Ezekiel - God's Call and Longing — A Christian Growth Message - Hope 103.2

Ezekiel – God’s Call and Longing — A Christian Growth Message

A series on Ezekiel by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2's Christian Growth podcast and pastor at All Saints in Woollahra, Sydney.

By Simon ManchesterSunday 27 Nov 2022Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

Simon Manchester presents from the book of Ezekiel focusing particularly this week on God’s calling and longing.

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Well, let’s pray and ask God’s help. In our few minutes together. – We pray that you would help us, as we think on these few verses this morning, that they might be a light to our path and that we might walk the path we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.

There’s a famous story of a lady who travels around the schools teaching on the dangers of alcohol, and on one particular occasion she visit two boys school, and she puts onto the table a glass and fills it with orange juice. And then she puts another glass, and she fills it with beer. And she takes then a tin of live worms and drops one live worm into the orange juice, and it swims backwards and forwards quite happily.

She then takes another live worm and drops it into the glass of beer, and it swims for a few seconds and then has a kind of stroke and falls to the bottom of the glass. And very confidently, she turns to the boys and she says, Well, boys, what’s the lesson? And a big boy at the back puts his arm up and says, Miss, if you don’t want to get worms. I suggest you drink lots of beer and the moral of the story. The moral of the story is that we tend to see the things that we prefer to see.

And this is exactly the issue in our Old Testament reading today. God’s people we’ve been seeing have been removed from the promised land. They could only, however, see their own innocence. They had to blame somebody else. And so they were blaming either God or their ancestors. This is what they were saying. Ezekiel, Chapter 18, verse 25. The way of the Lord is unjust verse to our ancestors disobeyed. And we are the ones who suffer now friends. I tell you why this is so important. Because when people like us insist on our own innocence and we look to blame others for everything or even God, we never come to that crucial moment of confession.

The great relief of being able to say to God, I did this. It’s my fault. And then to hear that wonderful message, I forgive you and the joy that follows. It’s a terrible thing to keep blaming and missing out on the blessings of confession and forgiveness. This is our third look into the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. We saw in the first week that God called on Ezekiel to travel with the exiles off into Babylon.

And we saw last week that God had plans to take more of the people out of Jerusalem, but eventually to bring them all home. Now you would think, wouldn’t you? That the exile would cause the people to admit some wrongdoing, but they were unstoppably resistant, and they could only blame God or their ancestors. Blaming, as you know, goes back to the Garden of Eden. You remember the man blamed the woman and the woman blamed the snake blaming goes back a long way. And it’s a very big part of life today, Christopher Wright says in his commentary. Imagine we can shift the blame to somebody else.

Well, then I’m under no constraint to apologise or repent. But of course, there is then no forgiveness or salvation. Or imagine if I can prove that God is unfair. Then I wouldn’t be a sinner. I’d be a victim. And Chris Wright goes on to say, in post modern society, we now blame our genes the environment. The government we blame stress, our parents, our personality, our poverty. And of course, these things may play a part, But there’s no future Without honesty. Zeki will have the difficult job of getting God’s people to face the disease of their sin in order to receive the treatment of God’s mercy.

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I remember having lunch with a medical professor once who was very anti Christian, and I said to him over the course of the lunch, I said, Have you ever had a patient come to you who wouldn’t admit they were sick and therefore wouldn’t accept any treatment? And he sat there very quietly, sort of pushing his food around the plate, and he said, I see where you’re coming from now he said, Let’s move on to another topic. In other words, let’s keep resisting the facts now because the Old Testament people in Ezekiel today were saying that they were suffering for the sins of the previous generation.

Ezekiel decided to give them an illustration, and he said to them, Let’s imagine there’s a grandfather and a son and a grandson. The grandfather says Ezekiel is godly. He will enjoy God’s favour. The sun is ungodly. He will not enjoy God’s favour. The grandson is godly. He will enjoy God’s favour. In other words, Ezekiel is making the point that God deals with us as individuals. What a wonderful thing that is. He deals with us as individuals. We will not be punished by God for the sins of our parents.

But nor can we ride on the coattails of the faith of our parents. So let me ask you this morning, where your parents, difficult people well, you won’t pay for their sins. Was your grandfather and archbishop Well, you can’t inherit his salvation. This is the point that Ezekiel is trying to make will be treated as individuals by God, wonderfully treated as individuals. Now there are two things this morning to draw attention to from this Ezekiel Chapter 18. And the first point is this that God responds to the path we choose. God responds to the path we choose in chapter 18, Verse 21.

