Ezekiel 16 is one of the more explicit sections of Scripture. It uses the two most intimate relationships in life (child/parent, husband/wife) to express God’s goodness and our depravity. It’s a rag to riches to whoredom story with a glance of redemption at the end.
In our current Lenten season of self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5) and of asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any offensive way within us (Psalm 139:24), Ezekiel 16 contains two major concepts for us to consider:  using good things God has given us for warped purposes and  the perversion of worship. In conjunction with the text itself, I have extracted, charted, simplified, and elaborated these concepts below. At the minimum, you really need the context of the text itself, so be sure to read it HERE.
You can also view a Prezi I created for a class on Ezekiel 16… there will be some holes in the visuals as to the connectivity of the passage without me being in front of you teaching, but the visual layout on certain sections might prove helpful.
Good Gifts, Warped Purposes
- our lack: cord was not cut
- God’s provision for us: entered into covenant
- our manipulation: broke covenant
- our lack: not washed, nor cleansed
- God’s provision for us: bathed with water and washed
- our manipulation: defiled self: “your beauty became his”
- our lack: not rubbed with salt
- God’s provision for us: anointed with oil
- our manipulation: set oil before idols
- our lack: not wrapped in swaddling clothes
- God’s provision for us…
- clothed with embroidered cloth, fine leather, fine linen, covered in silk
- adorn with gold and silver jewelry: bracelets, necklace, ear/nose ring, crown
- fine fine flour, honey, oil
- renown went forth among the nations
- our manipulation…
- garments used on colorful shrines, one them you played the whore
- melted jewelry and used to make “image of men” to play whore with
- gave bread to idols
- sacrificed children
- our lack: no eye pitied; abhorred
- God’s provision for us: famous because of beauty
- our manipulation: played the whore because of fame
More than one theologian has liken prayer and worship to intercourse with God in the heart. More importantly, Scripture itself attests to this, especially in our deviations of unfaithfulness towards God. All of these deviations fall under unfaithfulness, just in different ways. You may think these correlations are a bit vulgar, but that’s the point. God doesn’t take His relationships lightly.
Please note that the whoreship 101 sections are satirical. Even though they contain portions of truth, their assumptions and outworkings are perverted.
deviation: adultery – unfaithful bride engages in intimate connection with another that is meant solely for her husband.
- w(h)or(e)ship 101: The faithfulness of God is something seldom appreciated for it’s true worth. We must remember that even when we are faithless He is faithful. Will the Lord forsake his Bride? May it never be! He is always there and, hence, provides the freedom to go and experiment with others. Just as we see in earthly marital covenants, as our desires are enticed and satisfied elsewhere it helps us to appreciate the uniqueness of the marital relationship, even allowing us to love and serve with new vigor.
- practicality: whenever we worship something other than God
deviation: masturbation – unfaithful bride created sex toys to please herself with.
- w(h)or(e)ship 101: Sex is personal; extremely personal. We must remember that no body, no one knows our preferences, our (dis)likes, our intentions better than we ourselves. The pleasure and joy we can stimulate in ourselves is incomparable to any outside source or entity, for we know what we need and how we need it. As we think upon the object of our worship, we move ourselves to a place of adoration and fulfillment.
- practicality: whenever the focus of worship deals primarily with us rather than God
deviation: voyeurism / exhibitionism – the need to see or be seen by others in the intimate interaction
- w(h)or(e)ship 101: One of the best ways to discover what worship works for us is by peering in on others. There are two main components to this. First, this must be done secretively as to not disturb or taint the naturalness of the event. Second, as we inspect others worshiping, it must be done so with a critically discerning eye. In doing this we will be able to make internal judgments such as “I don’t have sex like that, so I must not be doing something right” or, conversely, “That’s not sex… at least I don’t do that.” If you continue in your area of study, this will connect nicely in our discussion in Worship 103 on exhibitionism.
- practicality: judging stylistic preferences, clinging to recorded worship (both audio and video)
deviation: orgy – unfaithful bride doesn’t have just one extra-marital affair
- w(h)or(e)ship 101: At our current state, humanity has evolved over the years to be great multitaskers. To be focused in heart on simply one thing is just unwise and would be poor stewardship. Whenever possible the lover should be engaged in as many activities as possible, performing what they can, whenever they can, for whomever they can. People will take notice of how busy and important we are, and in that community will be made.
- practicality: we don’t discount God, but we place other things as equal of our adoration and have a divided heart
deviation: prostitution – I give you sex, you give me something in return, or I give you money and you give me sex in return
- w(h)or(e)ship 101: As we give our intimacy, we are then entitled to our right of something in return. This is the principle of sowing and reaping. In the parable of the prodigal son we remember the faithfulness of the elder son’s actions and how the father affirmed that all he had was his. If our performance is good enough, the transaction will take place and we will be blessed beyond our means, a reward for a job well done.
- practicality: worship only as exchange; obedience (good) involves trust, duty (bad) is self serving
A subtle but cool turn in the text is in the last verse. Another common theme of Ezekiel 16 is nakedness; we are born naked, but then clothed; God spreads His garment over us, but then we unclothe ourselves for our idol lovers. In all our wretchedness the story ends with God saying he will atone for us and we will be confounded as to how that could be. That word “atone” literally means to cover. God will cover all of our sin.
God had the first word, God will also have the last word.
Addendum: At the beginning of last year, for part of a worship service, our church retold Ezekiel 16. You can listen to it below. Two other TheoCult authors are featured in this creative liturgy. Jay bookends the retelling, Jake provides the first person poetry, and I provide the narrative prose that speaks over the story.