“Parables That Pack a Punch” Sermon Series
Sermon #2 “A Love Story Turns Sour” Ezekiel 16 [Part One] Feb. 23, 2014
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Introduction/ review to the sermon series: “Parables that Pack a Punch.”
I. God’s Love is Lavished (vv. 1-14)
A. A newborn girl is…. Despised and Abandoned (vv. 1-5)
The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices 3 and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. 5 No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.
The story begins as a tragedy: a girl was born to parents of a mixed ethnic background, but for some reason, her parents despised her. She was unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. Following the pagan practice of the day, they abandoned her in a field and left her to die.
How absolutely heartless and tragic! She was despised and abandoned.
But at that moment a stranger passes by, a man of wealth and nobility, likely a prince. He sees this little helpless baby girl on the ground and is moved to take pity on her.
B. She is….Rescued and Loved (vv. 6-8)
‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” “I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare. 8Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.
There was nothing about this baby girl that was attractive: she was covered in blood and filth, and gasping for breath. But this wealthy prince sets his love on her in her helpless situation, and he rescues her from her abandonment and death. He commands her to “live,” a command which brings with it the power and provision of living. He gives her life by instructing his servants to make sure she gets all the proper medical treatment she needs, and then as she grows up, he sees to it that she is cared for in a most generous way, as if she were his daughter. And so this unloved, unwanted, abandoned and despised girl, supported by the full power and provisions of this prince, grows and comes to full maturity; she become a beautiful young woman.
One day her rescuer, who may now be the king, visits this young woman, who is now of marriageable age, and he desires to make her his wife; he proposes to her, and he declares his covenant love to her in the bonds of holy matrimony. What a rags to riches story for this woman, who has been abandoned, and now was affirmed and accepted! She who had been despised is now loved! What a great love story! Can’t you see this as a Disney movie? But wait, it gets even better! For she is….
C. Adorned and Adored (vv. 9-14)
9 I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. 10 I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. 11 I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, 12 and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. 14 And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.
This rich king lavishes all sorts of expensive clothes, jewelry and gifts upon his beloved wife. He truly loves her, and his heart’s desire is to see her become more radiant and beautiful; to becomes perfectly mature and full of grace. He adorns her with beauty and nobility in every way possible. Everyone knows who she is, and all the people, even those living in far-away nations, have heard of her beauty and grace. The unwanted ugly duckling has been transformed into a beauty queen, decked with splendor and majesty!
And all of this because this king has lavished his riches, grace, and love upon her, when she had been so undeserving, so unworthy, and so despised.
Notice that the first time the king man had seen her, he was moved with a love which is full of compassion and pity, but now, as he sees her in her maturity and beauty, he loves her in a different way, with a covenant love of marriage. He adores her and adorns her.
This story, this allegory, is a picture of God’s unmerited love for His people. He loves the baby girl when she is unlovely, unwanted. Even in her ugliness He sets his love upon her.
The baby being abandoned is likely a reference to Israel’s “birth” when they become a people, a nation, while in slavery in Egypt, and were hated and despised by the Egyptians, who sought to put an end to them. We might also say that the picture of the abandoned baby reminds us of Moses, left exposed in the reeds, and by God’s providence, rescued from death.
The entering into a covenant with the woman (v. 8) points us to the covenant that the LORD entered into with Israel at Mt. Sinai, and how He made Israel His bride there.
As Hengstenburg comments: “What sovereign and amazing grace and love, when the Almighty and Holy God stoops to enter into a binding covenant with such a sinful and miserable people!”
vv. 10ff. refer to the flourishing period of Israel under Kings David and Solomon.
This love story finds its explanation in Deut. 7:7-8 “The LORD did not set his affection on you (Israel) and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples….. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery….”
God’s love for us is always undeserved. It is unconditional. It lies in the heart of the Lover, not in the goodness or beauty of the one being loved. We are loved because He first loved us.
Notice also how when God sets His love on the unlovely, He begins the process of making us lovely! As He lavished His love and gifts upon us, in Christ, He makes His bride (the church) beautiful! (see Eph. 5:25ff.) Justification – Sanctification – Glorification.
[There’s a lesson here for husbands as well.]
What a great love story…..but then the wheels come off the bus…
II. God’s Love is Spurned (vv. 15-34)
A. The first problem is the woman’s ….Pride and Perversion (vv. 15-19)
“But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his. 16 You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. Such things should not happen, nor should they ever occur. 17 You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. 18 And you took your embroidered clothes to put on them, and you offered my oil and incense before them. 19 Also the food I provided for you—the fine flour, olive oil and honey I gave you to eat—you offered as fragrant incense before them. That is what happened, declares the Sovereign LORD.
The beautiful queen turns to prostitution? No, it can’t be! Can you image a Disney movie turning out this way? Can you picture the Little Mermaid or Cinderella or Belle becoming a whore?! Impossible! Unthinkable! But that is what this woman does. That is what the people of God, the bride of Christ, become.
“But you trusted in your beauty…” (v. 15) Her beauty has brought its own peril. Instead of being humble and thankful, this woman allows the snake of pride to slither into her heart. Instead of remembering that she is on the receiving end of her husband’s goodness and love, she begins thinking that the world revolves around her, as if the gifts she had been given were greater than the one who gave them to her; as if her beauty and clothing and jewels were things that she had worked for, rather than blessings bestowed upon her. She turns her back on her husband’s sacrificial love.
