Prostitution is defined as the practice of engaging in relatively indiscriminate sexual activity, in general with someone who is not a spouse or a friend, in exchange for immediate payment in money or other valuables. It is the unworthy or corrupt use of one’s talents for the sake of personal or financial gain. I want what I want and I will do anything to get it is at the heart and desire of one who sells themselves in order to feel loved and protected.
Ezekiel, led by God, gets the attention of his audience by getting to the heart of the matter—a broken covenant with God. The image is that of prostitution, the nation breaking her “marriage vows” and, like a harlot, turning to other “lovers.” Ezekiel used this illustration in chapter 16 as well, however, the sin is idolatry, trusting the false gods of the pagans, while in this chapter, the sin is trusting other nations to protect her.
Oholah represents Israel, whose capital was Samaria, while her sister Oholibah represents Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem. Both have sinned so violently, relentlessly and degradingly that it is destroying a nation from the inside out. God’s people have broken their “marriage vows” over and over. They have ignored God and His covenant with his “bride”. God’s people, who used to believe, obey and rely on God for provision and protection has now sold themselves to the highest bidder to arrive at the lowest place in their lives—prostitution due to selfishness.
I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?” (Mark 8, MSG)
Ezekiel 23, The Message
Wild with Lust
1-4 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, there were two women, daughters of the same mother. They became whores in Egypt, whores from a young age. Their breasts were fondled, their young bosoms caressed. The older sister was named Oholah, the younger was Oholibah. They were my daughters, and they gave birth to sons and daughters.
“Oholah is Samaria and Oholibah is Jerusalem.
5-8 “Oholah started whoring while she was still mine. She lusted after Assyrians as lovers: military men smartly uniformed in blue, ambassadors and governors, good-looking young men mounted on fine horses. Her lust was unrestrained. She was a whore to the Assyrian elite. She compounded her filth with the idols of those to whom she gave herself in lust. She never slowed down. The whoring she began while young in Egypt she continued, sleeping with men who played with her breasts and spent their lust on her.
9-10 “So I left her to her Assyrian lovers, for whom she was so obsessed with lust. They ripped off her clothes, took away her children, and then, the final indignity, killed her. Among women her name became Shame—history’s judgment on her.
11-18 “Her sister Oholibah saw all this, but she became even worse than her sister in lust and whoring, if you can believe it. She also went crazy with lust for Assyrians: ambassadors and governors, military men smartly dressed and mounted on fine horses—the Assyrian elite. And I saw that she also had become incredibly filthy. Both women followed the same path. But Oholibah surpassed her sister. When she saw figures of Babylonians carved in relief on the walls and painted red, fancy belts around their waists, elaborate turbans on their heads, all of them looking important—famous Babylonians!—she went wild with lust and sent invitations to them in Babylon. The Babylonians came on the run, fornicated with her, made her dirty inside and out. When they had thoroughly debased her, she lost interest in them. Then she went public with her fornication. She exhibited her sex to the world.
18-21 “I turned my back on her just as I had on her sister. But that didn’t slow her down. She went at her whoring harder than ever. She remembered when she was young, just starting out as a whore in Egypt. That whetted her appetite for more virile, vulgar, and violent lovers—stallions obsessive in their lust. She longed for the sexual prowess of her youth back in Egypt, where her firm young breasts were caressed and fondled.
22-27 “‘Therefore, Oholibah, this is the Message from God, the Master: I will incite your old lovers against you, lovers you got tired of and left in disgust. I’ll bring them against you from every direction, Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, Shoa, and Koa, and all Assyrians—good-looking young men, ambassadors and governors, elite officers and celebrities—all of them mounted on fine, spirited horses. They’ll come down on you out of the north, armed to the teeth, bringing chariots and troops from all sides. I’ll turn over the task of judgment to them. They’ll punish you according to their rules. I’ll stand totally and relentlessly against you as they rip into you furiously. They’ll mutilate you, cutting off your ears and nose, killing at random. They’ll enslave your children—and anybody left over will be burned. They’ll rip off your clothes and steal your jewelry. I’ll put a stop to your sluttish sex, the whoring life you began in Egypt. You won’t look on whoring with fondness anymore. You won’t think back on Egypt with stars in your eyes.
28-30 “‘A Message from God, the Master: I’m at the point of abandoning you to those you hate, to those by whom you’re repulsed. They’ll treat you hatefully, leave you publicly naked, your whore’s body exposed in the cruel glare of the sun. Your sluttish lust will be exposed. Your lust has brought you to this condition because you whored with pagan nations and made yourself filthy with their no-god idols.
31-34 “‘You copied the life of your sister. Now I’ll let you drink the cup she drank.
“‘This is the Message of God, the Master:
“‘You’ll drink your sister’s cup,
a cup canyon-deep and ocean-wide.
You’ll be shunned and taunted
as you drink from that cup, full to the brim.
You’ll be falling-down-drunk and the tears will flow
as you drink from that cup titanic with terror:
It’s the cup of your sister Samaria.
You’ll drink it dry,
then smash it to bits and eat the pieces,
and end up tearing at your breasts.
I’ve given the word—
Decree of God, the Master.
35 “‘Therefore God, the Master, says, Because you’ve forgotten all about me, pushing me into the background, you now must pay for what you’ve done—pay for your sluttish sex and whoring life.’”
36-39 Then God said to me, “Son of man, will you confront Oholah and Oholibah with what they’ve done? Make them face their outrageous obscenities, obscenities ranging from adultery to murder. They committed adultery with their no-god idols, sacrificed the children they bore me in order to feed their idols! And there is also this: They’ve defiled my holy Sanctuary and desecrated my holy Sabbaths. The same day that they sacrificed their children to their idols, they walked into my Sanctuary and defiled it. That’s what they did—in my house!
40-42 “Furthermore, they even sent out invitations by special messenger to men far away—and, sure enough, they came. They bathed themselves, put on makeup and provocative lingerie. They reclined on a sumptuous bed, aromatic with incense and oils—my incense and oils! The crowd gathered, jostling and pushing, a drunken rabble. They adorned the sisters with bracelets on their arms and tiaras on their heads.
43-44 “I said, ‘She’s burned out on sex!’ but that didn’t stop them. They kept banging on her doors night and day as men do when they’re after a whore. That’s how they used Oholah and Oholibah, the worn-out whores.
45 “Righteous men will pronounce judgment on them, giving out sentences for adultery and murder. That was their lifework: adultery and murder.”
46-47 “God says, ‘Let a mob loose on them: Terror! Plunder! Let the mob stone them and hack them to pieces—kill all their children, burn down their houses!
48-49 “‘I’ll put an end to sluttish sex in this country so that all women will be well warned and not copy you. You’ll pay the price for all your obsessive sex. You’ll pay in full for your promiscuous affairs with idols. And you’ll realize that I am God, the Master.’”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
When we “sell” ourselves, we sell ourselves short. We sell ourselves for far less than the price Jesus paid for us. God’s blessings are in abundant. How many blessings do we miss out on by doing life by ourselves, for ourselves, while selling our basic talents and giftedness given to us by God to others to use for evil? What are we selling our souls for today, right now, for less than His best?
Let’s go to that passage in Mark and flesh out the whole context of what Jesus is saying to the “crowd” as well as his disciples:
“Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?
If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.’” Mark 8:34-38, MSG
This is behind true discipleship, a follower of Jesus! In another translation it states, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” To lose yourself is not an act of desperation; it is an act of devotion. But we do not stop there: Personal devotion should lead to practical application, the sharing of the gospel with a lost world. “For My sake” becomes our new attitude and mindset that understands that by living for Jesus, we live to tell others.
Pause to pray and ask God to show us ways that we are “prostituting” our lives in ways that hinder our relationship with Him. If we ask, He will answer. Ask for wisdom to change, grow in wisdom, and mature in His love, mercy and grace to others.
We need your help to remain focused on you alone. Help us to not only believe but to behave in ways that make you smile, not in ways that break your heart for us. We repent of selling ourselves for less than the price you paid to save our souls. Oh Lord, thank you for paying my debt in full. Continue to transform my thinking.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen