Archive for April, 2011

A Hard Saying

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.  When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from him wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Ezekiel 3:17-19

This is one of those passages that, to me at least, is a “hard saying.”  I understand that, doctrinally, we do not need to preach to the lost in order to “deliver our soul.”  We do not try to bring people to the Saviour in order to “earn” our salvation.  But I believe that the general principle found in these verses still applies, as hard as it may be for us to swallow.

I can only speak for myself, but I shudder to think how many people I have passed by in my life and not shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with.  I shudder to think how many people will never come to the Lord and will die in their sins because I didn’t fulfill my duty and warn them.  I shudder to think what my answer will be when someone I knew in this life asks me “why didn’t you warn me?” on their way to judgment.

This is not a pleasant subject on which to think.  But it is necessary.  Let us do what we can while we can.  We have been given a commission.  Let us do our best to fulfill it.

They Would Have Listened

And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.  For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand.  Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.  But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.

Ezekiel 3:4-7

God sent Ezekiel to preach to the children of Israel and warned them that they were hard hearted and that they would not listen.  Then He tells Ezekiel something that I found interesting.  He says that He is not sending him to a “people of a strange speech and of an hard language.”  The people that he is going to preach to do not speak a foreign language.  He isn’t going to have to master some difficult language to preach to them.  He is going to his own people.

And they are going to reject him.  The sad thing about these verses is the statement that the Lord makes in verse 6: “Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.”  God was not sending Ezekiel to the heathen, He was sending him to the nation of Israel.  But if He had sent Ezekiel to the heathen, they would have listened.  That was convicting to me. 

How often have I not listened to Him when confronted by His plain truth in my own language?  How often have I been in the place of these Israelites?  I have ignored and rejected the Lord, yet He has still sent people to preach to me and implore me to return to Him.  We have heard the gospel hundreds or even thousands of times while there are those who have not heard it once.  The apostle Paul said that he was “debtor…”  Think of the tremendous debt we owe to those who have not heard, both in our own area and to “people of a strange speech and of an hard language.”

How to Avoid Being Rebellious

But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.  And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein… So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.

Ezekiel 2:8-9, 3:2

I love this passage and the message that it has for us.  In Ezekiel chapter 2, the Lord is sending Ezekiel to preach to the children of Israel.  He tells him that they are rebellious and stiff hearted people.  He tells them that they will reject his message.  Then we get to verse 8.

There, the Lord tells Ezekiel to not be like those rebellious children of Israel to whom he is going to preach.  That in itself is an important lesson for us.  We are in the world, but we are not of the world.  We are going to be around sin and rebellion, just as Ezekiel was.  But we are not supposed to take part in that sin and rebellion.

Then the Lord gives Ezekiel the recipe to avoid sin and rebellion: “open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee… a roll of a book was therein… so I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.”  Let’s get this straight.  To help him avoid sin and rebellion, God wants Ezekiel to “eat” something.  That somethings turns out to be a book.  So God wants Ezekiel to eat a book.  And that is going to help him keep from sinning.  Hmmm.  How can we make an application to our lives with this? 

If we want to avoid sin, we need to eat all of the Bible that we can.  Eat it for breakfast, chew on it throughout the day.  Eat it for a snack, eat it for lunch, eat it for supper.  If we want to avoid rebellion, we need to stay in the book!

Dare to be a Daniel (Hymn)

Dare to be a Daniel
P.P. Bliss (1873)

Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!

Refrain

Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.

Many mighty men are lost
Daring not to stand,
Who for God had been a host
By joining Daniel’s band.

Refrain

Many giants, great and tall,
Stalking through the land,
Headlong to the earth would fall,
If met by Daniel’s band.

Refrain

Hold the Gospel banner high!
On to vict’ry grand!
Satan and his hosts defy,
And shout for Daniel’s band.

Refrain

This is sometimes seen as more of a children’s song, but I think the message is applicable to all of us.  No matter where you are or what you are doing, if you are going to stand for the Lord at all, you are probably going to find yourself standing alone at one time or another.  It does take courage to stand when others are not.  Fortunately, we have a host of wonderful examples, not the least of whom would be Daniel, who stood for the Lord alone many times in his life.  May we all “dare to be Daniels!”

