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FAITH STIRRING FEEDINGS IN EZEKIEL
Ezekiel is not normally thought of in terms of the evangelical prophet, Isaiah; yet with Zechariah, he has amongst a vast array of factual prophecies, an enormous input in symbolism, not as uniformly self-interpreting as in Zechariah, but not the less intriguing and instructive for that reason. It is at times profitable to be challenged to find out, to discover, to put on the glasses of enquiry and to search things out. Let us then do this in terms of our interest in the Messiah, especially, since He is a criterion of all prophecy (cf. Revelation - "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy").
This will lead us to heaven, from which He
came to express His Father perfectly, and to history, where His word
established its power in itself, to do what is unthinkable for man. And that ? It is to predict in multitudes of occasion and with
factual precision in the high performance field of events, that NON-laboratory
scientific field where the power of God
NEVERTHELESS instructs events, so that what He foretells is what occurs.
This is so far past all computers, which can collect information and deal with directed variables aptly, that it is even into the field of human will, whether pathological mentally, or o the other hand, sanctified, whether collective in hysteria or culturally land-locked, enlightened and wistful, poignant or crazed with grief: it presents no barrier to God. It all has outcomes, known to God who - of necessity in terms of the limitless facility of His nature - knows it all ahead, readily able in profound detail and multiplied events over thousands of years to say what He will about what will be in any field or dimension, personal or impersonal, and to do He pleases, thus fulfilling His word in Psalm 115:3: "But our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases," and again in 135,
"For I know that the LORD
And our LORD is above all gods.
Whatever the LORD pleases He does,
In heaven and in earth..." (from Psalm 135:5-6).
We shall now plan to look at specialised features in Ezekiel's prophecy, including the following topics:
1. WHO THE LORD IS - the LORD is GOD!
Ezekiel 1 and 10, and the moving distancing of the Creator from the scene of His human creation, in these chapters, which start in vision and culminate in severance.
First, let us see what is presented in this astounding vision of Ezekiel, and for the initial presentation of this, we shall present an
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE FIRST VISION OF EZEKIEL ?
HOW IS IT A MAJOR THRUST TO REPENTANCE, CLEANSING AND CONDUCT CONFORMABLE TO CHRIST ?
THE VISION OF EZEKIEL AND THE VICTORY TO HAND
1. A Preliminary Look at the Vision
Briefly, the vision of Ezekiel 1 is of the sovereign and majestic God, surrounded by the expressions of His creation. We know this because it is stated that "I saw visions of God", and Ezekiel constantly states the precise words which the Lord gives him, and dwells on the strictly inter-personal relationship between himself and God, including exhortation, command and encouragement from Him.
The fire as at Pentecost, and as in Hebrews, the CONSUMING FIRE, the OUTREACHING FIRE, involves the intense purity of God, the ultimate insistence on that purity or nothing, and the vast activity. Above this, we find at the end of the chapter 1, is a crystalline beauty, intense, beautiful, and there in control is one with resemblance to man. With this in turn is the rainbow, expressive by Biblical definition from Noah, of mercy and constancy of control. It is also stated that this is the appearance of the LIKENESS of the glory of the Lord.
It is in short a vision. As to that, it would not be possible for it to be clearer: HE SAW THE APPEARANCE OF THE LIKENESS OF THE GLORY OF THE LORD. The prophet is then addressed verbally in chapter 2.
The wheels express of course, symbolically, activity of a more instrumental kind, material and procedural and processive. They turn and proceed to an end. The 'wheels within wheels' phrase, by now a famous English idiomatic expression, expresses the intense system found in our life structure biologically, so brilliant that we can nowhere near match its creation: stunning! indicates Dr Michael Denton, non-Christian scientist who insists on a plan and action that specifically led to this amazingly ingenious and in his view, perfectly wonderful construction in the cells of life. Right down to the simplest cell, this complex ingenuity appears, he insists.
Complexity within complexity, wonder within wonder, action within action - this is the message. Nor is it limited to our cells, for our very minds which use these things are likewise so astute and acute that psychiatrists all but wither in their endeavours to repair them. Our spirits too have amazing involvements and subtleties, as well as capacities to appreciate and respond to the other wonders the Lord has made. There in itself is a wheel within a wheel: our MINDS a re created, and WITH these we can SEE within some the OTHER creations... while our spirits assess and assay implicit perspectives, and so on. (See SMR pp. 348ff..)
The wheels here however do not turn as they go. Now of course this is the whole point. Normally turning is PRECISELY what you expect of wheels. These do not do it. This obviously then is meant to be an expressive and impactive feature to make us think. Think what however?
In the light of the other extraordinary feature here, that there is the appearance of the glory of the Lord, we conclude that this feature of the wheels is expressive in some way of that glory. Which way? It seems apparent that it would signify that for ALL THEIR ACTIVITY, THERE IS YET A SOVEREIGN HAND WHICH HAS AN ULTIMATE DIRECTION. THIS is the area of our discourse, so THIS would appear the area of the intimation. That also is precisely what other Biblical doctrine states. Thus Ephesians tells us that GOD WORKS ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS WILL.
The varied living creatures are symbolically expressive of the BREADTH and variety of the living creation as it serves or impresses man, the ox, the lion, the eagle. Again, these represent features in life, quiet serviceability, strength and fearlessness and soaring coverage and perspective.
Further (1:13), far from being distanced from the Lord, they are full of coals and fire, and lightning dashes out of them, giving a testimony of enclosed dynamic within them, the dynamic of LIFE, from God. Again we find in that they "ran and returned", so that this is a picture, a portrayal of ACTION and the dynamic of life, not of departure FROM God on their part.
The RIMS () express that about which they turn, the indices of action. These are filled with eyes. This would seem to indicate the all-seeing character of the God who fashions history. Events are informed with sensors which are divinely read. It reminds one of battle field techniques in controlling surveillance with sophisticated airborne devices, manned and automatic, recording, reporting.
There is NO sense of leaving the Lord, but of action within His ambit.
What now happens however is both clear and crucial to the development of the point being made.
This GLORY of the Lord now - in the midst of instructions to the prophet to confront his sinning and rebellious nation, which is about to be invaded so that there will be divinely DETERMINED exile - MOVES. The movement is
THAT is the motion aspect, in the clear context of all the VERBALLY EXPLICIT instructions of the Lord to the prophet. He would be, He stated, a little sanctuary to the people, in the exile. Here He is moving to perform that, showing by didactic and instructive vision, just that.
2. Some Scriptures for this Exercise:
Then the Spirit lifts him up and takes him away, so that in spirit he visits the exiles to whom the Lord is moving.
Abominations are revealed in the temple, gross caricatures of the things of God, idols and images of human invention: Ezekiel 8. Ezekiel is likewise led in vision to behold these, one of the grounds of the Lord moving FROM the temple, and the Jews going to exile. In the context of the vision, this then relates to the Lord's glory first being shown IN VISION, and then being seen to move away from the land and the temple in particular.
This simply confirms the intimation of the vision already made: that it is a spiritually directed universe with which we have to do, for all its appearance of multitudes of designs and procedures. WHEELS are subject to the Lord. They turn at HIS pleasure. Our own wheels in an automobile, when it is in form, tend to do just the same, for all their mechanical niceties. THIS is their purpose, and as they handled right, this is what they do - go where our spirits direct them. With God , there is no weakness as with us, and the procedure is perfect.
· Ezekiel tells the Jews that even though they would go a long way from their land during the disciplinary period, yet the Lord would be to them as "a little sanctuary". The blessing would not depart because they had to leave their land and their temple. It was all under control.
· Ezekiel 3:8-9.
· "Behold I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead: do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house." Moreover He said to me:" Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. And go, get to he captives, to the children of your people and speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God,' whether they will hear , or whether they refuse."
