Friday, June 16, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 1-6

Our study of Old Testament prophets moves from Jeremiah prophesying to Judah in the years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the people being taken captive to Babylon to Ezekiel prophesying to the Jews in Babylon in the midst of an exile that would last 70 years before they returned to rebuild their homes, the Temple, Jerusalem and the nation.

The opening verses of the Book of Ezekiel introduce us to Ezekiel, a 30-year-old man ministering as priest to the Jews “in the land of the Chaldeans” (Ezekiel 1:3).  The “hand of the LORD” (1:3) moved Ezekiel from the esteemed ministry of a priest to the prophet of God confronting the sins of the people and calling them to repentance.  The length of today’s scripture reading inhibits a thorough study of the prophecies; however, I will share a few highlights that I trust will be a blessing.

Ezekiel 1 records three visions that together gave Ezekiel an appreciation of “the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (1:28b).  Humbled by the majesty of the LORD, Ezekiel writes, “I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (1:28c).

Addressing Ezekiel as “Son of man”, chapter 2 records the prophet’s commission and the gravity of his ministry to the Jews living in Babylon (2:3-4).  Ezekiel’s calling would move him from the safe anonymity of one priest among many to a ministry that of necessity become confrontational as God commissioned and commanded him, “Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. 4  For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. 5  And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them” (Ezekiel 2:3-5).

The Jews in captivity were “impudent children and stiffhearted” (2:4) and God’s response to their sin was to raise up a prophet among them.  Whether they would hear or reject the message of the prophet was the LORD’s business; however, God declared to Ezekiel, they will “know that there hath been a prophet among them” (2:5).

On a personal note, the same will not be said of this 21st century generation.  Fundamental churches, colleges and seminaries across our nation are in desperate need of preachers and evangelists who will stand in the pulpits and boldly declare the Word and Law of the Lord!  Sadly, like the Jews in Babylonian captivity, our churches have become carnal, spiritually cold institutions that demand to be catered to by silver-tongued orators and despise those who dare confront their sins.  While saints idle away their lives sitting in pews, timid preachers stand in pulpits… fearing offending a generation that has little passion for Truth or Holiness.

No wonder God commanded Ezekiel, “be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words… son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee” (2:6-8).

The laments and woes of the LORD concerning Israel appears in Ezekiel 2:9-10 and the prophet is commanded to “eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel” (3:1).  Ezekiel described the taste of the words written on the roll as “honey for sweetness” (3:3).  God commanded the prophet to speak plainly and boldly to the people leaving no doubt the words and the meaning (2:4-6).   The LORD warned Ezekiel, the people “will not hearken unto thee” (3:7).

No doubt Ezekiel was given a difficult task and the message he was to deliver the people would find hard to hear; however, should the prophet be tempted to fail in his duty, God warned, “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (3:18).

Should 21st century preachers not fear the same?  I have observed trends in churches for nearly 40 years that magnify everything except the most important thing…Preaching “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)!   In the 1980’s we promoted Christian schools as the answer to America’s troubles.  In the 1990’s “Nouthetic Counseling” became trendy.  The 2000’s introduced an emphasis on “The Gospel…the Gospel…the Gospel”.  The 2010’s decade has suggested the answer is Discipleship.

Before you take me to task…I am not suggesting the above do not have their place…Christian schools, Nouthetic Counseling, “The Gospel” and Discipleship all have important roles; however, where is the clarion call for the man of God to do what God has called him to do… “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2)?

In his farewell message to the churches, Paul declared with conviction, “I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27  For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27).  I assure you that declaration embodied more than preaching the “Gospel” to the churches.  Paul exhorted the pastors, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (20:28).

Believer and pastor friend, the devil is content with shallow preaching and pastors doing all manner of “good things” at the neglect of the most important thing that preachers alone are called to do…Preach the Word!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith