Archive for December, 2013

Ezekiel 36

Ezekiel 36 turns the prophet’s attention to the “mountains of Israel” which are symbolic of God’s people as it is where they lived.  This chapter focuses on the distinction between God’s people and evil, and the key is the covenant relationship God has with His people.  They have gone through decades of captivity and punishment for their sin, but God is moving past that now.  He is going to restore their kingdom and bring them back together from their scattered lands.  “But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel, for they will soon come home”.

This is a very personal thing for God.  “I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown….I will multiply people on you….I will multiply on you man and beast….I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times….I will let people walk on you”.  God is going to restore life to the kingdom of His people.  His people had been scattered and suffered because “they defiled it by their ways and their deeds”.  Disobedience caused Him to allow other nations to capture and remove His children.  But now He is returning to the covenant He has made.

I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land….I will cleanse you….I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you….I will remove the heart of stone….give you a heart of flesh….I will put my Spirit within you….cause you to walk in my statutes….be careful to obey my rules….you shall be my people, and I will be your God”.  Do you sense the intimacy with which God is going to restore things?  God is coming to them and restoring them to His presence and His protection.

So why, after all these years, does God decide to take action?  The answer may not be what you expect.  It isn’t because they continue to cry out to Him for mercy.  It isn’t because God feels sorry for them.  So why?  “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name….It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you”.  It really isn’t about them at all.  It is about God and His faithfulness to the covenant He made. It is about God and His holiness and the fact that He wants the world to know He does what He says.  “Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations….Then they will know that I am the Lord”.  It is about people knowing Him and His name.  This is about God, not man, and His being God.  He still is.  Praise God for being who He is!

Ezekiel 35

Ezekiel 35 begins like most of the rest of the chapters in this book.  “The word or the Lord came to me”.  What an example of a relationship with God.  The prophet is tuned in.  He hears from God all the time.  And God continues to speak truth to Ezekiel because he takes it and does as God asks, he delivers the news to those who it is intended whether it is easy to do or not.  He speaks truth when no one wants to listen, and when it endangers his personal well being.  Ezekiel is obedient.  And because of that, God continues to use him to change the world.

Are you the kind of person God uses?  Scripture is filled with lessons about those kinds of folks.  God isn’t looking for perfect people – there has been only one and His name is Jesus.  But God does look for people that understand who He is, and are willing to walk in obedience to His leading.  He has used murderers and adulterers and liars and thieves.  All have sinned, so God isn’t looking for us to be perfect, but He is looking for repentance and obedience to His leading.  Are you that person?  Are you someone God can use?

God again tells us why the people of Mount Seir are on the chopping block.  They “magnified yourselves against me with your mouth, and multiplied your words against me; I heard it”.  Pride and self cause us to miss so much.  These people pursued and captured the children of God.  They were evil and said “These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will take possession of them”.  Their actions proved to be the cause of this final blow from God.  We won’t get around messing with His plans.

God wants to use us in our patch today.  But when we allow self, and pride and any number of other sins to get in the way of our walk and obedience to Him, we miss that chance to be used by Him.  When we put self on the throne and push Him to the side, we aren’t an instrument that He can pick up and use to change the world.  So before we start pointing fingers at God and asking how come He never talks to us like He did many in scripture, we need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are the kind of person God uses.  Is our heart right?  Are our actions in obedience to what we already know He wants us to do?  If we haven’t obeyed what we already know, why would He give us more?  Take a look.  Are you the kind of person God uses?

Ezekiel 34

Ezekiel 34 has a big change of focus for the prophet.  The last number of chapters have been around God’s destruction and punishment of the evil nations, and how He is going to clean things up and make them right.  Now, He moves to a focus on the ‘shepherds’ that are to be taking care of His flock or His people.  And while the target has changed, the intensity certainly has not.  “Shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep”?  God is not pleased with the way the rulers have been focused on their own selfish motives rather than the good of the people.

No sugar coating here.  “You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep”.  The truth is that those in power thought first and only about their own well being.  They took the luxury of ignoring what was good for those they should have been serving, and used it all for themselves.  God cares about the sheep.  That is why the true Shepherd, Jesus Christ, came to the world.  But these guys were just feeding their own egos and bellies.  It may not be all that different than many rulers today.

So how should a leader really lead?  God makes it clear what is expected.  “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them”.  You have to take care of the sheep.  You don’t spend your time focused on self and what you can get out of leadership personally.  You focus on the needs of the sheep and care for them.  It is about where you focus and put priority.  Too many leaders start with self.  God always starts with others.

But He is clear, that when a ruler/leader isn’t doing their job, He is paying attention and will act.  “I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out”.  God will care for His children.  He won’t just sit back and hope for change.  He will take action.  “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep….I myself will make them lie down….I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed….I will bind up the injured….I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy…I will feed them in justice”.  He sent Jesus for this very reason – to serve and save the lost and to bring them to salvation through His free gift of grace.  God really shows us what servant leadership looks like.  We need to read and understand this well!

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?

%d bloggers like this: