For The Sake Of The Righteous
Ezekiel 14:12-14 (12) The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, (13) Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: (14) Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD. Ezekiel's prophecy was written in the days when God was in the process of punishing Judah for her sins by allowing Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon to have power over her. They had so aggravated God by the abuse of His religion, His prophets and His Holy Law that “...the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2CH 36:16). The Chaldees (Babylonians) would be permitted to show no mercy to any person regardless of sex or age while they destroyed all that was once precious to God amongst them (2CH 36:17-20). The capital city of Jerusalem which had been known as the “perfection of beauty” would be perfectly emptied and razed (LAM 2:15) and like the land around it would lay desolate for seventy years (2CH 36:21). How dangerous it is to out-sin the longsuffering of God and run past His appointed space of repentance (REV 2:21)! As proof of how much wrath Judah had treasured up, it would not even be spared for the sake of three righteous men (Noah, Daniel and Job); they would only deliver their own souls by their righteousness. A similar situation would unfold years later when Judah's sin would bring upon them a Roman army. To those who turned to Christ in the fear of God, the word was “...Save YOURSELVES from this untoward generation” (ACT 2:40), for “...every soul, which will not hear that prophet (Christ), shall be destroyed from among the people” (ACT 3:23). The presence of the godly would be insufficient to deter the wrath to come. And come it did, “...to the uttermost” (1TH 2:16). He Who can save “...to the uttermost that come unto God by him...” (HEB 7:25) can also destroy to the uttermost those who won't. Infamous Sodom and Gomorrah had also provoked the LORD to wrath by their sins (GEN 13:13; GEN 18:20-21) and so were slated for destruction along with the surrounding cities that were just as debauched they were (JUDE 1:7). Faithful Abraham actually appealed to God to spare Sodom for the sake of fifty righteous within it and claimed that it would be out-of-character for God to do otherwise (GEN 18:23-25). God agreed (GEN 18:26). But though Abraham negotiated the number down to as few as ten (GEN 18:27-32), Sodom still was destroyed. The best that could be found in Sodom was Lot, who was a righteous and just man (2PE 2:6-8) but with a vexed soul and strange priorities. When the men of Sodom sought to bugger the angels that came to Lot, he offered them his daughters as a substitute (GEN 19:4-9). Perhaps the fear of being charged with a hate-crime clouded his judgment. Though the city was not spared, Lot was. And for his sake, so also were his wife (temporarily, GEN 19:26) and his two daughters (who were hardly sterling examples of virtue, GEN 19:30-36). Living in a thicket of sodomites evidently corrupts good manners. Nevertheless, some were saved from destruction for the sake of a righteous man. Noah was a preacher of righteousness for whose sake the world was not spared from a flood (2PE 2:5) but seven of his family were spared (1PE 3:20). But he would deliver none but himself if he lived in Ezekiel's day. Daniel's righteousness was the deliverance of the Chaldean magicians, astrologers and sorcerers and also his own Hebrew brethren (DAN 2:1-49) but he likewise would now only deliver himself. Job's righteousness was the deliverance of his friends who had not spoken rightly of God (JOB 42:7-10) but even perfect Job would deliver no more than himself now. None would ride to safety on the righteousness of another in Ezekiel's day. If there was going to be any salvation from the wrath to come, it could only be by individuals who were moved to repentance unto righteousness and so would, as it were, “...work out [their] OWN salvation with fear and trembling” (PHIL 2:12). There are temporal salvations that still work along the same lines as seen in the examples of Noah, Daniel and Job. Believers are in general “the salt of the earth,” a savoury preserving element to the society in which they live---up to a point (MAT 5:13). A believing spouse is a saving element to his or her family (1CO 7:14), and woe unto the unbelieving spouse who seeks to undermine the faith of a believing mate---a very selfish and self-destructive folly. Faithful, righteous saints who are situated in a disobedient church may be the reason that the candlestick of that church has not yet been taken away, as appears to be the situation in the church of Thyatira (REV 2:18-25) and in the church of Sardis (REV 3:1-7). But such a disobedient church is flirting with wrath if it does not repent, for God's word to such faithful saints is to “...withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly” (2TH 3:6). “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear” (1PE 4:18)? Noah, Daniel and Job by their righteousness saved themselves and those around them, temporally. Similarly, a faithful preacher who takes heed unto himself and the doctrine can “...save [himself] and them that hear [him]” (1TI 4:16). However, sinners given by God to Christ to eternally save (JOH 6:39-40; JOH 10:27-29; JOH 17:2-4) have only His righteousness for a hope; they are “...made the righteousness of God in him” (2CO 5:21). What Lot, Noah, Daniel and Job were to their fellows in an imperfect temporal sense, Christ is to His elect perfectly in an eternal sense. He has “...delivered us from the wrath to come” (1TH 1:10), a wrath that makes all the others look puny in comparison (2PE 3:10-12; MAT 25:41). None shall ever be able to escape that wrath by their own righteousness (TIT 3:5; GAL 3:10) nor by riding on the coattails of another sinner's filthy rags (ISA 64:6). Noah, Daniel and Job could not eternally save themselves, let alone anyone around them. That power and honor is uniquely Jesus Christ's. Bless Him!