Signs of Coming Judgment
Would you take your Bibles and turn to the book of Ezekiel.
>The book of Ezekiel is not an easy book.
It’s a very difficult book and the further I get into it the more difficult I’m finding it to be.
In the first three chapters we saw the call of God on Ezekiel’s life.
God called Ezekiel to be a prophet, and God commissioned him to serve as a prophet.
Now while we saw a lot of wonderful things in the first three chapters…
Basically those are the first two major things that took place.
God called Ezekiel and God commissioned him to be a prophet.
But we saw one very unique thing about Ezekiel’s ministry as a prophet.
As a matter of fact, there’s no other prophet in all of the OT like this.
Usually when God would call a man to be a prophet and commissioned him to be a prophet…
He would go out publicly proclaiming, he would go out preaching the message God had given to him.
>But look back in chapter 3 verse 26.
This is what God says to Ezekiel as he commissions him into the ministry of being a prophet.
God says, "And I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth, so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, though they are a rebellious house.
But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says.’"
>Now most of the prophets that God called, he called them to be public preachers.
God wanted them to stand in public places where they would have the grandest audience…
To declare the message God had given to them.
But God said to Ezekiel, "Now Ezekiel, I don’t want you to do that; at least not initially…
Now there’s going to come a day when you are going to be a preacher of my word…
But in your initial stages of ministry you’re not going to e a preaching prophet…
You’re going to have a ministry that is basically a silent one…
Instead of being a preacher, you’re going to be an actor…
You’re going to act out some scenes."
In chapter 4 we see three scenes.
Later on in chapter 5 we’ll see a fourth scene.
But these three scenes are going to be acted out by Ezekiel.
Maybe you’ve played the game Charades.
Maybe you’ve seen someone doing the work of a mime, a pantomime.
Well that’s what God says Ezekiel is going to do.
"You’re going to be a real prophet and you’re going to deliver a real message…
But it’s not going to be done through preaching.
It’s going to be done through the acting out of scenes.
And this particular ministry is going to last about fourteen months, about 430 days.
So for 430 days at least you’re not going to be a preacher.
You’re going to be an actor and act out these scenes day after day."
>Now the first scene is found in verses 1-3…
And it is a scene of a clay tablet that they used for writing.
>The second scene is found in verses 4-8, and it is a scene of Ezekiel lying down.
He says, "I want you to lie down for 390 days on your left side…
And you’re not going to be able to turn over because I’m going to hold you in place…
And then after you’ve lied down on your left side for 390 days…
I want you to flip over and lay on your right side for 40 days."
Now that’s the second scene.
>The third scene is the scene of eating of bread that would be the most pitiful, most meager ingredients you could find.
It would be near starvation for someone to try to live on that kind of bread.
Now those are the three scenes.
>Now in chapter 4, I want you to look at two important phrases.
Look in verse 3, the last sentence.
"This will be a sign."
Underline the word sign.
What is a sign in the Bible?
It’s a picture.
A sign is a picture that reveals God’s truth.
The book of Revelation is a book of signs.
It is full of pictures.
That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily literal pictures…
But they do reveal literal truth of God.
>Now the second phrase you need to see is that these signs we’re going to look at in just a minute…
The reason for them is found in the last few words of verse 17: Of their sin.
What is the purpose of the book of Ezekiel?
The purpose of the book of Ezekiel is not to show God’s dealing with unbelievers.
The purpose of the book of Ezekiel is to show God’s discipline with his people.
Friend, you cannot be a child of God and sin and get by.
You just can’t do it.
God will blister your britches.
And that’s what the book of Ezekiel is about.
God says, "I’m giving you these signs that are going to reveal truth…
And I’m giving you these signs because of the sin, the iniquity, of my people."
So let’s look at these three signs.
Now remember that Ezekiel was a Jew.
But at this time he is not living in Jerusalem and he is not living in any other part of Israel.
He’s living over in Babylon.
Now he’s not living in Babylon by choice.
He’s living over there because he is one of thousands that had been captured by Nebuchadnezzar’s army.
Daniel is over there.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are over there.
They used to be in Jerusalem.
That’s their homeland.
But now they along with thousands of other young men have been taken captive and they are living as slaves over in Babylon.
Now what are the people over in Israel doing?
Are they praying for those folks in Babylon?
Are they on their face before God interceding on behalf of those folks in Babylon?
Are they sitting down at war councils trying to devise plans to invade Babylon and rescue the hostages?
What are they doing over in Israel?
Well that’s what God has Ezekiel to tell those captives.
"I want you to tell them, Ezekiel, by your actions…
I want you to tell them by the scenes, the signs…
That you’re going to live out that the people in Israel are not praying.
The people in Israel are not seeking my face.
The people in Israel are not walking with me.
But I want you to tell them they’ve turned their backs on me…
And they’ve gone after false gods, and they are living a life of rebellion.
They’ve raised their fists in my face and said, ‘we’re gonna do what we want to do"…
So Ezekiel, you tell them that Jerusalem’s days are numbered.
They are fixing to collapse because I’m going to bring judgment upon Jerusalem…
And upon Israel the northern kingdom and upon Judah the southern kingdom…
And the whole thing is going to be destroyed."
