Dealing with Doubts

Posted: October 16, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 7:18-35, “Dealing with Doubts”

People don’t often know what to do with doubt.  Some Christians fear it, thinking that the least amount of doubt will somehow be an affront to God, and they will be guilty of great sin.  Hardened skeptics often embrace it, retreating into doubt as their supposedly logical excuse not to believe the evidence around them.  Few know what to do with it.

A quick Google search on “how to deal with doubt” brings up article after article on the subject.  Some by fine writers & theologians – others from people whose credentials ought to be questioned.  In either case, many of the articles have a certain number of steps to dealing with doubt (5 steps, 7 steps, etc.).  Although there are several minor things that can help, I suggest that there is one single major step that is most important than all the others: take your doubts to Jesus.  Do this, and everything else follows.  When we take our doubts to Jesus, then we find it easier to start relying upon His word and promises.  When we take our doubts to Jesus, then we can remember the things He has done for us in the past.  When we take our doubts to Jesus, we can take all kinds of practical steps in relieving our doubts, simply because we were honest with ourselves in the first place.  We wanted the truth, so we sought out the Truth & found Him, because Truth is a person.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn 14:6)

In our text, the person who was most obviously struggling with doubts of his own is someone we wouldn’t expect: John the Baptist.  Surely John was a man who ought to have been steadfast in his faith, right?  This was a man who had truly known God, known his calling, and had witnessed God’s personal affirmation of His Son.  If any human being ought to have been exempt from doubts regarding Jesus, it was John.  But no – John the Baptist struggled with doubts, just like everyone else. 

How did John deal with his doubts?  Head-on.  He took them to Jesus, just like we ought to do.

Luke 7:18–35

  • Questioning Jesus (18-23)

18 Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things.

  • By this point in the book, Luke’s narration of John the Baptist had primarily come to an end.  He (like Jesus) had a miraculous birth, and was filled with the Holy Spirit as he performed his ministry.  John preached repentance and the kingdom, all the time preparing the way for the Messiah.  Eventually Jesus appeared to him, and John recognized Him as the Messiah of God, baptized Him, and heard God’s proclamation that Jesus was His beloved Son, in whom God was well-pleased (Lk 3:22).  God had specifically prepared John to recognize the Messiah when the Holy Spirit came upon Him like a dove, and upon seeing that, John was firm in his testimony that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah (Jn 1:29-34).  Although Luke’s gospel didn’t say much more, John’s ministry apparently continued for quite a while after Jesus’ baptism, to the point that he & his disciples actually noticed John’s crowds start to dwindle as the ministry of Jesus grew.  This wasn’t a bad thing.  On the contrary – John rejoiced in it, reaffirming that this was exactly what was supposed to happen with the Messiah (Jn 3:22-30).
  • What happened next?  We don’t really know, as the gospel narratives primarily follow the ministry of Jesus, rather than John.  At some point (however much time passed), John was jailed by Herod Antipas, after John preached the righteousness of God to him regarding Herod’s sin (Lk 3:19-20).  He was generally an evil man, but added to his sins by taking his brother’s wife (Herodias) to himself as his own wife.  Herodias wanted John dead, while Herod was content to leave him in prison.  Eventually she would trick her husband into having John beheaded, but that was still some time yet in the future.
  • At this point in Luke’s narrative, John is still alive – jailed, but still attended to by his disciples.  John may have been locked up, but Jesus’ ministry was flourishing.  According to Luke’s telling, it was filled with all kinds of signs & wonders, while Jesus continued to preach about the kingdom of God & the need to walk with God in humility and faith.  One major teaching section had just concluded (the Sermon on the Plain), and more miracles had taken place – massively important miracles, at that!  First, Jesus showed Himself to have all authority over time, space, sickness, and nations, as He healed the slave of a Roman centurion without needing even to come near him.  The centurion that the faith that Jesus could simply speak a word of healing, and it would be enough…and it was.  The pagan Roman centurion had more faith than anyone Jesus had yet seen in Israel.  Beyond that, Jesus demonstrated His power even more abundantly when He went to the tiny village of Nain and raised a man from the dead in the sight of the whole town.  No doubt all of Jesus’ miracles caught a lot of attention, but these two would have stood out among the rest.  As news of this traveled to some disciples of John the Baptist, they understood they needed to pass it on to their teacher in jail.  They may not have known how John would have reacted, but they knew he would want to know about it.

19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

  • John’s reaction seems a bit curious.  He just heard the news of Jesus performing impossible miracles of healing – including even resurrection from the dead!  And yet he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus whether or not He is really the Messiah.  “Are You the Coming One?” – i.e. “Are You the person I was told to expect?  Are You the one who was prophesied to come from God as His own Son & as the King of Israel?  Or is there someone else?”  Why ask?  Keep in mind that John had already testified of Jesus, having received assurances from God that Jesus IS the Expected One, the Messiah.  Why ask all over again?  What was it about these miracles that caused John to question & doubt?
  • They were miracles, but they weren’t the miracles John was looking for.  These were great things, but these were things done by other prophets in the past.  Moses had taught the word of God and performed miracles.  Elijah and Elisha were known for powerful signs & wonders, even raising the dead.  It seems that John was wondering: what made Jesus any different?  He had proclaimed Jesus to be the King of Israel, but where was the kingdom?  If Jesus is the victorious Messiah, the Son of David, why was His messenger John still in jail?
  • Were there answers for these questions?  Of course…but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, especially during times of suffering and hardship.  John the Baptist (very understandably) doubted.  He had a moment when he looked around at his life, thought over what he thought he knew about the Scriptures, and said, “This doesn’t add up.”
    • Have you ever doubted the Lord?  Ever struggled with questions of “Do I really believe all I say that I believe?”  You’re not alone.  All kinds of Christians struggle with doubt from time to time.  Not that we often admit it…we want to put on a public face that we’re always full of faith & never have a moment that we doubt God or question even the slightest of His promises.  But that’s just not true.  Strong, faithful, mature believers still struggle with doubt from time to time.  The prophet Elijah ran for his life into the wilderness after experiencing a major spiritual victory, and it took the whispers of God to draw him out.  David routinely wrote in the Psalms of his struggles with faith, as did some of the other unknown psalmists.  John the Baptist was surely one of the strongest saints of all time prior to Jesus, and even he had his time of questioning.  And it isn’t just limited to people of the Old Testament.  There’s a reason that Thomas has the nickname “Doubting Thomas,” among the 12 disciples.  Simon Peter seemed to sink into depression and doubts after his famous failure, and had to be brought out again and restored by the Resurrected Jesus.  Doubts are common with all Christians.  Doubts don’t make you a bad Christian – they just affirm that you’re normal.
  • So what do you do about it?  If you doubt, don’t deny it; deal with it.  That’s what John did.  He dealt with his doubts head-on as he sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask Him a direct question.  Vs. 20…

20 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.

  • The men were faithful to ask the question exactly as John had phrased it.  There was no question that Jesus was a Man sent by God, but was He THE Man?  Was He the expected “Coming One,” or was there someone else for whom John ought to be watching?  John was in prison, but was his ministry in regards to the Messiah over, or was there more for him to do?  Again, these were honest questions and doubts, and John was right to deal with them directly.  He may have had questions for Jesus, but he understood that Jesus was big enough to handle his questions.  Jesus is not easily offended.  He isn’t petty.  Just because a believer has questions every now & again doesn’t mean that Jesus is going to cast us off & forsake us.  Perish the thought!  No – God made us, and He knows how we think.  He knows that we will sometimes struggle and have doubts & other questions.  And He still loves us.  Far better to bring our struggles to the Lord, than to wallow in them unresolved!  Unsettled doubts turn into cynicism – cynicism leads to heartache, and even apostasy.  How many former-Christians have you met?  They had an issue that was never resolved, and it became a stumbling block between them & Jesus.  Whether or not they had ever been truly born-again is a theological problem for another time, but the fact was that they looked Christian, and now they publicly reject Christianity.  If they had just taken their doubts to Jesus & dealt with them, their outcome might be vastly different.
  • The thing to remember is that there are answers to our doubts!  We might have questions that are difficult, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t answers available.  We just need to be open to the answer that God provides us.  After all, sometimes the answer isn’t so much a “what” as it is a “who.”  For all of Job’s questions & doubts, he never once received an answer to his question of why all of his tragedies came upon him.  (Why his wealth was taken away, children killed, and his own health was in misery.)  What he did get was an answer as to Who he could trust in the midst of it all: God.  God had made the heavens & earth & had Job right in the palm of His hand.  Thus the answer to Job’s question was a Person – the Person of God.  Likewise for John the Baptist.  The answer he was looking for was indeed in Christ Jesus – he just needed to be reminded of how Jesus identified Himself, which is what Jesus will go on to explain.
  • Luke notes that the question of John’s disciples could not have come at a better time.  They arrived asking if Jesus was the Coming One, and it was at “that very hour” that Jesus was involved in His healing ministry.  Apparently He was in the middle of some vast crowd, and all kinds of healings were taking place.  So much was going on that Luke basically summarizes it all in general categories.  People were healed of “infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits”…even blindness.  Elsewhere any one of these miracles might have received individual attention in the gospel books, but at this point there were too many to count.  People were being healed left & right.  It was like one of the healing crusades often shown on TV, except it was for real & without all of the shills in the audience.  Imagine going up to Jesus with questions of doubts as to His identity, and finding Him in a hospital healing all of the patients as He walked up & down the hallway.  To ask Jesus at a time like that if He is really the Son of God almost seems silly – but there’s no question that you had all the evidence you could ever need.
  • That was the point that Jesus made to them.  Vs. 22…

22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

  • “Want evidence?  Look around!”  It ought to have been clear who Jesus is by the works that He did.  In fact, that is one of the ways Jesus told the Jews in Jerusalem how to recognize Him as the Messiah.  Jesus spoke of four independent witnesses of Himself: John the Baptist, God the Father, the Scriptures, and the works of Jesus – John 5:36, "But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me."  Everything that Jesus did provided one more piece of evidence of who Jesus is.  That includes all of the miracles of healing.  Had other prophets performed healing miracles?  Sure…but none to the extent of Jesus.  Depending on how one counts, Elijah and Elisha performed around 42 miracles between the two of them, roughly 6 of them being healings.  How many miracles did Jesus perform?  We haven’t a clue!  There are 37 accounts of miracles (all pre-crucifixion…the Resurrection, Ascension & other events are counted separately), but many of these are multiple miracles at one time (such as Lk 7:21-22, and including the other 27 accounts of Jesus’ healings).  It was seemingly routine for Jesus to perform dozens of miracles at one time, which is why the gospel writers began grouping them together in large categories.  And as large as that number is, if we counted each person who was fed during the two times that Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes, the number jumps into the thousands.  And those are just the recorded miracles!  As the apostle John wrote, there were many other things that Jesus said & did, and no book in the world is big enough to hold it all. (Jn 21:25)  The point?  Jesus’ miracles are a massive witness to His identity!  We cannot look at Jesus’ miracles & simply lump Him in with other miracle-working prophets.  He far outweighs them all!
  • Beyond that, the type of miracles performed by Jesus were incredibly significant.  Jesus lists them out for John, and this list ought to have sounded pretty familiar to him – especially as a student of the writings of Isaiah.  Isaiah 35:5–6, "(5) Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. (6) Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert."  The words that spoke of the Messiah’s future kingdom were coming true right then & there in the present day.  Everything the Scriptures foretold about the Coming King were coming true.  So yes, John (and his disciples) could look around at the works of Jesus and know that yes, He indeed is the Messiah!
  • Objection: “Not everything came true, did it?  There were some things Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah that were still off in the future.”  True.  And some of those things may have been exactly the stumbling block for John.  Isaiah 61:1–2, "(1) “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (2) To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,"  When in Nazareth earlier in His ministry, Jesus proclaimed this prophecy (all the way to the 1st part of vs. 2) fulfilled (Lk 4:21).  And yet, not all was done literally – much of this had a spiritual fulfillment.  Most notably for John the Baptist, those who were literally in prison were not literally freed – Jesus primarily spoke of the spiritual freedom from sin & death that He offered through the gospel.  (Although there would be literal freedom from those actually imprisoned in the grave!)  But for John, he was still in jail & he may have been wondering about this very promise (and/or a similar one in Isa 42:7).  When would his freedom come?  Was he included in the earthly ministry of Jesus?
    • And the answer is yes.  John was in jail, but that was part of the ministry that God had planned for him.  The same God who worked miracles through the hands of Jesus was working His will through the sufferings of John the Baptist.  How can we know?  Because in Jesus’ listing of His works, He went from smallest to greatest.  He began with physical maladies being healed – progressed to the dead being raised to life – and concluded with the gospel being preached to the poor.  Is the gospel really the greatest miracle?  You bet!  This was the reason Jesus came!  Jesus certainly healed a lot of people of a lot of diseases, but He didn’t come to be a walking ICU or hospital ER.  He didn’t come to make sick people temporarily well.  He came to give life to those who were dead.  He came so that men and women might be forgiven by God & eternally reconciled with Him.  John had a critical role in all of that, and God was using him right where he was, so that people’s attention would be on Christ Jesus.
    • We dare not lose sight of why Jesus came!  He didn’t come to make this world a better place (though He does, and so do we as we walk according to His precepts).  He didn’t come to heal people of their diseases (though He did, and still does as He moves within His will among people of faith).  Jesus did all sorts of good things, and there are all kinds of practical benefits from living according to His ways, but that isn’t the main thing.  We have to keep the main thing, the main thing.  And the main thing is the gospel!  The main thing is His work to satisfy the wrath of God towards sin, reconcile us back to God the Father, and right every wrong in the universe through His death and resurrection.  THAT is the reason Jesus came!  He came to seek & save that which was lost, and to glorify His Father.  Everything else is just a bonus. 

23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

  • The word Jesus uses for “offended” is interesting in that it relates to the idea of scandal.  In fact, our word “scandalize” is a direct derivative of the Greek verb (σκανδαλίζω).  It comes from a word that refers to a trap, and the original idea for the word (from a passive sense) was to let oneself be trapped or ensnared.  It came to be used in referring to being caught up in sin, or simply being offended (as the NKJV & others translate).  Can you imagine being scandalized by Jesus?  That’s what happened to John, or at least what John was in danger of allowing.  Like a stone in the road, John was about to stumble over Jesus, and fall into the trap of his own doubts.  His doubts were about to get the better of him, and that was a true danger.
  • Be careful not to get the idea that Jesus is chastising John.  With the way Jesus goes on to speak about John the Baptist, it’s clear He had nothing but respect for the man.  What He is doing is warning him.  It’s one thing to encounter doubts from time to time & wrestle with them – it’s another thing to remain in those doubts, letting them take a foothold.  One other possible translation of the general idea behind “σκανδαλίζω” is “to fall away.”  To let our doubts so traumatize our faith in Jesus to the point that we would fall away from Him is an awful thought.  And yet, was that not what John was contemplating?  He sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, or if there was another.  “Are You the One, or not?  Because if not, I don’t want to waste my time, and I’ll go looking for someone else.”  John was actively considering apostasy.  That’s true scandal & stumbling!  And this is exactly what Jesus was warning John against doing.  “Don’t turn away – don’t look for anyone else.  How happy is the person who doesn’t turn aside from faith in Me!”
    • Again, everyone questions from time to time.  Every born-again Christian will struggle with doubts at some point.  But there’s a difference between wrestling with doubts, and being rolled over by them.  There’s a difference between stubbing your toe on your walk of faith, versus stumbling so much that you fall off the path altogether.  Questions are normal – but deal with them.  Don’t let them fester and turn into something worse.  Don’t let your doubts lead you to despair away from Jesus.  The Christian who’s happiest isn’t necessarily the one who’s never struggled with doubts, but the one who has struggled & come out on the other side with a stronger faith.

Although this was a personal question from John to Jesus (via his two disciples), it seems that it took place in a public setting.  After all, Jesus was currently in the process of healing untold numbers of people at the very moment John’s disciples arrived.  Thus anyone in earshot would have heard the question to Jesus & His answer in response.  This gave Jesus an opening for a teachable moment with the crowd…especially since there were doubters and skeptics among the crowd to whom Jesus was ministering.

  • Questioning the crowd (24-28)

24 When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts.

  • Prior to John’s imprisonment, there were many misconceptions about his ministry.  Some wondered if he was one of the earlier Hebrew prophets come again, somehow miraculously returning from heaven.  Others wondered if perhaps John was the Messiah himself.  For all of the unknowns, there were a few certainties about John the Baptist, which Jesus underlines.  (1) He wasn’t weak or without conviction.  No one stumbling across a sermon of John the Baptist would have considered him a weakling with a lack of confidence.  No one would have wondered where he stood on the issue of holiness, repentance, and the judgment of God.  He certainly was no “reed shaken by the wind,” tossed to & fro by every wind of doctrine.  (2) He wasn’t a softie.  He wasn’t some academic who occasionally left his ivory tower to come give his knowledge to the unwashed masses.  He wasn’t a rich man who didn’t have any experience of “real life” like all of the other Jews around him.  Not at all!  He wore clothes of camels’ hair, and ate locusts/grasshoppers for lunch.  If anything, he was a wild man; not a wealthy one.  He was a man who commanded the attention of religious scholars, tax collectors, soldiers, and the average Joe.  All kinds of Jews from all over Judea came to see him.  They understood him to be a powerful man of God.  And as Jesus points out, they understood John to be a prophet…

26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’

  • Was John a prophet?  Without question.  He was the last of all of the prophets of the Old Testament (covenant).  He came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Lk 1:17), and truly spoke forth the proclamation of God to God’s people.  Not everyone liked his message, but no one could ignore him.
  • But that wasn’t all he was.  John was a prophet, but as Jesus said, he was “more than a prophet.”  He was a special prophet – a specific prophet – a prophet with a named mission from God in regards to the Messiah: the “Messenger.”  Interestingly, the word for “messenger” in Greek is same word translated elsewhere as “angel,” (an angel being a “messenger” from God).  Obviously John was a normal human being & no heavenly creature, but he was a God-sent messenger sent to “prepare” the way for the Messiah.  The Scripture Jesus quotes is Malachi 3:1 (LXX), and it is commonly understood in Messianic terms.  Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts."  (Fun fact: “My messenger” is literally Malachi in Hebrew. מַלְאָכִ֔י )  The prophecy speaks plainly of a messenger coming prior to the Messiah, Who would eventually be seen suddenly in the Jerusalem temple, and this Messiah would Himself be a Messenger of the covenant of God (i.e. the new covenant).  In a sense, Malachi 3:1 sees both the 1st and 2nd comings of Christ (something not uncommon in OT prophecy), but Jesus’ point was that John the Baptist was central to this.  John was this messenger.  This messenger was faithful to prepare the way for God so that God Himself could come among His people and show them His glory.  So was he a prophet?  Sure – but he was much more than that!
    • BTW – as born-again believers in Jesus, we share a similar role as John the Baptist.  Obviously Jesus’ way (His mission) has already been prepared, but like John, we have also been commissioned as the messengers of God.  We have been given the Great Commission, commanded to go out into all the world specifically to make disciples of all the nations.  So likewise, we also prepare people to see Jesus.  When we share the gospel with others, they will also know that there is a God in heaven to whom they must answer, but this God loves them & has sent them Jesus to give them His grace.  Whether or not they receive Jesus as Savior is unknown, but at the very least, they have been prepared.
  • Of course it doesn’t take a 21st century preacher to make application from John the Baptist to every born-again believer.  Jesus did it first (and best!).  Vs. 28…

28 For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

  • It’d be tough to find a greater compliment than this.  There were some amazing prophets sent to the Hebrew nation.  Elijah and Elisha worked incredible miracles, calling down fire from heaven & raising the dead.  Ezekiel and Isaiah each had visions of the throne of God, and they were incredibly blessed to see God’s glory with their own eyes.  And of course, Moses surpasses them all, not only seeing the glory of God, working the miracles of God, providing the word of God, but actually speaking with God as a man does with his friend: face to face (Exo 33:11).  And yet Jesus says there’s a prophet greater than them all: John the Baptist.  Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible; so far as we know, John didn’t write a single letter.  Elijah worked amazing miracles; John isn’t recorded doing one.  Yet John is greater.  By what metric?  God’s.  Jesus said so, and that’s enough.
  • And it makes sense.  After all, the other prophets of the Old Testament did some truly amazing things, but not one of them had the privilege of preparing the way for the Messiah.  Almost all of them prophesied of Jesus in some way, but only John walked with Him, spoke with Him, presented Him to others, and even baptized Him.  John the Baptist had privileges that previous prophets could have only imagined.  Moses spoke with the Lord God, and saw the rear-parts of His glory – John the Baptist looked into God’s eyes, and witnessed the Triune God testify of the Son.  Truly, John was the greatest of all the prophets!
  • But even with all of this, Jesus says there is something better.  As great as John may have been, “he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”  You & I as born-again Christians are greater than John the Baptist.  Every single New Testament believer is greater than the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.  That’s not to say that John the Baptist didn’t know the Lord Jesus in faith & isn’t somehow included in the kingdom of heaven – not at all.  Simply that in John’s Old Testament role, the New Testament privileges are greater.  The man and woman who is least in the kingdom of God has still received a new spiritual birth by the Holy Spirit.  Those who are least in the kingdom still have the Holy Spirit indwelling them.  Those who are least in the kingdom still have spiritual gifts, power over sin in the present, a down-payment on eternity, and the privilege of being co-heirs with the Son of God.  As great as John’s Old Testament role may have been, it didn’t include any of that.  The privileges of belonging to the Lord Jesus as His kingdom citizens are tremendous!
    • And the best part is that it isn’t limited to only a select few.  Anyone can receive of the grace of Jesus Christ!  Anyone can be made a child of God, simply by responding in repentance & faith towards the Lord Jesus.  Confess the Lord Jesus with your mouth, believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved! (Rom 10:9) 
  • Questioning motives (29-35)

29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.

  • There were two basic categories of people listening to Jesus that day, in regards to John the Baptist: those who had heard him & believed, and those who heard him & did not.  The ones who saw the righteousness of God through the ministry of John the Baptist had responded by being baptized.  John had preached against their sin, pointing them to the Holy God, and preparing them to see the Messiah.  They knew their only hope was to humble themselves before God & receive His mercy & start all over again – which is what John’s baptism symbolized.  And all kinds of people responded in this way: the general masses, the tax collectors, soldiers, and more. 
  • However, others did not.  The “Pharisees and lawyers” (or “scribes”) heard John’s message, but they rejected him – and thus “rejected the will of God for themselves.”  John had preached against their religious hypocrisy, and they bristled.  In their minds, they were already self-righteous in the sight of God, so what need would they have to humble themselves in repentance and baptism?  What need did they have of mercy if they were already justified before God?  And of course, that was the problem.  They were not justified before God.  They may have been self-righteous, but they weren’t truly righteous.  Their supposed good works were nothing but filthy rags in the sight of God.  Their religious rituals had not left them justified, but condemned.  They preached the letter of the law, but violated the heart of it.  Thus they rejected not only John the Baptist, but Jesus.  After all, they preached the same message.  To reject one is to reject the other.
  • Jesus knew they had a problem with both He & John, and He called them out on it…

31 And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not weep.’

  • Imagine a scenario where a group of young musicians arrives offering to play requests.  Yet no song selection from the people makes the audience happy.  They don’t dance to the happy tunes, nor did they cry with the sad ballads.  Nothing the musicians do makes the audience happy.  That’s the way it was with John & Jesus, in how they were received the Pharisees, scribes, and other religious elites.  Vs. 33…

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

  • It’s the classic catch-22.  John was too puritanical, and Jesus was too permissive – at least in the eyes of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees couldn’t keep up with the holy righteous standard laid down by John, and when they looked at who Jesus spent His time with, they thought He was a libertine party-goer.  Obviously, both viewpoints are exaggerations.  John lived and preached righteousness, but he did not preach slavish legalism or works-righteousness.  (That was actually the forté of the Pharisees!)  Jesus welcomed all kinds of people to come into His presence, but never once did He personally engage in sin.  He is the only person in history to live a life of absolute purity in the sight of God.  If Jesus had walled Himself off from sinners, He wouldn’t have hung around anyone!  Jesus had to be around sinners if He was to be around anyone at all. 
  • The point?  The Pharisees and scribes had no reason for their rejection.  They had many excuses for not listening to either John or Jesus, but that’s all they were: excuses.  They had already shut their ears & their hearts to the truth of God.  Once that happened, it didn’t matter who preached in front of them.  They weren’t interested in listening at all, which is what Jesus goes on to say…

35 But wisdom is justified by all her children.”

  • Actions speak louder than words.  The Pharisees claimed certain things about God, but they refused to humble themselves in baptism.  The tax collectors knew they had nothing in the sight of God, and that’s exactly why they were so ready to be baptized.  Which group was truly wise?  The ones who had listened to God’s messenger, and had prepared themselves to meet God’s Messiah.
  • It’s interesting, isn’t it?  The whole conversation had begun with the doubts of John concerning Jesus, and by the time it came to a close, Jesus was talking about the doubts of the Pharisees.  Yet there was a crucial difference between the doubts of John & those of the Pharisees: honesty.  John stumbled for a moment, but he was sincerely seeking the truth the whole time, no matter where it led.  He just wanted to be reassured of the truth in regards to Jesus.  The Pharisees didn’t.  They claimed skepticism & doubt, when in reality it was rebellion.  If they had truly been wise, they would have recognized the truth and responded.  As it was, their rejection of both Jesus & John showed that they cared nothing about the truth in the first place.
    • It’s normal to have doubts from time to time.  Honest people experience honest questions.  But hardened skepticism has nothing to do with honesty.  Someone who is unwilling to be persuaded to the truth isn’t really interested in the truth at all.  When it comes to Jesus, the truth is evident & abundant.  He really did do all of the miracles.  He really did preach the truth of God.  He really did die on the cross, and He really did rise from the grave.  And because He did, we can know that He is the truth.  Are you willing to believe?

Doubts do not have to be feared – doubts can be dealt with.  So deal with them!

From John’s perspective, he didn’t sit in his doubts dwelling upon them, letting them wash over him, dragging him down into depression and despair.  He took them to Jesus.  Doubts are normal.  If John the Baptist can have doubts, so can we!  Do as he did, and take them to Jesus, allowing our Lord to comfort you.  And then follow the same advice Jesus gave to John: look at the evidence.  God has surrounded us with evidence about Himself in creation.  We have abundant witness to Jesus’ identity in His works…especially with His resurrection.  We even have personal witness in our own lives as we remember the many ways God has worked with us individually, and we have the promises in His word to which we can cling.  Look at the evidence!  See the things that Jesus has done, and be renewed in your faith.

From Jesus’ perspective concerning John…John’s doubt’s didn’t make him less than a prophet.  It did not diminish him at all in the sight of God.  John had been faithful in his obedience & witness – he simply stumbled a bit along the way.  John the Baptist is a tremendous example to us all!  That said, the better thing for us is not to be John, but to listen and heed John’s message!  John preached the Messiah & His kingdom, and the person who is least in the kingdom has a greater place than even the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.

In regards to the hardened skeptics, there will always be some people who steadfastly look for reason not just to doubt Jesus, but to reject Him.  In their minds, no evidence is sufficient.  If a person is totally opposed to even the possibility of the Lord Jesus Christ being God, then no argument will persuade him/her.  For the Pharisees, John the Baptist was too rigid, while Jesus wasn’t rigid enough.  These were flimsy excuses then, and they are flimsy excuses today.  The person who has already made up his mind not to even be willing to believe is a person who isn’t interested in the truth.  And he’s left himself without excuse.  The good news is that no one has to stay that way!  Be willing to examine the evidence for yourself!  Look around and see the works of Jesus.  See how He has revealed Himself to all the world, and then do the only logical thing in response: humble yourself before Him in faith, and receive Him as your Savior & God.

Against Egypt, part 2

Posted: October 13, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 31-32, “Against Egypt, part 2”

Some lessons take longer to learn than others.  For me, learning to run was relatively easy: you put one foot in front of the other, and go.  There were some painful lessons along the way about gait, shoes, form, and more (which were accompanied by shin splints, strains, and other issues), but overall, one time was enough to learn what worked & what didn’t.  Other things take repetition.  No matter how many times I’ve cooked certain recipes, I always find myself pulling out the directions again & again.  The repetition makes it stick.

Would that all lessons be as relatively painless as a bread recipe!  The consequences for some mistakes are far worse than others, and the amount of attention we need to spend on knowing the instructions ought to be proportional to how serious the issue may be.

The Jews had quite a lesson in front of them.  The culmination of generations of idolatry and other sins against God had led them to the loss of their kingdom, and God sent the Babylonians to Jerusalem as His instrument of judgment.  Jerusalem was lost, and the Jews were carted off into captivity.  The lesson now facing the Jews was simple, but serious: would they finally trust the Lord and His direction for them – or would they continue to rebel against Him and do things their own way?

That all brings us to Egypt.  One of the ways the Jews tended to rebel was to look to Egypt as their hope, rather than the God they claimed to worship.  Egypt had been a snare and temptation in generations past (as Moses led the Hebrews out of slavery), and now that the Jews were facing a new form of slavery in Babylon, Egypt became a temptation once again.  Thus this is when God speaks up through Ezekiel.  For many reasons, Egypt should not have been a viable option for the Jews, but if for nothing else, Egypt should have been crossed off the list because God declared that Egypt would fall.  The worldly kingdom in which some of the Jews placed their hope would come crashing to the ground, and God wanted them to know it.  If their hope was in Egypt, their hope was misplaced.

That’s what God said through Ezekiel in chapters 29-30, and that’s what He continues to say in 31-32.  Egypt was on a countdown to destruction, and while the Jews waited out their captivity in Babylon, they ought not to be waiting on salvation to come from Egypt.  Their salvation would come only from the Lord.  So does ours!

Ezekiel 31

  • Egypt and the example of Assyria (1-9)

1 Now it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude: ‘Whom are you like in your greatness?

  • Another oracle, another timestamp from the prophet.  The date is June 21, 587BC, roughly two months after the previous oracle to Egypt.  Time is marching along, and God is continuing to speak to His prophet.
  • Question: why does God give Ezekiel a word for Pharaoh, when it was unlikely Pharaoh would ever receive it?  Remember that Ezekiel was one of the Jews deep in the heart of the Babylonian Empire (by the River Chebar), and Pharaoh Hophra was a long way away.  Besides, what reason would a pagan Egyptian have to read the words of a Jewish prophet?  Obviously the majority of eyes that would read the words of Ezekiel would be Jewish (thus the warning to them not to trust Egypt), but God did have a word for Pharaoh.  Pharaoh may not listen, but he would be warned.  No doubt there would be some way for the word of God to travel, even if the Egyptian king didn’t want to pay attention to it.  God did not leave Himself without a witness.  He never does.
    • Likewise, the vast majority of people in the world (even in the United States) may never pick up a Bible and read it for themselves, but it’s there.  Especially here in the USA, people are without excuse.  God has left Himself a witness, even if people can’t be bothered to read it. 

3 Indeed Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, With fine branches that shaded the forest, And of high stature; And its top was among the thick boughs.

  • If God gave a word to Ezekiel against “Pharaoh king of Egypt,” what is the purpose of mentioning “Assyria” here?  Some scholars believe that the word should read “cypress tree,” (due to the similarities between the two Hebrew terms), but the theory is without manuscript support.  (We can’t interpret the Bible according to what we imagine it might say; we have to interpret what it actually does say.)  Although this seems confusing at first, it actually makes quite a bit of sense.  Egypt thought a lot of itself, but it was about to meet its downfall.  The best way for Egypt to learn this was for them to look at another world-power that went through the same thing: Assyria.  To this point in history, Assyria was the only major world empire that invaded and defeated Egypt, so if there is any example to which Egypt ought to pay attention, it was Assyria.  If they could fall, so could Egypt.
    • Likewise, Assyria being an example to Egypt would mirror how Egypt would be an example to the rest of the nations.  ALL nations opposed to God will eventually fall.  The question isn’t “if,” but “when.”  (Which means our own nation ought to choose wisely whom we will serve!)
  • The picture God paints of Assyria is that of a mighty, beautiful tree.  This seems to be a relatively common image in Scripture of healthy, strong individuals or nations, and there’s no doubt that at one point both Assyria and Egypt were extremely strong.  God describes the Assyria-tree as being unsurpassable… 

4 The waters made it grow; Underground waters gave it height, With their rivers running around the place where it was planted, And sent out rivulets to all the trees of the field. 5 ‘Therefore its height was exalted above all the trees of the field; Its boughs were multiplied, And its branches became long because of the abundance of water, As it sent them out. 6 All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; Under its branches all the beasts of the field brought forth their young; And in its shadow all great nations made their home. 7 ‘Thus it was beautiful in greatness and in the length of its branches, Because its roots reached to abundant waters. 8 The cedars in the garden of God could not hide it; The fir trees were not like its boughs, And the chestnut trees were not like its branches; No tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty.

  • This is a healthy tree!  It is beautiful in every respect.  The nation of Assyria was the very prototype of the famed cedars of Lebanon.  These are the types of tree every gardener would desire, unchallenged in beauty and strength – firmly rooted & well-nourished in water.  No tree in the world compared with the tree of Assyria – and indeed, for a time the kingdom of the Neo-Assyrians reigned supreme in the ancient near east.

9 I made it beautiful with a multitude of branches, So that all the trees of Eden envied it, That were in the garden of God.’

  • How good was it?  It was like it belonged in the Garden of Eden!  Not that Assyria was a nation that worshipped God (not by any stretch of the imagination), but it was so strong that it was like a tree untouched by the Fall.  It didn’t belong among the trees of the world – it belonged in the very garden of God.
  • Yet what do we know about Assyria?  It didn’t last.  Like every other empire of the world, it eventually fell, just as God knew that it would.  God remains sovereign over the nations, and He not only oversaw Assyria’s ascension and beauty, but also its downfall and defeat.   This is the lesson God wants to convey to Egypt.  What God did with Assyria is what God would do with Egypt.  Pharaoh might have been glorying in Egypt in the present day (and many of the Jews may have had idealized views of what life in Egypt may have been like), but God would soon change Egypt’s status.
    • As an aside – the way Assyria (and Egypt) saw itself is what so many people want for the world today.  They’re looking for a return to the Garden of Eden.  They want paradise in the here & now – some ultimate utopia in which all troubles and misery have passed away.  And it’s completely understandable!  Who wouldn’t like such a thing?  Yet we need to understand that while we do indeed look forward to such a day, it’s a day that won’t come in this world during this age.  That is the promise of eternity with Jesus, after His glorious return and kingdom.  Do we strive for the ideals of heaven today?  Certainly.  But we cannot expect to usher it in.  It simply is not yet time for it.  For now, our job is to walk with Jesus, glorify Him with our lives as we live out the ideals of the kingdom, and then help as many people as possible come into the kingdom for themselves.
  • The promise of the pit (10-18)

10 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Because you have increased in height, and it set its top among the thick boughs, and its heart was lifted up in its height, 11 therefore I will deliver it into the hand of the mighty one of the nations, and he shall surely deal with it; I have driven it out for its wickedness.

  • Notice the change in the person: “Because you have increased in height…”  No longer is God talking about Assyria (3rd person); He’s talking to Egypt (2nd person).  Egypt was originally likened to the Assyria tree – now God addresses Egypt as a tree of its own.
  • The problem?  Egypt was arrogant.  It got too big for itself.  The tree is personified as it looks out over the top of the forest.  It’s the only one that can look above the canopy of other trees, and thus thinks much of itself.  Like the arrogance of Tyre (Ch 27-28), Egypt was haughty & prideful.  It wouldn’t last.
  • The solution?  Like a lumberjack with any tall tree, God would cut it down, via the axe of the Babylonians.  Vs 12…

12 And aliens, the most terrible of the nations, have cut it down and left it; its branches have fallen on the mountains and in all the valleys; its boughs lie broken by all the rivers of the land; and all the peoples of the earth have gone from under its shadow and left it. 13 ‘On its ruin will remain all the birds of the heavens, And all the beasts of the field will come to its branches— 14 ‘So that no trees by the waters may ever again exalt themselves for their height, nor set their tops among the thick boughs, that no tree which drinks water may ever be high enough to reach up to them. ‘For they have all been delivered to death, To the depths of the earth, Among the children of men who go down to the Pit.’

  • Quite the difference from the earlier description!  When God likened Egypt to the Assyria-tree, the tree was massively beautiful and healthy.  Now it is cut down, mangled, and overturned.  Branches are broken off, and the scavenger animals have made their home in the rubble.  People are gone, and only beasts remain.  The tree has fallen, never to rise again.
  • And it doesn’t stop there.  Beyond Egypt’s fall to the ground is a prophesied fall “to the Pit.”  The Egypt-tree will go down to Sheol (the grave), as God delivered it over to death.  Before, only its roots dug into the ground – now the entire tree will decay and be dragged down into the earth.  Notice that this is the direct opposite of before.  Earlier, the tree could look over the tops of all the rest – now it was on the very bottom floor of the forest, rotting & decayed.  Pride goes before a fall, and Egypt is proof!
    • So are we, if we’re not careful!  Obviously this is a word to another nation at another time, but the application could just as easily apply to us.  Often, we as American Christians tend to look at our nation as being paralleled with Israel.  Perhaps.  But perhaps another parallel might be with Egypt.  Like Egypt, our nation has been arrogant, thinking much of itself, believing it could never fall.  Like Egypt, our trust has been in ourselves, rather than the true God.  Like Egypt, we want the world to look to us to solve their problems.  But any nation can be brought down by God, be it Egypt, or the United States.
    • Even as born-again Christian individuals, pride is something to beware.  It is far too easy to get caught up in ourselves, our own beauty, our own supposed-wisdom, etc., and think that we stand head & shoulders above the rest.  We can very easily be cut down to size!  Be careful.  Stay humble, keeping your eyes upon Jesus.  The moment you think you’re too strong for the enemy or temptations of the world is the very moment you’ll find yourself proven wrong.

15 “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘In the day when it went down to hell, I caused mourning. I covered the deep because of it. I restrained its rivers, and the great waters were held back. I caused Lebanon to mourn for it, and all the trees of the field wilted because of it. 16 I made the nations shake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to hell together with those who descend into the Pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the depths of the earth. 17 They also went down to hell with it, with those slain by the sword; and those who were its strong arm dwelt in its shadows among the nations.

  • Notice all the use of the 1st person “I” by God.  “I caused mourning. I covered the deep because of it. I restrained its rivers…  I caused Lebanon to mourn… I made the nations shake…  I cast it down to hell…”  Do you get the idea that God is personally involved?  Absolutely!  This is something we’ve seen over & over again throughout Ezekiel (and all of the prophets): God is absolutely sovereign over the nations.  God is at work in the rise and fall of empires.  God is at work with the rise and fall of kings & other government leaders.  God is at work, and God knows what He’s doing.
  • Here, God not only caused the downfall of Egypt, but God caused the nations to take notice.  The already-fallen Lebanon (Assyria) mourned for the fall of its once-former enemy & sometimes-ally, simply because they once more witnessed the judgment of God at work.  After all, it wasn’t just Egypt that went down – it was all kinds of nations that went down with them (some of which will be detailed in the next chapter).  Historically speaking, when the Neo-Babylonian empire rose, it rose over all the ancient near east.  No nation in the area was exempt from the feeling the might of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar.  Since Nebuchadnezzar was simply a tool of Almighty God, then it follows that no nation was exempt from feeling the might of the wrath of God.
    • And no nation will be exempt!  One day, all peoples everywhere will see God for who He is.  Every tribe and tongue will confess Jesus to be the Lord, whether they originally worshipped Him or not.  Some will confess Him out of scorn – others out of worship, but He will be confessed by all, no doubt about it!

18 ‘To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness? Yet you shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the depths of the earth; you shall lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with those slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude,’ says the Lord GOD.”

  • If Assyria was likened to a tree in Eden, so was Egypt.  At one point, it was glorious, seemingly more beautiful than any other tree in the field (i.e. nation in the world).  But there’s a problem: Eden once was wonderful, but Eden is gone.  Likewise, so would Egypt pass from the face of the earth.  They would be brought down to a point of death and disgrace – they would be brought down “to the depths of the earth” – i.e. the grave, the Pit, to death.  Egypt had a heyday once, but it was over.  Those days were dead as the nation fell into the grave.
  • This is what happens to all of those who reject God.  To those who continue to rebel, they will be dragged down to the grave. 

Ezekiel 32

  • Egypt’s funeral song (1-16)

1 And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him: ‘You are like a young lion among the nations, And you are like a monster in the seas, Bursting forth in your rivers, Troubling the waters with your feet, And fouling their rivers.’

  • The date: March 3, 585BC.  This marks the 5th out of 6 dates that Ezekiel marks concerning Egyptian prophecies (the final one will be found in vs. 17).  This is a little less than two years after the previous oracle.  Time is marching along, and God is continuing His countdown to Egyptian destruction.
  • Why a “lamentation”?  Is God sorrowful over Egypt?  Not really.  Remember God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze 33:11).  He certainly isn’t rejoicing over all of this!  At the same time, the word for “lamentation” doesn’t always speak of sorrow or grief.  More properly, it refers to a funeral dirge (song).  Although Egypt still lived at the moment, it was a bygone conclusion that they would die, per God’s repeated declaration.  Thus God told Ezekiel to sing an appropriate funeral song.  It would be as if Pharaoh could read his eulogy while he still lived.  (And unlike other eulogies, it wouldn’t necessarily be complimentary!)
  • In Ch. 31, Egypt was likened to a tree – this time, it is compared to a “young lion” and “monster.”  This is the same word used in 29:3 speaking of a serpent, dragon, sea creature, or (most likely) a crocodile.  IOW, Egypt was a dangerous creature!  The fact God calls Pharaoh a “young lion” doesn’t mean he’s a cub – it means he’s a fresh lion of hunting age ready to pounce.  Likewise, Pharaoh was a crocodile thrashing around in the rivers.  Egypt may have long passed the peak of its powers, but the current Pharaoh was dangerous in his own right.
  • He may have been dangerous to other nations, but he was no problem for God.  Vs. 3…

3 “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘I will therefore spread My net over you with a company of many people, And they will draw you up in My net. 4 Then I will leave you on the land; I will cast you out on the open fields, And cause to settle on you all the birds of the heavens. And with you I will fill the beasts of the whole earth. 5 I will lay your flesh on the mountains, And fill the valleys with your carcass.

  • Similarly to Ch. 29, God promised to fish out the monstrous crocodile, defeat it, and leave it for dead.  It would become food for the nations as scavengers would come and pick apart its carcass.  Thus the belly of the beasts would be filled.  The idea is that Egypt wouldn’t just fall – it would be completely decimated to the point of total defeat.
  • Can God defeat any power?  Without question!  No nation in the world can stand against Him.  No power in the universe holds a candle to the all-powerful God.  Can God defeat the ultimate Dragon, known as Satan?  Without a doubt!  Though the devil may struggle to the contrary, there is no question as to his outcome.  The Serpent will be taken, defeated, imprisoned, and eventually cast into the eternal lake of fire.  And likewise with Egypt, the nations will witness Satan’s defeat, and he will be humiliated in the sight of all.  Total defeat – compete decimation.

6 ‘I will also water the land with the flow of your blood, Even to the mountains; And the riverbeds will be full of you. 7 When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give her light. 8 All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, And bring darkness upon your land,’ Says the Lord GOD.

  • More description God’s defeat of Egypt, but the language is striking – especially in light of the events of Exodus many centuries earlier.  One of the first plagues brought by Moses was turning the water to blood (Exo 7).  Later, there was darkness that covered the land (Exo 10).  The very thing that Moses had done generations earlier to help bring the Egyptians to a knowledge of the true God would be done again, and once more they would know it was the Lord God of Israel at work.
  • Question: did this happen literally?  We have no record of it, and when interpreted in light of Egypt’s eventual historical fall to Babylon, this would seem to be symbolic, figurative language.  Yet if we see this as prophecy with a near & future fulfillment, then this would seem literally true.  After all, what is it that will be seen during the signs of the Great Tribulation?  Among other things, water turning to blood, and darkness covering the land (Rev 8, 16).  Obviously it will happen to more than only Egypt, but Egypt will certainly be included in the judgments!  (Is God’s word true?  Always!)

9 ‘I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples, when I bring your destruction among the nations, into the countries which you have not known. 10 Yes, I will make many peoples astonished at you, and their kings shall be horribly afraid of you when I brandish My sword before them; and they shall tremble every moment, every man for his own life, in the day of your fall.’ 11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon you. 12 ‘By the swords of the mighty warriors, all of them the most terrible of the nations, I will cause your multitude to fall. …

  • As a result of all of this, it wouldn’t be only Egypt who would be troubled – it would be the rest of the nations of the world.  They would witness Egypt’s fall & tremble.  Again, they will see it as an example against themselves.  If God could do these things to Egypt, surely God could do it to any other nation of the world.  (And He can!)
  • Again, this is the personal act of God, but He personally acts through the tool of Babylon.  God’s own sword is “the sword of the king of Babylon.”  God would use one pagan king to bring down the pompous kingdom of another pagan king.

