EZEKIEL 13:1 – 15:8 and REVELATION 2:1–7
Ezekiel will now begin to prophesy against the many false prophets that were contradicting God’s declared judgement upon Jerusalem. The charge against them is that they prophesy out of their own hearts. This is the age-old problem that dates back to the very beginning. It is the heart of man that is at issue back then as it is today. It is the Word of the Lord that has the ability to bring to light and excise out of man all manner of sin. The question is whether we will allow the Word to do its work? Will we give ear to what the Lord is saying? Why do you think the Word of God is being shunned in many of today’s churches? To put it simply; man does not know or want to know the Truth. If we do not allow our heart to be fully opened to the Lord then our heart will craft messages and doctrines that cater to it. This theme is seen throughout chapter 13 concerning the prophets and it is seen in chapter 14 regarding the people who follow them. It all comes down to a heart issue (Pro 4:23).
In verse 5, we see that these prophets were totally unprepared for what was coming. Naturally, the people who followed them would be likewise. I cannot help but see similarities in our day. I am amazed how unaware people are today concerning events taking place in in the world. Many of the church programs are fine but very little regard is given to the realities taking place around us. I fear the church at large has no idea with what is coming. Our churches are catering to a worldwide congregation of uncircumcised hearts. The programs and thrust of churches will then reflect what is in the overall heart.
The illustration of a wall is given that has untempered mortar. Such a wall will not hold under pressure and only gives the look of being solid and fortified. The words that these prophets were giving were likened to that untempered mortar. Their words and exhortations were not truth to what God was saying. They were saying peace when it was quite the opposite. Sure, the sounds of peace sounds good and no doubt the majority of people would be drawn to that kind of message. The problem is this is not what God was saying. Herein is the danger today! The Word of the Lord for what is coming is not pleasant or an easy Word to embrace. It requires a piercing that goes straight to the heart but who will hear, who will respond? There is an alternative, there is a by-pass or an easier way that will be able to accommodate the uncircumcised of heart. It is to this group of people that the false prophets of chapter 13 cater to. The modern day version falls into the category that the Apostle Paul warns against in 2 Tim 4:3.
2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
The Lord speaks clearly the judgements upon these false prophets and prophetesses. They were those who prophesied for a price but their words resulted in the deaths of many who should not have died while sparing the lives of those who should have died. Their words and counsels totally circumvented the Word of the Lord. When the people of God continually reject His Word through disobedience they eventually lose the anointing. They try and compensate by seeking after witchcraft and divination. They would never advertise themselves as such and oftentimes they may not even be aware they are operating under another anointing. This is what happened to Saul when the Word of the Lord no longer came to him. He tried to compensate by going to a witch. This is why a true prophet pays such a heavy price. He or she becomes acquainted with God and comes to know the Fear of the Lord. They become well aware of their shortcomings and tendencies which helps allow for a clean and healthy heart. We do not want to be on the wrong side of what God is speaking. This applies to those who are in ministry and to people who are in congregations. The bottom line is that we will follow after that which is in our heart. This is why the new Covenant must be known, understood and applied (Jer 31:33).
This chapter ranks high on the amount of times I reference certain truths. In this case, it again is the matter of the heart. I also find this chapter to be one of the scariest ones in the whole of the Word of God. The key verse that can serve as a platform is verse 5.
Eze 14:5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
Can we grasp the significance of this verse? Does is it say that God will allow His people to be deceived and taken by the attachments that is in their heart? Yes, absolutely yes! Does this sound like something God would do? Would He really allow His people to essentially get what they ask for? There is precedent for this seeing that it has happened before. Do you recall the account of Israel crying out for meat instead of manna (Num 11:4-6)? They were unthankful and eventually given what they were asking for. Do you remember when the people cried out for a king when it was not yet God’s time (1 Sam 8:5)? God warned them about what would happen but they persisted. In the end, God gave them what they asked for. These are examples of Israel’s history that the people of Ezekiel’s day would have been aware of. One of the most sobering judgements upon a people is when God gives a people of uncircumcised hearts what they ask for. The fallout is that they feel validated and emboldened that they were right. All it does is confirm them on the road to judgement. Please see the events in this chapter as a precursor of what will happen when the antichrist comes on the scene.
