“Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.”
The more I read Ezekiel the more I am struck by the rawness of the book. Ezekiel is abrasive. These written images of God are forceful and maybe even too difficult for us to imagine. Some scenes seem like something out of a sci-fi movie. Other scenes are like street theater. The book startles us with symbolism and heartbroken laments and causes us to feel the weight of God’s holiness and ability to affect our world - in almost unbearable ways. There are is a change coming later in the book - God’s steadfast love draws close and promises to dwell with his people, even to dwell inside his people.
I almost find myself tempted to apologize for the God we read of in Ezekiel. At times I want to exchange this roaring lion filled with holy rage with a very cute and lovable kitten. I would like to morph Him into the God that people would want Him to be - with more political correctness. No one wants a God who roars, who threatens, and who judges. At times I would rather fashion a god in our taste — a friendly god we can pet, leash, which would be more appealing and popular.
Our series through the themes of Ezekiel will not try to explain away the passages in the Bible where God seems mean or comes off as random and misunderstood. God is all powerful - and that means that He is dangerous. That is the way the Bible portrays Him. You don’t have to like it. You can attempt to make Him into a domesticated North American God or you can deny His existence. But be careful not to explain away God’s dangerous qualities - because some of it isn’t explainable. At some level, we need to accept the way that He has chosen to reveal Himself.
He is the God we find in Ezekiel. If we live in denial of this, our understanding of sin and purity will be in jeopardy, we will abandon the very mission that we were saved for, and the gospel will be usurped of its power.
If you could summarize this sermon in one sentence, it would be: Our hearts are prone to wander.
A Matter Of Life And Death
“It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.” Most of us have heard this saying. This is not an idea that Ezekiel would have endorsed. Ezekiel’s message to God’s people is that judgement is coming upon them because they have held to a false religion. For them, what they believed would literally be a matter of life and death.
If what you believe is indeed a matter of life and death, then it is not enough to be sincere. Those that say the above statement have determined that it doesn’t matter what you believe about God. But scripture makes it clear that God created the whole cosmic and human story with a purpose. It matters intensely to God what His people believe about Him. He is a passionate God - a jealous God - and will not share His people’s affections with false gods (Exodus 34:14). Ezekiel is warning them that God’s jealousy is about to overflow into action as He judges His people. Verse 9, “...I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols.”
Our hearts are prone to wander.
A Renewed People
God’s judgement - as devastating as it might seem in Ezekiel - is not the end of the story. Just like His judgement is a fulfillment of His promise (Leviticus 26), so is His establishment of a renewed people - a restored remnant.
Those that remember their sin and remember their God will live (verse 9a). They can remember the Lord and His grief and find hope, or they can simply continue on their present course and be utterly destroyed. This Old Testament remembering is never simply the recalling to the the past but includes the idea of a present action that flows from that recollection. We must have a self-loathing of our evil ways.
We cannot understand God’s grief until we grasp the foolishness of the idols we serve. We need to be as horrified at our sin as we were delighted by it in the first place.
We live in a world full of idolatry. Our idols today are not of wood or stone - but they are just as real. The idols of Ezekiel’s day promised identity and significance with money, sex, and power. A thorough study of the different gods that the Israelites worshipped will show you these promises. These are still the driving forces of our culture. Some of our idols of security, identity, and significance are a bit more subtle today. Our search for significance in our careers, our possessions, our travel and experiences, our relationships, our families, or even perfection can lead to blessings being idols. Anything that we trust in more than God is an idol. Anything that we give time, money, energy, and resources to can begin to creep onto the throne of our hearts. We want these things to bring us fulfillment, meaning, and significance and make us self-reliant rather than depending upon God.
Our hearts are prone to wander.
Two Possible Outcomes
When life is good - and our idols seem to be fulfilling us - we can become deaf to the voice of God. When suffering happens it often serves as a wake-up call. Today, trials and testing work on our faith (James 1:2-4). These may or may not be be directly from God, but God still uses them.
We may be moved by the pain of the situation to remember God’s grace and be disgusted over our sin and turn from it - our eyes are opened from our self-deception and we thrust or sin from us like we would a scorpion.
Or, we may continue unmoved - maybe even further hardened by our sin and hastening towards destruction. When we fail to listen to God speak, we become increasingly unable to hear God speak to us. Our hearts become calloused.
Our hearts are prone to wander.
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?