Archive for November, 2013

Ezekiel 18

Ezekiel 18 has a pretty good explanation of God’s expectations around our eternity.  He makes it clear what we have to do to live.  It starts with this truth: “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die”.  God is the Judge – final answer.  He is the One who decides what our future looks like.  He makes the rules.  He is the Judge.  He is God.  We don’t have to like it.  We won’t think it is fair. But that doesn’t change this eternal truth – God makes the rules and enforces them.  He is the final answer.

Here is the simple formula God gives around life and death.  “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right….

–       if he does not eat upon the mountains

–       or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel

–       does not defile his neighbor’s wife

–       or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity

–       does not oppress anyone

–       but restores to the debtor his pledge

–       commits no robbery

–       gives his bread to the hungry

–       and covers the naked with a garment

–       does not lend at interest

–       or take any profit

–       withholds his hand from injustice

–       executes true justice between man and man

–       walks in my statutes

–       and keeps my rules by acting faithfully

he is righteous; he shall surely live”.  Pretty simple formula for success, eh?  God spells it out pretty detailed here but it is summarized by the first and last things He said – be righteous and walk in His statutes.  That is the way we will live forever.  But there is a problem.  We can’t do this.  I certainly can’t, and the truth is you can’t either.

God goes on to talk about the sins of a father, and the sins of a son, and how each is responsible for their own actions.  We are not held accountable for what another chooses to do, although their influence can certainly lead us down the wrong path.  At the end of the day, we will stand before God and give account for our own actions.  We will stand on our own choices and have to address the Judge about the things we have done and said.  We won’t be granted access to heaven based on anyone or anything else, it is entirely based on what we have done.  And that leaves us with a rather big, ugly problem – sin.  We are not going to be standing there in a good position.

God’s desire is that we come before Him with right standing.  “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live”.  It is not His desire than any of us perish and spend eternity apart from Him, so God gives us the solution though toward the end of this chapter. “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin….make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit”.  The answer is that we repent and come to Jesus, who will give us that new heart and Spirit to live within us.  Jesus went to the Cross to deal with this very eternal issue – our sin.  He carried it to the Cross so we can repent, and turn from our wicked ways, and have that sin be washed white as snow.  God desires all of us to be saved.  Jesus is enough to cover our sin.  All we have to do is turn away from sin and run to Him.  Is He your Savior?  Is He Lord of your life?

Ezekiel 17

Ezekiel 17 has the prophet receiving a riddle or parable for God’s people.  This is about a great eagle and a twig being planted in good soil beside abundant waters.  “So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs”.  So far so good, right?  But in the appearance of good growth, God asks this question.  “Thus says the Lord God: Will it thrive”?  That is a very good question.  God’s desire for us as Christ Followers is not survival.  He desires us to thrive.  He wants us to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised.

The issue from the parable is that these growing vines can easily be killed.  The roots are not deep and established.  We experience this with our crops in years where moisture is plentiful and the roots don’t have to go down deep to find the needed water.  Those years, which it would seem on the surface should be good ones, often disappoint because the roots are not strong enough to handle any adversity, and they don’t spread far and deep enough to get adequate nutrients from the soil.  We only grow when we are stretched beyond our comfort.  Roots only truly grow during adverse conditions.

The moral of the story is that God’s people won’t thrive, and most won’t even survive, because they “despised the oath in breaking the covenant”.  They chose to take things into their own hands and do them their own way leaving behind God’s plan and direction.  They ran to Egypt for help rather than leaning on God.  They now face disaster as “all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the Lord”.  When we insist on doing things our way, we will get our results, not God’s, and that is not usually very good.

The reality is that God alone is in control.  He alone determines the outcome of life.  He ends the chapter with this truth: “I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it”.  There really isn’t much else that needs to be said.  God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is the author of life, and history.  He will do all that He has said.  We just need to walk in obedience to His direction for our lives and experience the goodness of His hand!

Ezekiel 16

Ezekiel 16 is a history lesson from God about the past and how He has dealt with His people.  They are off the tracks again, and God gives a word to His prophet Ezekiel to share.  It is a lesson about remembering the past and all that God has done.  “I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine”.  This is the foundational truth – for His children then – as well as you and me as Christ Followers now.  We are His.  He is our Father and Lord.

Ezekiel recalls the path to disaster God’s people have been on.  “You also took your beautiful jewels…..and made for yourself images of men….in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth….you built yourself a vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place….therefore, I stretched out my hand against you”.  This is the short version of the lesson.  God blessed His people but they took what He gave them and turned it into idols and self-focus.  They forgot about God and pushed Him aside.  He then took action to bring them back to reality.

When we get off the road and into the weeds of putting self ahead of God, bad things happen.  Sin carries a price.  It did then, and it does today, the very same price.  The wages of sin are death.  It is fatal.  It is eternal.  It is not a good outcome.  But God does love us, in spite of that sin.  And the message He gave His people then is the same as to us today.  We can be freed from the price of our sin, but we have to take action.  We have to return to the truth of His promises or “I will give you into their hands”.  God will allow us to receive the outcome of that sin – eternal separation from Him.

The truth is the same today as it was then.  God has to deal with sin for what it is.  “I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant”.  But His love causes Him to want to save us from that sin and set us free to be with Him forever in eternity.  That is why Jesus came to overcome death and sin on the Cross.  “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded….when I atone for you for all that you have done”.  God has made a way.  The only question is – what will you do with Jesus?  Will you receive that covenant offering of grace that leads to forgiveness and eternal life?  Or will you remain as one who is like His children who forgot His promises and truth, and faced the destruction of His hand?

