Ezekiel - God's Care and Renewal — A Christian Growth Message - Hope 103.2

Ezekiel – God’s Care and Renewal — 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 11 Dec 2022Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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But for those of you who are visiting today, everybody, we are actually in our fourth little visit to the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. We’ve just had four visits. Today is the fourth of the last, looking at this book, where God has been speaking to his people who have been removed from the promised land and they are now exiles.

But again, in God’s kindness, he sent with the exiles a messenger, a prophet called Ezekiel. And as equals job is not. They need to explain to the people why they were there, which is their disobedience, but also that they would be returning in the future and therefore they could have some hope.

Someone contacted me on Friday who had never met before, a complete stranger to ask me if the God of the Old Testament was more hostile and unfriendly than the God of the New Testament. It’s a regular thought that people have, and of course, the living and loving God is exactly the same in the Old Testament and the New Testament. There’s a lot of serious warning in the New Testament,
and there’s a lot of very great comfort in the Old Testament for example, I wonder if you can tell where these phrases come from. I am concerned for you, says the Lord. I will look after you.

I will bind up the injured. I will strengthen the weak.

You will live in safety and not be afraid. And all of that comes from the Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. So what we’ve seen over these last few Sundays is that first of all, God provides for his people by sending a messenger. Then he tells them his plans, which is to eventually bring them home. And then last week, we saw that he has a great longing that they would live and not die, that they would turn to him and not away. Well, today we’re going to see how God is going to do this work. So listen to Chapter 30 for which is our chapter verse to the Lord says, Speak against the shepherds of Israel. Ezekiel speak against the shepherds of Israel and Chapter 34 10. I am against the shepherds and Chapter 34:11. I, says the Lord, will take over as shepherd.

Now I want to think with you this morning about two quick things. The first is that God promises to restore his people.

And second, that God promises to renew his people. First of all, God promises to restore his people there in the exile because of largely bad leadership. And when God says I’m against the shepherds, he means I’m against the leaders.

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In fact, he means I’m against the Kings. I don’t know if you know this, but the shepherds were kings and the kings were described the shepherds. You’re familiar? I’m sure. With some 23 where it says I will fear no evil, Your rod and your staff. They comfort me literally. Your rod and your staff. They comfort me. The shepherd was a king, The king was a shepherd. And God is not against people who look after sheep, his against people who look after people badly.

There had been about 43 kings in Israel, and approximately three of them were godly, three out of 43 and they were meant to shepherd the people and lead them into godliness. But they didn’t. And even when God sent prophets to warn them that they were on the wrong path, they didn’t listen.

No wonder. Now everything has really gone downhill and they’ve gone off into exile. God says he’s finished with the shepherds. He’s finished with the leaders. He’s finished with the kings. This is the end of the monarchy. And he says, I’m going to remove them and I’m going to take over.

And then he says, these beautiful words that were read for us, I will search for my people and I will rescue my people and I will bring them in and I will bring them back to the promised land.
Well, how can God possibly do that? They’re prisoners in Babylon, the most powerful country in the world.

And of course, eventually Babylon would be taken over by Persia, and Persia was then the most powerful country. How is God going to get his people back to the promised land? Well, he’s going to do it very easily. He’s going to prompt. The King of Persia called Cyrus to just open the door and send them home, which he did.

You may have heard of Sir David Frost, the great British television interviewer who famously interviewed President Nixon and exposed some of the corruption in the interview. But David Frost was asked once who is the person he wished he could have interviewed.

And he said he wished he could have interviewed Cyrus, King of Persia, because, he said, he was the first global leader to use his power for good. And he used his powerful good to let the people of God go back to the promised land because God prompted him to do it. And then God says he’s going to attend his people, he’s going to restore them to the land and he’s going to restore their faith and he’s going to restore their joy. And he did so the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt, the walls went back up, the temple went back up, the houses went back up and the people were rebuilt. They were brought back to faith in God and to remember him and to take him seriously and to want to walk in his ways.

You know Kipling’s poem, Lest We Forget, most people think that lest we forget is Kipling’s way of saying, lest we forget the soldiers. But Kipling wrote the poem to say, “Lest we forget you, our God”, let me read you a couple of lines from the poem, he says:

Lord of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget if drunk with sight of power, we have not the in awe if frantic boast or foolish word.
Have mercy on my people, Lord, lest we forget, lest we forget you, the living God and God brought his people back to remember him and to remember his words.

