“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 26: AUGUST 17
JEREMIAH 50 – EZEKIEL 19:14
Today we say goodbye to Jeremiah and hello to Ezekiel. Theirs are thunderous voices. Both prophets lived during a time when God’s mercy came to an end and his judgement began. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, God is patient, but when time is up, it’s up. There’s no wiggle-room after that. God’s judgement is without mercy. We will not be standing before him on Judgement Day expecting mercy, because there will be none. The time for mercy will be over, just as it was for the children of Israel during the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
- The final chapters of Jeremiah talk about the prophecy against Babylon. Remember that Jeremiah had earlier prophesied that the Israelites should surrender to the Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and live in Babylon as captives. Now we see the prophet foretelling the punishment that God will mete out to Babylon for destroying his people. God used the resources of Babylon to punish his people but also to care for them during their 70 years of exile; but that doesn’t mean that Babylon gets off the hook and is free to loot, sack and slaughter with impunity. Nor does it mean that Babylon can sin with impunity. All are punished according to the measure of their sins, even the people God uses to punish others.
- So when God tells you to flee to Babylon, however morally repugnant it is to you, flee there. But when he tells you to get out of Babylon or get caught up in the punishment due it, get out. We’ll read more about Babylon in the books of Daniel and Revelation. For us born-agains living in the Kingdom, Babylon is the earthly realm of sin and plenty that sadly also includes churches. God will support us and sustain us with Babylon’s plenty for a time, but he expects us to keep ourselves separate from its sin and to flee before he finally destroys it.
- The book of Lamentations was written during Jeremiah’s exile from the Promised Land. Remember that Jeremiah, too, was in exile. The whole remnant was in exile. Even so, God fed them and provided for them physically and spiritually, giving them hope of returning to their home if they turned back to him with their whole heart.
- Ezekiel picks up where Jeremiah leaves off. He is also in exile. But unlike Jeremiah, he is not embedded within the powers-that-be in Jerusalem, because the powers-that-be have all been slaughtered and Jerusalem has been all but destroyed. Instead, Ezekiel prophesizes through visions.
- Ezekiel heard first-hand the horrors that were inflicted on the unrepentant Israelites, particularly during the siege of Jerusalem. Out of starvation, fathers ate their sons, sons ate their fathers, and mothers cooked their own babies. How far from God would you have to be to do those things? THESE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE GOD’S PEOPLE, and yet they were indistinguishable from the demon-worshipers around them; in fact, they did worse than them. When those who are genuinely God’s people are hungry, God provides for them, as he did for Jeremiah and Elijah and David. God always finds workarounds and resources for those who are genuinely his people. The rest are left to take matters into their own hands, and what we get are fathers eating their sons, sons eating their fathers, and mothers cooking their own babies.
- How indistinguishable are Christians today from the demon-worshipers around them? All those who worship anything but God and follow anyone but Jesus are demon-worshipers. This is the world. How indistinguishable are most Christians today from the world? It’s hard not to see, in the description of the lead-up to the destruction of those who definitively turned from God, exactly what is happening in former Christian nations today: “Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease; and their holy places shall be defiled. Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none” (Ezekiel 7:24-25).
- I met a man the other day who introduced himself as a born-again Christian. He then went on to say that God had asked him to preach but he had said no, and that he hadn’t read the Bible in years – HE’D DEFIED GOD AND HADN’T READ THE BIBLE IN YEARS, AND YET HAD NO PROBLEM INTRODUCING HIMSELF AS A BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN! This is the absolute state of where we are as a people – Christians today are no different than the Israelites just before the destruction of Jerusalem. They are indistinguishable from the heathens around them.
- As Ezekiel repeats several times: “Neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have pity.” God’s judgement is without mercy and perfect. During the time of mercy, God’s judgement is mitigated. That means he doesn’t give us the full measure of what we have coming; he softens it, taking into consideration all the factors that made us do what we did or say what we said. But at some point, time is up. And when time is up, mercy is removed from judgement; all that remains is an eye for an eye. May you never experience God’s judgement without mercy, because if you do, you are condemned. There is no longer any hope for you. There is no Paradise. There is only the hell of your own making, forever.
- God doesn’t want us to end up in Hell. He wants us to go to Heaven. He takes no pleasure in punishing us or in our condemnation. In Ezekiel 18:32, God says: “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth… wherefore turn, and live ye.” Until time is up, God is constantly extending his invitation to turn back to him and live. A few chapters earlier, God describes through the prophet how he will bring the dead back to life: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statutes and keep mine ordinances, and do them; and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
- I don’t know about you, but every time I read the words “and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God”, I hear such longing in God’s voice as well as a promise and a statement of fact. He wants to give us everything, if we would only do those things that are right in his eyes. He’s longing for us to do those things. He’s saying: Here, I have everything waiting for you. Everything that you’ve ever wanted. It’s all right here. All you have to do is say “yes” to me and then keep your promise, and I will keep my promise to you.
One of the early chapters in Ezekiel describes a mark that is given to those who are horrified by the rampant sin they see around them. The mark identifies them as God’s people. All those who don’t have the mark are later slaughtered without pity.
Do you think you have that mark? Do you think that God identifies you as one of his, or is the identification only coming from you? Do you claim to be a Christian but live indistinguishable from the world? Do you claim the blood of Jesus as your justification, even while you continue to do what you know isn’t right in God’s eyes? There are many such Christians, even self-professed born-again Christians, just as there were many such Israelites who considered themselves God’s people simply because they were Israelites.
A label is just a label. You can call yourself whatever you want. But a mark is a mark. Better pray that you have God’s.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.