AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH September 27, 2009
A CONTINUATION OF THE
ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF AUSTRALIA (1901) ON BIBLICAL LINES … Ezekiel 18-34
CULMINATIONS OF THE LOVE AND THE JUDGMENT OF GOD
STEP 3: WHERE PASSION SUMMITS
JEW AND GENTILE: A COMMON TARGET
Last Sunday, we moved from Ezekiel 18 and its message, to Ezekiel 33 and its so famous appeal. This Sunday we plan to cover the issues leading to that climax in 33, so that on October 4, DV, we may focus further on that very Chapter. As so often in the prophets and in Christ, there comes that glorious soaring in a lively, loving passion for salvation for the people whom the Lord has made, one which of course is not limited to Israel. That nation is the national messenger first sent, which was to fail in its spiritual task, though it DID provide the Old Testament via the prophets, then woman through whom the Christ came! (cf. Romans 9).
Failure flowed, first to Israel, then next to the Gentiles, also sought of God - as in Psalm 67, 73, Jeremiah 16:19-21, Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, implied in Ezekiel 39:21-24 with 17:22-24. As appalling loss came to the one, so it came, is coming and will come to the other: to the Gentile it will arrive, no less than it did with the Jews. Yet whether with Jew or Gentile, God reaps His remnant, the godly, gracious, those intent on the Lord. These are found according to His will, saved by sacrifice, centring at last in Christ Himself AS that very sacrifice, terminal, triumphant, in Him AS that very King who alone has peace because His is both mercy and truth (Isaiah 9:6-7, Ephesians 1:11-2:8).
A remnant of Jew and Gentile are alike to be found, as in prophecy so in history. Great is the desire of deity for His creation, to redeem it from its sin. Satisfaction and implementation of this vast yearning and desire, which He has had and still has for Israel, it is too restricted by any such limitation to that one nation.
Its role must be expanded to the other nations. It is, the Lord declares to the Messiah:
"TOO SMALL that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes
and to restore the preserved ones of Israel:
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth,' " (Isaiah 49:6),
ONLY GOD is Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), and Christ saves (Isaiah 53:4ff.). Thus to the whole earth this Gospel goes, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, as commanded in Matthew 28:19-20 in commission, and exhibited in two thousand forthcoming years to the present, in history. This is in terms of the New Covenant noted in Ezekiel 37:26-28, with ONE King, the One promised through the seed of David, seen as Redeemer for all the earth, available to one as to all, in Psalm 72:8-19. HIS due it is (Ezekiel 21:27), to rule, and HIS it is to be, who paid for peace by taking upon Himself the war on life that is sin, and breaking it with His purity and power; for neither could death hold Him, nor could justice fold Him: but He arose, He who lives, who was dead and now is alive for ever (Rev. 1:18).
This is the outcome; but let us revert to the income, to the glory of the goodness of God, the God of all grace and comfort, in His protestation, invitation and sustained call, not to arms, but to divine alms, to the reception of His restorative kindness, not merely to this or that land - and Israel indeed has a specific testimony in this (Galloping Events Ch. 4 cf. Genesis 17). Yet it is to each and every heart which receives the lively offer and vital dynamic of the God who saves, for there is no other who is Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), and He who came, Jesus Christ, is none other than God.
If then the attitude toward God through Jew and Gentile in the drama around Pilate, with priest and misled people putting their ideas into practice to kill the Christ: if this betokens the way of this earth, is it so surprising that there is no resolution to malice, malignancy, thrusting and pretension, furore and fighting, no end to the hatred, no beginning to the peace and beauty of holiness, amid the nations! for as soon as one begins to turn, at once, or soon, there is a fall. It is not in a nation but in the kingdom of heaven that peace comes, in and through the grace of God (cf. Matthew 13). It is there, in Christ, that it comes, and not in this earth's mockery of Christianity, as in the almost endless ancient and modern sects and false prophets, from Muhammad and the papacy (cf. More Marvels... Ch 4. and SMR pp. 911ff., 1032-1088H), on the one hand, and on the other, in innovative, seductive schemes and movements (cf. News 121, 122, Celestial Harmony for the Terrestrial Host Ch. 10 B, Lively Lessons in Spiritual Service Ch. 6) that have followed, mulled by those misled, as some mulct their victims, so that all confused, in vehemence or terror, chatter or champing, can find the ache that is non truth, and the fake that it is the lie (II Thess. 2:10).
