Ezekiel 16 has got to be one of the most amazing passages in all of Scripture. Not just because of the story told, but because it reveals that God is a Storyteller. His tale of a city, Jerusalem, waxes poetic while being explicitly descriptive.
The Storyteller relates the story of her orphaned condition at birth, “your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, . . . you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred” (16:4-5). No one to care for her. No one willing to claim her. And yet the Storyteller, when He passes by and sees her wallowing in her blood, says to her, “Live!”
And she does. And she grows up. Matures in form. No longer a child but now “at the age of love.” And the One who rescued her now brings her into covenant relationship with Himself, declaring, “You are mine” (16:8). And He clothes her with the finest clothing. He adorns her with expensive jewelry. And crowns her with unmatched royalty. And she models for the nations around her what a rags to riches story looks like when the LORD is your rescuer.
“And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.”
(Ezekiel 16:14 ESV)
But then there’s there a but. There’s more to the story–tragically more.
“But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.”
(Ezekiel 16:15 ESV)
And you almost want to turn your eyes away and avoid watching the train wreck happen. Stop reading and not spoil the perfection and splendor of this beautiful bride with the details of her wretched unfaithfulness. As she takes her fine garments, with some of them making a tent, with others laying them down as bedding, and on them plays the whore. As she takes her beautiful jewels of gold and silver, fashioning them into an idol, “and with them played the whore.” As she takes the children she had borne for her Rescuer through their covenant relationship, and offers them to her inanimate lovers. As she forgets the days of her youth, when she was naked and bare, wallowing in her blood (16:16-22).
And it doesn’t stop there. Her insatiable lust leads to adulterous relationships with her “lustful neighbors” around her. So she multiplies her whorings with the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans. But unlike other prostitutes who give themselves for payment, she pays her illicit lovers with gifts, bribing them to come to her from every side. The Storyteller drawing this conclusion, “How sick is your heart!” (16:26-34).
Therefore, God says, “I will judge you” (4:38).
So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry.
(Ezekiel 16:42 ESV)
Thus she also models for the nations around her a riches to rags story as a warning for those who are unfaithful to their God.
But the steadfast love of the Lord never fails. The abounding grace of God really is abounding. His precious promises truly are promises. And so, the story’s not done. The Storyteller has yet more to tell.
“. . . yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. . . . I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.”
(Ezekiel 14:60, 62-63 ESV)
Because of His promise, He will atone for her. And she will be rescued again.
Though her mouth will be closed with contrition, and her heart humbled as she remembers her ways, she shall be brought to her senses.
. . . and you shall know that I am the LORD.
What a story!
Praise be to the Storyteller!
Because you can’t help but find your story in His story. Once orphaned. But then betrothed. Robed in the garments of a bride. Adorned with treasures from heaven’s storehouse. Perfect in His splendor. But then forgetful. And then unfaithful. Thinking somehow the beauty was our beauty. Thinking, somehow, that our ways, and the world’s ways, had something more to offer.
Yet, never not a child of promise. All our sin atoned for through the finished work of Christ. Drawn back to our first love, though His loving discipline. Still the bride. Our beauty intact in Him. Only because of the Storyteller. Only through the Storyteller’s Son.
What a story!
By the Storyteller’s grace. For the Storyteller’s glory.