Thus we are dealing with a precisely pronounced word from God Almighty, addressed with imagery and vision to a rebellious people in which He indicates His entire control, judicious decisions and coming requirements in the peregrinations of His people, in which however, He will neither leave them nor forsake them. Better to be disciplined by the Lord, than praised by this puny world, which so often has its hand in its pocket, and its philosophies bred with mice.
The lesson: REPENT and BELIEVE in the Lord, and be ESPECIALLY careful not to caricature Him by making Him up according to any philosophy. Find Him where He is, and be thankful, realising this same word tells us this:
name? JESUS CHRIST OF
3. More on the Deliverer who Comes in the Glory of the Lord, God with us, for Offer to the Children of Men
Not merely does Ezekiel, in communion with that same One called the LORD in the vision, receive explanation and direction concerning what God is doing, in WORDS, explicit and direly related to the vision, but there is evidence of the ONLY SOURCE OF RELIEF from these fearful judgments spelled out in Chapters 2ff..
This is later wrought definitively for the final return in Ezekiel 37, where it is to the EVERLASTING COVENANT that they come, and to David their King.
The same thought is expressed by the prophet Jeremiah in 31:31, and he shows this, that it is going to be nothing less than a "NEW COVENANT". (For more on this, see Isaiah 52:!3-53:12; 55; 42, and The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Vol. 3, Ch.9). This verse needs attention, applicable to those whom He heals in spirit (Isaiah 53:5):
In Ezekiel 34, God also shows this: He is DISSATISFIED with the recklessly inadequate pastoral care shown by the often quite false pastors, and WILL COME HIMSELF PERSONALLY and do the work of the GOOD SHEPHERD, shaming the false, and doing the necessary spiritual work among the people (34:8-12). THEN the everlasting Kingdom of God is to arrive, so that this is the period of the rule of the Messiah or Christ (Isaiah 2:2-4, 4:6, 7:14, 9:1-7, 11:1-10 with many others). As shown in Isaiah, He is stated to be the son of Jesse - who as father of David indicates that he is the promised King of Kings to follow in the descendants of David. Though human in form and according to promise in the Davidic line, yet He is in the place of God - that is, He is the definitive incarnation of God which He purposed and performed: cf. Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 45, Psalm 110, 2.
In Ezekiel 34, God also shows this: He is DISSATISFIED with the recklessly inadequate pastoral care shown by the often quite false pastors, and WILL COME HIMSELF PERSONALLY and do the work of the GOOD SHEPHERD, shaming the false, and doing the necessary spiritual work among the people (34:8-12).
The overall message: REPENT of sin and BELIEVE the consuming purity of the Lord, and ACCEPT the regeneration of heart necessary to live in His presence, and the PASTORAL PROVISION of the Messiah, the Good Shepherd whose intimate, infinitely precious and utterly necessary provisions are made by His own incarnation as a man, doing personally the work that only He can do.
and seek them out.
As a shepherd seeks out his flock in the day
that he is among his sheep that are scattered,
so will I seek out my sheep...
I will feed
my flock and I will cause them to lie down,
says the Lord God."
If you are interested in the vision of Ezekiel, THIS is the teaching in the symbol and in the name of the Lord who is central in the vision, with explicit words and not with possibilities, with challenge and not for mere contemplation: that it is necessary
to REPENT and BELIEVE,
and that shepherd who was to come and came on time (Daniel 9:24-27, see my The Shadow of a Mighty Rock Vol. 3, pp. 886-899), dying around A.D. 30,
is now that ONLY way to
for whom are the wheels,
beyond which was the hand and the voice and the glory.
HE fulfilled it all, is the Good Shepherd,
is the answer of the prophets predictions in PERSON. To find God, you receive the way provided. (A free Copy of this book is currently available, on receipt of postage.)
END OF EXCERPT FROM BIBLICAL BLESSINGS
From the above, you see the pith of the vision and the relationship it bears to some of the later scenes in Ezekiel, to which this may now serve as an introduction.
That is the excerpt. We however for the moment will survey just a little more what is seen in this early vision of Ezekiel.
Thus, at once in
overwhelming impact, there is seen to be ONE GOD, personal, not unknowable but
majestic, not in some impersonal position, but garbed in the relationship of
the personal, the profound, the intrinsically
knowable. He is described, when we come to Ezekiel 10, to be the LORD (10:4, as
in 1:1, ), in accord with that often repeated central affirmation
of the whole Bible:
THE LORD IS GOD.
It was this that was made so famous in the dénouement between Elijah and the priests of Baal, when the celestial intervention on that occasion took the form of a profusion of fire to burn the sacrifices, just as later it was in the form of a baby to become the Messiah, and later again, in the power of the Lord, the Spirit sent in His name (John 15:26, Luke 24:49) enabling their hearts to perform as He pleased.
In this vision we have seen displayed concerning the Lord: not only His intensity of brilliance (as in I Timothy 6:16), but His all knowing dispositions and inspectable provisions, as now known to be in DNA and in the atomic arrangements, and His penetration with eyes into all aspects of all movements, in the domain of His understanding of all things, the living creation being in thrall to the operations of His power, so that the very ‘wheels’ of created means, move where the Spirit is to go. Desire, disposition and decision are His; the complexities of creation are great, but their Creator is far greater.
All these things we have seen, with the throne of authority above it, separated by the gulf from creation to Creator, with the shining light of splendour and the personal God above all. His is diligence, knowledge, majesty and power, and what is on earth, He knows; and there He intervenes if He will, disposes as He will, even that which is evil being comprehended in the plan of good. This was at its height in the crucifixion of Christ, foretold in detail like a biography in advance of birth, the plan unveiled that He, the Lord Himself in human format would suffer the just for the unjust, to bring us to Himself.
WE may find out
the gender of a baby before it is born and marvel: HE disposes the plans of the
entire life at His prudence, and while the wicked are as the chaff which the
wind blows away (Psalm , yet the Lord KNOWS the righteous (Psalm 1:5-6), and in
His plans and programs, without the violence of shanghaied will or mere
manipulation, He exhibits in great detail, what is germane to His desire for
man, so that he should know it.
The second part of the excerpt above delivers the application of these things also from Ezekiel, and to this we have some later reference; but for the present course, our main concern is with the points 1 and 2 of the excerpt above.
2. THE MORAL MAJESTY OF THE MESSIAH
Leaving the Chs.1-8 presentation of Ezekiel for the time, establishing the identity of the Lord and vital expressions of His ways, His majesty and His power, we come to a new dimension: that of MORAL MAJESTY. This Being whose vision is of such splendour has something greater than this, at least if we understand this as a further aspect: His power and glory is seen in His actions and grace. Thus we find that He is intensely concerned NOT to have man dashed by the TRADITIONS of man, when these contravene justice, injure righteousness or afflict wrongly. In particular, we find in Ezekiel 18 a double message of rectitude. The CHILDREN shall NOT be held responsible for the SINS of their PARENTS. This is made in the form of a proverb, Do not say that the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children' teeth are set on edge (18:1).
"Behold," God says, "all souls are Mine:
The soul of the father
As well as the soul of the son is Mine;
The soul that sins shall die..."
Obvious to us after 2500 years since it was given, no doubt, but that is a long time to think! Yet there is far more to it than just that. Unless the mercy of of intervene (and we have seen the systematic and planned way in which He DID intervene, and the sure way in which this must be received) , EACH soul in whatever culture or situation, is judged for its own works, and for its own SIN. IF IT SINS, death is the due determinant, mortality the proper result. Yet even this is not all. For the souls are HIS, belong to GOD, and what one does with the soul given is ACCOUNTABLE to the father of spirits! If one receives what HE has done, well; and if one will not, this too is accountable (John 3:19, 6:29).
