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NO MORE DELAY
Today we are simultaneously looking at an Old Testament and a New Testament dťnouement. Things had long been preparing. NOW there is to be NO MORE DELAY. The code is clear, the path is sure, the eye is not dimmed, the damage is done or about to be done. Now, the results come!
We will find this situation of impending action, final result, both in Ezekiel in the Old Testament and in John in the New.
It is rather like the situation for Japan in 1945. The war in Europe was OVER. The scape-goat in Hitler was finished. The lack of metal for building war engines was terminal. The advance on Japan was happening. Desperation was on all sides; impositions had occurred, more to come, the homeland once the base and basis for absurd and unholy expansionist pretensions linked to a religion without warrant, using the name of God, was now the focus for wrath. A plane took off, and judgment followed. It was fearful. There was NO MORE DELAY.
It had been asked for (judgment, not this particular one necessarily) and it came. They had sown the wind (Hosea 8:7), and now they were to reap the whirl-wind.
This is not to singularise Japan. Germany did the same and so did Russia with its absurd Communist take-over, where idle dreams preceded what did not delay: abuse by famine to subdue a people, abuse by slave labour in Siberia, in some ways to match Belsen and Auschwitz; but this Russia directed against her own people the 'motherland' practising such atrocities.
All have suffered. Is it possible that NONE will learn ? Not all fall; but certainly the world as a whole WILL not learn as Revelation 19:19 shows most clearly. The next result then is for this world which, after some interims, itself will in fact go (II Peter 3)! So much for those who use it, rely on it, bandy with it, bond with it or beautify it in their imaginations, ignoring the heart.
It will with its leader, deploy false religions this coming time on an INTERNATIONAL scale, planning to to RUN THINGS overall, while running many into the ground in the process. Its leader, the devil (John 14:30ff.) isn't so nice, but very popular, though like many, he does not normally appear direct, but uses sometimes charming adjutants (II Corinthians 11), human faces for his inhumane labours.
There comes a time when there is no more delay. The fruit is ripe for the picking, or for the plight of rejection.
THERE WILL BE NO MORE DELAY
1) Old Testament
Such was the message of Ezekiel 12:25. The people had become cocky - or if you prefer, rather sated with themselves, wise in their own eyes, secure in their opinions and moves. Though they had already suffered much in the way of military invasions from other nations, they did not repent. Indeed they were criticising the prophetic task force of God, in particular here Ezekiel, cheekily jibing about the proverbs, the indefinite sort of language he was deemed to be using.
What about it ? they were saying. Let's be clear: you and your proverbs. Itís all way away from now.
The reason for the procedure of review, reflection, appeal and exhortation such as you see in Jeremiah 1-17, and the imaginative use of dramatic signals, symbols and illustrations and warning by Ezekiel (as in Chs. 4-10) was clear. Indeed, it was dual. Firstly, God being pitiful, was warning the people by various impactive methods (just as Christ used parables because of the hardness of their hearts - Matthew 13). With Jeremiah, these had included categorical offers and appeals (as in Jeremiah 17), but in Ezekiel the focus was devastating, although the method still used colourful, if baneful, imagery to warn and to grip.
They had been told that "the day is near" for devastation (Ezekiel 7); but the people preferred to concentrate, it seems, on the figures used and the imaginative language with its pathos, in order to pretend that the simple, final, factual basis was in some doubt or distance of an uncertain kind. Very well. In Ezekiel 12:25 the message hits that proclivity where, instead of repenting and seeking mercy (as Hezekiah successfully did as shown in Isaiah 37), the people kept up their pert and perky attitude, as you see sometimes in fallen former churches, where impudence is added to decline, with the result of dis-appointment, or if you prefer imagery, having the 'candlestick' on which they shine forth with light REMOVED by God , leaving them a dump house (cf. Revelation 2:5).
In Ezekiel 12, we find this interplay between people and prophet, the latter from the mouth of God giving response. The people: "The days are prolonged and every vision fails!" This is expressed as a witty or wise saying, and the idea is that, ONE AND ALL, the prophets are getting nowhere while disaster creeps. This is so like the present in this land and many another, where the idea is that religion is getting nowhere as far as God is concerned, so we might just as well wed various confused notations and religious nibbles, even if they contradict each other on a total scale, and make some mystic, pseudo-moral, quasi-worshipful sort of authority or other, so that we can live a bit longer in some sort of peace on this earth with some sort of religion.