Ezekiel 15

Ezekiel 15 has a very short but in your face message from the Lord to the prophet.  God brings the word to him and uses a word picture of a tree that is burned.  “Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything”?  Fire burns the wood from both ends and leaves a charred piece in the middle that is of no value.  It is not useful for anything.  God makes this statement as a picture of “the inhabitants of Jerusalem”.

You see, these folks have a problem.  They have failed to live up to the expectations of the living God.  He is tired of their lack of obedience.  In fact, he tells Ezekiel “I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them”.  They aren’t getting away this time.  Obedience is not optional.  And failing to walk with God as He requires will lead to a significant problem – destruction – a fire that consumes.  It is not a pretty picture.

God goes on to say “I will make the land desolate”.  It isn’t enough to punish the people and destroy them.  God is going to clean up anything that is even remotely related to them too.  He is going to wipe it clean.  And He will do it in a way that no one can miss the fact that He is Lord.  God is in control.  He is the King of Kings and has the whole world in His hands.

He is clear as to their offense too.  “They have acted faithlessly”.  What is another way to define faithless?  The people “have done evil in the sight of the LORD, and have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD and have turned their backs on him”.  Or in the simplest terms – they sinned.  They chose not to walk with God.  They did their own things and disregarded God.  He was pushed aside.  It is sin.  And sin carries a big price tag.  Then, and now.  We must never forget that!

Ezekiel 14

Ezekiel 14 has a bit of a showdown happening as “certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me”.  Ezekiel is confronted by some of the leaders of the day and God doesn’t waste any time at all and His Word came to the prophet right away.  It wasn’t sugar coated either.  “These men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces”.  The problem is idolatry and the impact is severe – when we have idols we “are all estranged from me through their idols”.

Idolatry is pretty simple.  It is when we put anything in the place God deserves – first place – sitting on the throne of our life – anything that comes between our worship of God.  And unfortunately we are all guilty of idolatry.  We are always giving in to letting other things get in the way of our relationship with the Father.  God does have a solution.  “Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations”.  We have to turn around and go the other way – to run back to God.  Repentance is putting off the old and putting on the new.

 

Idolatry is a very real problem for man.  God is clear that it “separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face”.  Sin gets in the way and prevents us from walking in right relationship with God.  Idolatry is one of the big sins that causes us to fall.  We put other things in God’s place.  And the result is severe.  God says “I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the Lord”.  It isn’t a little issue.  It is deadly in our relationship with God.

 

But it can go even further.  God tells us that entire nations can become obsessed by idolatry.  “When a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast”.  God will deal with a nation.  And He is clear that “even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God”.  These are three guys in God’s hall of fame, and even if they were in that nation it would not be spared.  Idolatry is a big deal.  God will deal with it harshly.  This is no laughing matter.  It is a major issue we all need to evaluate in our lives!

Ezekiel 13

Ezekiel 13 once again has God telling the prophet to go against what is happening in his day.  God told Ezekiel to “prophesy against the prophets of Israel”.  These guys are making things up and sharing from their own hearts.  But God is not amused.  “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing….false visions and lying divinations”.  These guys were pretending to be prophets, making up stories that were for their own personal gain.

God’s stance on them is pretty clear: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God….they have misled my people”.  God does not take kindly to people who claim to speak His truth and are making it up.  They lied and spoke untruth.  They were doing things for their own gain.  And God tells Ezekiel to let them know that they are going to fall.  He is going to wipe them out – all of them – for their lies.

But that isn’t all.  God also tells Ezekiel to prophecy against “the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature”.  These women were sorcerers and guilty of taking money from people to feed them lies and all sorts of other things.  They were guilty of “hunting souls like birds”.  They took advantage of people and fed them lies all the while pretending to have a word from the Lord.  But their fate was to be like the false prophets.  God is going to deal with them.

The reality is that God does not tolerate people who use a holy place to deceive and mislead people.  He doesn’t look kindly on leaders that lead their people astray.  God deals with those people.  And He tells us: “I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord”.  God is in control.  When it seems like people get away with evil and bad is winning over good, it is just a perception.  God will deal with things.  He will make it right.  Ezekiel carries those messages loud and clear to the false prophets and sorcerers of his day.

Ezekiel 12

Ezekiel 12 has the prophet in the midst of a people that just can’t seem to get it right with God.  “You dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house”.  It isn’t that they can’t see what to do, or haven’t been told how to live, they are just choosing to be disobedient and rebellious toward God.  Sin isn’t an accident.  It is a choice we make.  The children of Israel knew what God expected.  They knew how they were to live, but they make a choice to do their own thing their own way.

Ezekiel is given the task to try and show them what was going to happen.  They weren’t listening, so God assigns him to live out an example of what their future would hold.  “I have made you a sign for the house of Israel”.  He was to pack a bag, dig through the wall, and carry his bag in full sight out of the city into exile.  That was the prophecy of what was coming for them.  And they did notice.  “What are you doing” was their question.  And it gave the prophet the opportunity to tell them.

Ezekiel could give them God’s truth about their future.  “They shall go into exile, into captivity….and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them among the countries”.  They are going to be spread around the countryside, the few that were to be spared.  This is the remnant that God would use to restore His people after He cleaned things up.  The people still didn’t get it, even with Ezekiel’s example and modeling of what was to come.  They didn’t believe it would happen to them.

But God says differently.  “I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord”.  This is the reality of the God we serve.  He does what He says.  It isn’t a matter of if He will keep His word.  It is a matter of when it will happen.  And God’s message here is that it is going to happen now.  “None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed”.  The prophet has a message that is on the verge of being carried out right now.  God is going to act.  And many of those who were supposed to walk in harmony with Him will be removed.

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