Further yet, one is in MERCY, in all its solemn beauty and concern (not sentiment, which is mere fluctuation of feeling, but a mercy which knows the cost and pays as required for the object of its lovingkindness - all this is in mercy) given further opportunities. If one TURNS from an evil way TO the righteousness of the Lord, then the past is oblivious in His remitting grace (this is notable, in that it is applicable in the Jewish old covenant situation!). If however anyone turns away from the ways of the Lord, an event open to the unregenerated quite readily, no amount of goodness of past scores at all.
It is an inter-personal relationship, not a machine's performance.
Indeed, as we noted in points 3 ff. above in the excerpt, it is the MESSIAH who being the LORD comes to bring DELIVERANCE to sinners, so that the mercy of God is seen in person, and His provision for His sheep is administered not only in His presence, but by His personal intervention. As seen in Isaiah 52-53, this is vicarious sacrifice of HIMSELF! and we shall see later the astounding symbolism of Ezekiel, still striking after 2000 years since the Messiah actually came!
Not only so, but the Messiah, being God Himself as Ezekiel 34 makes so clear - HE PERSONALLY will come, the prophet intimates, BECAUSE His representatives are so inadequate, He will (like some fathers with disobedient sons), 'do it myself'.
"I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day" - 34:11-12. This is with moral beauty fulfilled by the Messiah, not at no cost, but in the flesh, surrounded by flesh and its dingy equations and flimsy excuses.
He abominates the selfish, shallow and flippant seeming professionalism of false pastors, saying:
"Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet residue of your pasture - and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet ?" (34:18).
Was it not enough
that the many enemies who were given licence to
assail a disobedient and misled nation had so often attacked the people; but
must it even continue spurred on by the same chronic cause ?
The 'residue' of the people would be a sad parody indeed when their sins
continued to lead them into the Babylonian captivity, at this time like a vast
thunder cloud of massive and fearsome dark ponderousness, looming above.
o That would involve a vast loss of wealth, the superb artisanship which Solomon had earlier contrived in their great institutions and temple. Vast quantities of this would go before a glowering enemy, a reduction and impoverishment, and then would come the slaughtering of their young. With all this in view, must they even NOW continue in their slick, superficial performance of their religious duties, must the priests not have heart! Did they not CARE for the people! Such was the prophetic charge, in essence.
we marvel that they could conceivably have resisted it (let alone with
flamboyance and dash), we should consider our own civilisation
which certainly leaves nothing behind in paralleling the follies of ancient
You see, then, these two elements in precise formulation in the New Testament in two verses, one of the seeking for the lost, and one of the damaging delinquency of the religious leader's of the time when the Messiah came to earth, as predicted in Ezekiel 34, when the Lord became man and did it Himself!
Matthew 18:11 has this: "For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost" and Luke 9:56 the following: "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them," while 19:10, at the conversion of Zacchaeus, this: "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
On the religious leader side of things, the words of Christ in Matthew 23 are amongst the most pungent repudiation of religious error and hypocrisy even heard - and it is hard even to imagine those more scorching, in precise conformity to what the Lord says in Ezekiel 34 as a prelude to announcing the coming incarnation (cf. Psalms 102, 2).
Yet we shall quote this word: "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered." This also is the incarnate speech of the living God as Christ the Messiah, in parallel to another Old Testament protestation, namely that in Hosea:
people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me."
Thus the SOULS ARE MINE, He says, and HE COMES to SEEK and to SAVE what was lost, in view of the meddlesome failure of the appointees.
Indeed, the subject goes deeper yet, though the matter is so intimately related to our present sub-topic as to form simultaneously, an extension to it.
This is what God
projected; this is what was in the written and public, published program, and this is precisely what He did.
3. THE LOVING DEITY AS THE MESSIAH,
Implacable in Importunity
The seeking is wonderful, the concern has nobility, the zeal is delightful, but there is with all this, a certain IMPLACABILITY of search, an UNWILLINGNESS that any should perish, a tender concern that borders on the truculent but is better described as INVETERATE and INDEFATIGABLE, tireless and constant, passing by all discouragement. Such is the love of God.
"I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. Thus they shall know that I the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people," says the Lord GOD. "You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God," says the Lord God.
Concerned likewise at the self-serving gratifications of the under-shepherds, utilising the people as well as neglecting them, He says this (Ezekiel 34:8-10):
"As I live," says the Lord GOD, "surely because
My flock became a prey and My flock became food for every beast of the field,
because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the
shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock -
"Therefore , O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD!
"Thus says the Lord God: 'Behold I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand: I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more: for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.' "
How well this is reflected in Christ's words in the New Testament, again:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation" - Matthew 24:14.
national terms likewise, the zeal of the Lord will seek for His scattered
people, both in the short term and the long term. As to the former, from Ezekiel 11:16ff., we find:
"Although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I
shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone...
will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you
have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel, and they will go
there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its
abominations from there.
I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take
the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,
that they may walk in My statues and keep My judgments and do them: and they shall be My people, and I will be their God."
The zeal of the
Lord in mercy is seen in parallel to this in Jeremiah 16:16-17, where we read
"Behold, I will send for many fishermen," says the LORD, "and they shall fish them, and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them, from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks." FIRST their punishment, THEN their restoration from the Babylonian captivity.
As to the longer term, after the day of the Messiah Himself, whose rejection Isaiah 49:7 and 52-53 so well and precisely attests - not to mention the thundering repudiation of a rebellious people, following this advent, in Isaiah 65:13-15, there is to be a permanent intervention act, and a bringing of the people not only to a new heart for the life in the Lord, but to a new covenant. In this, the Messiah in glory and sovereignty will rule personally, as part of the proceedings. After reading of His personal grace and mercy in this: "I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment," when also He would (as in Matthew 25) judge between "sheep and goats"; we find -"Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them..." (Ezekiel 37:26). Of this Jeremiah speaks in 31:31.
Here is the final fruit on earth of the action of intervention in coming to earth personally, and all the rejections spoken of in the prophets, and as we shall see, somewhat symbolised in Ezekiel later. On this occasion, there is to be NO MORE LOSS, NO MORE IDOLATRY and NO MORE REBELLION (Ezekiel 37:23-24). In fact they are to be ruled over by the Messiah, as almost integral to the return - which, however (Ezekiel 36:24-25) will not be immediate to this royal leader. The Messiah, son of David via Mary, will be King. This is why there is no question of their being excluded or deluded again. The Jews are now back, and the time though very short, and the process, though not yet complete for there are many more yet to come back, will doubtless shortly yield to this everlasting covenant, no more idolatry, blessedness in His presence (as in Zechariah 14:5ff.).
They will come to be washed, indeed sprinkled with clean water (as in Christian Baptism cf. Questions and Answers 11), because as so often presented (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 13), they will now be incorporated in that ONE ONLY new covenant giving them a NEW NAME (Isaiah 62:2) and no more will they seem so superior but come to the place prepared also for the Gentiles (Isaiah 65:13-15, 61, 49:6) on even terms (as in Colossians 2, Isaiah 19:24-25).
The LORD will bring them back as in Isaiah 42:18ff., though for the moment they are still "blind" as Isaiah puts it, being followed in this by Paul in Romans 11:25ff., as he proceeds with his saga of coverage of spiritual Jewish history. It is in the LIGHT of the presence of the Messiah, impending or actual, that this occurs (cf. Luke 21:44), Jerusalem now being virtually freed, the categorical signal for His return being near.
Whether therefore in the 70 year exile case, or the 70 sevens case (reviewed in Ch. 5 above), which brings to the restoration to the Messiah and His millenial rule, there is zeal, implacable and remorseless, just as His punishments have been when mercy's bounds were passed and this was the necessary intervening discipline (Jeremiah 17 giving a good case of the elasticity of mercy, while the limits to the heedless abuse of the zestfully unbelieving, are depicted in 18:1-11!)