The Lord speaks to Ezekiel concerning what will take place concerning those whose hearts are filled with mixture. The key verses are 3, 7 and 9. We can see the link between chapters 13 and 14 where you have the false prophets (chpt 13) being brought before the people (chpt 14). God will allow these prophets to speak and answer people according to what is in their heart. It is important that we think about the consequence of such an event. Once someone gets or receives something from God they will feel that they were right all along. The problem is that the Bible says that God will also send them leanness unto their soul.
Psa 106:15 And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
This means that their ability to hear what God is saying will be diminished. Their soul will take the pre-eminence leaving the spirit man within to follow after its whims. The enemy of our souls loves such people because he will be able to easily influence them. What we see in this chapter is one of the means in how the church of the last days will divide. The punishment will come upon both the prophet and the ones who listen to them. There may be an immediate sense of satisfaction that God has answered prayer but the reality will hit soon enough (vs 10-13).
The scene now changes to a group of three men who the Lord deemed to be righteous. The lives of Noah, Daniel and Job are cited as men who were preserved in a time of judgement. Their lives and example help to provide keys in how a people can be preserved when the Lord’s wrath is poured out in its fury. One of the common denominators seen in these men is that they were filled with the righteousness of God. Noah was a preacher of righteousness in a time of great apostasy. The gift of His righteousness is that which should be sought after. Once again, the verse in Zephaniah provides a key. We are exhorted to seek after meekness and righteousness for the purpose of being hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger (Zeph 2:3). It is a righteousness that can be attained as we seek to ascend the holy hill of Zion (Psa 24:3-5). It is the linen garment that will adorn the church at the time when the bridegroom comes for the bride (Rev 19:8). It is a righteousness that is imparted as we learn to walk in truth and light (Psa 43:3).
Psa 43:3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
The children of Israel were an exact opposite of the qualities seen in these three men. They rejected the Truth, the light and the Word of the Lord. They crafted their definition of church and serving God as it suited them. This made them dull of hearing and oblivious to the danger that was all around them. We do well to study the lives of these great men to gain greater insight as to how we can be preserved in the day of the Lord’s end time judgements.
Once again, there is a remnant that will be among those who seek truth and righteousness. We have often cited Zephaniah 2:3 and it can be applied here. Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah so his words of exhortation would be applicable. It was a very small percentage of people who were among those who were preserved; a very small group who heard and responded to the Word of the Lord. What will be the percentages of people in our day that will fulfil Zeph 2:3? Will we be among them?
A depiction of Israel being a useless vine is given. There are several times in scripture where the Lord makes an illusion to Israel as being likened to a vine. In both Isaiah and Jeremiah Israel is spoken of as being like a vine of wild grapes (Isa 5, Jer 2). The purpose of a true vine is to bring forth fruit and in the case of grapes it would be joy. A healthy vine would bring forth good grapes that in turn could produce good wine. The wine has the connotation of the joy of the Lord. The vine (Israel) was intended to bring forth pleasure to God and to those who came in contact with her. Sadly, this was not the case. If a vine is feeding off the nutrients of a healthy tree it would be fruitful. If Israel would have been faithful in drawing off the attributes of God there would be no such problems. Israel as the vine allowed for other tares to grow and become attached to it. It is a process that develops over time. The Lord makes opportunity for pruning to take place but if Israel refuses the cutting away of the tares it will contaminate the fruit. This in essence is what has happened. Jerusalem as the vine was now going to become fuel for fire before the enemies. Imagine the anguish that God must have carried in now allowing His Israel to be brought to such desolation. The holiness and righteousness of God can only tolerate sin and disobedience for so long. He has made every effort to gain the attention of Israel through the prophets but to no avail. The fulfilment of what is spoken in verse 5 is found in 2 Kings 24:10-16.
There is an added woe concerning the final siege of Jerusalem before they enter into captivity. The fire will devour the land and the enemy (foxes) will tread about Zion without fear. The glorious splendour of the past and all that took place at Zion would become but a distant memory. This sentiment is echoed in the lament found in Psa 137.