… “They shall plunder the pomp of Egypt, And all its multitude shall be destroyed. 13 Also I will destroy all its animals From beside its great waters; The foot of man shall muddy them no more, Nor shall the hooves of animals muddy them. 14 Then I will make their waters clear, And make their rivers run like oil,’ Says the Lord GOD. 15 ‘When I make the land of Egypt desolate, And the country is destitute of all that once filled it, When I strike all who dwell in it, Then they shall know that I am the LORD.

  • The idea is total destruction.  Everything is decimated, and the people desert the land.  God promised that Egypt would be so barren, that neither humans nor animals would even disturb the waters of the rivers.  When He says He will “make their rivers run like oil,” the idea is that of pure olive oil, being clear & smooth & undisturbed.  (Not petroleum!)  Everything will be made “desolate,” and people will have no other option other than to recognize the hand of YHWH God at work.
  • This might be one more indication that God has both near & future fulfillments in mind with this prophecy.  Although Egypt certainly did lose its influence & power, and dwindled into a third-world nation – it never became quite as desolate as God describes here.  Yet at some point during the Great Tribulation, who knows what will be the result?  It’s quite possible some of these prophecies will find their literal fulfillment at that time.  As an alternate interpretation (again one with future fulfillment during the Millennial Kingdom), it’s possible that this is a reference to the era of peace Egypt will experience once the evil of Pharaoh is dealt with in a final judgment.  Thus the rivers run smooth as oil, because the crocodile monster of Pharaoh no longer stirs is up.  Either way, it is a future work of God, and we can be sure that He will make His word come true to the letter.

16 ‘This is the lamentation With which they shall lament her; The daughters of the nations shall lament her; They shall lament for her, for Egypt, And for all her multitude,’ Says the Lord GOD.”

  • There’s a lot of lamenting going on!  Again, this isn’t necessarily sorrowful grieving; it’s a description of a funeral.  The point is that Egypt’s future is certain.  There is no escape from her death.  It has been declared by God, and it will come to pass.
  • Egypt not alone in destruction (17-32)

17 It came to pass also in the twelfth year, on the fifteenth day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 18 “Son of man, wail over the multitude of Egypt, And cast them down to the depths of the earth, Her and the daughters of the famous nations, With those who go down to the Pit:

  • This is the final date in the Egyptian oracles, and interestingly it is a bit more uncertain than it initially seems.  Notice that the prophecy came on the 15th day of the month, but Ezekiel never says what month it is.  The LXX translators believed it to be a reference to the 1st month, so that would make the date April 27, 585BC, or just a few weeks past the last date given in 32:1.  Historically speaking, the Babylonian conquest of Egypt is still several years out (571BC, re: 29:17), but it was approaching a lot faster than what the Egyptians may have believed.
  • God gave this last oracle underscoring Egypt’s fall.  By this point, there ought to be no doubt as to God’s plan for Egypt: it was being “cast…down to the depths of the earth.”  It was going down to the grave, and it wouldn’t be alone.  Later, God will list some specific nations that would join Egypt in its fall to Babylon.  But first, God reiterates some of the prophecies He has already given regarding them.  Vs. 19…

19 ‘Whom do you surpass in beauty? Go down, be placed with the uncircumcised.’ 20 “They shall fall in the midst of those slain by the sword; She is delivered to the sword, Drawing her and all her multitudes. 21 The strong among the mighty Shall speak to him out of the midst of hell With those who help him: ‘They have gone down, They lie with the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’

  • Earlier, Egypt had been like a beautiful tree that God promised to cut down.  He basically says the same thing here.  Egypt seemed to be unsurpassed “in beauty,” but it would be disgraced & delivered over to violent enemy warriors.
  • Again, they wouldn’t be the only nation to lie in death with the uncircumcised masses.  Others would join them.  Vs. 22…

22 “Assyria is there, and all her company, With their graves all around her, All of them slain, fallen by the sword. 23 Her graves are set in the recesses of the Pit, And her company is all around her grave, All of them slain, fallen by the sword, Who caused terror in the land of the living.

  • First up: Assyria. The Neo-Assyrian empire was the most prominent nation to be cut down by Babylon, as Babylon basically took over the empire from them.  This was God’s justice upon Assyria, as they had been known as a brutal people.  As God declared of them, they “caused terror in the land of the living.”  There are carved reliefs & other images of the Assyrians literally putting fishhooks in the mouths or noses of their captives & carting them away.  This was not a gentle nation, by any stretch of the imagination!  They had earned their judgment from God, and it came via the Babylonians.

24 “There is Elam and all her multitude, All around her grave, All of them slain, fallen by the sword, Who have gone down uncircumcised to the lower parts of the earth, Who caused their terror in the land of the living; Now they bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit. 25 They have set her bed in the midst of the slain, With all her multitude, With her graves all around it, All of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; Though their terror was caused In the land of the living, Yet they bear their shame With those who go down to the Pit; It was put in the midst of the slain.

  • Next: Elam.  The Elamites had an ancient empire in the southwestern area of Iran, and their kingdom tended to rise & fall with however much the Assyrians & others came to power at particular points in history.  But they were resilient!  There are archaeological records of Elamites as far back as 2700BC, and they survived in some form all the way till 539BC.  Who brought them down?  Things began unravelling during the Neo-Babylonian empire, but eventually they fell to the Medes and Persians.  Again – all of this was due to the sovereign working of God over the nations.  And like the Assyrians, the Elamites who had brought “terror to the land of the living,” experienced their own terror as God brought in His judgment against them.

26 “There are Meshech and Tubal and all their multitudes, With all their graves around it, All of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword, Though they caused their terror in the land of the living. 27 They do not lie with the mighty Who are fallen of the uncircumcised, Who have gone down to hell with their weapons of war; They have laid their swords under their heads, But their iniquities will be on their bones, Because of the terror of the mighty in the land of the living. 28 Yes, you shall be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, And lie with those slain by the sword.

  • Meshech & Tubal are general terms for areas of modern-day Turkey.  They had routine conflicts with Assyria for the control of the northern reaches of the Assyrian empire, and God condemns them as well for their own acts of “terror in the land of the living.”  Like the other nations, they would fall as well, their dead soldiers strewn across the battle fields.

29 “There is Edom, Her kings and all her princes, Who despite their might Are laid beside those slain by the sword; They shall lie with the uncircumcised, And with those who go down to the Pit. 30 There are the princes of the north, All of them, and all the Sidonians, Who have gone down with the slain In shame at the terror which they caused by their might; They lie uncircumcised with those slain by the sword, And bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit.

  • Edom & Sidon are taken together, and they basically lay on opposite borders of Israel.  Edom to the southeast; Sidon to the north (right next to Tyre).  Once more they are condemned for their acts of terror, and they are consigned to go down in defeat to Babylon.  They would “bear their shame” to the grave as they were conquered.

31 “Pharaoh will see them And be comforted over all his multitude, Pharaoh and all his army, Slain by the sword,” Says the Lord GOD. 32 “For I have caused My terror in the land of the living; And he shall be placed in the midst of the uncircumcised With those slain by the sword, Pharaoh and all his multitude,” Says the Lord GOD.

  • Misery loves company, and such was the case with Pharaoh.  Egypt could take at least some small comfort in the fact that they were not the only nation defeated by Babylon & the succeeding empires.  All kinds of nations would fall in the wake of these rising powers, of which God was behind them all.
  • And with that said, did you notice God’s response to them?  Each one of these nations had brought “terror in the land of the living”…now that terror would be brought on by God.  How so?  Is God promising to be as atrocious as the other nations He condemned?  Of course not.  Certainly the Babylonians would commit war crimes of their own (for which they would answer), but the terror of God is unlike the terror of men.  Yes, men still quake in fear of the Living God, but that is a fear that brings men face-to-face with holiness.  The terror of God leads to the reverence of God.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10).  When people see God rightly, we are forced to come to grips with His holiness.  That either causes men & women to double-down in their rebellion, or to fall to our knees asking for mercy.  The same thing will take place during the days of the Great Tribulation.  Those days will be awful – painful, frightening, and horrendous for anyone living through them.  And it will be absolutely clear that God is at the root of it all.  For some, it will cause them to further harden their hearts against Him – for others, it will bring them to faith.  Same fear/terror; different results.  The choice is up to us.

God had much to say against Egypt, but in the process, He was saying a lot to Israel.  To Pharaoh, God made it clear that the prideful kingdom of Egypt would be cast down.  The mighty tree would be felled – the dangerous crocodile fished out and devoured.  It would join the rest of the nations of the ancient near east in being swallowed up by the Babylonian empire, which was under the sovereign direction of Almighty God.  Pride would do them no favors during this judgment; it would only hasten their fall.

To Israel, God was pointing out that hope in Egypt was futile.  They ought not to have been looking to Egypt for their rescue; they ought to have been waiting upon the Lord.  Yes, God had allowed them to go to Babylon, but if they remembered many other prophecies given them by God, they could rest assured that God would bring them out from Babylon.  To trust in world powers such as Egypt was useless.  God was sovereign over the nations of the world anyway.  His will was going to be accomplished, no matter what.

Christian, our hope needs to be in God!  We cannot look to political saviors, or national trends to get us out of our mess – we can only look to Jesus.  Hope that is placed in anything besides Him is misplaced & futile.  Obviously we do not withdraw from our culture – we do what we can in this day & age to glorify God in all of our works.  But we dare not put our trust in the things of this “day and age.”  Our trust must only & always be in Christ Jesus!

Have Faith in the Healer

Posted: October 9, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 7:1-17, “Have Faith in the Healer”

Healing can seem rather routine.  No one wants to be sick or suffer any kind of illness, but when we do, we simply go to the doctor.  He/she diagnoses the problem, prescribes a solution, sometimes performs a surgery, and (generally speaking) put us back on our way.  It’s rather hum-drum & easy.  Not so in the ancient world, nor in the 3rd world today!  Illnesses we consider common & curable often lead to death, and doctors of any kind (much less those with modern medical training) can be far & few in-between.

It’s no wonder that so many people around the world come to faith in Jesus through miracles of healing!  In places where doctors are hard to be found, God is not.  He is omnipresent.  There is no person anywhere who cannot respond to the power of Jesus, as long as there is someone there to present Jesus to them. 

Of course, sometimes Jesus simply shows up.  Today, it would be through a miracle – but 2000 years ago, Jesus could physically walk into town and manifest His power, which is exactly what our text shows us.  After the Sermon on the Plain came to a close, Jesus continued His Galilean ministry, and as Luke (and the other gospel writers) has shown us, this often included supernatural healings.  The Bible doesn’t narrate every single healing Jesus performed, although it does give us a good sampling.  And the events it does present to us are presented for a reason: to bring us to faith in the One who heals.  If Jesus can heal the sick – if Jesus can raise the dead – surely Jesus can take care of our deepest eternal needs by healing us of our sin & granting us everlasting life.  He has the authority to do so, thus we need to have faith in the authoritative Jesus.  We need to have faith in the Healer.

Luke 7:1–17

  • Healing #1: the Centurion’s slave

1 Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum.

  • Although Luke doesn’t always provide specific timestamps in his writing, he does make the general timeframe clear in this case.  “All His sayings” is a plain reference to the sermon in Chapter 6, and although scholars debate whether or not the Sermon on the Mount is the same thing as the Sermon on the Plain, the basic idea is that the message was done & Jesus was moving on.  Obviously Jesus never stopped all of His teaching (He did it everywhere!), but that specific teaching came to a close and “He entered Capernaum.
  • Where was Capernaum?  It was a large town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Recall that this was Jesus’ primary base of ministry whenever He was in the region – it seemed to have been His adopted home (outside of Nazareth).  Already, Jesus had developed quite a reputation in the town by casting out demons (4:31-37), performing healings of various illnesses (4:38-41), and providing all kinds of teaching.  It’s no wonder that both Jews and Gentiles began to seek Him out in their times of need.

2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. 3 So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.

  • This event seems to be paralleled in Matthew 8:5-13.  Likewise, Matthew shows a centurion (an Roman officer like a lieutenant who was in charge of at least 100 men), and this man had a sick servant, whom he loved very much & thus he requested help from Jesus, trusting in His authority to heal.  There are a few differences between Luke & Matthew, but none without an explanation.  For instance, Matthew has the centurion approach Jesus directly, while Luke does not – even emphasizing the fact that he doesn’t.  But this isn’t necessarily a contradiction.  Matthew could have easily been summarizing the event.  A personal envoy from the centurion (as Luke shows) is still a direct request.  In addition, it even highlights the centurion’s understanding of authority, since he sent people with his authority.  In any case, Luke & Matthew are easily reconciled together.  There is another similar situation in the gospel of John (Jn 4:46-53), but that has many differences and is best explained as a separate event altogether.
    • What’s the point?  The point is that we can be encouraged not to be easily thrown by the objections of skeptics.  It is easy to find websites and other lists from people claiming instance after instance of contradictions within the Scripture.  Yet in the vast majority of examples, the supposed contradictions are easily explained simply through the different perspectives of different authors.  Even the tougher examples have explanations, though it may take a bit of work and research to find them.  But the bottom line is that we can trust our Bibles!  People who are quick to point on the flaws in the Bible are people who have an agenda.  More than any book in history (religious or not), the Bible has stood the test of time, and there are answers to every objection ever raised.  Give the Bible the benefit of the doubt – and then go do the research for yourself.  See it with your own eyes, and be assured that the word of God is true.
  • Regarding this particular event as Luke narrates it, we have a situation with a loving, caring Roman centurion who sent Jewish elders to Jesus asking Him to help this Gentile man and his slave (“servant” = δουλος = slave).  The fact the Roman had a slave was not at all unusual, nor was the fact that he cared for the person as more than “just” a slave.  Close relationships between masters and slaves were not unheard of within the Roman Empire, even if this kind of closeness was relatively rare.  In the end, it reveals something about the character of the centurion: he was a good guy.  Obviously no one is truly good (i.e. perfect) except God – but in comparison with the rest of his culture, he wasn’t bad at all.  This was the kind of guy you’d want as a neighbor – one you’d want as a friend.  This was not the typical picture of a cold & cruel Roman military officer; this was a caring man who made effort to develop relationships with people…even his own slaves.
  • Why did the centurion send Jewish elders?  We’re not told, though it certainly doesn’t seem to be the picture of any sort of oppression where he forced people to go for him.  On the contrary, it seems to be a gesture of respect.  Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, and in general, most rabbis would receive audiences from known Jewish elders far more readily than that of Roman soldiers.  To send a uniformed Roman to Jesus might have seemed intimidating; a fellow Jew would be welcome.  Of course Jesus wouldn’t be intimidated by anyone, but it seems that the centurion was doing as much as he could to approach Jesus on Jesus’ terms, rather than his own.
  • An added benefit of sending Jewish elders was that they could provide references and recommendation for the centurion.  Verse 4…

4 And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 5 “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”

  • The Jewish elders readily recognized how other rabbis might perceive any request from a Roman centurion – thus they were quick to mention his worthiness.  This man “was deserving,” in their opinion.  This wasn’t one of the Romans who oppressed the Jews.  On the contrary, he loved the “nation,” and “built” (i.e. funded) a “synagogue” for them.  No doubt Jesus had been inside the Capernaum synagogue many times, even performing at least one miracle there when He cast a demon out of a man. (Mk 1:21-25)  That same synagogue had been built by this Roman.  If that wasn’t proof of his love for Israel, nothing was.  Surely Jesus could see this man’s worth, could He not?
  • From a human perspective, the argument makes sense.  Here’s a good guy.  He’s compassionate towards his slaves – he’s compassionate towards the Jews.  He’s put his money where his mouth is – there’s nothing hypocritical about him.  Surely he’s earned his way into getting a miracle on his behalf.  After all, he’s not even asking for himself, but for someone else – someone less fortunate.  This is a guy deserving of an answer from the Messiah.  Right?  Wrong.  At least, it’s the wrong mindset.  This is the way we so often think in regards to prayer: “Lord, I’ve been good!  I’ve done the right things.  I’ve been kind to strangers, and good to my family.  I’ve earned this answer from you; I’m worthy!”  Of course, we might not say that we’ve earned it, but that’s the way we think.  There’s just one glaring problem with it: we haven’t earned anything at all!  To claim our worth is to be blind to our sin.  How does a repeat offender claim to a judge in court that he/she is worthy of grace? “I know I broke the law a dozen times habitually over the course of years, but I’ve done all kinds of really good things along the way!”  It sounds ridiculous on the face of it…and it is.  That’s the same mindset for every time we believe we’re deserving or worthy of God’s favor.  We’re not worthy of anything except death.  Have we done good things (relatively speaking)?  Sure.  But it doesn’t erase all of our crimes and sins against God.  Nothing does – nothing, except the sacrifice of Jesus for us.  The only person who deserves God’s favor is God’s Son, so He gave Himself for us that we might receive God’s favor in His place.  He became our spiritual substitute, so that we might be saved.  2 Corinthians 5:21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."  When it comes to worth/deservedness, the only righteousness we had was like toxic waste: bloody defiled rags good for nothing but a medical waste bin.  But Jesus is worthy, and He substituted Himself for us so that we could receive His righteousness.
  • Jesus understood all of this, even if the Jewish elders did not.  Being the Son of God, Jesus already knew about this Roman centurion anyway, and willingly went with the group.  Verse 6…

6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. …

  • Interestingly, although the Jewish elders claimed the worth of the centurion, the centurion did not do the same.  Twice (using different words), the centurion describes himself as unworthy.  First, he says that he is inadequate or insufficient enough to have Jesus even enter his home.  It is like he’s saying, “Who am I, other than a simple man?  Why should the King of the Jews enter my home?”  Second, he directly refutes the Jewish elders in regards to his works, using the same word they used regarding worth/value.  The whole idea is that the centurion saw nothing in himself or in his life that deserved the gracious response of God.  He had done nothing of value, and he was inherently unworthy anyway.
  • Today, people with the same attitude might be sent to a counselor to try to help with their self-esteem.  That sort of low view of oneself is deemed downright unhealthy.  It’s not.  The Roman Gentile actually had the better theology than the Jewish elders.  He knew he was unworthy of God’s grace.  It’s not that the centurion walked around, flagellating himself (figuratively speaking).  He wasn’t constantly beating himself up, obsessing over every little thing he ever did.  He simply had the right perspective.  Was he evil in the sight of man?  Of course not.  He lived his life as honorably as he knew how.  But he wasn’t perfect.  He wasn’t sinless. Compared to men, he was good; compared to God, he was not.  It didn’t matter how good he was in the sight of the world when faced with the reality of seeing the holiness of God face-to-face.  He knew he was unworthy of that, which is why he told Jesus not to go through the trouble of coming to his house.
    • How needed this perspective is in our culture today!  We’re not just self-obsessed; we’re selfie-obsessed!  The more involved we get with social media, it seems the more focus we put upon ourselves.  We have to document every single facet of our lives, and we long for the affirmation of “likes,” “followers,” and “shares.”  That’s not to say every Christian on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., falls in the same trap – but it certainly is a danger for us.  Be careful!  Let us not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to thing, but think soberly. (Rom 12:3)  We need a right view of ourselves if we are to have a right view of God – and that means we need to get our eyes off of ourselves & on our Lord Jesus.
  • The centurion wasn’t asking Jesus to come, but he was asking for Jesus to help.  All he needed was one thing to happen: for Jesus to simply speak the word.  Verse 7b…

…But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

  • If there was one thing that this Roman military commander understood, it was authority.  It was invested in him, and he submitted to it with others.  As a centurion, he was a commanding officer over 100 men, but he also had commanding officers of his own.  Any military man/woman recognizes the same thing.  Unless you are a brand-new recruit, there’s usually someone with a lower rank than you, and there’s always someone with a higher one.  There’s no room for insubordination in the military.  That’s a quick road to disciplinary methods & potentially criminal charges.  Obedience can mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield, so obedience to authority is taken very seriously in everyday life among the military.  Thus the centurion could give orders to various soldiers, and expect them to be carried out to the letter.
  • That same immediate obedience to authority is what the centurion simply (and correctly) assumes is true about Jesus.  The centurion understood he had authority over his soldiers; the centurion believed that Jesus had authority over sickness.  Whatever it was that ailed his slave (and according to Matthew, it left the servant paralyzed & tormented – Mt 8:6), Jesus had the authority to order that ailment gone, and it would have to leave.  In fact, the centurion believed Jesus had a far greater authority than even he could imagine for himself, in that while the centurion had to be in earshot of those he commanded, the centurion believed that Jesus could simply speak the word from where He was & the illness would have to obey.  Jesus didn’t need to come & lay hands – He didn’t need to perform a ritual – He simply needed to speak, and He could do it from wherever He was, and that would be enough.
    • The centurion was absolutely right!  Jesus does have all authority over every ailment known to man.  More than that, Jesus has all authority over every atom in the universe.  How so?  Because He created them in the first place!  As the Son of God there is nothing He cannot do, because for God nothing is impossible. 
    • Do you believe it?  Be honest!  When faced with a question like this, we’ll say that we do, because we know that’s the good ‘Sunday School’ answer.  But do we really believe it?  Do we pray as if we really believe Jesus can do the impossible?  Obviously, we do not presume upon God.  There are many times that our desires don’t match up with His will, and it seems that our prayers are not answered (at least, not in the way that we want).  But God can do it.  Believing that God can is the first step to seeing if He will.  If we don’t truly believe that God is capable of a task, how can we pray for Him to do it?
      • What do you do if you have a difficult time believing?  At the very least, pray for that!  Like the father who had difficulty believing that Jesus could free his son from demonic affliction, we can pray, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24)
  • BTW – although it doesn’t translate well in English, it’s worth taking note of the way the centurion described his slave.  In verse 3 the man was described with the typical word used for a slave, which is also used in vs. 8 with the example of the servant doing this/that: δουλος.  Yet when requesting Jesus to just “say the word,” the centurion calls his servant, παις, which is sometimes translated “servant,” but other times translated “child,” sometimes in reference to one’s own son or daughter.  The idea is that this wasn’t just one more slave among many to this man; this servant was precious to him.  He loved him like family, which is why the centurion was so willing to humble himself and ask Jesus for help.
  • And the centurion was sure that Jesus would grant it.  What’s one word to summarize the centurion’s attitude?  Faith.  And Jesus recognized it immediately!  Verse 9…

9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

  • When Luke says that Jesus “marveled,” He truly did.  The word speaks of amazement, being astounded, being extraordinarily impressed by something.  That in itself is something at which to marvel!  After all, how incredible does something have to be in order to impress the Son of God?  Jesus was impressed!  Out of all the people that He had encountered in His earthly ministry (even among His own disciples!), He had not discovered someone with so much faith.  If faith could be likened unto coins with the average Jew having an average salary, this Roman Gentile was a millionaire.  With little background in Jewish customs, and probably zero instruction in the Hebrew Scriptures, the centurion had more faith than anyone else Jesus had met in Israel.  It’s no wonder He was impressed!
  • What is faith?  It’s exactly what the centurion exampled.  He had a firm belief in the person, power, and word of Jesus.  He didn’t just reach at straws – he wasn’t tenuously clinging to a possible hope.  He knew without question that if Jesus spoke the word, then no matter where Jesus was, Jesus’ will would be done.  That requires belief in a Jesus of incredible authority: authority over sickness, time, and space.  That requires belief in a Jesus that is far more than a simple teacher, but one with the power of Almighty God.  And that belief was firm.  It was sure & unwavering.  The centurion knew that Jesus had this power – so much so that the message from (both!) the centurion and Jesus could be conveyed via second-hand messenger & still be effective.
    • That’s faith.  Our version of faith quite frequently pales in comparison.  We talk about “leaps of faith,” when we think all real hope is gone.  That isn’t faith; that’s a wish.  Real faith isn’t like blowing out the candles on your birthday cake & hoping that maybe, possibly, you might get what you asked for.  Real faith is confidence – it’s certainty – it’s trust.  Real faith is like pulling the ripcord on your parachute after you’ve jumped out of the plane.  It’s having absolute confidence that the God to whom you prayed, heard, and will act according to His perfect will.
    • Is this your kind of faith?  Do you have this level of confidence?  Obviously we don’t pray to God like we’re spoiled children, expecting Him to provide us blank-checks on whatever we want.  He’s our God; not our butler.  But when you pray, do you pray with this kind of certainty – with this kind of faith?  This is the faith God is looking for!  Jesus loves this kind of faith – He is amazed by it.
    • How do you get it? (1) Ask, (2) Trust.  Yes, you can ask for it & this kind of faith can indeed be considered a gift.  Yet at some point you have to actually step out in it.  Faith isn’t faith until it’s exercised.  You haven’t truly trusted your parachute until you’ve stepped out of the plane.  You might know everything about it: how big it is, how much weight it will hold, how well it’s packed up, etc.  But you haven’t really trusted it until you’ve used it.  Use it!  Trust Jesus – believe upon Him.  Make the decision to exercise your faith.

10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.

  • The centurion did get one minor thing wrong: Jesus didn’t have to speak a word for the servant to be healed; He just needed to will it to happen.  From Matthew, we do get some words from Jesus in regards to the healing, but it was a confirmation to the envoys that it had already been done according to their faith (Mt 8:13).  What Jesus wills, will happen!
  • Although we’re not told anything else, can you imagine the reaction among the household upon the slave’s healing – especially in light of the report that the envoy would have brought with them?  All of the faith of the centurion would have been proven true.  Every time that slave walked around would be another testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ.  No doubt at least some in this Roman household came to faith as a result of this miracle.  Talk about the power of God!  Not only did the centurion have faith in God’s power through Jesus to heal the slave, but God has the power to turn a tormenting paralyzing sickness into a tool of the gospel.  That’s power!
  • Healing #2: The widow’s son

11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.

  • Due to some textual debates, there’s some question if this event actually happened the very next day, or if it happened “soon afterward,” as many other translations take the phrase.  In either case, Luke’s timeline is progressing & not many hours have slipped by before Jesus has the opportunity to show forth His power again.  He proceeded southwest from Capernaum to a tiny village by the name of Nain, and that’s when He & his disciples came across a tragic sight.  A widowed woman had lost her son in death, and his body was currently on the way to burial.  According to the custom of the day, he was laid out on an open stretcher (a funeral bier), and he was being carried outside the city to the burial grounds, almost certainly to a family tomb of some sort. 
  • This was not a lonely funeral – quite a number of people were there.  Obviously the city was well aware of the mother’s grief, and they were with her, mourning by her side.  In addition, Jesus and His disciples were there – apparently a number of His followers in addition to the 12, with a “large crowd” on top of that.  Between the Sermon on the Plain & other miracles of Jesus, crowds seemed to regularly follow Him around at this point, some potentially coming to faith in Him – others probably just waiting to be an eyewitness to the next miracle performed.  They wouldn’t have long to wait!
    • The number of people seems to be a purposeful emphasis by Luke.  “Many” disciples were there – a “large crowd” went with them – the “widow” was present – the “large crowd” from the city was there.  What’s the point?  There were a lot of witnesses!  For the Jews, only 2-3 witnesses were required to provide legal evidence of a crime (or other event).  At this funeral, there were far more than 2-3! Dozens of people (at least) were there.  All would witness the miracle to come.  Considering the magnitude of this sign of Jesus’ power in this tiny seemingly insignificant town, the more witnesses, the better.
    • BTW – the greatest miracle of all time has more than just a couple of witnesses.  When Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples knew it – the women knew it – Jesus’ family knew it – Paul knew it – over 500 people saw Him at once – and not even the Jews nor the Romans of the day could argue against the fact.  The miracle of Jesus’ resurrection is the most attested miracle in all history.  We can know that it is true!
  • For the mother, this was almost a dual death sentence.  Not only was she grieving the loss of her only son, but culturally speaking, she was facing a future of abject poverty.  With no husband to provide for her, and no son to take up her cause, she had no prospect of future income and would likely be reduced to begging or gleaning the fields for whatever food she could gather.  Jesus knew it the moment He looked at her…

13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

  • Two incredible statements in this verse.  First, “He had compassion on her.”  For Jesus to look upon her is amazing enough, but that amazement comes part & parcel with His incarnation.  Just as He walked around, He would see people, and they would have the glorious opportunity to gaze into the eyes of God.  But beyond merely taking notice of her, Jesus had compassion upon her.  He was moved for her.  The Greek word speaks of the inner organs of a person, as that’s where the ancients thought the seat of the emotions were.  We speak of feeling something “in our gut” – that’s a similar idea here.  Jesus’ heart and gut moved for this woman in her plight…He “felt” for her.  Just think on that for a moment.  How amazing is it that Almighty God would be moved with compassion for our sake?  All we deserve from God is His scorn – His wrath – His vengeance.  But He looks upon us with love.  He sees us through eyes of mercy & sympathy.  He knows we are lost and that we desperately need His help (which is why Jesus went to such desperate & extreme measures such as the cross to save us).  He made us – He knows us – He loves us – and He has compassion upon us.
    • How different the God of the Bible is from the false gods of other religions!  What other God so loved His enemies that He graciously reached out to them in love?  What other God has given His Son as a sin sacrifice for those who rebelled against Him?  Only the true God – only God the Father, the I AM, the Creator of heaven & earth.  This is a God who loves us, which means this is a God we can respond to. (Have you?)
  • Second, Jesus told her “Do not weep.”  Say what?!  What more appropriate moment IS there to weep, other than a funeral – particularly the funeral of your child?  It is the most natural thing in the world to do.  In fact, it would be downright strange if she hadn’t been weeping.  Be careful not to get the wrong idea.  Not once does Jesus chastise her for weeping – He is well acquainted with grief, and weeps with those who weep.  What He tells her is to no longer weep.  He was about to do something amazing, and tears of sadness would no longer be required (though tears of joy might!).  Jesus knew what He was about to do, and it was wonderful!
    • There are some instructions in the Bible that might sound strange to us, but we need to trust them.  We need to trust our Lord when He speaks to us.  He knows what He’s doing!

14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.

  • No doubt this was a funeral none of them would ever forget!  Although only the will of Jesus was required, He both spoke a word, and provided His touch – thereby demonstrating the power and authority He wields.  And there was an immediate response.  Literally, the text could be translated: “So the dead sat up and began to speak.”  How often do we see the dead suddenly sitting upright?  This was no cruel parlor trick, nor weird reaction of rigor mortis; true life had returned to the young man.  The dead was no longer dead, for he even had full command of his mind & his voice.  When Jesus brings someone back from the dead, He doesn’t play around!🙂
  • There’s a wonderfully touching moment here as Jesus presents the formerly-dead son back to his mother.  God had given the woman the child in his physical birth, and now that the Son of God gave the man a renewed life, Jesus gave the child back to his mother all over again.  (And this time, it’s doubtful that Jesus said anything to her forbidding her from crying!)

16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” 17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

  • The fact that “fear” came upon the people seems to be quite the understatement!  The word can (and does) speak of the reverent worship given to God, but it can also refer to terror, depending on the context.  No doubt there was a bit of both!  To witness a dead man sitting straight up in his open-faced coffin would be enough to strike terror into the heart of the most steadfast of men & women.  But it certainly would point someone to the power & reality of God, which is exactly why there was a second reaction: glory.  The power of God was undeniable.  Not even the hardest skeptic among them would have been able to debate what had been done.  Only God can give life to the dead, and that is exactly what had taken place.
  • As a result, there were two testimonies that went out concerning Jesus.  First testimony: “A great prophet has risen up among us.”  Very true!  Perhaps a bit incomplete, but very true.  A great prophet was indeed in their midst.  Interestingly, what Jesus did that particular day was very similar to another miracle performed by another great prophet centuries ago in almost exactly the same area.  On the other side of the mountains upon which Nain sat was the town of Shunem, where the prophet Elisha raised a woman’s son from the dead.  Earlier in Elisha’s ministry, the woman had provided a room for Elisha to stay any time he was in town, and he had granted her the ability to bear a son.  As the child grew, he eventually fell terribly ill & died.  Elisha came, prayed, laid on the dead child, and life came back to him (2 Kings 4:17-37).  To have Jesus come & do something so similar (with far more ease!) would have rung some bells in the minds of the people in Nain.  Surely this was a greater prophet than even Elisha…and He was!
  • Second testimony: “God has visited His people.”  This was truer than they realized.  In their minds, they most likely meant that the presence of God had come among them in the form of a prophet, just like had happened through Elijah, Elisha, and many others.  In reality, the very person of God had indeed visited His people.  Almighty God walked among them in the flesh.  When Jesus visited Nain, GOD visited Nain.
    • When Jesus indwells you, GOD indwells you.  When Jesus saves you, GOD saves you.  Jesus is God!
  • With these two testimonies, the people did the natural thing: spread the news.  When they saw the power and the person of God, how could they refrain from telling others about it?  The greatest thing in the world is to personally witness God at work, giving grace and life to those who believe.  Surely the compassion we have for others ought to compel us to tell them the news.  That’s what happened with the Jews of Nain – and it ought to happen with us.
    • The news of Jesus is too good to remain unspoken!  We’ve encountered so incredibly much when we personally encountered Jesus.  WE were the dead ones, on our way out to burial.  In our sin, we were all dead men & women walking, even if we didn’t know it.  But that’s when Jesus saw us, had compassion upon us, and granted us life by His power & grace.  We have personally encountered the Lord Jesus when we were forgiven & born-again.  We ought to readily spread the report about Him to others as well!

Two healings – two dramatic manifestations of the power of Jesus – two incredible reasons for us to have certain sure faith in the ultimate Healer.  He is the loving compassionate Savior – He is the Almighty all-knowing God – He is the giver of life & creator of the universe – He is the Son of God, the Greatest of Prophets, and the Personal Incarnation of the Living God.  He is Jesus!

He has given us every reason to have faith…the question is whether or not we will.  The woman in Nain wouldn’t have known to ask, but Jesus saw her need and reached out in His grace.  The Roman centurion didn’t have the right to ask, and he knew it well, but still humbly requested the help of Jesus anyway.  Jesus didn’t turn him down, nor will He with us.  Jesus loves to respond to those who respond to Him in humble faith, regardless of what our backgrounds may be.  So respond!  Reach out in faith, and have confident assurance in Christ!

Again, this does not mean that we are guaranteed every single thing we ask for.  You can ask for a $1 million until you’re blue in the face, steadfastly believing God will give it, and still walk away disappointed.  That’s not faith in God; that’s faith in yourself.  If your theology says that it is your faith that forces God to act, then your theology isn’t Biblical.  Biblical theology recognizes that God is God, and we’re not – He is never forced to act according to the will of man.  Biblical faith is faith that trusts God.  Biblical faith is faith that surrenders itself to Christ Jesus.  Biblical faith is clinging to Jesus with all we have, and pulling the ripcord.  It is fully entrusting ourselves to Him.

Do we trust Him as the Healer?  Absolutely, yes!  Our Scripture looked at physical healings, and our Lord Jesus hasn’t changed.  He still has the power to physically heal, and we are on solid Biblical footing every time we ask Jesus to heal.  But better than physical healing is spiritual healing.  We have been ravaged by the disease of sin, and Jesus offers true & total healing.

Have you been healed?  Go to the Healer, and place your faith in Him.

Against Egypt, part 1

Posted: October 9, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 29-30, “Against Egypt, part 1”

There is a long history between God & Egypt – most famously in the miraculous intervention God made by freeing the Hebrews after 400 years of Egyptian slavery.  God slammed the then-reigning superpower of the world with plague after plague, until all but the stubborn hard-hearted Pharaoh understood that Egypt had been utterly defeated.  Finally, God sent the Passover, in which every home in Egypt that had not submitted itself under the blood of sacrificial lamb experienced the death of their firstborn.  God brought out His people with a mighty hand & an outstretched arm, even parting the Red Sea on their behalf, and drowning the army of Egypt that pursued them.

At that point, our awareness of Egypt typically drops off – but by no means did the nation pass from the world.  They continued on, well into the timeframe of the Major Prophets & beyond – even post-exile, well into the onset of the Roman empire.  Was God aware of them during that time?  Without question, yes.  God is aware of every nation of the world, whether or not they recognize Him or worship Him. God knows their sins, their future judgment, and He is sovereign over all of their acts & future.  For as much as the Bible shows us the interactions of God among His own people, it also shows us the interactions of God among those who are not His people…at least, who are not yet His people.  Eventually all people everywhere from every nation will recognize the Lord God as God, and that even includes nations that historically rebelled against Him as God – nations like Egypt.

Egypt may have been powerful, but it was nothing against the All-powerful God.  Our God is over all!

Ezekiel 29
1 In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt.

  • The date: January 5, 587BC.  Basically two years into the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.  At this point, the Jews are feeling the crunch of the crisis that literally surrounded them.  They are becoming desperate for help, and many began looking to the military powers around them for help – including Egypt (which would prove to be no help at all).
  • The Pharaoh: Hophra (589-570BC).  He is actually mentioned by name in Jeremiah 44:30, as God tells the prophet that He will give Hophra into the hand of his enemies, just like God did with Zedekiah.  IOW, Pharaoh Hophra & the Egyptians would face the same fate as did the Jews: defeat by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
  • Question: why Egypt?  Why does God care at all?  Because Egypt was a snare for Israel.  The Jews always looked back to Egypt as a place of comfort.  Not only during their initial wanderings in the wilderness, but also during the years of the Babylonian siege and invasion.  Instead of submitting themselves into the hands of their God, the Jews sought rescue from the most ungodly place around: Egypt.  Many of them chose to take refuge in the world, rather than in the Lord their God.  Thus God would make it absolutely clear to the Jews that Egypt offered no refuge whatsoever.  God had a plan to break Egypt, just as He had broken them centuries earlier during the time of the plagues and Passover.  And just like before, it would serve as a testimony to the greatness of the God of Israel.
    • As we look at the next several chapters, we might ask ourselves where it is we run for refuge.  Where do we turn when we are desperate for help: are we quick to turn to the world, or to the Lord Jesus?  Only one is trustworthy because only one is sovereign.
  • Dealing with the Egyptian monster (3-7)

3 Speak, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers, Who has said, ‘My River is my own; I have made it for myself.’

  • In case there was any doubt, God declared Himself to be “against” Pharaoh (truly a sobering position in which to be!).  He described Pharaoh as a “monster” – what precisely is in mind here is unclear from the actual text.  The word is תַּנִּין (tannîn) and the older dictionaries refer to a dragon, sea monster, or serpent.  Newer dictionaries point out the possibility of this referring to a crocodile, particularly the Nile crocodile which was not uncommonly seen in the area.  [PIC]  The Nile crocodile is the 2nd largest reptile in the world (rivaled only by the saltwater crocodile), and can grow between 11-16 feet.  Truly this could be considered a “monster” lying within the “rivers” of Egypt.  The Egyptians actually had a god associated with the Nile crocodile by the name of Sobek. [PIC]  According to some scholars, the Pharaoh was considered to be the living incarnation of Sobek, which once again, fits well with the wording given by God to Ezekiel.
  • Whether or not this is a specific reference to Pharaoh’s claim to being the Egyptian god Sobek, Pharaoh certainly claimed to be the a god among the Egyptians, even saying that he was involved with the creation of the Nile River.  It was this arrogance that drew the attention of the true God (YHWH), and He would certainly act in response.
  • Although it is Pharaoh Hophra that is undoubtedly in view, it is interesting that the Bible describes another enemy of God as a monster/serpent/dragon: the devil.  Likewise, Satan attempts to take credit for the things of God & steal the glory of God for his own.  And just as certain as God acted against the earthly Pharaoh, so is it that God acts against the devil – with just as much power!

4 But I will put hooks in your jaws, And cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, And all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales. 5 I will leave you in the wilderness, You and all the fish of your rivers; You shall fall on the open field; You shall not be picked up or gathered. I have given you as food To the beasts of the field And to the birds of the heavens.

  • The sea monster/crocodile is shown being fished from the river, drawn out by a mighty hand.  Not too many people have the courage to go head-to-head with a crocodile – normally we would run in the opposite direction!  Not God.  The true God warned how He would drag this monster from his place of hiding, and all who clung to it would be dragged out with it.  God would leave it for dead in the wilderness, and it would suffer the humiliation of becoming food for the carrion scavengers.
  • The bottom line is that Pharaoh would be utterly defeated, along with those who put their misguided trust in him.  The king who showed himself to the world to be a paragon of power would be revealed as weak, bloodied, and beaten.  Historically speaking, Hophra (also known as Aphries) experienced defeat by both the Babylonians & the Dorian Greeks.  Civil war broke out among his armies, and he died on the battlefield.

6 “Then all the inhabitants of Egypt Shall know that I am the LORD, Because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. 7 When they took hold of you with the hand, You broke and tore all their shoulders; When they leaned on you, You broke and made all their backs quiver.”

  • As has been the refrain throughout the book of Ezekiel, God’s power testifies to His person.  When Egypt witnessed what God did in their midst, they could not help by admit that it was the Lord who brought this tragedy upon them.  They believed themselves to be strong, but they were revealed to be weak.  They thought they could be a support to Israel, but God showed them to be “a staff of reed.”  Instead of being the mighty crocodile of the Nile, they were like the fragile reeds that lined its banks.  Jerusalem may have put their trust in them, but Egypt was of no help.  Imagine someone reaching for a walker for support, only to find it was made of cardboard.  They’d go crashing to the ground, likely injuring themselves in the process.  Such was the case with Israel and Egypt.  Israel leaned upon Egypt for support, but they were like an easily-broken reed.  They may have looked good, but looks can be deceiving.
  • Some lessons have to be learned the hard way.  How often have we done the same thing?  We’ve experienced a crisis, looked to the world & its counsel for help, only to end up worse off than how we started.  People have marriage problems, and they listen to other people with marriage problems on how to solve it.  Or people have ethical issues, and they turn to self-centered counselors for advice.  We’re told to do what’s best for us, rather than being told to do what’s best, period.  At that point, we’re leaning upon cardboard crutches, and we’re bound to get hurt.  Far better to go to the sure foundation of the word of God!  When we build our lives upon the words of Jesus, we can be sure that we are building upon the rock!

To this point, God has painted a picture of the defeat He would bring to Egypt by figuratively showing them as a defeated crocodile or broken reed.  From here, God gets more precise in His language, saying how He planned to go about all of this.

  • Description of Egyptian defeat (8-16)

8 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will bring a sword upon you and cut off from you man and beast. 9 And the land of Egypt shall become desolate and waste; then they will know that I am the LORD, because he said, ‘The River is mine, and I have made it.’

  • This is a reiteration of Pharaoh’s blasphemy (29:3).  He believed himself to be a god, thus the true God would show him to be anything but.  A real deity could not be threatened by a sword of men, but that’s exactly what would happen to Pharaoh.  God promised to come against him & to cut him off.

10 Indeed, therefore, I am against you and against your rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Ethiopia. 11 Neither foot of man shall pass through it nor foot of beast pass through it, and it shall be uninhabited forty years. 12 I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate; and among the cities that are laid waste, her cities shall be desolate forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries.”

  • How much of Egypt would be affected?  All of it.  The phrase “from Migdol to Syene” seems to be equivalent to the phrase “from Dan to Beersheba,” when referring to Israel.  It’s the whole breadth of the land, from top to bottom.  The entire kingdom would feel the impact of God’s wrath upon them, and He would make the land “desolate” for “forty years” while He scattered “the Egyptians among the nations,” much like God did with Israel.
  • This particular statement has come under a lot of scrutiny, in the fact that we don’t (yet) have any historical record of Egyptian citizens being removed from their land & scattered throughout the Babylonian empire.  First of all, that is an argument from silence.  Simply because we don’t have evidence of it now, doesn’t mean that evidence of it will not be found in the future.  Although there is not always archaeological evidence of everything the Bible says, archaeology has never proven the Bible wrong.  In example after example, where people have laughed off the historicity of Biblical accounts, archaeological evidence has been later discovered, proving the Bible true.  We need to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt.  Secondly, although we have no hard evidence of an Egyptian dispersion, we have no reason to believe it did not happen.  After all, the Egyptians were indeed defeated by Babylon, and just from the Jews we know that the Babylonians have a record of carting conquered people away from their homelands.  Again, from the Jews we know that during the subsequent reign of Cyrus of Persia, people groups were allowed to return home.  If it happened with Israel, why assume it impossible with Egypt?  In fact, the Jewish experience is reason enough to give credence to the number of “forty years,” rather than simply assuming it to be symbolic of a long period of time.  The Jews were captive for 70 years, and they were conquered prior to Egypt.  By the time of Egypt’s full defeat, 40 years of captivity seems plausible indeed.
  • The point?  God can do what He says.  Not only does God have the power to conquer Egypt, leaving them weak & broken.  He also has the power & opportunity to scatter the people throughout the Babylonian empire…and God’s word can be trusted on that account.  In addition, God also has the power to bring them back.  Vs. 13…

13 ‘Yet, thus says the Lord GOD: “At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered. 14 I will bring back the captives of Egypt and cause them to return to the land of Pathros, to the land of their origin, and there they shall be a lowly kingdom. 15 It shall be the lowliest of kingdoms; it shall never again exalt itself above the nations, for I will diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore.

