Editorial note: I apologize that I have not kept up very well with my schedule during the last couple of months. Unfortunately life keeps getting in the way and I have not been able to plan and write like I want to. I have allowed this to keep me from writing anyway, which is a disservice to anyone who actually reads this blog. Here lately I have been talking a lot about spiritual practices, and this seems to be an area that I am lacking development. I will re-double my efforts to write reliably, but any prayers for me would be greatly appreciated.
As we have seen in the past couple of chapter, Ezekiel experiences several visions in his ministry to the people. In this chapter, Ezekiel is prophesying directly to the people. He still sees visions, but here he is declaring the words of God that have been given to him to say. Unfortunately, this is not a good message for the people, however, there is a slight bit of hope given. God never wants to abandon His people, but sometimes they make Him do it.
Ezekiel came to the Temple in Jerusalem and found 25 men waiting. These men were people that would stir up trouble and cause rebellions. So Ezekiel prophesies to the men and all of Israel saying, “You’re afraid of a sword, but I shall bring a sword upon you (the Lord Yahweh’s declaration). I shall make you go out from the middle of it and give you into the hand of strangers. I shall execute acts of authority against you” (Ezekiel 11: 8-9, Goldingay). Israel is to be removed from their country, that they believed was their permanent possession. Based on their covenant with God, the land was theirs as long as they maintained the Law. The people had fallen away, and were now in danger of losing everything. People that the Israelites did not know were to come and take possession of the land. There is imagery here of meat in a post (I assume for making a stew). God declares that He will remove the people (the meat) from the land (the pot). When Ezekiel finished this prophecy, one of the men died immediately, causing Ezekiel to fall in worship.
“Many things are possible for the person who has hope. Even more is possible for the person who has faith. And still more is possible for the person who knows how to love. But everything is possible for the person who practices all three virtues.”Brother Lawrence
After the people are to be scattered among many nations, God will bring His people back into the land. When they return, they will remove all signs of idolatry that are present and recommit themselves to God. God declares, “I shall give them on mind. I shall put a new sprite within you. I shall remove the mind f stone from their flesh and give them a mind of flesh, so that they will follow my laws and keep my ruling and act on them. They will be a people for me and I shall be God for them” (Ezekiel 11:19-20, Goldingay). After this declaration, Ezekiel sees the angels lifting the glory of God up and away from the people. He is then brought to the people living in exile, and is given a message to them which will be in the next chapter.
“Faith looks not at what happens to him but at Him Whom he believes.”Watchman Nee
At the beginning and end of this chapter, Ezekiel is presented with a crowd that he is compelled to speak against. He knows that the message he has probably will not be taken well. In the first instance, a man immediately dies as a direct effect of his prophesying. Yet, in the middle of these messages of pain coming, there is still a message of hope; after the people are scattered, they will be brought back. This message shows that no matter how bad, and in spite of all the consequences, God is still willing to bless His people. He does not simply give up on them and move onto the next people to try again. He knows that humanity will fail to uphold His Law. He knows that the truth is that there must be a purity of heart. The people have to recognize that they must do all they can to uphold the Law, and when they fail, know that it is still not enough to keep God away from them.
This message applies to us today through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. We still are completely unable to uphold the requirements of the Law. Jesus offers us the way of redemption back to God. He defeated the powers of sin and death so you and I can have a path of being brought back into life with Him. This is often hard for us to understand, especially in the United States, as we expect everything that we get to be done by us. Jesus did all the work for us and offers us this free gift. Yes, there are consequences to our sins. Maybe you are living with those consequences now. God calls us to recognize those sins and repent of them. In this way we will remove the signs of idolatry in our lives and recommit ourselves to keeping God’s Law. I know it is hard. For me, this is a daily activity. This is the path of becoming more like Christ; recognizing your own sinfulness, giving it to Him, and walking in a new life. Take some time today and pray that God opens your eyes to the places in your life that you still need to give to Him. Whether you have been a person of faith for 50 years or 50 seconds there is still a place like this. Be open and honest with yourself and God. He already knows the truth and desires to help you on the path to becoming more like His Son.