AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH October 4, 2009
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND BASE OF THE
OF AUSTRALIA (1901) ON BIBLICAL LINES …
EZEKIEL 18-34: CULMINATIONS OF THE LOVE
AND THE JUDGMENT OF GOD PART III
First, let us focus the fact that this message of Ezekiel 33:11, is a specific reply to the moaning mournfulness cited for some within Israel, dispirited, guilty, skipping in the tempests created by their own sin, still not met, though ready deliverance is at hand!
Before marvelling too much at their slowness, consider both the nations now, and many of the churches, merely misnamed hulks of anti-biblical concoctions and pretence. That happened then ? how could it! Yes, but this happens now. Judgment ended it then; world-wide judgment is to come. But the message of deliverance, now as then, continues to stream its beauty to the wind, to be seen increasingly, by all the earth, as had to be done before the end (Matthew 24:12). The end has to come, but a lot had to be done first; and it is being done at express speed to this day.
Secondly, observe of Ezekiel 33:11, this key verse, that it comes with absoluteness of certainty, as sure as is the life of God. Nothing is equal in certainty to that. It is not a possibility, question, open door to the unknown. It is from the all-knowing God to the distressed heart.
As I LIVE, He indicated stoutly, this is the truth. Then the fact noted in Ezekiel 18, He has no pleasure in the death of the soul that lives, becomes more pointed. NOW we read more intimately (emphasis added): "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked!" We therefore move from the end to life, God’s not desiring the death of the soul that lives, to the end of the wicked, that is, of those who in themselves both have and show the ground of the death that awaits them, in this case eternal, without light and thus without life. It is this in which God has no pleasure.
That He would take pleasure in such an outcome ? The case is far otherwise as He has done all to the contrary, to achieve it (John 3:15-19).
How ludicrous such a concept! as if He WOULD have pleasure in such a failure of heart, pollution of potential, desecration of creation. It is not as if He gloats, saying 'Ah! here is a wicked one. I'll squash and squelch him!' like a malicious child. He NEEDS from us, NOTHING, having made us comprehensively; and having no limits, He sets the place of our time itself, as a mere creation for man and such as He sends into it.
He takes no pleasure in blind and sick wickedness and its assured and interminable end, an eternal exclusion. He would vastly prefer repentance, and though it is most clear in the Bible that HE runs the universe (Ephesians 1:11), it is no less clear that the WAY He has it for man is this, that if in His sight, who knows all, from before time (Ephesians 1:4) was and sin entered, apart from all works, this is found to be the preference of man, so is the destiny. Indeed in His foreknowledge, beyond terrestrial events (Romans 9), if man prefers darkness, it is THIS and not some internal preference of another kind within Him, which leads to condemnation.
Not only is it is SO STATED, in the very context of His love being of such a kind that He sent His Son into this world NOT to judge it, but that the world might be saved; but any such concept is in utter contradiction of His stated motivation! Saving the world is the objective, sending the Son is the method, love is the motivation, NOT-judgment is the exclusion in the motivation concerned, salvation as objective being thus both positively and negatively indicated, in how it is, and how it is not to be conceived in this enterprise. Saving the world, without judgment (John 3:16-17), this is the mission of the Son who has come with faith the instrument; and it is not part of the world alone to which He so directs, though part of it indeed will be what love in its pristine purity achieves.
Note the negation: God did NOT send His Son into the WORLD to condemn the world.
He DID send His Son into the WORLD, that the WORLD might be saved. As in Colossians 1:19ff., it is clear that we are to conceive of God as the One in entire focus as to motivation and action; it is this world which as an entity is clear beyond question in relation to the God who so created all things as in John 1:1-3, that is involved. There is the exclusion of a possible construction of His motivation in John 3:17 and an inclusion of the true construction in John 3:16. In John 3:19 there is an inclusion of the correct interpretation of the lot of the lost and its ground and basis IN THE SIGHT OF GOD, who after all, is He who speaks. It is better to listen than to tell God when He so discloses His heart. It is ALWAYS better to listen, but here eminently so!
