The Jealousy of God
Would you take your Bibles please and turn to the book of Ezekiel 6:1-14.
>The jealousy of God is a major theme in the Bible.
God has declared himself to be a jealous God.
As a matter of fact, Godís feelings about the matter can be clearly seen in Exodus 20, if youíd like to turn there.
In Exodus 20, you ought to be familiar with that chapter.
It contains what you and I can call the 10 Commandments.
As God gave the 10 Commandments, not the 10 suggestions, not the 10 recommendations...
But the 10 Commandments, God made it very clear that he is a jealous God.
Look in verse 1: And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or the waters below.
(Verse 5) You shall not bow down to them or worship them for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.
>The first three commandments are really a repetition of what appears to be about the same thing.
God is declaring his uniqueness among the people.
He is declaring that there is no anyone else like him...
And that in him you find all you need to have a happy and successful and wonderful life.
And God lets it be known that those who have come to him and then turned from him...
And go somewhere else to try to meet those spiritual needs...
God says, "I want you to know that I am a jealous God."
>Now there are times when jealousy can be a bad thing.
There are times when jealousy can be a sin.
But a man who says, "I am not at all jealous of my wife"...
Is a pitiful excuse for a husband.
Iíd hate to be married to someone like that if I were a lady.
And Godís jealousy is not a sinful jealousy.
Godís jealousy is a holy jealousy because God cannot sin.
He is a holy God.
And God has declared his jealous nature.
>Now what is it that causes God to be jealous?
Very simply stated, it is idolatry.
What is idolatry?
Idolatry is the worship of anything other than the one true God.
Now idolatry can find its expression in many different ways.
We sometimes think that idolatry is people who bow down to statues carved out of stone...
And carved out of wood or fashioned out of gold or silver.
But thatís a very, very poor real understanding of what idolatry really is.
Idolatry is the worship of an idol, and an idol is anything you give your heart to...
And live your life for.
Sports can be an idol.
Money can be an idol.
Sex can be an idol.
Any of these things can become an idol in our life.
Even your family or your job or your business or your children...
Anything can become an idol in your life if it is that to which you give your heart and live your life for.
Idolatry is the worship of anything except the one true God.
And this chapter is a chapter about idolatry.
>Thereís a very interesting turn of events here in the sixth chapter.
Those of you who have been here every Sunday since we started the book of Ezekiel...
Youíll remember that when God called Ezekiel to be a prophet God explained to him...
"Now your ministry is going to be very different from most other prophets, at least at the beginning."
You see, when God called Ezekiel to be a prophet...
He did not send him out on the streets preaching like he did most other prophets.
Instead of making him a preacher, God made Ezekiel an actor.
And God said to Ezekiel, "I want you to act out scenes."
Somewhat like a mime or someone who is playing a game of charades.
But now each one of these scenes is going to have a very specific meaning.
And when people come to you and ask you what these things mean then you can tell them.
But youíre not going to stand up and begin to preach publicly until I tell you to."
And thatís what weíve seen so far in the book of Ezekiel...
Ezekiel acting out these scenes and then telling those that would ask him what these scenes meant.
But now in chapter 6, God says, "All right Ezekiel. Itís now time to preach.
Itís now time to stand up and to open your mouth and speak...
ĎThis is what the Lord says."í
And what he preaches about is idolatry.
And there are three things I want you to see in this passage of scripture.
>First of all I want you to see the prevalence of idolatry.
Look there with me in verse 1 of Ezekiel chapter 6.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, son of man, set your face against the mountains of Israel, and prophecy (or preach) against them.
Isnít that a strange thing?
God called Ezekiel now at this time in his ministry to open his mouth and to preach...
And he said, "I want you to preach to the mountains."
Now remember that Ezekiel was not in Jerusalem.
Heís not in any part of Israel.
As a matter of fact, Ezekiel is several hundred miles away from Israel.
He and many other young Jewish men had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar.
And they were over in Babylonian captivity.
Now they are too many miles away for them to be able to see the mountain ranges of Israel.
But there were times when Iím sure those captives would stand there in Babylon...
And face the west and look out in the direction of where those mountains would be somewhere in the distance.
And those mountains would have brought thoughts of their homeland.
Those mountains would have brought thoughts of their childhood and happier days...
When they were at home with their mom and their dad...
When they were at home with their children and their families...
And when they were doing their jobs.
Oh, to stand there and look across that barrenness of what is now Iraq and Iran...
To stand there and look across that barren desert and to know that out there in the distance...
On the west side were those beautiful mountains of Israel.
The mountain ranges of Israel go from all the way in the north all the way down to the south.
They are only broken in one place by the valley of Jezreel or the valley of Armageddon.
But other than that, that wonderful, glorious mountain range goes all throughout Israel.
>Now when the children of God first went into the Promised Land...
The land was inhabited by pagan people.
There were Canaanites and Jebusites and Hittites...
And all the other "ites" that could possibly be there.
And they were pagan people.
And yet they were very religious people.
They did not know God, and they had not heard any revelation from God.
But they were very religious minded people.
And they worshiped pagan gods that do not even exist.
And all across that mountain range, from the north all the way down to the south...
There were altars and high places and images and idols.
Because you see, in their minds the higher they could get...
The closer they would be to their gods.
>We find that in the OT when they were building the tower of Babel.
They had the idea that if they built that tower big enough and tall enough...
That it would reach into the heavens and that they finally could come face to face with God.
The higher you go, the closer you are to God.
And so they went upon these mountaintops, all the way from north to south...
All along the range of the mountains, and they built all of these things.
>Now when the children of Israel came in they were not idol worshipers.
And when they conquered the land...
They changed all of those pagan idols and those pagan altars, from being places of idol worship...
And they made them places of worship for Jehovah God.
They transformed them from paganism into Judaism.
And there were on those mountains for years and years, at what used to be pagan altars...
They would bow and worship Jehovah God himself.
They would thank him for delivering them from Egypt.
They would praise him for bringing them across the wilderness.
They would praise him for bringing them into the land of milk and honey, the Promised Land.
But then as the years passed those old idolatrous systems began to raise their ugly heads again.
And most of those, all of those who had come out of the wilderness...
And had come out of Egypt and had gone into the Promised Land...
They were all dead and gone.
And the religious life of Israel had become cold and insignificant.
They had substituted dead religion for vital relationship...
And they had come to the place that they talked about Jehovah God...
But they really did not know him personally.
And so now all of those mountaintops had once again become places of idol worship.
And not only were the pagans worshiping there again...
But even the children of Israel, the Jewish people...
The people that were in covenant relationship with God...
Even the Jews had gone back to worshiping those pagan idols.
And not only were they worshiping these idols...
They were making some of them with their own hands.
Thatís why God said there at the end of verse 6...
That he would cut down their works.
Their works would be abolished.
He was talking about the idols that they had made with their own hands.
Here were people of God.
Here were people that supposedly knew Jehovah...
The one who had made a covenant with them...
And now theyíve turned their backs on him.
They are worshiping idols...
And they are even making idols with their own hands.
And so when those people over here in Babylonian captivity...
When they looked to the west and dreamed about those mountain ranges...
It brought a sense of nostalgia and a longing and a desire to go back home.
Thatís what those mountains meant to the people over here in exile.
>But over in Jerusalem and all up and down Israel...
When God in heaven looked down upon those mountains...
They did not speak to him of nostalgia.
They did not give him a warm and fuzzy feeling.
But those mountains had become a symbol of the spiritual adultery...
And the spiritual idolatry of his people.
And so he says, "I want you to preach to the mountains.
I want you to preach to those mountains that are literally covered with pagan altars.
I want you to preach to the mountains."
But you see, the children of Israel had become so ungodly in their lifestyle...
That not only were they worshiping these idols all over the mountains...
They had gone down by the riverside.
They had gone down into the valleys.
They had gone into every hillside and made more altars...
And set up more images and set up more idols.
And all over the land people of God were worshiping idols.
Thatís why he says there in verse 3, "And say, ĎO mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD;
This is what the sovereign Lord says to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys;
I am about to bring a sword against you and I will destroy your high places."í
That expression "high places" is a term to describe a place of pagan worship.
>Look in verse 4.
He talks about altars and images and idols.
In verse 5 he talks about idols and altars.
In verse 6 he talks about high places and altars and idols and images.
In verse 9 he talks about idols.
In verse 13 he talks about idols and altars and idols.
Over and over and over he mentions these because they were everywhere.
Idolatry was being practiced by everyone...
And it was being practiced everywhere.
No one had a relationship with God.
No one had their heart set on him.
>But I want to share with you a second thing from this chapter...
And that is the popularity of idolatry.
I want to ask you a question.
If the idol worship had become so prevalent, why had it become like that?
What is the appeal of idolatry?
I have no idea how to explain it back then, but I want to tell you...
Itís even harder to explain it today.
Because you see, you and I live on this side of Calvary.
We sing that grand old hymn, "Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hid myself in thee...
Let the water and the blood..."
Thatís a reference to the death of Jesus at the cross...
When they plunged a spear in his side and water and blood came out from his side...
Which was simply indicating the fact that Jesus had already died.
His heart had ruptured on the inside...
And the blood in his body had already separated...
And when it came out it came out blood and water.
You cut yourself and the only thing that comes out looks like blood.
But itís really blood and water.
Itís just all mixed together.
But the blood in Jesusí body had already separated into its different components.
And so there was the redness of the blood and the whiteness of the liquid...
And it looked like water.
We live on this side of the cross.
Itís one thing to turn your back upon a God that brought you out of Egypt...
And brought you through the wilderness.
But oh, dear friend, to turn your back on the blessed Lord Jesus who gave his life on the cross...
Who was spit upon and rejected and reviled...
And cursed and beaten and whipped and slapped...
And he did it because he loved you.
To turn your back on him, to go away from him and to go back into a world of ungodliness...
Is far beyond my ability to explain.
What is the appeal of idolatry?
Why is it so popular?
>As I have thought about that and prayed about it this week...
I think the Lord has impressed three things on my heart and Iíll share them with you.
Why is it that Godís people will turn away from him...
And try to find joy and satisfaction and lifeís meaning...
In sex and money and power and popularity?
Why is it that people will do that?
>Well first of all, idolatry is popular because the worshiper can create his own gods.
Idolatry is popular because the person who worships an idol has created his own god.
And friends, when you go about creating your own gods...
You can create any kind of god you want to make.
He doesnít have to be holy.
He doesnít have to be righteous.
He doesnít have to have standards.
He doesnít have to make demands.
As a matter of fact, when you get good and ready you can even change gods.
>For example, what if your god is a college football team?
Iím an Arkansas fan, and I want to tell you there are a lot of Arkansas fans...
That Arkansas football is a god in their life.
And you can root for that team and for 10 or 12 Saturdays a year...
Your whole life revolves around that god.
Sometimes that god makes you happy when they win...
And sometimes that god makes you sad when they lose.
Sometimes you can talk big about that god...
And sometimes you can talk poorly about that god.
Because you see, itís a god you have made with your hands.
And if you come to the place that you are no longer satisfied with that god...
You can go find another football team, or another sport and say...
"Iím not going to anymore football games at Fayetteville or Little Rock.
Iím going to start supporting this institution and thatís going to become my god."
You see, idolatry is popular because the worshiper can create his own gods.
>I want to tell you, friend, Jehovah God is not a God that has been dreamed up in anybodyís mind.
He is God, a very God, and thereís not anybody like him.
He is a God of holiness.
He is a God of morality and standard.
He is a God high and lifted up, separate from sinners and undefiled.
He is a God who does not compromise.
He is a God of grace and glory.
That is the God of the Bible.
He was not created.
He is the one who did the creating.
He is the potter.
We are the clay...
And the clay has no right to tell the potter what to do with the clay.
But you see, idolatry says, "Make your own god."
>A second reason that idolatry is popular...
Is because the worshiper sets up his own terms of worship.
He sets the time.
He sets the place.
He sets the frequency.
"Iíll worship my god when I want to, where I want to...
At what time I want to, in any way I want to.
Iíll dress like I want to dress...
Iíll behave like I want to behave...
Iíll talk like I want to talk...
Iíll do what I want to do.
Itís my god.
I made him with my own hands and Iíll worship him like I want to.
Donít talk to me about Sunday morning and Sunday night and Wednesday night.
That doesnít fit my lifestyle.
Iím not interested in that.
I love my idol because I set the terms of worship."
>Oh, but thereís a third reason idolatry is popular.
Not only because the worshiper creates his own gods...
And sets up his own terms of worship...
But the worshiper determines his own rules.
You see, the reason some folks donít like God is because God has said...
"Thou shalt and thou shalt not."
The reason some folks donít like God is because thereís a Bible that comes with him.
Every once in a while somebody will say to me...
"Now preacher I want to tell you.
Iím a Christian and I try to live by the golden rule.
Iím not sure what it is, but I try to live by it.
And I try to keep the Ten Commandments when itís convenient to do so.
But I want to tell you, preacher, Iím a Christian, but I just donít believe everything the Bible says."
Well I want to tell you, youíre not a Christian and youíre going to hell.
You donít have the option to believe any part of the word of God.
The Bible is not a Piccadilly cafe that you can walk through the line and pick out what you like.
And you see, idolatry says, "You make up your own set of rules.
You set your own code of ethics.
There is no Bible.
There are no commandments.
There is no book that says, Ďthis is right and itís always right, and this is wrong and itís always wrong.í
There are no absolutes.
Everything just sort of merges into a warm fuzzy emotional experience.
Do whatever you want to do as long as it feels good."
Folks, if you donít think we live in that kind of society you need to wake up.
All over Garland County tonight there are more people worshiping gods...
That they have made on their own terms...
Having set up their own rules...
Than there are people in the houses of God praising the Lord Jesus.
The popularity of idolatry.
>And then one last thing.
We see the prevalence of idolatry and the popularity of idolatry...
But I want to close by talking about the price of idolatry.
I cannot stop you from worshiping an idol...
And again I do not mean bowing down and worshiping a statue or a totem pole or a golden image.
Iím talking about whatever it is that your life revolves around.
I cannot stop you from worshiping idols, but I want to say to you without any reservation or hesitation...
Thereís a price youíll pay.
Thereís a price that comes with idolatry.
>First of all, it breaks the heart of God.
I want you to see in verse 9:
Those who escape will remember me Ė how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts.
Now there are some translations of scripture that try to make that say that "I have broken"...
But thatís not right.
God says, "I am broken (grieved)".
Now Iím not opposed to other translations of scriptures.
There are some very good ones.
But I want to tell you this.
When you find them to be in contradiction to the KJV of scripture...
Donít be so eager to throw away what the KJV says.
You see the KJV of scripture is based on the manuscript called the Textus Receptus...
And it says what it says because itís based on that manuscript.
Donít be so eager to accept something just because it costs more money or just because itís a later edition...
Or just because it claims to rest upon older manuscripts.
God says, "I am grieved."
>Thereís something very overwhelming about the broken heart of God.
God looks upon the nation of Israel and says, "Iím broken hearted. Iím broken.
Youíve committed adultery against me."
I cannot tell you in the years Iíve been a pastor...
How many time a woman or a man has come into my office and sat down and began to sob...
And I say, "Whatís the matter?"
"Oh, Bro. Joe, my husband, my wife, has committed adultery and Iím crushed. Iím broken."
Oh, it always unnerves and unsettles me when that happens.
But oh, friend, can you imagine the heart of God?
I have an idea itís the same thing Jesus was talking about when he sat there on the Mount of Olives...
And he looked out over the city of Jerusalem.
And he said, "Oh, Jerusalem."
With a heart that was broken and with eyes that were flooding with tears...
"Oh, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you unto myself...
As a mother hen gathers her little baby chicks and you would not."
I wonder how Jesus must feel as he looks out over the church today...
And he sees the apathy and the casualness of it.
So many folks just are Christian when itís convenient.
I wonder if his heart is not broken.
I wonder how he feels on Sunday night when he looks all across our land.
Most churches donít even turn on the lights and donít even open the doors on Sunday nights.
And now more and more and more of our Baptist churches have come to do the same thing.
And they come up with such sleazy excuses.
"Oh, we want you to have quality family time."
I want you to hear me.
The greatest family time you can have is coming together to the house of God and praising the name of Jesus.
But I wonder, I stand here every Sunday morning and then every Sunday night...
And I have to tell you it doesnít really break my heart.
It makes me a little angry.
But I tell you, it breaks the heart of God.
"Iím broken. Iím grieved."
Oh, what a price for idolatry.
>But I want you to see a second price.
If youíre determined to live in idolatry, youíre going to break the heart of God...
But youíre going to lose your self-respect.
Look in verse 9: Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me Ė how I have been grieved by the adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me...
And by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols.
They will loathe themselves for the evil thing they have done and for their detestable practices.
>They will loathe themselves...loathe themselves.
>I wish folks would listen to preachers but they donít.
Iíve had young people come in.
"Bro. Joe, we messed up.
Bro. Joe, we made a mistake.
Bro. Joe, we went too far.
Oh, young person, why havenít you listened to this man of God?
For five years I told you and warned you.
Why havenít you listened?
Sometimes a man will come in.
Sometimes a woman will come in and say, "Preacher, Iíve been unfaithful to my husband...
Iíve been unfaithful to my wife...
My home is shattered...my children hate me.
Oh, Bro. Joe, Iím so sorry."
And I wonder, "What in Godís name have you listened to for five years from this pulpit?"
What have you listened to?
Oh friend, Iíve done my best to warn you, and youíll end up hating yourself.