Blessed is the People…

Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.  In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.  For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted.

Psalm 89:15-17

These verses tell us that the people “that know the joyful sound” are blessed.  Does that describe you?  I know it describes me.  I am reminded of the hymn that says “we have heard the joyful sound, Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!”  I have heard that joyful sound.  And I listened to that joyful sound.  And I am blessed today because of it! 

This about how blessed we are.  We have not only heard of Jesus, we have accepted Him.  We walk “in the light of His countenance.”  We are “accepted in the Beloved.”  We know Him!

Verse 16 tells us that we will rejoice in His name “all the day.”  With all that He has done for us and given us, how can we not rejoice in His name?  Think of all the things mentioned in these verses:

We are blessed in Him (vs. 15), we walk in the light of His countenance (vs. 15), we rejoice in His name (vs. 16), we are exalted in His righteousness (vs. 16), and we find our strength in and for His glory (vs. 17).  That is blessed!

These verses remind me of another song that says “for all the Lord has done for me, I never will cease to love Him…”  That is true.  Let us take some time today to think of all the Lord means to us and all that He has done for us.  We are truly blessed.

Be Not Afraid of Them

And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.  And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.

Ezekiel 2:6-7

I found it interesting that the Lord would specifically tell the prophet Ezekiel to “be not afraid of them.”  I thought of all the things that Ezekiel went through and thought it strange that the Lord would tell him to “be not afraid of them.”  Ezekiel served the Lord- the creator of the universe.  Then it occurred to me: I serve the same God that Ezekiel did.  And how often have I been “afraid of them?” 

The Lord tells Ezekiel what he is up against.  He warns him that “briars and thorns be with thee,” and that he would “dwell among scorpions.”  He was told to not be afraid of their words nor be dismayed at their looks.  We deal with the same types of things, on a lesser scale, of course.  We may deal with harsh words and looks that range from scorn to bewilderment.  But we are not to fear.

After telling him to not be afraid of them, the Lord gives Ezekiel (and us) his marching orders in the next verse.  “…thou shalt speak my words unto them…”  That was Ezekiel’s mission and that is our mission.  Speak His words unto them.  Who is “them?”  Everyone.  There is no “wrong” person to whom we can speak about the Lord.  Go and tell.  That is the mission that the Lord has given every one of us.  And, just to give us a little warning and encouragement, He tells us to not be afraid of their words or looks.

Like Ezekiel, let us do what the Lord has given us to do!

It’s Up To You

For they are impudent children and stiffhearted.  I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.  And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.

Ezekiel 2:4-5

I have heard a preacher say before that we are “told to sow the seed, not test the soil.”  I think that statement goes right along with these verses.  In fact, the Lord told Ezekiel that the people to whom He was sending him were rebellious and stiffhearted.  Ezekiel didn’t need to “test the soil.”  As far as the soil analogue is concerned, Ezekiel was going to a desert wasteland.  He knew it and the God who sent him to that “desert wasteland” knew it.  But still he was commanded to go and to preach to them.  I like what the reason that the Lord gives for sending him in verse 5:

“whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear… yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.”

There are some important lessons for us in these verses and in God’s instructions to Ezekiel.  Here are a few:

1. It’s our job to tell people about the Lord.  God didn’t tell Ezekiel what his “results” would be and He doesn’t tell us either.  He gives us a job to do and we are supposed to do it.

2. It’s not up to us whether the people accept our message or reject it.  “Whether they hear, or whether they forbear…”  Our job is to tell others about Him.  From there, it is between the Holy Spirit and that person.  If they accept Him, that is a wonderful thing.  If they reject Him, that is between them and God. 

3. People around us should know that “there hath been a prophet among us.”  Whether people accept Jesus or not, they should have no doubt about where we stand on the issue.  Not every one will accept the message that you give them, but they will be forced to think about that message. 

I’m sure there are many more things we could take out of this passage, but that will give us enough to think about for today!

Rebellious and Stiffhearted

And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.  For they are impudent children and stiffhearted.  I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 2:3-4

These verses might not encourage most people.  But I suppose that I am not most people.  In these verses, the Lord tells Ezekiel that He is sending him to preach to the children of Israel.  He then goes on and tells him that the children of Israel are a “tough case.”  They are “rebellious,” they have “transgressed,” they are “impudent,” and they are “stiffhearted.”  While I am not a preacher, I can imagine that those kinds of people are not the easiest to preach to.  I’m sure that was not an encouraging message for Ezekiel, but here is where I find encouragement:

In spite of these people being hard hearted, stiffnecked, and rebellious, God still sent His messenger to them.  Despite all of their sin and transgression against Him, He had not forgotten them.  He was preparing to judge them, yet still He loved them and wanted them to return.  He still sent His man to give them the message, even though He knew what their response would be.

The Lord knew that they would not return to Him.  He knew that they would reject Ezekiel as their fathers and grandfathers had rejected the prophets sent to them.  Yet still He sent His man to them with His message.  There are many today who He knows will reject Him.  Yet He still sends someone to tell them.  He still commands us to tell others of His love.  He still wants us to preach His name.  He knows who will accept Him and who will reject Him, but still He sends His offer to all.  What a merciful God!

Singing of His Mercies

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.  For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

Psalm 89:1-2

There is a great little tune that I have heard verse one sung with.  I enjoy singing it because if any Psalm could be “my” Psalm, this one would be among the finalists.  I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.  That would be my song.  Of all the things to sing about, what could be better than mercy?  Of all the subjects that have been dealt with in song, the everlasting mercy of God has got to be one of, if not the best.  Think of all of the ridiculous “music” that we find in our culture today.  I don’t really listen to “current” music on the radio today, so, just out of curiosity, I looked up the Billboard Top 10 for last week.  I expected it to be bad, but I was not prepared for what I found.  Of the “Top 10” songs in the country, 6 dealt with immorality of one form or another, 3 were about some form of self worship (me! me! me!), and 2 contained a blatant profanity in the title.  Are you kidding me?  No thanks.  I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever!

If we are truly thankful for the Lord’s mercy, we need to “make it known” with our mouths.  I have thought about the fact that I often thank the Lord for His mercy to me, but lately I have been convicted about the fact that I really haven’t spoken my thanks for His mercy either to others or in front of others.  If you are thankful for His mercy, tell Him.  And then tell somebody else.  Better yet, sing of His mercies!

I Fell Upon My Face

And the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.  And when I saw it, I fell  upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.  And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.

Ezekiel 1:28-2:1

As soon as I finished writing the other day about the end of the book of Lamentations, I came across this verse.  I wrote the other day about the people saying “woe unto us, that we have sinned.” (Lamentations 5:16)  I mentioned a few men in the Bible who had the same attitude when confronted with the glory, majesty and holiness of the Lord.  The men I mentioned were Job, Isaiah and John.  Then I hit this verse and find the prophet Ezekiel doing the exact same thing.

Notice that this verse doesn’t actually say that Ezekiel saw the Lord.  It says that he saw “appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.”  He just saw something that looked like the glory of the Lord.  If that alone was enough to put him on his face, how much more powerful will it be when we actually see the Lord?  That is an interesting, though somewhat terrifying thought.

These were “good men.”  They definitely weren’t what we would consider to be “wicked sinners.”  They were holy men; prophets and John was the “beloved disciple.”  But still, when confronted with the holiness and majesty of the Lord, they all fell on their faces and acknowledged their weakness and sinfulness.  If those holy men of God took that attitude, how much more should we “fall on our faces before Him?” 

I think it would do a lot of us a lot of good to fall on faces (literally or figuratively) and confess to the Lord just how weak and sinful we are.  The positive aspect of all of this is that, in each case, the Lord then lifted the man up.  The Bible tells us that if we will fall humble ourselves, He will exalt us.  Maybe it’s time to fall on our faces before Him.