The ZEAL of the Lord in His love and mercy is thus shown in the earlier restoration from Babylon, the parallel but far greater one notably shown in Ezekiel 36ff. (cf. SMR Appendix A), and the zenith of it appears in Ezekiel 34 where the incarnation is used to express and fulfil it to the uttermost point, being followed in due season, after the dispersion of the Jewish race, by their restoration in 36-37.
But it is LOVING ZEAL: not sentimental inclination. First the punishments for treachery and folly are severe when the time comes that no more can patience wait on folly. Second, the end of it is foreknown and the measures are apportioned with care (Israel was to be 'corrected in measure'), so that the positive mercy appears with its full scope of wisdom. Thirdly, the ATTITUDE behind these actions is that of love not discountenanced, but purposeful and assured; not unrealistic but seeking and testing (cf. Jeremiah 5:1ff.), not heartless but filled with the deepest emotion (cf. Jeremiah 9:1ff., Isaiah 16:9-11 where the source of the pity is Moab). It is NOT MERE emotion however, since the very desolation of Jerusalem which Jeremiah so bewails in his book of Lamentations, is that to be suffered by the Jerusalem, again in Christ's time (Luke 19:42ff.) where the Saviour's DIRECT lament is heard just before His next action.
? HIS OWN DESOLATION! "My God, My God, why have You
forsaken Me!" comes His carefully
predicted lament as sin hits Him like a truck smashing into an express train
(cf. Isaiah 53:6 where this is exactly the nature of the imagery, burden, load,
bearing and being smashed - as in 52:12ff., beyond the form of a man). This is foreseen,
sovereignly selected self-desolation in the interests
of justice (Romans 3:19ff.), so that Christ could justly justify those who
receive this, His ransom payment for sin by means of His own death (cf.
Colossians 1:22-23). This shows the DIVINE ZEAL, its practicality,
inventiveness, intensity and wonder.
It also shows that the
standards of purity in heaven, absolutely essential to peace and joy and love
and perfection, are so strict that this lovely thing needs keeping by the power
Faith receives by trusting with conviction (Hebrews 11:1) in the objective reality of
since He is perfect in purity and the word of the everlasting God, made flesh, holy, harmless, higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7). Those who come to God must believe that He IS (there) and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. How can you be diligent ? By repenting without compromise or qualification of your own sin, sinfulness and derelictions of duty and failures in truth, in not knowing God. How can you seek Him ? By putting all the silly little sums of survival and self-glorification or self-gratification or self-fulfilment out of the window and having the door wide open to the divine grace and the Messiah. How would you WANT to do this ? When you are convicted of sin and the Lord opens your eyes. What if He does not ? Then why worry ? Being blind, you do not see, so what is the ground of your concern ? But what if I AM concerned ? Then be glad and come to Him by faith, for then it is HE who has opened your eyes. But what if He does not love me ? HE would have ALL men to repent and come to the knowledge of the truth and says so (I Timothy 2).
But why should God love me ? one asks.
GOD IS LOVE (I John
4:7ff.). It is natural to the supernatural One to love. This is His nature. His
love is neither sloppy nor merely self-gratifying, but pure and desirous of
delivering those in wickedness from its necessary consequences by acting in
terms of His own principles as noted above. He is SO loving that we read in
Ezekiel 33:11 these monumental words (and remember that God has made it clear
that it is TOO SMALL a thing for Christ to be offered to the Jews, but is for
the Gentiles as well - Isaiah 49:6):
Say to them,
John Murray of Westminster as elsewhere noted, referred to something like this: the PROTESTATION 'as I live', the ASSEVERATION, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,' the AFFIRMATION, 'but that the wicked should turn from his way and live', the EXHORTATION, 'turn, turn from your evil ways!' and the interrogation, 'For why should you die, O house of Israel ?'.
It is a beautiful thing, like a cloud formation, an exquisite waterfall, with more symmetry than an equation, nor desire than a romance, more heart than patriotic death, for the patriot being a sinner, dies for sinners, but God shows His love to us in this, that WHILE we were yet sinners He died for us, and He who died was without sin, harmless, higher than the heavens, God Almighty in the Person of His son.
There, THAT is LOVE: not that we loved God, as I John 4 puts it, but rather this, that "God loved us and sent His Son as a propitiation for our sins."
Before we leave this focus, let us observe one exceedingly important facet. It is this. There is no place other than the Bible where there is this individually distinguishing love, which has also an amplitude which is not mere favouritism based on personal desire for gratification, which, in short is love, from the deity, hence bringing up hope at the outset, and security when it is received on the basis adopted; and where, in addition, the result is a regeneration so that for man, it is not a function of the noble nature or better heart to receive it, but of the Lord who intervenes, a Lord who knowing all neither revokes the image of God status of the heart, as if to force it, nor allows its pollutions, as with some sick person out of control, to limit His enterprise. (Ezekiel 33:11 is to be taken with I Timothy 2, Matthew 23:37, Titus 2-3, Psalm 1, 73, Luke 19:42ff., John 15:21-23 and SMR Appendix B may be consulted, together with The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4.)
It is this which gives human responsibility its meaning and hell its significance, for that matter; for it is not the repository of the merely not good enough (for none is good enough who must accept the cross as payment for his shortcomings, even death as his due judgment), the arbitrarily unselected, the victims of ‘fate’, for there is not fate, except in the appearance which comes to those who, rejecting the Lord are, as His words says (Psalm 1) like the chaff which is blown away. For them, their real significance being voided by their own arbitary wilfulness, they feature as chaff, denaturised, discarded. Human responsibility is thus enormous; human incapacity is no barrier and divine love is of the most ample, yet neither duped by avarice nor beguiled by self-serving. Heaven is wonderful, human will is not autonomous or sovereign, but human responsibility is entire. Philosophy knows nothing such, because it has no power, and the power, like the salvation is of God.
Ezekiel is very strong is his attribution of human responsibility, not only in the implications of 33:11, but in his watchman chapters, 18 and 33 in general. Here the concept of trusting in one’s own righteousness is made equivalent to gross sin (as in Romans 10), and the intense lovingkindness of God
There is that clear course and channel, meanwhile, so that children are not accountable for parental sin, and all are accountable in terms not at al fudged or fuzzy. It is because of the cross (in Ezekiel 47 we find it as the altar in the temple symbolism, and the river of life pours out from it) that this can be; it is because of the love that the cross has been, and the cross has an everlasting significance as part of the everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6). It is to this that we must now give attention.
4. THE METAPHORICAL MEANING OF
Here we look at another
from Biblical Blessings, which presents this for us, enabling us here to
gather together in one, the elements we need.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF EZEKIEL'S VAST, LAST VISION
HOW IS IT A PICTURE OF EVANGELISM, RECALCITRANCE, SPIRITUAL POWER, THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST AS THE TRUE KING OF THE JEWS AND HIS COMING POWER ?
Let us be brief, since the
purpose is merely to supply the key to this intricate vision. Ezekiel's first
vision has already occupied us, with its relation to the gospel, the New
Covenant and the Son of David, the Prince to come in power, whose previous
sufferings are seen in place.
THE VISIONARY VISION
In this last vision, from Ezekiel 47 on, with various interludes, there is a picture of the temple which is not intended as physical, in that it is vast, as E.J. Young pointed out, too big for the geographical environment. It is a sort of amplification such as vision CAN given, in order to enlarge the understanding. As to the CITY which is about it, its name, suitably symbolical, though with tremendous impact, is this: THE LORD IS THERE (Ezekiel 48:35). THAT ends the vision! How better to end it!