  • Just as Israel was dispersed and later regathered, so did God say He would do with Egypt.  The Egyptians would not forever remain scattered through the world – they would return to their homeland, “to the land of their origin,” though it would be a mere shadow of what they had experienced in the past.  At one time, Egypt was the primary superpower in the world, but upon their return they would “be a lowly kingdom.
  • How lowly & downtrodden would they be?  “Never again” would they be able to “exalt itself” – never again would they “rule over the nations.”  History has proven this to be true.  There was a time after the Babylonian and Persian empires that Egypt attempted to assert itself again, though technically the Ptolemaic Kingdom (mentioned in great detail in Daniel) was a Greek offshoot from Alexander the Great.  They were based in Egypt, but they were not a continuation of the dynasties of the Pharaohs.  Even then, Egypt was not successful in rising to its former strength, and it dwindled into the Middle Eastern third-world state we know today.
  • Why did it dwindle?  Because God willed it to be so.  The rise & fall of the Egyptians is not the result of the historical ebb & flow of world powers; it is due to the sovereign will of God.  We need to remember that our God rules over the nations…every single one.  No land or kingdom is outside of the reach of God, including ours.  We certainly have the free choice to either follow Him or reject Him, but we cannot remove ourselves from His hand.  What God wants to do with our nation will be done…period.
  • That said, God had an additional purpose in mind, stated in vs. 16…

16 No longer shall it be the confidence of the house of Israel, but will remind them of their iniquity when they turned to follow them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.” ’ ”

  • Egypt would dwindle as a witness to Israel.  The Jews had consistently turned to Egypt for help, and God would make it abundantly clear that no help would be found there.  The humbling of Egypt serves as a perpetual reminder to Israel that their hope & help is only found in the Lord.
  • Sometimes we need markers in our lives to help us remember what’s truly important, and many times those markers can come from our weaknesses or failings.  Not every bad memory is something that needs to be forgotten.  God can use our failures to shape us into the men & women that He wants us to be.  It’s not that He holds those things against us, but He certainly uses those things in His sovereign plan.  We can look back on the times that we failed and remember how important it is to remain humble before God, fully dependent upon Jesus Christ.
  • Declaration of Babylon’s victory (17-21)

17 And it came to pass in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

  • Notice the leap forward in dates.  Yes, this is another very specific time-stamp in the prophecies of Ezekiel, but this one is conspicuously out of order, chronologically speaking.  April 26, 571BC.  When compared with the previous date of 29:1 (January 5, 587), we find this comes approximately 15 years later.  To this point, Egypt had not yet been conquered, but it was about to come – as God makes clear.

18 “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to labor strenuously against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder rubbed raw; yet neither he nor his army received wages from Tyre, for the labor which they expended on it.

  • When God says that the Babylonian siege of Tyre was hard labor, He wasn’t exaggerating.  Historically, it lasted 15 years, and apparently there wasn’t much to show for it at the end.  Although Tyre was extremely wealthy, it seems that they were able to ship their wealth elsewhere, and once Nebuchadnezzar got into the city, there was hardly anything within that would pay the bill for his soldiers.  What would he do?  God would provide their wages via the promised defeat of the Egyptians.  The time had come for the Babylonian conquest & 40-year scattering of the people.  Vs. 19…

19 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil, and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army. 20 I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor, because they worked for Me,’ says the Lord GOD.

  • The wages were finally given.  Just as God gave the Hebrews 400 years of back-pay for their slave labor when Egypt finally pushed them out of the land, so did God give the Babylonian soldiers 15 years of back-pay from the spoils of Egypt.
  • In all of this, don’t miss the key phrase regarding the Babylonians: “ ‘because they worked for Me,’ says the Lord GOD.”  Can a pagan people – an evil army – a ruthless nation (use your worst description of choice) actually be used by the Righteous Lord God as His employees?  Yes.  The Babylonians were unquestionably brutal, but they were sovereignly used by Almighty God as His tool in the Middle East.  It once more underscores the fact that God is sovereign, and He does as He pleases among the nations of the world.
  • Question: “If God uses evil nations, does that mean God approves of evil?”  No.  Other prophecies make it clear that God declared a future judgment for Babylon precisely because they were so brutal & evil.  By no means did God endorse their sin, and He certainly did not ignore it.  Yet that doesn’t stop the sovereign God from using them.  Think of it in personal terms.  Does God force us to sin?  Of course not – heaven forbid that we would think so!  But does God use our sin, turning things around to His will, for His glory?  Yes.  The oft-quoted promise of Romans 8:28 makes it clear He uses all things in the lives of His followers for His glory:  Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  When Paul writes “all things,” he really means “all things,”…including our sins & other failings.  God certainly does not desire us to sin, but He can use even the things like our sin to work together for His good.  Joseph affirmed the same truth to his (eventually) repentant brothers when he told them, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” (Gen 50:20)  What God does with individuals, He does with nations.  Babylon may have meant their actions for evil, but God is able to turn them around for His good.
    • This is where the sovereignty of God becomes such a comfort to us as believers!  Whatever the circumstance, whatever the tragedy, the trouble, the issue, etc., God promises to turn those things to His glory.  And for those who love God & are called by Him, those things will even work to good.  That is amazing!  That means for all the ups & downs that life throws at us, we don’t have to get bent out of shape, or consumed with worry.  All we need to do is trust God.  Because we belong to Him through Jesus, we can rest with ease knowing that He is fully in control.
  • In all of this judgment for Egypt, there is also good news for Israel.  Vs. 21…

21 ‘In that day I will cause the horn of the house of Israel to spring forth, and I will open your mouth to speak in their midst. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.’ ”

  • Remember the date in vs. 17: 571BC.  The Babylonian captivity of the Jews has been well underway, and it would be easy for them to think that this was their forever-future.  God assures them it wasn’t.  Though Israel was now weak, God promised them a future strength.  Their “horn” (symbol of power) would “spring forth,” and when it did, the people would finally understand the truth behind the words of Ezekiel & all the prophets.  At 83 years old at the end of the captivity, Ezekiel would once again speak among his people (though we do not know that he was ever able to physically travel to Israel again).  At the very least, his prophetic ministry would continue & Israel would know that the Lord is God because they would see His word fulfilled.
  • This is always the blessing of seeing prophecy fulfilled.  It reaffirms our faith – it helps us remember that our God is trustworthy & that He is in control.  When God fulfills the “minor” prophecies or prophecies of the past, we know that He will fulfill the “major” ones & ones yet to come.

Ezekiel 30

  • Four declarations of judgment (1-19)

1 The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Wail, ‘Woe to the day!’ 3 For the day is near, Even the day of the LORD is near; It will be a day of clouds, the time of the Gentiles. 4 The sword shall come upon Egypt, And great anguish shall be in Ethiopia, When the slain fall in Egypt, And they take away her wealth, And her foundations are broken down.

  • Declaration #1: a word of woe.  We are not told precisely when this prophecy was given.  It certainly fits in with the imminent idea of Egypt’s defeat as seen in 29:17-21.  The day of God’s judgment is seen approaching, with the clouds of His glory hanging on the horizon.  Egypt was about to be destroyed, and it was indeed a day of woe for them.
  • Because this is described as “the day of the LORD,” there has been some debate whether this refers to some day in the past, or the ultimate day of the Lord that will be seen in Jesus’ Second Coming.  Contextually speaking, it seems best to look at this as a historical reference, but it is certainly possible that there is a bit of dual-fulfillment in mind.  When Jesus returns, He will come on the clouds of glory & every eye will see Him.  Every nation that had risen against Israel will fall, and those who are slain will litter the ground.  That will be a day of woe to anyone who witnesses it.
    • The good news is that no one has to witness it from that point-of-view.  Instead of watching Jesus approach, we have the opportunity to follow Jesus from behind, accompanying Him on His return.  That’s the promise to those who put their faith in Christ today.  On that day we will still see Jesus in power, but we will rejoice in His victory, not weep over our losses. 

5 “Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, all the mingled people, Chub, and the men of the lands who are allied, shall fall with them by the sword.” 6 ‘Thus says the LORD: “Those who uphold Egypt shall fall, And the pride of her power shall come down. From Migdol to Syene Those within her shall fall by the sword,” Says the Lord GOD.

  • Declaration #2: a word against Egypt’s allies.  The earlier word-picture of Pharaoh as the crocodile showed some fish hanging to the scales of the beast – verse 5 seems to give names to the fish. At the very least, the mercenary allies of Egypt are called out by name, and they would take part in Egypt’s fall.  The same thing that came to Egypt would be received by those who upheld her.
    • Be careful whose side you’re on!  We all have a choice who we can support & uphold.  We want to be on the Lord’s side, rather than simply hoping that perchance He might be on ours.

7 “They shall be desolate in the midst of the desolate countries, And her cities shall be in the midst of the cities that are laid waste. 8 Then they will know that I am the LORD, When I have set a fire in Egypt And all her helpers are destroyed.

  • Again, the refrain is heard: “Then they will know that I am the LORD.”  These pagan nations may not willingly come to saving faith in God, but they will certainly come to a point that they cannot deny Him.  What was true in the ancient world is true today & will be true in the future.  There are certain acts of God that cannot be ignored.  People might try to do so & write it off as something else – but in their heart of hearts, they know.  The book of Revelation clearly speaks of events in the Great Tribulation in which people recognize the work of God, yet refuse to repent from their sins & give Him glory (Rev 17:9,11).
    • Once more, we have a choice.  We can either willingly see Jesus as God today, or we will be confronted with Him as God later.  Choose wisely.

9 On that day messengers shall go forth from Me in ships To make the careless Ethiopians afraid, And great anguish shall come upon them, As on the day of Egypt; For indeed it is coming!”

  • Among this, a specific word is given to a specific ally of Egypt: the Ethiopians.  They had trusted in their own security, apparently not giving any thought to the threat of the Babylonians.  They were “careless.”  They would be surprised!

10 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also make a multitude of Egypt to cease By the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. 11 He and his people with him, the most terrible of the nations, Shall be brought to destroy the land; They shall draw their swords against Egypt, And fill the land with the slain.

  • Declaration #3: an affirmation of God’s use of Babylon.  We’ve already seen how God sovereignly chose to use Babylon as His tool – the point is repeated here.  God promised that He would work, and He promised that He would work “by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.”  At the time, Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan (though he didn’t seem to remain that way), but God still chose to use him specifically.  Whether kings or other national rulers are worshippers of the true God or not, God is still the one to raise them up & put them down.  (Which again, ought to give us a lot of comfort as we head into a national election.)

12 I will make the rivers dry, And sell the land into the hand of the wicked; I will make the land waste, and all that is in it, By the hand of aliens. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

  • Note the use of the 1st person here: this is all the work of God.  Babylon is the tool; God is the hand that guides it.  This is God’s chosen work, and this work is certain.  YHWH the Lord declared it would come, so it would come.  Never doubt the declared word of God!
  • All of this leads into the 4th declaration: God would personally bring destruction to the entire land of Egypt.  Vs. 13…

13 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also destroy the idols, And cause the images to cease from Noph; There shall no longer be princes from the land of Egypt; I will put fear in the land of Egypt.

  • Does God care about Egyptian idolatry?  Yes!  God obviously cares about idolatry among His own people (the majority of the 1st part of the book called Israel to the carpet regarding those sins), but God also cares about the rampant idolatry among the nations.  Why?  Because God cares about them!  God loves all people of the world, everywhere.  There is not a single human being not made in the image of God, who wasn’t personally knit together in the womb of their mother by God Himself.  Out of the 6+ billion people on planet earth right now, God knows every single one by name, even having our hair follicles numbered.  So yes, God is concerned about idolatry (and other sins) among the pagans.  That sin is exactly what blinds them from His goodness & salvation – what blinds them from knowing the Lord God as God.  So when God declares that He will destroy their idols, He does it with good reason: out of compassion for their souls.
  • Likewise, God destroys the system that allowed for that rampant idolatry to take place.  The “princes” were the Pharaohs, who not only declared themselves to be gods, but who financed the pagan priests and upheld the false religious system.  Here too, God promised to act, levelling to the ground everything that made Egypt, Egypt.  His destruction would not be poured out only upon the individuals, but upon the system itself.
    • The same thing is seen in the account of the Great Tribulation when the future city of Babylon is judged & destroyed.  God doesn’t merely judge individuals for their sin, but He gets rid of the entire antichrist institution that infected it.

14 I will make Pathros desolate, Set fire to Zoan, And execute judgments in No. 15 I will pour My fury on Sin, the strength of Egypt; I will cut off the multitude of No, 16 And set a fire in Egypt; Sin shall have great pain, No shall be split open, And Noph shall be in distress daily. 17 The young men of Aven and Pi Beseth shall fall by the sword, And these cities shall go into captivity. 18 At Tehaphnehes the day shall also be darkened, When I break the yokes of Egypt there. And her arrogant strength shall cease in her; As for her, a cloud shall cover her, And her daughters shall go into captivity.

  • At this point, God runs through a list of Egyptian cities, showing how His judgment would spread through the entire land.

19 Thus I will execute judgments on Egypt, Then they shall know that I am the LORD.” ’ ”

  • Centuries earlier, Egypt had seen the power of God, and although many of them went out with the Hebrews, the nation as a whole remained pagan.  Once more they would receive an undeniable witness of God, and they again had the opportunity to respond to Him.  Sadly, many would once more turn away – but they would know from Whom they turned.
  • Egypt’s broken arm (20-26)

20 And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month, on the seventh day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

  • Again, there is a date-stamp, and there is an indication that Ezekiel has returned to the original chronology: April 29, 587BC.  It’s still a prophecy against Egypt, but in this chronology, it is still 14-15 years into the future.

21 “Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and see, it has not been bandaged for healing, nor a splint put on to bind it, to make it strong enough to hold a sword. 22 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and will break his arms, both the strong one and the one that was broken; and I will make the sword fall out of his hand.

  • How had God broken Egypt’s arm?  It was when they had been broken as the staff of reeds (29:6).  Jerusalem had turned to Egypt for help from the Babylonians, and although the Babylonians had briefly turned back (Jer 37:10), it was Egypt that had experienced the weakening.  At that time, Egypt had one arm broken once Babylon returned in strength – in the future, Egypt would be completely broken.  God was doubly against Egypt, and no matter what “arm” it tried to raise against the will of God, it would fail.
  • The will of God will not be thwarted!  Don’t struggle against it; seek it.  Ask to see it fulfilled.

23 I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them throughout the countries. 24 I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put My sword in his hand; but I will break Pharaoh’s arms, and he will groan before him with the groanings of a mortally wounded man. 25 Thus I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; they shall know that I am the LORD, when I put My sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he stretches it out against the land of Egypt. 26 I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.’ ”

  • Once more the prophecy is made of Egypt being scattered & dispersed among the nations when Babylon brought their defeat.  And a crucial difference is shown between the nations: God breaks the arms of one, while He strengthens the arms of the other.  The one that stands against the will of God will fall.  And when they did, they would know it was the God of Israel who accomplished this among them.

God has much to say against the nation of Egypt – in fact, He has two more chapters worth left to say.  They had been arrogant, claiming to stand in the place of God.  They had set themselves up as the mightiest of all, trying to interfere with the work of God among the world.  It couldn’t be done.  They would be broken & humbled – defeated by the almighty power of the sovereign God.  What God wills among the nations will be done, no matter who or what tries to stand against Him.

One God, Over All

Posted: September 29, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 28, “One God, Over All”

The Pledge of Allegiance, among other things, says about our national republic that it is “one nation, under God.”  It affirms a unity that is sadly rarely experienced today, but also affirms a reality that as a nation, we reside on planet earth under the true leadership of the Creator God.  Of course we are not the only nation under God – all nations all over the world are under God, whether they recognize Him & worship Him as such.  This is something that is emphasized throughout the Bible.  God may be the national God of Israel, but He is also the Almighty God over all the earth.  There is no place where He does not assert His power.

That fact is true in every arena.  God is sovereign over all time – God is sovereign over all cultures – God is sovereign over every universe – God is sovereign over every reality, whether physical or spiritual.  Our God is the sovereign God, period!  When we proclaim God to be King, we proclaim Him King over everyone: humans, creation, angels, and even demons.  Every knee eventually has to bow to our God, for He is the ONE God with all authority.

This is something that comes across in Ch. 28 of Ezekiel, which is comprised of 4 basic messages.  Most of it applies to Gentile nations, but not all of it.  There is a bit that deals with Israel, but there’s something perhaps even more.

It’s the 2nd oracle in Ch. 28 that receives the majority of attention, but that’s not all God has to say.  Among the four total oracles, there is a warning, a lamentation, a promise of judgment, and a promise of blessing.  In all of it, we see the sovereignty of God: over times both past & future, over realms both physical & spiritual.  Our God is sovereign over all!

Ezekiel 28

  • Warning the leader of Tyre (1-10)

1 The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, 2 “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because your heart is lifted up, And you say, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, In the midst of the seas,’ Yet you are a man, and not a god, Though you set your heart as the heart of a god

  • Remember our context: the two previous chapters have dealt with the city/state of Tyre.  Ezekiel had proclaimed the judgment of God against several of the nations surrounding Israel, but specific attention was concentrated upon Tyre. A city-state basically built on an island (later a peninsula) off of modern-day Lebanon, Tyre is not typically remembered among the empires of the world, but they were truly powerful in terms of their influence.  From a commercial perspective, they were a financial powerhouse.  Every nation in the known world traded with them, and wielded quite a bit of power as a result.  Although at one point they had friendly relations with Israel, eventually things soured & they even rejoiced at Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon.  They gloated over the Jews, which didn’t escape the attention of God.  He knew their sins, and proclaimed their judgment.  Like a once-glorious ship, they would be sunk, and drug down to the pit of history.  To this day, ruins sit upon the ancient site of Tyre, showing the literal fulfillment of God’s promise to them that they would never again be rebuilt (26:14).
  • Previously, God called out the nation of Tyre.  This time, God calls out a person: “the prince of Tyre.”  The word for “prince” is rather loose – it could be translated “ruler, chief, leader.”  Most scholars believe it to be a man named Ethbaal (either II or III, depending on your source), who would have been actively ruling Tyre during the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy.  If this wasn’t precisely directed at him, certainly it was directed at the general office of leadership over the nation of Tyre.  The point is that this is personal & historical.  Although there is debate as to the identity of the king of Tyre later in the passage, there’s none here.  God was calling out a human, and God directly affirms him to be human (“Yet you are a man”).  We need to be careful not to jump ahead too quickly in our interpretations.  Some would say that because Satan is perhaps referenced later in Ch. 28 that all of the references to Tyre’s leader are to Satan.  The actual text of the passage directly tells us differently. 
    • Be careful to always read Scripture within its appropriate context, looking for the natural meaning of the passage before any attempt to look at potential symbolism.
  • That God was involved in warning this particular human leader reaffirms an important point about God’s sovereignty: He is involved in the affairs of men.  There is not a nation in the world of which God is not intimately familiar.  He knows every president, king, dictator, senator, mayor, and more…even the sanitation workers!  He knows you & me.  A common misconception among many people is that of impersonal deism.  Perhaps they believe in a God who created the universe, but like a supernatural watchmaker, He wound the watch, set everything in motion, and then set back merely to observe.  That is not the truth contained in the Bible.  The Bible shows us a God who is intimately involved.  He knows us, loves us, having created us in His own image & knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs.  Our God is involved!
  • He was involved with this prince, knowing the deepest secrets of the heart & every improper motive.  What was the problem?  His pride.  The prince was puffed up, believing himself to be a god. (Not uncommon among the ancient kings.)  God calls him out on it – vs. 3…

3 (Behold, you are wiser than Daniel! There is no secret that can be hidden from you! 4 With your wisdom and your understanding You have gained riches for yourself, And gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; 5 By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches, And your heart is lifted up because of your riches),”

  • What exactly is going on here?  Is God proclaiming a fact about the chief ruler of Tyre? (Surely not.)  Is this the ruler’s self-assessment? (No, because the ruler is addressed in 2nd person.)  What other option is there?  Sarcasm.  We sometimes forget that God is capable of sarcasm, thinking it somehow beneath the Lord.  Yet we use sarcasm to great effect – why not God?  Paul certainly used it (particularly with the Corinthian church – 2 Cor 11:19) – he got it from somewhere: the Lord God.  God obviously doesn’t believe the ruler of Tyre is “wiser than Daniel.”  After all, Daniel acknowledged that all of his wisdom came from the Lord (Dan 2:28).  But that’s the point.  If someone as well-known in wisdom as Daniel thought that he needed the Lord, whereas the ruler in Tyre (Ethbaal) did not, then Ethbaal must be wiser than even Daniel.  Right?  Wrong.  But that’s the point that God makes here.  Ethbaal’s pride blinded him to his own blindness.  The ruler of Tyre thought he knew everything, when in reality, he knew nothing.
    • Pride is indeed blinding!
  • One cause of Ethbaal’s pride: his wealth.  He was shrewd in business dealings (as demonstrated through his many trading partners all over the known world – Ch 27), and made a lot of money in the process.  But wealth isn’t everything.  Wealth can lift up our hearts in arrogance. Why?  Because if we can provide for ourselves, we believe we no longer have need of God as our provision. …
  • What’s the solution to pride?  Humility – a right sense of self in comparison with the Lord.  It’s not thinking of ourselves more than we ought (either out of arrogance, or out of self-pity).  Simple humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us: as sinners in need of a Savior.
  • There are two paths to humility: be humble, or be humbled.  We can humble ourselves out of our own volition, or we can be humbled by the hand of God upon us.  Ethbaal chose the latter.  Vs. 6…

6 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god, 7 Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you, The most terrible of the nations; And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, And defile your splendor. 8 They shall throw you down into the Pit, And you shall die the death of the slain In the midst of the seas.

  • The ruler of Tyre thought himself big; God would have him cut down to size.  Ethbaal thought himself & his empire beautiful; God would take it away.  Everything that served as the source of pride would be removed, and Ethbaal himself (or whoever ruled at the time) would be destroyed in the fierceness of God’s judgment.  No protection would be found – not even on the island fortress of Tyre.  The ruler would be killed, even “in the midst of the seas.
    • Where’s your trust?  If it is in anything but God, it can be taken away.

