Ezekiel arrived in Babylon following the besieging of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar during the disaastrous three month reign of Jehoiachin. In 2nd Kings 24 we read about the devastation that followed the surrender of Jerusalem to the enemy:

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.
At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.

2nd KIngs 24:8-16

Of the thousands who were enslaved and brought to Babylon, Ezekiel was among their number. He was young, fit, strong and healthy. He was a skilled man who could contribute to Babylonish society. He was one of a number who would were taken from their homeland, never to see the walls of Jerusalem again. Ezekiel’s ministry commenced in the fifth year of King Jehoichin’s captivity. He was called to minister to God’s captive people, as King Zedekiah, the puppet King and the last of David’s dynasty to reign in Jerusalem, presided over affairs at home. As Jeremiah ministered in the last days of Jersualem, Ezekiel brought God’s word to the captive nation in Babylon.

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.

Ezekiel 1:1-3

Ezekiel and his fellow captives saw days of despair and uncertainty. In the midst of these dark and turbulent times, however, God came and revealed Himself in a most spectacular fashion. There was no prophet in the history of Israel who had a such a view of God and of His workings as Ezekiel had; his book being the Apocalpypse of the Old Testament.

“It was, in truth, precisely such a mind that was needed in the crisis, at which the affairs of the covenant-people had then arrived, when, the external framework of the divine kingdom having fallen to pieces, the interest of God seemed ready to perish, and the very foundations of the faith were tottering at their base.  No ordinary man, at such a time, was fitted anew to raise the standard of God’s truth, and rally the prostrate forces of the kingdom.  One was needed, who should be capable of living alike in the past and the future, and who could see, as with open eye, and grasp, as with giant’s hand, the hidden realities of faith”

Patrick Fairbairn

In the midst of Ezekiel’s prophecy, among these incredible visions of God, we observe His broken heart. God does not have a heart like man; he is devoid of human emotions. Yet our emotions are a reflection of the spirit of the God who made us. Therefore, there is a real sense in which the heart of the divine is broken because of our sin. It is this thought which is the theme of this study.

God’s Intense Sorrow over the Sins of His People

I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.

Ezekiel 6:9

This picture of God gives us a sense of his grief and sorrow over the sins of His people.

…grieved, as a husband is at the lewdness of a wife whom he dearly loved, grieved to such a degree that he is broken with it; it breaks his heart to think that he should be so disingenuously dealt with; he is broken as an aged father is with the undutiful behaviour of a rebellious and disobedient son, which sinks his spirits and makes him to stoop.

Matthew Henry

As we think about our sins, we cannot but be touched by the hurt and disappointment that our Heavenly Father feels. Such an insight should constrain us to hate the sin that makes Him mourn.

The word “whorish” is employed because it demonstates that Israel hankered after sin, they sold themsleves to commit idolatory and therefore broke the covenant that they had with God. God’s heart was broken because His people espoused other lovers. How we are challenged to honour the faithful God who loves us, who sent His son to the cross, who sees our rebellions and weeps over them!

There is also the challenge that we should emulate the heart of God; as He mourns over our sin we ought to mourn over the sins our people, our nation.

Is there not a word of comfort here also? For those who weep with a broken heart over a loved one who rebels and refuses Christ, our Heavenly Father sympathises because He truly understands. He hears the prayers that comes from a broken heart because His heart too is broken.

God’s Chastening of His People on Account of their Sins

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, And say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys; Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. And your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken: and I will cast down your slain men before your idols. And I will lay the dead carcases of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about your altars. In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished. And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel 6:1-7

God grieves over our sin but he also chastens us when we sin. Discipline is an integral aspect of His dealings with us.

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Hebrews 12:6-11

God’s Preservation of a Remnant

Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries. And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart,

Ezekiel 6:8-9

God chastened Israel in love, however, not that they would be annihilated but that they might be restored. an important part of this work of restoration was that there would be preservation. To effect this, He preseved His remnant. In fact the prophet demonstates that the preservation of the remnant was a product of the broken-hearted God.

The Lord will never leave Himself without a witness. As long as there is a God of love there will be a Gospel to proclaim and a Church to proclaim that message. The candle may burn low but the light will continue to shine.

God’s Purpose for His People Perfected

” And they shall know that I am the LORD, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them.”

Ezekiel 6:10

God’s ultimate purpose for His ancient people was that they might know Him. They would know Him in judgement hut they would also know Him in grace. Ezekiel and those who lived bythe River Chebar, were in a place that they would rather not be in, hearing news of Jerusalem’s irreversible decline. Yet, as a result of these harsh experiences they would know God in new ways, remarkable ways.

The harshest experience of all, would be a discovery of their sin. Ezekiel described this a “loatheing” – an intense hatred of the sin that drove God to deal with so harshly. But ultimately they were broken by His love.

We have a greater picture of love than they had, the cross in all of its agony where Jesus Christ died for us.

"Help me to understand it, 
Help me to take it in, 
What it meant for thee the Holy One, 
To bear away my sin"

The spiritual work wrought in the lives of these slaves was a forerunner of better days when the nation would be called out of Babylon to start anew. Ezekiel would foresee this time, because He knew a tender hearted God of love who cared deeply for His people. He continues to be our God today.

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