An Unwanted Child
Ezekiel 16 speaks of the birth of a child. On the day that this child—a baby girl—was born, no one cleaned her. She was left in the filth of her afterbirth. No one swaddled her. No one fed her. She was simply cast out into the open field. She was not wanted. She was not loved.
The Lord passed by and saw the child wallowing in her own blood. He saw her and said: “Live!” He made her to flourish like a plant tended and cared for. And she grew tall, strong, and beautiful. God spread the edge of His garment over her and covered her nakedness. He made a vow and entered into a covenant with her and she became His (Ezekiel 16:8).
God takes an outcast girl left for dead and makes her His own. He bends down to wash the filth of her blood. He anoints her with oil and clothes her with embroidered cloth. He graces her feet with fine leather sandals and wraps her in fine linen and silk. She is adorned with gold and silver jewelry—bracelets for her wrists and a necklace around her neck, a ring in her nose, earrings on her ears, and a beautiful crown set on her head. God feeds her with milk, honey, and oil. She grows beautiful.
An Adulterous Woman
The young woman’s fame spreads like fragrance among the nations. And she gets a whiff of her own scent. She begins to trust in her beauty and splendor. Enamored more with herself than with her Redeemer, she uses His gifts of clothing to make colorful shrines. She begins to prostitute herself on these, calling out to any and every passerby that comes her way.
The rescued girl becomes an adulterous wife who would rather receive strangers than her own husband. She takes her beautiful jewels of gold and silver and engraves images of men, objects of her lust. In all this, she never remembers the days of her youth, when she was naked and bare, wallowing in her blood.
Listen to God's passionate anger in Ezekiel 16:30-37: “How sick is your heart…..Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness exposed by your acts of prostitution with your lovers, and because of all your detestable idols and the blood of your children that you gave to them, I am therefore going to gather all the lovers you pleased….against you from all around and expose your nakedness to them.”
God promises judgement against this woman by the hands of her own lovers. They will demolish her mounds and tear down her elevated places. They will strip off her clothes, take her beautiful jewelry, and leave her stark naked. She will be humbled, plundered, and carried away. And perhaps here, you begin to recognize the face of the woman...she is Israel.
Israel's Nakedness and a Glimmer of Hope
Israel is the redeemed child of Ezekiel 16. Once a group of squabbling brothers, God approaches her and says: “Live!” She grows numerous and strong. She conquers her enemies and what nation compares with Israel in riches and fame in the days of David and Solomon (1 Kings 10:27)?
Israel's faithful love should have been for her covenant God but instead she bows down to lifeless idols and trusts in the power of foreign nations. For this, God strips her of her glory and gives her into the hands of her enemies, naked and exposed. The prophet Ezekiel is sitting in Babylonian captivity when he writes this allegorical tale of judgement to Israel.
Ezekiel 16 is a hard chapter and yet, as with many others in Scripture, it’s not without a glimmer of hope. It ends with these words: “I will deal with you as you have done...yet I will remember my covenant with you...and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant...and you shall know that I am the Lord….when I atone for you for all that you have done” (Ezekiel 16:59-63).
God Himself would atone for the sins of His people. Israel would return home after seventy years. God would forgive, restore, and re-clothe (Zechariah 3:1-10). And in the fullness of time, lasting atonement would come through another child.
A Naked Savior
There is a baby born in Luke 2:1-21. His mother is a young virgin living in Roman subjection and poverty. His first bed is a feeding trough in a stable. He appears to be an outcast like the baby of Ezekiel 16. But the child of Luke 2 is like none other.
On the day of His birth, the sky itself blazed with the glory of God. Multitudes of angels bellowed their praises from the heavens and rich gifts traveled to testify of His majesty (Matthew 2:1-12). Far from unwanted, the child of Luke 2 was the pleasure of heaven and the image of the invisible God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father (1 Colossians 1:16).
The child of Luke 2 conceals His deity, leaves His glory and submits to the limits of flesh as the humble Jesus. Unlike Israel, adorned with gold, Jesus doesn’t grow up in opulence but works quietly as a carpenter--full of wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). Jesus lives a life that displays the sinless, faithful, wholehearted devotion to God that Israel failed to show. But even so, Jesus, like Israel, is also given to the hands of His enemies. He too is carried away and stripped naked.
After being slandered, mocked, spat upon, and beaten, Jesus is led to a Roman cross. There, the soldiers strip Him of His clothes and divide His garments among themselves, casting lots for His tunic. The baby of Luke 2 is the Man hanging naked in John 19:23-24. All this, for the sake of our atonement.
Christ, Our Atonement
“I will establish for you an everlasting covenant...and you shall know that I am the Lord….when I atone for you for all that you have done” (Ezekiel 16:59-63).
Friends, my sins are not less than that of unfaithful Israel. I too was wallowing in death and sin and would have remained in my filth had not the Lord passed by and said to me “Live!” He has redeemed me and yet, often, I am more enamored with the gods of my own making than with my Redeemer.
I have not loved God with the faithful, wholehearted devotion that is due to Him. And for this, the public exposure, the shame, and the nakedness that God prescribes for Israel is what I too deserve. But even this humiliation, Christ suffers on my behalf. He has satisfied the just and hot wrath of God in my place. Christ, my atonement (1 John 2:2)!
Do you trust Christ alone today? If so, He has hung naked for you and now covers you with His righteousness. He adorns you with a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that you may be called an oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord (Isaiah 61:1-3; 10).
Friends, in Christ our nakedness has been covered with splendor beyond Ezekiel 16. So come, let us adore him!