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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

01 September 2012

Week 35 Review

August 26 Lamentations 1:1-3:36
August 27 Lamentations 3:37-5:22
August 28 Ezekiel 1-4
August 29 Ezekiel 5-8
August 30 Ezekiel 9-12
August 31 Ezekiel 13-16

Ezekiel is an interesting book! From its beginning with the odd vision, through God’s utter destruction of all but the faithful, Ezekiel is packed with action.

God tried and tried to get His people to turn from their sins, but they didn’t. Instead of looking toward heavenly pleasures, the people focused on the pleasures of the now. Sounds like our generation!

Because of their choices, they were bound under a yoke of their own sin (a yoke is a symbol of power and authority of the one who owns the yoke). What are you yoked to? Are you looking just at the pleasures of life? God wants us to enjoy our lives, of course, but His ultimate plan is for us to live righteously in this life and enjoy our mansions later.

When Ezekiel was called by God, he was 30 years old. His ministry lasted 20 years. This was the “normal” span of a priest’s working life. His call came after God gave him an interesting vision of creatures, wheels, smoke, sings, hands, calf feet, and eagles. We could spend hours dissecting the meaning of each item in the vision, but I will focus only on the four faces (man, lion, ox, eagle) in 1:10 and the throne in 1:26-28).
 Man is the highest of God’s creatures. We are made in God’s image.
Lion is the greatest untamed beast.
Ox is the strongest tamed beast.
Eagle is the greatest of birds and is also a picture of God (Deuteronomy 32:11-12).

This also ties into God’s promise after the flood.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11  I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15  I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Gen 9:8-17 (ESV)

In Ezekiel’s vision, cherubim (mentioned first in Genesis 3:24) assured him – and us – that God remembers His promises and cares for His creatures. The more I study God’s Word, the more amazed I am at the way God has put everything in this world, and in human history, together.

Then there’s the throne. It is azure blue and has flashes of fire within it (holiness) and a rainbow around it (covenant grace). It’s interesting that Noah saw the covenant rainbow after the storm (Genesis 9:13-16). The Apostle John saw the rainbow before the storm (Revelation 4:3), and Ezekiel saw the rainbow over and in control of the storm (Ezekiel 1:26-28). Ezekiel knew he was looking at the glory of the Lord and he fell down in worship.

The next time you see a rainbow, after you comment on its beauty, take a moment to think of the covenant grace symbolized and remember that while, like Noah, we see the reminder of the covenant rainbow after the storm, God is there during the storm to guide us through life’s pitfalls!

Ezekiel was called as a watchman. In his time, watchmen were important people who were charged with the safety of their city. Ezekiel had specific instructions from God:

And at the end of seven days, the word of the Lord came to me: 17  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18  If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19  But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. 20  Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.” Ezek 3:16-21 (ESV)

It’s not considered politically correct today to call a sin – sin. But that’s what God calls Ezekiel to do. He also places that burden on us. We are to lovingly guide other believers with prayer and Scripture and point out their errors, just as we accept Scriptural correction from other believers. None of us have “earned” the right to continue sinning once we’ve become God’s children. We all need guidance. Stand firm and be a watchman!

Ezekiel has a few action sermons. I was most interested in the cutting of his hair in public. Priests had very specific regulations for their hair and beards, among other things (Leviticus 21:1-6). Shaving his beard and hair like this would have been a sign of sorrow, humiliation and mourning – just like God felt about the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Ezekiel added to the drama by using a sword instead of a razor, symbolizing the swords that would soon cut down the land.

He was to divide the hair into three parts. One part was burned on the symbolic siege block to symbolize the people who would die of famine and pestilence. A second part was hacked to bits, symbolizing the people killed by the Babylonian soldiers. The last part was scattered to the winds, showing how the Jews would be scattered among the Gentiles when the exiles were removed to Babylon – however…

Before Ezekiel tossed the last bit into the wind, he took a little and hid it in the hem of his garment. This symbolized God’s care for the remnant of the people who would return from the exile. God always keeps His word, and He covenanted with the Jews. Unfortunately, they felt they were “special” and didn’t think they had to work with God – they thought they could sin and sin and sin with no consequences. God told them differently!

God was very angry at the idolatry performed both in secret and in the open. In Ezekiel’s temple vision, God shows us that he is jealous for His people to worship only him. The 25 men who were worshiping toward the east – worshiping the sun in defiance of Deuteronomy 4:19, 17:3, Exodus 20:1-6) were worshiping the creation and not the creator (Romans 1:25). We see that today, sometimes unintentionally. Have you ever spoken of “Mother Nature”? Ever said or heard that you can see God in a flower or a tree or the majesty of the ocean? There is no mother nature! We don’t see God in a flower, or anything else. What we see is God’s majesty, love, beauty and attention to detail in His creation.  Ever looked at that horoscope (just for fun of course)? Don’t! God doesn’t want you to look at anything but Him for your guidance. When someone asks me what my sign is, I say “the sign of the cross”. When they push for my “astrological sign”, I tell them that I don’t believe in it and that God tells me I can’t have anything to do with it. If they persist and ask when my birthday occurs, I refuse to tell them. I will not be a part of worshiping anything but the creator. I pray you join me!

We finished the week with warnings against false prophets. In Ezekiel’s time, these men would make up whatever story they chose and expected God to follow through with what they said. God was not amused and told the people that anyone who was unfaithful would be destroyed. He was clear in saying that our lives are delivered because of our righteousness, and our righteousness is only found in Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s love for Israel (and us), despite her (and our) unfaithfulness.

I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God. Ezek 16:62-63 (ESV)

Which parts of this week’s readings stuck out for you? What would you like to discuss? I’d love to hear what you thought about the wheels and fire at the beginning of the chapter … or anything else that struck you!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you and I stand ready to pray for you or assist you in any way possible. God bless you as you continue this journey through His Word! See you next week.

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