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Under the similitude of a new-born female infant cast out and left to perish, this chapter describes the hopeless state of human nature by the fall. The riches of grace in the salvation of such is beautifully represented, and both are very strikingly and elegantly described.
The Prophet is still preaching to Jerusalem, though himself in Babylon. He is commissioned by the Lord to trace the history of the Church from her birth; and that she might not vaunt herself over the Gentiles, the Lord reminds her of her extraction; for though sprung from Abraham, and in covenant, yet this was wholly from adoption and grace. Abraham was an idolater at the time the Lord called him, and came from Ur of the Chaldees. Genesis 11:31 .
We have not only the weakness and helplessness of every man's state by nature here represented to us, but, what is more to the purpose, and indeed the great object intended to be shown from Ezekiel's preaching, we have the total ruin of that nature by the fall set forth. Every son and daughter of Adam may be truly said to be cast out to the loathing of their person, and left everlastingly to perish for any help or any pity all the creatures of God could give. Reader! pause over it, and contemplate a state so very awful! and then recollect, that this was and is both yours and mine, and both by original sin and actual transgression.
Here is the grand cause and the only cause of man's recovery. Jesus passing by, as the divine Samaritan, and beholding our nature in our blood. His grace, and not man's merit, is the sole source of all that follows in mercy. For though the Lord takes occasion from our misery to magnify the riches of his grace, yet his love and mercy are both before our misery. Sweet thought! And there is another uncommonly great beauty in this verse, I mean in the Lord's repeating, and thereby the more confirming, His love to His people: When thou wast in thy blood I said live; yea, when thou wast in thy blood (not when thou hadst crept out of it) I said live. Reader! may we not, without violence to the passage, conceive that thus the Lord Jesus speaks to His redeemed now as living, though in their blood all the days of their unregeneracy? Precious thought! Was it not to this sovereign decree that you and I were preserved all the while from going down to the pit, whilst living as without God and without Christ in the world?
Let the Reader mark, one by one, the several precious things here said by the Lord, and explain the whole by gospel language, and what will it amount to but this, that when Jesus passed by, that is, came into this world to seek and save that which was lost, He saw His Church in the very state of this poor female child, cast out and loathsome in her person to every beholder but Himself. It was Jesus that spread His skirts over her, that took her into covenant, that made her His own by union and by interest. It was Jesus that washed her in His blood, clothed her with the garment of His salvation, which, like fine linen, and gold, and silk, are the beautiful robes for her covering. It was in Jesus's righteousness the Church was made comely, so that the spouse of Christ became the admired object of all the world. Reader! is it not blessed to see in whom and from whom the Church derives all her beauty and loveliness, even from her adorable Lord? And as in grace here, so in glory to all eternity, it is in Jesus and from Jesus her perfection is wholly owing. How beautiful the Church sings to this. Isaiah 61:10 .
We have here, under the same figure, carried on, of the sad departures which, even after grace, is too often discoverable in the Church. Israel, of old, to whom the Prophet is speaking, was remarkable for this apostacy and rebellion through their whole history. And the Church of God now may but too justly be arraigned to the question, What then are we better than they? No in no wise. Romans 3:9 . Reader! let us seek personally for the profiting by this sacred scripture, and leave Israel's history to look into our own. May not you and I both behold in what is here said, as in a mirror, our own features. If we trace it to the days of our unregeneracy, we shall find the sole cause of our conversion was to the Lord's passing by, and bidding us live. And may we not equally refer our present state, that we have not totally fallen, and have been cast away, to the same cause? Had the Lord been extreme to mark what hath been amiss since, what would have been our present state? Doth not everything in us and about us say, it is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed? Lamentations 3:22 . Yea! may we not both frequently hear, as it were with faith, that expostulating voice, Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knowest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened; for I know that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and was called a transgressor from the womb? Isaiah 48:8 .
What is here said comes in as the suitable conclusion of such daring rebellion as Israel had, in the preceding paragraph, been accused of. If Israel hath thus played the harlot, what shall arise, or who will interpose, that she should not have a writing of divorcement, and be put away? Such open and barefaced adultery exceeded, in the Lord's view, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Punishment shall follow punishment, as one wave of the sea follows another. The Lord is very jealous of His honour, and will not let Israel go unpunished. Reader! how greatly is that sweet intercourse and communion between Jesus and his people interrupted by a loose and unguarded conversation in life and manners? Sweet and blessed is that precept, Grieve not the spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 .
What a beautiful and gracious close is this to the whole chapter! Do not fail, Reader, to remark the sole cause of such unparalleled mercy, namely, God's covenant faithfulness in Christ. Here, as in another example of the kind, the Lord refers it unto this source. Ezekiel 36:16 to the end. And do not fail also to remark, the gracious effects the Lord saith shall take place in the hearts of his people. Shame and confusion of face are blessed tokens of a real reform in the heart. The truly converted sinner, in the moment he pleads forgiveness for Christ's sake, with all the earnestness of a soul that is seeking it in covenant love and the merits of Jesus, will acknowledge in the same moment his unworthiness of it, and while adoring God and the Lamb in the higher strains of praise, will take shame and confusion of face in the self-loathing and abhorring of himself. See striking instances, Ezra 9:0 throughout. Luke 15:17-21 .
READER! let us not dismiss this most beautiful and interesting chapter until that, under the teaching of God the Holy Ghost, we have gathered some of the many blessed instructions it contains for our Improvement, both in humblings and consolations.
Behold what a complete representation the Lord here makes of every sinner as brought into perishing circumstances by the fall! What are we, what is any man, yea, every man, by nature and by practice, but like this poor, helpless, and unconscious infant thrown out to perish in the open field! We are not only exposed to endless ruin, and unable in ourselves, like the new-born babe in nature, to put forth a helping hand to our own recovery; but we are, like the babe, unconscious of our danger, and not sensible of our wretched state.
Hath Jesus passed by and bid us live? Hath He, notwithstanding all our vileness, when loathsome to angels and to all the creation of God, beheld us and loved us in our low estate, married our nature, united us to Himself, washed us, clothed us, fed us, sustained us, and, even in the midst of all our after back-slidings and departures from Him, still, from His covenant love, kept us by His almighty power through faith unto salvation? Oh! what shall recompense, or, since all recompense fails, what shall testify a sense of His grace and our undeservings? Precious, precious Jesus! do Thou, by Thy blessed Spirit, work in us both to will and to do, of Thy good pleasure. Oh! make us to know indeed and in truth, as Thou hast said, that Thou art the Lord; for surely none but the long-suffering and patience of Jehovah could hold out against the continual provocations and whorish heart of Thy people. Lord! I do pray Thee, that, as a sweet and precious testimony of our being still within the rich covenant mercies, both the heart of him that writes and him that reads may have those blessed properties of grace here recorded. That we may, indeed, remember and be confounded, and never open our mouth anymore in a way of self-justification or self-delight, because of our shame when thou art pacified towards us for all that we have done, O Lord God. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34