Now, let's turn to Ezekiel Chapter 21, as Skip continues to lead us through the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation.
Good evening. The average lifespan is getting longer every year. They say it's been on an average 70 years. Of course, it is lengthening as the generations go on.
But in an average lifespan, if you live to be 70 years old, you will have spent, all together, 20 years sleeping. Another 20 years working. About seven years of that will be spent playing. Six years in eating.
Now, again, these time elements can vary from person to person.
You will spend five years getting dressed, three years waiting for someone, 1 and 1/2 years talking on the telephone.
Again, this varies from person to person.
You will have spent all together about five months tying your shoes.
I say by loafers. Make it easy.
The exiles who were down at the Chebar River did not bank upon a disruption of their plans of their life activities for 70 years. They spent an entire lifetime basically in exile at the rivers of Babylon.
It's true that we make our plans. We try to set our agenda. We try to write the script of exactly what our life's going to be, how it's going to unfold.
But you got to remember something. God has editing rights over your script. And he edited their script, bringing them into foreign occupation, a foreign land.
It helps if we can look at life with an eternal rather than a temporal focus. If our focus is eternal rather than just the here and now, we're going to live a lot easier life, a lot happier life, a more satisfied life, because we realize, hey, God's in charge. He's writing the script. He's going to do whatever he wants to do.
Our problem is in making our plans, living our lives, when the temporal begins to eclipse the eternal.
I love the prayer of Duncan Matheson. "Lord, stamp eternity on my eyes." It's a great way to live.
This disruption for 70 years in Babylon by the Chebar River, which, by the way, was a canal that connected those two main arteries, those two waterways, the Tigris and Euphrates, together. It was basically a shipping channel by which the boats could go from one river to another river and take goods from one part of the land to another.
Down at that place this group of POWs, well over 10,000 now by the time the words of Ezekiel came to them, the first two deportations, the first two groups of exiles. The third wasn't there yet.
605 BC, 597 BC, those were the two years that Nebuchadnezzar and his armies besieged Jerusalem, and brought captives, those from Jerusalem, to this river, this POW camp in Babylon.
And there Ezekiel speaks to them about God's plans, God's purposes, and why the script that they had written for their lives was interrupted. And what God was planning to do. Some of it was good news. Some of it was bad news.
The bad news we've read. We will read tonight. There is yet another siege that will come upon Jerusalem, contrary to the words of the false prophets who said, don't worry. We'll be going home soon. The temple will not be destroyed.
The bad news is the temple would be destroyed, and yet a third siege would befall Jerusalem. And more captives were coming. The good news is that God would ultimately, eventually restore the Jews back to their land.
Chapter 21 actually begins in the Hebrew Bible with verse 45 of chapter 20. It's more logical that way, because in chapter 20, verse 45 it's a prophecy against this South and the forests against the South.
And he speaks in so many different analogies and parables that chapter 20 ends with the question, "Then said I, ah, Lord, God, they say of me, does he not speak parables?"
In other words, they were saying about Ezekiel, we don't get it. We don't understand the message that this man is trying to bring.
So now God wants to make sure they do get it, very clearly. And he will repeat with more analogies, more parables in a way they can understand and will understand that same message of judgment.
In this chapter God is pictured as a swordsman taking out the sword. Burnishing it. Flashing it. Pointing it. And then attacking.
The word of the Lord came to me saying, son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, and preach. Or as the King James says, "Drop thy word. Speak these words against the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel. And say to the land of Israel, thus says the Lord, behold, I am against you. And I will draw my sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you.
Because I will cut off both righteous and wicked from you, therefore my sword shall go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north, that all flesh may know that, I, the Lord, have drawn my sword out of its sheath, and it shall not return anymore."
The army of Babylon that would come against the land and spread out from north to south, they would come and be absolutely indiscriminate in their attack. Young and old. Male and female. From north to south all manner of people will be affected. The good people. The bad people. They will all die.
Now, it says that not only the wicked, but God would cut off the righteous. I guess the question is, in lieu of chapter 5 of Jeremiah, who is the righteous in Jerusalem?
Remember, Jeremiah was instructed to go through the land and seek out, and mark somebody who did execute justice, who was righteous. And no one was found. And so God says, both the righteous and the wicked will be affected.
The question is, who are the righteous? It would seem that what God is referring to here are those who think they're righteous because they are religious.
They think they're right with God because they go to the temple. They think everything is OK between them and their maker, simply because they're Israelites, they live around Jerusalem, they keep the temple ceremonies.
It's tantamount today to a professed believer, someone who would say, well, I go to church. I've been baptized. I keep certain regulations and certain ceremonies, and yet are unsaved.
Jesus said at the time of judgment, many will say to me in that day, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? And didn't we cast out demons and perform wonders in your name?
They have the right vocabulary, the right profession. But they don't have the possession of the spirit of God. Their lives haven't been changed. It's simply outward. They think they're righteous.
Jesus said, "And I will say, I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity."
"I will draw my sword out of its sheath and cut off both the righteous and the wicked from you."
Now, when it does come to judgment there is an important principle. God does make a difference in judgment. When God is judging, and there are righteous people and there are wicked people, God's judgment is not indiscriminate.
Peter said the Lord knows how to deliver the righteous, and reserve the wicked for the day of judgment, the unjust. But when it comes to suffering that comes from this world, it falls on both, righteous and unrighteous, doesn't it?
Jesus said that my Father in heaven sends the sun and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. God's people, good people, and wicked people often receive the blessings, that prevenient grace that theologians like to speak about.
Therefore, it is wrong to conclude every time you're experiencing a trial or hardship that God is punishing you. You often hear people say that, oh, I'm going through a tough time. God really must be mad at me. He's punishing me.
Well, are you his child? If you're his child, he doesn't punish you. He will correct you. But his action towards you isn't punitive. It's corrective. Whom the Lord loves, he chastens.
But when it comes to that tribulation of the world, we all face it. In the world, Jesus said, you will have tribulation.
I remember one week I decided to keep a diary, a little journal that I would write down as a pastor phone calls, interviews, conversations, information that I got about people in the church, in the body of Christ who were suffering.
It began on a Saturday night when I received a phone call from a hospital chaplain about a young couple whose baby was in trouble. I'd better come down. They go to your church, he said. So I went down to the hospital.
And there was a mother and a father who had just lost their first child. And the father, though streaming tears in his face, said, I don't understand, but I know God has a purpose. And I'll discover one day what that is.
And then I heard about that same week about a missionary who was being persecuted, one that we were supporting from our church.
Another woman who came down and was diagnosed that week with cancer. And the truth of that scripture, the sun falls on the just and the unjust, the rain on the just and the unjust alike, now sometimes God will calm the storm for his child. And we go, phew, thank you, Lord, for delivering me from that horrible situation. But at other times God will calm the child in the storm, and deliver you through that.
And you're experiencing the heartache, the hardship, the difficulty. But God has got his grip on your life, comforting you, filling you with his presence, his peace, his joy.
Verse six. "Sigh, therefore, son of man, with a breaking heart. And sigh with bitterness before their eyes."
In other words, Ezekiel, let them see some emotion here. Don't be aloof in your preaching. I want you to get into this emotionally. Express the depth of heart.
And it shall be when they say to you why are you sighing, that you shall answer, because of the news. When it comes, every heart will melt. All hands will be feeble. Every spirit will faint. And all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming. And it shall be brought to pass, says the Lord God.
So Ezekiel here is making a dramatic, emotional statement. He wants them to get the message loud and clear.
In the newspaper industry there is a typeset, a type of lettering that newspapers will use when they want to put on the front page what they consider an astonishing event. It's interesting what they call this type. They call it second coming type.
So whenever it's a huge news event, the assassination of President John F Kennedy, when Reagan was shot, manned spacecraft out in space, the surrender of Germany and Japan that ended World War II, a presidential election, they will use second coming type, that large, black, heavy type. You can't miss it. You can see it 100 yards away in a newsstand.
In the same manner, Ezekiel is broadcasting with deep emotion, and in just a minute some gesticulation. He'll be moving his arms around, and pounding his fists, and pounding his thigh. He's breaking the news to them in the most dramatic way that he can.
Why? Because the annihilation of Jerusalem will be a headline event coming in a few years.
Again, the word of the Lord came to me saying, son of man, prophesy and say, thus says the Lord. Say a sword. A sword is sharpened and also polished.
If you remember back to the prophecy of Jeremiah, Jeremiah also spoke of the coming of Babylon surrounding the city of Jerusalem, invading the land of Judah. But Jeremiah spoke of the Babylonians as a battle ax and weapons of war.
Ezekiel, a similar analogy, but a different word. He uses the term sword. And it's mentioned 12 times in this chapter alone.
A reference to Nebuchadnezzar and his army. Sharp, hostile, indiscriminate, the invading army.
And keep something in mind throughout these prophecies. God is in charge. He is sovereign. He's the one that, through Jeremiah's predicting this, and controlling these events, God will often use unbelievers to perform his will.
Caesar Augustus must have thought, he was so powerful when he ordered a census to be taken and that everybody should go back to a city to be registered. He thought, wow, I'm so powerful. I can spew out a dictum and everybody will do what I say.
Well, actually he was just a puppet, a pawn. It was sovereign God moving them around. I want to get Joseph back to Bethlehem so that Jesus, the messiah, my son, can be born according to the prediction of Micah. So I'm going to use Caesar Augustus, that little pawn, that puppet to give a decree to perform exactly what I want.
God is using the Babylonians as his instrument to refine and to punish the people down in Judah.
I've loved the scripture that says-- I think it's Psalm 76-- "For even the wrath of man shall praise the, oh, Lord." That is, even the wrath from God that comes upon man would be turned back as praise to the Lord.
And so in 605 BC, and 597 BC, and 586 BC God was using that wrath to praise him, as he was sovereignly in control of all of these events.
Now, something to look for as we move on in these verses, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian army is going to come to a decision point, a crossroads. They're going to have to decide who they're going to attack first. Will it be Jerusalem or will it be that country east of the Dead Sea, the Ammonites, whose capital city was Raba?
