- The Drama Of Approaching Exile (chapter 12)
- i. Stepping through a wall (verses 1-16)
- ii. Shuddering through a meal (verses 17-28)
- The Doom Of Apostate Preachers (chapter 13)
- i. False Prophets (verses 1-16)
- ii. False Prophetesses (verses 17-23)
Let me welcome you to our Bible Reading tonight, it's great to see you all gathered with us. I know there are some folk visiting with us, perhaps for the first time, and it's great to see you all with us this evening. We ask that the Lord will bless us together around the word of God, and in His presence. Ezekiel chapter 12, beginning our reading at verse 1 - and the subject this evening, the title is: 'The Signs and Blunders Movement'.
Verse 1: "The word of the Lord also came unto me, saying, Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removing, and remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place to another place in their sight: it may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house. Then shalt thou bring forth thy stuff by day in their sight, as stuff for removing: and thou shalt go forth at even in their sight, as they that go forth into captivity. Dig thou through the wall in their sight, and carry out thereby. In their sight shalt thou bear it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover thy face, that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel. And I did so as I was commanded: I brought forth my stuff by day, as stuff for captivity, and in the even I digged through the wall with mine hand; I brought it forth in the twilight, and I bare it upon my shoulder in their sight. And in the morning came the word of the Lord unto me, saying, Son of man, hath not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said unto thee, What doest thou? Say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; This burden concerneth the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that are among them. Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity. And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground with his eyes. My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare: and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there. And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall scatter them among the nations, and disperse them in the countries. But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their abominations among the heathen whither they come; and they shall know that I am the Lord. Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with trembling and with carefulness; And say unto the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord God of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land of Israel; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and drink their water with astonishment, that her land may be desolate from all that is therein, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord God; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord God. Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God.
"And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The Lord saith: and the Lord hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The Lord saith it; albeit I have not spoken? Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God. And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord God. Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar: Say unto them which daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it. Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it? Therefore thus saith the Lord God; I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in my fury to consume it. So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am the Lord. Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered mortar, and will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it; To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord God. Likewise, thou son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, which prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them, And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature to hunt souls! Will ye hunt the souls of my people, and will ye save the souls alive that come unto you? And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies? Wherefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make them fly, and I will tear them from your arms, and will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make them fly. Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand to be hunted; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life: Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the Lord".
'The Signs and Blunders Movement'. If you're engaged in any small sense in any Gospel Ministry, you will know this: messages of the Gospel, especially messages about the future and eternity, often go unheeded. That is why few people are saved, because few actually hear the message of the Gospel and listen to it and heed it. In fact, we find ourselves in the predicament of the old prophet Isaiah in chapter 53: 'Who hath believed our report?'. Who has believed our message, the witness that we are giving? It seems that no-one has believed, and that is the way it seemed for Ezekiel in his day. You remember the occasions after certain visions that he had, how he fell down on his face before God and cried to God: 'Ah, Lord God, will You not leave any of us alive?'. It seemed that, although God had promised a remnant after all of His judgements, that as far as Ezekiel could see in his visions of judgement, there were no people left alive. That is probably because very few people heed the message of judgement.
If Ezekiel was expecting a sudden revolutionary change in the thinking of the exiles, if he expected them all to fall down in repentance and in tears, and turning in faith to their God as a result of his prophesying and his preaching - he was brought down to earth with a gigantic bump. That's that we see in chapter 12: God, in verse 2, again declares that Israel is a rebellious house. They haven't changed! In fact He says in verse 2 that they don't see what the Lord shows them, and they don't hear what the Lord says to them. They have eyes to see, but they don't see. They have ears to hear, but they don't hear. Why is that? Because they are a rebellious house, they are stiff-necked, stony-hearted people!
That's what we see in chapter 11 and verse 19 - the Lord promises that He will give them a new heart, one heart, put a new spirit within them. He will take out the stony heart. Now that was in the vision that Ezekiel was seeing, but it had not yet - in chapter 12 - come to fruition. The people of Israel still had a cold, hard, stony heart toward God. C.H. Spurgeon said on one occasion: 'Men display great ingenuity in making excuses for rejecting the message of God's love. They display marvellous skill, not in seeking salvation, but in fashioning reasons for refusing it. They are dextrous in avoiding grace and in securing their own ruin. They hold up first this shield and then the other to ward off the gracious arrows of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which are only meant to slay the deadly sins which lurk in their bosoms. Men are experts at avoiding the gospel and the grace of God'.