Now you may think that when God brought the people back to the promised land, everything was wonderful. But we see in Chapter 34 Verse 19, that there was still a lot of sin in the Israelites. And, of course… In verse 19 of Chapter 34 they were trampling on one another, and in verse 21 they were shoving their weight around. There was still, but can you believe it? Trouble in the Church of God in the Old Testament? Yes, there was. And the reason is because people are people, whether they’re in exile, their sinful. If they come back to the promised land, their sinful. If they turn up in church, their sinful and you must have been, I’m sure, to holiday resorts where the families in the most beautiful circumstances were fighting. Have you ever had that experience? I remember taking my children wants to Disneyland and there was a mother threatening to leave her husband and the Children and just go home because everything was so terrible in Disneyland’s. Well, there they were, back in the promised land.

And of course, if God was simply to take people like me up to heaven exactly as I am today, I would wreck the place. And if he was to scoop us up and take us exactly as we are up to heaven, well, heaven would very quickly be as rotten as it is on the earth. We need to be changed. We need to be transformed. We need to not only be forgiven, but we need to be made new and one day made perfect to stand before God without seeing.

This is what the Bible calls perfecting his people. And of course, God had committed to do that. And all of this begins if you look at verse 23 of Chapter 30 for it all begins with the fact that God is going to provide a new Shepard and a new king. And his name is going to be David.

Well, what a funny thing to say when King David had died 400 years before. But this is a new David. This is the great David. This is the David to come. This is the Lord Jesus Christ and he’s going to rule on the throne. We’re told in Chapter 37 forever.

So Jesus, you see, when he comes into the world, here’s the great shepherd. He is the great King. Here’s the final shepherd. Here’s the final King. No wonder he got into trouble when he came in in John Chapter 10 and said, I’m the good shepherd.

Remember, they took up stones to throw at him for saying that he was the good shepherd. Well, he obviously didn’t mean I’m very cuddly. You don’t get stones thrown at you for saying I’m cuddly and sweet. Jesus was saying that he was the king forever the Messiah, the one who the Bible had predicted. And it’s Jesus who makes possible the renewal, the transformation. He carries away our sins. So God sees us as forgiven. But then he brings in his holy spirit into our hearts. So that were changed. And one day we’ll be completely changed and stand before God, as the Bible says, without fault and with great joy.

So do you see that God is a God who restores his people? He restores his people to the land. Yes, he did that. He restores his people to his family through Jesus. And one day he will restore his family to his presence. God is the great restoring God. The sequence is underway now. The second thing this morning is that God promises to renew his people.

I’m now moving over to Chapter 36 Verse 24 where God says, I will bring you back and I will cleanse you and I’ll give you a new heart and I’ll put a new spirit in you and I’ll remove your heart of stone and I’ll give you a heart of flesh and I’ll put my spirit in you and I will be your God. This is God promising to renew his people. This is a wonderful prediction. Ezekiel is putting the telescope out and saying, There’s gonna come a time where you’ll get a new heart. And Jesus, of course, said this is called the new birth, and everybody needs the new birth. Everybody in this building needs a new birth. You’ve already had one birth, so you’re alive. But you need another birth for eternal life.

There was a bishop called Taylor Smith, who was preaching in the cathedral once he used to be the chaplain for Queen Victoria. And in this wonderful and true story he was standing in this absolutely packed cathedral in England and he said this. He was preaching on the new birth, and he said, You may be a member of this church and not have the new birth. He said, you may be a warden in this church and not be reborn. He said, you could be the organist of this church and not be reborn. You could be a member of the choir and not be reborn. And then, pointing to the archdeacon who was leading the service, he said, you could be the archdeacon and not be reborn during the week he got a letter from the archdeacon. Dear Bishop, you have found me out. I have been religious, he said, for many years, and I knew nothing of rebirth. But your sermon drove me to cross and Christ has worked in me the new birth, and I’m writing to thank you.

So one of the reasons that Ezekiel is such a wonderful book is that it not only describes the Old Testament people where God is with them planning to bring them back to the promised land. But it also tells us that the coming of Jesus, the new David who’s going to do the work of making people clean and forgiven.

