Good morning. My name is Brian and it’s great to be gathered together as a church family today. We’ve been going through the Bible in a year, so at least one book per Sunday, and today we’re going to be in the book of Ezekiel. So, if you have your Bible, go ahead and turn to Ezekiel, and parents, let me just say up front, there’s going to be some weighty language for little ears, and I wouldn’t want you to be surprised or caught off guard later on. Well, Ezekiel is one of the prophetic books. We were in Jeremiah and Lamentations last week, and the week before that in the book of Isaiah and all of these broadly, and several others we’ll get to are prophets. A prophet is someone who speaks for God. We often think of prophecy as telling the future.
There’s often an aspect of that, and we’ll see that today. But fundamentally, a prophet is someone who stands and says, “Thus, saith the Lord,” as the Lord speaks through them. Ezekiel is a prophet. We’re going to see that’s what he’s called to do. To put this in a little bit broader of a historical setting. Ezekiel is a prophet from Jerusalem to God’s people in Judah. One of our elders, Lance, last week taking us through Jeremiah gave us a little history. I just want to recap a little of that in case you weren’t here. At a previous point in biblical history, all of God’s people could just be called Israel, 12 tribes together. Then there was a split into a Northern kingdom, which was also called Israel and a Southern kingdom, which was called Judah. Judah is the kingdom that we are focusing on in the book of Ezekiel and Ezekiel is a prophet to the Southern kingdom.
He actually gets taken from Jerusalem with some other notable leaders around 600 BC, and they are taken by Babylon and they’re taken into captivity and many others from Jerusalem and Judah would be taken into captivity or exile really over the following years. So, while he’s being a prophet to God’s people in exile, Jeremiah, like we saw last week, is a prophet to God’s people still in Jerusalem. We could spend a lot of time considering the geopolitical dynamics at the time. Like, what is Israel doing? What’s Assyria doing? What is Babylon doing? All of this is important, but to make it really simple, God’s people had rejected God. They were consumed with idolatry and sin, as we’re going to see today, and God, as he often does, used the sin of another nation or another people to justly enact punishment on his people.
That’s how Babylon is used here. The people of God were exiled. They were removed from the land God had given them because of their sin and God used Babylon to do it. He takes them into exile, away from where they’re supposed to be. And exile is a recurring theme in the scriptures. Think of Adam and Eve in the garden. What happened because of their sin? They’re cast out. They’re exiled from where God wanted them to be. When we think of Israel being under Egyptian captivity, that’s a kind of exile and the Northern kingdom, remember the kingdom split, so the Northern kingdom was exiled by Assyria and scattered, and there are other notable examples in the scriptures as well. But there’s also one we often don’t think of. For New Testament Christians, that should be us today. We are a people living in exile, a people whose home is not here, whose future is not here, whose lives don’t find their value here.
We live here. This world is important. I’m not saying we check out, but biblically speaking, we live as exiles and strangers. The book of Ezekiel is often difficult to understand. If you’ve read it on your own, there can be some puzzling pictures and descriptions, and supposedly Jewish rabbis would only let men read it after they reached 30 years old, less they become discouraged and find the scriptures hard to understand. There are some odd things in it. For instance, Ezekiel is told to lie still on his side for months and not speak. He’s bound with ropes so he can’t leave the house, and his tongue is glued to the roof of his mouth. He isn’t even allowed to mourn the death of his wife and he packs up his possessions and digs through the city wall to foreshadow the exile that’s coming.
I actually think Ezekiel is one of those books that’s easier to grasp at a high level, sometimes than in individual parts because the structure is really easy to see. I don’t say this to you like this is some kind of class on Ezekiel, but I think if we understand the structure of the book, we’ll be much more likely to understand the message that God has for us through Ezekiel. The book starts out in chapters one through three with this depiction of God in glorious splendor, which we’re going to read in a moment. Then, from chapters four through 24, it’s all proclamations of judgment against God’s people. Then, chapters 25 through 32 are proclamations of judgment against the surrounding nations. 28 chapters of judgment, the majority of the book, and then chapters 33 through 48 don’t end that way. There’s a message of hope.
