It is so simple, you would doubt its effectiveness. For the past three years at our town’s fair, we have had one simple tool which attracts hundreds of children. We have tweaked many things about our booth at the fair, but this one thing is a staple. We will always have a kiddie pool filled with magnetic toy fish and fishing poles with a magnet on the end. Children will spend thirty minutes catching fish. It’s not a dunk tank or anything nearly as sophisticated. The little ones are thrilled with the simplicity of catching fish in a kiddie pool.
Some Christians are thrilled with their awareness of God, but it’s much like that kiddie pool. They are excited by what they can see on the surface. Like a child’s awareness of the world, they are thankful for the simple truths from Scripture about God. The danger is when their world is rocked by a tragedy or a perplexing issue. All of a sudden, their simple, shallow concept of God is not enough to soothe them in their time of need.
Have you heard someone say, “I wish I could know God’s Word more”? People wish they could memorize God’s Word like so-and-so. They wish they could turn to chapter and verse. They wish they could expound the treasures of God’s Word, but they refuse to get out of the “kiddie pool.” They don’t go to church beyond Sunday morning. They won’t dig into daily Bible study at home. They won’t spend their time in the car listening to the preaching and admonition from God’s Word. They won’t share what they learn with others. These are practices which help a believer wade into the depths of knowing God.
All of us are challenged to progress from our elementary awareness of God into profound depths. We are told to be rooted and grounded in the love of God.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…(Hebrews 5:12-6:1)
Ezekiel sees a unique feature in his Temple vision—a river. It starts as only a trickle, but it grows into a large river in which you would have to swim. This life-giving water of God powerfully reversed the stagnant Dead Sea. It completely transformed it until it flourished like the Garden of Eden. This is a beautiful picture of Christ. In John 4, He promised the Samaritan woman water, living water, which would spring out of her. “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). We must “apply our hearts unto wisdom” and go beyond the ankle-deep experience of God. Dive in! The water is wide.
I have always hated goodbyes. Since my youth, I charged my vernacular from “goodbye” to “see you later.” Although the separation of family and friends can be painful, their absence does not typically bring destruction. In fact, we all have known friends whose presence brings destruction and whose absence brings in the disaster relief!
There is one Presence which when absent forebodes destruction. In the beginning of his prophecy, Ezekiel witnessed God’s glory evacuate the Temple (Ezekiel 8-11). This allowed the destruction of Jerusalem. Because of their rebellion, God removed His presence creating a “vacuum” and everything fell in upon itself.
On a personal level, I reflect on Samson’s life. His self-willed, rebellion flirted with the edge of absolute defiance until he woke up and “wist not that the Lord was departed from him” (Judges 16:20). Without God’s presence with him, he experienced personal destruction. Moses knew the importance of God’s presence. After the Israelites worshiped the golden calf, God threatened to send the nation on to the Promised Land without His presence. Moses feared the absence of God’s presence and prayed, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (Exodus 33:15).
So when you read of the Lord’s glory returning to the Temple in Ezekiel 43-44, this is the inverse of His absence. If His absence brings destruction, His presence brings rejuvenation! Ezekiel instructs the people regarding their rebellion, and soon you will read the benefits of God’s active presence (Ezekiel 44:4-8). As a believer, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), but it robs you of the fellowship with God (1 John 1:3-2:2)
Are you terrified of living today without the presence of God? David desperately prayed in his confession post-adultery and post-murder, “Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). God’s absence spells destruction in your life, but His presence blesses and restores. Desire God’s presence, today. Live in the fellowship of His presence.
“Intention” is a deceptive word. You can intend to buy your wife flowers, but since it never materialized into actual flowers it does not count. You can intend to spend time with your kids, but if it never materializes then it is a failure. “It’s the thought that counts,” does not work either…unless you are speaking of God’s ways.
With God, an intention is everything because God does not hold anything back. When He says He will do a thing, it is as good as done. His thoughts do count! Ezekiel’s prophecies were confirmed with the messenger in Ezekiel 33. This gave credibility to his future prophecy of Israel’s future. God would restore their spirit and recreate their heart so they will be fully devoted to their God. Did you know there is one thing in all Scripture God does with His heart and soul? “Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul” (Jeremiah 32:41). When God is at work, there is no resource unavailable to Him. Nothing can restrain His intention or impeded his determination. He will make all things new (Revelation 21:5)!
Maybe reading Ezekiel 40-41 made you yawn a bit. Maybe you did not get invigorated by the measurements of the posts, doors, and arches. Think about it this way. Growing up, we had one home built. It was a cookie-cutter home, but you were able to pick some customizations. I still remember stopping by the house to watch the progress. Little by little, you could see the house take shape. Every piece was a notification you were going to move in soon! The Jews’ “home” was destroyed because of their rebellion, but God is showing them the blueprints of what He will do. His intention is so powerful, they can count down the signs of the times as every day brings them closer to God’s predicted reality.
