During the days of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, Israel had become so “stiffed neck” and wicked that even the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple could not turn their hearts back to God. Their treacherous deeds included shedding innocent blood, oppressing the poor and sojourners, lewdness, adulteries, false prophecies, and idolatry (Ezekiel 22). They committed many abominable acts. They set up idols in the Temple as well as in the high places (Jeremiah 32:34). Their idolatrous hearts were even driven as far as sacrificing their sons and daughters to Molech in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom by having them burned with fire (Jer. 7:31).
Israel’s wickedness led God to drive them into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. During the first deportation, only the wealthiest, healthiest and brightest went into captivity. Daniel was one of these. He found himself in the courts of the King (Dan. 1). Ezekiel also went into captivity. He was God’s voice to the exiles. Jeremiah was left behind in Jerusalem to be God’s voice to those who remained.
God had great messengers for his people, but his children would just not listen to them. They became ridiculed and ignored. The prophet Jeremiah wrote in Jer 20:7, “O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me.” Ezekiel stated in Ezekiel 33:31-32, “And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it.” Israel heard God’s rebuke of their conduct through these prophets, but didn’t care. It is ironic that between the three separate audiences of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jeremiah, the most responsive was found in the king’s court of pagan cultures. Through the lives of Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, King Nebuchadnezzar came to know God (Dan 4). However, Israel didn’t care.
What about today? Do we heed the warnings of God? Many today believe that a loving God is not going punish the wicked. This is a foreign idea found not only in the Old Testament as in Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc., but also in the New Testament. In Acts 5, we read about how Ananias and Sapphira were destroyed for lying to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 12, we see how Herod was destroyed for not giving glory to God. He has not changed on His reaction to disobedience. The Hebrew writer makes it clear in Hebrews 10:26-31:
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
As Christians today, we know the sacrifice that God has made for us. May we always be diligent to avoid the complacency to sin that plagued the Israelites which led to the destruction of Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity.