Would you take your bibles please and turn to Ezekiel chapter 12.
Iíve done a lot of adventuresome things in my life...
But I donít think Iíve ever done anything quite as adventuresome as preaching through the book of Ezekiel.
Itís been challenging to say the least.
But what a great book it is.
It is so different, so unusual, and it just lets us know that God is a God of variety.
God has a sense of humor.
God uses different kinds of people in different walks of life.
But the message is always true, and we can trust what God says...
However he says it, through whomever he says it.
If it is really of God, we can always trust it and believe it...
And more importantly, we can stake our life upon it.
>All right, Ezekiel 12 and we begin in verse 17.
>Now this is the eighth time in these first five chapters of the book of Ezekiel that God has made that statement...
Then you will know that I am the Lord.
And we see it 33 more times before we get through the book.
God is very interested that his people know who he is.
I believe if we could ever get hold of who God is and what God can do...
It would revolutionize our Christian life.
>Now in this passage of scripture that Iíve read for you tonight...
There are three distinct encounters between God and Ezekiel.
Three times God comes to Ezekiel and speaks to him.
First of all, back there in verses 17-20, God appears to Ezekiel and says:
There is a drama that I want you to enact.
And then in verses 21-25, God appears to him again and says:
There is a proverb in the land and I want you to tell the folks that I am going to destroy.
And then in verses 26-28 God appears to Ezekiel for the third time in these verses and says:
There is another proverb that is going around in the land, and you let the folks know that Iím going to put a stop to that as well.
And so those are the things that weíre going to look at tonight.
>First of all in verses 17-20, God encounters Ezekiel, or rather Ezekiel encounters God and God says to him...
"There is another scene, another drama, that I want you to act out."
If you were to ask me, "What is the most unusual thing about he book of Ezekiel?"
It would probably unquestionably be the way that God communicates through this prophet of God.
In all of the other prophets of God, God called those men to preach certain truths.
Sometimes they were called to preach truths of encouragement...
And sometimes they were called to preach truths of judgment.
But Ezekiel was not called primarily to be a preacher.
Now there were times when he did preach, and weíll see more of it as we go through the book.
But primarily God called Ezekiel to be an actor...
And God gave him little scenes to act out and each one of these scenes had a very important spiritual message.
>Now this is not the first one weíve seen.
As a matter of fact, weíve been seeing these things since chapter 4.
Over and over and over God gives to Ezekiel a drama, a scene, to act out...
And he acts it out and sure enough, people come and ask questions and say...
"What does this mean? What is this for?"
And he tells them what God gave him that scene to act out.
>Now here in this passage of scripture the drama that he is to act out...
Concerns the way he eats the bread and drinks the water.
Now youíll remember back in chapter 4, we saw this bread once before.
Itís not the kind of bread that youíd want to go home and mix with buttermilk.
Of course, there are some of you that are not very cultured.
You wouldnít want to mix any bread with buttermilk.
But there is some bread thatís real good with buttermilk.
But this wouldnít be good with buttermilk, sweet milk or 2%.
I mean it just couldnít be made to taste good.
>In this passage of scripture he says, "I want you when you eat the bread..."
Look there in verse 18.
He says: when you eat the bread I want you to do it trembling.
And that word "trembling" means "quivering" or "shivering".
And he said: when you drink the water I want you to drink it with shudder.
Now the Hebrew word that is used here is the same word that is used by Amos to speak of an earthquake.
In other words, itís not some little faint tremor.
He says, "listen, I want you to ham it up. I want you to really act this thing out...
When you pick up that bread to eat it, I want you just to tremble...
And when you pick up the glass (or whatever they drank from) I want you to shake like an earthquake."
And you can just see the water spilling all over him.
Well sure enough, people come and say, "Whatís going on?"
By now they had learned that if Ezekiel was doing anything strange...
It usually meant that God had something to say to them.
And so when they see him eating this bread and drinking this water...
And shaking and trembling and acting like heís in the middle of an earthquake...
They come to him and say, "What is this about?"
>Well he wanted them to know that the judgment of God was going to fall on Jerusalem and Judah...
Because of their going away from the ways of God, and they were going to find themselves in fear.
God said, "I want you to shake as one who is overcome by fear."
Now this is not something that Ezekiel dreamed up.
This is something God told him to do.
Now there were three reasons why they were going to be afraid.
>#1 Ė he says, The land is going to be stripped of everything.
Now you have to understand that most of these people were agricultural people.
They lived off the land.
Most of them ate what they were able to grow...
And for the land to become stripped meant that it was going to become unfruitful.
They were not going to be able to provide food anymore.
It was going to come to starvation.
>But not only were they going to be afraid because the land was going to become stripped...
But secondly, he said: they are going to be afraid because the land is going to be filled with violence.
Most people that are normal people are afraid of violent people.
Many folks today live behind bars and theyíre not jailers or in jail, jail birds...
They are homeowners, and because they live in areas where they are afraid...
They put bars over their doors and windows and itís just like the free people are the ones that are living in jail.
But they are afraid of violence.
When we hear about gang activity, most of us have a tremor that flows through our hearts...
Because weíre not violent people as the people of God, and violent people can be very intimidating.
And God says: the land is going to be stripped and the land is going to be filled with violence.
>And then thirdly, he says: and the towns shall be laid waste.
You have to understand that the towns of Judah were the very primary thrust of what the nation was about.
Their economy centered around the towns.
Their living centered around the towns.
And when he said the towns are going to be laid waste he said:
Your entire culture, your entire economy, all that life has ever been to you is going to be destroyed.
Now I want to tell you, when the land will not produce fruit, and when the land is full of violence...
And when the towns have been laid waste there is time to be afraid.
And he said: I want you to act out this scene and when people ask you what is going on, you tell them what is going to happen so that fear will come upon them.
>And that brings us to the second scene.
In this second encounter, God comes to Ezekiel and he says:
There is a proverb going on in the land.
Now what was this proverb for?
The proverb came as a result of the way some people were interpreting the delays of God.
You see, God had said through Amos, God had said through Isaiah...
God had said through Jeremiah, and now God is speaking through Ezekiel...
That judgment is coming.
Judgment is coming.
And they had heard that over and over and over again.
And they had gotten to the point that they looked at it like the boy who hollered "wolf".
Finally they just said, "Well, youíve hollered that one time too often.
You keep talking about judgment.
Every prophet that ever comes through town talks about judgment.
God is going to send judgment.
God is going to rain down judgment.
Judgment is coming.
And youíve said it and youíve said it and youíve said it...
And we just do not believe it anymore.
We donít believe what you say God says."
>Look there in verse 21:
And the word of the LORD came to me, "Son of man, what is this proverb?"
Now this is not a proverb like in the book of Proverbs.
This is not a proverb that is in the Bible that God is changing his mind about.
A proverb just means a saying.
For example, an old lady by the name of Mrs. Fowler lived by this philosophy.
She said, "Well you know what the Bible says.
Every tub shall sit on its own bottom."
Well now folks, I want to tell you, the Bible doesnít say every tub shall sit on its own bottom.
"Oh yes it does, itís in there. Iíve read it...itís in the Bible."
"No maíam, itís not in the Bible."
"Oh yes it is, itís in the Bible."
I said, "all right."
She said, "Well you just...
The next night she came and she said, "Preacher, you know, they just donít print Bibles like they used to."
Well Iím telling you, that was an old proverb.
Every tub shall sit on its own bottom.
I donít even know what it means.
But she thought it was in the Bible, and a lot of other people obviously do too.
>But here was a proverb, look in verse 22:
Son of man, what is this proverb you have in the land of Israel saying, "The days go by and every vision comes to nothing"?
Now you know what that means?
It means the days keep passing by, and passing by...
And every prophecy that these prophets shell out never comes to pass.
And so they said, "We just donít believe anymore. You can go through all this shaking...
You can eat what you want to eat...you can go through all these motions...
You can act out all these scenes...you can bring in the fiery preacher of a Daniel.
You can bring in the compassionate preacher of Jeremiah...
But we just do not believe that stuff anymore."
God said, "Well you tell them what I have to say about that.
You tell them the days are not going to be long...theyíre going to be short.
You tell them that when I say something it is going to come to pass and itís going to happen in their lifetime."
>And that brings me to the third encounter.
Now there were some who would not be bold enough to say...
"We just do not believe what God says anymore."
They wouldnít be that bold.
But hereís what that other group was saying.
Theyíre saying, "Oh, yes we believe Amos and we believe Ezekiel and we believe Jeremiah and Isaiah...
We believe what these prophets of God say.
But what they say is going to come to pass is talking about something way out there in the long, far distance future.
It will never happen in our lifetime."
Look what he says there in verse 27: son of man, the house of Israel is saying, "the vision he sees is for many years from now, and the prophecy about the distant future."
Now you see, they would not say, "Oh, we donít believe the Bible anymore.
We donít believe what those prophets of God say anymore.
We consider that to be just hogwash and fairy tale and stories that are designed to scare us."
No they wouldnít say that.
Theyíd say, "Oh, yes, the Bible is the word of God.
Oh yes, these prophets are telling the truth...
But it doesnít apply to us...
Itís talking about somebody way off in the future."
And God says, "You tell Ďem, you tell Ďem that I say there arenít gonna be any more prolonged visions...
That what I say is coming about is coming about immediately...
Judgment is fixing to fall."
>You know we have people like that today.
There have always been skeptics who have said, "We do not believe the word of God."
You remember what Peter wrote in II Peter?
In II Peter, Peter was talking to them about the return of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Allisonís book on II Peter is entitled, "The King is Coming"...
And Peter had been telling them that one day the king was going to come...
And there rose up some folks that said, "Where is the promise of his coming?
Why since the fathers fell asleep, talking about those great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob...
Why for thousands of years people have been telling us that the Messiah was going to come back.
Where is the promise of his coming?"
You see they had heard it so many times that they didnít believe it anymore.
And that same thing is true today.
There are people who pass up and down the MP road every day and theyíll look over here at HCBC and say...
"Well you know, theyíre building over there...
I guess they duped a few more people into believing that nonsense...
But I tell you, anybody in their right mind that believes in the judgment and heaven and hell and the second coming...
Why they are just folks who have been brainwashed."
Well folks, I want to tell you, nobody around here has been brainwashed.
We just believe God is going to do what he says he is going to do.
"A lot of folks donít believe it, Bro. Joe."
The fact that a lot of folks donít believe it doesnít mean itís not true.
My uncle never did believe that man went on the moon...I mean, he didnít believe it.
He died not believing that.
I said, "Well Unc, it was on television."
"I donít care if it was on television...it was just make believe."
Thatís what he said.
"It was make believe. It was created out there in some studio or something.
Didnít no man ever walk on the moon."
And I tell you, you couldnít have convinced him if he had made the trip himself.
But you know, the fact that my uncle didnít believe that man went to the moon...
Didnít mean that man didnít go to the moon.
It just meant that my uncle was...well he wasnít ignorant...he was a pretty smart guy.
He was just uninformed. You know?
In his mind the moon was way up yonder, and you just didnít get out and stroll around up there.
Thatís the way he was.
Just because folks donít believe something doesnít mean that it doesnít exist or itís not true.
Just because some folks believe that well it may be true but itís gonna happen way out there in the future...
That doesnít mean thatís true either.
Folks, I want to tell you, Iím looking for Jesus to come any minute.
Iím not looking for signs...Iím listening for shouts.
I mean Iím listening for the trumpet.
I donít have to have any more signs.
He could come any moment.
>Now what do you say in conclusion to this message?
Well let me just share with you some truths about Godís delays.
Truth #1: Godís delays have nothing to do with his integrity.
If God says something is going to happen and it doesnít happen right away...
The fact that there is a delay in its happening does not mean that God doesnít tell the truth.
Friends, Godís delays have nothing to do with his integrity.
The truth of the matter is, Godís delays have a lot to do with his character.
In II Peter they said, "Where is the promise of your coming?"
Where is the promise of his coming?
And Peter says they talk like that because they are ignorant of the fact that God is longsuffering...
Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
You see, Godís delays have nothing to say about his integrity.
But Godís delays speak volumes of his character.
God could send judgment yesterday and it would have been on time and completely necessary.
But God delayed.
God could have sent the flood the day after he talked to Noah, but he didnít.
For 120 years God gave men and women the opportunity to repent.
God is longsuffering...listen to me.
Thereís not anybody suffering the vengeance of an eternal fire that is there and God is laughing about it.
Folks, thatís not the character of God.
When people go to hell, they have to go over the love of God the father.
