Counter to what we might hope, the extended metaphor that the Lord delivers to Ezekiel in today’s reading gets no better, but worse, as we read on. Oholah and Oholibah are no fairy-tale princesses, but are snapshots of the rather gross reality of God’s people (that means you and me) consumed by sin.
Is the Lord too heavy-handed here? This passage calls out their “whoring” or “whoredom” almost twenty times in one chapter!
One thing we can probably assume is that Oholah and Oholibah (or the nations that they represent) did not see themselves in this way. Undoubtedly they had myriad excuses and self-justifications for why what they were doing was really not that bad or how they had good reason not to give it up. We see it here:
“When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt” (Ezek. 23:18-19).
Speaking of self-delusion, recently I heard a sermon referencing a study that showed that almost forty percent of people on a popular online dating site identify themselves as a “genius.” Forty percent! Statistically this claim is actually limited to only about one percent of the population; so what then are we left to believe?
What the Bible says is true: perhaps we are much worse off than we could ever imagine. Perhaps the Lord can use the brazen honesty we see in Ezekiel 23 to startle us and wake us up from our dangerous and delusional reverie.
The passage ends and the Lord declares, “And they shall return your lewdness upon you, and you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and you shall know that I am the Lord God” (Ezek. 23:49). Is there hope for Oholah and Oholibah? Is there hope for you and me?
Although we may never see ourselves as we really are in this life (a frightening thought), and although we will likely continue to have those moments in which we are forcibly confronted by the stark reality of our sin, we do have hope in what is to come.
Do you still shudder when you recall mistakes from five, ten, even fifty years ago? Jesus says, “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). By his blood, he has freed and will free you of the guilt and shame of your sins, no matter how gross or indecent.