And they're going to make a decision seemingly by pagan means. But actually God, by his divine means, is controlling, again, like pawns on a chessboard.
Sharpened-- verse 10-- to make a dreadful slaughter. Polished, to flash like lightning. Should we then make mirth? It despises the scepter of my son, as it does all wood.
Now, that's a confusing sort of a verse. But hold that thought. And we'll get down to verse 13 and tie it together.
And he has given it to be polished that it may be handled. The sword is sharpened. It is polished to be given into the hand of the slayer.
The slayer, the executioner is the Babylonian army under the headship of Nebuchadnezzar.
"Cry and wail, son of man, for it will be against my people, against all the princes of Israel. Terrors, including the sword, will be against my people. Therefore strike your thigh, because it is a testing.
And what if the sword despises even the scepter? The scepter shall be no more, says the Lord God."
Now, verse 10 and verse 13 are difficult verses. And even the best commentators and the most erudite scholars have difficulty with them, exactly what they mean.
If you put them together, especially looking back at verse 10, it says "Should we then make mirth?" Here's the point. Now is not the time for those in Judah to throw a party, to get happy, to make mirth.
Now, they could be tempted to do that, because they have, as it says, despised the implements of wood. Notice it says, it despises the scepter of my son, as it does all wood.
They had been able to withstand, without total annihilation, the implements of the Babylonian army, the wooden stocks, the wooden battering rams, the wooden catapults. But God will send hard, cold steel, the sword of the Babylonians.
To quench their pride and answer their arrogance. You see, the false prophets are saying, see, we've made it so far. We've despised the wood. But God says the sword is coming.
There's a reference to my son in verse 10. "It despises the scepter of my son, as it does all wood." "My son" may refer to Judah. "My son" may refer to the King of Judah.
It is not uncommon in scripture. Solomon was called God's son in First Chronicles 286. "To David the Lord says, it is your son, Solomon, who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his Father."
So it could be a reference to the King of Judah. Or some people see this as a reference to Jesus Christ, God's son.
"It despises the scepter of my son." In other words, they are despising the very throne, the dynasty of the messiah who, ironically, will rule and reign over them one day.
"You, therefore--" verse 14, "son of man, prophecy. Strike your hands together. The third time, let the sword do double damage.
It is the sword that slays, the sword that slays the great men that enters their private chambers."
Now, this third time, it's pretty obvious what that is. That's the third attack. That's 586 BC.
When the sword came against them, and finally leveled the city, burned it, went into the houses of the nobles, annihilated them, took captives others, and those who fled were all killed by the edge of the sword. The third time it will do double damage.
And so already at the Chebar River, at the time of Ezekiel, at this time there were over 10,000 captives. Thousands more would come. And others would be killed altogether.
I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that the heart may melt, and many may stumble awe. It is made bright. It is grasped for slaughter.
Swords at the ready, thrust right. Set your blade. Thrust left wherever your edge is ordered. So the commands of the army.
I will also beat my fists together. And I will cause my fury to rest. I, the Lord, have spoken.
Now, in verse 13 it speaks of striking or smiting the thigh, which is sometimes translated to beat the breast. Translated here, striking the thigh. Verse 14, striking your hands. And verse 17, beating the fists.
All of these are emphatic gestures of grief.
If you've ever seen a Middle Eastern funeral, and some of you have seen it on the news-- when there's a car bomb explosion, or some terrorist act, still in Baghdad, or in the West Bank, or even in Jewish communities, and the camera zeros in on the funeral, the march through the city with the casket, and you watch the men and the women beating their breast, throwing dust in the air, making gestures of grief, very emphatically. That's what Ezekiel was doing to draw attention to the fact that it's going to be bad. This is the funeral of the nation.
The word of the Lord came to me again saying, and son of man, appoint for yourself two ways for the sword of the King of Babylon to go. Both of them shall go from the same land.
Make a sign. Put it at the head of the road to the city. Appoint a road for the sword to go to Raba of the Ammonites and to Judah, into fortified Jerusalem.
Now, you remember at the beginning part of the book how Ezekiel built that little model of the city of Jerusalem? And it was in the view of all of those elders, all of the people there at the Chebar River. He built that model of Jerusalem, and then he laid siege to it to depict what would happen when the Babylonian armies came against him.
He's probably using that model, or referring back to it, in pointing in two different directions with the sword, speaking of the decision that the Babylonians will have to make about their attack.
So can you picture them all gathered around this prophet? What's he doing now? What's this with the pointing of the sword?
And sure, they got sick of Ezekiel, with his denunciations, saying your hope is gone. We're never going to return. You might as well relax like Jeremiah said. Sink your roots in.
And though they got sick of hearing it, they're curious. They're watching this. For the King of Babylon stands at the parting of the road, at the fork of the two roads to use divination.
He shakes the arrows. He consults the images. He looks at the liver.
In his right hand is the divination for Jerusalem to set up battering rams, to call for a slaughter, to lift the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to heep up a siege mound, and to build a wall.
And it will be to them like a false divination in the eyes of those who have sworn oaths with them. But he will bring their iniquity to remembrance that they may be taken.