When people go to hell, they have to go over the cross of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
When people go to hell they have to go over the wooing and convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God.
When people go to hell, they have to go denying and rejecting the Bible, the Word of God.
God has done everything he can do to keep people out of hell.
And when people reject all that God has given them and go to hell heís not happy about that.
You see, Godís delays reveal something of Godís character.
>And then one last thing about Godís delays.
Godís delays really are not delays at all...
But rather Godís activities fit into a carefully, well planned, predestined agenda.
There was a set time when God spoke and out of nothing came everything that exists.
There was a set time when God created light.
There was a set time when God put birds in the air and fish in the sea and beasts upon the field.
There was a set time when God scooped up a clump of clay and created a man and breathed into him breath of life.
There was a set time when God put that man to sleep and drew from his side a rib and created a woman.
There was a set time when God allowed Adam and Eve to live in the Garden of Eden.
There was a set time when the serpent appeared in the garden.
There was a set time when Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden.
There was a set time when the flood came.
There was a set time when after the flood the waters receded and Noah and his family came out of the ark...
And began to repopulate the world.
There was a set time in that antediluvian world that God called a man by the name of Abraham...
To be the father of a mighty nation, the nation of Israel.
There was a time when the prophets wrote down the OT.
There was a set time when Malachi finished the OT.
There was a set time for 400 years that God did not open his mouth nor speak a word as far as scripture is concerned.
There was a set time when an angel appeared to a woman by the name of Elizabeth and said...
"You are going to be the mother of one who will be the forerunner of the Messiah."
And there was a set time when the angel of God spoke unto Joseph and said...
"Do not be afraid to take unto yourself Mary as your wife because that which is conceived of her is of the Holy Ghost.
She has not known a man."
There was a set time when Jesus Christ was born of that virgin Mary.
There was a set time when Jesus at the age of 12 was in the temple teaching the elders.
There was a set time at the age of 30 when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist...
That son of Elizabeth, in the river Jordan.
There was a set time when Jesus Christ ministered on the earth for a little over three years...
Calling his disciples and establishing his church.
There was a set time when Jesus ascended into glory.
There is a set time when the Holy Spirit of God came and empowered and enlivened that NT church Jesus started.
There is a set time one day when Jesus Christ shall split wide the eastern sky...
And descend down the staircase of the stars and say to a blood bought church...
"Child of mine, come home...come home."
Iím telling you, this world is not running in a haphazard manner.
There are no delays of God.
Everything is going according to his timetable.
>"Tell Ďem Ezekiel, they need to be afraid."
Is fear a proper motive?
I hear some today saying that fear is never an acceptable or worthy or honorable or profitable motive.
Those who speak for God need to know what God has said.
Fear is a proper motive.
Were it not proper, God would have never used it.
Not only is fear a proper motive, fear is a necessary motive.
I can remember my daddy whipping me.
I never got spankings...
My daddy was from the country.
He didnít know what a spanking was.
He knew what a whipping was.
Now he was not a child abuser, but he lived dangerously close.
I got lots of whippings.
But I want to tell you something, and you may not believe this.
But you didnít have my daddy.
I got lots of whippings, but I never got whipped for the same thing twice.
My problem was I kept dreaming up new things.
Because you see, when my daddy got that belt in his hand...
He never used a switch, never used his hand...
He used a belt.
Every time he got that belt in his hand he taught me a lesson.
Now my dad would have preferred me learning that lesson through a blessing.
But I didnít...
So I learned it through fear, and I never got whipped twice for the same thing.
Because you see, we learn out of fear things we never learn out of blessing.
And what we learn out of fear usually sticks.
>Fear is a proper motive.
Fear is a necessary motive, and sometimes fear is the only motive.
You see, there are some folks who will never come to church.
They will never read the Bible.
Theyíll never read a gospel tract.
Theyíll never invite a Christian to come into their house.
And yes, every once in a while a friend of theirs will die and theyíll go to the funeral home.
And if the preacher ever happens to mention hell, they get angry.
But you see, friends, for people like that, fear may be the only motive that will ever touch them.
>Do you believe what God says?
"Oh yeah, Bro. Joe, thatís why weíre here."
Do you believe that what God says applies to you?
Thatís the difference in being a real child of God and a pretender.