Preaching the content of the Gospel vs. Doing the deeds of the Gospel…which is more important? In the first post, I tried to argue that we need both. The deeds of the Gospel are many, and one important area is social justice. Some Christians teach that social justice is not necessary for the Gospel. I beg to differ, as the previous post clearly showed us God’s heart for justice. That theme continues.
Ezekiel 22, verses 13-16 are very similar to what we learned in previous chapters where God says he will strike his hands together, a symbol indicating he will punish the rebellious people, so that they will know him. They forgot about him, and he wants them to remember! How did they show they forgot about him? Keep reading as we’ll find out.
In verses 17-22, God has another parable for Ezekiel. This parable is from the world of metallurgy, where God envisions the dross or the unwanted part of the metal that is discarded when the metal is heated up in the purification process. The people in Jerusalem will experience this when Babylon lays siege to the city, and the people are trapped there. So the theme of punishment continues, but why?
In verses 23-29, Ezekiel tells us why. The people are being punished for committing social injustice. This time Ezekiel describes the evil injustice perpetrated by the various leaders of the city. After comparing the people to a land that has been dried up in a drought in verses 23-24, he says in verse 25, that the princes have conspired to treat people horribly. They stole treasures, impoverishing the people. They kill people, leaving widows helpless. The princes who are supposed to lead the people in righteousness are themselves unrighteous, and it has affected the citizens deeply.
In verse 26 God focuses now on the priests, who are unholy, and who teach the people false theology and unbiblical lies. The priests ignore it when people are not following God’s ways, such as the Sabbath. Think about that. The priests are supposed to pointing people to God, to live God’s ways, but the priests themselves are not living examples. Worse, the priests are not intervening when the people abandon God.
In verse 27, God now talks to another category of leaders, the officials. They, too, are murderous, profiting off their crime. They are like mob bosses, getting rich and killing people in the process.
In verse 28, God addresses the prophets who prophesy lies that make it seem like the people are fine, though injustice surrounds them.
In verse 29, God now focuses on everyone. Notice the many kinds of social injustice they commit: extortion, robbery, oppression of the poor and needy, mistreatment of the alien/foreigner, denying them justice.
God concludes in verses 30-31 that he looked for one righteous person to deal with this. Just one! One person who would restore the city, one person who would follow God’s way, so he would not allow the invading Babylonians to destroy the city.
But God found no one. Not even one. Imagine that. Not a single person with a sliver of a heart to do what is right. That’s how deeply the people of Jerusalem had fallen in wickedness in both their worship and their treatment of others. People from all levels of society, God says, were committing injustice and wickedness. From the king, to the priests, to the officials, to the prophets. All the leaders were corrupt and unjust. All the people. It was so, so bad.
In verse 31, then, God says, there is no stopping his wrath, and he specifically says that this was their own doing. They chose this. It’s not like they were unlucky, or that this was random, or that they were really good people who were just mistreated. Not even close. They persistently chose to turn away from God and turn toward evil, committing injustice and allowing injustice to go unchecked.
When injustice reigns in a society, it breaks God’s heart. But injustice doesn’t have to be at that level of wickedness to break God’s heart. Any injustice breaks God’s heart. Will you be the one person who follows God’s heart, making choices to live in such a way that you pursue justice?