This sermon is number 16 in a series of 24
Ezekiel - Part 16
"When The Cost Comes Home"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2001 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Ezekiel 24, and I trust that you did read this passage before you came this evening. Now, if it's not your custom to come on a Monday night to the Iron Hall, we have been going through a series in the book of Ezekiel. If you've come and this is your first night, or your second night, or maybe your third, you may be a little lost in the train of thought right from the beginning of the book - but don't let that disturb you, because I'm sure that the Lord will have something for you tonight if you have come with an open heart, listening to His voice.
Let's begin at verse 1 of chapter 24: "Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day. And utter a parable unto the rebellious house, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Set on a pot, set it on, and also pour water into it: Gather the pieces thereof into it, even every good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder; fill it with the choice bones. Take the choice of the flock, and burn also the bones under it, and make it boil well, and let them seethe the bones of it therein. Wherefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the bloody city, to the pot whose scum is therein, and whose scum is not gone out of it! Bring it out piece by piece; let no lot fall upon it. For her blood is in the midst of her; she set it upon the top of a rock; she poured it not upon the ground, to cover it with dust; That it might cause fury to come up to take vengeance; I have set her blood upon the top of a rock, that it should not be covered. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the bloody city! I will even make the pile for fire great. Heap on wood, kindle the fire, consume the flesh, and spice it well, and let the bones be burned. Then set it empty upon the coals thereof, that the brass of it may be hot, and may burn, and that the filthiness of it may be molten in it, that the scum of it may be consumed. She hath wearied herself with lies, and her great scum went not forth out of her: her scum shall be in the fire. In thy filthiness is lewdness: because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee. I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD. Also the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down. Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men. So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded. And the people said unto me, Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so? Then I answered them, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Speak unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the excellency of your strength, the desire of your eyes, and that which your soul pitieth; and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left shall fall by the sword. And ye shall do as I have done: ye shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. And your tires", or your turbans, "shall be upon your heads, and your shoes upon your feet: ye shall not mourn nor weep; but ye shall pine away for your iniquities, and mourn one toward another. Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD. Also, thou son of man, shall it not be in the day when I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds, their sons and their daughters, That he that escapeth in that day shall come unto thee, to cause thee to hear it with thine ears? In that day shall thy mouth be opened to him which is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb: and thou shalt be a sign unto them; and they shall know that I am the LORD".
'When The Cost Comes Home' is the title of our message this evening. For 23 chapters now in this book Ezekiel has been proclaiming the wrath of God upon God's people, and upon God's city Jerusalem. Twenty-three chapters, and now finally in chapter 24 the sword of judgement actually descends. God told Ezekiel the prophet to take a pen and a paper and to carefully note the date when this is happening. God wanted God's prophet to note the date that judgement was coming upon His people, the event, the coming of God's word in fulfilment - he was to record it, he was to show the people in a day to come to prove to them that God's word had come true, this was the date that God fulfilled His word in all your hearing and in all your eyes.
We have preached for thousands of years, as the church of Jesus Christ, the coming of the Lord Jesus. There is a date when the Lord will come again. I don't know that date, you don't know the date - you might think you do - there's no preacher upon the earth tonight, no matter what he says, who knows that date - but yet there is a date. There is a date, and there will be a day when that date will be recorded for all the world to see: that on such-and-such a date the Lord Jesus Christ came back. Like Noah's day, men still mock. Men mocked in the antediluvian day, before the flood they said: 'Where is the promise of this flood's coming? When is it coming? We haven't seen the like of this ever before, when is this great apocalypse going to come upon the earth?'. They said it to Ezekiel: 'No, it's not going to come! Jerusalem is not going to be destroyed, it's not going to be burnt down, but an army will come and will take us out of captivity in Babylon and bring us back to Jerusalem and set up our kingdom again. Where is the promise of this wrath to come that you speak of?'.
As Peter says, men are still saying: 'Where is the promise of His coming?'. For 2000 years now we have been preaching the advent, the second advent, of the Lord Jesus - when He will burst the clouds; when He will come to take His church home to be with Himself; when He will eventually come after seven years of tribulation and put His feet on the Mount of Olives, and come to the earth as the Judge and as the King of kings and Lord of lords - but still they say: 'Where is the promise of His coming?'. Peter's answer, our answer, the Spirit's answer is: 'God is not slack concerning His promise'. There is a date, there is a day, there is an hour when it will happen - Peter says it will come as a thief in the night.