God, isn’t done. The people will stay in exile for 70 years, but God has plans for them after that, and the book is also marked by three main visions that God gives Ezekiel. So, let’s start reading in chapter one and see that first vision. Starting in verse four, Ezekiel says,
” I looked and there was a whirlwind coming from the north, a huge cloud with fire flashing back and forth and brilliant light all around it. In the center of the fire, there was a gleam like amber. The likeness of four living creatures came from it and this was their appearance. They looked something like a human, but each of them had four faces and four wings.”
This is likely different than anything you’ve experienced or I have experienced, and as it continues, we’re going to see these strange creatures surround the throne of God.
In verse 15, he says,
”When I looked at the living creatures, there was one wheel on the ground beside each of the four-faced creatures. The appearance of the wheels and their craftsmanship was like the gleam of beryl. And all four had the same likeness, their appearance and craftsmanship was like a wheel within a wheel. When they moved, they went in any of the four directions without turning, as they moved. There four rims were tall and awe-inspiring, covered completely with eyes.”
And after this description, a voice is heard from overhead and the throne of God appears. In verse 25, it says
“a voice came from above the expanse over their heads. When they stopped, they lowered their wings and something like a throne with the appearance of lapis lazuli was over the expanse above their heads. On the throne high above, there was someone who looked like a human. From what seemed to be as waist up, I saw a gleam like Amber and what looked like fire enclosing it all around. And from what seem to be as waist down, I also saw what looked like fire, and there was a brilliant light all around him. The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the likeness of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell face down and heard a voice speaking.”
There’s a lot that could be said about that, and much of it, I am not the best person to say. However, I think there are some things that are very clear from this, and this is why I said, I think this book might be one that’s easier to see at a big level. The first thing I think we should see from this as God is holy. He is different and Ezekiel understands this.
He has this experience and whatever the particulars mean, he has this experience of God and he can’t help but understand who he is in relationship to God, and he falls on his face. God is portrayed as living in glorious light, as a consuming fire, as pure, as holy, as transcendent as other, not totally others, such that we can’t understand anything about him. After all, the scriptures tell us about him. No, but he, he is definitely portrayed to be high and lifted up. God is holy, we see at the beginning of Ezekiel. The second thing we see though, is God is all-knowing and all-powerful. The wheels are covered with eyes, showing that God sees all that happens. He knows everything that occurs. The wheels and wheels at the least show that there is nowhere God cannot go. There’s nowhere outside of his power.
There’s nowhere outside of his knowledge. In fact, things only happen through him and by his will. He can accomplish all he desires. Even in exile, this is the third thing I want us to see. It’s God who comes to his people and speaks. We’re going to see some terrifying depictions of the people’s sin, but God didn’t just leave them. He sent them a messenger. Yes, he exiles them justly. After all, how could he be a holy God if he doesn’t punish sin, but he doesn’t leave them without his word. He sends Ezekiel to them. Now, God speaks to Ezekiel in chapter two.
He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak with you. As he spoke to me, the spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and I listened to the one who was speaking to me.” He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to the rebellious pagans who have rebelled against me. The Israelites and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this day. The descendants are obstinate and hardhearted. I’m sending you to them, and you must say to them, this is what the Lord God says. Whether they listen or refuse to listen for they are a rebellious house, they will know that a prophet that has been among them. They will have no excuse.”
Now, Ezekiel has his commission. Go tell the Israelites what the Lord God has to say. That’s quite the initial depiction and summary of the people of God, isn’t it? Rebellious pagans who have rebelled against him. They’re obstinate. They’re hard-hearted, they’re rebellious. Here we see just the beginning of the description of the seriousness of their sin and how God views it.
This is why Israel is going into exile. Their sin isn’t just a mistake. It’s not just living their truth. It’s not brokenness. No, it is unfaithfulness and rebellion against God, and he takes that seriously. The following depictions of sin and judgment, will take 28 chapters. We are not going to read all of them this morning together, but I do you want us to see some notable depictions. So, if you’re thinking of the structure of this book, of how it all fits together, we just saw God high and lifted up, holy. We see him call Ezekiel, and now we’re going to see depictions of the people’s sin. In Ezekiel 22, 23, here’s what it says.
And the word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, say to her, that’s Judah, you are a land that is not cleansed or rained upon in the day of indignation. The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst, just like a roaring lion, tearing the prey, they have devoured human lives. They have taken treasure and precious things. They have made many widows in her midst. Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths so that I am profaned among them. Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. Her profits have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them saying, thus, say the Lord when the Lord has not said. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor, the needy and the sojourner without justice.
I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me in the land that I shouldn’t destroy them, but I found no one. Therefore, I have to poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned to them way upon their heads, declares the Lord.
So, we saw in initial summary, right, hardhearted obstinate, rebellious. Now we see God put some meat on those bones. This is a large issue. The priests, the spiritual religious leaders you think would be actually held to a higher standard than they are then the people, they don’t even treat the holy things as holy. They’re not teaching the law to the people in terms of what it looks like to live according to the clean or unclean laws of the Old Testament. To make them feel better, they have prophets who will say, thus saith the Lord, when God doesn’t actually say. They’re taking the name of the Lord in vain. They extort and rob people. They oppress the poor, the needy and the sojourner.
If we, just think about the 10 commandments, they are systematically consistently and intentionally breaking every one of them. They have other gods before the Lord, their God. They have made and worshiped idols. They are misusing the name of the Lord. They are profaning his Sabbath. They are not honoring their father and their mother or the widows. They’re murdering. They’re committing adultery. They’re stealing. They’re coveting and they’re perverting justice in the courts. This is a people who have totally gone their own way, and these themes we see are consistent throughout the prophets. We saw some of them last week in Jeremiah. I’m sure we’ll see several more in the coming weeks, but God expects his people, the people who know him to follow him, and that looks like living a certain way. That’s the same expectation for us today. God expects his people to live distinct lives from the culture they are in. They’re to be a people living in commitment to him.
It’s not fundamentally just keeping a list of rules or laws. It’s fundamentally a commitment to a person which will exhibit itself in a way of life, because life is lived and worshiped to God. God expects his people to not lie, cheat, steal, rob or extort. They shouldn’t misuse the name of the Lord or his word. They shouldn’t oppress, but instead care for the poor, widow, needy and immigrant.
That last category, I think bears some additional attention today. In part, because it’s a consistent theme of the profits, and also in part, because our culture is increasingly divided about how we think about poverty, oppression and the needy. We need to be careful not to take our modern definitions or theories and insert them into the scriptures. We need to be, instead, people who let the Bible speak on its own terms, with its own definitions, with its own thought world about how it considers these topics.
When we do that, we will be unlikely to fit into either category, if there are categories today, neatly. But briefly, let me say God expects his people to give equal justice and treatment to all people. God’s law specifically says don’t treat the poor differently than the rich, and in the scriptures oppression occurred not because there simply were people who were poor, but because the poor were denied justice and equal treatments. The Bible doesn’t assume oppression has happened simply because someone has a different economic or social standing. However, it does wisely point out that those with power and wealth are more likely to abuse other people, and abuse their power and wealth. I mean, consider, if you don’t have much power and wealth, it’s much harder to actually oppress others. But it doesn’t say that you have power and wealth means you are an oppressor.
There are good and proper ways to use power and wealth. It’s a multiplier. It can multiply good. It can multiply evil. The question is, what is it actually doing? In the scriptures, if there has been oppression, we’ll be able to point to it. We’ll be able to point to the unjust laws, the systematic mistreatment at the city gates or in the courts. Here, Ezekiel and throughout the other prophets, God is condemning the people because by and large, their society is marked by a systematic mistreatment of people. When the poor go into the courts, they don’t get justice. A different standard is applied. They’re robbed from, and hey, the other rich people just let it happen. Christians should be people who care about justice, because God is just. We should be people who care about those who cannot help themselves, because as Christians, that was our story in a spiritual sense.
We could not help ourselves spiritually, but God came to us in our need when we didn’t even want him. There are legitimate conversations to be had about what the best way is to enact justice for certain circumstances, what the best way is to help and not hurt. I do think that’s an important category, but it should be the scriptures that one, give us the call to pursue justice and two, give us the principles, and sometimes the direct prescriptions on how to carry it out. The scriptures are the best foundation for building a just society.
So, so far in our text, Ezekiel has laid out many of the sins of the people. Sometimes, if you’re like me, simply hearing depictions or the words used for specific wrong things, yeah, that sticks out. Like, okay, that’s wrong. We shouldn’t steal. We shouldn’t covet. Got it.
It doesn’t move me, right? Intellectually, I would agree that these things are wrong, but I don’t grieve the sin. I think God’s people had a seared conscience, all the more than that. That’s why, in this next chapter, Ezekiel uses a depth of language we’re unaccustomed to, to get his point across. The Lord does, I should say, through Ezekiel. He likens Judah to a woman. This is what he says in chapter 23, verse 12.
” She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed and full armor, horseback riding on horses, all of them desirable young men. I saw that she was defiled. They both took the same way, but she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion, wearing belts on their waists with flowing turbines on their head, all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea.
Israel is lusting after the other nations, and this actually isn’t new for them, as we read the scriptures. In verse 16, it says,
“When she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her. As I had turned from her sister,” (that would be the Northern kingdom of Israel.) Yet, she increased her whoring, remembering the days of our youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after their lovers, who sexual members were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of stallions. Thus, you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.
I’m guessing that hits you in a different way than simply descriptions of breaking the 10 commandments. Often we need a picture. We need an allegory to show just how bad or good something is. You might wonder if that’s appropriate to read in public. Well, Ezekiel was told by God to read it in public, and all of the scriptures are breathed out by God and useful for teaching reproach, correction and training and righteousness, so that we can be equipped for what God expects for us. If you read the rest of Ezekiel, which I hope you do, this isn’t even the half of it. It gets worse. God wanted his people to know just how much he was upset by their sin, just how wrong it was, just how off the path it is. See, those words don’t even do it justice. I should just let, I should let the scripture speak on their own there, but I think we’ve become numb to the terms used for sin.
In fact, as a society, our moral vocabulary is shrinking. There are less and less words to describe things that are wrong. We don’t use evil very much. We talk about distress, and it seems like today, if something doesn’t fall into the category of bigoted, hateful or racist, we don’t even have it term for it. “You just do you.” But that is not how God sees it. God, here’s about how people live because he designed them to live certain way. When we sin, yes, that is against God. It’s also bad for us. It’s bad for society. It’s bad for our neighbors. But fundamentally, sin is spiritual adultery. God has made a covenant with us as his people. The scriptures describe the church as the bride of Chris,. And so when Christians desire, sinful things or desire, worldly things more than God, they’re guilty of spiritual prostitution. Consider, if you’re married and you consistently flirt with someone else or lust after someone else, or find a certain kind of marital, emotional fulfillment in someone else that is marital unfaithfulness.
In the same way, the Christian who flirts with or lusts after, finds fulfillment in the things of the world over and above the things of God is guilty of spiritual unfaithfulness to the Lord. Some patterns of sin are certainly worse than others, but all sin is unfaithfulness to God. Because of Judah’s sin, after 20 chapters of mourning and judgment, at the end of chapter 24, we see that he gives them over to the Babylonians. They come and they take Jerusalem.
So, what do we think about these descriptions of sin and judgment? Does it seem extreme? Does it seem like maybe God was really excited to punish everyone? I mean, surely there had to be someone good. It doesn’t seem like that’s even acknowledged? Those are good questions.
Really, what they’re getting at is, is God just in this? This book actually answers those questions. For example, was everyone this depraved and the answer is no by God’s grace. In chapter nine, verse four, God says,
“Pass throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and grown over all the detestable practices committed in it.”
There were still some in the city who loved God and grieved sin. What I find more noteworthy is you could find those people. Yes, they existed. That’s good. But my point is, it seems like you would think, in a society just marked by debauchery and depravity, it’s got to be unpopular to be the person who sits there moaning over sin, right?
You’re basically condemning other people, passively. You would think you might just be tempted to go into your home and privately lament, not practice those things yourself. No. They publicly lament as assigned to the others that this is wrong. I think today we are very comfortable saying I’m not going to do the wrong thing society does, but they don’t actually bother me that much. I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to be. Well, what about another question? Is God really excited about punishing everyone? The answer to that is also no. In Ezekiel 18:23, God even asked that question. He says,
“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? This is the declaration of the Lord. God instead, don’t I take pleasure when the wicked person turns from his ways and live?”
In verse 32, he says,
“For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death. This is the declaration of the Lord. Repent and live.”
God tells the people to repent. It doesn’t have to be this way. Now, the consequences of their previous sin might still occur. They might still be carted off to Babylon, but their souls will live and be saved. Even for the people marked by all the heinous sins we read about, God calls them, gives them the opportunity to repent and live. God consistently exhibits grace to his people. Well, what about another question? Are people punished for the sins of others? Well, chapter 18 addresses that as well.
The person who sins is the one who will die. Suppose a man is righteous and does what is right? …He will live.
A son won’t suffer punishment for his father’s iniquity, and a father won’t suffer punishment for the son’s iniquity. The righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him.
God judges people on their own terms. Now, yes, God is taking the culture, the nation into captivity because by and large, that’s how they were marked. That’s the justice that’s required. But when it comes to a person’s guilt before God, they stand on their own. In fact, as far as I’m aware, there are only three times in the scriptures where someone is credited with someone else’s guilt or innocence.
The first one occurs when Adam sins in the garden and every one after him, you and me included, are credited with his guilt. The second one occurred at the cross, when for all those who were in Christ, their sin was credited to Christ. The third one also occurred there, or at least I should say, was provided for there. When those who are in Christ, get credited with Christ’s righteousness, outside of those kinds of three macro level dynamics, people stand before God in light of their own goodness or wickedness.
However, it is true that the consequences of a previous’ generation sin will affect a subsequent generation. Consider a father who gambles and drinks away his family’s money. That’s going to have generational consequences, even though his family and children aren’t guilty for what he did. It’s also true that future generations are likely to sin in the way a previous generation did. That gets passed down. Cultural values, good or bad, get passed down and often recreate the same sorts of behaviors.
So far in Ezekiel, all of this is rather weighty, isn’t it? It’s all night and no dawn. Sin, debauchery, depravity, judgment. You might say, well that, why do we focus on that so much? It is the bulk of the book. Israel is still in exile and more judgment has been prophesied, and we needed to not skip by this. We need to understand how God views sin. I think often we want to just live, and dance in the grace of God and his forgiveness. But often it’s such a shallow understanding because we never understood to start with how God viewed our sin. We need to understand his holiness and his justice. However, that’s not the full picture and that’s not the full book of Ezekiel. The last thing I want us to see today is the hope of grace that God prophesied through Ezekiel. We saw God’s holiness.
We saw the call of Ezekiel. We saw the proclamations of judgment and sin, but that’s not all there is. In chapter 36, starting in verse 22, it says,
” Therefore, say to the house of Israel, this is what the Lord God says. It’s not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for my holy name, which you profaned among the nations, where you went. I will honor the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you profaned among them. The nations will know that I am the Lord, when I demonstrate my holiness through you.”
God had actually already demonstrated his holiness through them, by punishing them. That testified to his justice, and now he’s going to demonstrate his holiness by saving them and redeeming them. In verse 24, it continues,
” For I will take you from the nations and gather you from the countries and we’ll bring you into your own land. I will also sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will my spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully obey my ordinances.
You will live in the land that I gave your ancestors and you will be my people and I will be your God. I will save you from all of your uncleanness. I will summon the grain and make it plentiful, and I will not bring famine on you. I will also make the fruit of the trees and the produce of the field plentiful, so that you will no longer experience reproach among the nations on account of famine.
In chapter 37, God continues, telling the people the goodness that is to come and he takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones.
He asks the question, “Can these bones live?” and Ezekiel replies wisely. “Lord only you know”, as if to say, if they can, it’s only because of you. This is what the Lord says to him in verse four of chapter 37,
“Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them, dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord God says to these bones. I will cause breath to enter you and you will live. I will put tendons on you and make flesh grow on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you so that you come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
There is so much in these chapters, so many different dipictions of what is to come, some of it fulfilled at that time, after that 70 years, and some of it being fulfilled today. Let’s just quickly take a look back.