It's a picture of the army of Babylon taking that long journey from the Tigris, Euphrates, that Mesopotamian river valley, coming from the East, the Northeast, down toward the countries of Amman, Judah, to attack them.
Why? Because they had formed an alliance together, Judah and Amman, several years earlier. And they confederated together in a pact to try to overthrow Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.
They thought, let's rebel. Zedekiah, a vassal king to the Babylonian hierarchy, thought, yeah, it's a good idea. I'll make an alliance with Egypt. If that doesn't work, I'll make an alliance with the Ammonites, thinking their strength together could overthrow Babylon.
So Nebuchadnezzar with his armies at the crossroads deciding, OK, who do I attack first? The ammonites or the Jerusalemites?
Verse 21 says he uses divination. He shakes the arrows. He consults the images, or the [? terrafim. ?] And he looks at the liver. All of these were pagan ways to discern the will of the gods.
One of the common ways is to take a warrior's arrows and cast them on the ground, and see what it looked like, what pattern they formed. Sort of like reading tea leaves today. Hoping that the arrows would somehow point, at least if you would add them up, in the right direction according to the will of the gods. Or they would consult little images. Pray to the statues.
But then it says, he looks at the liver. It's an ancient Babylonian way of discerning the will of gods, known as hepatoscopy, looking at a liver.
What they would do is take an animal, usually a sheep, slaughter it, remove its liver, and look at it.
I know it sounds weird. It's because it is weird. Here was their superstition. They thought that all of the blood of the body was produced in the liver. The liver was the seat of one's life. And so they would take the liver and cut it up in sections, each one according to a different deity in their pantheon of gods. And they would study patterns after they would cut it up, hoping to discover the will of God.
Now, all of this is pagan. All of it is divination. Here's my point. The wrath of man will praise the Lord.
God is overseeing and overriding providentially even the Babylonians' armies pagan way of discovering the will of their gods, so that, ultimately, the will of the only true God will be accomplished.
They're trying to use divination, but God is controlling this to achieve his will. It says in Proverbs, "The lot is cast into the lap, but every decision is from the Lord." You might say, man rolls the dice, but God will deliver the outcome.
Therefore, thus says the Lord, God, because you have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered so that in your doings your sins appear because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand.
Now, to you, oh profane, wicked prince of Israel-- a reference to that vassal, rebellious king, Zedekiah-- whose day has come, whose iniquities shall end. Thus says the Lord God, remove the turban. Take off the crown. Nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the humble, and humble the exalted.
The removing of the turban was a reference to the priesthood. Removal of the crown was a reference to the dynasty, the kingship.
Both of these ended. They were removed in 586 BC. And they were never the same again.
Yes, people came back from captivity. But it was difficult establishing who the priests were. Many of them lost their identity. The turban was removed.
And then it says, take off the crown. Nothing shall remain the same.
After the captivity, when Zedekiah was removed, from the time of Zedekiah's departure of the throne until the Lord Jesus Christ will reign in the future in glory, there has been no offspring of David, no dynastic succession, one son taking on the reigns of the father from family to family, who has sat upon the throne of David.
Now, there was a prediction. The prediction was of Jeconiah. We read about it in chapter 22 of Jeremiah, where the prophet said, concerning Jeconiah, who was taken captive into Babylon, "Write this man down as childless. None of his descendants shall prosper sitting on the throne of David, ruling any more in Judah."
Now, if you are a Jew waiting for the messiah when that prophecy was uttered, you would be puzzled. You'd be puzzled because you knew that somebody from the royal line of David would have to occupy the throne of Israel, and that the messiah would eventually come through that line of David sitting upon the throne.
But now we have a problem. The problem is the royal line of David, the bloodline, is now cursed. "Write this man down as childless. No one of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne."
So you'd be puzzled, because you know that God made a promise that a descendant of David, the royal line of King David, would occupy the throne of Judah. Now the bloodline is cursed. How will God fix the problem?
Easy for God. Impossible for man. Just make sure the messiah is born of a virgin. And make sure that his Father, or his step father, the family he's born into, Joseph, can trace his lineage back to David through the royal line of Jeconiah and King Solomon, back to David so that he has the dynastic right to reign.
And so you look at the genealogy in the first chapter of Matthew. And there you have the genealogy of Joseph, traced back to David. He has the legal right to the throne.
But the blood line has been cursed. That's OK. Jesus wasn't the natural born child of Joseph. Joseph was the step-dad. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.
And so Mary's genealogy, in the Gospel of Luke, traces it all the way back to David, not through the royal line, but through Nathan, not Solomon, skipping Jeconiah and the blood curse altogether.
So you have the legal right to be on the throne from Joseph. And you have the blood right. The purity has remained. And so the puzzle is solved.
Verse 27. Overthrown. I will make it overthrown. It shall be no longer until he comes whose right it is. And I will give it to him.
A remarkable prophecy, this verse tying into the previous verses. From Zedekiah all the way down through history through Jesus Christ, no one sat upon the throne of David to reign.