The wrath to come is an awful thing, and if you've ever meditated upon it - and I'm sure, as you've been going through this book with me you've had a little bit of a glimpse of what it will be like. It is the inevitable way that impenitent sinners must be judged. If men and women reject the Lord Jesus, if men and women shun His gospel and count His blood as an unclean thing, it's the only thing that can happen to sinners - that in the end they are judged! It is the coming of the Lord, it is spoken of as the wrath to come, and as believers and as the church of Jesus Christ today it ought to be the dominant thing in our mind! It ought to be the reality of our thinking: the Lord is coming! The Lord is coming soon! Wrath is coming, and we must be ready, and we must try to get the world around us ready!
Ezekiel was the watchman of his day, you remember that illustration that we had in weeks gone by. He was to warn the people, he was to warn them to flee from the wrath to come. We are the watchmen of today, now. We are the ones who are to proclaim that the time is short! We are to communicate God's prophetic message of the gospel, we are to get it out there, we are to tell it to others and to warn them! If that is the case it is imperative that we communicate the message effectively. People may not believe - and they are not believing, as they did not in the day of Noah, as they didn't in the day of Ezekiel, as they didn't in the day of Peter - but that is not the question. We must nevertheless - whether they believe it or not, whether it is a savour of life, or a savour of death and damnation - we must make sure that we are communicating the message effectively, and that the barrier to them trusting Christ is not our communicating of it.
I read a book recently called 'The Gospel Blimp'. The thought of the author was that, he depicts this drama of an individual who is a Christian and wants his next-door neighbour to be converted. As he sits out in the patio on a summer evening he can hear them drinking and telling dirty jokes, he can see the smoke rising from their table. He tries to think of all the ingenious ways that he possibly can of converting them. So, one night in bed, he says to his wife: 'I've had an idea. I'm going to buy an airship'. He gets an airship, and he builds it up and puts all the helium in it, and he launches it. He goes over, with a couple of friends, over the neighbourhood in which he lives and he gets these little gospel bombs as he calls them - little packages of gospel tracts - and he drops them down into his neighbour's garden! They think it's quite effective, so they form a 'Gospel Blimp Organisation'. Then they buy uniforms for one another, they appoint a leader, they get a strategy, and they see how many people as possible they can reach with these gospel bombs. I hope you can see that the author has a satire of the way that we as the church try to spread the gospel often in absolutely ineffective ways, and some of the most impersonal ways imaginable - it is his next-door neighbour!
The greatness of Ezekiel's message was the personal nature of all of his prophetic ministry. His signs, his acts, his parables, if you like he was the message - Ezekiel was the message. It wasn't just the voice of one prophet, strange man, crying in the wilderness: 'The coming of the Lord draweth nigh', but Ezekiel's life, his personality, the things he did, the way he lived, actually screamed it - that the wrath of God was coming! I want us to see tonight how he communicated this message.
The first sign that we have here in this passage, verses 1-14, is the parable of a boiling pot. Now, this parable marks the turning point in all of the prophecies up to now. All of the prophecies and signs and acts were all warnings, but now in verse 1 the fulfilment of God's prophecies begins. Verse 1 we have: 'In the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying', the very day - and this is the very day that the 18 month siege of Jerusalem began. The 15th of January 588BC, and in 2 Kings 25 verse 1 we know that this was the date when Nebuchadnezzar and all his army from Babylon went into Jerusalem and God's word was fulfilled.
You remember that this was the second siege in 12 years. Ezekiel had been taken, in the first siege, over to Babylon, and he was prophesying in that concentration camp in Babylon about this siege - and they all laughed at him, they mocked him, they contradicted him, there were false prophets rose up against him and said: 'Peace, peace', when there was no peace. But Ezekiel can write down the date when God's word was fulfilled! Now, remember that Ezekiel is in Babylon, and Ezekiel is having revealed to himself by God these events that are taking place. God is revealing to His prophet. Now this causes a great problem for liberal theologians, one of them I read said this: 'This verse forces on us in the clearest fashion the dilemma that either Ezekiel was a deliberate deceiver, or he was possessed of some kind of second sight'. He was either a liar, or he was some kind of mystic - but they cannot even conceive of the possibility that this was God's man in God's place with God's message, and it was! And here is the proof! He reveals secrets to His servants, the prophets.
