“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.
“They have not set God before them” (Psalm 54:3).
This one sentence summarizes Judah’s and Israel’s disregard for God. “Thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back” (Ezekiel 23:35). Ezekiel 23-24 is probably the most graphic and difficult passage in the book. God tells Ezekiel his wife will be suddenly taken from him. Immediately, our sense of justice heightens. You probably think to yourself, “God can’t do that; it isn’t right.” It takes a cruel turn when God tells Ezekiel not to mourn for his wife in the cultural, traditional style of mourning. He is not to change his attire nor eat the bread of a mourner. He is to be pensive and internalize his remorse. The casual reader could be easily jaded. It seems God has gone too far this time!
However, when you read Ezekiel 23 and realize God has patiently waited for Israel and Judah for hundreds of years to repent, the illustration, though painful, makes more sense. Ezekiel’s loss parallels the people’s loss of the Temple. It’s hard for westerners to appreciate the Jewish attachment to the Temple, but it was similar to a man’s admiration for his wife. Herein lies the crucial lesson: We tend to appreciate something more when we have lost it than when we had it. How many times is a wife take for granted? How many times is she undervalued?
God had been taken for granted. The Temple was Judah’s “rabbit’s foot.” No harm could come to them because, look at the Temple. It’s beautiful and it’s God’s house. They admired the Temple, but they profaned it with their insincere worship. They proudly saw the Temple as their trinket of immortality. It was the “excellency of their strength”! They took it and God for granted. They had Him in their pocket. The original love David had for God when he set aside the treasures for the Temple no longer represented the people’s sentiment. They loved the ornaments of a godly heritage but loathed the practice of a godly life. They more resembled Solomon’s devotion. Early in his life, Solomon’s fervency for God was strong. The dedication service for the new Temple was magnificent, but when Solomon became vain and married many women who stole his heart, his devotion was extinguished.
Ezekiel was told to refrain from the cultural overtures of mourning. The outward theatrics did not mean anything. God was after the “broken and contrite heart” which he would not despise. Judah had gone through the motions of devotion all the while their paramours were waiting in secret. It was time for genuine repentance. It was time to return to their forgotten God.
Our nation is made up of individuals who say they love God. They can point to the ornaments of a godly heritage, yet the substance of sincere love is missing. Nationally, we are much like Jonah. While the storm is raging around the believers and the ship is about to break in pieces, we are asleep in the bottom of the ship. We are pursuing our own desires which are directly opposite of God’s desires. When in desperation we are shaken awake, we yawn and say, “I fear the Lord” (Jonah 1:9) oblivious to the danger. Sadly, it looks as though our nation, the “ship” will finally break apart and we will lose what we thought we could never lose. The only hope for our nation is for those who call themselves Christians to wake up spiritually, repent of their apathy, and completely pursue God. The only hope is sincerely reacquainting ourselves with the forgotten God.
You might say it is childish or a little old fashioned, but I would disagree. Nearly every story you read, hear, or watch, whether it is fact or fiction, has one in it. They always have the protagonist, better known as the hero. Many hero stories have a demigod complex, so those stories are not the right example. No, the stories you read about the person who happened to be in the right place at the right time and acted purely out of compassion for fellow human beings, those are the stories of true heroism. They saw someone in need (i.e. a burning building, a trafficked street, etc.) and they answered the call of desperation. Those are the stories which warm your heart. Maybe you even catch a whisper of hope for humankind?
What happens, though, when the hero is absent from society? What would the world look like if there was no one who stood in between desperation and deliverance? Imagine what it would have looked like if there were no heroes running into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, or a myriad of other desperate moments large and small. Infinite tragedy ensues when people lack such a hero.
God was searching for some such hero in Jerusalem. Someone who would recognize the desperate times and respond with desperate urgency. Someone who loved God completely and extended mercy to those in need. Instead, He found only a cut-throat society of individuals seeking their own fortunate standard of living at the expense of others. He was searching for someone who feared Him and reverently followed His instructions for life. Instead, he found only an irreverent people who could not discern between what was holy and what was common or even unclean. He was searching for the humble person who would say, “Here am I; send me!” He sought for someone to stand in the gap, but he found none (Ezekiel 22:30).
One day, Jesus Christ will heroically rule this earth. “Until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezekiel 21:27). However, in light of our calling to be Christ-like, God is looking for someone “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly” with God (Micah 6:8).
Will you be the one who stands in the gap for the needy? Instead of being a consumer, would you have compassion? There are many who need a better home, a better quality of life, a better example of kindness and goodness. You are not scaling buildings with a single bound, but you are communicating the love of Christ to others.
Will you be the one who stands in the gap for the lost? Instead of becoming like the world, the world needs to see someone who can discern between holy and unholy. In this day, where pastors get tattoos to be like the world and Christians listen to profane music and few who say they follow Christ can seem to make the right decision between worshipping God (holy) or honoring their hobby or family more than God (common), in this day, the world desperately needs someone who will deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12).
Will you be the one who humbly says, “Lord, Here am I”? What does the world need? The world needs someone who will stand in the gap. The world needs someone who will live and proclaim the gospel of deliverance to a desperately hopeless people.
Will you be what the world needs?