Verses 16–22

We have attended the fate of those that are cut off, and are now to attend the flight of those that have an opportunity of escaping the danger; some of them shall escape (Ezek. 7:16), but what the better? As good die once as, in a miserable life, die a thousand deaths, and escape only like Cain to be fugitives and vagabonds, and afraid of being slain by every one they meet; so shall these be.

I. They shall have no comfort or satisfaction in their own minds, but be in continual anguish and terror; for, wherever they go, they carry about with them guilty consciences, which make them a burden to themselves. 1. They shall be always solitary and under prevailing melancholy; they shall not be in the cities, or places of concourse, but all alone upon the mountains, not caring for society, but shy of it, as being ashamed of the low circumstances to which they are reduced. 2. They shall be always sorrowful. Those have reason to be so that are under the tokens of God’s displeasure; and God can make those so that have been most jovial and have set sorrow at defiance. Those that once thought themselves as the lions of the mountains, so daring were they, now become as the doves of the valleys, so timid are they, and so dispirited, ready to flee when none pursues and to tremble at the shaking of a leaf. They are all of them mourning (not with a godly sorrow, but with the sorrow of the world, which works death), every one for his iniquity, that is, for those calamities which they now see their iniquity has brought upon them, not only the iniquity of the land, but their own: they shall then be brought to acknowledge what they have each of them contributed to the national guilt. Note, Sooner or later sin will have sorrow of one kind or other; and those that will not repent of their iniquity may justly be left to pine away in it; those that will not mourn for it as it is an offence to God shall be made to mourn for it as it is a shame and ruin to themselves, to mourn at the last, when the flesh and the body are consumed, and to say, How have I hated instruction! Prov. 5:11, 12. 3. They shall be deprived of all their strength of body and mind (Ezek. 7:17): All hands shall be feeble, so that they shall not be able to fight, or defend themselves, and all knees shall be weak as water, so that they shall neither be able to flee nor to stand their ground; they shall feel a universal colliquation: their knees shall flow as water, so that they must fall of course. Note, It is folly for the strong man to glory in his strength, for God can soon weaken it. 4. They shall be deprived of all their hopes and shall abandon themselves to despair (Ezek. 7:18); they shall have nothing to hold up their spirits with; their aspects shall show what are their prospects, all dreadful, for they shall gird themselves with sackcloth, as having no expectation ever to wear better clothing. Horror shall cover them, and shame, and baldness, all the expressions of a desperate sorrow, Isa. 17:11. Note, Those that will not be kept from sin by fear and shame shall by fear and shame be punished for it; such is the confusion that sin will end in.