THE TERMINAL TIME ON THIS EARTH OF THE NEW COVENANT AND THE MESSIAH
We are in the terminal, the ultimate, the New Covenant era traced in Ezekiel in our last Question and Answer (cf. Ezekiel 11:17-21, 16:60, 37:23-26, Isaiah 62:1-2, 65:10-13, Jeremiah 31:31). Thus we find the PRINCE (cf. Ezekiel 17:22-24) who is featured in the most amazing way, to be ALLOWED and indeed AUTHORISED to perform SACRIFICIAL ACTS, whereas it was precisely this folly, albeit only in its infancy in incense offering, that cost Uzziah his health, and made him a leper! (II Chronicles 26:16-20). The divisions and appropriations involved a decisive division of functions (the Gentiles might call it a division of powers), and the symbolism that God gave had meanings not to be subjected to officious tampering or lordly assumptions.
the Messiah - who would be He whose goings are from
everlasting (Micah 5:1-3), and who would be struck with a rod upon the cheek,
though HE is the judge of
Accordingly we find HIM,
the PRINCE in Ezekiel 44:1-3, 46:1-28-12, both preparing His sacrifices and
deeply and intimately involved in the internal operations of the
will come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those
days," says the Lord, "that they will say no more,
'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.' It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made any more."
At that time,
"all nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the
Hence we find this
ostensible violation of temple ritual, which is in fact an intended jolt to
make the reader aware that this is intended for the time when "THE LORD IS
THERE" is the
very NATURE and hence NAME of the
city! For we who are His are CITIZENS of the
A TIME FOR BOLDNESS, A PLACE FOR PRAISE
Indeed, boldness is one of the features of a great teacher, a fearless sally into things to come, to thrust stimulus and understanding into the intelligence, knowing the apt pupil will well be able to follow in terms of principles adequately conveyed elsewhere, or readily to be found. Thus the OLD COVENANT Prince feature is merely a key to the fact that this is a VISION, and for the NEW COVENANT, though in spectacular and detailed fashion formulated in the very forms of the old! Accordingly, the language of a city can well be applied for the MEANING of a Kingdom which has no walls (Isaiah 60:18). Walls? Yes! They are "SALVATION"! and the GATES? "PRAISE"!
Are YOU, if Christian, surrounded by the towering walls of salvation, so clear and visible to your spiritual eye that your soul is enthralled (I John 5:13, Ephesians 6:17) ? Is your everyday entry, coming and going, PRAISE to the Lord who is good, a friend and a Saviour indeed, Lord with relish, and God with strength? Be assured, when as Nehemiah taught, THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH (), then praise of His salvation does indeed surround you like a protection, for it is a bloom of the presence of the Lord, our Rock. The JOY is not the rock; but the presence of the ROCK breeds joy, and the joy is strong, like anti-missile emplacements, ready for any assault.
It is that joy which is so
well displayed in Zephaniah 3:17, where the whole air is filled with it, as
when Spring perfumes surround you in the season.. THAT
is the day when "the Lord has taken away your judgments", when the nations have been
gathered (Zephaniah 2:8) and the earth will meet the ardour
of the Lord, so that a "meek and humble people" who trust in the name of the Lord
will be found, even those who "speak no lies". Then the "remnant of
INTRICACIES AND INTIMACIES
Above, we have already
noted the closeness of the Prince to all these developments symbolised
in the '
"Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth."
Quite as fascinating is the
matter of the closed gate (Ezekiel 46:12). AFTER HE GOES OUT THE GATE SHALL BE
SHUT! The EAST gate is to be opened for Him, but after He goes out it is shut!
That happened. It is even more explicit in Ezekiel 44:2 (as J.H. Hunting
pointed out in his The Set Time is Come, p. 6), posing next to
the picture of that very gate as shown in his book. There we read of the East
Gate of the City: "This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no
man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of
likewise points out, in "
THIS GATE IS SHUT, says Ezekiel 44:2, "because the LORD God of Israel has entered it", a fact well enough dramatised in the Palm Sunday episode of His entry there, when HE was moved to point out, that if such PRAISE as, "BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD" (cf. Psalm 118:19-26)*2, with praise to the Son of David were to stop, the very stones would cry out. It was stopped in Jerusalem in large and official measure... and the STONES did cry out, stone being removed from stone by the Romans, a fate Christ depicted in advance, as did Daniel in terms of the utter devastation to come following the cutting off of the Messiah (Daniel 9:24-27).
Alas, until the stony heart of unbelief which afflicts so many, Jew and Gentile, is changed, and until the time comes when the eyes of much of Israel are to be opened (Romans 11:25ff.), the world must wait for the coming of the Prince in His glory, and the Jews for their ultimate deliverance, which however, will be of a REMNANT, who will be Christian believers (Zephaniah 3:12-19). Let us hear some of this:
that day it shall be said to
The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you in His love,
rejoice over you with singing.
"I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly.
Who are among you,
To whom its
reproach is a burden.
"Behold at that time I will deal with all who afflict you.
I shall save the lame,
those who were driven out... At that time, I will bring you back..."
THIS is the "meek and humble people,
And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.
The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness...
Nor shall a
deceitful tongue be found in their mouth."
The LAND is restored to Israel, in SOME measure, and the CITY is theirs as Christ predicted (Luke 21:44) in full measure, though they are surrounded with dangers and perils and with much trauma they continue, till they return to the Lord whom they pierced, just as so many Gentiles pierce Him in their hearts, facing the obvious and continuing in unbelief.
This then is the meaning of the Temple in the Vision of Ezekiel, and the eternal inheritance to be given to the SONS or CHILDREN who serve is the eternal life given to the children of God who serve, for who that is Christ's does not serve, and who that is Christ's is not intimate with the things of the Lord in the beauty of holiness in His temple, which is built of living stones (I Peter 2), so that His praise should echo throughout! PRIESTS now come even from the Gentiles (Isaiah 66;19-20).
This inheritance is even
more arresting: for it is when it is given by the PRINCE to his SONS that it
has this NON-CANCELLABLE QUALITY. SERVANTS, they get a gift of inheritance till
the Jubilee year, says Ezekiel; but sons? It is THEIR VERY OWN (Ezekiel
46:16-17, Ephesians 1:11). So is the Son of David, the Prince, the King of Glory of Psalm 45, 72, 89, revealed and exposed
through this Vision of Ezekiel. But this is not all.
This vision is multi-faceted, noble and intense. It fulfils in future beauty the initial intensity of Chapters 1-10, where judgment was so closely related. Now glory is not only in the holiness of the Lord, but spread abroad, glory for judgment, beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Now we turn to Ezekiel 47, this topographical, effluvial, this riverside, piscine, this fishing extravaganza, as fluent as a butterfly, as deep as the sea, as down-to-earth as wading, as meaningful as radium, with spiritual energy speeding from its words, as if each particle were radio-active.
The river of water, as Christ so readily applied it, is of course the Spirit (cf. Isaiah 12), which flows FROM the Lord (John 15:26). HE proceeds from the Father and is sent by the SON. Hence it is from the temple of glory that the stream issues (v.1); but alike, it flows from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar, hence encompassing its goings the sacrificial system, the work of the Lord (Isaiah 53, Daniel 9, Zechariah 12-14, Psalm 2,40). Its stream is first found to touch, then to move upon one, then to rise to make significant impact at the legs, the waist, then to require that one move with it. Not lava from a destructive volcanic explosion, does it come, rising and fatally overcoming; but water from the place of holiness and the site of sacrifice, does it speed, in its healing work.
Then this blessed water is found to become an engulfing reality in the power of which one moves, for it is NOT BY MIGHT NOR BY POWER BUT BY MY SPIRIT, says the LORD (Zechariah 4:6), and we are dealing with what in the Temple, is the STONE on which shall be engraved the sins of the penitent, so that the iniquity of the land shall be removed in one day (Zechariah 3:9).
Thus is the river depicted in Ezekiel 47:1-5: it is a river in which "ONE MUST SWIM". Its power and fulness is such that it is not an influence; it becomes one's environment, ennobling, enabling, showing direction and carrying one, for Him from whom it comes.