His own are the outcome (II Timothy 2:19), and as to those who prefer darkness when the gift of eternal life is HIS OWN preference for this same world: what then ? As He LIVES, in these with this preference and its result, and in this apportionment of such a result, He has entirely no pleasure. What then of the limited attainment ? This is satisfactory to love which was never a brute! He not only, of course, foreknew what was fitting and sound, but this being so (the next step as in Romans 8:29ff.), He so ordained it by predestination, the receptacle of this foreknowledge, and NOT its genesis!
Pleasure, then, in the death of the wicked ? Do not be ludicrous. AS I LIVE, the Lord indicates, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in something utterly divergent from this.
The intoxicated seeming virtual or almost malediction on God to imagine it otherwise is in eloquent defiance of His word (cf. Colossians 1:19). Far from Him is any preference for or pleasure in the death of the wicked.
In what then does He have pleasure or with what IS He pleased ? If that is the negative, what then is the positive ? It is that the wicked should turn from his evil way and live. Life, the soul that lives, thus turn from its blight to its right. It is not to its ‘rights’, this foolish song of the go-getters; it is to its right, that necessary way that is at one with God Himself. It is to come to a singular and simple point: TURN. Do not view, speculate, contemplate, consider, but TURN. If you are in a WRONG WAY, GO BACK, channel on a highway, then you could discuss the rights to put in such a notice, its clarity, its form of diction and so forth. However, WHILE you do this, without turning, you are STILL on the wrong way, and your waywardness is under immediate scrutiny, is foolishness and involves approach to catastrophe. You would do well to TURN NOW.
Similarly, if a shark has his jaws opening in the region of your head, and you consider poking it in the eye, as from time to time one hears has been done by those threatened in this or that case, then the consideration, in view of the rather obvious situation, should not be long. Brevity is the answer and action to recourse: immediate action. There is no excuse for being wrong, and then when ordered, ignoring the order. This simply escalates things unwarrantably and inconceivably, depending on the case, into whatever dimensions apply. Do what it takes. In this case, it is not a pandemonium of action, but reception, realisation and repentance, turning to the living God whose own Spirit draws (John 12:32).
Then comes the exhortation: TURN, TURN and LIVE! It is not a mental conundrum, or an existential consideration, but an invitation to life. It is the sort of turning in a milieu such that to turn is to live. Not to turn is a course of no return. Again the invitation deepens, "TURN, TURN FROM YOUR EVIL WAYS." What you turn from is clear-cut, is unseemly, unsatisfactory, irremediable as a course of action in continuance. This must be renounced: not only DE-nounced but RE-nounced. It must be a thing of the past, put away like a sword in the sitting room, dishonoured, rejected with disgust as a killer. This is repentance into life (Acts 11:18). Then a rush of royal feeling comes from the Lord: HE does not want death, it is a sentence, not a paragraph, and needs to be COVERED. The situation is simple, but the case is dire.
He is making an offer. He is asking you to study the result of failure here. WHY WILL YOU DIE ? Is there some compulsive wish, some brown study or trance which paralyses ? if not, why is it that you continue, since it involves your death, the vitality of brilliance conferred upon you, drained off as to a mouldy swamp, as if the electric power coursing through your nerves were short-circuited into an unfussy earth, or as if the place of thought were sacrificed like a shot bird, your highest dreams and hopes, left like a shattered looking -glass. WHY WILL YOU DIE ? O house of Israel.
As in Proverbs 1, it applies to one and to all; as in John 3, it ends, this stubborn refusal to re-route and find the Lord, with this: that "the wrath of God abides" on the renegade, the resistant maverick, the sin-fraught soul, friend of earth, patron of the pit.
STEP 4 THREE REFUSALS ...
THE CONSUMMATION AND THE CONSEQUENCES, THEN AND NOW
As again in case of Proverbs 1, in the day of Ezekiel, the city does not repent, the end is swift. It is announced in this very same Chapter (33:21ff.).
This self-same city did this same renegade act when Christ came offering the most direct path to God conceivable - God had COME TO them, and they had merely to COME TO HIM! But they would not. As in Matthew 23:37, He WOULD have gathered them as so often, as chicks under His wings; but they were not willing. As in Luke 19:42, they might have realised His coming as the climax and wonder of time, when as predicted, and at the time predicted (cf. Christ the Citadel Ch. 2), He came to show the power and pity, the love and grace of God, incarnate as a person; this was their opportunity (Luke 19:41ff.). Pre-occupied with survival (as in John 11:45ff.), they secured their forthcoming destruction, like a paratrooper refusing to jump, when the time came, while the aeroplane on which he sat, plummeted itself to ruin.
