How quickly we can rejoice at the failure of others! There’s something inside of us that likes to see others fall. Sadly, it makes us feel better about ourselves. When there is someone ahead of us in the race, we are sometimes happy to see them stumble and fall, because it gives us a chance to get ahead.
In this chapter of Ezekiel, we read about a sobering example of this type of thinking. Jerusalem is in flames and its neighbors are celebrating. The chapter begins with a prophecy against the Ammonites, one of the nations bordering the Jewish people.
“Thus says the Lord GOD, Because you said, ‘Aha!’ over my sanctuary when it was profaned, and over the land of Israel when it was made desolate, and over the house of Judah when they went into exile, therefore behold, I am handing you over to the people of the East for a possession” (v3-4).
The Ammonites heard about the destruction of Jerusalem and they said “Aha!” It is as though it were confirmation of what they had wanted all along. And God is clear that he will hold them accountable for their attitude. Rejoicing over the suffering of God’s people is an affront to God himself.
“Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel, therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand against you” (v6-7).
The Ammonites applauded the destruction of Israel and they even danced at the news. In the most condemning line, God says, “[you] rejoiced with all the malice within your soul.” Rejoicing and malice should never be joined together, but such is the nature of the human heart. When we rejoice at others failures, it is malice within our souls. Just as God punished the land of Judah for its sin, he then punished the land of Ammon.
This rejoicing over the destruction of Jerusalem should lead us to reflect on the rejoicing that occurred years later during the torture and execution of a man in the city of Jerusalem. The people of Judah were taken into exile as a punishment for their sin, but Jesus Christ suffered and died as a punishment for the sins of others.
Remember how the soldiers mocked Jesus and spit in his face. Recall how the people taunted him on the cross - “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!” Jesus was the object of contempt and people were pleased to see him brought low. Many people rejoiced with malice in their souls.
Sadly, we must confess that we too often scorn the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We can forget that it was our sin that made it necessary for Jesus to die.
We do not stand on the outside of this story as the righteous ones. We are implicated. So when we see others stumble and fall, let us extend grace not contempt. For we are all sinners and we all deserve God’s righteous judgment. It is only by the death of his son that we are forgiven. He received our shame and our scorn, so let us now give him glory and honor.