18 The word of the Lord came to me again: 19 “As for you, son of man, mark two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to come. Both of them shall come from the same land. And make a signpost; make it at the head of the way to a city. 20 Mark a way for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites and to Judah, into Jerusalem the fortified. 21 For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination. He shakes the arrows; he consults the teraphim; he looks at the liver. 22 Into his right hand comes the divination for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to open the mouth with murder, to lift up the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up mounds, to build siege towers. 23 But to them it will seem like a false divination. They have sworn solemn oaths, but he brings their guilt to remembrance, that they may be taken.
24 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have made your guilt to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear—because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand. 25 And you, O profane wicked one, prince of Israel, whose day has come, the time of your final punishment, 26 thus says the Lord God: Remove the turban and take off the crown. Things shall not remain as they are. Exalt that which is low, and bring low that which is exalted. 27 A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it. This also shall not be, until he comes, the one to whom judgment belongs, and I will give it to him.
28 “And you, son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord God concerning the Ammonites and concerning their reproach; say, A sword, a sword is drawn for the slaughter. It is polished to consume and to flash like lightning— 29 while they see for you false visions, while they divine lies for you—to place you on the necks of the profane wicked, whose day has come, the time of their final punishment. 30 Return it to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your origin, I will judge you. 31 And I will pour out my indignation upon you; I will blow upon you with the fire of my wrath, and I will deliver you into the hands of brutish men, skillful to destroy. 32 You shall be fuel for the fire. Your blood shall be in the midst of the land. You shall be no more remembered, for I the Lord have spoken.” – Ezekiel 21:18-32 ESV
Once again, God orders Ezekiel to illustrate His message through the use of performance art. To better illustrate the coming Babylonian invasion, Ezekiel must produce a two-dimensional map for the people to see. Perhaps he used the model of the city of Jerusalem that he created earlier and simply added a few pertinent details. But the goal was to show that the Babylonians would enter the land of Palestine somewhere in the north, near the city of Damascus. At that point, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, will use divination in order to determine whether to attack Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah or send his troops to Rabbah, the capital city of Ammon.
The king of Babylon now stands at the fork, uncertain whether to attack Jerusalem or Rabbah. He calls his magicians to look for omens. They cast lots by shaking arrows from the quiver. They inspect the livers of animal sacrifices. – Ezekiel 21:21 NLT
This pagan king will utilize belomancy to determine his military strategy. This involved inscribing different names on the shafts of arrows and then placing the arrows in a quiver. Then an arrow was drawn out at random and whichever name was on that arrow indicated the god’s decision. In this case, the name on the arrow will be “Jerusalem.” But this will not be the work of a false god, but the sovereign will of Yahweh. He will determine the destination of the Babylonians.
The omen in his right hand says, ‘Jerusalem!’ With battering rams his soldiers will go against the gates, shouting for the kill. They will put up siege towers and build ramps against the walls. – Ezekiel 21:22 NLT
As the book of Proverbs states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33 BSB). Despite the efforts of the Babylonian magicians, it will be God Almighty who determines Nebuchadnezzar’s actions.
But when the people living in Jerusalem hear that the Babylonians are headed their way, they will view this as a false omen. Nebuchadnezzar must have chosen the wrong arrow. Surely God would have preferred Ammon as the target of the Babylonian hordes. Not only had the Ammonites rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar’s rule just as the Judahites had, but they were godless and wicked. They deserved to be destroyed. The leaders of Jerusalem still believed that they were somehow immune from God’s wrath because they were His chosen people. But they were wrong, and God was about to give them a not-so-gentle wake-up call.
…the king of Babylon will remind the people of their rebellion. Then he will attack and capture them. – Ezekiel 21:23 NLT
And God gave King Zedekiah a foreboding message concerning his fate.
“Take off your jeweled crown,
for the old order changes.
Now the lowly will be exalted,
and the mighty will be brought down.
I will surely destroy the kingdom.
And it will not be restored until the one appears
who has the right to judge it.
Then I will hand it over to him.” – Ezekiel 21:26-27 NLT
And once Nebuchadnezzar has completed God’s plans for Judah and Jerusalem, he will be free to turn his attention to the Ammonites.
“And now, son of man, prophesy concerning the Ammonites and their mockery. Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord:
“A sword, a sword
is drawn for your slaughter.” – Ezekiel 21:28 NLT
But even in the midst of all the doom and gloom, there is a message of hope for the future. God hints about the future restoration of Judah. Look closely at verse 27:
“I will surely destroy the kingdom.
And it will not be restored until the one appears
who has the right to judge it.” – Ezekiel 21:27 NLT
Over and over again the prophet delivers messages from God regarding the sins of the people and the coming destruction. But occasionally God gives a glimpse of future hope. He lets them in on the secret that there is good news ahead. There is a brighter future on the horizon. He will not remain angry forever. And His destruction will not be complete or permanent. He will keep His covenant promise. In verse 27 we get a glimmer of light in the midst of all the darkness and gloom. Yes, destruction is coming. God is going to destroy the kingdom of Judah. And it will remain in a state of destruction and devastation for many years. But there is a day coming when He will restore the nation of Judah and the people of God. With the death of Zedekiah, the reign of the kings of Judah comes to an end. There would be no more kings sitting on the throne of David. Even now, there is no king in Israel. But God is not done. His plan is not yet complete. God tells Ezekiel that there is a day coming when He will turn over the kingdom to one “who has the right to judge it.”
We are told of this coming king in the book of Isaiah.
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen! – Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT
The prophet Jeremiah was told about this coming king as well.
“For the time is coming,”
says the Lord,
“when I will raise up a righteous descendant
from King David’s line.
He will be a King who rules with wisdom.
He will do what is just and right throughout the land.
And this will be his name:
‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’
In that day Judah will be saved,
and Israel will live in safety.” – Jeremiah 23:5-6 NLT
The bad news came with some very good news. God had a plan for His people. He was not done with Israel. Even now, God’s future plan remains unfulfilled but fully in place. They are a nation, but they do not have a king. They have no temple. There is no sacrificial system to atone for their sins. They have no priesthood. But there is a day coming when God will provide them with a ruler who will serve as their priest and king. He will rule and reign in righteousness. He will reestablish the throne of David and rule in Jerusalem with total power and complete righteousness. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God.
But long before the true King of Israel appears, the nation would have to face the righteous judgment of God. Their guilt would have to be condemned and their sins atoned for – until the Son of Righteousness appears.
“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Again and again you remind me of your sin and your guilt. You don’t even try to hide it! In everything you do, your sins are obvious for all to see. So now the time of your punishment has come!” – Ezekiel 21:24 NLT
But the good news is that their time of restoration is still yet to come. God is not done. His promises concerning Israel are yet to be fulfilled. But they will be.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.