Monthly Archives: October 2014
Ezekiel 19 is written to the princes of Israel. It is a lamentation, and it speaks about how their motherland had become desolated.
Eze 19:10 Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.
Eze 19:11 And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule, and her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches.
Eze 19:12 But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them.
Eze 19:13 And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.
Eze 19:14 And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.
The nation of Israel had gone from a group of people who were thriving and secure to a group of people who were entirely dried up and devoured.
I think that we can draw a strong comparison here to our Christian lives. When we are firmly rooted in the identity of Christ, we are going to thrive. We are going to be developing spiritual fruit, and we are going to be strong.
On the other hand, if we don’t have a foundation in a good place, we are going to be cast down and dried out. We won’t make a productive member of the church, and that is not what God wants from us.
I guess the challenge for me and for you is that we need to find out what group we are in. Are we firmly rooted in, or are we going to be blown over and trampled?
Ezekiel 18 is a very telling chapter. We are told to exactly how people end up becoming separated from God.
Eze 18:1 The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
Eze 18:2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?
Eze 18:3 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.
Eze 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
This chapter takes on two very important problems here. On one hand, people are saying that parents or children were responsible for each other’s sins. That is rejected later in this chapter. God affirms that each person is responsible for his or her own actions.
However, more interestingly in my opinion is that this chapter does provide a way for someone to get into heaven. Notice in verse four. If a person sins, he or she will die. That does imply that if you live a perfect life, you are worthy for heaven based on your own merit.
Verses five through nine reaffirm this idea that if you do everything that aligns with the will of God, you will live.
The problem with that is that it doesn’t apply to me. I doubt it applies to you either. I have yet to come across anyone who is perfect. Some people might think they are, and we certainly might try to put on a front that we are without fault, but at the most basic level, I have never found anyone who has done everything exactly right.
That puts us in a bit of a predicament. We are souls that sin. Therefore, we are dead in our sins. Dead people can’t do anything to alter their condition of death.
How amazing is it then that we have Jesus Christ? How amazing is that we have a God who was willing to send His one and only Son to provide the sacrifice that we could not do anything about ourselves? As dead people, we could not improve our situation, but God brought new life to us.
It is worth reflecting on how lost we are without God and how great His love was and still is for us.
It is interesting how in Ezekiel 17, we find out how Israel is going to be taken down by Babylon. They are going to be laid low, and it is not going to be the most pleasant thing in the world.
However, it is not as if God had forgotten about the people of Israel all together. They were not thrown away forever.
Eze 17:22 Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent:
Eze 17:23 In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.
Eze 17:24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done it.
The people who had been powerful before were the ones who are being obviously hurt the most by this. Zedekiah and the line of David were the high cedar. At this point, it seemed like that particular line was going to be chopped off, but there was a higher branch that was going to be saved. An important branch down the line that would come out of the line of David and bear fruit for everyone.
We have found our Messianic prophecy. The Old Testament is full of indicators that help us understand that someone had to come along and meet all of these criteria. The odds are remarkable, but no one has yet been able to find one that Jesus Christ did not fulfill.
Ezekiel 16 takes us through the entire history of the people of Israel. They began as wanderers in the land, but God was with them, and they became a great kingdom. However, as soon as it became that great kingdom, they began losing their faithfulness. They are beginning to deviate and wander away from God who had brought them to the point where they were.
Eze 16:58 Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thine abominations, saith the LORD.
Eze 16:59 For thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.
It is important to remember that this is not God changing His covenant. The relationship had been the same from the beginning. He would be their God, and that they would be His people. However, we have a case here where the people have rejected Him and have decided to chase after other pursuits.
I didn’t want to copy the entire chapter, but the language here is related to marital infidelity. This is a serious charge that is being laid on the people of Israel. They had a commitment as strong as any other commitment on earth, and they were violating that. It was not simply like choosing a different item off of a restaurant menu. Those are all equivalent choices. It doesn’t really matter which one you decide. In the case of choosing God or not choosing God, it is obvious that it is not considered to be that type of decision.
This is a decision that has a right answer. It is kind of like being faithful to your spouse. There technically is a decision to be made there and there are two choices, but there also is a right decision that ought to be made every time. That is exactly what the people of Israel should have understood with God. They were in a relationship, and even though they could drift away from him, there was a right decision to be made based upon the relationship that was in place.
I think that we need to consider this kind of thing as Christians as well. We have made a commitment to be in a relationship with God. We should take that just as seriously as the nation of Israel was called to be in a relationship with God.
Ezekiel 15 provides us with a metaphor. The people of Jerusalem are like a piece of wood that has been thrown in the fire and burned.
Eze 15:6 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Eze 15:7 And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them.
Eze 15:8 And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord GOD.
The implications are rather clear. The people of Jerusalem brought on their own punishment. They defied God for years, and it finally came to the point where the city was going to fall.
Verse seven stood out to me. The people were going to recognize God more clearly when He was allowing these things to happen to them. I think that a lot of us can identify with that idea. We sometimes recognize God more clearly when difficult times come. We realize that we need him to be there with us if we are going to make it through.
That did happen to the people of Israel if we fast-forward. While they were in captivity, they did get their act back together and came back to Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. However, had they not been taken away to Babylon, there probably would not have been this return. After all, the people continued spiraling every generation, and the final king Zedekiah was not changing the trend.
Difficult times can actually bring us back to where we need to be. It can be those times where we realize that our own power is not nearly enough, and we recognize that we need God to be by our side.
The people of Jerusalem had turned away from God, and they were basically trapped in idolatry. However, it is interesting in Ezekiel 14 that we receive the following connection to the other books of the Bible.
Eze 14:14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.
Eze 14:15 If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:
Eze 14:16 Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
Eze 14:17 Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:
Eze 14:18 Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
These are three men who were saved from physical death by God. Daniel could have died in the invasion, Noah could have drowned and Job could have been killed through all of his trials. However, God preserved them because of how they lived their lives. We are not talking about eternal salvation here necessarily, but because of their righteousness, they did not physically die here on earth when they could have.
At this point, the people were at such a dark point that even with the example of one of these men, no one else would be delivered with them. It is a lot like the time of Noah. Nobody would listen to him because they were in such a dark spot. However, it had even advanced to the point where his own family would not listen to him. That was how awful the situation was for these people.
I hope that we never find ourselves in this kind of position. Even if we had some of the most righteous people of all time there with us, we would ignore them and not turn from our idolatry. That is a sad place.
It seems as if there are a lot of people who like to say that they heard directly from God. However, there have been some pretty contradictory encounters with the God that people have met. The God that the apostle Paul encountered on the road to Damascus is a lot different than the angel who Joseph Smith met and delivered the word of God in the form of the golden tablets.
Even way back in Ezekiel 13, different people were claiming to hear from God, and people were having different results.
Eze 13:6 They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.
Eze 13:7 Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?
Eze 13:8 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD.
I think this applies quite a bit to the world we have today. We have a variety of people making contradictory truth claims, and certainly by the laws of logic, they cannot all be true. For example, Jesus Christ cannot be the son of God as Christianity claims and not the son of God as Islam claims. One has to be right, and the other has to be wrong. There is no way around that.
However, how do we decide which one is right? That necessitates a long answer on some level, but to simplify, I would say that we basically need to weigh the evidence. It is the same way that you decide on anything else in the world. If I want to buy a car, I evaluate the evidence of people who have the same vehicle and make a decision based on whether or not it seems like a good decision.
It is a similar process for discerning between religions. Look at the evidence. Does that belief system seem to adequately explain the world? If it does, that is great. If it doesn’t, maybe it is not worth believing in.