FAITH AND FIASCO
Vast though the modes of deception may be, for those who mislead and those who are felled by them, and ignorant of what they do, as some may in some measure be, the results are the same; for when the heart is taken, then the more it moves from some taste of heavenly things, the more is the danger of no return (cf. Hebrews 6 and 10), of a superficial slide, a token ride, an ephemeral fossick. What has once EATEN and DRUNK as in John 6:51, this does not fall. This result we see paralleled in John 4:14 and confirmed in 5:24, 10:9,27-28: receiving by faith the saving power of Christ, not an image or idol, but the life for life transaction, this binding to the Word made flesh who binds to His word written and to no other doctrine, as basis for belief: this does not fail. So John 6 abundantly shows, for God will raise it up! Yet what tastes and touches and wonders, wanders and scamps, with whatever device, philosophical or theological or carnal or of semantic trickery, this is like one who dangles from a rope from an aircraft, as it wanders through icy mounts, weaving between the shafts that sharply protrude.
As in all these things, the grandeur of the truth, not the folly of fooling with it, following wisps and caprice, rather than solid and unassailable evidence over the several millenia, what is founded from the first, rightly stirs the heart to seek the Lord, at any cost: to find and to be received (cf. Jeremiah 29:13, Proverbs 8:32-36). Either temporising or tampering can become a death warrant; for we are not made of stone or metal, but with hearts susceptible, readily bruised, contused with their own type of injuries, wound upon wound, sin within sin. The grace and mercy of God, however, continues to work, while this world wallows, now in pride, now in distemper, now in passions of folly, now in self-regard and then in foolish and weak-minded schemes, plans and resolutions which merely pour into a concrete setting, the dreams of the restless heart of unsaved man. These too are to reach an evil climax in the 'man of sin' (II Thessalonians 2), who is to parade himself as if God, in due course.
Through this, the Good Shepherd, on the one side, and the evil shepherd on the other (II Thessalonians 2), the very culmination of blessing and of cursing, the end comes (cf. Mark 13:14ff.). It does so as this earth's inhabitants are filtered this way and that, like purified cream and poisoned milk from a separator, through the different shutes to the repositories. That comes to the final confrontation, no more a matter of milk or cream; for God being God, this shows itself in a matter of flames for the inflammatory, and purging for the impure (Revelation 19, II Thessalonians 1), reception for the redeemed and cover for the company who are His. Persecution by lie is now replaced by determination by truth. Judgment then roars like flames in oxygen (cf. Revelation 19).
Back of all this, however is the passion for salvation, deliverance, not detente; for cleansing, not improvement; for categorical new creation (II Corinthians 5:17ff.) for man, not upgrading of folly to a better name. And that ? It is found in its moving beauty, in Ezekiel 33, to which we now return.
EZEKIEL 33 … In this Chapter, Ezekiel 33 then, comes the revisitation to the appeal of Ezekiel 18, as specifically directed to Israel. This message starts with the concept of the watchman. It is not MERELY a concept indeed, and it is a blessed function to warn, whether of the need not to have too much shrubbery near the house, in the hills area of a city, lest bush fires should make short and swift work of desolation, to bring death or devastation all but unthinkable in times of peace and green beauty, or of things spiritual and that other fire, for God is a consuming fire. The watchmen are to warn the city of approaching doom, and if they do not, then they are responsible (rather like a lookout on a ship, or one looking for submarines, who engages in drunken sleep instead, so that the ship is sunk). If however they cry out, shrill and quick, and the people IGNORE the warning, then of course, they have no responsibility for that; but the people who did not HEED, theirs is the responsibility (33:2-3).
Obvious, you say! One would like to think so, but when it comes to spiritual living, to what one's life is all about, its motivations and sought summits, its nature as desired and its mode of being, then it is perfectly astonishing, that people will frequently, sometimes almost universally, shrug or shrink or both, when faced with reality. Whether in this way or some other way or ways, they simply will NOT HEED. They may say, Yes I believe these things! but yet not act. They may discern the justice, but somehow cannot or will not move. They often mirror Lot's wife, who was drawn back when on the way out; and sometimes, worse, they do not even MOVE at all!
What then is not so obvious is how hard is the task of the watchman, when as now in the Gentile world, and then in earlier times in the site of Israel, the words fall on ears subverted already, meet hearts hardened into formalism or even express rebellion, and sound out their message into a culture of defamation of God (as illustrated in Malachi 2:10-17). It is then that a whole nation can become most vulnerable to the sedition from long spiritual snoozing, like Russia prone to Communist horror and lies, in 1917, when instead of a heaven, they found tens of millions of murdered people, some slowly having life extracted as they toiled, to reduce food intake and get a maximum productive result, together with pain, from a minimum input of State finances. Has hell more debasement than this! Marvellous! the devil himself could do little more grievous than that, and doubtless had a hand in it. Yet Putin is reported as regarding the downfall of the USSR as a thing most tragic in the 20th century!