In verse 2 we find the King of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem, he set himself against Jerusalem. What a vivid illustration this is - I don't know whether you've ever stood over a saucepan, and perhaps you've went away to do something else and left it on the cooker, and its contents have been allowed to boil dry, and the result is there's a great thick black smoke and a ruined saucepan. Well, that's the picture that you have in this passage. In verses 3 to 5 the prophet is told to take a saucepan, or a cauldron. He is told to put into the cauldron choice cuts of lamb, lamb cutlet, chop them up and put them in with the bones. That is a picture - the lamb - of God's flock. The cauldron is Jerusalem, the lamb being put in is God's people, and Ezekiel is told to boil the pot - and that is the heat of the siege that Jerusalem is going to come under on this very date. They were going to be the fuel for God's fire, and as the fire of judgement grew hotter the Bible says that as they were boiled done, only a scum appeared at the top of this boiling pot. Scum appeared, 'the lewdness', it says, 'of their idolatry' - and then absolutely everything in the pot was destroyed!
Now what is the parable saying? It's saying this: if you put lamb cutlets into boiling water and boil it, you should smell a lovely smell, a lovely aroma, and that should be a lovely taste for your meal. But the opposite was true: all that came forth was a scum, a dirt, a filth - speaking that from God's people there was this fruit of filth! God was saying: 'My people are useless for Me. They have become castaways, they have become disqualified for service'. God says in verse 6: 'Woe to the bloody city!'. Now, you need to think about this - Jerusalem, what is it described as? The holy city! And God is speaking of it as the bloody city, bloody with corruption, bloody with guilt! In verses 7 and 8 God says that her blood would be put on top of a rock, and it would be shown for all to see - a symbol of their sin would be uncovered. Their sin, they were not ashamed of it, Jerusalem's sin was open, so God would judge her openly before all the world.
The law of God said that whenever an animal's blood was shed that it was to be covered over with dust, and if it was not covered over with dust it would evoke the wrath and the judgement of God. So what God is doing here is He is uncovering the blood of their sinfulness and their corruption, why? So that His own wrath would be evoked and would be brought upon them. Remember that the blood of Abel cried out to God from the ground? The blood of all Jerusalem's innocent victims of that bloody city cried out to God for justice, and after God had boiled that pot do you know what He did? He emptied everything out of the pot, verses 11 and 12, set the pot empty, and He took the pot with nothing in it and He heated it again, trying to get the grime and the scum and the filth out of the pot - another attempt to purge the people! What the prophet is saying is: 'I'm trying thoroughly to judge you, I'm really trying to get this dirt out of My people', and He's doing it by destroying the pot - in other words, destroying the city, destroying the temple with all the residue and all the people in it!
When we look at Leviticus chapter 14 in the law we find that that was exactly the thing that was done to the leprous house. What I mean by that is this: whenever leprosy was found in a house in the promised land, the people had to get out of the house, but before doing so they had to look at any bricks where there was a residue of the leprosy upon it. If there was any they were to take those bricks out and do away with them in an unclean place. If the leprosy was through the walls they were to knock the walls down, in fact if it was through the whole building they were to take the whole building down, put it in an unclean place. What God is saying here is: 'There is leprosy' - and leprosy is a type of sin - 'There is leprosy in My house, in My temple, in My city, among My people, and I will purge it out!'. But all His efforts to remove the defilement in God's people proved useless up till now.
So we have the greatest sign that is in Ezekiel's life, the sign of a bereaved prophet in verses 15 to 27. I want you to look at this carefully. Ezekiel's prophecy was not delivered from the safety of an armchair, or from the sanctuary of a pulpit like the one I stand in this evening, but during the ministry of Ezekiel he has paid a price many many times. If you cast your mind back with me, he acted out so many signs and so many sermons. In chapter 12 alone we see Ezekiel digging through a wall, and showing all the people, digging with his bare hands through brick and mortar, and then stepping through that wall; we see him sitting down at a table to eat a meal of famine - awful food - but he is shaking as he eats it, he is told to shake to show the trembling of the judgement that God was going to bring upon His people. He's told to eat rotten husks, rotten famine food, to portray to the people that famine is going to come upon the land; he's told to lie on one side for days upon end, and then turn on the other side and lie on it. Continually, right throughout Ezekiel's ministry, it's costing him, he's paying a great price! But none of them was as costly as this...
This was when the cost came home. I want you to see tonight that the sword that was about to strike Jerusalem, that great boiling and destruction that was about to come upon the people, it struck the prophet first! Look at verse 16: 'Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes', the delight of your eyes. His wife! God was actually going to take his wife away! We read that with one blow God took away the prophet's delight of his eyes, his only beloved, his dear wife, suddenly like a plague. Ezekiel was told in the morning that his wife would die, and that very evening just as he was told his wife died - and he was expected to go out and preach it to the people. This is remarkable, and I want you to enter into the spirit of these words tonight, I want you to try and grasp and imagine in your mind what this would have been like. Can you imagine God's prophet this day, the date that you have before you, getting on his face before God as was his custom early in the morning before the sun rose? Can you imagine him bowing before God, and the Holy Spirit of God coming upon the prophet, and getting this word from the Lord? Can you imagine the heartbreak when he got this revelation? Put yourself in his shoes! Losing your spouse, and losing your spouse at the hand of God for a preaching illustration to a rebellious and hardheaded, stiff-necked people!
The amazing thing to me about this is that there are no recorded protestations from this man. He doesn't cry to God and argue with God; he didn't run away from God like Jonah; he didn't weep before God like Jeremiah; he didn't in despair, like Elijah, run underneath a juniper tree and get depressed, and say: 'You're not asking anybody else to do the like of this, why should I do it?'. Can you imagine him getting up to preach before the people, and predicting before them the death of his own wife? I was thinking about this today, and I was wondering did he talk to her about it? Did he tell her? I think he probably didn't. Can you imagine how he looked at her right throughout that day? Thinking about what was going to happen to her, I wonder did he treat her in an unusual tender way right throughout that day? I wonder what his last words were to his beloved? But the amazing thing to me about this great prophet is: if it was you or me, we would be suspending all of our activities, but this man of God went out and preached the word of God!
Can you imagine him coming in that evening after delivering God's message, God heartbreaking, heartrending message to them - and coming in that evening to know that that very night his wife would die? Before the morning she would be gone, and to top it all God says: 'Now, when you appear before the people again you're not to have even one whimper of sorrow. You're not allowed to mourn'. The traditional ways, in verse 17, of public mourning by lamentation, by tears, by crying in the street, by wearing dishevelled clothing, by taking your turban off in horror, by ripping your garments, by eating special mourning food - you're not allowed to do it Ezekiel, all you can do is grown quietly in private, mourn in privacy and in isolation. That meant that he would be deprived of the sympathy, the succour, and the solidarity of the community - no-one would know what God's prophet was going through! Outwardly, Ezekiel, you're to behave as if nothing had ever happened!
Did he question God? I don't know, we don't have any record that he did. I wonder did he wish that he was Jeremiah who had just been told not to marry? That would have spared him the grief of growing up with this beloved, this delight of his eyes, and then losing her, and then not even being able to express the grief of that loss! Can you imagine what a message this was to the people? In verses 19 to 24 the people come back at him and they say: 'What is the meaning of this strange behaviour?'. Maybe they had seen that this woman was the delight of his eyes, they knew that he loved her, and they could not understand that just like clockwork, as usual, he came out and delivered his message. Not one sign of mourning and sorrow!
What does this mean? Ezekiel told them calmly and collectedly and coolly: 'This means that the delight of your eyes will be taken away in a blow too. Jerusalem, the delight of your eyes; the temple, the delight of your eyes; the monarchy - all of it will be wiped away in one split second with God's hand. It will be buried, the temple will be destroyed and desecrated by heathens. Your sons and your daughters will be killed and will be scattered, and you will not mourn!'. Now, Ezekiel tells the people: 'If you want to mourn, God wants you to mourn for your sin!' - but it was too late now. They did not seek the Lord when He was to be found. They didn't call upon Him while He was near. God tells him in verses 25 to 27 that when the city falls fugitive, one man will come and one man will tell Ezekiel a message and give him power to speak. Imagine this: Ezekiel's wife dies, Ezekiel is told not to mourn, when the city falls under siege Ezekiel is not allowed to speak - in fact he is made dumb, he's not allowed to say anything from God to the people, why? Because it's too late! They no longer needed any preaching, do you know why? Because the judgement had come.
It amazes me that even in personal grief Ezekiel was still God's prophet. Do you know something? That is the struggle of cost, the struggle of the cost of being called of God. You see, this is the difference between a prophet and a pretender. When the cost comes home, when there's something more than just a message, but your whole life has to become that message! Can I say to you tonight that the life that you live down here on earth will be the greatest sermon that you will ever preach! D.L. Moody said: 'It is a great deal better to live a holy life than to talk about it. Lighthouses do not ring bells and fire cannons to call attention to their shining, they just shine'. I remember reading recently C.H. Spurgeon on the life of George Mueller, and the preaching of George Mueller - and some of you may have heard me say this in private. Spurgeon said of George Mueller's preaching that it was so simplistic, in fact it was so simple that it was like a talk to the little children. He says there was nothing special about it whatsoever, but yet although it was simplistic he said it was the greatest preaching that he had ever heard - the reason being: George Mueller was in it! What did he mean by that? He said: 'I mean the life of George Mueller was behind it!' - a life of godliness, a life of faith, a life of holiness, a life of sacrifice. It could be seen shining through his message!
E.M. Bounds said: 'It takes 20 years to make a sermon, because it takes 20 years to make a man'. The making of the gospel, my friends, the making of the preaching of it to a dying, lost world, is the making of men and women of God, men and women of holiness who will go with that gospel, who will tell it and whose lives will shine through it. Now listen, don't get me wrong tonight and think I'm talking about public preachers, that is not what I'm talking about - I'm talking about all preachers of the Gospel, and that is all who have received the great commission: 'Go ye into all the world and preach', and that is you! All of you are sermons, all of you have a message!
You know, as any human being would read this story, I think one of the questions that would come to your heart is this: is it worth it? Now let's be honest here tonight: was it worth it for Ezekiel? To suffer all that he did, and then in the end to lose the delight of his eyes, was it worth it? I think Ezekiel would have had a problem fitting into church life today, where we give to the Lord of that which costs us nothing. Famous lines today are: 'OK, I'll do my best for God, but when it starts to affect my home or it starts to affect my personal life, well then I'll draw the line'. My friends, this was when the cost came home, this is when the cost was great - was it worth it? Well, you can only judge whether it was worth it or not, depending on which world you are living for - whether you are gathering treasures down here to enjoy now, or whether you're gathering them up in glory where moth and rust doth not corrupt, for your reward in heaven and for all eternity. That's how you will know if it is worth it!
I'll tell you this much: Ezekiel's experience puts to death the false teaching of health and wealth, this gospel that charismatic churches are preaching that tells you you should be rich, you should be clever, you should be successful in business. 'God loves you, God wants you to have a Rolls-Royce, He wants you to have a mansion on a hilltop, in fact He wants you to have everything and anything that you want' - we castigate those ideas, and perhaps personally we laugh at them, but can I ask ourselves this evening: what are our ideas about life? Do we measure God's blessing by good health? Do we measure God's blessing by the standard of living that we have, a successful job, or even a good spouse? Do we think to ourselves, if we do not have those things, that something has gone wrong in our Christian lives, that God hasn't given us these blessings? Can I say this, and let this sink into you if you're suffering tonight, if you're going through anguish and pain and parting: God never in His word promises us an easy ride! Nowhere!
People stand beside sorrow and pain and trial and disaster, and they say: 'Why couldn't God have done something to prevent that? Why couldn't God have stepped in?'. My friend, don't think of it like that: God has a purpose in these things, that's why God does not prevent them - God's hand is in them! It's alright saying that, but it's a bitter pill and cup to swallow - but Ezekiel had to swallow it. Ezekiel had to resign himself that God was working in his life, that God was doing this for a purpose. Perhaps he asked in his heart: 'God, why do You have to do this so far, why do You have to go to such an extent? Can I not just do another drama or another sign act? Can I not draw another picture?'. God said: 'No', He had a purpose. Like Job, who was brought to the point where he said to a mocking wife: 'Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips'.
Listen, in all of this message, in the cauldron pot and the boiling of Jerusalem, in the death of Ezekiel's wife, there is a point that you must see tonight and it's this: the greatness of these sufferings displays the magnitude of the problem. God's not going overboard, God's not going too far with His servant, He is wanting to communicate the magnitude of the problem of their sin! Friends tonight, God does not ask us to go through or to put up with anything for His glory that He is not prepared to do Himself! 'Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, they took, and by wicked hands they crucified and they slew'. Men meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
My friends, listen tonight: what is your part? What do you do when God comes into your life, when He breaks in? Do you know what you do? As Peter says, you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, like a little child you resign yourself that God's will is perfect to them that love Him. This is when the cost comes home, let me leave three things with you tonight. There was a cost for God, never forget that! When there is pain, when there is sorrow, when there is sickness, when Ezekiel loses his wife, remember: He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all! There was a cost for God, shall there not be a cost for us? There is a cost to our loved ones. The Lord Jesus said: 'If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple'.
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 7 for a moment, 1 Corinthians 7, and remember the coming of the Lord draws nigh. Verse 29: 'But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away'. We are the prophets of God, we are the messenger of God, the coming of the Lord draws nigh and there is a cost to us, there is a cost to our families, there is a cost to our livelihood! That great hall of faith in Hebrews 11 says this: 'Women received their dead raised to life again: but others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection'. Some women received their husbands alive again, but there were other women and their husbands said 'No', they were tortured, they died, why? For a better reward in heaven!
There's a cost to God, there's a cost to our loved ones, and there's a cost to ourselves. If you turn to 2 Corinthians we see Paul commenting on that in chapter 4, 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 7. Friend, if you're suffering tonight read these words and implement them to the glory of God: 'But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you'. What is he saying? We are earthen vessels, we're like clay pots that are cracked and broken - why is it broken? Why do we bear in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus? So that the life of Christ may shine out of these earthen, broken, weary, tired vessels! If that is to happen it will cost you.
Paul said: 'Ye are our epistle written in our hearts' - you're the Gospel! - 'known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart'. Listen, there's no such a thing in the New Testament as a nominal Christian, there's no such a thing as a detached professional preacher of the Gospel. The Christian is not so much to preach the Gospel as to be the Gospel! Are we living the Gospel? There is a missionary film entitled 'At Play in the Fields of the Lord'. It depicts in South America a father burying his dead child who died of Black Water Fever. As the rain beats down on the television screen, you can hear the cry of that missionary father crying in protestation to God: 'I didn't give you permission!'. If we are His, and we say that we have given all over to His control, does He need our permission?
Oh, the centuries are filled with the blood of martyrs who gave permission - as if it was needed - but they give their lives totally to God. Like even Luther, and he put it in these words in his great hymn: 'A Mighty Fortress':
'And though they take my life,
Goods, honour, children, wife,
Yet is their profit small:
These things shall vanish all;
The City of God remaineth'.
The old puritan said: 'Crosses and losses are to be expected'. Oh, believers tonight, let us never forget that our Saviour hung on a cross, and God never showed Him an ounce of mercy but He poured all His Almighty wrath upon Him. Without pity His all-consuming fire, the all-consuming wrath of God against sin, was combusted on Jesus Christ. That fatal dark hour, thousands of years later from Ezekiel's dark night, was a greater turning point in the history of Jerusalem than ever was in any siege. The delight of the disciple's eyes was taken away. Mary ran into the garden weeping: 'They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him'. Such darkness, such hell, such anguish, such torment - was it worth it? Oh, hallelujah, it was worth it! For through His darkness the light of the glorious Gospel has shone unto us, and the wrath of God upon Jerusalem has brought to us: what was judgement on Christ has become our salvation for all eternity. If that is the case, can God ask of me something that is too expensive? Can God ask of me something too taxing, or too inconvenient, or too costly? He is Lord, and if we are His suffering servants, we are to suffer before the world - why? 'That they might know that I am the Lord'.
A man owned an island that was populated with slaves, and he refused those slaves the privilege of the preaching of the Gospel. He didn't allow any preacher of the Gospel to come to the island, and if there was a shipwreck and there were missionaries on board they were held in a hut until they could get them away. No Gospel, no converts. On one occasion two Moravian young men decided that they would sell themselves as slaves to this man, and with the money that they received for selling themselves they payed their fare to go to the island. Their families tried to get them to turn back, to persuade them to stop - they pleaded with tears and crying. As their boat left into the ocean, one of those young men could be heard to shout: 'May the slain Lamb receive the reward of the sacrifice'. May the slain Lamb receive the reward of the sacrifice...and they were never seen again - that is when the cost comes home.
Our Father, we would pray: 'Make me a captive Lord, and then I shall be free. Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be. I sink in life's alarm when by myself I stand, imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand'. Lord, we are Thy servants, and we pray that we will be faithful in these days to live the life of Christ before men, and to choose the narrow way that leads unto life, that the slain Lamb should receive the reward of the sacrifice. Amen.
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixteenth tape in his Ezekiel series, titled "When The Cost Comes Home" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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