Archive for December, 2013

Ezekiel 33

Ezekiel 33 has God talking to Ezekiel about his role as a watchman.  The prophet is to be watching for what God is saying and going to do so he can alert the people to the coming danger.  That is Ezekiel’s role here.  With that assignment comes a lot of responsibility.  “If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand”.

The short version of what God says is this: “Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me”.  We need to play the role of watchman in our patch too.  We do it as parents when we let our kids know that something they are doing may be a bad choice.  But we need to do it much more broadly and warn those who are making choices to disobey or live against God’s commandments.  The outcome of those bad decisions does not just have an immediate price, but eternal as well.

God tells Ezekiel “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways”.  We need to be watchman and warn those in our patch who are straying from God’s requirements.  Repentance is still alive and well in God’s economy.  Just like He told Ezekiel, if we repent and turn to Christ, “none of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him”.

We have an amazing story to tell.  We should be shouting it from the watchman’s tower.  But often we look from the sidelines and don’t want to have the hard conversations about the truth of sin.  We don’t want to get involved.  It isn’t our place to warn them.  But that is so far from the truth.  God calls us to be salt and light in our patch.  He calls us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is all about repentance and salvation from the sin that will lead us to eternity apart from God.  We need to blow the trumpet and shout the news.  Who should you talk with in your patch and warn?

Ezekiel 32

Ezekiel 32 is yet another prophecy against Egypt.  Ezekiel has been on a roll and over the last chapters has spoken often of the Egyptians and what their fate will be.  It is pretty clear here.  “When I blot you out….when I make the land of Egypt desolate….when I strike down all who dwell in it, then they will know that I am the Lord”.  God is serious about cleaning things up and will do it in a very thorough and complete way.  Egypt is going to be destroyed for their sin.

He goes on to list other nations that have had a similar fate.  They have been removed from their brief time of glory and power, and are sent to Sheol, a place of waiting until the final judgment.  Their end is not complete, and they will face even greater punishment in that day.  It is interesting that nation after nation is cast there along with those whom they destroyed, and those that destroyed them.  There is no victory when you are on the wrong side of God.  All are lost equally, and thrown into the same pit.

God prophecies the utter destruction of Pharaoh and Egypt, but also the celebration of that demise.  It would have received a lot of attention as Ezekiel proclaimed it.  This is not just a story that would be lost in the paper somewhere.  It is front page news that God is going to destroy the greatest nation of its time.  History shows that it happened.  Nebuchadnezzar invaded and conquered Egypt just as God said through His prophet.  God does what He says.  And Egypt’s fall is just one of those things.

So how do you respond to God in light of these prophecies?  It is obvious that God is serious about how we live, and that we don’t fall to pride or power.  It is easy to sit back and say this is just old history and doesn’t apply to us today.  But the lessons are timeless.  God will address evil and sin.  Whether in a nation, or an individual, God’s laws and requirements are the same.  He has the power to take out entire nations, or to address you or me individually.  We won’t sneak by.  We won’t be ignored.  God is in control and we need to pay attention to how we live.

Ezekiel 31

Ezekiel 31 has the prophet getting a word from the Lord about Pharaoh and the kingdom of Egypt.  Ezekiel writes an allegory about the lofty cedars that represent Pharaoh and the leaders of Egypt.  The tree grows tall and “towered high above all the trees of the field”.  They grew a great nation and enjoyed many spoils.  There was none like it, and no rivals were even close in comparison.  But what happens when man is in that position?  In a word, we get prideful.

And that is exactly what God calls out here through the prophet.  “Its heart was proud of its height”.  Pharaoh believed his own press.  He drank his own Kool-Aid and believed he was the greatest of all time.  And the end result was that he thought he was invincible and could make his own rules.  He listened to the praise of his people and allowed them to worship him and even thought of himself as god.  He crossed the line and God now has His prophet letting the world know it is going to end.

The Bible tells us that “the pride of life… is not of the Father, but is of the world.”* God has made us capable of achievement, but there is an attitude that arises naturally with achievement that is not of the Father, but of the world.  Pride is an attitude, not the actual success itself.  There is nothing wrong with doing well and achieving much.  But it is what we do with it that can be a problem.  When we allow our success to become the center of life, and it pushes God and everything else aside, we are in dangerous waters.

