Ezekiel 10:1-13:23 (NLT)
Bobbe Pennington, Grades 4-5 Fusion Small Group Leader
I will confess that it is difficult for me to read the messages of the prophets. I prefer to focus on God’s love and mercy rather than His judgment. I know I am not alone in this. The fact is, though, that God’s word is God’s word. I can’t pick and choose only the parts I like.
Ezekiel announced judgment, God’s judgment against idolatrous Israel, to those who were captives in Babylon. He warned them that judgment and punishment were certain because of their sins. He announced that God was purifying his people. The phrase, “then they will know that I am the LORD,” or some variation of this phrase occurs 65 times in the book of Ezekiel. God wasn’t seeking revenge. He was impressing upon the people that only He is the true and living God.
In these chapters, Ezekiel has a vision that focuses on Jerusalem. He sees God’s glory depart from the Temple because it has been defiled by His people who are worshipping idols. The images in these chapters reminded me of similar images in Revelation. When God reveals Himself to humans, it is remarkable what those visions entail. I am reminded again that our God is a wondrous, Holy, mysterious, awesome Father.
I was especially struck by two verses in these chapters. One was in chapter 13, verse 10. Speaking of lying prophets, God says, “These evil prophets deceive my people by saying, ‘All is peaceful!’ when there is no peace at all. It’s as if the people have built a flimsy wall, and these prophets are trying to hold it together by covering it with whitewash!” When I focus only on one aspect of God–His love, His mercy, His kindness–I run the risk of building a flimsy wall of faith, one that says that I am free to do anything I want because God loves me. Paul speaks of this: “Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) “So since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does this mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval.” (Romans 6: 15&16) God brings his discipline “so that we will know that He is the LORD.”
This also raises a question: How do we discern truth? There are many mixed messages that we hear, all in the guise of Christianity. I believe we need to stay in God’s word to seek His truth. Being part of a small group where trust is built and questions can be asked about the Bible is also important to me. The Holy Spirit wants to teach us. We need to be willing to learn.
I was also struck by Ezekiel 11:18-21: “’When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their detestable idol worship. And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their hearts of stone and give them tender hearts instead, so they will obey my laws and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those who long for idols, I will repay them fully for their sins,’ says the Sovereign Lord.” God’s mercy AND justice are shown here. He desires us to have tender hearts, teachable hearts. What idols claim our affections and attentions? To walk with God means we need to be willing to surrender as He reveals areas of sin and idolatry in our own lives.
I am grateful that Jesus Christ, God in man, came to the earth to save us. I am grateful for His love, mercy, and amazing kindness. I am grateful that he took on Himself the punishment for my sins. The more I am willing to surrender to His discipline and His will for my life, the more I will gain a tender heart that longs to obey.
Lord, I long for singleness of heart, a heart that is set on you, a heart that is tender, a heart that surrenders without so much rebellion. By your Holy Spirit, change me, and grow your people so that our lives are pleasing to you.