II. They shall have no benefit from their wealth and riches, but shall be perfectly sick of them, Ezek. 7:19. Those that were reduced to this distress were such as had had abundance of silver and gold, money, and plate, and jewels, and other valuable goods, from which they promised themselves a great deal of advantage in times of public trouble. They thought their wealth would be their strong city, that with it they could bribe enemies and buy friends, that it would be the ransom of their lives, that they could never want 4370 bread as long as they had money, and that money would answer all things; but see how it proved. 1. Their wealth had been a great temptation to them in the day of their prosperity; they set their affections upon it, and put their confidence in it. By their eager pursuit of it they were drawn into sin, and by their plentiful enjoyment of it they were hardened in sin; and thus it was the stumbling-block of their iniquity; it occasioned their falling into sin and obstructed their return to God. Note, There are many whose wealth is their snare and ruin. The gaining of the world is the losing of their souls; it makes them proud, secure, covetous, oppressive, voluptuous; and that which, it well used, might have been the servant of their piety, being abused, becomes the stumbling-block of their iniquity. 2. It was no relief to them now in the day of their adversity; for, (1.) Their gold and silver could not protect them from the judgments of God. They shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord; they shall not serve to atone his justice, or turn away his wrath, nor to screen them from the judgments he is bringing upon them. Note, Riches profit not in the day of wrath, Prov. 11:4. They neither set them so high that god’s judgments cannot reach them nor make them so strong that they cannot conquer them. There is a day of wrath coming, when it will appear that men’s wealth is utterly unable to deliver them or do them any service. What the better was the rich man for his full barns when his soul was required of him, or that other rich man for his purple, and scarlet, and sumptuous fare, when in hell he could not procure a drop of water to cool his tongue? Money is no defence against the arrests of death, nor any alleviation to the miseries of the damned. (2.) Their gold and silver could not give them any content under their calamities. [1.] They could not fill their bowels; when there was no bread left in the city, none to be had for love or money, their silver and gold could not satisfy their hunger, nor serve to make one meal’s meat for them. Note, We could better be without mines of gold than fields of corn; the products of the earth, which may easily be gathered from the surface of it, are much greater blessings to mankind than its treasures, which are with so much difficulty and hazard dug out of its bowels. If God give us daily bread, we have reason to be thankful, and no reason to complain, though silver and gold we have none. [2.] Much less could they satisfy their souls, or yield them any inward comfort. Note, The wealth of this world has not that in it which will answer the desires of the soul, or be any satisfaction to it in a day of distress. He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver, much less he that loses it. (3.) Their gold and silver shall be thrown into the streets, either by the hands of the enemy, who shall have more spoil than they care for or can carry away (silver shall be nothing accounted of; they shall cast that in the streets; but the gold, which is more valuable, shall be removed and brought to Babylon); or they themselves shall throw away their silver and gold, because it would be an incumbrance to them and retard their flight, or because it would expose them and be a temptation to the enemy to cut their throats for their money, or in indignation at it, because, after all the care and pains they had taken to scrape it together and hoard it up, they found that it would stand them in no stead, but do them a mischief rather. Note, The world passes away, and the lusts thereof, 1 John 2:17. The time may come when worldly men will be as weary of their wealth as now they are wedded to it, when those will fare best that have least.

III. God’s temple shall stand them in no stead, Ezek. 7:20-22. This they had prided themselves in, and promised themselves security from (Jer. 7:4; Mic. 3:11); but this confidence of theirs shall fail them. Observe, 1. The great honour God had done to that people in setting up his sanctuary among them (Ezek. 7:20): As for the beauty of his ornament, that holy and beautiful house, where they and their fathers praised God (Isa. 64:11), which was therefore beautiful because holy (it was called the beauty of holiness, and holiness is the beauty of its ornament; it was also adorned with gold and gifts)--as for this, he set it in majesty; every thing was contrived to make it magnificent, that it might help to make the people of Israel the more illustrious among their neighbours. He built his sanctuary like high palaces, Ps. 78:69. It was a glorious high throne from the beginning, Jer. 17:12. But, 2. Here is the great dishonour they had done to God in profaning his sanctuary; they made the images of their counterfeit deities, which they set up in rivalship with God, and which are here called their abominations and their detestable things (for so they were to God, and so they should have been to them), and these they set up in God’s temple, than which a greater affront could not be put upon him. And therefore, 3. It is here threatened that they shall be deprived of the temple, and it shall be no succour to them: Therefore have I set it far from them, that is, sent them far from it, so that it is out of the reach of their services and they are out of the reach of its influences. Note, God’s ordinances, and the privileges of a profession of religion, will justly be taken away from those that despise and profane them. Nay, they shall not only be kept at a distance from the temple, but the temple itself shall be involved in the common desolation (Ezek. 7:21); the Chaldeans, who are strangers, and therefore have no veneration for it, who are the wicked of the earth, and therefore have an antipathy to it, shall have it for a prey and for a spoil; all the ornaments and treasures of it shall fall into their hands, who will make no difference between that and other plunder. This was a grief to the saints in Zion, who complained of nothing so much as of that which the enemy did wickedly in the sanctuary (Ps. 74:3); but it was the punishment of the sinners in Zion, who, by profaning the temple with strange gods, provoked God to suffer it to be profaned by strange nations, and to turn his face from those that did it as if he had not seen them and their crimes and from those that deprecated it as not regarding them and their prayers. Let the soldiers do as they will; let them enter into the secret place, into the holy of holies, as robbers; let them strip it, let them pollute it; its defence has departed, and then farewell all its glory. Note, Those are unworthy to be honoured with the form of godliness who will not be governed by the power of godliness.