In fact, as ALWAYS and with sickening consistency (for judgment does not normally make well!), the judgments of God and the mercies had come precisely as commanded, and people like Joseph and Daniel, not to say Moses and Isaiah, had predicted what would be with an accuracy so amazing that it was stunning, shots as from a stun gun being accurate, and remissions with passion, being received as the Lord relented from time to time and gave encouragement to them to return (as seen for example in Ezekiel 20 in the long parable, and Psalm 78 in the panoramic coverage of their earlier history).
On the other hand, false prophets were continually trying to make life easy and gain importance for themselves, by inventing messages from their own minds, more appealing to a rebellious people (as in Jeremiah 20, 23, Ezekiel 11). The divine response was layered in several time sites, one very early and personal, others in what soon followed and yet more to cover the distant future.
There had been centuries with various revivals, but now the Lord met their mocking catcalls about uncertain times and delays like this (Ezekiel 12:25):
"For I am the Lord, I speak and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed; for in your days, O rebellious hose, I will say the word and perform it," says the Lord God."
Did they mock, saying
"The vision that he sees is for many days from now; and he prophesies of times far off" ?
Then the Lord answers thus:
" 'None of My words will be postponed any more, but the word which I speak will be done," says the Lord God.' "
Then of course there came such devastations by enemy powers as to make to the thoughtful, all the modes and delays and appeals and imagery, exhortations and meditations very worth-while. If a city is to be destroyed, a temple ruined, people to be taken into exile, distress to be multiplied by the severities of this world when the Lord withdraws His protection after centuries of appeal and desire to prevent or even annul judgment: then all the 'delay' that went before is MOST understandable. Mercy does not mock judgment; it seeks to intervene.
When its place is fulfilled to the uttermost, then judgment likewise can come, to the uttermost. It is time to listen! THIS WORLD will not listen, but it is time for any in it, still with it, to listen and divorce from its mockeries, and find the Lord while time is held open (cf. II Corinthians 6:2). Long ? rather, but not for ever! Look then at II Peter 3:9.
2) Gospel of Christ
Now consider a partial parallel in John 13. They gather, the disciples, with Jesus. It is a supper, normal supper, it seems, before "the Lord's Supper" that sacrificially symbolic substitute for the Passover. In John this evening is shown to have included a washing of the feet of the disciples BY Christ, who did it in the most personal manner, using a towel wrapped around Himself, just as their sin and that of others who would come repentant, turning to Him AS their NON-symbolic but ACTUAL sacrifice would fall upon Him (Isaiah 53:6).
If I, He said, your Lord and master do this, how much more should you do it to each other! Some take it literally. The point is not important. Christ always stressed meaning beyond mere appearance, and there is no obvious requirement to follow this procedure, but rather the lesson in it. We had to enter through a 'door', Himself, but there was no requirement to use carpentry. To be sure, here He tells us to wash one another's feet, but He also said, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this" - John 13:7.
In other words, it was not just a literal simplicity. There was depth of meaning. Some may take it that this merely gave interpretation to the action, while others may feel it expressed the spirit of the thing, this being a parable. Certainly the spirit of it is the criterion. If some prefer the physical embodiment, that is an option. As the procedure progressed, Christ as noted in John 13:21, became "troubled in spirit" - having exposed the fact that He would be betrayed BY ONE OF THEM! Indeed, He repeated the statement after this, "Most assuredly, I tell you, one of you will betray Me."
There was a period when the disciples examined themselves, as seen in Matthew! The text proceeds to the Last Supper itself as described in the other Gospels, and from Luke we gather that this was during that Supper, so that perhaps it is at John 13:21, while Jesus is troubled, that they conclude this foot washing as the prelude to the Last Supper, and we listen anew to their conversation in that event, as from John 13:21.
In other words, in John there would be an insensible movement from Supper to the Lord's Supper, a highly specialised event, following the foot washing; and the contrast between the humility of washing feet and the enormity of betrayal BY one whose feet had just been washed in service, would become an introduction. The theme of service, betrayal and nearness, with redemption itself about to be paid for, however, would carry through, so that this would be the bond in John between the prelude and the principal event; and what a transition!
