In Ezekiel 23 we find two names of women given to the two nations in Canaan. According to this word of God, Aholah represents Samaria or the ten tribes of the north, and Aholibah represents Judah. The prophecy concerning Aholah and Aholibah contains for us today much needed instruction, as well as a warning which should serve to bring us to repentance and watchfulness.
The prophecy of Ezekiel in this chapter pictures the church of his day as women. And this is not unusual in the Scriptures. The church is often pictured as the bride of God or of His Son Jesus Christ. The bond of union in marriage reflects the most precious and intimate union between God and His people in Christ, by His covenant which He establishes with them. The true church-elect in covenant love is joined in most blessed union of covenant fellowship and friendship with the living God through Jesus Christ.
However, the women pictured in this prophecy are whores or harlots. An harlot in this case is an unfaithful adulteress, who places her affection in someone other than the one to whom she has been wedded. She has made herself to be appealing to other men, in order to satisfy her flesh with them.
Hence, this prophecy pictures the spiritual decline and decadence of Israel (all 12 tribes) at the time of this prophecy. The day was a day of great apostasy, of spiritual adultery and whoredom. Thus the Word of God declares coming judgment, and it sounds a warning to God’s elect.
Now understand that the names of the two harlots are applied to Samaria and Judah. The church of that day is so pictured! This is not said of Egypt, Ethiopia, Edom, Zidon, nor any other country, but of Israel!
Aholah is the name given to Samaria. It refers, of course, to the spiritual adultery of the ten tribes of the north; which were led into this adultery already by Jeroboam at the time of the division. At this time already he established places of worship of his own choosing in Bethel and Dan. This was designed to keep the people of Israel in his control, but at the same time it kept them from the mercy seat of the temple. This was done while pretending to serve God through the means of the golden calves.
These ten tribes are given the name Aholah to show this deep-seated sin, which was rooted in the division. For Aholah means literally, “she has her own tabernacle.” This serious sin had led Israel into judgment, and at the time of this prophecy she was already carried off into captivity by the judgment of God.
On the other hand, Aholibah, the name given to Judah, means, “my tabernacle is in her.” It was in Judah that God had set His tabernacle. There He had established the worship according to His word. There He had set His priests and gave command concerning right sacrifice. There was the altar with its mercy seat, that caused God’s people to look forward to Christ as their Savior. There, indeed, God led His elect in the days of types and shadows to look for the promised seed. All things pointed to the Anointed One, to Christ, Who according to the covenant promise of God in the way of sovereign grace would deliver His people from sin and destruction. And there, God called His people to serve Him faithfully, promising blessings without measure.
But not only in Aholah, which had established her own tabernacle according to the whims of mere man, but also in Aholibah—in Judah—the people had left the ways of Jehovah to go abhorring after the ways and the idols of darkness, so that the Holy God announces the coming judgment of Judah.
Now, we are able to see the parallel to our own day, and let us see together the similarities by applying that which is taught in this prophecy to our day. We may legitimately liken Samaria of old to the larger portion of the so-called church world today. This “church world” has long ago forsaken the true God and the TRUTH of God for the ways and idols of the world of darkness. She has given herself over to the vain philosophy of man, to his science, to his free-willism, etc.
Rather than hear the Word of God to do it, this portion of the so-called church has set up her own tabernacle. She has denied the infallibly inspired Scriptures to be the only standard for life and faith. Thus she has followed the ways of Aholah, following strange winds of doctrine, and has adopted outright modernism in order to allure the world to her. And for the large part she has grown popular in the world. She has great edifices for worship, but in general has become the slave of anti-Christ.
The fruit, also today, is that she is filled with all the problems of her whoredoms. There is no true peace within her. She is filled with great immorality and the social diseases of the world round about her. “She is delivered into the hands of her lovers.” She has come into judgment, and the fact is that God removes His candlestick from her, and no longer is there blessing in her midst. She is become captive to the world of darkness, sin, and destruction.
On the other hand we may liken Aholibah or Judah to the church that has up till our day kept a measure of the truth in her midst. Yet she too, as Aholah, is on the verge of judgment. In this class we would include the more orthodox reformation churches—Presbyterian, Lutheran, Calvinistic, Reformed churches. But as Judah in the days of old, so also this group of churches is becoming ripe for judgment. And this for the same reason, she follows her apostate sister in her spiritual whoredom.