All the good gifts which her husband-king had bestowed upon her, she now uses them for debased sexual practices and for a perverted idolatry. She is making an idol of her beauty, and when you make an idol of something good, it becomes something twisted and perverted. She starts to worship her idol and make offerings to it. She’s like the woman who gets one plastic surgery after another on her face, looking to improve upon her beauty, but ends up looking grotesque.
We need to ask: What’s going on here? It seems that God is giving us, through Ezekiel’s allegory, an echo-cardiogram of the depraved human heart. For though her husband has fulfilled her in every way, and she lacks nothing, yet she inexplicably turns to worshiping herself, to offering herself to other men as a prostitute, even using all the fine gifts her husband gave her to induce strangers to take her sexual favors. (Perhaps she turns to prostitution because she feels that she needs one man after another to value her?)
This shatters the notion that if a person really had all their needs met then they would be happy and satisfied. You know, “if I had someone to really love me and meet all my needs, and if I were beautiful and rich and famous… then I would be content!” But that’s not true. This queen had all of that, and more, and she wasn’t content; she wasn’t satisfied.
You see, having all your needs met, outside of God’s grace in Christ, will not only fail to satisfy you; it will also turn you into a self-centered monster.
And each of us is the same… and everyone you meet is the same. The only thing that truly satisfies us is to know and love Jesus Christ. (See Phil. 4:11-13 and 1 Tim. 6:6-8)
B. Her pride and perversion lead to….Slaughter and Shame (vv. 20-22)
“And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? 21 You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. 22 In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood.
Because she is so wrapped up in herself and her idol of beauty, she not only neglects her husband and her children, but she actually uses her sons and daughters in her idol worship, by sacrificing them in a slaughter, a massacre, on the altar of the false gods she worships. She who was despised and left to die now despises her own children and abandons them to murderous idols! As was done to her, she now does to them. (Like women today who offer their unborn children at the altar of choice, comfort, and convenience, through abortion.)
So here is the queen, a woman of great beauty, fame, and adored by the nations, and she now has massacred her own children! Think about the tragic ending of Princess Diana, but imagine that she had murdered prince William and Henry as well!
Forgetting all the love her husband has lavished upon her, and spurning all his attempts at winning her back, she goes deeper and deeper into a bizarre lifestyle of promiscuity and self-destruction, and the destruction of her marriage and family! And all this cause both tragic results for the woman and deep heart-break for her husband, as she brings shame to the one who so sacrificially loved her. Think of the tremendous shame and dishonor she was causing her husband-king, especially in a shame and honor based culture. Imagine how the husband-king feels at this point. Imagine how our Heavenly Father-King feels about His people and the church.
C. Finally, her sins require her to face….Confrontation and Chastisement (vv. 23-34)
23 “Woe! Woe to you, declares the Sovereign LORD. In addition to all your other wickedness, 24 you built a mound for yourself and made a lofty shrine in every public square. 25 At the head of every street you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, offering your body with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by. 26 You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and provoked me to anger with your increasing promiscuity.
27 So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory; I gave you over to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were shocked by your lewd conduct. 28 You engaged in prostitution with the Assyrians too, because you were insatiable; and even after that, you still were not satisfied. 29 Then you increased your promiscuity to include Babylonia, a land of merchants, but even with this you were not satisfied.
30 “How weak-willed you are, declares the Sovereign LORD, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! 31 When you built your mounds at the head of every street and made your lofty shrines in every public square, you were unlike a prostitute, because you scorned payment.
32 “You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! 33 Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. 34 So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.”
We will see next Sunday how in the next act of this story, the husband-king must act as the judge of his wife’s idolatrous, and criminal actions. But first he lovingly confronts her with her sins and her shameful deeds, and chastises her, in hopes that she will feel the consequences of her self-centered choices, and turn away from them, and turn back to her loving husband.
v. 27 – He stretches out his hand against her and reduces her territory; he gives his wife over to the greed of her enemies.
v. 32 – “You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!” You are worse than the common prostitutes, in that you pay men to have sex with you, instead of them paying you!
He is trying to open her eyes by confronting her and showing her the disastrous results of her sins. And that’s what God lovingly does for us as well. (Romans 1; Hebrews 12)
We see that the root of her evil is her deliberate forgetfulness; she did not remember the days of her youth, and all that her lover (her God) had done for her. Craigie: “Memory is crucial to a healthy spiritual life; forgetfulness is dangerous. For love is a response to prior love, and the person who forgets that love cannot respond properly to it…. In the life of faith, memory is essential; forgetfulness comes before the fall.” “Forgetfulness, when left unchecked, quickly leads quickly to pride.” The woman (Israel/ the Church) had forgotten the source of her life and beauty. See Rev. 2:4-5 the church at Ephesus: “you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen.
Three Closing Applications:
1. Stern Warning: Do not forget what the Lord has done for you in Jesus Christ, or you will fall. Rather, give thanks to God, daily, for all His blessings, and be in awe of what he has done for you in Christ’s redemption.
2. Heart Exposing: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Know that our hearts have a propensity toward pride and perversion, and therefore guard your heart carefully.
3. Grace Amazing: Be amazed at God’s grace to you in Christ Jesus: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies…because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death, to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Col. 1:21-22