- The Story Of Oholah (verses 1-10)
- The Story Of Oholibah (verses 11-21)
- The Judgement Of Two Cities (verses 22-49)
Now let me welcome you to the Bible Reading here in the Iron Hall this evening, it's great to welcome you all and to see you all gathered out - such a good number - this evening. Thank you for coming, and we trust that you're blessed through the word of God tonight as we study it together. Ezekiel chapter 23, and I hope you have read the passage before you came - there are some 49 verses in this chapter, we're not going to take time to read all of them, but what we will do to begin with is read from verses 1 to 19. Please do follow it carefully.
Verse 1: "The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother: And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity. And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah. And Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours, Which were clothed with blue, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses. Thus she committed her whoredoms with them, with all them that were the chosen men of Assyria, and with all on whom she doted: with all their idols she defiled herself. Neither left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt: for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredom upon her. Wherefore I have delivered her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians, upon whom she doted. These discovered her nakedness: they took her sons and her daughters, and slew her with the sword: and she became famous among women; for they had executed judgment upon her. And when her sister Aholibah saw this, she was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms. She doted upon the Assyrians her neighbours, captains and rulers clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men. Then I saw that she was defiled, that they took both one way, And that she increased her whoredoms: for when she saw men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, Girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity: And as soon as she saw them with her eyes, she doted", or lusted, "upon them, and sent messengers unto them into Chaldea. And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them. So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister. Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt".
If you cast your mind back not so long ago to one of our studies, we looked in chapter 16 to a very similar passage. We saw that that passage was very shocking in its imagery, and if that wasn't bad enough the imagery that we have tonight is even more shocking. You remember when we studied chapter 16 that C. H. Spurgeon, the great preacher, said that this passage of Scripture could hardly be read in public. Well, this chapter 23, one of the reasons why I have stopped reading it is because it could get very embarrassing if we read the rest of the passage! It can scarcely be read in public, due to decorum and politeness. It is a shocking passage.
A husband reputedly was cured of infidelity on one occasion by two psychiatrists in a hospital in London. What they did was, they put him into a dark room and they showed him alternative pictures - one of his wife, and then of his mistress. They did this for 30 minutes at a time for six days, right through the week. Whenever his mistress' picture appeared he received 70 volts of a shock to his wrist, and when his wife appeared a tape recording was played telling him of the harm he was doing to her. These two psychiatrists declare that he was cured of his infidelity - 70 volts of a shock through the wrist, and being told for 30 minutes, six days a week, what his wife was going through.
The purpose of this passage of Scripture - the Holy Spirit of God is doing exactly the same thing, for in the shocking imagery that we have God is wanting to put even more than 70 volts through the wrist of His people Israel, Judah and the Northern Kingdom of Samaria. He is wanting to shock them, He is wanting them to be shocked out of their complacency, out of their backsliding, and out of their sin. So He tells them this very lewd and perverted story.
The story begins with two sisters living in the land of Egypt. The passage tells us in verse 2 that they were born of the same mother. What that is really telling us is that they came from the same origin, and because they came from the same origin they were of the same nature. The passage tells us that there in Egypt, as young women, they had already adopted the practices and the casual ways of the life of prostitution. The amazing thing about the first four verses of this chapter is that, despite their unworthy sinfulness and their abominations, God took them to be His wives. If you look at verse 4 you see this wonderful statement: 'They became mine'. When this individual man married these two sisters, the allegory goes that the family then moved to another land away from the sinful associations and temptations of youth for these two young girls.
But as we read down this story we find that even though they had been separated from the associations of their sins of youth, the behaviour of the sisters had been so formed within their childhood that in their new homes, in their new locations, they continued to act with the same reckless sexual immorality as they did in their youth. So we are introduced to Aholah. It says that Aholah continued to take lovers, she continued after marriage to be unfaithful to her husband. It outlines how she fancied young warriors of Assyria, and she doted upon them, she lusted, she spent so much time towards them that her husband despaired and actually handed her over to the Assyrians so that they may do as they liked with her. We read that she then finally discovered the true violence of her so-called lovers. We read that they slew her, and the death of Aholah became a byword, the passage says, among women. In other words, that perverted life that she lived was told to young girls all through Samaria: 'Don't follow that road children! Look what happened Aholah!' - she became a byword and a metaphor for what could happen if you follow such a life of immorality.
