Ezekiel continues to get direction through his vision from God in chapter 11. He sees twenty-five men standing at the gate who are the leaders of the city and “think up new programs for evil” in the city. He is told to “preach against them”. That sounds like a great job doesn’t it – to be asked to preach against the leaders and the people who “can make anything happen” according to scripture. God doesn’t always ask us to do simple and easy tasks, but He will always have us in line with His character and will when He asks us to do something. Several times in this chapter, as God talks about the destruction coming for the people, He gives us a glimpse as to why. “You’ll realize that I am God”. Seems the people have forgotten that He is. They have “sunk to the level of the laws of the nations around you”. Does that describe you? Have you allowed the world to drag you down to that level, or are you walking with God at His level? The enemy wants us to just fit in with those around us. But God has called us to a very different set of standards. He says: “I’ll give you a new heart. I’ll put a new spirit in you”. God will make all things new. But there is a reason – pay attention to His motive: “Then you’ll obey…..You’ll be my people”! What an exciting prospect. God wants to do a work in me and you. He wants to help us become His by giving us a new heart and a new spirit so we can be obedient and become His. That is His measure. Am I obedient to His leading? It matters and that is His litmus test.
Archive for March, 2008
Ezekiel continues in chapter 10 to share his vision. The vision contains description of the cherubim in the temple and what their makeup was. As I read this chapter, which I am sure has some deep meaning I encourage you to plug into the reference books and figure out, I was struck by the impact of the power of God in the Temple. Check out what scripture says about that: “Court and Temple were both filled with the blazing presence of the Glory of GOD”. We serve a mighty and powerful God. I may not understand the cherubim angels or burning coals, the man dressed in linen or the wheel within a wheel, but I do understand the awesome God we serve is in control of all of it. And I long to experience the “blazing presence” of the Glory of God. It reminds me of a song we sang in church choir which I really love to sing – “Shine, Jesus, Shine”. In that song are words that seem to fit here: “Shine, Jesus, Shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory, Blaze, spirit, blaze Set our hearts on fire! Flow, river, flow, Flood the nations with grace and mercy, Send forth your word, Lord, and let there be light”. Am I living in the blazing presence of God? Are you? Is His power and Spirit setting us on fire? We serve the God who can fill any area with His blazing presence. He does it whether we recognize it or not. God is alive and active and wants our lives to reflect His love. We are the source of fire and light in a very dark world. Are you on fire for Jesus?
Ezekiel 9 continues the vision of what God is going to do in cleaning up His people Israel and Judah. He calls for the “executioners” to come. With them is a “man with a writing case” who is instructed to go though the city and “put a mark on the forehead of everyone who is in anguish” over the things that are being done in the city. So it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff as scripture describes it in another place. A line in the sand is being drawn and people put on one side or the other. It is important to see that the line is not just about being one who did not participate in the sin of the day, although that is certainly implied here. But the characteristic that is called out is that people are marked because they are in “anguish” over the sin that is all around them. They recognize it as wrong and are not just ignoring it – not just accepting it as the way it is – not content to let it slide by. Are you “in anguish” over the sin around you? Or do you respond as I do many times and just stick my head in the sand and let it flow? God is not pleased when we do that because His holiness will never allow Him to do that. The other key instruction given was: “don’t lay a hand on anyone with the mark”. The executioners follow through the city and kill every person, old or young, male or female, that does not carry the mark. It was a massacre. Ezekiel “falls on his face in prayer” and tries to intercede knowing that pretty much all will be killed. But God has to follow His character. He cannot just tolerate sin or evil. His nature of holiness will not allow that. So the “land is swollen with murder”. Let me adapt the lesson here a bit to the present and ask you a question. When you stand at judgment day, there is one mark that will determine your eternity. That is the mark of Jesus in your life. Do you have a personal relationship with Him? Is He Lord of your life? The only other way to gain entry to heaven will be living a life free of sin. None of us are going to make it that way. So the eternity decision rests on one thing. Have you been marked by Jesus? Are you His? No other decision, no other activity, nothing else matters compared to dealing with this one solitary thing. Don’t let another day pass without knowing you are marked. The executioners are coming. Make sure you are ready!
Today in Ezekiel 8 we get a glimpse of God’s fury with the people. Ezekiel has a vision and God takes him to the temple and shows him four different views of how the people and leadership were worshipping other gods and taking part in obscenities and improper behavior right there in the temple. It was men, women, elders – everyone was doing things that were not lined up with God’s direction. Sort of reminds me of the story of Scrooge where he is taken through a number of different views of the past. Each time God says “you’re going to see worse yet” as Ezekiel’s vision progresses. But the key learning happens at the end when God makes this statement: “They have an angry God on their hands! From now on, no mercy. They can shout all they want, but I’m not listening”. God can only be patient and loving so long. When pushed continually by sin, He will eventually move past that and we create a real problem for ourselves. This is not someplace we want to be. God angry to the point of no mercy. God deciding to ignore our pleas and to stop listening. That is the result of disobedience. It is not a pretty sight. God will turn his face from us if we chose to walk completely on our own.
