that Israel and Judah will suffer the penalty for their lewdness and bear the consequences for their idolatry (v49). A mob would attack and plunder them (v46). In addition, God says that Israel and Judah will be sentenced to the punishment that an adulterous and murderous woman deserved under the law of Moses (v45). As punishment for their adultery, the mob would stone them, and as punishment for their murderous ways, the mob would cut them down with swords (v47).
Here I am reminded of a scene centuries later in John 8 where a mob would bring an adulterous woman to Jesus to be punished. “In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”, they questioned Jesus. This mob wanted to trap Jesus into either violating Roman law by commanding the capital punishment of this woman, or violating Jewish law by not giving an adulterous woman her due punishment. Jesus’ response was brilliant. He invited those without sin to cast the first stone. Since everyone in that mob knew they had sinned, one by one they left the scene, leaving Jesus – the only one who was without sin – with the woman alone. Though Jesus had the right to stone the adulterous woman, instead He said “neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) Jesus could say this because just days later Jesus would suffer in her place and die for her sins. On the day when Jesus died on the cross, Jesus was receiving the punishment that this adulterous woman deserved under Jewish law as well as receiving capital punishment under Roman law.
Likewise, we, like adulterous Israel and Judah in Ezekiel 23, deserved to die for our sin. Yet as He did with the adulterous woman in John 8, Jesus showed us mercy when He died in our place on the cross. Dear Jesus, thank You that because You drank my cup of suffering, I can drink Your cup of salvation. Thank You that because You took on the punishment I deserved for my sin, I am set free. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!