Neither Side

Neither Side

“Then Jesus went throughout all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” –Matthew 9:35-36, NET

We should see wicked behavior and cry out against it (ex: Mark 6:18; Acts 26:20), especially when the LORD implores us to speak (ex: Jonah 1:2). We should disciple all men to obey all that Christ commanded (Mat 28:20). But if we join in the fight to uphold culture morality by legislation, then we have forgotten that is by the power of grace alone to rewrite the condition of our hearts (Jer 17:1; 31:33). Merely having the law will not reshape men to obey, but bring about only further judgment (Rom 2:17-23). We end up actively struggling against the God who is tearing down religious façades that keeps men from seeing the destructive outworking of wicked hearts.

Our heart must be moved more by the spiritual condition of the lost—for they are “like sheep without a shepherd,” (Mat 9:36). We know the good Shepherd they desperately need (John 10:14), so we must devise ways to restore the banished (2Sa 14:14). If all we do is provide clean water to “all who are thirsty” (Isa 55:1) yet fail to let them taste the “living water” of Christ Jesus, their thirst will never be quenched (John 4:10,14). If we give the hungry “something to eat” (Mat 14:16) yet fail to bring them the “Bread of life” (John 6:35), we are only numbing starvation pains. If we provide healthcare to the world yet do not make Jesus our chief physician, we are only providing pills to mask symptoms and leaving people to perish from their cancer of sin (Mark 2:17).

How can we love our neighbor if we only give him financial relief but fail to tell them about the One who paid all of our debts (1Jo 2:2; Rev 1:5)? How can we really be educating the children if we instruct them in science and literature but fail to tell them about the Author of life (Act 3:15) who holds all things together (Col 1:17), and avoid teaching them to fear God—the foundation of understanding (Deu 11:19; Psa 34:11; Pro 9:10; Hos 6:6)? What good will our efforts be in helping bring about peace and unity among people groups if they all end up marching into hell together (Gen 11:1-4; Psa 2:2-6; Rev 19:19-21)? Without Jesus, all things are meaningless (Ecc 12:8; Col 1:16-20).

Let us see their true need as we minister to the “needs” they feel.

Billy Neal

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Marked

Marked

Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, “Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.” And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar.

Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”

To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple. — Ezekiel 9:1-6, NKJV

Men, Ezekiel is still deep within a vision with the Lord, who has shown Ezekiel how great Israel’s sins have become, even desecrating the temple of God with idols, images of idols and worship to false deities. While in the vision the Lord calls out for the angelic entities who are responsible for overseeing Jerusalem, “Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.” At the Lord’s command, 6 men came, each with his battle-ax. 1 man had an ink-horn in addition. To the one with the ink-horn, the Lord gave instruction to go throughout the whole city and mark each person who took issue with the abominations happening within Jerusalem.

In the next group of passages, the remaining angels will be given orders to spare only those marked. The Lord takes great care to preserve those who had not fully conceded to the worship of lesser entities and objects. The Lord instructs that this marking process begin at the temple, recognizing where the greatest problem is first and sends the angels out from that point. There will be no mercy afforded to any without the mark regardless of gender, age, or position.

We get an understanding here, that what will happen in the physical realm, begins from the unseen spiritual realm. What do we ourselves look like to angelic entities who survey our towns? We know these figures exist, what do they see? We cry out over injustice and fraud from our elected officials, do we cry out for the injustices and false worship against the Lord our God? We dress in team colors and body paint to worship in sports arenas, but struggle to acknowledge the Lord publicly. We invite filth into our homes and think no one else sees or cares. While we’re distracted by issues of the day, are we being marked preceding the judgment of the end of days?

Move forward men, conscious of what is seen of us from outside our life. Live clearly defined as a believer in Christ alone who is worthy.

Vance Durrance

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Descrating the Temple

And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. Then I looked, and there was a likeness, like the appearance of fire—from the appearance of His waist and downward, fire; and from His waist and upward, like the appearance of brightness, like the color of amber. He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my hair; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, lift your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance.

Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.” — Ezekiel 8:1-6

Men, in just over a year, Ezekiel has completed the 430 day event of lying on his side. Now the elders of Israel are sitting in front of Ezekiel inside his home when “the hand of the Lord God fell on” him. Like the first vision, Ezekiel sees the form of a man in the appearance of fire from the waist down and the appearance of amber brightness there upward. The Lord stretched out His hand and took Ezekiel between the earth and heaven to show him Jerusalem, into the door of the north gate of the inner court. There, inside the gate of the inner court an idol had been erected which provoked the Lord to jealousy.

Many scholars believe this idol was of Ashera, a fertility false goddess. Ezekiel does not expand on the practices the Lord drew his attention to in v6. The Lord called it “abominable”. To bow to an idol inside the inner sanctuary of the temple was in itself abominable, but if this were Ashera, there may have been further practices inciting the Lord’s anger. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul addresses the Corinth church who had allowed sexual sins to pervert the congregation. Paul reminds the people to flee sexual immorality, because the body is the TEMPLE of the Holy Spirit within us.