And Ezekiel says no one will. There'll be a vacancy until he comes who's right it is, and I will give it to him. That's a reference to Jesus Christ. When [INAUDIBLE], as the Hebrews call him, messiah the King, will re-establish that dynastic rule in Judah and occupy the throne.
There's a beautiful prophecy that you may want to just jot down in the margin of your bibles, if you allow yourself to write in your Bible. Genesis chapter 49. A prophecy that relates to this one.
In that prophecy, in that chapter, Jacob is going through his sons and giving to them on his deathbed a prophetic blessing.
He comes to Judah and the tribe of Judah. And he says the scepter, that is the right to rule, the banner that gives you the right to rule, the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a law giver from between his feet until Shiloh comes.
Now, the rabbis unraveled that verse to mean this. As long as Judah has the right to exercise and have authority in dispensing the law of Moses in Jerusalem, in Judah, as long as they have that rule of authority, it's great. And the promise is, it shall remain in Judah until the messiah comes. Shiloh is a word that means the one to whom it belongs.
Now, that's why I say write this verse or that chapter in the margin of your Bible. Because notice, "until he--" verse 27, "--comes whose right it is, and I will give it to him."
So this is how the rabbis interpreted that little verse in chapter 49 of Genesis. The national identity, which includes the right to exercise the law of Moses, will continue in the nation of Judah until the messiah comes.
Well, they had a problem, you see, because the Romans occupied the land of Judah, and came in, and took their authority away, not allowing them to exercise the right of capital punishment in legal matters pertaining to their own nation. They couldn't bring down the sentence that would allow for capital punishment. Only the Roman government could make that allowance.
When that happened the Talmud tells us that the Jewish priests, the elders, the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem put ashes on their heads, sackcloth on their bodies, and marched through the streets of Jerusalem, saying this, "The scepter has departed from Judah, and messiah has not come."
They were mourning the fact, they thought, that God broke his promise. There's no messiah. We've lost the scepter, the right to rule.
Now, while they were having their little pity party in Jerusalem, over in Nazareth a young carpenter's son was about to lay down his tools and introduce himself at the Jordan River to a man named John the Baptist, and later on to 12 that he chose. Messiah had come. Shiloh had come, and will come again.
And when he comes he will come as one whose right it is. And God says, I will give it to him. He will rule. He will reign. He is the promised one. And you, son of man, prophesy and say, thus says the Lord God concerning the ammonites, and concerning their reproach, and say a sword, a sword is drawn, polished for slaughter for consuming, for flashing.
Now, the focus has changed at the last part of this chapter. It's gone now from Jerusalem to Raba, the capital city of the Ammonites.
The Babylonian army in 582 did conquer the city of Raba, the Ammonite Empire. It was weakened severely.
Later on Judas Maccabeus in overthrowing the Syrian rule, and establishing the festival of Hanukkah, the festival of lights, also attacked the Ammonites, severely weakening them. And after that, they disappeared as any national identity off the pages of history. They were extinct. You can't find an Ammonite today. They're gone.
And why? Why is God changing the focus? Because it says, concerning their reproach. What does that mean?
God is referring to the fact that when Babylon decided, we're not going to attack Amman, we're going to attack Judah, when Judah fell, and the temple was destroyed and burned, the Ammonites mocked the people in Jerusalem. They were happy.
Though they had once made a treaty with them, they were now thrilled, happy, ecstatic that the people of Judah had fallen. Great. Better them than us. And they gloated over it.
This angered God. And I love this about God. God loves to root for the underdog.
Oh yes. Did Judah, did Jerusalem deserve punishment? Oh yes. It was part of God's chastening. But the fact that the Ammonites gloated over it, mocked it, laughed at it, God didn't like that. And God is now coming against those who mocked and came against his people.
Listen to Proverbs 24. I'm going to read a section to you. "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls. Do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles. Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him. And he turn away his wrath from him."
God takes our gloating, our joy at others' misfortune very, very seriously. He says, don't do that, lest God doesn't like it. Displeased. Turns his wrath off of him. And the idea is, would turn it upon you. He does here with the Ammonites.
While they see false visions for you, while they divine a lie to you, to bring you on the necks of the wicked and slain whose day has come, whose iniquity shall end. Return it to its sheath.
I will judge you in the place where you were created. In the land of your nativity I will pour out my indignation on you. I will blow against you with a fire of my wrath and deliver you into the hands of brutal men who are skillful to destroy.
You shall be fuel for the fire. Your blood shall be in the midst of the land. You shall not be remembered, for I, the Lord, have spoken.
Now, there is the difference between the Ammonites and the Jerusalemites. In verse 27 God basically says, I'm going to remember you, Jerusalem. I'll never forget you Judah. Though I'm punishing you now, it's temporary. For in verse 27, "It shall be no longer until He comes." There's hope in that sentence.
Now, when He does come, when Jesus does return, rule, and reign, and set up his millennial kingdom on the Earth, he's going to do so from the city of Jerusalem. It will be a geocentric, theocentric government. God will rule and reign from Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
God won't forget them. But here he says in verse 32, you shall not be remembered.