9 “Will you still say before him who slays you, ‘I am a god’? But you shall be a man, and not a god, In the hand of him who slays you. 10 You shall die the death of the uncircumcised By the hand of aliens; For I have spoken,” says the Lord GOD.’ ”

  • The ruler of Tyre exalted himself in pride today – what would he say in the day of his destruction?  Would he still believe himself to be invincible in the face of his executioner?  As proud as he was in life, Ethbaal would be disgraced in death.  And what would have to say for himself then?
  • Death is a fact for us all.  The sooner we come to grips with our mortality, the better.  Every single one of us will one day have to give an answer to God.  What is it we will say?  What answer will we give God when He asks the question: “Why should I let you into My heaven?”  If we claim our good deeds, are we not claiming our pride?  After all, nothing we do is truly good.  We’re all helplessly stained by sin.  Even if we imagine good deeds for ourselves, those things do nothing to erase all of the bad deeds we have done.  For a serial thief to stand before a judge & claim, “Sure, I stole on 300 separate occasions…but I was a law-abiding citizen the rest of the time, even volunteering on a regular basis at the soup kitchen.  I should go free.”  That’s the height of arrogance!  How good do we imagine our good deeds to be?  They cannot erase our bad.  We have to have an answer for our sin, and the only answer is the one that God provides: Jesus.  Without Him, we have no hope.  Without Christ, we “die the death of the uncircumcised” as we face a disgraceful eternity in hell.  That may be harsh, but it is the truth.  And we must come to grips with that if we are ever to turn to Jesus in humble faith!
  • Lamenting the king of Tyre (11-19)

11 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 12 “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, …

  • It’s another prophecy, but the question is whether or not there is another person involved.  In vss. 1-10, there’s little doubt that God had Ezekiel speak against a human being: the “prince (ruler/chief) of Tyre.”  The question now is if that address continues on with the “king of Tyre.”  The Hebrew clearly uses two different words, but the meaning potentially overlaps quite a bit.
  • Out of all of the controversy in the book of Ezekiel, these next several verses contain some of the most.  There are three main thoughts: (1) This refers to an extra-biblical account of what happened to Adam after his fall in the Garden of Eden.  This seems to be the weakest of possibilities in that there is no other Scripture to support it.  (2) This continues to refer to the human ruler of Tyre, with much symbolism used to describe the extent of his unholy pride.  This is certainly possible, but has weaknesses of its own, particularly in how this person is described.  (3) This refers to Satan, the devil.  This view has weaknesses of its own (as we’ll see), but it seems to be the overall best explanation for the events described.
  • BTW, the fact of a change of language from “prince/ruler” to “king” is a strong piece of evidence in favor of the interpretation regarding Satan.  There is an increase in authority between the two.  One might physically rule the people, but the other would be the true power behind the throne.  The things done by the prince of Tyre (Ethbaal) parallel the things done by the king of Tyre (Satan).  Thus it is the fall of Satan that God uses to warn Ethbaal.  Basically saying, “If you want to end up like the devil, keep doing the things he did.  He was profoundly defeated, and so shall you be.”
    • The end of the book is already written in regards to Satan, but not necessarily so for any of us.  We know where groups of people will go: either heaven or hell, depending on our faith in Christ.  But we are not given a specific list of names of everyone who will indeed put their faith in Christ.  That means everyone has the same opportunity to believe.  Like the ancient prince of Tyre, we’ve been warned.  Now we need to act upon that warning.  Either we humble ourselves before the Sovereign God, or He will humble us just like He did with Satan.

…and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created.

  • It all begins with a description of the king’s beauty.  When God made him, God made him beautiful!  In sight, in sound, everything.  The gemstones remind us of the ephod of the temple priest (though different in number).  Though only nine gems (along with gold) are mentioned, they apparently covered the whole body of this king.  Drums/tamborines and pipes/flutes were associated with him, no doubt sounded by him all the time.  Like the seraphim surrounding God’s throne continuously cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts!” (Isa 6:3), so did this king sound the glory of God.  How so?  Perhaps just by moving.  His very existence was glorifying to God, being personally created by God to do exactly that.
  • Could this still refer to a human king?  Perhaps, if taken in a highly symbolic way.  After all, every single person on earth is created with the purpose of glorifying God.  But the way this particular person is described sets him apart.  Even the timeframe goes back to days of ages past.  The place referred to as “Eden, the garden of God” is claimed by some to refer to pagan temple grounds, but that goes against the entire picture of the holy place ordained by God as the first garden.  Far better to understand this literally as the same garden of Eden mentioned in the pages of Genesis.
  • It also brings out a dramatic contrast.  If the ruler of Tyre believed himself to be beautiful in wisdom, he was nothing in comparison with the king!  The king of Tyre was physically beautiful, splendid by any account.  This is what God desired of him, and how God created him.  Yet he didn’t stay that way.  Vs. 14…

14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. 15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.

  • Could this still speak of a man?  Possibly.  If Ethbaal equated himself with his own false god, seated in the temple in Tyre, perhaps this is a picture of Ethbaal as a guardian sphinx.  Although the Bible describes cherubim differently than the mythical sphinx, it’s not difficult to see where a parallel could be made (part animal, part man, winged, etc.).
  • Is it possible?  Yes.  Is it probable?  Not likely.  After all, Ezekiel has already described cherubim in depth, and they are truly heavenly creatures.  Even Ezekiel’s best attempt at description seemed to run out of words.  Certainly if God wanted to call Ethbaal a sphinx, he could have painted that picture easily.  Yet He called the king of Tyre a “cherub” – and more: “the anointed cherub who covers.”  What exactly this cherub covered is unknown.  The Hebrew word could mean “block, or screen off,” which is why the NASB & ESV take this to refer to a role of guardianship.  The cherubs in the Garden of Eden were specifically put there to guard against fallen Adam & Eve from re-entering it & eating of the Tree of Life (Gen 3:24), though that is not necessarily the specific guard-duty referred to here.  Perhaps it was a general guardianship of God’s throne.  Apparently this cherub was in the very presence of God, on God’s “holy mountain,” put there in that role specifically by the Lord, given that privilege from God Himself.  This sounds far less like a man, and much more like an angelic creature of some kind. 
    • Again, the picture seems to fit Satan in many ways.  Even the New Testament affirms that the devil can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), which might easily refer to his previous image before experiencing the wrath of God.  The argument against this is that cherubim seem to be a different order from other angels.  Neither Michael nor Gabriel are described as cherubim, and Satan would seem to be on their level.  But again, this could simply be human language falling short.  The plain reading of Ezekiel’s text points to a heavenly creature of some kind – the exact sort is somewhat ambiguous.  After all, Ezekiel has already described some cherubim in Ch 1 & Ch 10, and neither account matches this description where the same word is used. (Be careful not to miss the forest for the trees!)
  • The bottom line?  This creature was complete, lacking nothing.  NKJV says that he was “perfect,” but this word doesn’t necessarily speak of moral perfection.  More often than not, it speaks of wholeness – something being sound.  This cherub-king had everything he needed in the presence of God.  God had fully equipped him for the task.  Yet this creature was not satisfied, and he added something to himself that God did not originally place within him: “iniquity.”  As will be made clear in vs. 17, this cherub became proud & that placed the seed of sin within his heart.  That day became a day that would profoundly affect the rest of history as Satan became corrupt, rebelling against God.  God knew it, and acted immediately.  Jesus recalled the day that He “saw Satan fall like lightning,” (Lk 10:18) – the first of other falls that will occur yet again in the Great Tribulation (Rev 12:8-9).  God goes on to describe it to Ezekiel…

16 “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. 17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.

  • The human ruler of Tyre, Ethbaal became rich through much trading & commerce (which is one reason why some scholars believe this to be a continued reference to him).  But that seems to simply reflect that which Satan had already done.  Obviously the devil does not engage in worldly commerce (at least, not in a physical way as might a human-run corporation), but he does engage in traffic all over the world (which is another potential translation of this Hebrew word).  He goes to & fro, looking for people whom he may devour.  He involves himself in the affairs of nations, seeking to influence and interfere.  Apparently, he also did it in some fashion in the days prior to known history, and he became hopelessly corrupt.  This cherub may have been beautiful on the outside, but he became defiled within.  Ultimately, it was his pride in which he exalted himself, and he was cast out of heaven in response.  Pride goes before a fall (Prov 16:18) – something learned by Satan in the most personal of ways.
  • Question: “This might sound like reasonable theory, but what is there to back it up?  Could this still not refer to the human ruler?” Certainly it’s possible; it’s just likely.  Additionally, Ezekiel is not the only prophet to whom God revealed some history in regards to Satan.  Isaiah 14:12–15, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! (13) For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ (15) Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit."  We do not know much about the history of Satan, but we do get some glimpses from Scripture.  The key is balance: neither go beyond what is written, nor ignore the things that are.
  • Keep in mind that the common thread in all of this has nothing to do with spiritual warfare between humans and the devil.  None of this speaks of any authority we may or may not wield in the name of Jesus.  What it does speak of is the common danger humans share with the devil: pride.  In regards to what to look for in appointing elders, Paul warned Timothy about those who might be baby-Christians, for the fact that they could succumb to pride, and thus “fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” (1 Tim 3:6)  The devil fell to the temptation of pride, and he presents that same temptation before us on a regular basis.  Why did Adam & Eve fall in the Garden?  Because they saw a potential of being like God.  Like Satan, they had been given everything they needed – but the devil made them believe they needed a little bit more.  He offered the chance of knowledge, and they fell into exactly the same trap he fell into, however long ago it was.
    • Beware pride!  Pride corrupts our thinking – it clouds our emotions.  Pride becomes a stumbling block between us and the Lord Jesus, and (again) there is only one way to deal with it: humility.
  • God goes on to describe the judgment He poured out on the cherub-king…

18 “You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you. 19 All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever.” ’ ”

  • This cherub had been created to glorify God – instead, he had become defiled.  And notice where the blame is placed: on the cherub himself.  “You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading…”  God cannot be blamed for the existence of sin and rebellion.  Satan cannot point his finger at God & claim that it was God’s fault that all of this happened.  Satan did this to himself.
    • In the same way, our sin is our fault.  We can’t say “God put this desire in me!  If God had only given me ____…”  Not so!  We coveted those things in our own hearts – we lifted ourselves up in pride – we desired our own will over the will of God, etc.  These are things that we have done, and God cannot be blamed.  What God has done is make His Son a sacrifice for our sins, so that we can be forgiven!
  • In regards to Satan, God judged him thoroughly.  The cherub-king once walked on fiery stones – now the holy fire of the all-consuming God “devoured” him & turned him to “ashes.”  The beauty & glory once possessed by this cherub was now gone, and he since became a warning to all of creation of what happens to those who exalt themselves against God.
  • Question: Is all of this complete?  No.  Most everything of what God said through Ezekiel has already taken place – seemingly before Adam and Eve ever ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good & evil.  But the Bible affirms (and experience confirms) that Satan still exists.  He is still alive & active within the world.  We battle against him & his minions on a daily basis.  He deceives multitudes, and actively seeks to bring them down to death.  As Jesus stated, he does not come except to steal, to kill, and to destroy (Jn 10:10).  So what does God mean when He says that Satan “shall be no more forever”?  God is speaking of the future.  Satan does exist now, but one day he will come to his everlasting death.  People often think of Satan ruling over Hell – the Bible tells us something quite different: Satan will actually suffer his future eternity as a prisoner within Hell.  Revelation 20:10, "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."  What glorious news!  Though the devil runs rampant today, and though his evil will get exponentially worse during the Great Tribulation, there will come a day when the devil will finally get his due!  Upon Jesus’ glorious Second Coming, the devil will be imprisoned for a thousand years, be briefly released, and then be forever conquered & incarcerated in the lake of fire.
    • The end of the book has been written, and Satan loses.  Praise the Lord!

The past 2½ chapters have been dedicated to God’s judgment of, and warning against the city-state of Tyre: the nation, its ruler, and its spiritual king behind the curtains.  That’s a lot said to one city!  But they weren’t the only ones facing the judgment of God.  Tyre’s influence extended to neighboring areas as well, thus so would God’s judgment do the same…

  • Judging Sidon (20-24)

20 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 21 “Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her,

  • Sidon and Tyre were so closely related that 10 out of 12 references in the New Testament list them both together.  Sidon was a city barely 20 miles north of Tyre, and apparently they shared in the same sins against God & Israel.

22 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Sidon; I will be glorified in your midst; And they shall know that I am the LORD, When I execute judgments in her and am hallowed in her. 23 For I will send pestilence upon her, And blood in her streets; The wounded shall be judged in her midst By the sword against her on every side; Then they shall know that I am the LORD.

  • Like Tyre, Sidon would receive the violent wrath of God.  Between plague and warfare, the city’s population would be decimated.  And as was the case with other Gentile cities, it is the wrath of God that brings people to a proper knowledge of Him.  God does not necessarily prophesy that the Sidonians will come to saving faith, but He does say that they will know Who it was that acted.  No one would be able to deny the work of the true God when they saw it with their own eyes.
  • Just as we have a choice in regards to pride, we have a choice in how we know the Lord God.  We can know Him through His love and grace, or we will not be able to deny Him in His wrath and vengeance.  It is both amazing and sad to me how people can recognize the work of God & still choose to rebel against Him.  The beginnings of the Great Tribulation specifically speak of a day where people recognize the wrath of the Lamb of God, yet still continue in rebellion against Him (Rev 6:16-17).  Yet we don’t have to wait until then to see the same thing today.  How many people go to their knees when in a hospital waiting room & make promises to God they have no intention to keep when they leave?  Even as believers, how many of us recognize God’s work in our lives, know His forgiveness, and then choose to go ahead and engage in sin knowing that we can ask for forgiveness?  That’s no less sinful (and perhaps is worse!).  Yet we can choose to recognize God as God for who He is.  We don’t have to wait until the day of His wrath.  We can come to Him in the day of His mercy through Christ Jesus.

24 “And there shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”

  • We’re not told the specific crime of Sidon against God, but somehow they were an annoyance to Israel, even despising Israel as they purposefully provoked them.  Perhaps this is a reference to the same gloating done by Tyre (26:2), but it’s possible this is something different.  Whatever it was, they were painful towards the people of God.  A small goathead thorn can cause immense pain in the wrong place.  What God speaks of here may not have risen to the level of a Babylonian attack, but it still caused His people pain.  And as a loving God & Father to Israel, He rose up in her defense.
    • Our God knows all of our pains & troubles.  Both the ones that seem insurmountable, and those that are a constant drip that wear away at our patience.  We can take all of those issues to Him, and know that He hears us and cares for us.

God will have more to say to other Gentile nations (particularly Egypt), but at this, the oracles of judgment break, and an oracle of blessing is proclaimed upon Israel.  This makes sense – after all, God has just spoken of how He will rise in defense of His beloved people.  Other nations gloated over Israel’s fall, but they spoke of Jewish destruction far too soon.  God has future plans for His people, and He laid it out in several promises…

  • Blessing Israel (25-26)

25 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. 26 And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God.” ’ ”

  • Promise #1: Israel will be regathered.  They were abroad, but they would not remain abroad.  They may have been scattered through the Babylonian empire, but God would eventually gather His people.  They would never lose their identity as a nation, and God would keep them unified.
  • Promise #2: Israel will worship God.  One of the main reasons for Israel’s dispersion was their repeated descent into idolatry.  They consistently broke the covenant God had given them, and this was their just punishment.  But one day this would change.  The Jews would come back to faith in the God of their fathers, and they would reverence Him as they should have done all along.
  • Promise #3: Israel will dwell in the land.  Their land.  Not only would the nation be gathered, but they would be brought home.  God had given them an everlasting inheritance in the physical land of Israel, and that is where they would dwell.
  • Promise #4: Israel will dwell safely.  Once in the land, they would be safe from their enemies.  This is something that cannot yet be said of Israel even today.  Israeli Jews live in constant danger of missile attacks or other forms of terrorism.  But they have the promise of God that this will one day change, and they will live in safety.
  • Promise #5: Israel will dwell personally protected by God.  From whence would their help come?  From the Lord!  He is the One who will “execute judgments on all those around them.”  In that day, they will not have to rely upon Iron Domes or other missile defense systems – they will have the personal protection of Almighty God.
  • Question: When?  Certainly this did not happen after the Jews were released from Babylonian captivity. Yes, they were partially regathered & allowed to dwell in their land, but there were many Jews who remained abroad.  Even then, they did not dwell in safety, as they suffered repeated invasions by the Romans & others.  Of course eventually, most of the Jews were once more dispersed among the nations, only to finally begin regathering after the reformation of the modern State of Israel.  But again, there is much that is not yet fulfilled – included that of proper worship, in that they reject Jesus as Messiah.  Thus this is a future promise, to be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom.  In that day, everything written by Ezekiel will be true to the letter, exactly as God fulfills every single other prophecy!
  • Reiteration: Israel will know God as their God.  Whereas other nations might recognize the Lord as the true God as they experience the outpouring of His wrath, the nation of Israel will recognize God as their God.  They will worship Him in spirit & truth, as during the Millennial Kingdom they worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ!

Whether chief ruler or chief demon – whether pagan nation or people of God – our God is sovereign!  He is not helpless over the happenings of men – He is not lazy when it comes to the workings of the world.  He is sovereign over all!

He works, and He sees – and not even Satan himself can stand in His way.

Our enemy is not to be pitied, but he is to be paid attention to – especially as an example.  Any one of us can fall into the same trap.  Just as Satan fell to pride, so can we.  Thankfully, as born-again believers, we do not face the same fate of forever falling away into hell – but we can open ourselves up to all kinds of sin, rebellion, and the resulting discipline of God.  Beware – and be humble.  Be mindful of any of us might become, given the opportunity.  Keep your eyes upon the Lord Jesus, and be sure to give Him the glory for all things, keeping none for yourself.

Let’s take the time to humble ourselves tonight, asking God to reveal to us our own hearts.  Maybe there is a stronghold of pride we have allowed to be built.  Maybe we’ve taken the credit for the things God alone has done.  Let’s humble ourselves & repent…

Let us also be thankful for His great love for us!  God knew the temptations and sins into which we would fall.  He knew the enemy that we would face.  And He had a plan put in motion before we were ever born!  We have much for which we can be grateful.  Just as God loved Israel, He loves us.  Just as God has a future for Israel, He has a future for you & me.

Faith Shows Itself

Posted: September 25, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 6:43-49, “Faith Shows Itself”
Some things are obvious – other things need to be revealed.  Drive down any street in suburbia & you’ll know who takes care of their yard & who doesn’t.  What you won’t see is who cares for his/her family.  That is something that is only revealed on a closer inspection – but it is something that eventually shows itself.

The same thing happens with faith.  Faith isn’t immediately obvious when glancing at someone, but at some point it will most certainly show itself.  We just need to know what evidence to look for.  We also need to know whom to look at in regards to the evidence.  As much as we tend to look at other people to examine their faith, the people we most need to look at are ourselves.  Jesus doesn’t so much to call us to be fruit-inspectors of the people sitting next to us, but He certainly calls us to examine our own fruit.  What is it that is coming out of MY life?  What does MY faith show about my foundation in Christ?

Keep our context in mind: Jesus has been teaching the Sermon on the Plain & is bringing things to a close.  Obviously Luke did not record for us everything that was said that day – if he did, this would be one of the shortest sermons in history. (To which many might cheer & tell the pastor to take notes! J)  But what Luke did record were most likely the high points.  Jesus turned cultural expectations upside down as He proclaimed those who suffered to be those who were truly blessed.  He exhorted His disciples to do to others the things they wanted done to themselves, rather than acting out in retribution.  He told His followers to be merciful, just as their heavenly Father is merciful.  That included both outward acts & inward motives.  Don’t just outwardly bless someone; do it from the heart.  Truly forgive them & withhold judgment & condemnation.  Deal with them in selfless mercy, even when they don’t deserve it, because that is exactly how Jesus deals with us.

That was the instruction; now it’s time for the application.  Like any good preacher, Jesus brings the point home.  He wants us to put these things to work – He wants our mercy to be seen.

Faith shows itself.  It shows itself on the outside, and as it does, it demonstrates what is already on the inside.  How do we see it?  Through self-examination.  This isn’t navel-gazing or some other kind of self-obsession.  This is a necessary self-diagnostic, helping us see what’s really there.  Jesus’ teaching helps us see a series of questions that will help us determine if our faith is showing itself.  And that’s important.  A faith that’s invisible is questionable at best.  If it’s invisible to others, we might have to wonder if it’s even there in the first place.  But if it’s real, it’s obvious.  Faith shows itself.

Luke 6:43–49

  • Evidence on the outside (43-45)

43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.

  • It is a simple enough statement, and Jesus is purposefully clear.  In the Greek, the “good” is that which is beautiful, fine, and desirable.  The “bad” is that which is rotten, decaying, or diseased.  Some peaches are so good that you can smell them as you approach.  Apples or oranges can just look delicious.  On the contrary, other fruit can look and smell downright terrible.  There is a fruit grown in southeast Asia called “durian,” which is not only covered with thorns, but is described by many as having the distinctive smell of raw sewage.  Some love the taste, while others say it tastes exactly as it smells – but nearly everyone agrees the odor is awful.  In Singapore, it’s actually illegal to carry a durian into a public building.  That’s one bad fruit! The durian would not have been found in 1st century Judea, but they had bad fruits of their own, just like we do.  Some fruits just naturally look more desirable than other fruits.  Some look delicious; others look diseased.
  • We’ve mentioned that between Luke’s Sermon on the Plain & Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, there are many overlaps as well as several key differences.  This is one of them.  Matthew also records Jesus referring to looking at fruit to know the difference between good & bad, but the context is what makes each of these teachings unique.  For the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus has been talking about personal demonstrations of mercy, and being careful to keep one’s heart & motive clean in order to avoid hypocrisy (something we’ll come back to in a moment).  In Matthew’s account, the context is in regards to false teaching.  Matthew 7:15–17, "(15) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (16) You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? (17) Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit."  False prophets are false teachers who produce bad fruit/bad doctrine.  Bad doctrine is diseased doctrine.  Thus false teaching creates diseased Christians.
    • Beware false teachers!  Just because a pastor has a church, a youtube channel, radio ministry, or TV show does not mean that he is a true teacher of God’s word.  Certain men or women teachers might be Christian celebrities, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t false prophets.  Keep in mind that this isn’t simply the difference between Christian traditions.  Good, Bible-believing Christians disagree on non-essential issues such as spiritual gifts, end-times, the order of salvation, etc.  The difference between good trees & bad trees (healthy doctrine/diseased doctrine) is the difference between leading someone to Christ or away from Him.  It’s the difference between reliance upon the grace of God or reliance upon ourselves.  Quite literally, that can mean the difference between spiritual life & death.
  • In regards to the Sermon on the Plain, the context is personal.  Specifically, it is in regards to hypocrisy as Jesus taught the need to remove the lumber from our own eye before we try to help our brother with the dust in his eye.  How does that relate to fruit inspection?  Simple: how we act with our brother shows us what’s in our own heart.  If I am more concerned about addressing your sin than my own, then I’ve got evidence of some bad fruit.  If a person is truly following Jesus as a disciple, he/she is going to demonstrate mercy and humility.  If he/she doesn’t, perhaps that brings up some good questions about what tree he/she has in the first place.
  • The striking thing here is that Jesus isn’t looking at the fruit on a case-by-case basis, but at the crop as a whole.  Good trees produce good fruit; bad trees produce bad fruit.  It’s not that the occasional rotten fruit doesn’t turn up from time to time – that’s possible with any crop.  If you buy strawberries or grapes in the store, inevitably there will be 1-2 rotten ones in the batch of all the good.  But as a whole, the fruit is good, wholesome, & tasty.  Thus what is it that is the overall description of our fruit?  Is it primarily good with an occasional bad – or mostly rotten with the occasional good?  That’s the point Jesus expands upon…

44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.

