I finished Zechariah yesterday, and on the basis of this article, today I started Ezekiel. This morning, I read the intro to the book from the NIV Study Bible. Here are some highlights:
“Though Ezekiel lived with his fellow exiles in Babylon, his divine call forced him to suppress any natural expectations he may have had of an early return to an undamaged Jerusalem. For the first seven years of his ministry he faithfully relayed to his fellow Jews the harsh, heart-rendering, hope-crushing word of divine judgment: Jerusalem would fall…The only hope the prophet was authorized to extend to his hearers was that of living at peace with themselves and with God during their exile.”
This makes me ask a whole bunch of questions:
- Am I putting my “natural expectations” into my messages, or am I sticking to the story?
- In some way, are all Christians to teach the story of our own personal destruction? Isn’t that what “dying to self” is?
- Like the Israelites, we too have been exiled…us by our sin and constant rejection of God. Christians have indeed been forgiven, but we are living in the now but not yet…we are in process of renewal and sanctification which will not be completed until Christ Himself returns. Knowing that we are not yet (exhaustively-as Francis Schaeffer might say) new in practice, how should we live now? Should we look for deliverance from this present darkness, never deal with pain, sorrow, disappointment? Is happiness REALLY our goal? Or is our hope simply to be found in being at peace with God through a relationship with Jesus during this time?
“Once news was received that Jerusalem had fallen, Ezekiel’s message turned to the LORD’s consoling word of hope for his people–they would experience revival, restoration and a glorious future as the redeemed and perfected kingdom of God in the world.”
Notice when the revival, restoration and glorious future is revealed in practice…after the destruction, for us, the death to self. I think that we get so caught up in wating those things NOW (which I would say is beyond the scope of our prophets to teach AND is fully in-line with our own “natural expectations” of and early revival, restoration, etc.
“The OT in general and the prophets in particular presuppose and teach God’s sovereignty over all creation, over people and nations and the course of history.”
This pre-suppostion is gone, lost on 21st century man. There is zero reference point for this kind of thinking. God is dead, and we have killed Him. This deadness is exactly why it must be taught in our churches. Take a look why this sovereignty of God is so key:
“God is free to judge, and he is equally free to be gracious. His stern judgments on Israel ultimately reflect his grace. He allows the total dismemberment of Israel’s political and religious life so that her renewed life and his presence with her will be clearly seen as a gift from the LORD of the universe.”
The 21st man thought process (which is quite prevalent in the Church) is as follows: “Because God is dead (not sovereign), is is free to neither judge nor extend grace in the manner that He wishes. The dismemberment of our lives is due to random chance, bad karma or dumb luck. Because we just believe what we want (a rejection of Truth) no one can judge me or have any expectations of me. When we do have renewed life, it’s not due to God but to the work of our hands, so my time, treasure and talents are just that…mine.”
I’ve been listening to a message series by Timothy Keller over the past few months. In one of his messages, he speaks about this hopelessness, he tells of a parishioner coming to him and talking about it…she said something to the effect of, “I don’t understand why we don’t have people jumping off bridges in droves.” The answer to that question is quite simple; it is found in Francis Schaeffer’s “The God Who Is There”. Most people reverse the movement over the line of despair, they go from the bottom floor to the top because living below it is too awful for them to comprehend. It’s TOO hopeless to contemplate, even for suicide.
I’ve gone way beyond the scope of my original intent for this post.
Rest easy friends. God is indeed sovereign over creation, over people and nations and the course of history. His “…faithfulness to his covenant and his desire to save were so great that he would revive his people once more, shepherd them with compassion, cleanse them of all their defilement, reconstitute them as a perfect expression of his kingdom in the promised land under the hand of David, overwhelm all the forces and powers arrayed against them, display his glory among the nations and restore the glory of his presence to the holy city.”