God’s prophecy through Ezekiel here is that He will “cut it down and left it”.  God will get us back to reality.  That doesn’t mean our achievement goes away, but it certainly does mean that we will be brought back to the reality that God is God and we are a mere human being.  For some, the jolt doesn’t have to be as severe as what God has planned for Pharaoh.  But God will do what it takes to get our attention and bring us back to the truth that we are not god, and that He alone sits on the throne of the universe.  Beware of pride.  It is a real issue.

Ezekiel 30

Ezekiel 30 has the prophet talking about over a dozen nations and peoples that will be facing the punishment and destruction of the Lord.  They have enjoyed wealth and success, but God is going to level that to nothing and address their idolatry and sin.  The people in all these places are oblivious to that reality.  They are going on with life like nothing is wrong at all.  But “the day of the Lord is near” and Ezekiel makes it clear that people from Egypt to Pelsium to Cush to Libya will be laid to waste.

The reality is that the day of the Lord is near for us too.  We are marching toward that day when we will stand before God at the judgment seat and have to give account for our lives.  Whether we die, and then stand there, or Jesus comes again and we face God, the day is coming.  And with each passing day it is closer than it was yesterday.  So it begs the question: ‘are you ready’?  When you are standing before God and giving account for how you have lived, what will you say?  Have you lived a life worthy of God and met his requirements?  Before you waste too much time trying to justify yourself, let me answer for you.  No, you have not.

You see, none of us are worthy before God.  Scripture is clear that “all have sinned and fall short”.  So when we stand before God on judgment day, if we are judged solely on our own efforts and merits, we will face the same kinds of outcomes that Ezekiel describes in this chapter.  It won’t end well.  The good news is that God has provided a way for us to deal with our shortcomings and sin.  He sent Jesus to the cross to bear those sins and offer us a free gift of grace, where Jesus would take our place and cover our sin.  It requires us to repent, and receive that gift, and have a relationship with the Savior.  But we have the opportunity to create a wonderful outcome and eternal future if we will only humble ourselves and receive it.

There is no doubt that on that day “they will know that I am the Lord”, just like Ezekiel prophesied about the people during his time.  God is going to deal with sin.  The story has already been written, and we know who wins.  The people during this time believed that their wealth was the answer.  But it isn’t.  “I will put an end to the wealth of Egypt”.  God isn’t impressed by our money or things.  He is only concerned with our heart, and the sin that we are all guilty of.  His desire is that we live holy and godly lives, and on our own, that just doesn’t happen all the time.  Is your future based on what you have accumulated and collected?  It won’t cut it at judgment day.  You can’t buy this Judge.  All you can do is be ready.  Are you?

Ezekiel 29

Ezekiel 29 has the prophet talking now about God’s punishment of Egypt.  “Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you”.  That doesn’t sound like a good place to be, but it is the fate of Egypt because of their sin.  God is going to deal with the people of Egypt harshly, clearing out the land which He says will be “uninhabited forty years….a desolation in the midst of desolated countries”.  There is nothing cushy about this declaration.  God is going to disperse the people and cause the land to be barren and desolate.

The Biblical Illustrator says it this way: “God sometimes deals more favorably with heathens than with His own people. “At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians,” but it was the end of seventy years before He gathered the Jews out of Babylon: His own people were thirty years longer under the Babylonian yoke than the Egyptians. There was just cause for this; God’s people had sinned worse than the heathens, and so provoked Him above them.”

The reality is that God can’t ignore sin, no matter who is guilty.  It is easy to think that God would give a break to His people, as compared to the heathen that Ezekiel is writing and prophesying about, but that is not how it works.  God holds all people to the same standard – obedience to His laws and truth.  And the reality is that all of us fall short and are guilty of sin.  We cannot make it on our own.  We will fall and fail.  So the reality is, that everyone is in need of forgiveness.

The good news for us is that God made a way to overcome the punishment for sin – which is eternal separation from Him.  Jesus went to the cross to create a way for us to be set free from that sin and be made clean and white as snow.  Not because we earn it.  Not because we deserve it.  But because God loves each of us enough to allow us to receive His gift of grace and be set free from the burden of our sin.  We won’t get a pass just because we seem better than others around us.  We only receive His forgiveness when we receive His Son as our Savior.  Have you done that?  Are you ready to stand before Him?  If not, why not now?