  • Each tree produces “its own fruit.”  Each plant produces something that is expected.  How can you tell?  By looking at it.  It ought to be obvious, just as it was in Jesus’ examples.  I’m a terrible gardener, but even I know not to expect to gather peaches from a patch of poison ivy.  We don’t reach into thorns expecting to bring back much of anything apart from a scraped-up hand. 
  • So here’s our first diagnostic question: What is your fruit?  Examine your heart and mind for a moment to look at the spiritual fruit that is there.  What kind of spiritual fruit is evident in your life?  Is there any spiritual fruit evident?  Let’s take a moment to examine this a bit.  The implication Jesus makes is that everyone has fruit of some kind – it’s just that some is good & some is bad, and the fruit is what we use to identify the tree (the foundation, the source), so we need to know what kind of fruit we’re looking for if we’re going to know whether or not the tree itself is good.  Thankfully, the Bible tells us what to look for in spiritual fruit: love.  Galatians 5:22–23, "(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."  It’s been often observed that “fruit” here is singular, so that it refers to one general idea, which Paul describes in 9 different aspects.  But it could all be summed up as love.  Of course, that fits in perfectly with what Jesus has been saying throughout the Sermon on the Plain.  Citizens of the kingdom of God are to act according to loving mercy: forgiving freely, giving abundantly, blessing those who curse us, etc.  This is basic Christian maturity.  This is following in the footsteps of our Master, doing the things that He Himself exampled for us & even has extended towards us.  He gave us mercy, so we give others mercy.  He loved us when we were His enemies, so we love our enemies.
    • So let’s break it down: do you forgive others?  Are you quick to extend mercy?  Do you believe the best about other people, even (and perhaps especially) your enemies?  Beyond mercy towards others, look at the fruit you have in spiritual practices (something which Jesus examines later in the passage).  How’s your prayer life?  Bible time?  When was the last time you shared the gospel?  These are all variations of our spiritual fruit.  These are all ways that our love for God and our love & mercy towards others becomes evident.
    • Why is it called “fruit”?  Because these are the things that Jesus produces within us.  This is how we can use it to identify the tree, because it shows whether or not we’ve been transformed by Jesus in the first place.  None of us are naturally merciful.  None of us initially want to forgive others who have genuinely hurt us.  None of us wants to do any of those other things – at least, not without the work of Jesus in our lives.  Left to our own sinful nature, we do the things that please us; not that seek to please God.  Apart from the transformation of the gospel, we are desperate dire self-absorbed sinners…that’s just who we are.  Thus the things we do apart from Jesus are fruits that come from that “tree.”  What we need is a re-planting!  And that’s what Jesus does.  He transforms us from the inside out, so now what comes out as fruit reflects the tree of His mercy.
  • Response: “Great!  I’m already a Christian, so I know that my tree is good.”  Praise God you’re a Christian, but that doesn’t get you off the hook from taking an honest look at your fruit.  Remember to whom Jesus was speaking: His disciples (6:20).  Those who believe Christ as our Savior and Lord still need to look at the fruit that comes out of our lives.  Think about it: if a fruit tree never produces good fruit, something’s wrong.  It’s not healthy.  Sure, there are some harvest years more productive than others, but eventually every tree produces something.  Or else, why keep it around?  Few farmers want unproductive trees in their groves or barren vines in their fields.  The whole reason to cultivate a plant is for the fruit.  God wants to cultivate you.  God wants you to produce fruit, because it is that fruit that will glorify Himself.  If there is no fruit in our lives, we have a problem.  At that point He might have to discipline us, perhaps take us back to our foundation – or He might have to shake a person to the point that he/she realizes that he/she never belonged to Jesus in the first place.  When Jesus taught later that He was the vine & we are the branches, He made the point of saying that branches that don’t bear fruit are taken away. (Jn 15:1-2)  There is no such thing as a “forever fruitless” Christian.  So take stock & honestly examine your fruit.  If you’ve received Jesus as your Lord & Savior, then there ought to be some evidence of Him in your life – especially in regards as to how you treat other people.

Jesus made the point one way, but like any good teacher, He knows that different people relate to different examples.  So He changes the illustration.  It’s not only a tree – it’s a treasury.  Part of the way we examine our fruit is by looking at our words.  Vs. 45…

45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

  • The word “treasure” is interesting in that we get our word “thesaurus” directly from the Greek.  (Think of a thesaurus as being a “treasury of words.”)  The original idea is that of a treasure box, storeroom, or any place where anything of value is kept.  To Jesus, this treasury is our heart.  Not the physical organ, obviously, but the heart of our being – our soul, mind, etc.  Who we are as individuals is a storehouse, and what is in that storehouse can be examined.  If it’s good, it brings forth good – if it’s evil, it brings forth evil.  Just like good trees bring forth good fruit & vice-versa.  The idea is that whatever is in the treasure is what can be taken out.  If we imagine a treasure chest filled with gold doubloons, we wouldn’t expect to discover fine china there (it’d be crushed).  Likewise, if you know your checking account has $100 in it, you can’t expect to withdraw $1000.  You can only pull out what’s already there. 
  • What does this mean in context?  If you want to bring up good things from the treasury of your heart, they need to be there in the first place.  You can’t give out what you haven’t got.  To this point, Jesus has repeatedly spoken of the need to show mercy, and that directly applies.  You can’t give it, if you haven’t received it.
    • Be careful not to take that the wrong way.  Jesus is not saying that a Christian has to first receive mercy from others before we can extend mercy to them. That goes against everything else Jesus has taught on this, especially in regards to the Golden Rule.  He told us to treat others as we want to be treated; not to treat them as they treated us. (And there’s a big difference!)  Many times (perhaps most times), we are the ones who need to take the initiative in showing mercy to others.  If we’re waiting on them to do it, we will likely wait a long time!  No – over & over again, Jesus has made the point that we are to act in mercy, regardless of what mercy we have received from others.  So that’s not where our deposit of mercy comes from.
    • Our deposit of mercy comes from Jesus.  If we haven’t experienced His mercy, we won’t have any to give out.  Only born-again Christians are able to extend Christian mercy & love to others.  Why?  Because we’re the only ones who have received it.  True, God has showered the entire world with His general mercy.  He gives breath to Christian & atheist alike.  He gives food & water to all kinds of people: Buddhist, Muslim, animist, etc.  But when it comes to the personal, sacrificial love of Christ, it has been offered to all, but it has only been received by Christians (by definition!).  That’s the kind of mercy we’re supposed to extend, because we’re supposed to do with it even with our enemies.  That’s impossible for people to do apart from the supernatural power of God.  Our hearts need to be transformed by God in order for them to be a good treasury of His grace.  Without that transformation, the only thing we have to offer is evil.
    • Have you been transformed by Jesus?  Have you received His love & forgiveness?  You can!
  • So with all of that in mind, what is coming out of your heart?  How do we see it?  Jesus said it would be evident through our words.  Our mouths speak forth the things that overflow in our hearts.  If the good things of God abundantly fill our hearts, then those things will spill over our lips.  However, if our hearts are filled with evil, hatred, malice, etc., then that is what we should expect to hear in our speech.
  • Let’s get personal, with our next diagnostic question: What are your words?  How is your speech?  Do you have a foul mouth or post obscenities online?  Do you find amusement in filthy jokes?  Keep in mind it isn’t just vocabulary.  A person can use the most genteel language and still be crass in his/her content.  Do you speak well of others, or engage in gossip?  Do you seek to build up, or tear down?  Do you speak with honest sincere compassion, or hypocritical condescension?  There’s more than one kind of evil that can escape our lips, and according to Jesus, that’s an accurate depiction of what is in our hearts.  James 3:8–12, "(8) But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (9) With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. (10) Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. (11) Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? (12) Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh."  The old children’s song says “sticks & stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  Wrong.  Words can & do hurt.  And they hurt the worst when those poisonous words come from people we love.  Be careful with your speech!  Words can inflict terrible damage – and when they do, it might indicate foundational problems in our relationship with the Lord.
  • So what happens if your mouth is evil?  Determine if that is the normal state of your heart, of it that’s simply what you’ve been feeding it.  The first part of that may sound harsh, but it’s necessary.  All Christians everywhere are told to examine our own hearts to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5), but we especially ought to do so if we’ve got foundational issues like this.  When our spiritual fruit is consistently bad – when our words are consistently evil, we have to take time to spiritually examine ourselves.  Better to do it now than to have it exposed on the Day of Judgment!  We’ve got to ask ourselves if we truly belong to Jesus, or if we’ve just put on a hypocritical show for others.  After all, a heart that has truly been transformed by the gospel is going to reveal that transformation in some way. – But that being done, born-again Christians can still fall into bad habits.  When we start taking in more & more of this evil culture, we can expect that the same evil will fill our hearts.  Remember the old nutritional adage: “You are what you eat”?  If you eat junk food non-stop, our bodies respond appropriately: like junk.  It’s no different with spiritual nutrition.  What are you taking in: junk, or Jesus?  Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."  Want to change what you pull out of your heart treasury?  Change what it is you deposit.
    • That all said, don’t get the impression that as long as your speech is good that you have an automatic indication of salvation.  Not at all!  Anyone can put on an outward show.  Even actors can read from a script.  Some people know all kinds of Christian language without at all knowing Christ.  Good speech is not an entryway into the kingdom.  It’s just the lack of it that demonstrates a danger.

So far, these are all external things that we see on the outside.  But what do they indicate about what is actually on the inside?  As Jesus wraps up the Sermon on the Plain, that is what is teaches in the final parable.

  • Evidence of the inside (46-49)

46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?

  • Technically, we don’t need to translate the beginning of this sentence with “but.”  That makes it sound like a contrast to what has come before, and that’s not really the case.  It could be translated as “and” or just left untranslated (as several other Bible translations do).  He’s spoken about fruit that is produced – about treasure that is brought forth & spoken – all of this is in regards to the application of everything He has taught.  This isn’t a contrast – this is a grand conclusion.  Think of it as the “so what” part.  So what does all of this mean?  It means that Jesus’ disciples do what Jesus said to do.  Jesus has said to demonstrate mercy, so do it.  Why call Him “Lord,” if you’re not going to act as His servant?  If you aren’t going to obey Him, why pretend as if you do?
  • That’s the key, isn’t it?  Our actions within our relationship.  What do you do, if indeed you know Jesus as Lord?  How have you put Jesus’ instructions into practice?  Again, much of it comes down to some tough self-examination.  Jesus goes into more detail about this in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 7:21–23, "(21) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"  That is some difficult truth!  God knows the difference between those who truly belong to Him & those who don’t.  People can fake their Christianity all day long with others.  They might even engage in some really amazing religious activity.  But if they don’t know Christ, and (most importantly) if they are not known by Jesus as one of His own, then all of that activity is wasted.  There will be untold numbers of people who stand before Jesus at the Judgment, and say “Lord, Lord, I gave my money to the church!  I volunteered at the soup kitchens!  I led Bible studies in small groups!”  All of those things are good things, but none of them save.  All of those things are great & Godly activities, but unless they are done within a relationship of knowing Jesus as Lord, then they have no eternal value for us.
  • Again, that’s the Sermon on the Mount.  In the Sermon on the Plain, the focus is a bit more on actions, but the general idea is the same.  We can call Jesus “Lord” until we’re blue in the face, but until we actually act upon what He says within that context of faith, our words have remained only that: words.  We need to get to work.  We need to put our faith into action.  In context with the rest of the Sermon, we need to make the choice to be merciful.  Chew on that for a moment.  Mercy is a choice.  Heartfelt Christian mercy is an act of obedience unto the Lord.  Too often, we treat mercy like an emotion.  If we feel like it, we’ll be merciful to others.  If the mood hits us, we’ll forgive.  If our heartstrings are pulled, we’ll demonstrate compassion.  That’s not at all what Jesus describes.  Throughout this sermon, Jesus has talked about intention & purpose.  Luke 6:27b–28, "(27) “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, (28) bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you."  Luke 6:36, "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful."  These are not passive commands.  These are not things we just sit back & let roll over us.  These are things we need to take the initiative to do.  We have to make the choice to be merciful, so make it!  What is it that you are doing?  That’s a good indication of what is going on, on the inside.
  • Jesus likens this to a foundation, vs. 47…

47 Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.

  • Once more, this final parable is in the Sermon on the Mount, though there are very few minor differences between them.  This seems to have been a common way for Jesus to wrap up His teaching, and it certainly gets the point across.  When it comes to application of Jesus’ message, we are left with two choices: do it, or don’t.  It’s pretty stark, but it’s also obvious.  No one is forced to put Jesus’ words into action.  We could easily sit through a church service & let the Scripture go in one ear & out the other.  We can read the Bible in such a way that our eyes look at every word, but we don’t pay attention to a single thing.  The only person who can make the choice to act is ourselves, but that is indeed a choice to be made.
  • Who is the person who listens & obeys?  He/she is a wise builder!  Back in 2004/2005 when we initially attempted to sell our home in Plano, we learned very quickly the cost & importance of a good foundation.  Our house (like many in north Texas) was built on a slab foundation resting on clay.  As the ground swelled & shrank depending on the water table, our house shifted with it & developed numerous problems.  The only way around it?  Dig deep.  In foundation repair, piers have to be driven deep into the ground, past the clay or other shifting soil, all the way to something solid.  In Jesus’ day, the people didn’t use piers, and this sort of post-construction repair was unfathomable.  They had to dig deep from the start.  Notice the emphasis in vs. 48 on the effort.  The man “dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.”  Before a lick of other construction could take place, he had to take the time to find the solid foundation.
  • What does that mean for us?  It means when we make the choice to be merciful, we are building on the foundation of Christ.  Typically when we talk about foundations, we talk about being built up on Christ – and that is indeed true.  He is our true Rock, the Chief Cornerstone of our faith, and everything we are as a Church is built upon Him.  But contextually speaking, Jesus is talking about obedience.  Our initial faith is an essential part of the equation (“Whoever comes to me… ”), but it’s not all of it.  The rest of it is found in what we do with Jesus & His teaching (“…and hears My sayings and does them.”).  We have to put our faith into practice – we have to make to be merciful.  Once we receive the mercy of Jesus, we make the purposeful choice to extend it to others.  It’s at that point that the rest of our house is solid.  The person who tries to do Christian things without knowing Jesus has nothing undergirding it.  But likewise for the person who perhaps knows Jesus (or at least claims to know Jesus), but doesn’t put His teachings into practice.  That is a person that attempts to build without a foundation.  We need both.
  • What happens when we have both?  The house can withstand the flood.  In Matthew, the house is described as undergoing violent storms & winds; here no storm is mentioned but it’s certainly implied.  Rains don’t have to currently fall in order for floodwaters to rise – as those in south Texas & Louisiana were recently reminded.  Long after the storms have passed, the floods can grow higher & cause tremendous damage.  Homes with a strong foundation might need some major repair, but they at least remain standing.  Trials are bound to come.  Our Christianity does not exempt us from the storms of life or guarantee us safety away from suffering.  What our faith does is to protect us in the midst of those storms, as we remember we have safety in Christ Jesus.  So we want our home to be solidly built!  Shaky foundations don’t help in times of trial.  Vs. 49…

49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”

  • The idea here is one of total collapse.  Jesus doesn’t describe peaceful rising waters (as ruinous as they might still be); He speaks of a torrential river crashing against a home.  We might imagine the storm surge that accompanies some hurricanes, or tragedies like the 2004 tsunami off of Indonesia.  He describes a massive flow of water sure to wipe out any weakly-built home.  The result?  Total ruin – collapse.  Not a bad day, or an inconvenience; total devastation.
  • Why?  For lack of a foundation.  Contextually speaking, for hearing the words of Jesus & doing nothing with them.  Again, there are two parts: (1) knowing Jesus, (2) obeying Jesus.  It would have been easy for Jesus to describe this parable in terms of those who did or did not make a confession of faith, i.e. simple assent to the truth of the gospel.  But He didn’t do that.  He tied faith in with obedience.  There was the man who came to Jesus, heard, and obeyed – and the man “who heard and did nothing.”  We have to do something with our faith.  If it’s true faith, it’ll be put into action – it’ll show itself.  James puts it memorably: James 2:17–18, "(17) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (18) But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
    • Keep in mind that none of this does away with the need for faith.  The Bible is clear that we are saved by grace, through faith, not by works, so that none can boast (Eph 2:8-9).  We cannot earn our way into heaven, no matter how many good works we attempt to do.  But the faith that we have is going to be visible.  It is going to show itself through our spiritual fruit, through our words, and through our actions.  That kind of faith demonstrates a solid foundation.  That kind of faith demonstrates a life truly transformed by the Lord Jesus.

True faith is visible.  True faith shows itself, and it is seen through the choice to be merciful.  Christian, take the time to examine yourself.  Ask yourself the difficult questions, and be honest.

  • What is your fruit?  Everyone has fruit of some kind.  What’s yours: good or bad?  Desirable or diseased?  Does it reflect the love of God, or the selfishness of the world?
  • How is your speech?  What are the words that overflow from the treasury of your heart?  Are they crude and callous, or Christ-centered?  Remember vocabulary is just part of the whole – it is the content that needs to be examined.
  • What are you doing?  How are you putting the words of Jesus into action?  If you’ve come to Jesus & have known Him through faith, what are you doing with what He’s said?  Are you acting out in the same mercy that you have received?  Are you truly willing to forgive others, or is that just the “Sunday School” answer you know you’re supposed to give?  Be honest!

All of that comes together to ask this: what does it reveal about your foundation?  Do you have the foundation of Christ?  Do you truly know Him as your Lord, or is that merely a title you use?  Here in the Bible Belt, there are all kinds of people who use the title, without ever knowing the Person.  Perhaps they prayed a sinner’s prayer years ago, but their lives show zero transformation that would come from a personal encounter with the Son of God.  They may say “Lord, Lord,” & even show up in church on Sundays, but they don’t know Jesus & He doesn’t know them as His own.

If that’s you, don’t wait until it’s too late to discover it!  Far better to examine your faith now, and deal with a previous false conversion than to let stubborn pride keep you from the kingdom of God.  As long as your heart is convicted of the truth, you still have the opportunity to do something about it.  That conviction is the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and you need to respond to Him.  Put your faith & trust in Jesus, and ask Him for His help and power in truly following Him as your Lord & King.

For others, you might know that you are indeed a Christian, but there’s no doubt you’ve let in too much of the world.  The evidence flowing from your life reflects too little Jesus & too much of the person you used to be.  Make the choice to make a change.  Surrender yourself anew to the Lord Jesus, asking for Him to remind you of the extent of His love & mercy.  The more we are overwhelmed with the love of Jesus, the more we cannot help but act upon it.  Ask Him to break your heart where it needs to be broken, and to give you the grace to extend mercy to those who least deserve it.  Then take a step of faith.  Make the choice to be obedient.  Choose to forgive – choose to be humble – choose to be merciful.  And then make that choice again & again.  That’s when the fruit of Christ will come pouring out of your life, and it will be evident not only to you, but also to the world around us.

Time to Flatten Tyre

Posted: September 22, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 26-27, “Time to Flatten Tyre”

Never say never.  There are some things we believe can never happen, and the moment we become absolutely firm in our certainty seems to usually become the moment we are proven wrong.  By & large, Americans believed that we could never be attacked on our own soil, until Pearl Harbor occurred.  We believed it again, and then experienced 9/11.  Britons who once experienced a time when the sun never set on its empire eventually found the United Kingdom shrinking dramatically, with a vastly reduced influence in the world.  Never say never, because eventually the “never” arrives.

Such was the case with the ancient city of Tyre.  Today we think very little of Tyre, perhaps knowing it from David’s  & Solomon’s interaction with the city in regards to building the Jerusalem temple.  When we think of ancient cities of influence, we most likely remember places like Babylon, Alexandria, or Rome, etc.  Within that list ought to be the ancient city of Tyre.  It had wealth and influence that was unrivaled at one point, and yet is no more.  Those who thought that Tyre would never fade found the “never” coming to pass.

What happened?  In short, they boasted against Jerusalem.  They rejoiced in Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon, and that did not go unnoticed by the Lord.  He acted in defense of His people, and when God acts, things happen.  The Bible makes it clear that God resists the proud, while He gives grace to the humble.  Tyre is a supreme case example of what happens to those who are proud: they get flattened by the righteous judgment of God.

Remember the context: Ezekiel had received numerous prophecies from God regarding his own people of the Jews.  God knew their sins, detailed them out (particularly that of idolatry), and declared His coming judgment upon them.  By the time Ch. 24 began, Babylon had begun its final siege against Jerusalem, and the people would feel the heat of His wrath.  Yet just because God was judging Judah didn’t mean that He ignored the sins of other nations – particularly those nations that surrounded Judah and gloated over their downfall.  Four of those neighboring nations were addressed in Ch. 25, but God takes an extended look at Tyre starting in Ch. 26.

Ezekiel 26 – The Proclamation
1 And it came to pass in the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, ‘Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.’