And I hope, dear friends, you’re the sort of person who in your mind you can say as you think about the cross. That’s where all my sins were paid. And if all my sins were paid at the cross and they were, then I’m able to go forward at peace with God and meeting without fault because Christ died. And we also see that Jesus came to change the heart, to remove the stoning, harm it, and to put into us a new and transformed heart. And we must ask Christ for this new heart as well.

When your heart is changed by Christ, you get a new interest in God’s word. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience. I remember it when I became a Christian myself at the age of 18. And I just got on the bus and I went to the city to buy a Bible because I thought, I want to know God. And when the heart is changed, there’s a new interest in the word of God. Without the new heart, Sermons mean pretty well, nothing. You may be coming here on Sundays and thinking these sermons are dreadful, but the problem may not be got to reckon with that. But with the new heart, sermons provide something.

When the heart is changed by Christ, there is a new grace to cope with life. Without the new heart, everything is just grumpy and bleak. But with the new heart comes grace and strength.

When the heart is changed by Christ, this fellowship with God without the new heart God is a bit of a stranger with the new heart. God is your father.

When the heart is changed by Christ, there is a growing hope without the changed heart. Hope is a bit of a mystery.

With the new heart, hope is a guarantee.

Now I hope you understand. What I’m saying is there needs to be a real connection with Christ. When Lawrence of Arabia had finished World War One, he took some of his Bedouin soldiers as a gift as a reward to Paris. He thought this would impress them and be a special treat. But the Bedouin soldiers were not very impressed with Paris, and they were not very impressed with the buildings, and they were not very impressed with the art. But they were very impressed with the taps in their hotel rooms. The most exciting thing they’d ever seen was a tap, and when eventually they went home, Lawrence of Arabia found that many of them had unscrewed the taps and put them in their bags with the crazy idea that they would one day get back into the desert and just turn the top of the tap. You see the point. Many people you see their religion is nothing but a disconnected tap.

There’s no real life running through them. There’s no living water, there’s no connection to Christ. And if you recognise friends that your religion has no life, no peace, no hope. Please do go home and sit on your bed and ask Jesus Christ to help you to bring into your heart. The living water that Christ spoke of, read John’s gospel. Take an hour to read. John’s Gospel will do your power of good or contact one of the ministers. And so I’d really like to talk about this. I feel as though my religion is just religion, you’ll say, but Jesus has promised to make people brand new and said, I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

Now, as we wind up this morning, we shouldn’t leave Ezekiel behind without just quickly looking at Chapter 37 which is the most famous part of the book where the situation looks completely hopeless and God takes Ezekiel out to a valley of dry bones. Many of you will know this very well, whether it was a reality, that he actually saw a valley of dry bones, I don’t know or whether it was a vision, but it’s a picture of hopelessness. It’s like being in a cemetery, and you remember that God told us equal to simply speak to the bones. And as he spoke to the bones, suddenly the tendons and the flesh and the limbs came together, and there were these figures in front of him. And then there was no breath in the bodies. And so, God said, speak to the breath or speak to the spirit and the breath of God entered into it. There was this army of people brand new.

The same God who had created man in the Garden of Eden putting flesh and then breath is now again giving flesh and breath to his people. This is what he does with his word and his spirit. Ezekiel had a wonderful experience of living long enough to see the people of God go back to the Promised land. That was a miracle. The supreme example of bringing to life is, of course, the resurrection of Jesus.
Because Jesus goes through the grave into resurrection and we’ll take his people through the grave into resurrection and down through history, God has again and again and again through his word and by his spirit, brought life to individuals of life, to churches and life to countries.

When they have turned back to him. They will come a day, dear friends, where God will restore his people into glory, where we will find ourselves made completely new time. Will be no more.

Therefore, there will be no boredom. Sin will be no more. There’ll be no more fights. Death will be no more. There’ll be no more separations and tears will be no more. There will be no more grief.
And we will see, says the Bible, the king in his beauty and the reason that this will take place. Chapter 36 of Ezekiel I, the Lord, have spoken and I will do it.

Friends, I want you to know that the same God who said I’m concerned for his people and showed his concern by bringing them home and showed his concern by sending his son is concerned for you. You shake every detail of your life he is concerned with and he will lead you for it and provide what’s needed.

Let’s pray together

We thank you, our heavenly Father, for this very wonderful book. In your book, we thank you for the promises. We thank you for the proofs and we pray that you would help us to have a joyful trust in Christ to experience the new life which he came to bring through his death and to live with you walking with you and for you. Until we see you face to face. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.