Then we are introduced to her sister Aholibah. If we thought that things couldn't get worse, Aholibah is described as greatly worse - the reason being that she knew her fate, she knew what the fate of her sister had been, she knew that her sister had been made a spectacle, a byword among the people, yet she persisted in following the same lifestyle. She even sometimes went after the Assyrians - the same people that slew her sister! She didn't only go after the Assyrians, she went after the Babylonians until she got such a perverted nature and lifestyle that again her husband turned from her in disgust. In verse 18 we read that, look at it: 'So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister'. But even that didn't stop her. This is a shocking story. Indeed, if you weren't reading it tonight, you would be surprised even to think perhaps that it's in the word of God.
Let's look first of all at the story of Aholah - and you may see the difference in your Authorised Version, 'Aholah' begins with 'A', but on this sheet it's 'Oholah' - but it doesn't really matter, as long as you can say it that's the only thing that matters. The story of Aholah in verses 1 to 10, and really what this is - again Ezekiel is using an allegory, a metaphor, a story, or a parable. Really this is a tale of two cities. In verses 1 to 4 you have Aholah, and we find out that Aholah is defined as the city of Samaria. Aholibah, her sister, is defined as the city of Jerusalem. Aholah is spoken of as the older sister - now really Jerusalem is older than Samaria, Jerusalem is older by approximately 300 years. The reason why Samaria, Aholah, is said to be the older sister is because Samaria dies first - Aholah dies first in the story.
Now it's important that we dig deep into this metaphor, because everything in it means something. The name 'Aholah' that represents Samaria, it means in the Hebrew 'her tent'. It represents Samaria, the Northern Kingdom, you remember that Israel was split into two - there was the Northern Kingdom where there were the ten tribes of Israel, and then the Southern Kingdom where there were the two tribes of Judah. So Aholah is speaking of the Northern Kingdom, the ten tribes. The name means simply 'her tent', which means this: God's presence was always described as a tent right from the days of Exodus in the tabernacle, but Aholah means 'her tent'. In other words, Samaria, the Northern Kingdom, the ten tribes, had devised their own religion, they had devised their own tent. They have set up their own centre of worship, but what God is saying is: 'It's her tent, it's not my tent. It's her way, it's her religion, it's her faith'.
We read in Old Testament history that King Jeroboam put two golden calves - he put one golden calf in Bethel, and one in Samaria. He tried to stop the people going from the north down to Jerusalem to worship in the south. He wanted people to worship where they were in Samaria, he wanted a new religion, he wanted to propose his own way to God - 'Her tent'. We see an allusion to that in the diversion of the Samaritan woman when the Lord Jesus speaks to her in John chapter 4 verse 20. You remember she throws in a red herring, and she says to the Lord: 'Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship'. You see, the Samaritans and the Jews worshipped in different places - that is why she is called Aholah, 'her tent', it is a different way.
So, we read, Aholah played the harlot. She played the harlot to handsome and macho horsemen of Assyria, and therefore because of that God abandoned her to her lovers and they uncovered her nakedness. They slew her with the sword - and we know, recorded in history, that in the year 722BC Samaria fell to Assyria. That's the story of Aholah.
Then we come in verses 11 to 21 to the story of Aholibah. Now, if Aholah means 'her tent', Aholibah means 'my tent is in her'. So if the Northern Kingdom followed their own way, and set up their own religion, and put two calves to follow their own god, God was saying Aholibah, the Southern Kingdom representing Judah and specifically the city of Jerusalem: 'My tent is in her'. The Samaritans have devised their own religion, but God dwells in Judah. Now, there are two reasons for that, and this is fundamental. The first, and we have seen it already in our studies, the reason why God has been sticking thus far to Judah and Jerusalem is because God made a promise to David - and when God makes a promise God never breaks it. The second reason is because the temple was found in Jerusalem, Jerusalem was God's chosen place to dwell, it was God's chosen place that He should be worshipped in. So you see this: the Northern Kingdom is Aholah, 'her tent'; the Southern Kingdom is Aholibah, 'my tent is in her'.