(A) THE FIRST REFUSAL – THE LAND
They might have seen this as the DAY OF DELIVERANCE, just as Israel, as recorded in Numbers 14, MIGHT have simply entered the promised land, now that they were so near to it, some 1400 years before. But they WOULD NOT! They would not then, and in this, the day of peril, they would not. Hence that generation of Israel died, that with Moses, turning from the simple act of entry into their land. What happened ? they continued on with a species of living for 40 wandering years in the desert on the way to death; and so it was the next generation that entered, under Joshua, himself one of those who wanted to go in, whereas the people would not follow. Similarly now, many turn from the simple act of entry through Jesus Christ, the door (John 10:9) into the kingdom of heaven (John 10:27-28), so losing permanent residing in the blessed balm and bosom of God.
B) THE SECOND REFUSAL – THE REST
The promised land scenario, as in Numbers 14; the promised rest scenario, as in Ezekiel 33; the salvation gift consummation in Christ, as in Luke 19:42ff.... there were three. The case was in each time, similar; the response likewise, and the result in essence, did not vary. It meant destruction at worst, wandering without the point of life fulfilled, at the best, as when refusing to enter their land, and pointless death. In the second case, that of Ezekiel 33, they pined away, wondering how to live! Yet they did not turn to Him, the prophet’s words being like a lovely song: alas they did not act (Ezekiel 33:22), restless without repentance, enduring without seizing the right, persevering without heart, destroyed in life before they fell, misled by false prophets (Ezekiel 14), self-sentenced, unsublime.
C) THE THIRD REFUSAL – THE LORD
But what of the third case! By then, mercy itself uniquely incarnate, they turned instead to sorrows of seeking selfish survival (John 11:18ff.). "If you known," said Jesus Christ, "even you, especially in this your day, the things which belong to your peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes." There had been time for invitation, attestation of His power and Messiah-ship, His healing of vast multitudes and His words, all to register, for questions and answers, for responses and for offers; but that time now was past, IF ONLY they had realised! but now, with the heart hardened, the eyes tightly shut (cf. Matthew 13:15ff.), the door of opportunity shuts. Jerusalem is to be destroyed, and that, it is the second time.
Just as, once before in the time of the cry of Ezekiel as in 33:11, they rejected offer: so in the day of Christ, as an aftermath soon to come, Jerusalem was destroyed. Imagine Jesus the sacrifice, the very One to be murdered, weeping. Imagine Him weeping AS they rejected their deliverance, and made of Him the very picture in body of their sins of the soul, weeping for those about to kill Him! because in forsaking Him, they invite a very prodigy of suffering; for truth CANNOT be bypassed. He foreseeing their blight intended for Him, before it happens, is deep in weeping for the evils they will in this sultry way, bring upon themselves. Why did He die ? Out of love. Why did He weep ? out of love.
It is almost as if they had practised the part: twice had there been this desultory or defiant NO! and tragedy grew like a mushroom cloud. On the third occasion, it was to last for some 1900 years, and in part is not even now, over. In the day of Jesus the Christ, the offer had been made, in the most intense language, and they rejected it, not only dying in the vision of their hearts, but actually going so far as to KILL the Christ who made the offer.
To be sure, this death was, in the profundity of the wisdom of God, the METHOD by which ANYONE would and could be saved, for it was as a sacrifice for sin, as predicted, He knowingly and willingly died. Nevertheless, whatever the result, the deed was the same in its moral and implicative character. They had doomed themselves because "in this your day", they did not receive Him, truth was put on notice and then nailed, not into their minds and hearts, but in the incarnate hands and feet, and tossed out, complete with scorn, as with all but insufferably hideous blindness. What was their music ? It was this, sounding in the challenge: If God delights in you, come down from the cross. Then we will believe you! Such was the tenor of their scorn, scoffing, bully-boy bravado!