Ezekiel continues to get God’s word on the fate of the people. They are in for tough times – what is described as the “end times” in chapter seven. Things are going to be tough – people will die. It is not a pretty picture. I was surprised at how money seems to be a big theme in this chapter. “There hard earned cash stinks like garbage. They find that it won’t buy a thing they either want or need on Judgment Day”. We put a lot of stock in having money and think it really matters for our future. Obviously compared to getting right with God through obedience, money doesn’t matter a hill of beans. We can’t take it with us and it doesn’t buy us anything in God’s eyes. That is why scripture tells us to “store up treasures in heaven” – not to put every penny we can into our 401K so we have money to buy something from God in the end. We need to make sure we are living life in a way that pleases God. That is how we prepare for eternity – not by making and saving money. We get a glimpse of what God does when He looks on the sin of His people – He says “I’ll turn my face”. He can’t look at sin. He has to turn away. When we feel alone, like God has left, we need to see if sin is the cause. He also reveals the impact of that – “gripped by fear, they can’t move”. When God turns his face, we feel very alone and separated. We feel exposed and naked. We are controlled by fear. We need to be right with Him!
God gives Ezekiel more harsh words for the people in chapter six. The problem it seems is called out a few times in this chapter. The people have forgotten that God is God. The message is pretty clear as God says when He gets done with the clean up and killing and change He will make: “Then they’ll know that I am God”! Wow – does that describe us today? Do we recognize and confess that God is God in our lives? Or are we infected by the same disease – focus on ourselves and a lack of placing God in His rightful place in our lives – as the God of the universe, the creator of all. The problem the people of Israel have is idolatry and self focused living. They just plain ignore God and embrace evil. God says this needs to be our stance against evil: “Clap your hands, stamp your feet, yell out, “No, no, no!” because of all the evil”. It isn’t ok to just ignore evil. It isn’t acceptable to turn the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist. We need to take on evil with truth. We need to stand strong against evil and make sure we are putting forth God’s holiness. We are to be a light to the world, not people who just accept whatever happens around us and pretends we live in our own little bubble. That certainly is easier but it is not the right way to live. Are you a beacon of light in a world of darkness? Are you clapping and stomping and yelling about God’s requirement for holiness. I find it interesting that in this time a number of the pastors of large churches are teaching about the ten commandments to deliver the strong message that we are sinners and evil in God’s eyes because we cannot live up to His standards on our own. Evil is not a new thing. The enemy has been offering it and mankind accepting it since the garden of Eden. We just need to fight against it and teach our children about the peril of evil in our lives. It matters to God. We cannot just pretend it doesn’t exist.
Ezekiel has some tough words to give to the people of Jerusalem. God starts off this chapter telling Ezekiel to shave his head and beard with a sword. Now that seems like a pretty big order to me. But the words that Ezekiel is given are much harder than that task. God is very unhappy with His people. Why – He makes it very clear: “You’ve been more headstrong and willful than any of the nations around you, refusing my guidance, ignoring my directions”. It comes down to obedience. The people just are not following His direction. They are ignoring His commandments. That just doesn’t work. So the result is very clear – they will be punished in “full sight of the nations”. God is going to make sure that everyone knows what is up with these people. This is one thing that is consistent through scripture. There is a price to pay for disobedience. But this price is really strong. Check out the message that Ezekiel is given to deliver to the people: “A third of your people will die of either disease or hunger inside the city, a third will be killed outside the city, and a third will be thrown to the winds and chased by killers”. Can you imagine having to deliver this truth to the people. Holy cow, that is some pretty strong stuff. When I add those all up – there aren’t many that will be left when this is over. Only those in the last third that escape the killers who will be chasing them. Passages like this make it abundantly clear to me that God takes obedience very seriously. He will tolerate my failing to get it for a while, but when I continue to refuse to obey and ignore Him over the long haul, there will be a price to pay and it will be severe. God wants to bring me into a lifestyle of obedience and fellowship with Himself. I need to get that right and do it every day. Lord help me be aware of and sensitive to your direction for my life, and to walk humbly in obedience to it today!
