Friday, August 19, 2016

"God, wrath, judgment ... and grace ..."

Day #233

Scripture Reading:  Ezekiel 7 - 12 …

"The end has come!" (7:6).  Reading parts of Ezekiel and the other prophets can leave you feeling overwhelmed by a sense of despair and gloom.  As you look at the clear signs of God’s judgment coming upon our world today, where can you turn to find hope?  If this is how God treated Israel and Judah, the people whom He had chosen to be His people more than fifteen centuries earlier, how can we hope to escape His wrath and judgment when Jesus returns?  The answer many imagine is that God's love in Jesus overrules His wrath; therefore, judgment will not come upon us.  But is this what God says … here or anywhere else in the Bible?  No!

Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon with others who had been taken there already by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar.  Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed and most of the people would be carried away into captivity … most to never return.  "This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  Disaster! … The end has come! …  Doom has come upon you …" (7:5-7).  God says, "I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you" (7:8).  And we know that God always does what He says He will do.

These were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who just four hundred years earlier had enjoyed the blessing of God under the reign of King David and then his son, Solomon, who had built the temple in Jerusalem.  But they had turned away from the LORD, their God, and were worshiping idols like the nations around them.  God says, "My wrath is upon the whole crowd" (7:14).  Their sin was pride and God was about to deal with it.  He had sent the prophets to warn them to turn back to Him, but they had not listened, and now they would face the consequences of their arrogance.

In Chapter 8, Ezekiel sees some things in visions that lead us to believe God is speaking not only of Ezekiel's day, but also of future days.  Those in Israel thought it was ONLY for the future (12:27), but as with many of the prophecies the prophets brought, it applied to Israel and Judah in Ezekiel's day and also to the descendants of Abraham and Jerusalem today.  In this chapter Ezekiel sees "a figure like that of a man" (8:2).  This most likely refers to Jesus.  Then he sees the inner court of the temple "where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood" (8:3).  This quite possibly refers to the "abomination that causes desolation" spoken of in Daniel 9:27 and by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, when the Antichrist seeks to establish a counterfeit kingdom in future days.

In 8:12-13 God tells Ezekiel that the elders of Israel are doing things in the darkness and thinking that God doesn't see ... but He DOES!  They were worshiping idols and God is a jealous God.  God alone is worthy to be praised and He will not and does not give His praise to another.  And then read verse 16, where he describes that there "were about twenty-five men ... with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, they were bowing down to the sun in the east" (8:16).  Some will note that this could refer to other things, but it is apparent that it also points to Islam today!  These prophecies were for Ezekiel's day - but also for ours.  Islam, like the other religions of the world, is idolatry.

Ezekiel beholds the glory of God and God sends an angel to "go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it"  (9:4).  Revelation speaks of a mark being put on the foreheads of the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel to protect them.  There are clearly connections between God's words to Ezekiel and the events that will take place at THE END!  Remember, God sees the end from the beginning and the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.  At the present time He is withholding His final wrath, but as He did with Israel, He will pour it out upon the whole earth.

Israel's sin and Judah's sin was idolatry ... "conforming to the standards of the nations around them" (11:12).  The same is happening in our nation and in other nations.  The standard of God's righteousness revealed in His Word is being discarded and replaced by the ideas of men who "twist and distort the Scriptures to their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16).  Yet, God is a God of grace!  He will save a remnant and to these He says, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.  Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  They will be my people, and I will be their God" (11:19-20).

That is the key promise of God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants, and it is repeated throughout God's Word.  God's purpose for all of His dealings with Israel and Judah, and later with the Church, is that people will know that HE is God, that HE is the LORD and that there are no other gods.  Repeatedly throughout the book of Ezekiel you will find the phrase, "Then they will know that I am the LORD."  This was not only for those who would believe, but for ALL people.  Even those who ultimately face God's judgment will KNOW that HE is the LORD, their Creator.  Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

God's wrath and judgment in Ezekiel's day, in Jesus' day, in our day and in the future is the result of God's holiness and mankind's sin.  But God is also a God of grace and mercy.  He calls His people to believe, to trust, to know that He is with us and that there will be a future where we will escape His wrath and rejoice in His grace!  I pray that today YOU know that God is the Lord of heaven and earth and that you have come to Him through faith in Jesus, living by the power of His Holy Spirit until that day when the end comes and we are conformed to His image ... to live with Him in glory forever!  O glorious day!!

"Glorious God, our heavenly Father, You alone are God!  While the people of the earth and the nations of the world worship other gods and those who claim to know You practice idolatry, I thank You for Your grace in preserving a remnant who confess and testify that YOU are the Lord of the heavens and the earth.  Oh Lord, let all the earth soon behold Your glory!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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