Judgment and wrath: not pleasant to think about. Wrath does not show up on fun Facebook surveys, and God’s judgment on sin – yours, mine, ours, theirs, and the fractured condition of all things – does not easily make idle dinner conversation. It is hard to know how to interact with the idea of wrath, much less its reality.
But if we do not see that things are not kosher and fine between us and God, then we are going to have a hard time making sense of chapters like these in Ezekiel (or the rest of the Scriptures, for that matter).
What is more, if the wrath and judgment of God are reduced or removed, then the Gospel is evacuated of its meaning and its compelling urgency. For when one reckons with the reality of sin – yours, mine, ours, theirs, and the fractured condition of all things – we find wrath and judgment are the only things “owed” by God.
The Gospel quickly is recognized as the “one thing needful” – and is clearly needed! Conversely, if there is not a clear and present reality of God’s judgment, then we should all simply get on with finding ways in which the Bible wants to tell us how to become better pet owners.
So our chapters from Ezekiel: as we consider the avalanche of rightful judgment that Ezekiel and the other prophets reckon earnestly, the Gospel becomes the sweetest sound—an announcement of what really is good news—which resounds throughout all that is broken, lifeless, hopeless and despairing.
There is One who has fought with sin, death, the world, the flesh, and the devil, who has defeated them, once and for all. And thereby he has brought all who have been oppressed and captive to sin, plagued with death, defeated by the world, overcome in the flesh, and overpowered by the evil one and his accusations—all of us, without any action on our part—to peace. He has brought us back to God.
God’s wrath has been satisfied by His death, and we are now at peace with the One God. Thanks be to God! The One whom the good news heralds really, truly and eternally is new, and He has a name: Jesus Christ.
Did you notice the amazing provision in Ezekiel 9?
With strong overtones to the Passover (Exodus 12), Ezekiel is carried by the Spirit to a vision, with the voice of the vision calling six angels to slaughter the idolatrous and unfaithful. To another is given the task of placing a mark on the foreheads of “the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed” (Ezek. 9:4). And the six pass through Jerusalem and slaughter all who do not have the mark.
Similar to the blood smeared on the lintels at the Passover, death passes over all who have the mark on their foreheads, recalling the utter graciousness of our baptism: “You are marked as Christ’s own forever.” The words can then be extended: “Death – you shall not visit the one upon whom I have left my mark.”
What marvelous trust baptism evokes. Rather than running headlong and armed to meet the angels tasked with death, we are protected by a mark, the utterly non-active posture of being marked by blood, water or oil.
As we share with Christ in his baptism into death, so also do we share with Christ in his resurrection. It takes another to make this happen – and so it did! So we now consider ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus! (Romans 6)
May God now grant doubting souls the courage to believe, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.