Obviously, Ezekiel was going to engage in conversation with these people who disagreed with him. That is what we need to be willing to do as well. As Christians, we have made the decision that we believe that one particular religion is right. We need to be willing to talk about that.
It is always interesting to me when the people of Israel would decide that they did not want to listen to God anymore. In Ezekiel 12, they are called rebellious and are simply not using the faculties that they have to understand.
Eze 12:1 The word of the LORD also came unto me, saying,
Eze 12:2 Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.
This made me think about how we all can be at times. As you know, I read my Bible every day. This is the second time in my life I am going through the Bible cover to cover. I point this out because I certainly have eyes to see the Bible, and my eyes have passed over every (electronic) page at least one time. I certainly have read the truth, but I don’t know that I always see it. I don’t know that I always listen to everything that is being told to me through the text.
I point this out because it is very easy for us to criticize the people of Jerusalem. The criticism is certainly deserved in my opinion. They should have been listening to God. I’m not going to discount that. However, I am trying to point out the fact that we have many of the same human propensities. How many times do we know what we need to do, but we are more than happy to go and do the opposite?
How many times have we read that we should not bear false witness and then immediately turned around and told a little white lie?
I’m not trying to get the people of Jerusalem off the hook or justify what they did. However, for those of us to have the privilege to read this historical account, we ought to learn from them and improve our own character. We do have eyes, and we want to train them to see what God sees. That will begin to transform us into the people who God wants us to be.
Ezekiel 11 makes me think of a hypothetical situation. I might be driving a car down the road, and somebody in the other lane starts flashing his headlights. It is rather obvious that he wants me to slow down, but I might not pay attention seeing that he is only one person. However, then the next car comes by and also flashes her lights. Now, I ought to realize that something is going on. These are separate instances, but they seem to be pointing towards the same idea; I should slow down my car.
At the beginning of Ezekiel 11, Ezekiel is being called on to be that second driver.
Eze 11:1 Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the LORD’S house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.
Eze 11:2 Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city:
Eze 11:3 Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh.
Eze 11:4 Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man.
Verse three is mocking a prophecy of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:13. He was the front runner, and now Ezekiel is being told to follow-up. The people of Jerusalem did not realize everything that was coming towards them.
It’s kind of funny though. When I’m driving my car, I have no problem trusting that person who is flashing his or her headlights at me. I trust them because I assume that they would have no motivation for doing that except for trying to help me out.
The people of Jerusalem did not understand that about Jeremiah or Ezekiel even though the situations are similar. Neither one of them had anything to gain on earth by prophesying. Nobody liked them, and they were ridiculed. It is interesting that no one would realize that they had no other motive for telling the truth other than that there really was something coming ahead.
I think that is part of our responsibility as Christians. We know that there are things that are right and wrong, and we know that there are consequences for decisions. We don’t go around handing down judgment, but we do need to make sure that we are taking a stand for truth.
Ezekiel 10 reads a lot like the first vision that we read about in this book. There are wheels and cherubim. However, there is a very interesting difference in this particular vision that indicates that this is a separate occurrence rather than the recalling of the previous happening.
Eze 10:1 Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.
Eze 10:2 And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.
We now have a man clothed in linen who is going to be dumping coals over the city of Jerusalem. This is interesting because from a straightforward reading of it, when you dump coals over something, it is going to light on fire.
That is exactly what happened to Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. They obviously pillaged it, but fire was their main weapon of destruction. We hear about the fire being used in Nehemiah.
Neh 2:3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
Now it might not be necessarily mind blowing that an ancient army would use fire, but at the same time, not every ancient army would have had to ransack the city. Some might have moved in and occupied it as a new territory. However, it was prophesied that it would go up and fire, and it did.
I point this out because even though it might not seem to be the most radical prophecy that would automatically convince someone that Ezekiel was truly hearing from God, there is an interesting cumulative case argument to be made through all of these individual occurrences. If you begin adding up all of the little prophecies, it becomes less and less probable that even by random chance you will get every one right.