From service to betrayal and from betrayal to a profound loyalty of God to man: how unhappily usual is this, that HE acts in mercy and man, turning his back, would even betray the love, mock the mercy and carry out his own will instead. Is it I ? they asked, as did Judas (Luke 21:23, Matthew 26:25), and Christ gave to him a piece of bread, which He had first dipped, as indication that this was so, after that query and IMMEDIATELY Judas went to betray himself, the disciples, the nation and the Lord; and many have followed his way (John 13:30).
3) The Grace of God
So does each person, each nation and this world indeed await now the end. There have been two millenia of warning, just as, it seems, Israel from Abraham's prelude to their national format, had something the same before Judas led a legion to betray Christ and depart from their Messiah. Now the whole world is on notice. Revelation points to the parallel, as in Revelation 10:5-7 (bold it. added).
angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to
heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever,
who created heaven and the things that are in it,
the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it,
that there should be delay no longer,
but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound,
the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets."
Revelation shows through the two witnesses (a figure taken from Zechariah 4) of the next Chapter, namely 11, the removal of the Church called to "come up here!" ( Revelation 11:12 cf. Matthew 24:29-31 and see Alpha, Acme and Omega: Jesus Christ Ch. 5), that this is indeed so, for the whole Age is there reviewed and this end to it is seen in a vast overview.
There is an end. There is a time. There is delay in mercy; but there an end in final judgment. To disjoin this end from your beginnings, you need to act, and not meditate only. It is not God who delays in vague callings, but MAN who delays in wrong turnings; for the turning needed is this, to repent and believe Him who calls, to stay not merely to the Last Supper (from which Judas went 'immediately'), but to the transfer of guilt from you to God, placarded on the cross as Christ, whom it images; it is by faith to receive what Judas rejected, and not only to live, but to rejoice in Him.
If this day you do not yet know Christ, let there be NO MORE DELAY.
If this day you are caught in some sin, eject it, and let there be NO MORE DELAY.
If this day you have some duty or responsibility to fulfil for God, then DO IT, and let there be NO MORE DELAY.
Praise God, HE did not delay, but waited till the time was ready; and when the time comes, as it WILL come, just as He acted the first time, to die on time, around A.D. 30, as Daniel forecast (Christ the Citadel ... Ch. 2, Highway of Holiness Ch. 4), so now He will arrive to rule and to judge (Acts 17:31).
That is not all that is forecast: the forecasts of God take hold. Israel is back as planned (Luke 21:24, Ezekiel 36-37, Micah 7): the results are accruing as planned. Skirmishes abound, but soon, in due time, the results confound those who reject Him, both our Creator and the One calling all to come to be redeemed, careened, the only Redeemer this world has, can have or will have, the site of humanity focussed for pardon through purchase. To Him, come without delay; for Him, go without delay. He has both come and He calls.
When you arrive, it is with a Shepherd instead of to a life of withering guns, wasted opportunities, wicked machinations and spiritual turmoil. It is to a peace which is so profound, that the oceans merely intimate something of the grandeur of His feeling, the winds the thrust of His power and the brilliant composition of space, the extent of His joy. Exuberant in He in His life, and the creation attests this, but He is not volatile, but rather like Rock (Psalm 18:31), reliable, massive in solidity, immovable, settled and secure. His word does not change, because He does not. It is Jesus Christ the same, yesterday (in prophecy), today (in spiritual application by His Spirit) and forever (in regal role as Lord). That is Hebrews 13:8. In Him it is all to be governed and assessed, and what joy, when the assessment that matters most is simply this: ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED (Ephesians 1:6), with eternal life the function of His fellowship for ever (Ephesians 1:11).
Yet this is not all. His is a yielding to entreaty based on His word, a willingness to procure what is necessary, to provide the need of mission and the marching orders for life. He is not only the only Mediator ( I Timothy 2), but the constant companion, as befits those made for divine and not merely human supervision, and so chafing continually when divorced from Him, and attached to what fails. He explains all, enables all and does not linger where sin rules; but He DOES entreat, exhort and exhibit a far better way than cruelty to oneself or others.
More than this, He is willing, if we listen and wait on Him according to His word, to speak as a friend. Friendship with God is not only irreplaceable, it is necessary. Without this, you are an aeroplane without air, a ship minus water, an image for a company which does not even exist, but is all show and tend towards becoming a platitude without the creative artistry of God, not just to formulate you as at the first, but to form and mould you into that reciprocity and love which both yields character and shields from folly; for then, the joy of the Lord will indeed be your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Then come the meadows of mercy, where in quietness and confidence, you wait on and find nurture in your God.