Week 6 – Lessons from the Prophets Cont’d
Day 2 – A Man for the Gap: Ezekiel 22:7, 29
Ezekiel twenty-two is a sobering chapter. It addresses Jerusalem and her sin. Verse three gives the short list of offenses: Violence and idolatry. The long list, however, starts in verse seven, to it is added gross immorality, bribes, usury, greedy gain by extortion, and at the very top of the list, setting light by father and mother, dealing with the stranger by oppression and vexing the fatherless and widow. The very last item on the list, however, neatly sums up the real problem, Jerusalem “hast forgotten me, saith the Lord.” (vs. 12)
Jerusalem had forgotten her God. It is obvious in the way that they were living, because everything they were doing went directly against His commandments. The clear result is that God, who is just, would bring judgment upon His people. In verse fourteen, He poses a question:
“Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.”
The arrogant heart thinks lightly of the judgment of God, like a young child testing and challenging the resolve and authority of a parent. I’m sure you’ve seen it. A child deliberately disobeys their parents and in their eyes is that gleam of challenge, that confidence that Mommy can do nothing to win this one. “I will triumph!” their little smirk seems to say. And then it happens, discipline befalls them and they crumple into a disappointed, wounded, defeated pool of tears because, to their amazement and surprise – Mommy won. The prideful heart is no different, we think we will stand; nothing can harm us. We can walk on as we please with no consequence, and if there is consequence, we will rise above it! It is an attitude, in fact, that is very, very prevalent in today’s society. It is destructive.
We would think a man insane if he stepped to the edge of the Grand Canyon and began to walk its rim like a tight rope as he said, “Nothing will happen to me. If I slip, I’ll brush the dirt off and keep going.” No! Anyone with common sense knows it doesn’t work that way. Our hearts would be pounding at the sight. We would be warning him frantically to come away from the edge before he falls to his death. But that is the way many a man, woman and even child walks before God – saved and unsaved alike.
Verses seventeen through twenty-two give the intensity of the judgment of God to come. Verse twenty sums it up pretty well:
“As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.”
Why? God bookends the declaration of judgment with His ultimate reason: “And thou shalt know that I am the Lord” (vs. 16), “and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you.” (vs.22) Jerusalem had forgotten her God. His judgment was to restore the memory. It was to satisfy justice, but it was also to draw them back. It was a judgment of love and correction as much as of justice and punishment. It also would be severe, thus, His question: Can your heart endure?
The next few verse go on to talk about the sins of the prophets, priests and princes. They have led the people astray. They have “devoured souls” they have “made many widows” in Jerusalem. They have “violated my law…they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean.” They are “like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.” They have said, “Thus saith the Lord God”, when God has not spoken.
Who will lead the people in the way they should go if all of the nation’s leaders area acting in such a deplorable manner? The result is that:
“The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.” (vs 29)
In verses thirty and thirty-one, we hear those sad, often-preached words, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: BUT I FOUND NONE. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord.”
Oh, what a sinking feeling that should bring to our hearts. The similarities between Jerusalem and our own country are staggering. Violence, immorality, oppression (and neglect) of the poor, the needy, the fatherless, the stranger, the widow, idolatry of all kinds, leaders leading their people into destruction for their own personal gain (even among churches) – Who will stand in the gap? Who will stop and remember their God and His commandments? Who will put to the people the question: Can your heart endure? Who will plead the cause of the fatherless and the widow? Who?
Will it be you? Will you wait to see if your heart can endure the judgment of God, or will you lead the way in repentance and obedience. Who will stand in the Gap?
Up Next: Week 6: Day 3 -A When the Enemy Volunteers
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