As Ezekiel says, Look, if a wicked person leaves the path of sin, What a wonderful thing it is when a wicked person decides to leave the path of sin and decides to walk in what we might call the path of salvation. They will live. They won’t die. The point that Ezekiel is making is not that we’re going to move from being sinful to perfect. That’s impossible. That would be a dreadful piece of news. Imagine me saying to you this morning, I want you to move from being sinful to Perfect. Now that’s a dreadful thing to say. The point Ezekiel is making is that we’ve got a choice to make. If we decide to reject God’s way and then decide to seek his way, we will be forgiven. We will live. God will seal the decision. He’ll stamp it.

You see that Ezekiel doesn’t go into any detail about the sins that have been committed. He doesn’t discuss whether the sins are small or great, but he says there is a way to be forgiven. There is a way to be rescued, we’re told in the new test, and the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin. Nor does Ezekiel discuss what makes somebody turn. What is it that makes a person get off the path of being hostile to God and then being obedient or faithful to God? What is it that causes them to get off the path. It could be the fear of judgement.

It could be that the sin is bringing a great deal of emptiness. It could be the attractiveness of God’s promises, the attractiveness of God’s people, even the attractiveness of God himself. But God, of course, is at work, helping us turn from the path of death to the path of life. So this is something very wonderful, he says in Verse 22. When you turn from the path of death to the path of life, all the past will be forgotten. You may remember some terrible things that you’ve done, but as far as God is concerned, it will be forgotten. If you were to go to him in your prayers and say, Look, I’m so sorry again for what I did three years ago, it’s almost as if God will say, I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s completely forgotten.

And underneath this good news we read in Verse 23 is that God takes no pleasure in the destruction of anybody. It does not give him any joy. It is his pleasure to see people saved, but then there’s another problem. Verse 24. This is the righteous person who’s going down the road with God but then decides to leave the path of salvation for the path of sin. And Ezekiel says that person has chosen to die. They will not live now. He’s not talking about the times that we drift for days or weeks or something like that and go our own way. He’s talking about the person who makes a break with God for good and chooses the path away from him. And Ezekiel says, that person has chosen death.

There’s only two paths. You see. There is the path of walking with God, and there’s a path of walking away from God. And Ezekiel is calling in the name of God to leave the path of death for the path of life. Well, Verse 24 is a very sad verse, isn’t it, because we all know people who did walk with God. But now don’t walk with God. They’ve decided not to walk with him, and we long for them to be restored and recovered and back with him. Coming to church, as you probably know, doesn’t prove that you’re walking with God. It’s easy to walk into this building, but not to be walking with God. The proof that you’re on the road of God is that you’re trusting him for salvation and you don’t have a secret life. That’s the proof that you’re walking with God, trusting him for your salvation and opening up every room in every cupboard of your life to his influence. Well, as equals point, you see, is that people get to choose the road they walk.

The question is not Have I been sinful? We have been sinful. The question is, have we chosen his salvation?

The question is not. Did I walk with God in the past? The question is, am I walking with God in the present? The question is not in my perfect, we’re not. But which road have you chosen The road of sin or the road of salvation? Because that’s the road that God will seal or stamp or respond to. Now, this is very good news. We have very good news for the people of this sub urban city. There is a road of sin and death which leads to destruction.

But the Lord Jesus has opened a brand new way, which we can step onto. He opened it at the cost of his own life, and that road begins the day we step onto it and it leads all the way into glory. So people you see cannot blame God. They cannot blame others for their situation. God will treat us as individuals. If we turn away from him, it will be death. If we turn towards him, it will be life, and God will respond to the path we choose. In the last week or so, my car has completely died. My old car and I bought myself a second hand car, and my second hand car is five years old, but it has a device in it which you may be familiar with, but I’ve never experienced before. And that is there’s a little beep beep beep that tells me if I’m veering out of my lane. I don’t know if you have this in your car, but suddenly I find myself if I’m just veering a bit to the left or the right, the beep start to go off and my car is saying to me, Get into the lane and don’t leave the lane.

And of course, that’s exactly what God is calling us. Get into the lane of life and don’t leave the lane of Life. So that’s the first thing God responds to the path, which is the second thing this morning is that God rejoices in the life that we choose. He takes no pleasure. Verse 32 in people’s death, he takes great pleasure in people’s salvation. Can you imagine him in heaven looking down and seeing people who are on the road of death? It gives him no pleasure. And then he sees a person who moves to trust Christ, and that gives him great joy. And that’s why he calls on people in verse 30 to drop the things that will kill you. We’ve all seen people, haven’t we who are attached to somebody who’s doing them no good or they’re attached to something which is just not doing them any good. And God looks at the things which people hold onto, which prevent them from holding on to him. And he says, drop them.

