Our Guilt and God’s Grace

In Ezekiel chapters 4 through 24 God lays out the sin of His people.  The conclusion, they are guilty.  Throughout these chapters God explains the judgment that will come upon them.  He will destroy, the temple, the land, the people, everything.  In 5:15, God says I will make Israel “a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror to the nations all around you, when I execute judgment on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes.”

These chapters are filled with blood and judgments.  There are times when reading these chapters, I find myself saying, “okay God, I get the point, they are guilty.”  But the more I read, the more overwhelmed I am with the sin and guilt of Israel.  I find myself agreeing with God, they must be judged.  While God’s judgment is fierce, it is just and good.  The more we understand sin and it’s offense against God, the more we will hate it and the more we will embrace the judgment of God against it.

When reading these judgment-filled sin-laden chapters it’s easy to become arrogant and think how stupid Israel is for continuing in its sin.  I found myself saying, “come on Israel, don’t you see how foolish you are.”  It was when I said that, that God was gracious to reveal to me my sin and how foolish I am.  For I am no different than Israel.  I pursue selfish fleeting pleasures instead of the God-centered all-satisying joy-filled purposes of God.  I regularly think about the building of my kingdom instead of the Kingdom of God.

Just like Israel I stand guilty before God.  Just like Israel I need a Savior.  Just like Israel I need the grace of God.  Just like Israel, I need Jesus.

I have heard many people say they don’t enjoy reading the O.T. prophets because they are so full of judgment and sin.  But what I have found is that the more I understand the sin of man and the judgment of God, the more I understand what Jesus did at the cross.  Jesus took the wrath of God that I should have received and in return gave me peace with God.  We must read the prophets, for in these prophetic books we see our sin, we see the wrath and judgment of God, and we see our desperate need for Jesus.

The Voice of God

In chapters 2-3 we read the account of God calling Ezekiel to be a prophet.  In 2:2 we see that the Spirit of God enters Ezekiel and God then says, I am sending you to the rebellious nation of Israel.  What I find so amazing in this passage is that Ezekiel is called to be the voice of God and he is to speak the words of God whether or not Israel listens.

Here are a few verses that show Ezekiel’s words are God’s words.

  • 2:7, “And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.”
  • 2:8, “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you.  Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
  • 3:1, “Son of man, eat what ever you find here.  Eat this scroll, and go, speak to house of Israel.”
  • 3:4, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them.”
  • 3:10, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart and with your ears.  And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”

In 3:7, God says, “The house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to Me…”  What a crazy ministry, go speak to these people, but they won’t listen to you (I’m sure many parents feel like they have an Ezekiel type ministry). Later in chapter 3, God tells Ezekiel, if you don’t speak My words then I will require from you the blood of the wicked.  God makes it very clear, Ezekiel is to be His mouth piece.  He is not to worry about how other people respond. His ministry success is not dependent upon how many people repent at his message.  Ezekiel is to simply trust in God and speak and do whatever God calls Him to do.

Today, as the church, we are called to be very much like Ezekiel.  While we are not the voice of God in the same sense that Ezekiel was.  For God spoke directly to Ezekiel, and he would reply by saying, “Thus says the Lord.”  Today we have God’s authoritative word in written form (all 66 books that comprise the Bible). But we have been given the Spirit God and dwell within us and in 2 Cor. 5:20 we see that while here on earth we are called to be ambassadors for Jesus.  And that God has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19).

We are called to love others and share the gospel with all whom we can.  But our success is not in how many people are saved (although hopefully many will be), rather, success is defined as being fruitful and faithful to God.  God is the one who ultimately saves, not us.   This is good news, for it saves us from thinking everything hinges on us.  It saves us from thinking that we are the ones responsible for getting people into heaven.  The beauty of the gospel is that God is the one responsible for saving people.  He is the one who can take our silly idiosyncrasies, our mistakes, our weaknesses and He can work powerfully through them.  All God desires from us is for us to faithfully follow Him.

The Awesome Throne of God

Ezekiel can largely be broken into 4 sections.

Chapters 1-3 – call of the prophet

Chapters 4-24 – Judgment against Israel

Chapters 25-32 – Judgment against other nations

Chapters 33-48 – Hope and Restoration of God’s People

Chapter 1 contains one of the most amazing descriptions of God’s throne in all the Bible. The chapter begins by pointing out that Ezekiel is in exile.  This is important because it shows us that God’s throne is not limited to the land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, or the temple mount.  God’s throne reigns over all creation at all times, it is not limited to certain geographical locations.  This glorious picture of God’s throne is certainly one of grace for those in exile.  And it is a wonderful reminder for us that God reigns at all times in all places.  When we experience, pain and suffering, God reigns.  When we experience rejection and loneliness, God reigns.  When we experience hardship in relationships or in finances, God reigns.

The vision Ezekiel had of God’s throne is breath-taking.  Here’s a brief list of what he saw:

  • A stormy wind comes from the North.
  • A great cloud with brightness comes with lightning shooting all around.
  • 4 living creatures come forth with 4 faces (human, lion, ox, and eagle) and 4 wings (2 wings covered their bodies and 2 spread out touching the wings of another).
  •  The creatures went straight ahead and had the appearance of burning coals.  They moved like lightning.
  • Their were 4 wheels, one for each creature.  The wheels were covered with eyes and they moved with the living creatures, never turning.
  • Over the heads of the creatures and above the wheels their was an expanse like crystal.
  • Above the expanse was a throne and seated on this throne was one with human likeness.
  • He had the appearance of gleaming metal and fire and He was surrounded by brightness.
  • The brightness that surrounded Him was like that of a rainbow.

And so what does Ezekiel do?  He falls downs on his face.  So here, Ezekiel is in exile, he see’s that His God still reigns and He worships Him.  Yahweh had not been defeated by the Babylonians; Yahweh had not been killed by the enemies gods.  Yahweh reigns and He has come to strengthen His people.

Here when Israel feels hopeless, lost, alone, and defeated.  God has come riding forth in all His glory and splendor that His people would still trust in Him.  It’s good news that we can worship God in all circumstances.  We can worship Him in the good, the bad, the pleasant, the painful, times of laughing, times of crying, in life and in death.

I love that our God is not distant.  God’s people have been disobedient.  They have forgotten Him and worshipped false gods.  They have whorred themselves to the nations.  God does not sit back and with a callous, “i told you so” heart,  throw judgment at His people.  But rather he draws near  and He gives great and magnificent promises. We’ll explore those promises as we journey through Ezekiel.  But one promise I love comes from Revelation 3:21, in John’s letter to the church of Laodicea.  There he writes, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne.”  This throne that is majestic and glorious is promised to all who believe in Jesus Christ.  One day, all who believe in Jesus will sit with Jesus on throne with the Father.  Praise God.