Saturday, August 29, 2009

Distressed!

Everybody in today's story is distressed.

There were righteous people in Jerusalem who were distressed over the immorality and wickedness going on. The man dressed in linen was to mark each of them. Here is what it says: "Go through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the forehead of everyone who is in anguish over the outrageous obscenities being done in the city."

Most of the people in Jerusalem were not distressed about that. In fact, they were quite enjoying it and were involved themselves. That enjoyment was going to turn to distress shortly.

God has been talking to Ezekiel. HE has been distressed over the wickedness among His people. Ezekiel reports:

1 "Then I heard him call out loudly, "Executioners, come! And bring your deadly weapons with you."
2 Six men came down the road from the upper gate that faces north, each carrying his lethal weapon. With them was a man dressed in linen with a writing case slung from his shoulder. They entered and stood by the bronze altar. 3 -4 The Glory of the God of Israel ascended from his usual place above the cherubim-angels, moved to the threshold of the Temple, and called to the man with the writing case who was dressed in linen: "Go through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the forehead of everyone who is in anguish over the outrageous obscenities being done in the city."

So God was starting His judgement. He separated the righteous. Here are His instructions:

5 -6 I listened as he went on to address the executioners: "Follow him through the city and kill. Feel sorry for no one. Show no compassion. Kill old men and women, young men and women, mothers and children. But don't lay a hand on anyone with the mark. Start at my Temple."
They started with the leaders in front of the Temple.
7 -8 He told the executioners, "Desecrate the Temple. Fill it with corpses. Then go out and continue the killing." So they went out and struck the city.
While the massacre went forward, I was left alone. I fell on my face in prayer: "Oh, oh, God, my Master! Are you going to kill everyone left in Israel in this pouring out of your anger on Jerusalem?"
9 -10 He said, "The guilt of Israel and Judah is enormous. The land is swollen with murder. The city is bloated with injustice. They all say, 'God has forsaken the country. He doesn't see anything we do.' Well, I do see, and I'm not feeling sorry for any of them. They're going to pay for what they've done."
11 Just then, the man dressed in linen and carrying the writing case came back and reported, "I've done what you told me."

EVERYONE in this story is distressed!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hard Message

God is a God of love. But He is also righteous. There have been times in history when His righteous anger has spilled out. Listen to the word God gave to Ezekiel...

1 -4 God's Word came to me, saying, "You, son of man—God, the Master, has this Message for the land of Israel: "'Endtime. The end of business as usual for everyone. It's all over. The end is upon you. I've launched my anger against you. I've issued my verdict on the way you live. I'll make you pay for your disgusting obscenities. I won't look the other way, I won't feel sorry for you. I'll make you pay for the way you've lived: Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you, and you'll realize that I am God.'

5 -9"I, God, the Master, say: 'Disaster after disaster! Look, it comes! Endtime— the end comes. The end is ripe. Watch out, it's coming! This is your fate, you who live in this land. Time's up. It's zero hour. No dragging of feet now, no bargaining for more time. Soon now I'll pour my wrath on you, pay out my anger against you, Render my verdict on the way you've lived, make you pay for your disgusting obscenities. I won't look the other way, I won't feel sorry for you. I'll make you pay for the way you've lived. Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you. Then you'll realize that it is I, God, who have hit you.

10 -13"'Judgment Day! Fate has caught up with you. The scepter outsized and pretentious, pride bursting all bounds, Violence strutting, brandishing the evil scepter. But there's nothing to them, and nothing will be left of them. Time's up. Countdown: five, four, three, two... Buyer, don't crow; seller, don't worry: Judgment wrath has turned the world topsy-turvy. The bottom has dropped out of buying and selling. It will never be the same again. But don't fantasize an upturn in the market. The country is bankrupt because of its sins, and it's not going to get any better."

I wonder how popular a church today would be, if this message came thundering out from the pulpit?

Happy Missionary!

We were 26. I remember being in the airplane, flying to Bogota Colombia. After 9 years of preparation and training, we were now full time missionaries. Our lives were to be dedicated to spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There was a strong sense of excitement and wonder.

Not so for Ezekiel.

He was called and commissioned by God Himself.

4 -6 "Then he told me, "Son of man, go to the family of Israel and speak my Message. Look, I'm not sending you to a people who speak a hard-to-learn language with words you can hardly pronounce. If I had sent you to such people, their ears would have perked up and they would have listened immediately.
7 -9 "But it won't work that way with the family of Israel. They won't listen to you because they won't listen to me. They are, as I said, a hard case, hardened in their sin. But I'll make you as hard in your way as they are in theirs. I'll make your face as hard as rock, harder than granite. Don't let them intimidate you. Don't be afraid of them, even though they're a bunch of rebels."
10 -11 Then he said, "Son of man, get all these words that I'm giving you inside you. Listen to them obediently. Make them your own. And now go. Go to the exiles, your people, and speak. Tell them, 'This is the Message of God, the Master.' Speak your piece, whether they listen or not."