Ezekiel 28

Ezekiel 28 has the prophet getting more from God about the folks in Tyre.  God is really winding up to do a number of them.  He has had it with these people, and it is based on their pride and self focus.  “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god”.  God opposed the proud.  He does not look kindly on those who push Him off His spot as God and replace Him with themselves.  So God will put Tyre in it’s place.

The outcome of pride and self is never good.  In the case of Tyre, God says “I will bring foreigners upon you, the most ruthless of the nations; and they shall draw their swords”.  They are headed for destruction.  God is going to knock them off the place they think they are sitting and put them where they belong.  God asks a difficult question: “Will you still say, ‘I am a god,’ in the presence of those who kill you”?  He will take us down a few notches when we become prideful and make us acknowledge that we are not what we have allowed ourselves to think.

But even though God is completely irritated with these people, He comes back to the reality and truth that they were not created to be bad.  “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you”.  God doesn’t make us bad.  We choose to become sinners, we are not created that way.  We try to blame our sin problem on the devil, or our parents, or the church, or anyone other than ourselves.  But the truth is that we choose to disobey and sin.  It is our own problem and God will treat it that way!

Ezekiel finally moves on after almost 4 chapters have been devoted to Tyre, and now is talking to the people of Sidon.  “They shall know that I am the Lord when I execute judgments in her and manifest my holiness in her”.  God will make Himself known to all of us.  We can see Him in the Creation.  If we pay attention, we will see Him throughout the day.  But He will not only be known by us, He will pass judgment on us and bring His holiness to us.  God is God.  He is in control  We need to wake up and walk with Him!

Ezekiel 27

Ezekiel 27 has the prophet continuing his prophecy about Tyre, a mighty nation that God is going to remove.  The chapter lists all the relationships with other nations that Tyre has had, and how they have leveraged the best from each of those places to create their own wonderful kingdom.  From skills, to resources, to people – Tyre has the best of all there is to offer from all over.  But even with that superiority and apparent success, they are not going to stay on top of the world at all.

The reality is that God is not pleased with them.  He is going to destroy them, in spite of their situation of greatness.  “Your riches, your wares, your merchandise, your mariners and your pilots, your caulkers, your dealers in merchandise, and all your men of war who are in you, with all your crew that is in your midst, sink into the heart of the seas on the day of your fall”.  All their stuff can’t save them.  All the people they have captured and surrounded themselves with are unable to keep them safe.

God will move against them – that is what the prophet says.  They will “shout aloud over you and cry out bitterly”, a far cry from their current state where they believe they are on top of the world.  But destruction awaits, and God will do as He says.  “Now you are wrecked by the seas, in the depths of the waters; your merchandise and all your crew in your midst have sunk with you”.  Their ship is going to sink, and all those they have brought around them will go down with the ship.

God is faithful to His word.  As He prophesied in chapter 26, Tyre will be done.  And Ezekiel says it again as he wraps up this chapter by saying “you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever”.  This is a kingdom ending prophecy – not a mere bump or slow down.  God is removing them from the picture.  Are you tuned in to what God wants from your life?  It isn’t about accumulating stuff, or money, or anything else.  It is about a relationship with God and walking in obedience to Him and His will.  Are you living that way?  If not, watch out.  God will not be mocked!

Ezekiel 26

Ezekiel 26 is an entire chapter about one of the enemies of God’s children – the folks from Tyre.  This chapter is God’s prophecies against Tyre. The siege of Tyre lasted thirteen years beginning 585 b.c., about three years after the capture of Jerusalem. While besieging Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar had driven Pharaoh back to the borders of Egypt. Tyre was relieved from a dangerous enemy, was celebrating her own deliverance, and in her neighbor‘s ruin, when Ezekiel predicted the calamity about to befall her.  So this was a big wakeup call as they were not thinking about anything but celebrating their future.

God is pretty clear that their celebration would be short lived.  He is graphic in what He is going to do.  And as we learned in the previous chapter, when Ezekiel spoke of four other enemies and captors of God’s people, the reason is to honor His covenant and make sure that “they will know that I am the Lord”.  Tyre has been at war with God’s people for years, and has captured and destroyed the city, but now God is going to level the playing field and even the score.