He’s told them that he’ll take them out of captivity and he’ll gather them from wherever they’ve been scattered. He’ll bring them and give them the land he promised them. Not just any land, not a piece of dirt, but a land that’s flowing and flourishing with fruit and abundance, but he won’t just give them a physical land. He will also make their hearts, a new spiritual land. He will take out a heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh. He will cleanse them from all of their sin and all of their iniquity. They can’t do any of that. They’re incredibly beholden to him, but he will do this out of his grace and faithfulness. Largely, what’s described here is also a picture of the new covenant that we’re a part of. Yes, Israel gets out of Babylonian captivity. That’s a partial fulfillment of this prophecy, but it also looks forward to what Jesus would accomplish on our behalf.
The New Testament says that all people without Christ are dead in their sins. They’re like a pile of dry bones in a dusty valley. They have an inability to come to God, an inability to even want to come to God, and they live for themselves, as we saw Judah doing here. No, they’re not as bad as they could be thanks to God’s restraining grace, but dead bones don’t come back alive on their own do they? And people dead in sin don’t come to spiritual life on their own. God saves for the sake of his name still today.
In an early way, what is Ezekiel is doing is preaching the gospel. Think about it. He starts out telling us who God is, high, sovereign, holy, lifted up. He tells about mankind’s sin, calls them to repent and then tells what happens if they don’t, but tells what God will do for them. That God will meet his standards, even when they cannot. He says that he will take out our hearts of stone and put in a heart of flesh that loves God, loves his people, loves his ways.
If you aren’t a Christian, God’s call today is the same as it was through the mouth and prophet of Ezekiel. Repent and live. Turn from your sin and turn to Jesus. Everyone who renounces their sin and trusts Jesus to stand in their place will find him to be perfect savior. Come to him, find forgiveness and rest.
Christian, consider the example of Judah. Paul says that all of this was written for our instruction. Consider how God views your sin. It is unfaithfulness to him and it is spiritual prostitution. If you’re flirting with sin, if you’re tolerating with sin, if you’re making a truce with it, “just stay over here; it’s not as bad as so-and-so, or I don’t do it that often.“ No. Kill it. Go on a search and destroy mission. You don’t tolerate some unfaithfulness. No, you search it out and remove it. Repent of your sin and live in God’s forgiveness.
For all of us, as Ezekiel shows us, God has always saved people for his glory and the people he saves for his glory will live to his glory.
So, how do we think about the whole book of Ezekiel? As Christians, we live in this in-between time. Some of what’s been prophesied has already occurred. We have new hearts. We have been sprinkled clean. We have God’s Spirit, but there’s still more to come. The New Testament tells us that this is a down payment, a promise and a promise assumes there’s still something that is yet to be done. In this way, we find ourselves in a similar situation to Judah in exile, in the book of Ezekiel. We are strangers in exiles here, or at least we should be. We should not be comfortable here.
This is not our home. We should have our own way as New Testament Christians of viewing money and ethics and community and forgiveness and relationships, and it’s not going to fit in the surrounding culture. Yes, we are here. We are not from here. We are not going here. Our hope is not here. We are a people in exile, in Babylon. At the end of Ezekiel, God gives him a vision of a world that is to come, a world lush and flourishing with no wants and no pain. As my daughter’s children’s book says, “where there is nothing sad and nothing bad”, a world where God will commune with us, his people. That picture should be the hope of you and me, of all of us, a hope when we will see Christ as he is our creator and our savior and live with him without sin forever.
We are people who should long for that. If we don’t feel a sense of longing for that, I question if we’re living as exiles here and you know what exiles long for? They long for a home. They long for a place. At the end of Ezekiel, God tells him what that place is like. He gives it a description, but fundamentally for God’s people, what they long for might be a place, but more than that, it’s a person. That’s why the name of the city at the end of Ezekiel, the very last word of the book are, “The Lord is there.” What we should long for as exiles in this land is to be with the Lord. That is our certain hope.