There's an obvious lesson in that. Better to be God's children, and though chastised, never forgotten. Though spanked, though disciplined, as hard as that might be, whatever you may be experiencing-- I don't know what your week's been like, or your month, but maybe you're feeling the chastening of the Lord, or a trial that you didn't sign up for.
Oh, God, why? I didn't sign up for this. I thought following you was wonderful. It is wonderful. God is a wonderful God doing wonderful things.
Doesn't feel like it. Well, wait a while. Watch the fruit that comes from it. Watch what the Lord makes out of it.
Better to be God's child, though disciplined, and never be forgotten, than to not be God's Child and in judgment be lost forever.
Christian, I don't know what you're facing. It might be difficult. You're struggling. You're hurting. But think of it in these terms. As hard as whatever it is is, this is the closest you'll ever come to hell. Now, that's good news.
If you're not a Christian, however, here's the sad part. This is as close as you'll ever get to heaven. How depressing.
You say, oh, I'm having a great time. Enjoy it. Let it last for you as long as you can, cause it's the last good time you'll ever have for eternity.
You might be God's child. Is it difficult? Perhaps not, but perhaps. This is the closest you'll ever get to separation in hell.
Now, chapter 22 of Ezekiel, the sins of Israel are enumerated. And I counted about 17 different forms of their wickedness in one form or another that are listed here.
It's sort of like they were trying to outdo each other in their wickedness, trying to see how high the water mark could be on the banks.
Now, as we go through this, just keep a thought, maybe attached to the left side, or right side, or some part of your brain that there is a contrast to those of us in the New Covenant.
Here's the thought. In Romans chapter 5, the law entered that the offense might abound. And here it does abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.
So as we go through this litany of their sins, just think about where we stand in the New Covenant, that where our sin abounded, God's grace overflowed.
Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, now, son of man, will you judge? Will you judge the bloody city? Yes. Show her all of her abominations. Then say, thus says the Lord God, the city sheds blood in her own midst, that her time may come, and she makes idols within herself to defile herself.
You've become guilty by the blood which you have shed and have defiled yourself with the idols which you have made. You have caused your days to draw near, and have with the idols which you have made.
You have caused your days to draw near and have come to the end of your years. Therefore, I made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all of the countries.
This first section deals with the cardinal sins of bloodshed, murder, and idolatry that were rampant at that time in the city. And the other prophets, like Isaiah mentioned this.
In the prophecy of Isaiah, Isaiah said, at one time righteousness dwelt within you. But now, murder.
Jesus said, oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou which killest the prophets and stonest all them that are sent unto thee.
Steven, when he stood before the Sanhedrin, said, which one of the prophets did not your fathers kill? And then you murdered the just one, Jesus Christ.
So this could be a reference to their murdering and their handling of God's profits. Or it could be a reference to something else. The bloodshed of the city could possibly be a reference to the temple sacrifices.
They had the temple. Animals were brought. They were slaughtered. Their blood was shed. And the animal was sacrificed upon that altar.
They were still worshipping idols. And while they were worshipping idols, they would then go into the temple and offer a sacrifice.
So God is saying, hey, you're just butchering animals. You're just shedding blood. It's not really doing any good. It's not efficacious to cover your sins. You're going against here the rituals. You're just murdering animals, as the prophet, Isaiah, in chapter one, to what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices, said the Lord. And God basically says, I've had enough of the slaughter of these animals.
So it could be a reference to either/ or. Those near and those far from you will mock you as infamous and full of tumult, or much vexed.
Now, ultimately their sin will reflect God's reputation. Oh, they'll be mocked. But at the same time, their God will be dishonored by their sin.
Look, the princes of Israel, each one has used his power to shed blood in you. In you they have made light of father and mother. In your midst they have oppressed the stranger. In you they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow.
You have despised my holy things and profaned my sabbath. Hypocrisy.
Well, they kept the Sabbath. They made the sacrifices. God says you profaned my Sabbath.
Like the Jews of old, going through the motions, worshipping at other idols simultaneously. Not treating mother and father right. All of these sins that are listed while going through the motions, It's similar to a person who would say, as we mentioned, I go to church. I think that if I go to church, that's all that God really requires of me.
Or, of course, I'm a Christian. I go to church. As if suddenly when you walk through the doors of a church, something miraculously happens.
Now, I've noticed something over the years. I used to watch cars come into the parking lot back in our church in Albuquerque. And I noticed that the parking lot had this miraculous power.
Because I would sometimes see couples, as they would pull off the road. And their hands would be in the air. And you could see anger marks on their face. They come into the church parking lot, and they park their car, and they get out of their car, and a sudden, miraculous transformation occurs. Especially if they see a parking lot attendant or an usher. It's like, ah, they're suddenly holy.
They're in the temple, man. They're in church. Everything's OK.
And you are men who slander to cause bloodshed. And you are those who eat on the mountains. In your midst they commit lewdness.
This refers to idol worship at these shrines, these idol shrines where food would be offered, people would partake of a meal. Sexual sin would be engaged in as part of their worship to these false gods or goddesses.