"Oh preacher, I hate myself for what Iíve done to God.
I hate myself for what Iíve done to my family.
I hate myself for what Iíve done to me.
It costs you your self-respect.
>But then one last thing.
If you choose to live worshiping idols, you break the heart of God...
You lose your self-respect, and you give Godís enemies an opportunity to rejoice.
Look there in verse 11: This is what the sovereign Lord says, "Strike your hands together and stomp your feet and cry out, alas!"
What is he doing?
He says, "Now Ezekiel, I want you to act out another scene."
In chapter 4 he acted out the scene of the clay tablet...
And he acted out the scene of lying on his side...
And he acted out the scene of eating that bread that was cooked over cow dung.
In chapter 5, he acted out the scene of shaving off all his har and burning a third of it...
And chopping up a third of it...
And throwing a third of it to the wind.
Now in chapter 6, heís preaching.
Heís preaching to the mountains and to the rivers and hills and valleys.
Heís preaching, but as heís preaching all of these people are standing there listening to him...
And theyíre hearing him.
And then God says, "Now I want you to go back to acting again."
He said, "I want you to begin to clap your hands."
Some versions say it means that they were hitting their fists.
The smiting of the hands is the clapping of the hands.
The stomping of the feet is like dancing.
And say, "Alas.
Look what has happened to those Jehovah people.
Look whatís happened.
Clap your hands...
Stomp your feet...
Clap your hands...
Itís a picture of being happy because God has sent judgment upon his people.
>"Bro. Joe, is there any hope?"
Why there sure is.
Come back home, amen?
Was it Thornton Wilder who wrote "Our Town"?
Didnít he say in there something like, "You canít go home again"?
I have good news for you.
Hey, the Prodigal Son, he got far away, but he came back home, amen?
You can come back home.
"Iíve wandered far away from God, now Iím coming home."
You can come back home.
It doesnít matter what youíve done.
It doesnít matter how far youíve gone.
Cast down the idol.
Turn your back upon it.
Admit that it has broken the heart of God.
Admit that it has robbed you of your self-esteem.
Admit that it has given your enemies a chance to laugh at you.
And then repent of it and turn your back on it and come back home to God.
Thatís the hope of this.
I could not stand the book of Ezekiel if it werenít for the glimpses of Godís grace and mercy and hope.
>We live in a dark world.
We live in a world that is becoming more and more ungodly.
Listen to me.
Donít jump up and down in happiness because some television program has been dropped.
Donít think now that weíre going to bring back Roy Rogers and Captain Kangaroo.
Weíre not because Hollywood has fallen under the captivity of wicked, gross, immoral, ungodly pagans.
And this next television season is going to be worse than weíve ever seen before.
We live in a dark world.
Crime is everywhere.
More teenagers are dying of alcoholism and drugs than any other disease known to teenagers.
We live in a world of abortion and ungodliness and gambling and wickedness.
But I want to tell you, in the midst of the darkness God keeps on poking holes.
And the grace comes showering through.
Oh, itís dark, but Iím not looking at the darkness.
Iím looking for holes where the light shines through.
>One of the old songs says, "In times like these, we need the Bible...
In times like these, we need revival."
And I believe revival can come.
I believe revival can happen if Godís people will say...listen to me...
Friend, revival will start with Godís people.
I donít even go to church growth conferences anymore.
Iím telling you, Iím just sick of them.
I go to some of these conferences and they say,
"Now listen, you cannot sing these grand old hymns of the faith in your worship services anymore.
You canít sing about ĎRock of Agesí.
You canít sing ĎThe Old Rugged Crossí.
You canít sing ĎAt Calvaryí.
You canít sing ĎAmazing Graceí...
Because lost people donít care anything about those songs.
And youíve got to sing little light and frothy choruses that donít have any meat in them...
And get all the folks to come in.
Let me tell you something.
The Bible never one time says weíre to build our worship services around what lost people think.
Weíre to build them around what God thinks.
And weíre not gonna build our services around what infidels think and ungodly people think.
Weíll stand on the old Bible.
>Let me just close by saying thereís no place to find the abundant life outside of Jesus.
There is no other place.
Youíll not find in any idol what youíll find in him.
Heís the bread of life.
If youíre thirsty, heís the water of life.
If youíve lost your way, heís the good shepherd.
If youíre in darkness, heís the light of the world.
If youíre facing death, heís the resurrection and the life.
Youíll not find anywhere in anything or in anybody what youíll find in him.
Iím gonna stick with Jesus.