Now there could have come a little bit of pride to Aholibah, couldn't there? 'In the Southern Kingdom we have the promises of David, we have the monarchy, we have the temple, we are the royal city'. I believe that as Ezekiel was telling this parable - don't forget Ezekiel's listeners were Judeans, they were from the Southern Kingdom, they had been carried away from Jerusalem into Babylon, so they were from the South, they were the people 'Aholibah', the people who God's tent was in - I'm sure that those Judeans must have really appreciated prophecy against Samaria. They would have been really warming their hands, and thinking: 'You give it to them Ezekiel! That Kingdom up in the north, their own way to God, but we have the true way to God'. You see ever since the death of Solomon, you remember David united the two kingdoms, but when Solomon died there had been a dirty civil war between the Northern and Southern Kingdom. That existed, that friction between the two states, and I can almost picture the people of the Southern Kingdom as Ezekiel is prophesying against Aholah nodding their head and saying: 'Aye, that's right. Amen! You're right Ezekiel! Make sure God gives them everything that's coming their way'. Nodding with solemn, pious approval as Ezekiel denounces the other Kingdom.
It was very easy for the prophets of the Southern Kingdom, and the people of the Southern Kingdom, to think that God was judging those golden calves in the north - and God did judge their false idolatry in the north. We've seen already, 722BC, God did let her Assyrian lovers come into the Northern Kingdom, sack it all and take them all captive. God let that happen! The thing that these Judeans missed was that God was going to judge the Southern Kingdom too! The reason God is judging the Southern Kingdom is because you have my tent, but you are inhabiting my tent with absolute dead orthodoxy! They were nodding their heads in absolute orthodox fundamentalism. They nodded in appreciation of the judgement that was being called upon their Northern sister, but they didn't realise that they in the eyes of God were actually worse! That's the awful thing about this passage, because God says Aholibah was even worse than Aholah, the South Kingdom was worse than the North. The only thing that was stemming the judgement of God was His promise to David.
Now imagine this, and we don't need to apply this a million miles away, do we? What we are talking about here is having the truth, but not living in it. God is saying that having the truth and not living in it is worse than not having the truth at all! Paul put it: 'It is a form of godliness, denying the power thereof'. It is having a name that you live, but you are dead. Now let's ask ourselves: do we do this? Do we do what these Judeans were doing? When there's a sermon preached on the shortcomings of other religious systems, or other denominations, or other theological persuasions are highlighted and condemned and denounced, or even the sins of others - when we hear an application and we twig, we know who that preacher is talking about, we nod our heads, we clap our hands, we shout 'Amen' - but the shock for these people was when Ezekiel started to preach to them!
This comes home to me so, so closely, because it speaks of the depravity of all human beings - even redeemed, regenerated human beings. Because what we do when we hear the word of God - if you're like me, I hope, you do this - you seek to avoid the application of the word to your own heart. 'Give it to the church of Rome! Hammer the Jehovah's Witnesses! Slate the charismatics!', but when it comes home we will do absolutely everything to avoid it - and you find when the Evangelical preacher starts to preach against the pet sins of the people, God's people, they start to air their protests: 'This man is too fanatical, this man is too judgemental'. Really what they were saying is: 'Hammer everybody else, and tell us that we have it made'. Do you know what God said? That attitude of Aholibah was worse than the sins of Aholah. Look at verse 11 so that I can prove that to you: 'When her sister Aholibah saw this, she was more corrupt in her inordinate love than her sister, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms'.
She was willing to do absolutely anything to be free from Babylon. Now let me cast your mind back a few studies, because we learnt, remember the eagle that was flying - remember that eagle that represented Babylon? That eagle was both representing Babylon and representing God, remember we saw that? It seemed to be a kind of a contradiction, but what the metaphor was saying was: Babylon is an instrument, but God's hand is behind the instrument. We were finding out that Babylon was actually being used of God to discipline His own people! We learnt, therefore, that it was God's will that the Judeans would not fight against Babylon - He didn't want them making any agreements with Egypt, remember, He wanted them to go into captivity, He wanted them to suffer this because it was His will. But they were wanting to do anything but be in captivity to Babylon!
You see, what that really was is: they were willing to do anything, denounce anything, write off anything, than do the will of God in their own lives themselves. I believe that the sins of God's people are still cutting the life source of the church today. You may not agree with me, but I believe that the Spirit of God is grieved and quenched in the church. We have the truth, but the question is: do we have the life? We have the letter, but do we have the Spirit? The letter brings death, the Spirit brings life. Are we in a form of godliness - I'm not saying are we saved, I'm not saying have we received the Spirit at conversion, because you know that I believe all that - I am asking: are you alive? That could be defined in this question: what experiences of God have you had lately?