That, in effect, is what chapters 12 and 13 are all about. Men and women, just like you and I, who have ears to hear but do not hear, and eyes to see but do not and cannot see! That is the theme: looking and not seeing, hearing but not listening. For that reason Ezekiel was to carry out his actions - this is the reason why he dramatises his message from God, because these are a people who need all that God can give them to bring them back to Himself. So, he is told to carry out these actions as they watch. Seven times in verses 3 to 7 of chapter 12 you find that statement: 'as they watch'. This is to be done in their seeing and in their hearing. But the fact of the matter is, as we go through this passage and through the book, we find that despite a verbal prophecy from the Lord, and despite a visual enacting of sign acts by the prophet, it doesn't result in them understanding. In fact it cements them, and further digs deep the grave of their inability to understand.
In fact in this passage, chapter 12, you find out that they actually asked Ezekiel: 'What are you doing?'. The Lord says that, He says to Ezekiel: 'Tell me, aren't they saying 'What are you doing, Ezekiel?''. Though they see, they don't get the message. Though they hear, they don't understand it - and even when Ezekiel finishes this sign act, and then he orally tries to explain to them what these parables of drama mean, their reaction is found in verse 27. Look at it: 'Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off'. Ezekiel comes to them and tells them that the end is here - not the end is nigh, the end is here! This is coming upon you, this is the judgement for your sins, but still they think to themselves: 'But he doesn't mean us, does he?'.
Even though they hear every word he speaks, and see every act that he does, it is clear that they understand nothing of his message. They are a rebellious people who have ears and do not hear, eyes and do not see. So, again Ezekiel is given this instruction of these sign acts - that's why the first half of our title is: 'The Signs Movement'. Ezekiel is told to dramatise the impending exile that will come upon them right through chapter 12. The first sign act that Ezekiel is instructed to perform is the stepping through the wall that you find in verses 1 to 16. That is depicting the action of the people going in exile - now, you remember that Ezekiel is already in exile, he was taken in the second deportation from Jerusalem into exile beside the river Chebar in the land of captivity there in Babylon. But there still is another deportation to take place, the final deportation where King Zedekiah will be taken out of Jerusalem and, indeed, no-one will be left and the whole city will be burnt to the ground. That is now what Ezekiel is pointing to.
He's speaking, as he steps through this wall as an act, of the final deportation of people into Babylon. God tells him: 'Ezekiel, you've got to put together a sort of lunch box, an exile survival pack. It's to contain a few belongings that you might need in exile, and that you would need to carry along that journey to captivity'. This consisted simply of an animal skin to hold food in, and perhaps to act as a pillow along his journey as he takes a rest. There would also be within that pack a mat for him to lie on, and sleep upon. There would be a little bowl for him to eat out of and drink out of. All of these things Ezekiel was to get together out of his little home, and he was to bring it as a survival pack on his back, to show these people that this is what they're going to need as they go into exile. All this preparation, God says: 'You must do it in the daytime. You've got to do it during the daytime so that everybody can see'.
Now it seems to entail a lot of preparation, whatever it was. If you can imagine him breaking down this wall with his bare hands, it probably would take all day - but that is to emphasise to the people the seriousness of this, and to grasp their attention, to give them eyes to see and ears to hear that this is what they're going to have to suffer. 'So, Ezekiel, you prepare like this all day, but the departure won't come until the evening'. The reason why the departure doesn't come until the evening is to signify God's delay in the judgement - that God is coming, and it may seem that God has been delaying, but He is just delaying until the appointed, allotted time. The gloom is gathering - in other words, God is signifying for them that the cup of His wrath is slowly but surely becoming full, and it is only a matter of time before it will overflow upon them.
That's what verse 4 says: 'Then shalt thou bring forth thy stuff by day in their sight, as stuff for removing: and thou shalt go forth at even in their sight, as they that go forth into captivity'. This is very significant. He waits until the middle of the night, God tells him: 'Don't go until the middle of the night'. We have seen in these studies, over the past number of weeks, the parallels - it's as if, in this book of Ezekiel, the whole of the Old Testament history is being repeated. You see the exodus, you can go right back into Genesis and see the creation, and there's so much of Old Testament history mirrored in this book. Here again you find the exodus mirrored. If you remember, in Exodus chapter 12 and verse 29, it was in the middle of the night that judgement fell upon Egypt: 'And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn'. God is doing it, but He's not doing it any longer to Egypt, He's doing it to Israel!
This is a frightening and appropriate backdrop for the drama that Ezekiel is depicting. At night, then, Ezekiel begins to dig through the wall - probably the wall of his own house - and go through it, taking this baggage on his back with him. You see that in verse 5: 'Dig thou through the wall in their sight, and carry out thereby'. Then God says: 'You see as you do that' - if it wasn't hard enough to dig through his own wall with this baggage on his back, God tells him that he's to cover his face with a veil so that he cannot see the land - verse 6. The point of that is that the people of Jerusalem, and their prince specifically as the representative of the children of Israel, they will go into exile just as Ezekiel is going through this wall, just as he is acting out - their eyes will be covered, in that they will never ever see the land of promise again.
Look at verse 11: 'Say [to them], I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity'. The meaning of this parable is found in verses 10 through to 16, and we don't really have time to go into all the intricate details - it's debated what they actually mean - but, specifically, it concerns King Zedekiah. If you know your Old Testament history you will know that after King Jehoiachin died Zedekiah became the King, as it were - the Prince he was, and becomes the King. In Old Testament historical politics, theoretically Zedekiah becomes Nebuchadnezzar's puppet - politically he does everything that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon wants him to do. Because of this, and because this is only the icing on the cake of the iniquity and idolatry of the children of Israel, Zedekiah the prince, the King, is taken as the pinnacle and the picture of all Judah's sin. So it's narrowed down to him.
The imagery here is very complicated, but the message is absolutely clear. Not only will there be a third and final exile, bringing out those still remaining in Jerusalem and Judah, but the point that is being made here with all the imagery of the exodus in the past is that this is an 'anti-exodus'. God's people - who had been promised the land, and taken into the land by every cost, and God has determined to bring them out of Egypt, bring them through the wilderness with all their sin, griping and murmuring, and bring them across the Red Sea and eventually through the Jordan into the promised land - God was determined, but the condition of the covenant was that they obeyed God in the land. They didn't, and now there's an anti-exodus.
This anti-exodus, at least in these chapters, is being centred on the prince Zedekiah - his personal transgressions. Ezekiel, up to now, has not concentrated on the king as yet, but now he homes in - specifically he's focusing in his prophecy on the King as the representative of the people, and indeed his sins representative of all the people's sins. Ezekiel is told to cover his face - can you imagine the tragedy of that act, as he covers his face to show that the people that will leave the land of promise will never ever see that land again? They will never ever return out of exile! If you were to turn to 2 Kings chapter 25 - you don't need to turn to it - verse 7 tells us of the fulfilment of these prophecies. You read that at a place called Riblah the Babylonians killed all of Zedekiah's sons, they brought all of the King's sons out and slew them! The seventy elders, that are probably the ones that you saw within the visions here in previous weeks, were all brought out as the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem and were all slain. Then it says that they took King Zedekiah, and they took him into exile, and they poked his eyes out and blinded him as a direct fulfilment that he would never ever again see the land of promise! What a picture, what a drama of the approaching exile as Ezekiel steps through that wall.
The second sign that he is asked to give is shuddering through a meal in verses 17 to 28. He is asked to eat and drink with trembling hands and with a shuddering body. Now, if you were to go to the book of Amos I think - if memory serves me correctly - chapter 1 and verse 1, that word 'tremble' that is used in this passage depicting Ezekiel moving, eating this meal, is a word that is translated in Amos as 'earthquake'. So, it wasn't a sort of nervous jitter, it was a real move. It must have been a real sight for the people to see this man trying to drink a cup of whatever it was, and a meal of whatever he was having, but it going all over the place - maybe dribbling down him, maybe all over his face! A sense of uncontrollable moving and trembling and shuddering.
Now the thing that struck me as I was looking at this today, was that Ezekiel didn't try and win and woo his listeners, that could not hear and could not see, by doing absolutely anything! He didn't try and win them at the expense of truth and at the expense of what God told him to do - I daresay this was a very unattractive sight to see this man shaking like an earthquake as he's eating his meal. But that is what God told him to do, and that is what he did! He was depicting the terror that the people would feel as they were taken into exile. He was saying: 'The violence that you have filled the land with, with all your sin, and with all your rebellion - it's going to return upon your own heads in the devastation of your cities and the devastation of this whole land. I will show you!'. If you underline every time you find this phrase, it's remarkable! Surely you've noticed it as we've been reading: 'They will know that I am the Lord'. It's powerful, isn't it?
It's wonderful that we believe in a sovereign God, isn't it? You know, even in this passage, the remnant isn't forgotten, His grace is not forgotten. Even though things are so bad in His own nation, He's still sovereign. He's still a God who can override these things. In fact I go as far as to say that He is a God who will save His own people at any cost! When God makes a promise - and God promised the children of Israel that He would save them even if it's a small, small remnant - He is a God of His word! Even in the face of all this sin, even in the face of all the idolatry and all of the abomination to His holy soul that is vexed - He is not powerless, even in the face of ears that will not hear and eyes that will not see He will get His message through. The remnant will come, one day, to see that they have escaped - and they will realise that they have escaped in order that they receive the inheritance of the land. But do you know the awful thing about the remnant receiving the inheritance of the land? Who's in the land? The people of Judah are in the land, the remnant - you remember last week - would be the people in exile, the people in the concentration camp, Ezekiel's brethren, his friends, his kith and kin. In order that they became the people again in the land, the people in the land had to be taken out!
That's the tragedy - because the people in the land would not recognise their sin, God would replace them! It was an unpalatable truth that the people in the land did not want to see. They had ears to hear, but they wouldn't hear; eyes to see, but they would not see - it was unpalatable. The message that we preach today - isn't it amazing that it hasn't changed too much? The message that we preach is unpalatable to the world! God must judge sin, and if God doesn't judge sin upon Christ for your surety and your atonement, He will judge sin upon you in hell! That's not too popular, is it? It's not popular to preach that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Indeed, in Rabbi Harold Kushner's (sp?) recent book entitled: 'How Good Do We Have to Be?' that he wrote in 1996 - he argues the notion, and I quote: 'God does not hold us to strict standards of right and wrong. The idea that God knows every secret nasty thing we ever do, even our secret nasty thoughts, and that every sin separates us from God's love - the whole argument of His book is that it cannot be'. That's the way people think in our land, isn't it? They prefer to be optimistic with regards to God and with regards to their future. They don't heed the warnings of 'Flee from the wrath to come!' - they want to think the best thoughts about the future, because honesty and truth are devastating to them. The truth that 'God seeth me' is awful! God sees what I do, it doesn't matter the facade that I portray to the Iron Hall, God sees my heart! That is devastating to human beings.
God's visual aid is what we preach, isn't it? Ezekiel had to show this by stepping through a wall - God's anger towards sin - they'd be cast out. Ezekiel was showing, through this sign act of shuddering through a meal, the terror of the Lord. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God - but what is it that we preach? What is the message that is unpalatable to the world today and that we are rejected for? It is this: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners'! It's unpalatable! It might be 'Gentle Jesus meek and mild', and 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so' - but in reality, when a man grows out of his childlike simple faith he begins to realise that the message of the Gospel is a stumbling block to him and foolishness, because it tells him that 'Because of my sin Christ had to die! Because I'm a sinner and I cannot approach God, and I cannot reach God with any moral standards or any theological ladder, because of that the Son of God had to die'! That's unpalatable, but that's our message: the judgement of God seen in the life of Christ, a Man of sorrows; seen in His death, as He lays upon Him the iniquity of us all; seen in His resurrection, that because He is risen we can rise again. But the point is this: if He doesn't rise again, we don't rise again - and if we don't accept His rising again, we won't rise again!
That is the message that people cannot handle: God's ultimate acts of judgement upon sin, and therefore His deliverance in salvation. All that God wanted these people to do was admit their sin and take hold, by faith, upon the means of salvation - but they heard but they would not listen; they saw, but they would not take heed. Well it's just as well, isn't it, that we don't believe that sin does not separate us from God. We believe it does. Why do we believe that? Because it separated Christ from God at Calvary. It's just as well, isn't it, that we have the Holy Spirit today - Amen! Though men have eyes to see, but they do not see; and ears to hear, but they do not hear - the Holy Spirit is the one who was sent of the Son of God to open men's eyes, and to open their deafened ears, to unplug them. That is this sign act that we portray: Christ and Him crucified, and risen, and the Holy Spirit comes and He opens the eyes of the unbeliever to see this. But do you know something? As old Duncan Campbell said, and I agree with him totally, he was an old highland Calvinist, but he said this: 'We do not believe in any form of God's sovereignty that nullifies man's responsibility'. We do not believe in any form of God's sovereignty that nullifies man's responsibility.
This is our message: Christ and Him crucified, risen, interceding in heaven. But that's not our role over, but we have got to be Ezekiels who portray that message and act it out! That's what Paul did when he said: 'I bear in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus. I am crucified with Christ'. What's that text? 'I fill up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ' - we could spend all night on that one! The point is this, the Lord says that we have a part to play in playing out these signs. We are the witnesses before a watching world. In Acts 1 verse 8 He said: 'Ye shall be my witnesses'. We - this is an amazing thing - we are the letters from Christ to the world around us! Second Corinthians 3:3: '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'.
This is not just verbal, it's not just verbal you know - standing up and giving your testimony, singing gospel songs, or giving out a tract, or preaching in the Open Air - this is visual. The world needs this more than anything today! The world needs to see people living the Christian life, living the life of witness of Christ, the sign act of the dying and rising and living now of the Lord Jesus Christ in your flesh. You see words today may, on their own, not open the blinded eyes or unplug the deafened ears. What needs to happen is what happened 2000 years ago when the word became flesh and dwelt among men! That's still God's plan: incarnation, that Christ be formed in you! The world needs to see it, but my friend before you try and do it, remember that just as it was costly and uncomfortable for Ezekiel it will be costly and uncomfortable for you. How would you like to go home and dig a hole in your wall, pull all the bricks and mortar down, and get this lunchbox from your house and put it on your back, put a veil over your head, and walk through it in the middle of the night? Do you not think that cost him? Do not think it cost him to lie on his side - one side for 390 days and another side for 40 days? To get up and eat famine food, to do all these things, to shave his beard off and save his hair off? It cost him! It cost him to live the word of God!
Oh, how it cost our Lord when He became flesh. Indeed, we underestimate what this was - the incarnation. It meant Him leaving His home in Glory, but more than that: coming to earth and taking upon Himself humanity, and indeed many of the weaknesses and limitations of humanity. Hunger! Thirst! Tiredness! Weariness! It cost Him to humble Himself. One writer says this rightly: 'Evangelicals have often been accused of making the word that became flesh back into words again'. Evangelicals have often been accused of making the word that became flesh back into words again!
The fourth century Emperor Julian complained to his pagan priests in the day in which he lived that these impious Galileans, speaking of Christians, were looking after the pagan poor as well as their own people were! The complaint of the Emperor: 'These people, these Christians, are doing a better job than we are for our own people!'. That's living it out, isn't it? Such selfless sacrifice, sacrificial behaviour, it was staggering in Ezekiel's day. Can you see them all standing around all day watching him running to and fro, getting all these things, digging through a wall? They're still standing there in the middle of the night watching: 'What on earth is that man doing?'. It's still staggering today when men and women in this world that are living for self and sin see you and I laying down our lives for them! They can't understand it! 'Why do you do it? What's in it for you?'.
Isn't it amazing? But do you know something? As our culture becomes more and more anti-Christian and anti-gospel, the only way to reach rebellious people is to go after them. Ezekiel had to go after these people, he had to bring them in contact with his vision - but even when he did go after them it didn't open their eyes! It's necessary to preach the gospel, the word of God, it's necessary to live the word of God out - but even when Ezekiel did all that, and even if we do all that, it will never open men and women's eyes! If you look at this passage, especially in chapter 11, you will see that they needed one heart, they needed a new spirit in them and they needed new hearts. That's still what men and women need today, they need new hearts - and that's something only God can give them. Unless the Lord opens their hearts all our labour will be in vain. So what do we do? Do we sit around and wait until God opens their heart? No! We preach the word, we live the word, and we pray relying on God - knowing that He wants to save men and women! When we do our part and implore Him to do His part, the two will come together!
What a picture of the drama of approaching exile. Well, the drama of nine o'clock is approaching as well, and I want to get on to the second point: 'The Doom of the Apostate Preachers'. This is fascinating. It's not chapter 13, as it says on your sheet, it's chapter 12 verse 21 right through to the end of chapter 13. The reason why it is such is, in verses 21 to the end of chapter 12, there you find the prophet expressing the dilemma of the people trying to distinguish between true and false prophets. It was very difficult, when all these men were running around with false prophecies, to know who was true and who was not. Ezekiel, is he true? Are all these other prophecies, like Hananiah in Jerusalem - the one that we thought about a few weeks ago that said the people would get out in two years, and they went to Ezekiel for a vision because it was time that prophecy was fulfilled - is he a true prophet or not? How do the people know?
In order to deal with that he first of all deals with the cynicism and the general confusion that resulted from these conflicting messages that the people were hearing. In verses 21 to 28 he talks about the confusion over the prophecies, and he does this in two ways - he mentions two slogans of the day. The first slogan is in verse 22, these are proverbs that people used in that day, and the first proverb suggests the ineffectiveness of the word of God. Look at verse 22 of chapter 12: 'The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth'. The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth - what the people were saying was: 'We've heard this for years! What are you trying to tell us, Ezekiel? We've been hearing this talk of judgement since the eighth century BC!'. This proverb literally translates: 'Time passes and nothing happens'. Therefore they concluded that nothing would ever happen: 'Time has gone on, nothing has happened!'.
So God says: 'Well you tell them, Ezekiel', verse 23, 'the days are near when every vision will be fulfilled. I'm going to fulfil it! Every vision will be fulfilled because of my action. There's going to be no more false visions, Ezekiel, no more flattering words and divination among the people', verse 24, 'but the Lord is going to speak and you mark my words, Ezekiel, when I speak what I say will happen', verse 25, 'and there will be no delay about it! They'll not be able to say the days are prolonged and every vision faileth, for the false prophets will be cut off and everyone will know who the true prophet is - Ezekiel. More than all that, they will know that I am the Lord'. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: 'The great watershed that divides earth into two populations are those who will believe God's revelation, and those who will not'. Isn't that it in simple terms? Those who will believe God's revelation and those who won't.
The first phrase was: 'The days are prolonged and it hasn't happened yet'. The second is found later on, verse 28: 'The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off'. Now these weren't people who weren't believing God would do it, but they're just people who say: 'God's going to do it, but you know surely there's another generation yet? Surely we'll be able to live our lives, God's not going to do it' - these procrastinators! It wouldn't affect them, it wouldn't affect their particular generation, but it would hit a future generation. Had not a whole line of prophets prophesied a Babylonian invasion down the years? Surely one more generation would come before the axe of judgement descends? God says: 'They're going to receive a word from me as well', and He turns this proverb round on its head in verse 28 if you look at it. He says: 'Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God'.
These false prophets did not regard the future, and we live in a world today, a society, where its values, laws, environmental conditions, do not consider the future. We were preaching last night: 'Fear not him that can kill the body, but Him that can destroy both soul and body in hell' - that's foreign, isn't it? Live for the day! Don't be thinking about eternity! I mean, let's face it - I heard someone say recently, they were talking to someone, witnessing to someone and they made a remark of some kind such as: 'If I had to live this life again, and at the end of it all I found that it wasn't true, I would live it just like this all over again'. Well, I wouldn't! For we are of all men most miserable if there is no resurrection. I wouldn't be losing my life now if there wasn't a gaining of it later. We are fools in the eyes of the world! In the eyes of the world that cannot see a future day of prize and eternity and judgement and glory, we're fools - and we are fools! We're fools for Christ, because we believe God's revelation!
Even though men live today without regard for the future, they don't think of the consequences, God will judge false prophets. The first thing He deals with are the false prophets in verses 1 to 16, and He basically says: 'Their prophecies are from themselves!'. It's in their imagination! They prophesy out of their spirit! The origin of their prophecy is the difference, and they've got to know that I am the Lord. They can't just prophesy out of their heads, or out of their hearts, they've got to prophesy the revealed word of God. They follow their own spirit - verse 3 of chapter 13 - they follow their own spirit, but they have seen nothing. They even use the right language, verse 2 of chapter 13, they say 'Hear the word of the Lord', they say 'The Lord declares', but they have no calling from the Lord! They even have a hope to see that it will happen, they really believe in their head and heart that all this is going to come to pass - but God hasn't told them and God has not called them!
These false prophets, do you know what they were doing? They were speaking in regard to their own hopes, rather than what the Lord said. They seduced these people, these poor people, into a false security - and it would be devastatingly exposed in the coming day of judgement. God criticises them burningly, He says: 'You're like foxes in the desert, scavengers. All you're interested in is what you can get out of the ruins of Jerusalem - it's self-interest. You're not interested in the people themselves. You're pursuing your own prey', verse 5, 'You're not going to be the one's standing in the gap on the day of judgement, pleading for the people when the judgement comes. You're only in it for what you can get out of it - your own security and safety'. Verses 10 to 16: 'You're another wall. You're a badly built wall, a rickety wall. You're not interested in building properly the city of God, but all you want to do is merely', and that word is 'whitewash', that mortar that's talked about there, 'All you want to do is whitewash'. Do you see in the Hebrew language? It literally can be translated 'vanity', or 'hogwash'. 'You only want to hogwash an outward hypocrisy, but you're not interested in the people'.
Oh, I've so much to say. Even the prophetesses came in, and they had magical charms in verse 17. They had these kind of ties, a magical ritual, that they put round their arms. Verse 18 says they made veils and put them over their heads, and it has a magic connotation. They were attracting the people through this conjuring and this magical power that they seemed to have. They had no divine calling, they only followed the pursuit of personal profit and gain. Verse 19 says they were in it for the barley and for the bread - but what they were doing, verse 20 says, was ensnaring people like birds, exploiting the people, making them the disposable means of their profit.
We must finish, but what I have to say is this: there are men in our land tonight, and there are evangelists coming to visit our land - even in the Odyssey* - and they are false prophets. Now, you be warned! For many of them are in it for the money, to line their pockets, and they attract people with magic - not the word of the Lord, with magic. Do you see these missions that are now been advertised by the miracle and not by the Gospel? That is not our message! We could outline this for hours, but the point is this - and this is my final climax of everything that we have said tonight - and it's what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:8: 'For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?'. If you don't tell it like it is, if you don't become a watchman of God and just present the word of God, what will happen? I'll tell you what will happen, the instruction to the watchman: 'If you tell them and they go ahead, well, they're damned; but if you tell them and they're saved, that's great'.
*Conference centre in Belfast
These prophets were telling them what they wanted to hear, and they were damning their souls and weren't telling them the truth to deliver them. My friend, as we live in such a pluralistic, wishy-washy - and even in evangelicalism, where men line their pockets and are afraid to preach it like it is in case they get kicked out, lose their job. You might say: 'Well, that's OK for you, you're secure in here' - that's alright, but my point is this: I intend to always endeavour to be in a position where I can say what the Lord puts upon my heart, regardless. Whenever I can't, I'll be away! My friend, that is the key: if the trumpet sounds an uncertain sound, what will the people do? What will they do? We need to present in our words, and in our lives, the message of God.
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 eighth tape in his Ezekiel series, titled "The Signs And Blunders Movement" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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