  • Although Ezekiel gives us a bit of a timeframe here, it’s not nearly as specific as what was given in 24:1.  The last timestamp showed the prophecy given on the precise starting date of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem – this one is a bit more vague.  It seems to be the following year, and although it came on the first day of the month, Ezekiel never identifies which month it was.  Considering Jerusalem fell in July of 586BC, perhaps it was the first day of the month following the conquest.
  • Whenever it was, that’s when God’s attention turned to the city-state of Tyre.  Tyre was a city-state north of Israel on the Mediterranean coast (within modern-day Lebanon).  It was comprised of two basic cities: one on the mainland itself, and another on an island about a ½ mile from shore.  It was there a fortress was built, and over time, a permanent bridge was built connecting the two.  Today it basically appears as a small peninsula jutting out from the Lebanese coastland.  It was inhabited by seafaring people, and that turned Tyre into commercial giant.  Although it didn’t rule over massive empires the size of Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon, it did become extremely powerful & colonized many areas in the ancient world.  By some accounts, it was the most important of all the cities in Phoenicia, and there was virtually no corner of the ancient world surrounding the Mediterranean where Tyre did not have commercial relations.
  • What happened?  As earlier generations might say, “they got too big for their britches.” Although they already had plenty of wealth, Tyre gloated over Jerusalem’s fall, believing that Jerusalem’s trial would turn to Tyre’s benefit.  They didn’t see the suffering of their former trade partners; they saw a new business opportunity.  If Jerusalem suffered, all the better for them – after all, there was profit to be made.  Although they worshipped other gods, the true God took notice, and He took action.
  • As was seen in Ch. 25, this goes back to the ancient covenant God made with Abraham: Genesis 12:2–3, "(2) I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."  If Tyre had blessed Israel, mourned over her & prayed for her, no doubt the response of God would have been vastly different.  As it was, Tyre rejoiced over Jerusalem’s brokenness, and God would act in response.
    • It behooves nations to bless Israel!  Just yesterday at his farewell address to the United Nations, President Obama said regarding the warfare between Israel and its enemies that the conflict is basically inevitable until “Israel recognizes it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.”  Regardless where you stand politically, this statement is absolutely unbiblical.  The land was given by God to Israel, and to dismiss Israel from her right to defend herself is to invite upon our nation the judgment of God.  The United States has historically been Israel’s greatest ally – it would do us well do be an ally once again.
  • Message #1 (3-6)

3 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. 4 And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. 5 It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ says the Lord GOD; ‘it shall become plunder for the nations. 6 Also her daughter villages which are in the fields shall be slain by the sword. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.’

  • Tyre was against Jerusalem; now God is against Tyre.  He promised to act, and to act violently.  There are two basic pictures here.  The first is that of drowning in the waves.  Waves coming up over an island city is pretty descriptive & frightening – but that is how God describes the nations that will attack it.  The other picture is that of dust-scraping & being that of being “like the top of a rock,” which would be recognized by a fishing community as something that is only useful for drying nets.  What makes that significant for Tyre is that the word “Tyre” (צֹר ) also means flint, rock, or pebble.  The city that once considered itself so strong would be scraped barren, and left as nothing.  All of her prosperity would be stripped away – all of her “daughter villages” (colonies) would be conquered.  Everything mighty about this city of Tyre would be lost.
  • The result?  The same as God so often said of Israel regarding His judgment: “Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”  This would be a witness unto God.
  • Message #2 (7-14)

7 “For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people. 8 He will slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, and raise a defense against you. 9 He will direct his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers.

  • God so aptly prophesies the siege that was to come from Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  Remember that Babylon did not conquer only Jerusalem – it conquered almost the entirety of the Middle East!  In regards to Tyre, history tells us that Nebuchadnezzar engaged in a 13 year long siege of the city, which ended in Tyre’s surrender, basically becoming a vassal state to Babylon.
  • Biblically, what we see is God’s incredible omniscience at work.  Ezekiel most likely wrote this just shortly after the end of Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem, and already he is able to write with astounding accuracy concerning the (then) future siege of Tyre.  God knows the beginning & the end, and His predictions always come true to the letter!
  • That said, God’s predictions don’t always come true in the way we might expect.  God goes on with the prophecy of Tyre’s fall, but there is a minor change which might imply a major difference.  Vs. 10…

10 Because of the abundance of his horses, their dust will cover you; your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen, the wagons, and the chariots, when he enters your gates, as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 With the hooves of his horses he will trample all your streets; he will slay your people by the sword, and your strong pillars will fall to the ground. 12 They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water.

  • Did you notice the change in the 3rd person of the entity that conquered Tyre?  In vss. 7-9, it is “he,” i.e., Nebuchadnezzar.  In vss. 10-12, it is “they” – 3rd person plural.  Although we cannot draw a hard & fast line here (the 3rd person singular is used as well: “he enters your gates…he will trample…he will slay”), it does introduce the possibility of a change in person.  Historically speaking, that would fit extremely well.  How so?  Although Nebuchadnezzar did defeat Tyre, he did not utterly destroy it.  They entered into an agreement with Tyre being a servant of Babylon.  However, in 332BC, Alexander the Great did destroy Tyre, coming against it so hard that the language in vss. 10-12 fits perfectly.
    • When looking at Bible prophecy, it’s important to keep in mind near & future fulfillment, which is sometimes illustrated as “the mountain peaks of prophecy.”  When looking at a mountain range from a distance, all the peaks look close together although the reality may have them separated by many miles each.  A similar thing can happen in Bible prophecy.  Several future events might be described in one prophetic statement – all looking to be close together from the viewpoint of the prophet, but separated by many years in the viewpoint of history.
  • Even if this is a reference to only Babylon, it could still be explained by the loss of Tyre’s influence and prosperity.  Either way, the description is that of the people of the city being completely overwhelmed & overrun.  What would be the result?  Tyre would fall – it would come to the harshest of ends.  Vs. 13…

13 I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more. 14 I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt, for I the LORD have spoken,’ says the Lord GOD.

  • God reiterates their destruction, again describing them as being scraped bare.  He also prophesies that the city would never again “be rebuilt.”  Objection: “How can this be true?  There was a city of Tyre in the days of Jesus (Mt 15:21), and there is a city of Tyre today!”  True.  So God was wrong?  False.  The empire was gone – the influence was gone – and more importantly, the original city was never rebuilt.  Yes, there is a city in the same area bearing the same name, but the city that was destroyed was left in ruins, and it can be seen to this day.  The modern city might be in the background, but the foundations of the original city were left barren – exactly as the Lord God proclaimed.
  • Again, God’s promises might not come true in the ways we initially expect, but they always come true.  God always keeps His word, without exception.
  • Message #3 (15-18)

15 “Thus says the Lord GOD to Tyre: ‘Will the coastlands not shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded cry, when slaughter is made in the midst of you? 16 Then all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, lay aside their robes, and take off their embroidered garments; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be astonished at you. 17 And they will take up a lamentation for you, and say to you: “How you have perished, O one inhabited by seafaring men, O renowned city, Who was strong at sea, She and her inhabitants, Who caused their terror to be on all her inhabitants! 18 Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall; Yes, the coastlands by the sea are troubled at your departure.” ’

  • Everyone will notices the fall of Tyre & be astonished.  The fallen city will serve as an example to the nations of what happens to a people who curse the people of God.  This is a theme that will be repeated in the next chapter.
  • What makes this so bad?  Why would the nations tremble in this way?  Because if it could happen to Tyre, it could happen to any of them.  If Tyre could fall, any nation could fall.
  • Message #4 (19-21)

19 “For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘When I make you a desolate city, like cities that are not inhabited, when I bring the deep upon you, and great waters cover you, 20 then I will bring you down with those who descend into the Pit, to the people of old, and I will make you dwell in the lowest part of the earth, in places desolate from antiquity, with those who go down to the Pit, so that you may never be inhabited; and I shall establish glory in the land of the living. 21 I will make you a terror, and you shall be no more; though you are sought for, you will never be found again,’ says the Lord GOD.”

  • The picture here is frightening – especially to a nation that was as seafaring as that of Tyre.  Not only did God promise to personally come against the city in violence (emphasizing that this was God’s work; not Babylon’s), but the idea is that God would drown the island city, dragging them into the Mediterranean Sea & ultimately down to Hell. …
  • Is it violent? Yes.  Terrifying?  Without question.  Does it glorify God?  Without a doubt, yes.  The destruction of Tyre will be used by God to “establish glory in the land of the living.”  Tyre’s destruction will glorify God.  Although we tremble to think upon it, it is true.  God is glorified in His judgment.  God is glorified in His wrath.  How else would His wrath be satisfied, unless He is glorified in it?  When we praise God for the cross of Jesus, are we not acknowledging that God is glorified in His wrath?  After all, it was His wrath He poured out on Jesus, for our sake.  He was because Jesus suffered and died that you & I can be forgiven.  And that glorifies God!  Everything God does serves to give Him glory, and that surely includes His judgment of those who have sinned against Him & end up going to hell because of their refusal to receive Christ.  God is glorified, even in that.
    • That’s not to say we take joy in the concept & reality of Hell – but we can certainly rejoice in God’s ultimate justice.  We can praise Him for His perfect purity & righteousness.  We can thank Him that all sin will one day find its answer.  And most personally, we can thank Him that for us, the answer has already been given in Christ Jesus!  If Jesus had not glorified God by suffering His wrath, none of us would be saved.

Ezekiel 27 – The Lamentation
1 The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, 2 “Now, son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyre, 3 and say to Tyre, ‘You who are situated at the entrance of the sea, merchant of the peoples on many coastlands, thus says the Lord GOD: “O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty.’

  • Question: “Why sing a song of lamentation?  Isn’t God glorified in Tyre’s destruction?”  Absolutely He is.  But that doesn’t mean He enjoyed doling out their punishment.  They had to be punished, but it would have been so much better to see them forgiven!  In regards to Israel, Ezekiel 18:23, "Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?"  What God desired with Israel, He desires for the whole world.  As Peter writes, God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pt 3:9)  God is glorified in the outpouring of His justice, but He is also glorified in the outpouring of His love.  He would have rather seen Tyre repent & be saved.  (Just like for any of us!)  But because they weren’t willing to do so, they would be punished.  And for that, God had Ezekiel lift up a song of lament for them.
  • Structurally, there’s a song – a break – and a song again.  There is a poetic picture of a beautiful ship – a break where the symbolism ceases and God describes the commercial success of Tyre among the nations – and finally a renewal of the song where the ship is seen sinking.  There are a multitude of cities and regions listed, underscoring how vast the influence of Tyre was.  There isn’t a corner of the ancient world where they were not known.  Although the contexts surrounding those cities can be rather vague to the modern reader, they were certainly known to Ezekiel’s original audience.  It was Who’s Who of the ancient world, and it showed how big of a player Tyre actually was. 
  • The lament begins with Tyre’s boasting.  They had built themselves up in pride (no one more so than their king, and that’s the subject of Ch. 28).  Instead of humbling themselves before God as the ultimate Beautiful One, they saw themselves as beautiful, and did everything they could to build up their own prosperity and reputation.  In the end, all of it would come to nothing.
  • The Ship (4 – 11)

4 Your borders are in the midst of the seas. Your builders have perfected your beauty. 5 They made all your planks of fir trees from Senir; They took a cedar from Lebanon to make you a mast. 6 Of oaks from Bashan they made your oars; The company of Ashurites have inlaid your planks With ivory from the coasts of Cyprus. 7 Fine embroidered linen from Egypt was what you spread for your sail; Blue and purple from the coasts of Elishah was what covered you.

  • Senir is perhaps another name for Mount Hermon, which itself was in the region of Bashan in Lebanon.  From there came the timber.  The beautification of the lumber (the inlay) was performed by men from the heart of the Babylonian empire (the Ashurites), and the ivory they used was imported from Cyprus.  Their sails were made from the finest of Egyptian linens & expensive dyed fabrics came from Elishah/Cyprus as well.  The whole idea is the best of the best.  Like the common refrain in “Jurassic Park,” “they spared no expense” in the symbolic ship of Tyre.  It was beautiful vessel almost beyond compare.
  • But it wasn’t just pretty to look at – it actually worked.  Vs. 8…

8 “Inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were your oarsmen; Your wise men, O Tyre, were in you; They became your pilots. 9 Elders of Gebal and its wise men Were in you to caulk your seams; All the ships of the sea And their oarsmen were in you To market your merchandise.

  • This was a seaworthy ship!  Those who propelled them forward came from cities in the surrounding region, while those in Tyre herself guided the vessel.  Others from Lebanon ensured the seaworthiness of the vessel, caulking it well & doing whatever maintenance was required along the way.  Everything they needed to go forth & sell their wares, they had.  Nothing stopped them from acquiring incredible wealth.
  • They were even protected along the way.  Vs. 10…

10 “Those from Persia, Lydia, and Libya Were in your army as men of war; They hung shield and helmet in you; They gave splendor to you. 11 Men of Arvad with your army were on your walls all around, And the men of Gammad were in your towers; They hung their shields on your walls all around; They made your beauty perfect.

  • Their soldiers were the best that money could buy, as they hired mercenaries from the furthest reaches of the world.  But they weren’t all far-off strangers – some came from nearby Syria as well. 
  • The whole idea is Tyre was protected by men of every nation – yet even then it wasn’t enough.  No matter who came to the defense of Tyre, they were not enough to stand against the will of God.  The city may have been beautiful, wealthy, prosperous, and powerful – but is wasn’t powerful enough to take on God and prevail.

At this point, the symbolism takes a break & the bare facts begin.  This almost reads like an entry out of a financial encyclopedia.  If someone wanted to know what economic partnerships Tyre had, all they needed to do was to look here.  Their fingers were all over the world in all kinds of merchandise.  If it seems a bit overwhelming as we look at it, that’s because it is probably intended to be that way.  God wanted Ezekiel’s readers to know exactly who this economic powerhouse was that He took down, and it just serves to remind us of how great our God actually is, in that He could do it.

  • The Commercial Center (12-24)

12 “Tarshish was your merchant because of your many luxury goods. They gave you silver, iron, tin, and lead for your goods. 13 Javan, Tubal, and Meshech were your traders. They bartered human lives and vessels of bronze for your merchandise. 14 Those from the house of Togarmah traded for your wares with horses, steeds, and mules.

  • One thing that becomes plain is that Tyre traded in the best of the best.  They seemed to deal primarily in “luxury goods,” although they were wealthy in raw materials as well (i.e. “iron, tin, and lead”).  Whatever you could imagine, it was for sale – be it livestock or “human lives.
    • This is not an affirmation of slavery; it’s just an acknowledgement of it.  Slavery was wrong then just as it is today, and it is sadly far too common around the world & here in the US as well in the form of human sex trafficking.

15 The men of Dedan were your traders; many isles were the market of your hand. They brought you ivory tusks and ebony as payment. 16 Syria was your merchant because of the abundance of goods you made. They gave you for your wares emeralds, purple, embroidery, fine linen, corals, and rubies.

  • Emphasizes the wealth and exotic payments that Tyre received.  Be it jewels or ivory, if it had value, it could be traded.

17 Judah and the land of Israel were your traders. They traded for your merchandise wheat of Minnith, millet, honey, oil, and balm.

  • Please note the inclusion of Judah and Israel among Tyre’s trading partners.  They had a history that stretched back many generations (back to David & Solomon), and although their relationship had their ups & downs, they still maintained some form of trade through it all.  One would think that Tyre would have grieved Jerusalem’s fall simply due to the loss of a customer!  Yet even that didn’t matter.  They showed no regard for the fall of the Jews, and that made their boast all the more callous.

18 Damascus was your merchant because of the abundance of goods you made, because of your many luxury items, with the wine of Helbon and with white wool. 19 Dan and Javan paid for your wares, traversing back and forth. Wrought iron, cassia, and cane were among your merchandise.

  • Again, more variety of merchandise is seen.  Everything from wine to iron to perfume and more – all of it for sale in Tyre.
  • How far did their customer base extend?  Even into Arabia in the south.  Vs. 20…

20 Dedan was your merchant in saddlecloths for riding. 21 Arabia and all the princes of Kedar were your regular merchants. They traded with you in lambs, rams, and goats. 22 The merchants of Sheba and Raamah were your merchants. They traded for your wares the choicest spices, all kinds of precious stones, and gold. 23 Haran, Canneh, Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Assyria, and Chilmad were your merchants. 24 These were your merchants in choice items—in purple clothes, in embroidered garments, in chests of multicolored apparel, in sturdy woven cords, which were in your marketplace.

  • After reading a list like that, there can be little doubt that Tyre was rich – influential – powerful!  It was an incredibly important city in its day.  Surely a city like that would last forever!  Wrong.  It may have had everything going for it, but it lacked one important ingredient: reverent fear of the one true God, along with any respect for His people.  Thus God acted against them, and when He brought them down, He brought them down hard.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking any nation is too big to be brought down by the Lord – not even ours!  If God was willing to judge His own covenant people, how can any nation on earth think they are exempt from the judgment of God?  It doesn’t matter what kind of military might or materialistic wealth a nation has – none of it can stand against His almighty will.  The United States might be the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but any nation can be brought to its knees.  Tyre was – so can we be.

The fall of Tyre is what is described next as God returns Ezekiel to the song of lamentation…

  • The Shipwreck (25-36)

25 “The ships of Tarshish were carriers of your merchandise. You were filled and very glorious in the midst of the seas. 26 Your oarsmen brought you into many waters, But the east wind broke you in the midst of the seas.

  • As already seen, Tyre had everything that they needed.  Their ship of state was beautiful, strong, and already on the move.  But then they were broken.  They ran into the one thing they couldn’t control: the weather.  They were broken by “the east wind.”  And who is it that controls the wind?  Almighty God.  As He promised in 26:19, He Himself would bring the deep waters upon them.  He brought the storm that would drown them & send them to the pit.  God would break them.
  • It’s been often observed that we can either be molded by God or broken by Him.  In terms of a clay pot, we can remain soft in His hands, or else when we are hard He will break us when necessary.  In terms of a ship, we can either be directed by God or overwhelmed by God.  Tyre chose the latter.  At any point they could have humbled themselves before the Lord in repentance – instead they chose to go it alone, and they failed. 

27 “Your riches, wares, and merchandise, Your mariners and pilots, Your caulkers and merchandisers, All your men of war who are in you, And the entire company which is in your midst, Will fall into the midst of the seas on the day of your ruin. 28 The common-land will shake at the sound of the cry of your pilots.

  • Everything was lost.  In terms of the song, every item on board the ship & every sailor was lost at sea.  In terms of history, all of the power, riches, and influence of Tyre was gone.  It was all taken away, and the world bore witness to the fact. 

29 “All who handle the oar, The mariners, All the pilots of the sea Will come down from their ships and stand on the shore. 30 They will make their voice heard because of you; They will cry bitterly and cast dust on their heads; They will roll about in ashes; 31 They will shave themselves completely bald because of you, Gird themselves with sackcloth, And weep for you With bitterness of heart and bitter wailing. 32 In their wailing for you They will take up a lamentation, And lament for you: ‘What city is like Tyre, Destroyed in the midst of the sea?

  • Imagine how fast the news of Tyre’s fate spread.  The picture is of all the people still on shore came out to the coast to mourn the sunken ship.  Their own prosperity was wrapped up in Tyre – it was their own place of market, and they would feel the financial effects as well.  They wept not only for Tyre, but for what they themselves had lost.  They didn’t care about the injustice that took place because of Tyre; they just cared about the benefits they would have received through Tyre.  Thus they mourned.
  • Interestingly, there is another Biblical (and prophetic) event in which the nations of the world gather to mourn the destruction of a city that was financially important to them: the fall of future Babylon near the end of the Great Tribulation.  In fact, it is described in much of the same kind of terminology: Revelation 18:15–19, "(15) The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, (16) and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! (17) For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance (18) and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’ (19) “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’"  Is Tyre the same thing as future-Babylon?  No.  But does one prefigure the other?  Perhaps.  It just goes to show that the world doesn’t change.  It has & will always care more about itself than the righteousness of God.  Tyre boasted against God’s people; future Babylon will persecute them.  What does the world mourn?  Its loss of stuff – its loss of wealth.
    • Thankfully during the days of the Great Tribulation, we will be with the Lord Jesus, having been taken by Him in the rapture.  That said, we can still find ourselves getting caught up with the temptations of Babylon today.  Be careful!  Keep your priorities in perspective.  Love God & love others – seek first His kingdom, and then let Him provide for you everything else you need.  Be careful about getting sucked up into materialism & riches.  Every bit of it will eventually come to an end.

33 ‘When your wares went out by sea, You satisfied many people; You enriched the kings of the earth With your many luxury goods and your merchandise. 34 But you are broken by the seas in the depths of the waters; Your merchandise and the entire company will fall in your midst.

  • There’s a dramatic contrast here.  In 26:2 God knew how Tyre had boasted that Jerusalem “was broken” – now the same word is used of them.  They were the broken ones.  No longer was it possible for Tyre to satisfy others – they themselves would remain unsatisfied & broken.  They were sunken & brought down to the depths.  And everyone knew it…

35 All the inhabitants of the isles will be astonished at you; Their kings will be greatly afraid, And their countenance will be troubled. 36 The merchants among the peoples will hiss at you; You will become a horror, and be no more forever.’ ” ’ ”

  • Why would the nations tremble?  Again, because Tyre was an example.  If Tyre could be brought down & broken, any of them could.  None were exempt.  And none ever will be.

Tyre had boasted; they would be broken.  They had it all; soon they would have nothing.  No nation, not even Tyre was “too big to fail.”  Any nation could be cut down to pieces by God & reduced to nothing, and Tyre serves as case example #1.  It didn’t matter how much wealth and influence they carried in the world – it was nothing in comparison with God.

Tyre was rich in gold, but they were poor in mercy.  They ought to have looked upon Jerusalem with compassion, but instead they gloated in themselves and let their greed shine forth.  May we heed their warning & take it to heart!  Thankfully, as Christians we are God’s own people & not Tyre – Jesus already took the wrath of God in our place, so that we will never experience it for ourselves.  Yet we live in a culture & nation that is very similar to Tyre in many ways.  Tyre was once a staunch ally of Israel, but it didn’t last forever…and neither did God’s blessing upon them.  Our own nation needs to be careful not to make a similar mistake!

That said, what else can a Christian see from this?

  • We see the love of God for His people.  Sure, God needed to discipline the Jews, but that didn’t give the rest of the world the right to gloat over them.  He loves His people & He is jealous for them, & He rose in their defense.  We can trust God to do the same with us.  He loves us & will defend us.  Of that, we can be sure.
  • We see the certainty of the judgment of God.  We have been forgiven because of our faith in Jesus Christ, but not everyone has faith.  One day they will face a judgment of their own, and it will be terrifyingly thorough.  God does not want them to perish, but apart from their repentance, they will.  So let us be the ones to warn them!  Now is our opportunity to tell them the gospel so that they may be saved, so let us take it!
  • We see God’s sovereign control over the world.  He is our God, but He is not limited to one group of people.  God is sovereign over every nation of the world – even those that reject Him.  No matter what we see going on in our culture (and new tragedies fill the headlines every single day), we can trust that God is still on His throne.  He is working His will, and He has an answer for every injustice that takes place.