She went further than her sister in her idolatrous harlotry and immorality. As you read down this passage you find that she lusted after the Assyrians just as Israel had done, she didn't learn from her sister's mistakes. In verse 12 and 13 we read that again: 'She doted', she lusted, 'on the images of the men'. Pornography written on the walls, she even lusted after them! She sent that those men that were portrayed on the walls would come to her, would commit immorality with her. She sent messengers to them inviting them to her land. Even after her marriage it says she recalled her youthful sins in the land of Egypt, and she multiplied her harlotry and gave herself over to the Babylonians to commit terrible immorality, the word of God says. The point of all this is: this is where God's tent was! That's the point! God had judged the North, and they were in false religion; and He hadn't yet judged the South, and they were with God's truth yet they were worse than all the rest put together!
What they did in God's temple grieved Him greatly. Look at verse 36: 'The LORD said moreover unto me; Son of man, wilt thou judge Aholah and Aholibah? Yea, declare unto them their abomination', verse 39, 'For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of mine house'. Do you see what this is saying? They killed their children, their own children! They killed them! They took them to the temple of God, Jehovah Almighty, and there in the temple they gave a burnt offering to God in God's temple! It's terrible, isn't it?
Would you turn with me to 1 Corinthians 6, what does Paul say? Verse 19: 'What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's'. Now, that comes home. God judged Samaria in 722BC, and He permitted the Assyrians to take them captive, but Judah didn't profit from that lesson. Judah persisted in her sin, in fact she increased and multiplied her own sin and God had to judge her. Why? Because judgement begins in the house of the Lord! Now there's a great warning in this for us - and I know that we're in a different dispensation, I know that we have partaken of grace, and I will come to that later on in this study - but we must not miss the spiritual principles laid down by God. We must be careful that we never ever say, like the Southern Kingdom: 'That'll never happen to me! I'm one of God's children, I can get away with sin!'. That is the scenario that Paul has in his hypothetical question in the book of Romans: 'Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? We're forgiven, we're God's people, God's tent is on us!'. God waits for us to repent, that's true, and every time we repent - praise God - the grace of God is greater than our sin, but we must not as God's people try God's patience! For in the end God will punish us! He will make us to learn afresh that He is the Lord - that was the purpose of His punishing Israel, and you can see it again in verse 49 of this chapter, but right throughout the whole book He says over and over again: 'Ye shall know that I am the Lord'.
What does God want from us? Does God want: 'Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me'? Is that what God wants? Does God want a signed decision card? Does He want a date written at the front of your Bible that you can turn to every time you sin and remind yourself that you really are saved? Of course God wants decisions for Christ, but I'll tell you what God wants decisions for Christ for: He wants single-hearted men and women utterly and absolutely devoted to Him - devoted, His bride, chaste, unadulterated, holy, purely for Him!
Second Corinthians bears it out again, turn with me to 2 Corinthians 11 and verse 1: 'Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ'. What is the simplicity that is in Christ? I wonder perhaps is it what was spoken to the church at Ephesus: 'You have left your first love'. We don't have time to look at it, but James 4 and verses 1 to 10 bears it out as well - and what God is saying here is: 'I don't want a divided heart'. The purpose of saving you is not so that you'll be bound for glory and you'll have a testimony to the grace of God that you can share with other sinners - that's all in the package, but what God wants: God seeketh worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth! The way to worship God in spirit and in truth is what Paul said when he said: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, which is your acceptable worship'. It's not extra, it's not for the missionary, it's not for the evangelist, it's not for the gospel preacher, the pastor, this full surrender - it is for the believer, and it's what's expected of you, it's not doing a favour for God.
God views our sin as a husband views his wife's infidelity - with both sorrow and anger mixed together. You remember the Jewish nation was married, wedded to Jehovah at Mount Sinai. They were His bride, and God is seeing their idolatry here as infidelity to Him. Please don't miss this, go home and read this passage - it is awful! The shocking nature of it is purposed to penetrate the complacency of God's people with regard to their sin - God is wanting to shock us, to make us realise what our sin means!
