Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday, January 6th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 11-12, Psalm 4, Matthew 4
Today's scripture focus is Ezekiel 4-5

Ezekiel 4-5

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Siege of Jerusalem Symbolized

“And you, son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and engrave on it a city, even Jerusalem. And put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it. Set camps also against it,and plant battering rams against it all around. And you, take an iron griddle, and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; and set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel.
“Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment. For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment. So long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah. Forty days I assign you, a day for each year. And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared, and you shall prophesy against the city. And behold, I will place cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other, till you have completed the days of your siege.
“And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer, and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them. During the number of days that you lie on your side, 390 days, you shall eat it.10 And your food that you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from day to day you shall eat it.11 And water you shall drink by measure, the sixth part of a hin; from day to day you shall drink. 12 And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.” 13 And the Lord said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations where I will drive them.” 14 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I have never defiled myself. From my youth up till now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has tainted meat come into my mouth.” 15 Then he said to me, “See, I assign to you cow's dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.” 16 Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, behold, I will break the supply of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. 17 I will do this that they may lack bread and water, and look at one another in dismay, and rot away because of their punishment.

Jerusalem Will Be Destroyed

“And you, O son of man, take a sharp sword. Use it as a barber's razor and pass it over your head and your beard. Then take balances for weighing and divide the hair. A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. And a third part you shall take and strike with the sword all around the city. And a third part you shall scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them. And you shall take from these a small number and bind them in the skirts of your robe. And of these again you shall take some and cast them into the midst of the fire and burn them in the fire. From there a fire will come out into all the house of Israel.
“Thus says the Lord GodThis is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. And she has rebelled against my rules by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes more than the countries all around her; for they have rejected my rules and have not walked in my statutes.Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you are more turbulent than the nations that are all around you, and have not walked in my statutes or obeyed my rules, and have not even acted according to the rules of the nations that are all around you, therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, even I, am against you. And I will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations. And because of all your abominations I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again. 10 Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers. And I will execute judgments on you, and any of you who survive I will scatter to all the winds. 11 Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw. My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity. 12 A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them.
13 “Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the Lord—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them. 14 Moreover, I will make you a desolation and an object of reproach among the nations all around you and in the sight of all who pass by. 15 You shall be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror, to the nations all around you, when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes—I am the Lord; I have spoken— 16 when I send against you the deadly arrows of famine, arrows for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, and when I bring more and more famine upon you and break your supply of bread. 17 I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will rob you of your children. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword upon you. I am the Lord; I have spoken.”

Accompanying sermon by Robert Rayburn
Accompanying David Legge sermon: Signs of Judgment

In the vision of Chapter 1, Ezekiel saw God coming as an agent of judgement upon Israel, Jerusalem in particular.  In Ezekiel's call in Chapters 2 & 3, he was to be a watchman for Israel, warning them of the judgement to come.  Now, in Chapters 4 & 5, Ezekiel is commanded to act out the judgments about to fall on Jerusalem.  He is not the only prophet to do so - others include Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, and Elisha - but no one does it as much as Ezekiel.

First, Ezekiel was commanded to create a model of the destruction of Jerusalem. The tile portrayed the siege of Jerusalem, and the pan portrayed their separation from God.  Judgment would fall and God would not rescue them, they would be separated from Him, and in fact, the judgment was coming at God's command.

In the next scene, Ezekiel moves from portraying God and His judgment, to becoming the victim, or the recipient of God's judgement, as he was commanded to lie in a bed of iniquity, symbolizing the years of the Israelites rebellion. At first glance this appears to be symbolic of the doctrine of substitution, but Legge is quick to say that it is not - because judgement is not averted.  It didn't remove sin, just like the sacrifices of the OT did not remove sin.  This was not a sign of substitution, rather it was to illustrate to the Israelites the accumulation of their sin, the awfulness of their sin.  Just like the OT sacrifices were a reminder of their sin.  A reminder that they desperately needed a redeemer who could actually bear their sin and avert judgement. Aren't you glad we live on this side of Calvary and we can see it?!  But they were not living from that vantage point - and so this is a reminder of the awfulness of their sin, and their desperate need of a saviour.

Rayburn makes a point that I hope was reality for Ezekiel's sake!
We might say that our pastor preached for two years from the Gospel of Matthew. We don’t mean, by that form of words, to suggest that he preached continuously twenty-four hours a day for two years. In the same way, Ezekiel probably lay on his side only for some time each day – perhaps the busiest time of day when the most people would be in the street.
However, there was also a glimmer of hope in this portrayal.  390 and 40 combine to make 430 which would be an immediate reminder to the people of Israel of the 430 years they spent in Egypt before the Exodus.  It's as though God was saying that they would go through a terrible judgment but at the end of it there would be a new exodus, a new entry into the land.  It wouldn't be for this generation, but eventually the abandonment of God would lift and the rainbow of Chapter 1 would eventually become a reality through the clouds of judgment.