The PERSONAL EQUATION being settled, that one forsakes all that one has if one is to be a disciple of the Lord (Luke 14:27ff.), then we find the FUNCTIONAL WORK. First the water flows to the sea, moving throughout the territory of the earth on its way. It is not captured, but free; but as it moves freely, so it is the dynamic and wonderful agency which enlightens, enlivens. To revert directly to the figure: there are vitalised beings ("every living thing, that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live" - v.9); but there are obstreperous, soggy and self-occupied marshy places (v.11), where despite the wonders of the waters, life is not found.
Indeed, "its swamps and its marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt" (v. 11). Otherwise, its waters bring healing (v.8), even to all peoples who RECEIVE what it brings, straight from the altar, which typifies Jesus Christ and Him crucified, yes, rather risen.
That is the FIRST function, to heal, to bring vitality, life more abundantly. The SECOND function, or work of the river is to be instrumental for the fishermen, from its depths and with its currents bringing up the fish who, being people in reality in this work of healing, are moved by the Spirit, who convicts them (John 16:8-13) of sin, righteousness and judgment. AS TO THE FISH - that is the people, they will be "exceedingly many" (v.10), and of the same kinds as in the Mediterranean, that is, of a cosmopolitan character (Psalm 117:1-2, 72:17, 82:8, 86:9, 2:10-12, Jeremiah 16:19, Isaiah 49:6). There are no limits of nationality or type, provided they come.
The trees that grow on the banks of the river (v.12) are like those of Psalm 1, and resemble the plants of Jeremiah 17:5-8, planted flourishing and exuberant, abundant with life by the sides of the river (Isaiah 61:3). THESE trees of Isaiah, the PLANTING OF THE LORD, or more precisely these plants of Jeremiah: they do NOT CEASE FROM BEARING FRUIT! Abide in Me, said Christ, and I in you, and the same will bear much fruit! (John 15). As in Psalm 1, moreover, the leaves of these trees of Ezekiel 47, they do not wither, just as their fruit does not fail.
In fact, they bear every month "BECAUSE" the water flows from the sanctuary, that is from the Christ whom the Temple in such numerous ways typified, and who indeed, as in Isaiah 22, took all the paraphernalia of His Father's house, and bearing it, fell from His nail, where He was "hung". As to that: it was in accord with this divesting grace of poverty of spirit, whereby He bought us who believe, with His own death. As for these fruits, moreover, we read that their trees have leaves that act like medicine, as does a merry heart, as do the lives and graces of those who loving the Lord, love one another, and as does, above all, the presence of the Lord through and in His people, act.
Such is the last, vast vision of Ezekiel, in some of its more striking features, for which we have supplied key, a key which is notably a skeleton key which alike opens many another room in the word of God.
A Personal Note
The blessing ? It is the knowledge that there is a path for blessing, service, serenity and entire dedication to God. It is more than ideal, may be expressed in visions, but involves practical action and intense, intimate knowledge of God Himself, for the temple had its patterns and the Christ of whom the prophets spoke so volubly, has His person whom one can know, should know, and indeed, without the knowledge of Him, one is left in marshy places.
A prince and priest, He
avoids the sometimes austerely unrealistic feeling of some officials, being both
spiritual and personal to the most extreme degree. His power comes from the
altar which is fulfilled in
In one sense (only), such a view is right: you CAN reject the Lord, and insist that as a godlet you shall have your own understanding and thus you can, devoid of and divorced from truth, because from God, live out in a wilful death the destruction of your soul.
On the other hand, the one who DOES know the Lord, not some cant or some formula of men or people or priests: this person is swept on with such a tide of wonder and a torrent of splendour, right from under the altar, that to live is Christ, and in Him is wonder unspeakable, eternal that heals, helps and carries, until the universe becomes merely one of His paintings. It is the PAINTER HIMSELF who is the best picture of all; and as to Him, He is more than a picture, for we ourselves are His paintings. It is well to be in His hands, like trees growing beside the waters in the picture we have just been considering: growing in grace and in steadfastness, beside the healing waters of eternal health.
But where is this bridge to eternity ? THAT is the implicit feature of the whole vision. GOD HAS ALREADY provided that, so that the waters from under the altar provide what cannot pass away, for the altar shows and signifies the passing away for a time in the flesh, of Him whose place is eternity; so that eternity is bridged, for it is by Him it is brought here, and we may be brought there. The bridge ? It preceded the vision, and the vision is built on it.
In our next Chapter, we shall look at the question of time, and the progress of time in the light of eternity, from which after all, it takes its source, and for the King of which, it was constructed.
*1 See on this topic of the magnificence of the Messiah, the Deity of Christ : a) SMR pp. 532-560, b) Ch.9 below, The Unsurpassable Pinnacle that is Christ, c) Barbs, Arrows and Balms Items 13, at a Note which is Obligato, pp. 69ff., 17 and c) SMR Index, under Messiah and d) Appendix IV below, The Magnificence of the Messiah.
i) the gates of righteousness are those which must be entered (CF. Acts -12, John 14:6).
ii) that then there is praise to the Lord.
iii) that the GATE of righteousness is focussed as the NECESSARY gate for the righteous to enter, it is indispensable if they are to BE the righteous (John 10:1-9).
iv) that this answer and provision is associated with praise, and with the Lord BECOMING the salvation of the seeker.
v) that it is paralleled pointedly with the STONE rejected by the builders (Isaiah 52-53, 49:7) being seen in its true light. Indeed, when THIS GATE is entered, it is understood now that the stone rejected by the builders is the very headstone of the corner (Acts ).
vi) THIS itself is something wonderful (I Corinthians 1, Isaiah 9:6, 29:13ff.), dramatic, marvellous, and such a time is "the day which the Lord has made".
vii) Indeed, this entire
scope of action is a base for asking the Lord to "SAVE NOW", and that
is precisely what every Jew and Gentile will have to see, crying in effect, as
did the disciples, "BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD! WE
HAVE BLESSED YOU FROM THE HOUSE OF THE LORD. GOD IS THE LORD." Thus,
Blessed are your eyes, Simon Peter, for flesh and blood has not shown this to
you, said Christ, when Peter cried: "YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING
END OF EXCERPT
One thing is to be added her, concerning the Prince, the Messiah, God as man. The reference in Ezekiel 46:18 is pregnant with meaning that bursts forth, a noble birth. "Moreover the prince shall not take any of the people inheritance by evicting them from their property; He shall provide an inheritance for his sons from his own property, so that none of My people may be scattered from His property."
Already we have noticed that the Prince, being both majesty and priest, is God, no human being permitted anything so profound in one (as in Zechariah , noted in Ch.6 above). Now in this intense but beautiful symbolism, we find that the PRINCE (cf. Isaiah 9:6, the prince of peace of whose dominion and peace there is no end!) is to give His people an inheritance. It is not something alien or odd: but it comes from HIS OWN PROPERTY.
Obviously, so it must be; for the prince gave His life as a ransom for His people, and they are indeed bought by Him, and His; and for them heaven is the real estate, and it is, as far as the sinners redeemed are concerned, property that is His and is given to them. Jesus put it: "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also." His 'children', you see, are not to be scattered!
In all this we see not merely the moral magnitude of the Lord, and the beauty of one who is Majesty indeed, but His zeal in love. It is the same in the MARSHY PLACES noted in the excerpt above, relative to Ezekiel 47. It is only in such a swamp of ditch and dulness, where the waters mix with turgidity and immobility, where stones and dirt are in an inextricable mix of boggy mess, that the waters do not bring life to the place, for the fish, for the fishermen, so that as Christ put it, to those whom He would make fishers of men: "From now on, you will catch men!" Blessed catch, glorious capture, free from the marshes and from the dead sea.