The word is repent, which means give them up or turn away, he says. Be sensible. Come to your senses, rid yourself of evil. See the evil as a poison, which is slowly killing you and we’ll kill you. And when we make that break, Verse 31 a new heart is given by God. He gives to us a brand new heart, a brand new life. You drop your weapons against the Prince of Peace and the Prince of Peace comes into your heart. Repent, rebirth.

Lots of people never get to rebirth because they never really repent. They just won’t drop their weapons. But when you do drop your weapons, you do need rebirth. When Christ enters your heart, we know absolutely that God wants us to live because he gave up his son to death in order to carry our death away and bring new life to us. I remember reading once of a man who was at the airport caring for his wife, who was in a wheelchair, and this wife was completely incapacitated.

And the man was looking after her, most beautifully helping her with a drink, making her comfortable fixing her hair, and as he wheeled her away in the airport. A lady nearby said something, and he didn’t quite catch what she said, and he turned back and he said I’m sorry, were you speaking to me? I didn’t get what you said and she said I was actually speaking to myself and I said to myself, I wonder if anybody could love me like that.

The Bible tells us that there is someone who loves us like that, and more when we read in the word of God what God’s love is like And when we see it in action in the scriptures, we know there is someone who loves us absolutely to the limit. But it’s when we turn off the road of death and walk with Christ. We enjoy that love.

We enjoy that love. So Ezekiel is calling on people to take hold of life. You can see the power of this chapter as Ezekiel speaks for God. He’s speaking against the idea that God is unjust. God is not unjust. He’s speaking against the idea that we can blame other people for all our problems. We can’t and this message was meant to bring the exiles to see the foolishness of their lives so that they would turn back to God and walk with him.

It’s the mark of ignorance you see to say that all my problems lie outside me and all my solutions lie inside me. That’s a complete mistake. It’s the mark of wisdom to say that my problems are largely inside me. But the solution is outside me. In the person of Christ. He is the one who stands outside the quicksand. When I called to him, he is able to lift me out.

So Ezekiel has very practical things to say in this chapter. 18. Do beware the blaming. You’ll never be healthier than awareness, C. S. Lewis said. You lay out your sin in all its colours before God. And then he lays out his forgiveness in all his colours. To you were not captive to sin and death. If we belong to Jesus Christ, we know that parents do affect their Children in some way. But parents don’t control the path they choose.

And God still says to all people choose the path of life. You’re not a captive. Everything in the past can be forgiven. All the future can be guaranteed. Choose the path of life, be We’re thinking that God is unjust. It is possible for us every now and again when things go wrong to think, Well, this is what I’ve done and I’ve done this and I’ve done this and I’ve done this. And what has God done? He must be unjust. But we know there will come a day where we will see that God has done everything perfectly and wonderfully and graciously and lovingly, and we’ll have no objections or complaints.

Remember that we cannot trade on our past faithfulness. If we leave the path of salvation, we can’t say, Oh, but I used to be good. The question again is not. Which path did we once walked? The question is, which path do we now walk and notice that Ezekiel the preacher, the profit is not a puppet.

Entertaining his listeners, he passes on the bad news, which is that the path of sin is fatal and he passes on the good news, which is that the path of life is wonderful. I’ve often thought that Bibles that have the phrase good news are only giving half the story. And of course we wouldn’t want to have Bibles just with bad news. It seems to me that we would have Bibles with something like obvious news This is so obvious. Turn away from God and you’ll die. Turn to him and you live. And I’m pretty sure that Ezekiel paid a price for being faithful. He got into a lot of trouble. He had a lot of opposition that everybody who listened to him had an opportunity to live.

And I’m sure you want somebody to say to you the things that are true from God’s word or to echo the words of Jesus in Luke. 13. Enter the open door. The door that he has opened at the cost of his death opened the door. Enter the door and you will live.

That’s bow our heads and pray –

Our gracious God, we thank you for your character, a character of perfect integrity, of love and wisdom and faithfulness and honesty and beauty. And we thank you, especially for making it possible to leave the path of sin to the path of life through the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross, we pray that you would give your grace to each one here this morning, and each one who hears this message to turn from the path of death to the path of life and to walk with joy in a world which is full of sadness and sinfulness and foolishness.

And to walk in your wisdom, your forgiveness, your love and to walk that path all our days until we see you face to face. So we ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.