The next sign is a gruesome one, and it depicts the diet of famine the Israelites would experience after the destruction of Jerusalem.  Ezekiel was commanded to live on siege rations - an unappetizing bread made out of a mixture of grains and legumes, pretty much whatever could be scraped together, and only  2/3 of a quart of water per day. A starvation diet.  And not only was this "bread" unappetizing, but Ezekiel was commanded to cook it over human excrement!  After Ezekiel's protests, God allows a slight change and he can cook it over animal excrement.  Yeah, not much better.  There is a huge gross out factor here and Legge gives it to us straight.....
we're meant to feel nauseated! Why? God is trying to communicate to His people the awful sinfulness of sin! It is disgusting! It does turn us to nausea, because I believe that is the disposition of the Almighty with His people's sin. It makes Him sick!
The last sign is of the sword of wrath - symbolized by Ezekiel being commanded to shave off his beard and hair - something that would be shameful, and ordinarily something a priest should never do.  This hair was carefully measured out, symboling that God's wrath is not haphazard, but carefully meted out. 1/3 of the people would be destroyed in the burning of the city.  Another 1/3 would be killed outside the city in exile.  And the final 1/3 would be scattered throughout the world.  However, there would be a small amount, tucked into Ezekiel's skirt, that symbolizes the remnant.  There would be a remnant.  God always saves a remnant.

Now, this judgment was absolutely fair and just.  These are the exact curses God warned them about in Leviticus 26.  In fact, not only did Israel fail to live up to God's standards, they didn't even live up to the standards of the pagan nations around them!  Instead of being a light to the nations around them, God put out their light.

We have a tendency to think we are more merciful than God.  That's completely blasphemous, and we probably wouldn't say that out loud, but we often do.  We've put God in a box of love, and only love.
Rayburn sets us straight on this .....

It is a view of God based on human instinct and predisposition. The fact is, hardly any of us would do to Jerusalem what Yahweh did in 586 B.C.. We might feel, rightly, that Jerusalem was everything that the Lord declared it to be, an idolatrous, immoral, worldly city, utterly forgetful of the Lord and his covenant, trampling upon her immense privileges with abandon. But we still recoil from the idea of creating a situation in which so many would die – men, women, and children – and the besieged people would be reduced to feeding on the carcasses of the dead. We would rebuke, but we would not lay bare our arm and reduce that city to rubble and leave the bones of so many of her citizens bleaching in the sun. Or most of us would not and certainly an increasing number of us in the Western Church of our time. We may imagine that, as is so often said by Christians, “Oh, God would never do that…” And we would compliment ourselves on our unfailing mercy and compassion. It is a very poor, a very unreliable method to attempt to discern God’s mind and ways by imagining what we would think and what we would do – we sinful pipsqueaks who have so little of God’s mind and so much of the world’s and our own. We can only know what God might do or will do by what he has done and has said he will do. And over and over again the world has witnessed the fatal lightning of Yahweh’s terrible swift sword and he has promised that he will continue to be until the very end a God of justice and judgment and vengeance. As he says in v. 13: I will be avenged!

He is a God who takes more seriously than we do the sins of man and all the more the sins of his church. As merciful as he will be toward those who confess and repent, he is as implacable in his judgment of those who do not....

holy wrath and vengeance – an implacable determination to punish sin – is an undeniable feature of God’s nature and character. Because it is it is an inescapable dimension of reality and the man or woman who ignores that fact does so to his or her ruin.....

There are two facts and two facts only that comprise the fundamental reality of human life in this world apart from the grace of God and the salvation of Christ: the first is that God is angry with the wicked every day; the second is that the wicked will not believe or acknowledge that fact. They will not whether they are in the church or outside of it. But, this being true, the things that human beings care so much about are of infinitesimal importance; they matter not at all. To have Yahweh turn his face from you, to have him bare his arm against you, to withdraw his favor and to refuse you his pity, is to make worthless whatever blessings you now imagine you enjoy and to expose you to a fate from which any and every human being would recoil if only he could see it unfolding before his eyes.

Let us never forget that this is what makes Jesus Christ and his cross so vital, so absolutely essential, so utterly incomparable and irreplaceable: Jesus on the cross alone can stand between you and all your sins and the holy wrath of the living God; the crucified Son of God alone can carry that divine wrath and vengeance away from you by bearing it himself; the suffering Savior, our Redeemer alone can remove the reason why God turns his face away and wrecks vengeance upon the human race.

Despite our unfaithfulness and our complete unworthiness, God sent Jesus, who perfectly fulfilled the covenant, to take the curse upon Himself, so we could receive the blessing.   That is love.  That is mercy.  And it is understand so much more fully upon the backdrop of holy and just wrath.

Like Ezekiel, we are to preach God's message. But our message is slightly different than Ezekiel's.  Legge....
The difference between what Ezekiel does and what we do is: our sins are gone! We aren't to depict anything, we aren't to act anything, we are to tell what has happened! What is done! We are called to act out our message like Ezekiel's - and this is the greatest challenge of all: if you want to dramatise the message of God, do you know what you are asked to do? You are asked to dramatise what Christ did for you, what did He say? 'Take up your cross daily, and follow Me'.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ezekiel 6-7
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 13-14, Psalm 5, Matthew 5


Miriam said...

I'm feeling so bad for poor Ezekiel! To have to live through a demonstration of the punishment of his entire nation! I sincerely hope that what Rayburn says about Ezekiel not having to lie on his side for that whole 430 days is the case. But in any case, Ezekiel had a really tough assignment.

Tammy said...

No wonder he was hesitant to accept God's call on his life!