Ezekiel


The Promised Land

I love living where I do.  Sunsets, water, breezes, green year round….. warm…fish…And I love America.  “In God We Trust”…..  “Liberty”… “Fraternity”….  “Equality”…It is a wonderful place to be.

Ezekiel loved his homeland too.  He grew up in Jerusalem and thought of it as the city of God and the city of David–with all the blessings that promised. Especially, the wonderful promise of the atoning Savior and King to come. It was the promised land, after all. 

In Ezekiel 22-24, the prophet predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed.  Their lewdness, idoltry, disobedience, corruption, immorality, and hardheadedness would finally catch up with them.  Their destruction would be a fair act on God’s part.  “I the Lord have spoken it;  It shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not hold back,…” (24:14). 

Ezekiel had already left Jerusalem.  He and his wife, along with people like Daniel and his friends, were living in Iraq.  He was preaching to the exiles.  They had lived there now about eleven years when she suddenly died (587 BC).  God told him not to cry or mourn in front of others.  In fact, he lost his voice and was told he would get it back when a messenger arrived telling him how Babylon’s army had wiped Jerusalem off the map (24:15-27).

And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on thefifth day of the month, that one who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “the city has been captured!”

Now the hand of the LORD had been upon me the evening before the man came who had escaped.  And He had opened my mouth; so when he came to me in the morning, my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute” (Ezekiel 33:21-22).

The point of all of this was to call attention to the truth of Ezekiel’s words as a prophet. These events were programed so that the people in exile, and those who would later read this book, would bow their knees and know that the LORD is God. Isn’t it remarkable that his experience and his prophecy have been preserved all these 2,600 years? 

Of course, Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC.  The exile lasted seventy more years before a group returned to rebuild the city and its temple. Ezekiel didn’t make it back to the city he loved.   But, he did keep on believing and preaching and calling others to turn from their selfish ways to love and trust the one true God.  That way he was living in the “promised land,” even while in exile, by loving God and doing what He commanded whether anyone really “heard” him or not.

LESSON TO THE CHURCH

Jesus is our representative–our righteousness. We are still called to love God and do what He commands.  The destruction of Jerusalem was a tragic event.  It really occurred.  Ezekiel tells us why.  They were stiff-necked, proud people who refused to listen and took their privileges as God’s people for granted.  They refused to clean up their act.  It is a lesson for us.  We Christians cannot take our position in Christ Jesus for granted.  We must live like people to whom God has shown many mercies, bow before Him as our Lord, as well as Savior, and clean up our lives.  What do you need to sweep away? 

 Some always listen; a remnant will return to living in the “promised land” of personal relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus alone.  It is a wonderful place to be.

“We Just Need Rehab.”

Every generation has proverbs generally accepted by most people.  Sometimes spoken or written; sometimes not.  My mother’s generation lived by: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  I get to buy a few Lilly dresses now because of  that proverb! It is not such a bad saying…

A proverb of today in the U.S. might be: “We haven’t sinned; we just need rehab.”  Whether it’s a celebrity or public official or just a husband using the internet for dirty pictures, there’s seldom visible sorrow for the action itself that has caused such devastating consequences.  Anger management or sexual addiction counseling are “in.” 

Ezekiel saw the same kind of thinking going on among his exiled friends.  They had lost their country, been forced to move from Jerusalem to Iraq.  He kept preaching about true heart repentance–sorrow, sadness, deep grief resulting in seeking a renewed relationship with God that included right living.  They kept saying, “We’re suffering because of the sins of our fathers. We haven’t done anything to deserve this.”  Instead of repentance and mourning, they shirked their responsibility and blamed their parents and said God was not fair.

In Ezekiel 18,we have his sermon refuting this proverb. I hope you have the time to read it.  ‘As I live,’  says the Lord GOD, ‘you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.'”  He goes on to list the right living of the first generation (18:5-9), and the violent greed, idoltry, and sexual impurity of the second generation, then the right living of the third generation (v.14-18).  Ezekiel defends personal responsibilty and the fairness of God:

“He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!

As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, robbbed his brother by violence, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity. … The soul who sins shall die” (Ez. 18:17-20).

“‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?'” 

 Should we be using our proverb today to excuse ourselves?  Is getting rehabilatation and counseling (or traveling the world for a year or so) the only thing we need to do?  What about cleaning up our act? 

Teaching Tip

Train your children (or those you teach or influence in any way) to accept responsibility for their attitudes and actions.  In preschool and early elementary years, I focused on getting my daughters to “honor” me. I tried not to have many “rules” but  when they didn’t show respect, they “got” it! It was their fault, even if I was wrong or short-tempered.  Of course, I often messed up myself, and this same principle of responsibility applied to me, but, nevertheless, my being in the wrong did not excuse them. It isn’t always the teacher’s or the parent’s fault.

 For upper elementary and high school, help them to see how false the cultural proverbs can be. You need to talk WITH them a lot (not to them as much). Take them daily to the real Proverbs as a contrast to what they are hearing “out there.”   Keep the focus on personal accountability and turning from wrong behavior and attitudes–in their relationship with you and with the Lord Jesus. 

Of course, in delivering this sermon on accountability, Ezekiel is in no way ignoring the hope of the Promised One who would be an atonement for sin.  He didn’t know all the details yet; it was 590 or so years before Jesus’ death. As an educated priest,  Ezekiel was very familar with all of Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah’s coming.  But, this sermon’s main point is that each of us is accountable to God and that does not make God unfair.  “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin” (Ez. 18:30).