Friday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Ezekiel 31-33 (NKJV)
31:1 Now it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude:
‘Whom are you like in your greatness? 3 Indeed Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with fine branches that shaded the forest, and of high stature; And its top was among the thick boughs. 4 The waters made it grow; Underground waters gave it height, with their rivers running around the place where it was planted, and sent out rivulets to all the trees of the field. 5 Therefore its height was exalted above all the trees of the field; Its boughs were multiplied, and its branches became long because of the abundance of water, as it sent them out. 6 All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; Under its branches all the beasts of the field brought forth their young; And in its shadow all great nations made their home. 7 Thus it was beautiful in greatness and in the length of its branches, because its roots reached to abundant waters. 8 The cedars in the garden of God could not hide it; The fir trees were not like its boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like its branches; No tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty. 9 I made it beautiful with a multitude of branches, so that all the trees of Eden envied it, that were in the garden of God.’ 10 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Because you have increased in height, and it set its top among the thick boughs, and its heart was lifted up in its height, 11 therefore I will deliver it into the hand of the mighty one of the nations, and he shall surely deal with it; I have driven it out for its wickedness. 12 And aliens, the most terrible of the nations, have cut it down and left it; its branches have fallen on the mountains and in all the valleys; its boughs lie broken by all the rivers of the land; and all the peoples of the earth have gone from under its shadow and left it. 13 On its ruin will remain all the birds of the heavens, and all the beasts of the field will come to its branches—14 So that no trees by the waters may ever again exalt themselves for their height, nor set their tops among the thick boughs, that no tree which drinks water may ever be high enough to reach up to them. For they have all been delivered to death, to the depths of the earth, among the children of men who go down to the Pit.’
15 “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘In the day when it went down to hell, I caused mourning. I covered the deep because of it. I restrained its rivers, and the great waters were held back. I caused Lebanon to mourn for it, and all the trees of the field wilted because of it. 16 I made the nations shake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to hell together with those who descend into the Pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the depths of the earth. 17 They also went down to hell with it, with those slain by the sword; and those who were its strong arm dwelt in its shadows among the nations.
18 ‘To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness? Yet you shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the depths of the earth; you shall lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with those slain by the sword.
This is Pharaoh and all his multitude,’ says the Lord GOD.”
32:1 And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him:
‘You are like a young lion among the nations, and you are like a monster in the seas, bursting forth in your rivers, troubling the waters with your feet, and fouling their rivers.
3 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“I will therefore spread My net over you with a company of many people, and they will draw you up in My net. 4 Then I will leave you on the land; I will cast you out on the open fields, and cause to settle on you all the birds of the heavens. And with you I will fill the beasts of the whole earth. 5 I will lay your flesh on the mountains, and fill the valleys with your carcass. 6 I will also water the land with the flow of your blood, even to the mountains; And the riverbeds will be full of you. 7 When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. 8 All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, and bring darkness upon your land,” says the Lord GOD. 9 I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples, when I bring your destruction among the nations, into the countries which you have not known. 10 Yes, I will make many peoples astonished at you, and their kings shall be horribly afraid of you when I brandish My sword before them; and they shall tremble every moment, every man for his own life, in the day of your fall.
11 ‘For thus says the Lord GOD:
“The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon you. 12 By the swords of the mighty warriors, all of them the most terrible of the nations, I will cause your multitude to fall. They shall plunder the pomp of Egypt, and all its multitude shall be destroyed. 13 Also I will destroy all its animals from beside its great waters; The foot of man shall muddy them no more, nor shall the hooves of animals muddy them. 14 Then I will make their waters clear, and make their rivers run like oil,” says the Lord GOD. 15 “When I make the land of Egypt desolate, and the country is destitute of all that once filled it, when I strike all who dwell in it, then they shall know that I am the LORD.