And they had the idea in these holy places they called them, these groves, these high places, these mountainous shrines, they believed that the idol itself, the image itself could feel and sense for the God all of the emotions that that God would experience. So that they would bring food and lay it before an idol, and somehow the image would receive strength and energy from the food, thus appeasing the god or the goddess.
In Babylon they used to wash their idols and clothe their idols. And it sounds goofy. It is goofy. It's superstitious. But if you go to India today, you see exactly the same thing on street corners and temples throughout that nation, as they worship Shiva, and Kali, and thousands of other gods and goddesses.
The tragic thing about Israel is they thought they could do both. Oh, we'll worship God. That's what happens in the temple. But then we have something closer and more convenient to worship in, these high places in the Groves.
If you men uncover their father's nakedness, in you they shall violate women who are set apart during their impurity. One commits abominations with his neighbor's wife.
Now, notice that. Notice what God calls adultery. He calls it abomination with his neighbor's wife. Notice God didn't call it an affair.
Now, I'm just saying that because we're fond of coming up with new words to describe sin. We don't like to call it sin. We don't like to call it adultery or an abomination. We'll just call it an affair. It sounds so much more mild.
We won't say sodomy. We'll call it gay. And then there's all sorts of retelling of the words to soften it and make it sound mainstream and palatable. God tells the truth. He's honest. Tells people what it is.
Another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law. Another in you violates his sister, his father's daughter. In you they take bribes to shed blood. You take usury and increase. You have made profit from your neighbors by extortion and have forgotten me, says the Lord God.
Behold, therefore, I beat my fists at the dishonest prophet which you have made, and at the bloodshed which has been in your midst.
Now, God is being honest. He's giving them a picture of their true condition. And as you look at their true condition, it's easier to understand why they were exiled. The false prophets were giving them false hope.
Their temple's still there. We're going to go back. We're God's covenant people.
But God is saying, I'm going to be honest with you. Here's your true condition. Here's where the problem is.
I've done lots of funerals, and I've been to lots of funerals. And one of the things that I've noticed-- and it's quite bothersome-- is when I know of a person's character or reputation as not being godly, to listen to somebody eulogize them as being such a wonderful, godly person.
And he's right now in heaven, in that big golf course in the sky.
Or he's up there in some lake in his boat fishing. I just know it.
And I've listened to even some preachers as they eulogize even the raspiest person, and just sort of by their eulogy push them right over into heaven.
There's a guy who never went to church, never in his life, didn't care about the things of God at all. He was a rascal. He died. And some preacher who didn't know him gave the eulogy, gave the funeral, and went on for about 10 minutes of what a wonderful person he was, and on and on. And it puzzled everybody in the crowd. They thought, who is this guy?
Finally, the widow nudged her son and said, go up there and make sure it's papa.
Didn't sound like the man she married.
Can your heart endure? Can your hands remain strong in the days when I shall deal with you? I, the Lord have spoken and will do it. I will scatter you among the nations, disperse you throughout the countries, and remove your filthiness completely from you. You shall defile yourself in the sight of the nations. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.
There's a lot of truth packed in those three verses. We don't have the time to unpack all of the truth.
But besides the judgment that is coming there is the prediction of their being dispersed. The technical term, the diaspora, the dispersion of the Jews outside of the land of Israel in foreign nations.
Not just Babylon. Some of them escape to Egypt. They settled in the Nile Delta. Others went up to Assyria. Eventually Jews went throughout all of the world. So you have different genealogical strains and veins of Judaism. Ashkenazi Jews of Europe. The Sephardim Jews of Spain. The Yemenite Jews down in the Arabian Peninsula.
And people who have settled in all of these areas. God says they're going to be dispersed. But that after the dispersion they will be purged. And in verse 16, then you shall know that I am the Lord. There will be a regathering. There will be a rejuvenation of the Jewish nation, believing in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
Paul said, and all Israel shall be saved.
After the rapture of the church in the tribulation period some of the greatest preaching ever will take place.
144,000 Jewish evangelists, fueled and encouraged by the two witnesses who prophesied from Jerusalem and do miracles, and an angel proclaiming the everlasting gospel in the heavens. And in that day, at that time, they will know that I am the Lord. Then you shall know.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me. They are all bronze, tin, iron, lead. In the midst of a furnace, they have become dross from silver.
Now we move into the blacksmith's shop, as God's judgment is pictured as a furnace, a smelting furnace. And Israel, once pure, when they followed God out in the wilderness.
Remember God said that, beginning of Jeremiah. I remember you, how you followed after me in the desert, in the wilderness. You lived that life of faith. They're not pure anymore. Like dross that has entered into metal that needs to be separated. Impurities. An admixture of all these metallic impurities so has become Israel. And Judah, no longer pure. And God will use the enemy nation to purge them in his furnace.
Therefore, thus says the Lord God, because you have become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem, as men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, tin into the midst of a furnace to blow fire on it, to melt it.
So I will gather you in my anger, and in my fury. And I will leave you there and melt you. Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath. And you will be melted in its midst.
As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so you shall be melted in its midst. And then you shall know that I, the Lord, have poured out my fury on you.
And the word of the Lord came to me saying, son of man, say to her, you are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.
