The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuaries. Prophesy against the land of Israel and say to the land of Israel, Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am against you and will draw my sword from its sheath and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked.Because I will cut off from you both righteous and wicked, therefore my sword shall be drawn from its sheath against all flesh from south to north. And all flesh shall know that I am the Lord. I have drawn my sword from its sheath; it shall not be sheathed again.
The question of justice is one of the biggest concerns in our society today. We want justice for the sake of victims. We want justice to come to offenders - dirty politicians, abusers, and terrorists. Where is the God of justice in our modern world? When children are gunned down just attending school, what is God doing about it? Where is God in the midst of ethnic cleansing? Deep in our hearts we are outraged by the lack of justice in this world.
Instinctively, we long for justice to reign and have an innate desire to see strong action against the wicked, with right triumphing and evil defeated. Our tv shows and movies are heavily loaded with strong individuals that establish peace by shooting, fighting, stabbing, and blowing up and annihilating the bad guys.
We can long for complete justice to be imposed, but if it happens, each of us would have a problem. The very justice that we long for would condemn each one of us as transgressors. All would stand condemned and guilty.
If you imagine yourself as the villain rather than the innocent bystander, you begin to feel the horror of the Jews situation in Ezekiel. They stood condemned and guilty. In our text, Ezekiel is declaring judgment upon them. This is God’s plan but carried out by the hands of the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar.
If you could summarize this sermon in one sentence, it would be: The answer to my evil and lack of justice is to point to the cross.
Imagery Not to be Discarded
The Bible is a book filled with images and imagery - Ezekiel is the epitome of this. God does not deliver His message in cold tones of propositional statements. Rather, He often reveals Himself and sends His messages in turbulent pictures. Sometimes we want to discard the pictures like unwanted wrappers - just give us what’s inside - or rewrap it in more palatable contemporary language. However, if we do this, we will trade the vivid directness of the fire-filled Word of God for cool logical flow.
The imagery in Ezekiel 21 has a theme of sword and fire. Both are used as an image of God’s judgment on first His people, then on the not-so-innocent bystanders, and finally on the Babylonians who God first uses to execute judgement on the others. Judgement is pronounced on everyone. Swords and fire are used throughout the Bible. First it is used in Genesis 3 by Cherubim to guard the entrance to Eden after the fall when mankind was shut out. Jesus also spoke of sword and fire to describe His mission of executing God’s judgement on earth (Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:49).
This fire and sword judgment is coming on the righteous and the wicked - no one will escape. It is all-encompassing and all-consuming. Ezekiel makes it clear in our text, the fire is kindled and the sword is drawn. Ezekiel will act out this judgment and act out public sighing and groaning. It came to fruition when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.
The answer to my evil and lack of justice is to point to the cross.
The Fire & Sword Yet to Come
The situation of modern men and women who are without Christ is just as insecure. Unless they hear the gospel, trust in the death of Christ on the cross, and turn from their sins, they face the eternal prospect of the fire and sword - God’s wrath poured out on them. There is a day coming that the Judge of all the earth will come to settle final accounts and the sword will fall on uncleansed sinners.
The doctrine of eternal torment has never been popular. We like to present this biblical teaching in a kinder and gentler light. We have tended to either take the pain out of eternity or the eternity out of the pain. It is easier to think of eternal punishment as figurative and distance it at least from ourselves. C.S.Lewis said, “In all our discussions of Hell, we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends but of ourselves. This doctrine is not about your wife or son, nor about Nero or Judas Iscariot; it is about you and me.”
The answer to my evil and lack of justice is to point to the cross.
Is There Any Hope?
How can the refiner’s fire of God’s wrath pass over us and not burn us alive? The answer is because it has already passed over Jesus and poured its heat out on Him. How can the avenging sword of the Lord pass by us without destroying us? Because it was put into the body of Jesus on the cross so that it cannot further harm His people. God raised His sword on His Son in our place. His death in our place makes it possible for us to come close to our just God and not be destroyed by Him.
Through Jesus, a safe way has been made for us to approach God and experience the fire of God that was wrath but is now a refiner’s fire. When we are found in Christ, this fire purifies and tests but does not destroy. Because of Jesus, we may return to God and find Him coming near to us also. As believers, there is a day coming where our earthly lives will be tested with God’s fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
The final judgment of all flesh will be a day when Jesus Christ comes again and will ride forth to battle with a sharp sword. He will make war on all the forces that oppose God and anyone whose name has not been written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:15; Revelation 20:14-15).
The answer to my evil and lack of justice is to point to the cross - and because of His death and resurrection, I can look forward without fear to His coming as judge!
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?