I was looking at this, and praying over it today, and thinking: what is God revealing here? I'll tell you five things God is revealing to us through this passage. One: He is revealing that our sin is always more serious to God than it is to us. If someone described your sin or your backsliding as being a whore, you'd say: 'You're exaggerating, that's hyperbole, that's pushing it to extremes'. Let me tell you: that is the way God illustrates it here, and you can see the graphic detail of it - because our sin is more serious to God, because God is more holy than us! God's view of our sin.
Secondly: our sin judges us in itself. When I talk about our sins being judged, I'm not talking about a believer going to hell, for a believer will never be in hell. I'm not even talking about the Judgement Seat of Christ, although we will be judged there and we will suffer loss. But the sins themselves judge us! We get the recompense and the fruit of our sin, the consequences of our sin is actually found in the fruit of the sin itself.
Thirdly: the judgement of Israel is similar to the judgement of the church today. The church and Israel are not the same, but the spiritual principles can be applied to us today - why? Because remember, the glory departed, and the glory was departing because of the sins of God's people. Whether you want to call them sins of commission, things that you do; or sins of omission, things that you do not do - and I think perhaps the second, the latter, is more the case - the things that the church is not doing today, and the glory has departed.
Fourthly: God's prophet must confront sin in God's people. He must. He did. And fifthly: God's people must die for their sin. In verse 46 to 49 we find that these two were told to be dragged out, the one that was living in fact, and to be stoned - for that was the laws penalty for adultery and prostitution. That speaks to me that God does not wink or wipe His eye at our sin. We are to mortify our sin. Now, let me ask you: do you see the lengths that God goes to in this awful imagery in order to waken up His slumbering people to the fact that the glory has gone, the Spirit is grieved, there is sin in the church? Do you see how far He goes? Really what Ezekiel is saying, if you read this passage and if you think this story is crude, what way to you think God sees your life? That's what Ezekiel says!
So, those are the two stories, but they speak of the judgement of two cities in verses 22 to the end. Because of the sin of Aholah and Aholibah God would destroy them. He already destroyed Aholah by the Assyrians, He will destroy Aholibah by her Babylonian lovers - she's currently in captivity, but Babylon would come and wreck the city of Jerusalem and take more away. Those desirable young men that she lusted after and doted after would be the ones who would treat her hatefully. Why has all this come upon her? Why has she been judged? I'll tell you why: because she tried to find satisfaction in the fleshly world apart from God, and now her sins must be judged. If only she had drunk of God's living waters, she would never thirst again - but that's why we find her continually lusting, lusting, lusting...
Aholibah was guilty of the sins of her sister before her: adultery, literal adultery, spiritual adultery, murder, offering her young as human sacrifices, the desecration of the temple - for she offered those sacrifices in the temple. She broke the Sabbath because she did it on the Sabbath, she mixed idolatry with the worship of God in so many ways. She committed spiritual adultery with foreign nations through pacts. Righteous men of other nations - God describes them as righteous men! - would come and repay the sisters for their lewdness, that they well-deserved, and they would be destroyed. Listen please, for there is a law here that applies to everybody, listen: we reap what we sow. We get what we want, God doesn't make us robots, we get what we want - and they wanted lovers rather than God, so God granted them their wish.
When you go to Psalm 106 you read this about them in the wilderness, the children of Israel: 'They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert'. They asked quails of God, they wanted meat, they got tired of the heavenly food. God gave them their request, but He sent leanness into their souls! He gave them their fleshly desire, but He sent them spiritual famine! Isn't that what we're getting in the materialistic world today? In Numbers 11 we read of that same incident, God said: 'Ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat...even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?'. Do you see it? Aholah and Aholibah returned to their ways of prostitution before marriage in Egypt. The answer is this: what you sow, you will reap. You serve sin, and you will become a slave to sin - and the awful irony is this, that men and women and even believers, and I've done it myself, when you choose to sin you think you're choosing freedom! You think that God is too narrow for that split second, you maybe know that He's not, but for that second you're deluded as Eve was. In striving for liberty in sin, we find poverty and bondage.
Oh, what ministry we received yesterday morning - and it is so apt and so needed in these days - to know that the Christian, the believer ought to have a mindset that is ruthlessly opposed to sin! Do you know that the devil is not worried about the people in the world? He's not worried about the people in the pub, he's got them! But he has you as a battlefield, where the Spirit lusts against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit. The puritan said, and he said well: 'Kill sin before it kills you'.
What was the cause? The cause of all sin and all backsliding in verse 35, look at it: 'Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back, therefore bear thou also thy lewdness and thy whoredoms'. Why? 'Thou hast forgotten me'. What does it say in Psalm 106, where the quails came out of their nostrils, where there was leanness sent into their souls? 'They forgot God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt'.
Have you forgotten God? Do you know something? You can be a pastor, you can be an elder, you can be a church member, you can be a leader in the church of Christ, and be in the meeting every week after week, and you can forget God. Unfaithfulness was their sin, fourteen times we find the word 'prostitute', five times the word 'adultery'. What we have is an illustration to us today: 'For this cause shall man leave his father and mother, shall cleave to his wife, shall be joined, they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery', Paul says, 'but I speak concerning Christ and the church'. What is our faithfulness like to Christ? I'm not asking what it is to our denomination, or to our theological eschatological persuasion of the second coming, or of Calvinism or Armenianism, I'm asking: what is your faithfulness to Christ? If you were faithful to Him, all that would fall into place.
Do you wander? Do you know what the problem with the church today is? - and the problem with me, I'm not standing up waving my finger. Christ doesn't satisfy us any more. The devil, the world, and the church is trying to eliminate the concept of sin. I hope that you realise the mentality and the plan behind this. Even in our sexual language, one Christian counsellor wrote this: 'We don't commit adultery any more, we have affairs. Adultery sounds harsh and ugly and destructive, but an affair sounds kind of gentle and nice and almost acceptable'. I've said this before, but I think it's tremendous, John Wesley said these words - and if ever there are words for today it is these: 'Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth'. We need men and women afraid of sin and who desire God!
We need men like Latimer who was burned at the stake by the church of Rome, but before that - I don't know whether you know this - he became Bishop of Worcester in the reign of Henry VIII, and you know how many wives Henry VIII had! It was the custom for each of the bishops to make a presentation to the King on New Year's Day. Latimer went with the rest of his brethren, the rest of the bishops, and they brought the usual offering which was a bag of gold. But instead of a purse of gold Latimer brought a New Testament to the King, and in the New Testament he had one of the pages bent over doubled down to this passage: 'Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge'. A man like John the Baptist, a man that is not afraid of anything but sin.
My friends, listen: the reason why in our society today we no longer have sins, is because if we no longer have sins we no longer have sinners. If we no longer have sinners, we no longer need Christ Jesus who came into the world to save sinners. There's not one speck of hope in this passage, not one, but the baffling thing about all of this to me - although a great many of these principles apply to the church of Jesus Christ - what blows my mind and what rejoices my soul is this: yes, God's wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, as Paul the apostle says. That is inevitable, that is expected, but the amazing thing about this is: 'Know ye not', yes, 'that unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revellers, nor extortioners, shall enter the kingdom of God'. We are no different than the Jews or the Samaritans, but the difference - hallelujah - is this: 'Such were some of you, but ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God'. What a difference!
In verse 49 we read: 'They shall recompense your lewdness upon you, and ye shall bear the sins of your idols: and ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD'. A penalty had to be paid for their sin, and a penalty had to be paid for our sin. If I am to wear a crown of glory, someone had to wear a crown of thorns. If I was to wear a robe of righteousness, someone had to be stripped naked and mocked with a purple robe. If the wrath of God was not to fall on me, it must fall on another. God's holy eyes searched heaven and earth, and there was only one - and, praise God, that One was willing! There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.
There's no hope in this passage, but I'm glad today that I look at it post-Calvary, aren't you? For there is now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus, our death is swallowed up in His victory. What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus our Lord! Isn't He? Are you glad that He saved you? Amen!
Father, we thank Thee for the Lord Jesus Christ who is a nail in a sure place for us. We thank Thee for the blessed assurance, but yet Lord from that we are also realising tonight that our sinfulness - even after conversion - is not something to be taken lightly. We can only take it lightly if we take the nails, and the thorns, and the back like a ploughed field, lightly - for it cost Thee everything. We pray, our Father, that once and for all as Thy people, that we will leave our sin, that we will take off the unfruitful clothing and garments of filthiness and unrighteousness, and we will put on the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. 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 fifteenth tape in his Ezekiel series, titled "Double Trouble - Two Harlot Sisters" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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