The Spirit lives in the hearts of new covenant believers (2 Cor 1:22)
16 The word of the LORD came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. 18 So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. 19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20 But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ 21 But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Recently I took a hike with Trevor at Ridley Creek State Park. Rather than walk the paved loop, we went on a couple of hiking trails. I had been on most of them previously a number of times. But there were a couple I had never hiked or had not been on for many years. That experience is like the book of Ezekiel. Some have never “hiked its trails” or perhaps really “hiked” them for years. Part of the advantage of our present series about “The Story of God” is to reacquaint all of us with the whole counsel of God. I hope that you will take the material presented in this series as a sketch of a trail map to help you venture out into parts of God’s Word where you haven’t walked in fellowship with God before or for a long time.
Structure of Ezekiel – Here is a brief layout of the book. Good study Bibles like the NIV or the ESV will provide more detail.
- The call of Ezekiel (1-3)
- Messages of judgment against Israel (4-24)
- Messages of judgment against the surrounding nations (25-32)
- Messages of encouragement for believers (33-48)
Ideas and features of Ezekiel
- It contains more dates than other prophecies; the length of his ministry is set forth as about 22 years
- The language can seem hard and even offensive (“adult rated”); the Bible is not prudish or Victorian; the Holy God uses descriptive language to make his message clear
- The use of visionary writing and symbolic reality; that is, truth is declared through unusual visions that have important ideas set forth as symbols; for example, the two adulterous sisters (Ezk 23), or the valley of dry bones (Ezk 37)
- It talks a lot about God’s holiness; in order to live for the Lord, we must have a firm grasp on his holy character
- It declares the reasons for the exile and the coming restoration of God’s people; the Lord explains life’s hard matters to his people
- The sovereignty of God and human responsibility are declared in harmony; God rules over all, yet we are responsible for our actions
- The book is built around the declaration of the glory of the Lord. God wants people to know his surpassing value and shining brilliance
I. A microcosm of the large problem of the old covenant people, Israel (36:16-21)
We must remember that God made them his people because of his covenant with Abraham and by making them his through the exodus and the giving of the law covenant at Sinai. God made a way to live among them through the temple and the law with its priesthood, sacrifices, and regulations.
A.They defiled God’s gift by their evil conduct; two examples
1.Bloodshed (cf. Rm 1:31; 3:15)
2.Idolatry (cf. Ezk 14:1-11) – This is a passage that Christians should know well in our time. Israel had a corrupt core of idols in the heart. This is an issue of ongoing importance (cf. Col 3:5; 1 Jn 5:21). Have you set up idols in your heart?
Point: Religious appearances are no substitute for desire for God.
B.They profaned God’s name
1.God’s name presents all that he is: holy, majestic, unchangeable, unlimited in time, space, and power, wise, good, love, and sovereign. We are always to act in ways that are consistent with God’s nature—“set apart” from creaturely being and from sin. When we act contrary to God’s being, word, and redemptive actively, we profane God’s name.
2.They did this among the nations “wherever they went”. Instead of spreading the glory of God to all nations, they were giving the nations a twisted story of Yahweh’s being, character and actions. What version of God’s story are people receiving from you and your way of life?
Apply: Remember the last S of our acrostic BLESS. We are to show Christ constantly to the world? So then, can people see Jesus through you?
II. An explanation of God’s reasons for judgment (36:22-23)
A.God’s basic principle of action – The acts of God are not capricious or arbitrary. He always acts wisely, rightly, and purposefully. This basic principle can be something that we smack into, because we have our own opinions about what the Lord should do. Sometimes we can be running so fast on the track of our opinions that we forget or fail to have time for this truth. And the collision can leave us with heartaches and headaches.
1.The Lord acts for the sake of his holy name. As already said, they had profaned God’s holy name. This should make us evaluate our actions. Are we demonstrating what the Lord is like by the way we live? Or are we presenting a satire (like The Onion) or worse, are we perpetrating some kind of scam? But God wanted to make clear that he was not like the conduct of his people. He wants the people groups of the nations to know who really is.
2.God is very concerned that people know that he is holy. The law covenant was calculated to get this idea into the heads of the people of Israel by regulating their conduct to think constantly, “Is this a holy action? Did we do something ‘unclean’?” For this reason, God said, “I will show the holiness of my great name” (36:23).
