We’ve been discussing how God’s people – the Israelites – who became the people of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah – played the harlot by worshipping other gods; and that God, who saw that as being unfaithful to Him, judged them accordingly. He brought the Assyrians against Israel and the Babylonians against Judah, events that were separated by 136 years. The question was posed that, since God expected the people of Judah to learn from what had happened to Israel, how could we, 2019 Americans, look back that far in our history and possibly learn something as well?
We read the definition of “desolation” as overthrown by strangers and we got that from Isaiah 1:7. That is important because people have an infatuation with the term “abomination of desolation,” which was used only by Daniel and Jesus, with Jesus using it in reference to Daniel’s citation. But Isaiah was talking about Judah – that its cities would be burned with fire and that strangers (Chaldeans) would devour their fields. That is the context of the use of the word desolation, as used by Isaiah.
We also discussed how God is in control of the nations and we cited Jeremiah 50:17-20, which references the judgments of both Israel and Judah and God’s subsequent judgments upon Assyria and Babylon. In the New Testament, Romans 13:1-7 talks further about God’s influence over governing authorities, that they are established by God, and that they are ministers and servants of God.
In Isaiah 1:21 the prophet bemoans how the faithful city has become a harlot. The faithful city is Jerusalem, the city in which the house of the Lord – the Temple, was built. The Temple was where the people would come to bring their tithes and offerings, and where the sacrifices for the atonement of their sins would be performed by the priests. It was the center of God’s people and the center of His economy. But the entire history of God’s people, from the time of Abraham until then, was coming to a climax.
Isaiah, as we’ve noted, lived through the marauding of Samaria by Assyria, which was during the time of the Divided Kingdom; therefore he prophesied to both Israel and Judah, and he died approximately 100 years before the destruction of Judah. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, on the other hand, all came on the scene well after the death of Isaiah, but all three lived and prophesied through the destruction of Judah, Jerusalem, and the Temple. This was a big deal – the biggest of deals. We will be talking more about that in future posts.
Listen to the words of the prophet Ezekiel as described in chapter 23. It is the story about two sisters – Oholah the elder and Oholibah the younger. Samaria (Israel) is Oholah and Jerusalem (Judah) is Oholibah. Oholah played the harlot with the Assyrians (v. 5); with their idols, she defiled herself (v. 7); therefore, God gave them into the hands of the Assyrians (v. 9). We saw how God gave the peoples of the lands into the hands of Joshua (Joshua 24: 8-11) and how He gave the Israelites into the hands of their plunderers (Judges 2:14), and into the hands of the Midianites (Judges 6:10), etc. God will eventually give you over to the desires of your heart (Romans 1:18-32) if you continue to provoke Him.
Going back to Isaiah 1 – look at what God had said (vv. 10-15): “I have had enough… (v. 11); the trampling of My courts (v. 12); worthless offerings and incense are an ABOMINATION… (v.13); I hate…feasts and festivals (v. 14); …I will hide my eyes from you… I will not listen… your hands are covered with blood” (v. 15).
This was serious-business in the eyes of God. The point here is that the sin of idolatry – harlotry – is so serious that, at some point, God will turn from you and give you over to the very evil that you do and into the hands of the very people whom you fear.
Now, back to Ezekiel. At 23:11 the prophet says that Oholibah (Judah) saw what her sister did, yet she (Judah) was more corrupt… her harlotries were more than the harlotries of her sister. Thus, He said: I will arouse your lovers against you… and I will bring them against you from every side (v. 22); I will set My jealousy against you (v. 25); I will give you into the hands of those who hate you (v. 28); these things will be done to you because you have played the harlot with the nations; because you have defiled yourself with their idols; you have walked in the way of your sister; therefore, I (God) will give her cup into your hand (vv. 30-31); they (the people) have committed adultery with their idols… and caused their sons to pass through the fire (v. 38); they have slaughtered their children for their idols; they entered my sanctuary on the same day to profane it (v. 39).
Notice how God, even though He judged Israel for playing the harlot, gave her cup into the hand of her sister Judah for doing the same. He held Oholibah to a higher standard than Oholah. We will see a similar analogy later when Jesus addresses the Pharisees.