It was to be a hard message to a hard people, needing a hard prophet to deliver it.

So there was no airplane ride. God HIMSELF picked Ezekiel up and delivered him.

12 -13 "Then the Spirit picked me up. Behind me I heard a great commotion—"Blessed be the Glory of God in his Sanctuary!"—the wings of the living creatures beating against each other, the whirling wheels, the rumble of a great earthquake.
14 -15 The Spirit lifted me and took me away."

What could be a more fantastical, exciting way to arrive at your destination than that! Ezekiel, of course, was thrilled. Excited. Full of eager anticipation!

NOT!!


14 -15 "I went bitterly and angrily. I didn't want to go. But God had me in his grip. I arrived among the exiles who lived near the Kebar River at Tel Aviv. I came to where they were living and sat there for seven days, appalled. "

So for the first week, the newly selected, appointed, called, commissioned prophet sat and - SULKED!

Not the most auspicious commencement of a long and illustrious missionary career!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

All of a sudden!!!

One of my favorite youtube video series is where someone gets scared suddenly. There was one where these poor job applicants were being trained to put makeup on the cadaver for the open casket funeral. Of course the person wasn't dead, and just at the right time, when they are leaning in close to apply the makeup, he opened his eyes, said "boo" and sat up in the casket! It scared the bejeebers out of every single person! I fell off my chair, I was laughing so hard!

Ezekiel had that experience. But it wasn't funny. And it wasn't for the entertainment of bored onlookers.

Here is what he says: 1"When I was thirty years of age, I was living with the exiles on the Kebar River. On the fifth day of the fourth month, the sky opened up and I saw visions of God. "

Wow!

He has lived for 30 years. He is in exile. He is minding his own business, doing whatever he normally did. Suddenly, the sky opened up, and he saw visions of God! Quite a deal!
o
First, he SAW this fantastic apparition. "Above the dome there was something that looked like a throne, sky-blue like a sapphire, with a humanlike figure towering above the throne. From what I could see, from the waist up he looked like burnished bronze and from the waist down like a blazing fire. Brightness everywhere! The way a rainbow springs out of the sky on a rainy day—that's what it was like. It turned out to be the Glory of God!

When I saw all this, I fell to my knees, my face to the ground."
o
Then he HEARD! "Then I heard a voice.
o
1 It said, "Son of man, stand up. I have something to say to you." 2 The moment I heard the voice, the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet. As he spoke to me, I listened. 3 -7 He said, "Son of man, I'm sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They're a hard case, these people to whom I'm sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, 'This is the Message of God, the Master.' They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they'll know that a prophet's been here. But don't be afraid of them, son of man, and don't be afraid of anything they say. Don't be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don't be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They're a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They're hardened rebels."
o
God had chosen a prophet. He was to speak God's words to a people who did not want to hear.
o
God got his attention.
o
Gave him a message.
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And Ezekiel was faithful to deliver it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

World Views in Collision!


We live in a time where there is a clash of cultures. Competing world views try to define and give meaning to everything that happens through their grid, or their lens.


So earthquakes and tornadoes have NOTHING to do with God! Oh No! They are because of global warming.


This is nothing new. In Jeremiah's time they had been invaded and their land was reduced to rubble. Jeremiah said it was God's punishment because the people had abandoned God and followed idols and an ungodly lifestyle.


Oh No! There was a completely OTHER explanation! Read with me...


15 -18The men who knew that their wives had been burning sacrifices to the no-gods, joined by a large crowd of women, along with virtually everyone living in Pathros of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: "We're having nothing to do with what you tell us is God's Message. We're going to go right on offering sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, keeping up the traditions set by our ancestors, our kings and government leaders in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem in the good old days. We had a good life then—lots of food, rising standard of living, and no bad luck. But the moment we quit sacrificing to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out offerings to her, everything fell apart. We've had nothing but massacres and starvation ever since."


Jeremiah had a word from God about that nonsense...

27 -28"'All the Judeans in Egypt will die off by massacre or starvation until they're wiped out. The few who get out of Egypt alive and back to Judah will be very few, hardly worth counting. Then that ragtag bunch that left Judah to live in Egypt will know who had the last word.





20 -23Then Jeremiah spoke up, confronting the men and the women, all the people who had answered so insolently. He said, "The sacrifices that you and your parents, your kings, your government officials, and the common people of the land offered up in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem—don't you think God noticed? He noticed, all right. And he got fed up. Finally, he couldn't take your evil behavior and your disgusting acts any longer. Your land became a wasteland, a death valley, a horror story, a ghost town. And it continues to be just that. This doom has come upon you because you kept offering all those sacrifices, and you sinned against God! You refused to listen to him, wouldn't live the way he directed, ignored the covenant conditions."


We are no further ahead today. The loudest and most persistent voice in our culture says we will do it our way. Go away, God. Leave us alone.