16 “This is the lamentation with which they shall lament her; The daughters of the nations shall lament her; They shall lament for her, for Egypt, and for all her multitude,” says the Lord GOD.”‘
17 It came to pass also in the twelfth year, on the fifteenth day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 18 “Son of man, wail over the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down to the depths of the earth, her and the daughters of the famous nations, with those who go down to the Pit: 19 Whom do you surpass in beauty? Go down, be placed with the uncircumcised.’ 20 They shall fall in the midst of those slain by the sword; She is delivered to the sword, drawing her and all her multitudes. 21 The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with those who help him: ‘They have gone down, they lie with the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’
22 “Assyria is there, and all her company, with their graves all around her, all of them slain, fallen by the sword. 23 Her graves are set in the recesses of the Pit, and her company is all around her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who caused terror in the land of the living.
24 “There is Elam and all her multitude, all around her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who have gone down uncircumcised to the lower parts of the earth, who caused their terror in the land of the living; Now they bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit. 25 They have set her bed in the midst of the slain, with all her multitude, with her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; Though their terror was caused in the land of the living, yet they bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit; It was put in the midst of the slain.
26 “There are Meshech and Tubal and all their multitudes, with all their graves around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword, though they caused their terror in the land of the living. 27 They do not lie with the mighty who are fallen of the uncircumcised, who have gone down to hell with their weapons of war; They have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities will be on their bones, because of the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.
28 “Yes, you shall be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, And lie with those slain by the sword.
29 “There is Edom, her kings and all her princes, who despite their might are laid beside those slain by the sword; They shall lie with the uncircumcised, and with those who go down to the Pit.
30 “There are the princes of the north, all of them, and all the Sidonians, who have gone down with the slain in shame at the terror which they caused by their might; They lie uncircumcised with those slain by the sword, and bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit.
31 “Pharaoh will see them and be comforted over all his multitude, Pharaoh and all his army, slain by the sword,” says the Lord GOD. 32 “For I have caused My terror in the land of the living; And he shall be placed in the midst of the uncircumcised with those slain by the sword, Pharaoh and all his multitude,” says the Lord GOD.
33:1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’
7 “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
10 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?”‘ 11 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’
12 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: ‘The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’ 13 When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die. 14 Again, when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.
17 “Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. 19 But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. 20 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, I will judge every one of you according to his own ways.”
21 And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, that one who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has been captured!” 22 Now the hand of the LORD had been upon me the evening before the man came who had escaped. And He had opened my mouth; so when he came to me in the morning, my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute.
23 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 24 “Son of man, they who inhabit those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one, and he inherited the land. But we are many; the land has been given to us as a possession.’ 25 Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “You eat meat with blood, you lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood. Should you then possess the land? 26 You rely on your sword, you commit abominations, and you defile one another’s wives. Should you then possess the land?”‘
27 “Say thus to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “As I live, surely those who are in the ruins shall fall by the sword, and the one who is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in the strongholds and caves shall die of the pestilence. 28 For I will make the land most desolate, her arrogant strength shall cease, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will pass through. 29 Then they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.”‘
30 “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ 31 So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. 32 Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.
33 “And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
The wicked shall die in his iniquity unless he repents. The Lord graciously promises that all who turn from their sin and look to Him for mercy shall find mercy. He swears by Himself that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but wants them to repent of their iniquity and live by faith. The Lord then warns those who are righteous by faith of willfully sinning. If a man who is righteous by faith turns from his righteousness he will die and his former righteousness will count for nothing. The warning is clear: do not sin willfully because doing so casts out the Holy Spirit and faith.
The Israelites gnashed their teeth at this, imagining it unfair. Many today gnash their teeth at the Word of the Lord and imagine that Christians cannot lose their salvation, even by willfully sinning against their conscience. The Lord says through the prophet that such a terrible fate is possible if we turn from the righteousness of faith and willfully engage in sinful behaviors. Such willful sinning drives out the Holy Ghost and faith, for these cannot coexist with the intention to sin. God tells us this as a warning so that we do not willfully sin. That is Law. But the Gospel remains as well. He does not want anyone to perish in his sins, even willful sins. So He swears that He does not want us to die in our sins but wills that we daily repent, believe the Gospel that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, and then fight sin by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Lord God, cleanse me from secret faults and keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.