From the altar comes the stream, and at the altar is the symbolism of the cross (Hebrews 8-10), there the sacrifice symbolising the Lamb of God of Isaiah 52-53. It is from the Cross that the amplitude of water comes, life giving water, overflowing spiritual power and presence in the hearts of those won, to convict the hearts of those not yet won; and there again, as in all things, for HE is the centre of the plan of salvation, as the Father is the sender, there is the acme and the alpha, the way in and the way on, Jesus Christ.
In this way does Ezekiel present in symbolic intricacy but startling in impact, the same message as all the other prophets. Like children in school, all so similar, being members of the human race; yet all so different, being individuals. So does the Lord present through different prophets, in a series of architectural styles, the same grounded, well-built plan of salvation with all the buttresses of imagination and the towers of wonder.
It does not vary, though to change the image
from the solid to the liquid: it moves like the waters of a lake before
the shimmering breeze. Its various ripplings merely
the more affirm the underlying depth, and the capacities for individuality in
the words and their ways, the more emphasise the
creative power of the Creator who created our creativity, but bids it be still
here, when we are confronted with the work of His creation, not this time our
bodies and minds and spirits, but words FOR THEM, from His eternal word, whose
life has been given for us, and to us who believe.
5. HISTORY AS THE BLACKBOARD OF THE LORD
Ezekiel 30, 35 and 39 give some lively indexes to the ways of the Lord, in historical evangelisation.
What in the world is that ? It is bringing people to an awareness that may even penetrate, of His actions by what He does in terms of what He has said He would do. It is not merely the last days and their symptoms of peril and tension; it is not only the whole history of the Jews, out in exile, back in restoration and blessing, nationally involved in the murder of the Messiah, removed from their land, brought back after many days, brought back to amazing conquests, the division of Jerusalem into two parts during conflict and so on as shown in some detail in SMR Ch.9.
There are subtler examples of the same thing
in Ezekiel. Thus in Ezekiel 35:12-13,15 we find an
illustration in the enemies of
But was this discipline by the Lord, the same
as power to ignore Him on the part of the jackals that would pick the ruin
(though they were not the chief power to desolate
care ? Even further from it.
Naturally - or if you will, supernaturally, for it is natural for the supernatural to be glorious, when that supernatural is the God of creation and salvation, Mount Seir, the party in error here, does lie in ruin, indeed a fabulous one now a tourist attraction; just as Egypt, the false hope and grandeur of pride, was never allowed again, after so illustrious a past, to become a major power (Ezekiel 29:14-16), and Tyre as established of old and of pride and fame (Ezekiel 28:11-18), would become a place for fishermen to wash their nets, and not be rebuild in its bastion of glory (Ezekiel 28:8-14).
It is, in passing, of much interest to see in
this instance HOW the Lord made this amazing prediction about
Systematically capturing the sea bord of a large area, he was determined to have maritime superiority, assisting his use of shipping for the purpose in hand: and so a vast scheme of military extension led to steps which in time led to the fulfilment of this prophecy.
This, it was through a man determined to achieve his aims, partly perhaps for grandeur, for fulfilment, for revenge on Persia to which this was literally a stepping stone, for what it had done to Athens long before, and perhaps also, for his own idea of a co-operative empire, with some show of justice and concern, which would abound in development.
His almost debonair seeming attitude to religion, allied with what appears a certain mysticism, makes of him perhaps, a type of the coming antichrist, though doubtless if this is just, it will be seen as a comparatively benevolent one. It is important however to notice that the love of power is not the same as the power of love, and subduing for one’s own ends from Napoleon to Hitler, from Stalin to Mao, may be PUT TO ONESELF as a glorious thing, and what are a few thousand deaths on the way for Alexander, or a few score million for the Nazis and the Communists ?*1 As if God, they would rule things; not being God they do not know how (cf. SMR pp. 623ff.).
But to revert to the particular case of
Here is the faithfulness of the
Lord: He does not IGNORE what He punishes, or those who glory in the anguish of
the one He has to chastise, that there might be later good. Pitiful and slow to
anger, EVEN IN ANGER, He knows all He does and all others do; and His anger if
corrective, is not obliterative when He is known; and
indeed, it is of marvellous mellowness, for He does
not willingly afflict the children of men (Lamentations 3:33).
One may add, in this context, that in time, the Lord would also punish Babylon, that instrument for the discipline of
the Jews, for its own blatancy; for doing what needs doing does not justify the
cruel WAY chosen to do it! (Jeremiah 51:33-58).
The same kind of destiny was appointed to
"Woe to the bloody city!" He exclaims in Nahum. "It is full of lies and rapine; the prey does not depart ... I ... will make you vile, and will set you as a gazing stock ... Your princes are as the locusts, and your marshals as the swarms of grasshoppers, which encamp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun arises they flee away, and their place is not known, where they are!"
Many therefore were the outcomes, and many were the predictions of them, and deep were the moral principles involved, even in this scheming and seedy world, as it is not only in nations, but in the manifestations of disordered spirits, before those likewise predicted final judgments are fulfilled and the Messiah, that ONLY One who knows the heart of man as is needed, rules as is His due (Ezekiel 21:26, 34:23, 37:25ff, 39:28 cf. Zechariah 14, Isaiah 2, Micah 4).
Thus in Mt Seir (to which we have now added some parallels), we find one of a group, in the area of the blackboard of history which we must add to the long list given at the beginning of this Section. Amplified as above, it is like a graphic CD-ROM added to the printed page!
Now there is more to come. History is not asleep. The word of the Lord is not silent. Thus WHEN Israel is brought back and WHEN she is established and WHEN the necessary enlightenment is given (cf. The Biblical Workman Ch.3, End-note *1), there will be quite a decimation, a disaster, a cataclysm as we noticed in Zephaniah, Isaiah and other prophets in Ch. 6. Thus we read in Joel:
"The LORD also will roar
And utter His voice from
The heavens and earth will shake;
But the LORD will be a shelter for His people,
And the strength of the children of
This we saw in context.
Thus we read:
"So the house of
The Gentiles shall know that the house of
Then we see again in the last verses of Ch.39:
"Then they shall know
that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations,
but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any
And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of
In another of the
international events in view in Ezekiel, the ruin of
"Thus I will strengthen
the arms of the king of
they shall know that I am the LORD, when I put My sword into the hand of the king of
I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries. Then they shall know that I am the LORD." (Emphasis in the above added.)
History in this way follows the moral mandate
given to it when the Lord prophesies concerning it, and these words have the savour and flavour of His mind.
The real danger is not so much that those who refuse to learn from history must
repeat it (and so suffer needlessly the chains of consequences already plain,
is the idea), but that people whom the Lord has shown, ignoring what is
uttered, fall into the bondage of lostness, ruin and
folly, like children who make a fetish of disobeying their parents, in order to
prove that they have arrived at the vainglorious estate of full 'independence'.
*1 The warning is clear but the mind is not: that is the nature of modern history. We being at the end, have a long queue of lessons. More input into the technical is scarcely matched by more consideration of the moral, the spiritual and the personal - unless, perhaps, in seeking technically to make it live longer, have less disease, more satisfaction, more robustness of aggressive personality, or success in alternative modes with aggrandisement, security and the like as the aim.
However the lessons are there. Napoleon,
grandeur, great is
Hitler, the 3rd Reich, 1000 years, Himmler with his vision of pleasant peasants in Russia doing the honours to victorious Aryans, where they ought to be, at the top... then defeat, and inglorious submission and devastation.
Stalin, the necessary laws of a lawless world
working away, it seems, in his Communist and disordered imagination made a few
million deaths, each one with a life history, family, heart and feelings,
vision and hope, a few million here or there, of small consequence. The plan
would succeed. However it failed, as did the life support systems of a few
million, here or there, or somewhere,
Mao and his marvellous slipping in, after some work against the Japanese, so strongly pursued by Chiang Kai-Shek, but then, a few million, here or there, mostly there, what does it matter ? The people will be freed from the morals which mean nothing, and given morals which by Party line do not exist, but they will get them anyway, from a world of mere matter, which somehow has the right thing inscribed in its heartless bosom from nowhere in particular, which must be followed religiously in a land, now of no religion - that is except for a few thousand or million, who from time to time, need repression, so that there will be no repression.