You can have the same confidence in God because His intention is your confidence. He has promised the hope of eternal life and He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Salvation is not something you will enjoy one day. Your salvation enables you to “walk in newness of life” now (Romans 6:4). God will not “one day” be your Divine Hero, He is already working out things for your good (Romans 8:28) with his possessive love (Romans 8:31, 35-39) and his powerful presence (1 John 4:4). What galvanizes your hope and secures your future? “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). The only thing holding you back from the enjoying the power and blessing of God’s intention is your faith. Without it, you cannot please God.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:1, 6)
You have heard someone say, “Don’t hold your breath,” right? Usually they are referencing a promise someone has made, and they feel that you might die before you see that promise come true. Ezekiel is going to make some bold promises in the last section of his book, but you can bet the farm because these promises will come true.
For thirty-three chapters, Ezekiel has born the bad news of Israel’s destruction. Jerusalem would be lost and Israel would suffer the most devastating event in their national history. In Ezekiel 33, a messenger arrives in the refugee camp in Babylon. He recounts the fall of Jerusalem and it confirms Ezekiel’s prophecies completely.
Such doom and gloom may have been more than you wished to handle, but you had to hang in there. In order for Ezekiel’s prophecies of restoration to have merit, his prophecies of destruction must have been completely accurate. The last thirty-three chapters become the handle by which you can confidently receive the message of hope in the remaining chapters.
The most iconic passage in Ezekiel is chapter thirty-seven where he is told to prophesy to a valley of dead bones. Right before his eyes, the bones click together, the sinews wrap around the skeletons, and the breath of God fills the bodies and they become a living army. This pictures the restoration of Israel which echoes the creation account in Genesis where God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul. God describes His campaign to restore His creation back to it’s original form which includes a re-creation, destroying the Evil in the world (aka Gog), a new leader will be enthroned (“The Son of David”), and the Spirit of God will be poured out upon God’s people. One day, His people would never disobey Him and would live in perfect peace with Him. Everything points back to the Garden of Eden (as you can see in Ezekiel 47).
All of this sounds fantastic, maybe even unrealistic, but it is verified. God’s work comes down to the heart and soul of his people. His recreation must involve breathing into them the breath of the Spirit and the reformation of the heart. Jesus spoke of a new heart that would fulfill the Law of God which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. The only hope for you today is to be recreated (Titus 3:5) and for God to triumph over the Evil which is still at work today (Ephesians 2). When God heals your heart and fills your soul with the Spirit of God, you are promised eternity with Him. Sounds too good to be true? Reread the previous thirty-three chapters and “know that He is the Lord.”
“They shall know that I am the Lord.”
If you’ve noticed one thing about Ezekiel it should be this singular motive of God’s—”They shall know that I am the Lord.” Repeated over fifty times, this phrase displays the power and sovereignty of God in the affairs of man. For much of the book, this phrase signals judgment upon Judah for their desperate devotion to false idols instead of the one true God. However, from Ezekiel 25-32, this phrase is a clarion call to the nations. God wants the world to recognize Him as Lord compared to their own self-aggrandizement. Tyrus boasts about his wisdom and all the wealth and security it has brought to him. The Lord even compares Tyrus’ pride with the ultimate example of pride, Satan himself in Ezekiel 28! Tyrus stole God’s glory for himself. God promised they would be scraped clean like the top of a rock (which by the way Alexander the Great accomplished). Their pride would bring them low. Egypt was a constant force with which to be reckoned. They robbed God of his glory when the Pharaoh claimed to be the creator and sustainer of Egyptian life. “My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself” (Ezekiel 29:3). They were self-sufficient. However, God promises they would buckle and break. They would know that He was God!
This is a typical fault of men and women. In Acts 12, Herod arrays himself in his kingly robes and gives a splendid oration. The people shouted, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (Acts 12:22). The next verse echoes Ezekiel’s theme when “the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (Acts 12:23). They shall know that He is God.
Every one of us has a choice. We can willingly acknowledge and worship the glory of God, or we can steal God’s glory for ourselves. Whenever someone steals God’s glory, they are lifting themselves up to be a god which is idolatry. When people compliment you on a job or for your talent, do you steal God’s glory? Have you secretly thought to yourself, “I can handle this because I am strong or smart or capable”? Watch out! Do not steal from God’s glory. Allow everything done through you reflect back to God. Let all the world see your good works and “glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). It is a good reminder for us to recalibrate our lives and ask God if anything has robbed Him of His glory in our life.