In Ezekiel’s time, God dwelt in the physical temple, but no longer, He has caused the temple to become desolate, and now dwells in the believing hearts of His children. Now we ask ourselves, if He dwells in our hearts, what are we asking Him to dwell alongside of? Are there idols erected in our innermost hearts that the Lord God must share cohabitation? Will the Lord be provoked to jealousy from within our own hearts?

Move forward men, removing that which is abominable from His temple within our hearts. Ask Him to show us what He sees, to reveal that which needs to be removed, then ask Him to help you surrender it to Him. May the Lord God alone be lifted up within us. He alone is worthy.

Vance Durrance

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Witness or Rebel?

Choice

“Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her.  She has rebelled against My judgments by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against My statutes more than the countries that are all around her; for they have refused My judgments, and they have not walked in My statutes.’  Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have multiplied disobedience more than the nations that are all around you, have not walked in My statutes nor kept My judgments, nor even done according to the judgments of the nations that are all around you’— therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I, even I, am against you and will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations. And I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again, because of all your abominations. Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments among you, and all of you who remain I will scatter to all the winds.

11 ‘Therefore, as I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will also diminish you; My eye will not spare, nor will I have any pity. 12 One-third of you shall die of the pestilence, and be consumed with famine in your midst; and one-third shall fall by the sword all around you; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.

Ezekiel 5:5-12.

Men, in these selected verses, we get some further understanding on the particular sins that Israel has committed, bringing this calamity upon themselves. Israel has failed at being a testimony of God (v5), has rebelled against God’s statutes (v6-7), and defiled the temple with idols (v11). Once listed out, we can see a clear path to angering the Lord God, and bringing chastisement upon ourselves.

Israel had lived blessed with provisions and protections from the Lord God. Their job was to exalt God among the nations so that outsiders would see the loving kindness of God and be drawn to Him. They didn’t. Instead, they incrementally rebelled against the very God who had provided and protected them. Once they had turned from God, they then became seduced by other means of worship until they had finally erected idols in the very sanctuary of God.

In our time, we are called to be witnesses, to testify of the gospel message of Jesus. Are we committed to this basic expectation? Most agree, we live now in the “end times”. Of the end times, it’s said that many would turn away from sound doctrine toward what our itching ears wish to hear.

Are we rebelling against God? How much of the world have we brought into our Sunday morning experience? I’ve personally sat through services in years past where game day scores were discussed in further detail from the pulpit than the truths of our Lord God. Are we inviting chastisement? Will we too wonder how the Lord God became so angry with us?

Move forward, men, evaluating where we are individually in this devolving slope and repent. Turn back to the Lord while He may yet be found. Evaluate also the condition of your local fellowship. Be the one brave enough to sound an alarm. What are we truly worshipping in our lives today? God, or something else? We spare our own nation by turning back to the Lord individually and locally. What would your city look like in Ezekiel’s model?

Vance Durrance

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Responsibility

Responsibility

Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me.
— Ezekiel 3:16-17

Men, following the vision where Ezekiel met with the Lord in His glory, Ezekiel sat by the river Chebar for 7 days. These 7 days marked a time of consecration, and also a time of mourning over Israel’s condition.

At the end of 7 days, the Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel. The Lord calls him a “watchman” and tells him to hear the Word given to him and to warn Israel accordingly. This time, Ezekiel receives instruction from the Lord by Word, instead of by vision. Ezekiel has graciously been given time by the Lord to process all He has experienced, and given time to accept within himself all he would be called into. The Lord knew when he’d be ready and came to him with a title.

The Lord has a formal role for him to take part in and has impressed upon him the significance of this role. Like a guard or Shepherd, Ezekiel will listen for the Lord and convey any message given to the people. A guard or sentry was a common position in this time, and they were charged with sounding an alarm at the moment trouble was revealed. Ezekiel will be asked to sound the alarm and communicate various troubles for many chapters coming.

Announcing trouble is meant to grant opportunity to respond to that trouble appropriately. Ezekiel will “hear a Word from My mouth” v17, and convey that Word. We all, regardless of the age, have a responsibility to listen for the Word of the Lord. We each have influence given to us by the Lord. We may not hear the audible voice of God, nor speak before a national address, but we each have access to the Word of God, His Holy Spirit, who illuminates His Word, and an audience we can reach. Our audience may be small, but no less important to God.

Move forward men, taking the opportunity to acknowledge and accept our responsibility to take His Word into our hearts with understanding. Speak truths and warnings found in His Word to those you have influence over. May the Lord direct your steps and give us each a voice befitting His Word.

Vance Durrance

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