And now, he'll point out the hypocrisy of their leaders, the priests, the princes. It filtered all the way down to the people.
The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured people. They have taken treasure and precious things. They have made many widows in her midst.
Her priests have violated my law. How ironic. The ones who were there to exemplify the law have violated my law, and profaned my holy things, and have not distinguished between the holy and the unholy. Nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean. They have hidden their eyes from my Sabbaths so that I am profaned among them.
Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. Her profits plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, divining lies for them, saying, thus says the Lord God, when the Lord had not spoken.
The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, mistreated the poor and the needy, and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.
So the whole nation, from top to bottom, prophets, priests, all the way down to the common people, have fallen into this apostasy.
Now, as we read of the ancient falling away, the ancient apostasy, we must keep in mind what the Bible predicts as a future falling away, a future apostasy.
In the last days, said Paul, perilous times will come. Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, disobedient, unholy, unthankful. Not lovers of God. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
We're seeing it now. A poll, a survey was taken. This was published in Pulpit Helps magazine.
The poll was sent out to 10,000 ministers in North America. Over 7,000, almost 8,000 responded as to their beliefs.
First question. Do you accept Jesus Christ's physical resurrection as fact? 51% of the Methodists said no. 35% United Presbyterians said no. 30% of the Episcopal church said no. 33% of the American Baptists said no.
Second question. Do you believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ? 60% of the Methodists, no. 44% of the Episcopal church, no. 49% of the Presbyterian ministers said no. 34% of the Baptists said no. And 19% of the American Lutherans said no.
So judgment must begin where? At the house of God.
In 2002 the Anglican clergy were asked about Jesus Christ as being the only way of salvation. And only half, only 50% said, as ministers, we believe Jesus Christ and Jesus alone is the way to heaven. The rest said all sorts of other reasons and methods.
It's a warning. So many of these movements started out so on fire, so pure, so wonderfully in love with Jesus.
Happened to [INAUDIBLE]. They left their first love.
That physical law of entropy can become a spiritual law, where we lose heat, we lose energy, because we're not walking with the Lord. We're not in close fellowship with him any longer.
And so Hebrews chapter 2, "Therefore, give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we drift away.
So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it.
But I found no one. Therefore, I have poured out my indignation on them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. And I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads, says the Lord God."
God said, I have no one to stand in the gap.
There was Jeremiah in Jerusalem. But God did say to him, don't even pray for the people. I won't listen to you any longer.
God did have Ezekiel there in Babylon at the Chebar River. But the people were already in captivity. Their hearts were already hardened. And more judgment was coming.
God is looking, he says here, for someone to stand in the gap, an advocate, because of Israel's sin, who would bring repentance.
Of course, only Jesus Christ has the credentials. That's really the ultimate interpretation of this verse. There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
Only he stands in the gap. And on the cross, as it were, took the hand of the Father, and the hand of fallen humanity, and brought us together. Bridging the gap of sin. Enabling all men, all women, young and old, everywhere to be saved.
Heavenly Father, we think again of that beautiful promise in Romans that where sin is abounded, grace overflows.
That sin can never erect a barrier so high where your grace cannot overflow it, and bust it down, and flow into our lives.
Thank you for the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses a man, a woman from all sin. Thank you for your love, and your mercy, seen even in the midst of judgment. And thank you for the opportunity, as of yet, to assemble as a free people in this nation, and to learn your word and to be equipped.
And now use us this week with the principles we have learned this morning, here at church, and this evening, that you might be glorified in Jesus' name. Amen.
Let's stand. Again, the pastors are down here at the front. Here to minister to you tonight, here to pray with you and to pray for you, whatever situation you might be facing, whatever problem might exist, our God wants to help you.
I was impressed by the fact that it would seem that God was reluctant to bring his judgment. And I think that God is reluctant to judge. I think that he gives us every opportunity possible to repent.
Like he said, I don't have any pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they would turn from their wickedness and live.
And so here we find the nation in a sense morally down the tubes, as Pastor Skip was pointing out. The prophets, the priests, the princes, they were all corrupt. And in this condition God was still seeking an excuse not to judge them.
He was looking for a man who would stand in the gap, who would fill up the hedge, so that he would not destroy them. But he found none.
I wonder how many times that same condition exists where God is looking for men, for women who will stand in the gap, who will pray, who will intercede.
I think that as you look at Judah and the conditions, they are very parallel to the conditions that we have here in the United States. And I do believe that God is still looking for men, for women who would really bond themselves together in prayer, and seeking God's work, God's mercy, God's grace upon our nation.
May God help us to be those willing to stand in the gap, and to intercede and to pray.
May the Lord be with you, watch over and keep you in his love. May you have a wonderful week, as you open your heart to the things that God is wanting to lead you to do for His glory and for His kingdom.
May your experience the presence of His love and of His spirit in your life, and the empowering of the spirit, enabling you to be all that God wants you to be, as you walk in fellowship with Him to serve Him.
(SINGING) I love you, Lord. And I lift my voice to worship you.
Oh, my soul rejoice. Take joy, my King in what you hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your--