Psa 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
Psa 137:2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
Psa 137:3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
Rev 2:1-7 (Ephesus)
The letters to the 7 churches begins with the Church of Ephesus. We read earlier concerning how each church was governed by an attending angel represented by a star (Rev 1:20). There are some points that should be made before examining these churches. There was a method or pattern that the Lord used in how he approached the churches. I have often stated that the Lord would have made a great salesman because He utilizes key communicative skills in how He approaches these churches. There are four key components in His approach:
1) He reveals Himself uniquely to each church. He does this to let the church know that He represents and has available their area of need that he will soon be addressing to them.
2) He affirms the church in their area of strengths. It is important to acknowledge areas where a church or a people are doing well. It sends a message that you have taken notice of them and that their efforts are appreciated.
3) Utilize the sword to their area of need. There is a tendency to get to the area of need quickly without ploughing the ground beforehand.
4) The promise to the overcomer. The Lord provided a promise to every church if they came into the position of an overcomer. The element of hope is something that must always be placed before a believer, no matter how dire the circumstances.
We can also see these messages to the 7 churches as having several applications. They relate to actual churches that existed at the time of John. They can relate to churches that exist today as well as relate to us as individuals. There is so much that can be drawn from these messages.
In verse 1 a picture is given of the Lord holding the 7 stars in his hand. This is a picture of the Lord as the one who has full authority over his ministers and that He walks in the midst of them. We must always be aware that all things are seen of him, nothing escapes His gaze. In verses 2 and 3 they are shown to be an industrious people and those who were full of good works. They endured much opposition and endured through great difficulties. These are admirable qualities that any church or people should have. The Lord is very quick to point out these qualities to the church of Ephesus. They are commendable and they need to be highlighted.
The Lord now gets to the primary concern He has for the church in verse 4. In spite of all these good works, they were lacking in relationship. The Lord puts it this way; they had lost their first love. This is the danger of becoming excessive with works at the expense of relationship. In fact, excessive works can become an excuse for not having an intentional relationship with Christ. There are times when all the Lord is after from our lives is just US. The Lord loves relationship, to share HIs heart with those who draw near unto Him. This is such a danger in our society today especially when the pace of life never stops accelerating. The prophet Jeremiah described such a state in saying that they are likened to broken cisterns that hold no water (Jer 2:13). This was the distinction that Jesus was trying to make between Martha and Mary. He was not indicting Martha and the role that she played in serving but rather was placing greater emphasis on the need for relationship. Our ministry and outflow of service to God and others will be maximized to the extent we worship and spend time with God. In other words, our ministry should be an outflow of our devotion and intimacy. We will be better Martha’s by learning to be better Mary’s. It is not the other way around like what is seen in many church circles today. I have often asked my Bible students and people I come across concerning their devotional life. It serves as an excellent barometer in helping to know where people are positioned on this question.
The warning that the Lord gives to the church in Ephesus is seen in verse 5. They needed to repent and renew their first works, their first love. Throughout scripture you find occasions where one reflected upon the goodness of God. This helps to rekindle the fire and love that perhaps had gone dormant. This is also true in marriage relationships. The ability to go back to the initial overtures of love helps to rekindle the fire that may have dimmed. If there is failure in giving heed to the Lord’s instruction there is the potential of having the candlestick removed from their midst. This means losing the light of His presence as well as revelation. Seek to rekindle that first love!
Thankfully the Lord places forth the hope of a promise if they were to overcome. Throughout scriptures, you find that the promises of God are to the overcomer. This will entail a battle and it will not be easy. The Lord will allow for circumstances to come our way that will challenge us. The purpose of it all is to help make us more like Him. The quitters or the ones who give up easily will not inherit the promises of God. This life shows forth this truth. High academic honours are not given to those who slack their way through class. It is given to those who sweat and press through years of intense pressure and challenges. There will be times when one will may feel like giving up but something inside causes them to press on. Renewing that first love will help give the ability to overcome at the end. On graduation day when that honour is bestowed there will be such joy and fulfilment. The price paid would have been worth it. The overcoming of all obstacles to obtain the prize will have been worth it. If this is true in natural things how much more true would it be concerning things of the kingdom? The promise to the church of Ephesus is that they would be partakers of the tree of life. This was the tree that was forbidden to man after the fall. The promise of being a partaker of this tree is that there will be eternal pleasure and joy with the Lord in heaven. Let us note closely this challenge to the church at Ephesus. They were exceedingly zealous for God in good works but lacking relationship. A strong case can be made for a similar parallel in today’s context. The warning, admonition and promise are for us today as well.