One has to wonder whether madness is any different! But it is, really. Madness involves in any usual definition a lack of capacity to perform tasks normally within the human ambit, for the fulfilment of reasonable objectives, in a given normal ... situation. A reasonable competence level is assumed. However the abnormal aim ... what is it ? To worship God ? to rule the world ? It is not so uncommon to want to rule the world, or one's own little microcosm, and to divorce or whatever comes naturally, if it is not going too well! There is, then, spiritual madness which ignores reality and constructs dream worlds, and is normal; and there is mental madness which observes certain limits, and is not normal. Normality is neither rationality nor morality in this world. Hence the empires get the men to build them, manifestly evil and intemperate, irrational and absurd though they be.
The last one will be bigger than that of
Alexander; and less kind. The actual morals which are operative will be
considered in the next Section.
6. THE HIGH AND THE LOW
COMMISSION AND SPIRITUAL CALLING IS NOT ONLY DRAMATIC, BUT MORAL, SO THAT TO BE
LOWLY IN SPIRIT IS A ROLE CAST FOR ALL, THE PERFECTED ACCOMPLISHMENT OF CHRIST,
THE MOST DARING AND DELIGHTFUL AS HE IS. Let us consider the Ezekiel
21 passage from Biblical Blessings Ch.2.
Here we had been looking at the proud developments and soaring, scarifying
ambition of the evil one and his minister, and made a contrast with the one
who, in Isaiah 53 is described, as far as his earthly station is concerned,
"a root out of a dry ground."
In contrast to this trend to be epitomised when the "man of sin" or antichrist shall show himself that he is God (II Thessalonians 2:4-8), despite the INFINITE error in such wallowing delusion, there is a tenderness of reality and a genuineness of service in the Lord and His Messiah. This in turn is beautifully figured in the message of the tender twig taken from the tip of the Jewish cedar (Ezekiel 17:22-24, cf. Isaiah 53:2, where this focus of good is identified as the Messiah cf. SMR Ch.9), whom the LORD shall plant "upon a high mountain and an eminent one". Let us hear the conclusion of this matter:
"And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish: I, the LORD, have spoken and have done it." There you get that wonderful and beautiful simplicity, in which God who makes the future, speaks of what He has JUST PREDICTED, as if already done: "I the Lord have done it!"
Thus we should dwell on the contrast, the utter contradiction, exhibited in the flesh for the Lord Jesus Christ, the Twig who is Truth, when He endured "such contradiction of sinners against Himself" (Hebrews 12:3), a contradiction as vain as contradicting the air while you breath, or the earth while you stand!
Christ and antichrist ... the former, the indescribably delicious delight whose reality is truth; the latter, the upmarket self-advertising fraud: the former, the humble One exalted to His due, while the latter is the self-exalted duly humbled to his judgment. So it is that the progress occurs, till at the end, when, the essential principalities exposed, the realities are made manifest in history as they have long been in spirit.
As to that, it is a happy day, for may not even now ANYONE call upon the name of the Lord, and does it not say, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" - Acts .
End of Excerpt
This, then, in Ezekiel is scarcely a panegyric for the proud, or for the spirit which is behind it: which is contentious, rebellious, instead of valiant for the truth!
Rather does the prophet expose in categorical terms, the nature of the folly which besets so much of world history. The fall and the downfall of contemporary exponents of spiritual folly in Ezekiel, are in the end of our Age exposed in the very height of drama. Thus in Revelation 19, we see the impact of the thrust of Ezekiel’s words to a particular case, when these are amplified to the judgment of the adversary, the devil, that haughty spirit, the principal back of the inglorious to-do, currently so glorified in self-esteem, self-fulfilment and the myth of survival of the fittest, when in fact many of the best of the race lie dead from their exertions for justice and truth.
The ‘fittest’ in fact are often the most debased and their ‘survival’ is merely the continuation of spiritual squalor which aids the earth to reach the sooner, the day of its passing! Judgment is coming according to truth, and truth is not bendable (Romans 2, Revelation 20, Matthew 25).
Is the murderer more fit than the murdered, and does his contribution extend life, or limit it; is it a bonus to mankind or a deficit, an example for development, or a ditch of contemptible cowardice, ready for judgment ? Is the liar the pathway to truth, is fiction the arena for understanding, is immoral snatching the career path for wisdom, and are the banal myths of man's arrival from nowhere for no reason to be believed in the face of the necessities of adequate grounds for everything: so that judgment for what demands it, may be devalued and laughter continue till the grave yields its members and the books are opened on this so savvy race, that learns how not to run!
Judgment: That is the destiny and the dynamic of the evil thing which in this past century has made it almost a daily practice to upgrade its curriculum vitae, desolate and desolating, precisely as Daniel predicted (Daniel 9:27). There is also the personal reality of the righteous Ruler whose life attests what is the path of peace and reality.
Thus, not only does Ezekiel speak in this way in spiritual principle about rabid rulers of his day, and the judgment in their cases imminent at that time; but he makes it clear that NO OTHER RULE WILL EVER HAVE AN ENDURANCE BECAUSE ITS TENURE IS FOR THE ONE WHOSE RIGHT IT IS, AND WHO ALONE KNOWS AND CAN DIRECT THE PATH. This you see a little further on in the prophet when he has this dictum from the Lord:
And who is HE
? It is the One of whom Isaiah speaks in Chs.
11,22,34,42,49,50,52-55,60 and Ezekiel in such places as Chs.
17, 34, 37, and symbolically in Chs. 44,47.
This unalterable divine purpose regarding rule is given fuller treatment in SMR Chapter 7, Section 12, pp. 623ff..
For our current purpose there are two aspects to consider.
1) The first is that the acme, alpha and omega, Jesus the Christ is the One to whom this honour is due, who has what it takes, having made what it is that creates the need for such rule: mankind itself! It is as Revelation 5 puts it, to Him that there is worthiness to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing ... (). HE was the One worthy to take the scroll of history and unleash the end of the Age (5:9), and it is to HIM that equal honour is accorded by the good pleasure of the Father (John -23), so that they sing (Rev. 5:13):
who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever."
To that, Amen. Without that amen, alas, ah man! your end is misrule.
2) Our second purpose is this. Strongly to the receptive mind comes the dual moral emphasis, the spiritual reality of what is meant in the beatitude - "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth": not the sneaking servility of the devious, not the proud pretence of the merely obedient, but the humility of those who in spirit and truth worshipping the Lord, do what pleases Him as a summit and desideratum: and this not to escape responsibility, but as its most tender expression. In this, Christ in human format gave the exquisite example (John ). For He who invented freedom and contrived liberty is not He who dashes it; but in His presence is its proper resource, like a splendid school well-organised, where liberty has beauty and hope has joy, and both stir to action, initiative and due enterprise.
· Not only does nothing else endure; but nothing should endure, and nothing else will endure. It will be as it has been shown so often on the blackboard of history, the Lord who will prevail. He has the power, He has the love, He has the patience; it is the Lord's Christ who has come; and He has His own.
Are you one of them ? The omission is an instant failure in the blackboard school. It taunts history, it vaunts against divine morals, it ignores the divine prescription, it does not respond with grace to grace, at the divine intervention, even that of Him who CAME AND DID IT HIMSELF. It is to HIM, that one must be sent like a post-card; in His hand, like one received. He receives those who call upon Him in truth, by faith, with repentance, in the name of the historically revealed and Biblically proclaimed Jesus Christ, whose going are from everlasting, who came to be justified in the spirit, seen of man, and comes soon again to rule.