WOULD they really do so, however ? Not at all! for, even if He had done so, come down from the cross fast, without dying, yet the case would justly be made that He who would die for sin, had absconded, He who had sounded free salvation through His own work, had Himself failed, had died in heart instead of doing so in body, had resiled from His royal parade and fallen into the very sin which He had come to meet as Deliverer! What scorn is there; for if one fears scorn, a foolish thing at the hand of those themselves merely sinners, what is the scorn which results from the fear of scorn, when it is not mere mutiny of words against truth that is in view, but TRUTH itself. If you DO fail, then the heart itself is disabled, pending pardon, and folly roams like a ravenous lion. It is never wise to fail at the hands of man, in ANYTHING. Follow truth, buy it and do not sell, as Proverbs declares. Come down from the cross! then, this was the cry.
THE DIVINE REFUSAL THAT SINGS OF LOVE
Jesus Christ did not do this. He who could raise the dead, and whose very raising of the dead had, as attested in John 11, made His death appear, to those foolishly doting on their own survival, to be utterly necessary: He would not act for His own 'deliverance' by abandoning mission! Never: love, quite simply is not like that, and God is love. Thus NOTHING contrary to it is to be found in Him, who gave Himself to deliver, and allows man to deliver himself to death, only after His own bearing and offering of free deliverance, to those who will but come in faith to receive Him back, who made man.
What if Christ HAD come down ? His refusal to do so meant that instead of all going justly to hell, the Saviour emptied that potential horror, by saving some. That is the way with God: He saves some. Some would find it as if it were hell, to be in heaven, so unruly is their heart, so vapid the mind, so fatuous their ambition, or so resistant the spirit: very well, to be it. God did not make us so that this was impossible, but He pleads with us not so to perform. The magnificence of the knowledge of God, the friend over all and the vision splendid in fact, beyond all computation, this requires liberty. You cannot have the one whose very nature is love, by peremptory force or robotic control. That is not even the truth!
God insists on all things being wrought in the light, not in the darkness of theoretical possibilities. This world, facing diverse eternities for its inhabitants, is not left in some dubious state of conceivable tyranny. The truth is open; the choice against Christ is free, and the ground is even. If God is to be yours, He who knows all things secures you, and you agree, because your heart is in it, for God has put it there, who knew you before time was, and before the case where sin made differentials in the souls of men.
You DO want Him ? Yet He would like you to TURN, repent and receive Him and acting, TURN from your evil ways. This includes a change from putting your own life and spirit ahead of its Maker, and insisting on keeping your little corn of wheat, all nice and tidy, your VERY own. The alternative for the 'grain of wheat' which represents the individual man or woman or child ? It must fall into the ground of the love of God, and being ruptured into life, put up the shoots of a new life, which bears abundant results, while it is rooted in the ground of His truth. Just as HE cares for you, then your surrendered life, and then only, declares itself IN the Lord, Christ the foundation (I Corinthians 3:11), and not as some seamy, dreamy or godless substitute, hypocritical alloy or false front.
How great is the glory of the God who gives, does so personally, even INSISTS on coming into human form, leaving none to philosophise, doing it actually and humanly, meeting the worst that man can give in order to provide for man the wonder that God would like to give, and is ready to give. It is this which He does and will give to every one who turns, receives and believes Him, in His Son whom He has sent: for if you do not believe in Him, the direct and perfect image of God (Heb. 1), that PROVES that you cannot come to God, He is outré to you. So is it seen that you reject Him, whatever the format of your thought and words. It is as simple as that. Nor is there any need to be judging, concerning hypocrites, for God knows them eternally and none will deceive Him (Matthew 7:21ff.).
Here, in Jesus Christ, is giving with discretion, undeceivable grace, a work to lend to man the values and virtues and victory he needs, so that in subjection to Christ, finding his place, he has a freedom as glorious as that of the bird that soars; for now the very heavens open to his sight, and now the liberty of the Spirit (II Cor. 3:17), not to depart from the word of God, but to rejoice in it, proceeds like Spring after the season of Winter . Then, knowing the way, with a vitality of love in the truth, delighting in it, does each child of God find where mercy lives, so that man being moved from the pit, moves to the friendship of God Himself.