Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday, January 3rd

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 5-6; Psalm 3; Matthew 3
Today's scripture focus is Ezekiel 2-3

Sorry for the delay on today's post.  Between Nathan's cousin's son's funeral, and Sophia's hockey tournament, I got behind.  But all the driving did give me a great opportunity to listen to several sermons on today's passage.

Ezekiel 2-3

English Standard Version (ESV)

Ezekiel's Call

And he said to me, “Son of man,[a] stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions.[b] Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
3 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.
And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” 10 Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears.11 And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”
12 Then the Spirit[c] lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice[d] of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from its place!” 13 It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. 14 The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me.15 And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling.[e] And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.

A Watchman for Israel

16 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[f] 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.”
22 And the hand of the Lord was upon me there. And he said to me, “Arise, go out into the valley,[g] and there I will speak with you.” 23 So I arose and went out into the valley, and behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the Chebar canal, and I fell on my face. 24 But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and he spoke with me and said to me, “Go, shut yourself within your house. 25 And you, O son of man, behold, cords will be placed upon you, and you shall be bound with them, so that you cannot go out among the people. 26 And I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house. 27 But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ He who will hear, let him hear; and he who will refuse to hear, let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house.

Yesterday we saw a vision of the glory of God.  It was an amazing vision.  One that we can never quite imagine or experience the way Ezekiel did because it truly was beyond description.

Today we see the call of Ezekiel into ministry.  It wasn't exactly an exciting call.  He was called to preach judgment on the people of Israel, and in 3:7 God tells him that nobody is going to listen to his message.  Who would want to answer that call?

Rayburn contends that Ezekiel likely didn't want to either.  He wouldn't be the first or the last hesitant prophet.  Moses and Jonah immediately come to mind.  Rayburn gives several reasons why the text might indicate Ezekiel's reluctance to accept the call of God....

  • The extraordinary length and detail of the call narrative, which exceeds that of the narrative of the call of Moses – a most reluctant prophet – by almost 50%, suggests that the Lord had some persuading to do. Why does God go on and on except that Ezekiel wasn’t buying it?
  • The prelude to the call is a vision so much more overwhelming in its power and scope than anything that accompanied the call of any other prophet or biblical leader. Does this suggest that Ezekiel needed very strong persuasion?
  • Why does the Holy Spirit have to set him on his feet as a prelude to hearing the Word of the Lord in 2:1-2? He had been commanded to stand by Yahweh himself, but then the Spirit comes and lifts him up.
  • Why does the Lord command him directly not to rebel like the rest of the Jews in 2:8? There is nothing like this in the call of Moses or Isaiah or Jeremiah.
  • Why is Ezekiel commanded three times to eat the scroll (2:8-3:3)? Indeed, the Lord feeds the scroll to Ezekiel himself as if Ezekiel was not a willing eater.
  • Why does the Lord give two commissioning speeches to Ezekiel – 2:3-7 and 3:4-11 – with a great deal of repetition of the first in the second? Does it not appear that the first summons hadn’t had sufficient effect?
  • Why is the first expression of response on the prophet’s part bitterness and anger in 3:14? Is that why the strong hand of the Lord had to be upon him?
  • When he returns from his encounter with the Lord to sit among his people, why does he sit there for a week in a state of shock and spiritual desolation? (3:15)
  • And when the Lord himself breaks the silence, why does he do so with such a strong and uncompromising warning to Ezekiel not to fail to deliver the Lord’s warnings or else? Does it not seem that the Lord is forestalling a half-hearted or even actively resistant response on Ezekiel’s response?
  • And, finally, why does it appear that the Lord is further forestalling any effort on Ezekiel’s part to plead for or defend Israel (3:24-27)?

  • We tend to make more of our spiritual heroes than we should.  All men, Ezekiel and any other biblical character included, are fallible.  But when we are willing to be used as God's instruments we are successful, as He defines success.

    In Ezekiel's case, he was certainly not successful by any human standards.  He was successful in the eyes of God because he obeyed, despite his reluctance.  He was successful in the eyes of God because he preached the message he was sent to preach, despite the recipients unwillingness to receive it.  He was also proven successful when his prophecies came to pass - something that was completely in God's control, not his.  Our success does not depend on ourselves.  Thank the Lord for that because we would never stand a chance.  Our success depends on the faithfulness of the God we serve, and He will never let us down.

    I love Rayburn's conclusion to his first sermon on this passage.....
    If there is a personal application for us all in this narrative of the call of an unwilling prophet – for obviously we are not all to be the Lord’s prophets in the sense in which Ezekiel was – that application is that weak, frail, and very ordinary people, even people who really don’t want to do God’s will and don’t feel capable of doing the his will, can do, will do, and are to do what the Lord calls them to do. He will tell us what he wants us to do – he has told us in his Word! – his Spirit will stand us upon our feet; he will repeat his instructions over and again until we hear them; he will stuff them down our throats if that is what it takes; and he will encourage us to believe that we can do his will, that he will see us through.

    Legge submits that the reason the Israelites would refuse to listen to Ezekiel's message from God was because of their refusal to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and to submit to His Lordship.  And our motivation, as God's servants, should ultimately be to bring glory to God....
    Are we Spirit-filled? Are we filled with the word of God? Are we hard-headed, but are we broken-hearted? Will we go and say what God says, and say nothing more and say nothing less? The message is this, this is our responsibility.... if they believe it, they believe it; and if they don't, they don't - but all the glory goes to God.
    Rayburn's concluding points in his second sermon are striking as well.....
    What makes the study of Ezekiel so important for us here in the early years of the 21st century is precisely that the spiritual world it describes, the principles of life and death that it teaches and illustrates, are the same today as then. The possibility of individuals taking steps today that will ensure their damnation later, the possibility of our generation of the church taking steps in our time that will lead to a situation in which future generations will be utterly deaf to the Word of God and hardened against God’s mercy, I say, these possibilities are very real.....

    The lesson of Ezekiel 2 and 3 is the same as that repeated in the New Testament:
    “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

    Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ezekiel 4-5
    Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 7-8
    Sunday's passage: Genesis 9-10
    Monday's passage: Genesis 11-12, Psalm 4, Matthew 4

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