Point: One of the chief concerns of God’s people is the holiness of God (Mt 6:9; 1 Pt 1:15-16).
B.God’s principle put into action
1.God used the exile and suffering of Israel to teach the nations the holiness of his name, “through you” (36:23c). This ought to make us feel uncomfortable and humble. Since God is Creator and Judge of all, he has the final right to do as he pleases with people, including his people. The Lord taught Ezekiel this many times by what he required Ezekiel to do or to experience.
2.God used this plan of action to achieve a good outcome—“then the nations will know that I am the Lord” (36:23c). When we read the OTS carefully, we learn that God has a worldwide mission. People like to turn the Lord into a tribal deity. “God will be kind to the nice people (us), but he will bring horrible judgment on nasty people (them)” is a prideful attitude. However, God will pursue his global mission.
III. A promise of restoration (36:24-27)
God would rebuild his people. This would require God’s action in three ways.
1.Cleansing from sin – Ezekiel uses the picture of cleansing with water. This would be familiar to Israel (Ex 30:17-21; Lev 14:51; Num 19:17-21). The fulfillment of this symbolic cleansing is the blood of Christ (Heb 9:13-15; cf. 10:22).
2.Cleansing from idols – Yahweh wants first place in the hearts of his people. The only way that this actually happens is for him to remove the idols from our hearts. He must give people a heart for God. He does this through the power of the gospel (1 Th 1:4-10).
Point: God uses the gospel to change people.
B.A new heart
1.Re-creation/regeneration (cf. Jn 3:3-8) – This is what Jesus found lacking in Nicodemus. Though Nicodemus was the teacher of Israel, he failed to understand that people who truly know God must be born again from above.
2.In regeneration we receive an inner person that responds to God. Being brought from spiritual death, those who are saved are alive toward God and the things of God. Do you enjoy God and the newness he brings by his presence?
C.The Holy Spirit
1.Indwelling presence – “I will put my Spirit in you…” In the old covenant, Yahweh dwelt among his people. He showed his presence in the tabernacle and then the temple. The Spirit of glory filled those places. It was good. But in this text the Lord speaks of something better—that the Spirit would live in God’s people. If we grasp the majesty of God, we will appreciate, more than that, stand in awe of the greatness of this promise. The Spirit lives in the hearts of new covenant believers (2 Cor 1:22). We are the temple of God (2 Cor 6:16). Many evangelical Christians have thought far too little of the Holy Spirit’s presence within. Oh yes, it is written in official statements and mentioned in books and messages in a few short sentences, but the experience of the wonder of indwelling majestic glory is sadly lacking. Rituals and routines have been poor substitutes for living by faith and with joy with the Spirit of glory!
2.Leading of God’s people – “and move you…” (cf. Rm 8:14). Here is how progressive sanctification really happens. The Holy Spirit creates “a deep, sustained desire to know God, draw near to God, seek God, find God, love God, honor God, serve God, please God” (Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, p. 107). Holiness, being set apart and consecrated to God, becomes “the naturalness of the spiritually risen man, just as sin is the naturalness of the spiritually dead man, and in pursuing holiness by obeying God the Christian actually follows the deepest urge of his own renewed being” (Ibid). God’s teaching by the Spirit produces new urges for Christ-likeness (cf. 1 Th 4:9). “True holiness, springing as it does from what the Puritans called the ‘gospel mystery’ of the sanctifying work of God, is the Christian’s true fulfillment, for it is the doing of that which, deep down, he now most wants to do, according to the urging of his new, dominant instincts in Christ” (Ibid, p. 108). As the Apostle Paul wrote, the Spirit produces fruit (Gal 5:22-23) in those who belong to Christ Jesus. In the new covenant, the Spirit works within us mightily to bring into reality what the law covenant never could—people who desire to please God from their inner beings.
Point: The Holy Spirit is able to transform you to be like Jesus Christ.
Apply: What new Spirit-given desires of Christ-likeness are pulsing out from your heart into your daily walk in God’s presence? You cannot have these apart from the Holy Spirit. He is given to all who believe? If you have offended him, find forgiveness and cleansing through Jesus Christ and be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18).
Ideas to transform our lives:
- Religious appearances are no substitute for desire for God
- One of the chief concerns of God’s people is the holiness of God
- God uses the gospel to change people
- The Holy Spirit is able to transform you to be like Jesus Christ
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.