It is, then, in the day of Ezekiel, sent to a nation most advanced towards ruin, after some centuries of divine exhortation, occasional revival and challenge, that this prophet gives this second element of the theme of divine mercy and appeal. It is now as relevant as then; and indeed, far greater is the responsibility of this generation, who have had two millenia of background, and to whose very eyes the prophecies of the things preceding the coming of Christ are exposed, like X-rays to the eye of a doctor, concerning the things that lie within man, and the structure of his anatomy. That, it is given in detail in Answers to Questions Ch. 5, and SMR 8 - 9.
What happened in Ezekiel 33, then, that is so notable ? We find Ezekiel is now divinely appointed as a WATCHMAN (33:7). "Therefore," the Lord declares, "you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for me." If then Ezekiel were to be told to instruct a man of his coming death for sin, and the prophet should forbear, then that man will STILL die in his sin, but "his blood I will require at your hand." If on the other hand, Ezekiel gives the warning, then "you have delivered your soul." The Lord next instructs Ezekiel to speak to them, and here is the message for them.
"Thus you say, 'If our transgression and our sins lie upon us,
and we pine away in them, how can we then live ?' "
You can readily see both sides here. Israel is estranged from the living God, yet it still has some forms, and assuredly approaches various gods, it is useless to hide it, but then what hope is there for it ? It becomes more and more, to its jaded spirit, like a man with blackened teeth, writhing with tooth-ache, with discoloured and worn-out shoes and hair anointed with some tarry mixture, misplaced thoughts and disordered understanding in his mind, coming to seek employment from an interview with a potential boss! HOW then, they ask, shall we live ?
You can almost see the shrug of the shoulders, and perhaps a moue in a dissatisfied countenance topped with dulled eyes, giving perhaps an averted glance: If this is what man becomes, sin-infested as if with fungus in the fingers, if this be the apt description, diagnosis for a displaced race: if this is so, then look with us, behold our gloom (33:10). It is not just doom, it is our present state and its marked capacity to continue itself, awry, amiss. We are corrupt ? so be it, but we are also CAUGHT, and so in this diseased, pre-decease state, we PINE AWAY ? What can life do with that!
Now the case is very clear, and intensely pitiful; and indeed to the Lord our Maker, it is so pitiful that, despite the centuries of folly, interspersed with revivals and sounder living at time, He makes most clear His heart to the people what is in His offer. It is not evanescent. It is not that it does not exist. It can be disowned, maligned, but IT IS THERE. As then, so it is now. It is after all time, when you are facing and faced by the God of all power, and not this only, all wisdom, who moreover created you with the universe in the first place, if not before, to realise that the Lord’s attitude is crucial and determinative, in His own terms, of the result. If one rejects them, then one seizes all responsibility in one action. But they are THERE, these blessed terms of surrender to His spiritual surgeon's hands; and it is HE who backs them, so there is no trouble AT ALL for those who heed, none whatsoever (Romans 8:29ff.).
Sufferings, yes, but subversion, no; confrontation there is, but yet content (Philippians 4:10-14).
EZEKIEL 33:11 What then IS this divine attitude ? It is this as found in Ezekiel 33:11, which is an extension of what is found in Ezekiel 18, at which beauty and gem we have already looked in delighted appraisal. God now gives to Ezekiel a message-in-reply to the doleful protestation of Israel, as just cited (33:10). He tells the prophet what to say to them, so repining.
"Say to them, 'As I live, says the Lord GOD,
'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,
but that the wicked turn from his way and live.
Turn, turn form your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel ?"
After this text, the very next thing recorded is the Fall of Jerusalem! Next Sunday, DV, we look directly at this passionately pure message. Passion with purity, what an ensemble, the output of the Lord! The message, it was still there to the end, just before Jerusalem fell; just as it was still there, just before the crucifixion of Christ the Lord, recorded in Matthew 23:37, in Luke 19:42ff.. Then, as they were ignoring it, time moved on, and in a little, one generation, Jerusalem, moved out! It was gone. What! was it quite gone ? “Did you say all … all ?” as Macduff exclaims of his slain children and wife. Yes, quite gone. In A.D. 70, the city was eliminated, and Israel, which had dispersed the body of Christ, was dispersed. It was exiled. The Prince of peace gone (Isaiah 9:6-7), what could you POSSIBLY expect but war; and the engineer of the soul stricken, what lies ahead, but the devastations with need unmet! Jerusalem then, as with this world now, was set for and awaiting judgment. While mercy had been ready to pour down, like solace in drought, and mercy rushed to the condemnation chamber on death row, yet they would not receive Him whose it is.
SOME DID HEED! It is to the glory of the blessed Lord, that He so urges, surges, appeals, offers, invites, that some are healed, saved, restored to grace, given everlasting redemption, become children of the living God, kept for ever (I Peter 1:5-8, John 5:24, I John 5:11-12, Hebrews 9:12, 10:10-14, Romans 8:29ff., II Timothy 1:8ff.)! Praise His name, His fame is just, His favour surpassing.