God gives Ezekiel a series of commands in chapter 5 to prepare him for what his task will be. He asks Ezekiel to “take a brick…draw…model….build….construct….set up…..lay in….get…..place….face”. Those words mean anything to you? They are all action words and God has asked Ezekiel to prepare for the future by creating a model of what is to come. As he does this, Ezekiel finds out he is going to have to deal with the “sin of the family of Israel” by lying on his left and then right side for one day for every year the people have sinned – “390 + 40 days” by the time he deals with the sin of Judah as well. Food will be scarce, water tight, yet Ezekiel has to endure being “sieged” on behalf of the people. I really was whacked when I got to the last few words of chapter 5: “This is what sin does”. Do you think about this at all as you go through your day. There is always a cost to sin – big sin, little sin, it doesn’t matter which – there is a price to pay for sin. I sometimes forget that. I sometimes think it is ok to do a little sin – snap at my wife because she deserved it, eat that extra food I don’t need because it is there, drive over the speed limit or fail to say a kind word when God prompts me. Sin always carries a price tag folks. It is never a free pass. And as we celebrate Easter this weekend we should never ever forget this truth. Jesus went to the cross because of that truth. He gave His life freely to pay the price for my sin and yours. He was beaten and suffered physically because that is the only way for sin to be forgiven – by the shedding of blood. Jesus was willing to do that for you and me. But that doesn’t change the reality that sin always carries a price. Jesus paid for our forgiveness, but the circumstances and impact still exist and can shape generations to come. Scripture is clear about that – the sins of the fathers go for three of four generations. Sin is a big deal. It was big enough in God’s plan that He had to give His only Son to pay for it. It should be big enough in our plan to make every effort to avoid it and run from it. The enemy wants to nail us in this area. He is all over that. Let’s be sure we don’t let that happen. Let’s walk with God in holiness and righteousness and be victorious over sin.
Today we continue in Ezekiel 3. He has spent the last seven days “appalled” by the people around him. Now God speaks to him and tells him that God has “made you a watchman” and that he is to “sound the alarm”. I find this to be a very timely thing to think about today as we celebrate Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified. There were a whole series of events that took place that day but the message of Easter really boils down to one thing – HE AROSE. We know the secret to victory over death and to eternal life. We need to “sound the alarm” folks. We have the key to the future for every person and it is Jesus. So consider yourself a watchman who has a job to do – to speak the truth and let people know the greatest news that has ever been written. Jesus is ALIVE and He wants to have a personal relationship with them. Ezekiel gets God’s direction and then he is given these instructions: “Get up….go out….I want to talk with you”. I think this is pretty good stuff for us to consider as well. We need to do the same – we need to get off the sidelines and get up and become part of God’s plan to share truth with the world. We need to “go out” and share what God has given to us. After all, that is how we “go into all the world and make disciples”. We can’t do that staying at home focused on ourselves. But as we get up and go out – we have to remember that God “wants to talk with you”. God doesn’t put us out there on our own. I know sometimes I want to use the excuse that I just can’t say anything because I don’t know what to say. God won’t put us out there alone. He will be there to lead and talk with us. He will help us deal with the reality of the situation and guide us. We need to take the iniative and move. God tells Ezekiel that he will be tied up and unable to speak for some time, but “when the time is ripe” God will turn him loose to speak the truth. Sort of a strange situation but God has a plan and Ezekiel doesn’t argue. Obedience is the key. I love what Ezekiel did – scripture says he “got up and went out” and God met him there. Try it – God will meet you too!
Ezekiel 3 starts with these words: “Eat this book”. Wow – that is a tall order. God wants us to take in His Word. I love what happens when he ate it: “It tasted so good-just like honey”. How does the scripture “taste” when you eat it? Is it sweet or does it seem bitter or have no taste? We need to really take in God’s word regularly. We may not eat the whole scroll at once like Ezekiel did, but we sure need our daily dose. “Give us this day our daily bread” – remember that prayer? So how are you taking in God’s word – what are your “eating” habits? Do you eat three times a day like you do physical food? How about a scriptural break between meals? We need to get the Word into our lives and hearts. But there is more than just taking in the Word. Check out what Ezekiel has to say here: “get all these words that I’m giving you inside you. Listen to them obediently. Make them your own”. We need to make the Word come alive inside us. We need to make them ours. We need to live them obediently. It is the whole walk the talk style that we need to live. God wrote the book on how we should live. It is there in full sight. We don’t have to go looking or chasing truth – He wrote it and gave it to us freely. The only question is will we take it in. Will we make it ours and then use it to live our life by. The Bible is not a book of suggestions or recommendations. It is a book of living guidelines for life – rules and principles that never change – and the true way for us to become what God desires from us. We can’t get there if we don’t “eat” the book. We can’t get there if we ignore the truth. So get on a schedule. Don’t be on a scriptural diet – save that for the real food. Pig out on scripture. Take it in in big helpings and then make it your own by applying and using it to live life every day. And since there is more than we can possibly put on our plate, make sure to share with those around you too!