He says, among other things “I will stop the music….I will make you a bare rock….You shall never be rebuilt, for I am the Lord….I will bring you to a dreadful end, and you shall be no more”.  God’s punishment of Tyre is going to be forever.  The Biblical Illustrator talks about the the reality of how this prophecy actually played out.  Check out what it says: “Her is the literal fulfilment of judgment. In the year 1291 the Sultan of Egypt laid siege to the strong city of Ptolemais or Acre. Terror spread through the crusaders’ kingdom. Tyre shared it. Capture meant massacre and slavery. Ptolemais fell on the very day on which the evil news reached Tyre. At vespers the people in mass forsook their city. In panic and haste they embarked upon their galleys, and went out never to return.

“The Mahometan came. He overthrew the city. He choked one of the matchless harbours with the ruins. He cast into the sea, statues and columns and the huge stones of warehouses and palaces. He set the last fire to her splendour. He scraped the rock. Standing amid the ruins we may see the dust and ashes of her conflagration, the broken marble columns beneath the sea and scattered upon the shore, the fishers’ nets spread upon the rock, and feel, with every traveller who thus stands, that the last prophecy concerning her must also prove true, “That shalt be built no more.”  God does what He says.  Ezekiel’s prophecy was carried out exactly as God had told him.  

Ezekiel 25

Ezekiel 25 has the Word of the Lord coming to the prophet again.  This time, the focus is not on the disobedience of the children of Israel, but on four nations that have caused pain and suffering for God’s people.  He begins with the Ammonites, who were prideful and haughty in their overcoming of God’s people.  They said “Aha over my sanctuary when it was profaned” and had an attitude that they were responsible for what they did.  They didn’t realize that God had prophecied that and allowed them to capture His people, because of their disobedience.

But God is clear that He is in control of everything, even these enemy nations.  Everyone is held to God’s standards, and the Ammonites blew it.  “Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel”.  They may have been doing exactly what God ordained, when they went in and captured God’s people, but they did not do it in a way that God could accept or allow.  They were prideful and actually believed it was their doing.

God gives Ezekiel prophecy for four nations, all of whom had conquered God’s people.

–       Ammonites – “I will destroy you. Then you will know that I am the Lord

–       Moabites – “I will execute judgments upon Moab. Then they will know that I am the Lord

–       Edomites – “I will lay my vengeance….according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance

–       Philistines/Cherethites – “I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord

God deals with those who mess with His people.  Each of these countries were given the opportunity to capture God’s people, but all of them went beyond what God had ordained, and now their future has been defined.  And it isn’t going to be good.

The truth is that God is the author of what happens in His universe.  He wants to be sure that people know that He is God.  He says it over and over in this chapter, and in scripture.  His desire is that we know Him.  That we see His hand at work around us.  That we call out to Him as the Creator and the source of all blessing.  He is God, the one and only God, and He will make Himself known.  These were the nations of power in their time.  And God brings each of them to their knees.  He will accomplish His purpose. He will be glorified and lifted up!

Ezekiel 24

Ezekiel 24 has God asking the prophet to “utter a parable to the rebellious house”.  God is fed up with the rebellion of His people, and is going to clean it up.  They are going into the pot “that its uncleanness may be melted”.  That is how cleans us up – He turns up the heat and burns away the dross.  He is focused on bringing us into a cleansing so we can walk with Him.  It is painful, and certainly much simpler if we just learn to walk in obedience, but make no mistake, God is going to do a work in us to make us clean.

Will He really take action.  Check out the word He gives: “I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent”.  There is no execution problem with God.  He is who He says, and He does what He says.  He is the Great I Am.  Often we tend to think somehow He will forget, or not notice, or is too busy to deal with us.  That is not the case, never the case in fact.  God has a plan and will execute it.  He does exactly what He says every time.

So what does that mean to you and me?  God says “according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God”.  We’re going to stand before Him and have to give account for how we have lived.  It isn’t optional.  And we will face the three major areas that we are most likely to struggle with: “the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul”.  As humans, we wrestle with position, passion and possession.  That is where the enemy comes after us.  It is the temptation we are most likely to fall to.

So how do we deal with the reality that we are sinners that will stand before judgment and a Holy God?  We need to have our sin covered.  And there is only one way for that to happen – the shed blood of Jesus.  When we stand before God, our only defense will be a relationship with the Savior who went to the cross to deal with our sin.  That is all we have to stand on.  We can’t get there on our own.  We will never be worthy in ourselves.  It is by God’s grace through Christ that we can stand confidently before the Judge and ask to enter eternity in heaven.  Are you ready for that confrontation?  If not, now is the time.  Today may be the day!

%d bloggers like this: