1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand” (ch. 33.1-6).
Ezekiel was called to be a “watchman” to the people of His day. He was to warn the people of their need to repent and turn from their sin and idolatry. We, too, are “watchman” called to share the gospel with those around us. Matthew 28.19-20 says:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
If we are faithful to share God’s truth, even when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient, we are free from guilt. But if we refuse, God says “their blood is on our hands.”
Notice I said we are called to be “faithful,” not to do it perfectly, not to memorize the whole Bible, nor to be able to answer every potential question or objection someone may make … just to be faithful!
In chapters 31 & 32 God continues to speak to Egypt, perhaps more as a warning to His people that they could no longer turn to worldly powers for help and protection. In chapter 31 He compared Egypt to a great tree under which many had taken refuge, but which was about to be broken and destroyed.
As I said yesterday, it’s God who raises up nations and individuals, and He can just as easily bring them to ruin and does—for His holy, just, and righteous purposes.
Sadly, as I listen to the news and see the magnitude of evil, the lack of restraint, the lack of respect for the law (even by our elected leaders), I wonder if God has taken His hand off of our nation as a whole (Rom. 1.24, 26, 28).
But rather than becoming depressed or giving up, we must pray harder, witness more faithfully, and speak the truth in love as God gives us opportunity.
Pray harder, 1 Timothy 2:
¹First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.
Even while I complain about the state of our nation, I’m convicted that I don’t pray enough, especially for our leaders.
Witness more faithfully, 1 Peter 3 NASB:
14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear theirintimidation, and do not be troubled,15 but ]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
Are you ready to give a defense to everyone you meet? Can you defend your faith … not just what you believe, but why? Do you know how to share the Gospel or do you leave that to the pastors and preachers? Do you share your testimony with others?
Speak the truth in love, 2 Timothy 2:
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
We need a holy boldness to speak the truth, but do it in love. Paul said if we have not love we’re not much better than a clanging cymbals (1 Cor. 13.1).
So let’s pray for our leaders and pray for ourselves that we might have boldness, faith, and confidence in the day of trouble (Ps. 86.7). Let’s better prepare ourselves to share the truth. And let’s never forget:
“… where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5.20-21).
“ Behold, I am against you,
O Pharaoh king of Egypt,
O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers,
Who has said, ‘My River is my own;
I have made it for myself.’
4 But I will put hooks in your jaws,
And cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales;
I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers,
And all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales.
5 I will leave you in the wilderness,
You and all the fish of your rivers;
You shall fall on the open field;
You shall not be picked up or gathered.
I have given you as food
To the beasts of the field
And to the birds of the heavens.
Pharaoh Hophrah is called “O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers”—probably meaning a crocodile. Pharaoh saw himself as some great monster crocodile who owned and ruled the Nile. Military and political success and power can lead one to believe he has achieved it all by his own cunning and strength.
Success in other areas of life can do the same to us. But when we fail to acknowledge the sovereignty of God we may find that God allows us to lose the thing of which we are so proud. Psalm 75.7 says, “But God is the Judge. He puts down one, and exalts another,” lest we think anything we have or accomplish is because of us apart from Him. Continue reading →
God continues to speak through the prophet, this time to Tyre, a coastal city in modern Lebanon famous for its trade and goods. In 28.11-17 he speaks to the King of Tyre. This passage and others in the Bible, especially in the prophetic books and the Psalms, have duel meanings. While it is addressed to the historical king and city, it also speaks of Satan who was the power behind the King of Tyre.
In both cases God addressed their pride and arrogance. It was pride that caused Satan to exalt himself above God and cost him his place in the heavenly kingdom.
Stuart Scott in his little book From Pride to Humility, says, “Pride is the epidemic vice. It is everywhere and manifests itself in many ways. As much as we may hate to admit it, we all have pride, each and every one of us. The question is not, ‘Do I have it?’ but, ‘Where is it?’ and ‘How much of it do I have?'”
Scott says, “… humility is the one character quality that will enable us to be all Christ wants us to be. We cannot come to God without it. We cannot love God supremely without it. We cannot be an effective witness for Christ without it. We cannot love and serve others without it. We cannot lead in a godly way without it. We cannot communicate properly without it. We cannot resolve conflict without it. We cannot deal with the sin of others rightly without it. We especially cannot resist sin without it.”
He goes on to list 30 manifestations of pride (what he calls, “just a sample list”).
Let’s pray that we allow God to root out pride in our lives and help us to grow in humility.
In these two chapters God was declaring his intent to bring judgment on the pagan nations around Judah and Israel. But even while He brought judgment on those nations which had no covenant relationship with Him, He always responded in mercy to anyone who put his or her faith in Him. We see a great example of this in our New Testament reading in Hebrews where we are told that Rehab, a harlot, was saved because she put her faith and trust in the One True God (Heb. 11.31).
The fear of the Lord
Verse 1, “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.”
This is a reverential fear of the Lord, an acknowledgment that He is God. He is the Potter; we are the clay. It’s an understanding that His way is good and that He has the right and the authority to command His creations to live as He sees fit. Continue reading →
Before I lose anyone with the title, we all have a theology. Theology is simply the study of God and His relationship to the world. The question is, “From where do you get your theology—from your circumstances or from God’s Word?”
And when it comes to suffering and hardship, our theology and its source make all the difference.
What if God called you to make the sacrifice that Ezekiel had to make—losing his wife and not even being allowed to grieve? Could you trust God to give you the strength to do it? Or would you fall into self-pity or a “why me” attitude? And how would you view God for even asking such a thing?
How would you respond if the child your raised to love God becomes a prodigal, throwing aside everything your believe? Would you still trust God?
What if the doctor handed you a bad report? Or your child didn’t get better? Would you still believe that God is good?
What if you or your spouse lost a job or your savings or your retirement plan? Would you still be able to trust Him to meet your needs?
I know for some of you these questions aren’t hypothetical, they are reality. The truth is suffering is a part of life in this fallen world. Someone has said that we’re either in the midst of trial, coming out of one, or getting ready to go into one.
They may vary in degree and some may be easier to handle than others, but we all suffer.
When God asks you to trust Him in the difficult things: when He doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, when your child isn’t getting better, when the finances still seem impossible, when the doctor hands you a bad report … where will you go? Where will you find hope? What will you believe about God?
Could you say with the psalmist, “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps. 119.75)?
When your toddler jumps into your arms in the swimming pool for the first time, he doesn’t trust his ability to swim, he trusts you because he knows you. When your doctor says she needs to do surgery, you’ll either trust her diagnosis, or you’ll get another opinion.
A toddler learns to trust his parents because of his experience with them. You may come to trust your doctor because of her care and knowledge in other situations or because someone you trust recommends her. But somehow we must have knowledge of a person if we’re to trust in them.
We trust God first by faith. We make that choice to believe His Word and to respond to His wooing. But we walk it out by coming to know Him through His Word.
What can we know about God that will steady us in trials and suffering?
We can know His character by coming to understand His various attributes.
God is love (1 Jn. 4.8). It’s not that He merely does loving things, He is love. Love seeks the good of the person loved. His love is perfect and unselfish. He loves us so much that He was willing to suffer and die in our place (Jn. 3.16). Even in hardship God is working for our good (Rom. 8.28; Gen. 50.20).
Joseph told the brothers who had sinned against him in such horrible ways:
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50.20).
Charles Ryrie says, “Love consists of affection and also of correction. Babies are cuddled and corrected, and both are true expressions of parental love.”
Even when God disciplines His children, it’s because of His love:
“For thosewhom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12.6).
God is good (Ps. 73.1). Like love, good isn’t something He does, it is His very essence.
He is, also, merciful and faithful. His is patient and forgiving, righteous and just. He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (always with us), omnipotent (all-powerful) and He never changes. And that’s just the beginning of His attributes.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2.4-6)
We can never fully know God, but He has revealed much through His creation, through His acts, and, especially, through His Word. Coming to know Him will allow us to trust Him even in suffering.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29.29).
There are numerous resources which can help us come to know Him, to know His attributes, and to better understand how God works in and through suffering. A friend told me her life and perspective changed when she read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges as a young widow. I’ve seen numerous people helped by reading It’s Not Fair! by Wayne Mack. Both talk about the attributes of God and help us know Him better. And A.W. Pink’s classic The Attributes of God is a little gem.
You can also use Bible Gateway or another concordance to look up the attributes of God and study them out for yourself.
As we read the prophets it may seem that God is saying the same things over and over. It’s easy to get weary of reading them. But as we read these prophesies concerning God’s judgment, we need to remember that God repeats things because we need to hear them repeatedly. It’s His mercy and patience at work.
Even today, God has faithful men and women who continue to sound the alarm, to warn of the dangers of sin and compromise in our society. But many want to cover their ears, or worse, attack those who speak truth. They call us homophobes, mean-spirited, and narrow-minded and accuse us of trying to force our beliefs on others. But we need to be like faithful Noah who both encouraged others to get into the ark and warned of the coming flood. We need to speak the truth in love, inviting others to come into the ark of salvation while warning of the judgment to come.
Tears & joy
This psalm was probably written about Israel’s eventual repentance and return from captivity in Babylon, but also applies to our repentance and salvation. Those who sow tears of repentance shall reap the joy of salvation. Continue reading →
As you’re reading the book of Ezekiel, it might help to remember that the prophet does not follow Jeremiah chronologically. Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah, although Jeremiah was about 20 years older and began his prophetic ministry over 30 years earlier. Their prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem and the various deportations cover the same events, but while Jeremiah was prophesying to the people in Jerusalem and later in Egypt where he was forced to go late in his ministry, Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon to those who had been taken captive.
In chapter 20, some of the elders of Israel living in captivity came to Ezekiel and asked him to seek the Lord on their behalf. But it’s obvious from God’s response that, despite coming to the prophet, they continued with their idolatry.
Sometimes we forget that the events of the Old Testament are historically true. These were real people and real events.
And if we’re honest, at the heart level, they were not that much different from us. How many times have we prayed and asked God for help and wisdom while we continue to try to work things out in our own strength and in our own way? How often have we turned to our idols for help (something sweet to comfort ourselves, a drink to help us relax because we’ve had a hard day, buying something to lift our spirits …) or manipulation (getting angry, pouting, crying, withholding affection …) in order to control someone or something? Continue reading →
Chapter 18 talks about our personal accountability before God. We will not be able to stand before Him and say, “I did that because of the home I grew up in,” or “I acted like that because of who I was married to,” or “That’s just my personality!”
Neither can we get into heaven because we were brought up in a Christian home or because our parents are Christians. And it is not enough to simply believe “in God.” We must agree with God that we are sinners in need of His forgiveness and grace and turn to Him personally, in faith, and receive His gracious gift of salvation. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
He is the Way
Verse 8a, “Our help is in the name of the Lord.”
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12).
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14.6). We cannot be saved through our good works, church involvement, or as I just mentioned, by the fact we were raised in a Christian home or culture. Our salvation must be based on the truth of the gospel and our faith in it (Eph. 2.8-9). Continue reading →
Chapter 16.1-8 gives us a beautiful picture that is true of not only the nation of Israel, but of us. It pictures an unwanted baby left to die, yet God loved her and nursed her back to health. And the story doesn’t end there. Verse 8 says:
8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD.
God chose to love me and you, not because of anything desirable or good in us, but because of His character. He found us “in our own blood” of drunkenness, immorality, worldliness, fear, self-pity, rejection, abuse or the dozens of other ungodly choices and situations we find ourselves in, either because of our sin or the sinful choices of others. Then He spread His wings over us, loved us, and made us His bride. What amazing love! Continue reading →