The word recorded in I Timothy 4:1-3 is fast coming to pass: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron . . . . ” The same is true of II Timothy 3:1-6. The basic doctrines of God’s Word are being denied. The infallibility of the Scriptures is being set aside, and consequently the moral life of her members is degenerating. Witness the decisions on divorce and remarriage, on homosexuality within the sphere of the church, etc. We also see this departure with respect to the calling of God to obedience. The taking of women into office is but one example of placing man’s word before God’s. The result is that worldliness is found instead of spirituality more and more, within her midst. And one finds the antithesis being replaced by synthesis.
Judgment shall also be her portion, in whose midst God had set His tabernacle. Her name is not sufficient to deliver her from judgment. This, therefore, must serve as a warning for God’s elect and the faithful remnant that they may not be swept along in the lewdness of the age. May it bring us as Protestant Reformed Churches to repentance of any ways in which we have departed. And may we be warned that we be sober, and watchful in prayer.
Unto this end, let us pay a little closer attention to the sin of Judah that is rebuked in this prophecy. The 37th through the 39th verses set forth the sin: “That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with idols have they committed adultery, and have caused their sons, whom they bare unto Me, to pass for them through the fire to devour them. Moreover this they have done unto Me: they have defiled My sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned My sabbaths. For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into My sanctuary to profane it; and lo, thus they have done in the midst of My house.”
It is evident from the above passage that the adultery and lewdness of this chapter is essentially a reference to spiritual departure from God, His Word and way. Judah began to serve idols—rolled blocks of wood—formed according to man’s imagination. Their word replaced the word of God. And as always is the case with apostasy, they led their children to follow the way of their darkened minds to follow the path of sin.
The result is that they forgot God and cast Him behind their back. Verse 35 says, “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because thou hast forgotten Me, and cast Me behind thy back, therefore bear thou also thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.” The inevitable result of departure from the truth is that God is forgotten and put out of one’s life.
This did not mean that they left off the outward service of God. In the verses quoted above it is obvious that Judah continued to make a pretense of serving God. They kept the ceremonies and the sabbaths to a limited sense. But such compromising service is an abomination to God. Therefore, judgment must come! Judah must bear the fruit of her apostasy and is given over to her lovers. Their portion becomes her’s.
Hence she is given over to the world whose life she has chosen. Her life becomes worldly and her comfort shall be so limited—worldly. How awful! The world perishes, and all who put their trust therein likewise so perish. In that time Judah also actually walked in natural adultery and lewdness, it characterized her. And her portion became likewise empty and vain. The fruit is an utter lack of spiritual peace, and the holy judgment of Gods wrath!
The question arises then, if this was true of Judah can it also be true of us? Are we too beginning so to walk in the whoredoms of Aholah and Aholibah? In the first place, we must understand that we are not immune to such error and sin. The fact that Jehovah has established His tabernacle in our midst is not automatic assurance that it shall remain. Not in us as an instituted church. Judgment came upon Judah as she was carried off into captivity, and the Jews as a nation with the coming of Christ ceased to be the instituted church of God. The name Protestant Reformed is not enough. We too could become adulterous and be judged.
Therefore, we of needs face the question: Are we going abhorring after idols, and are we casting Jehovah behind our back? Are we attempting to follow the ways of the world, and at the same time say we are serving God? Are we casting our children into the devouring fires of Satan? At the outset we may answer, “No, we love the truth.”
But, is this evidenced in our lives? Is the Sabbath to us what it should be? Is the preaching of Christ that which rules all of our thinking and activity? Do we find our worship on the Lord’s day to be the center of our life? Do we yet love to hear the doctrines of old expounded faithfully? Do we desire the antithetical proclamation of God’s Word? Do we fill the chairs around our Bible study groups? Are we well-prepared to defend the faith? Do the Scriptures have a visible and active place in our homes?
Do we train our children in the ways that they should go? Or do we send our mothers to work, that we might have the idols of the world, and thus sacrifice our children to the devouring fires of darkness? Does our TV viewing reflect our Christian confession? Are we becoming more worldly-minded in our use of and the seeking of leisure time? Do we not have growing problems of infidelity in our midst? Does it shock us and cause us holy indignation when we face adultery, drug addiction, fornication, and hit-and-miss church attendance in our midst? Do we question why these things are so? Or are we becoming hardened to the inroads of the world in our lives?
I believe that we all must confess that the world with its idols has made deep inroads in our lives. Christ says to us in this prophecy, Beware! Repent of your sin, lest ye become as Aholibah! For God will not be mocked!
On the other hand, be comforted, for God is a faithful covenant God. He always keeps unto Himself the elect remnant. He will give grace to be humbled by this Word. He will cleanse His own of their sin in Christ, and He will give His remnant grace to flee their sin. Our prayer is for this sustaining and saving grace, that we may be renewed in our desire to serve Him as faithful servants under His Word.