And so that was Ezekiel’s message, to tell these folks over here in captivity…
Who had been taken away from their homeland that there is no hope coming…
No help from the homeland.
Jerusalem cannot save.
Israel cannot save.
Judah cannot save.
If there is to be any deliverance, it will come from above not from the east.
>Now let’s look at these three scenes.
In verses 1-3, there is a scene, there is a sign of the clay tablets.
Look in verse 1: Now son of man, take a clay tablet.
That’s about a one foot square clay tablet.
The clay would be packed very hard.
Sometimes they would bake it and it would become somewhat like a blackboard.
But most of the time it was just beaten down real hard…
And if they wanted to erase it they just rubbed it out, beat it down again…
And took a stylus or a stick and wrote in there what they wanted to say.
So God says, "Ezekiel, I want you, a grown man, a man that I’ve called and commissioned to be a prophet…
I want you to get you a clay tablet and every morning for 390 days and then 40 more days…
Every morning for 430 days, 14 months, I want you to come outside of your house.
It doesn’t matter if it rains or shines.
It doesn’t matter if it is cold or hot.
For 430 days you’re going to come outside of your house, out in public view…
And you’re going to lie down with this little clay tablet and I want you to draw on that little tablet…
An outline of the city of Jerusalem."
>Look at it again.
He says, "Now son of man, take a clay tablet, put it in front of you, and draw the city of Jerusalem on it."
Every day, Ezekiel, every day for 430 days you’re going to come out of your house…
You’re going to lie down on the ground and you’re going to take this clay tablet…
And you’re going to draw the outline of the city of Jerusalem."
>But now look at what else he says.
He says, "Then lay siege to it; erect siege against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams against it."
What is God telling him to do?
God says, "Ezekiel, you’re going to play war."
Did you ever play war when you were a kid?
>But God’s not playing, and Ezekiel wasn’t playing.
God said, "every day for 14 months, every day for 430 days, you’re gonna come out of your house.
You’re gonna lie down on your side.
You’re gonna get that clay tablet.
You’re gonna draw a square representing the city of Jerusalem and you’re gonna put battering rams over here….
And you’re gonna put soldiers over here, and you’re gonna put a fort over here…
And you’re gonna put mounds over here and mounds over there."
And that’s a picture of what’s gonna happen over in Jerusalem.
It’s going to fall.
So people would come by and they’d see this prophet of God.
"Man, you’re not like Jeremiah.
Man, Jeremiah, he always preached to us.
You’re not like Obadiah…Obadiah preached to us.
What are you doing lying down on the floor playing war?"
Well though God had told Ezekiel not to preach, he didn’t tell him he couldn’t say anything.
And so he would tell them, he’d say, "You see this that I’ve drawn here on this little clay tablet?
That’s Jerusalem. And you see all these implements, all these weapons…
And all of these troops and all of these battering rams?
That’s the men and the weaponry of the Babylonians.
And even as you and I are speaking…
God is going to let those Babylonians invade Jerusalem and Jerusalem is going to be destroyed."
>Then God said, "I want you to do something else, Ezekiel.
I want you to get an iron pan."
Now I never played with an iron pan when I was a kid.
I want you to know that.
But God said, "I want you to get an iron pan.
And while you’re lying on your side drawing that picture and putting all those little toy soldiers all around…
While you’re lying there I want you to take that iron pan and hold it up in front of your face…
So that you’ll not be able to see what you’ve drawn on the clay tablet."
>Now what is that a picture of?
Well on the clay tablet, he says that picture is Jerusalem.
Ezekiel is the prophet.
He is the man of God.
Ezekiel is a picture of God – God looking upon his people.
But God said, "Put an iron pan in between your face and that picture."
That’s a picture of God, his face being blocked from view of his people.
What is that iron pan?
It’s a wall of sin.
Isaiah said, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God."
God had predicted it back in the book of Deuteronomy.
>Put in your margin Deuteronomy 31:17-18.
On that day, I will become angry with them and forsake them. I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed.
Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, "Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?
(Verse 18) And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of their wickedness in turning to other gods.
>Folks, I want to tell you, God is not playing.
Ezekiel is not playing.
The child of God cannot turn away from God.
The child of God cannot turn away from the walls of God.
The child of God cannot turn away from the ways of God and get by.
You cannot sing, "I’m walking the King’s highway"…
If you’re living in rebellion against God because I’m telling you there’s an iron pot between you and his face.
That iron pan is a wall of sin.
Until that iron pan comes down, until that wall falls, you’ll not be walking in fellowship with him.
I’ll say more about that in just a minute.
>But let’s think about the second scene.
We’ve seen the first.
In verses 4-8, it has to do with Ezekiel’s position, lying down.
Gonna lie on your left side for 390 days.
Now understand, this is not 24 hours a day.
This is a day job, okay?
Prophets have day jobs.
And so at night he would get up, go into the house, ate supper and went to bed.
But every day, eight hours a day, in the hours of sunlight he was out there lying on his left side for 390 days.
That’s 11 months.
Almost 13 months he would be lying there.
God says, "Now Ezekiel, when you’re lying there on your left side I want you to face the northern kingdom of Israel…
Because each one of those days represents a year that I’m going to bring judgment upon my people in Israel.
390 days is equal to 390 years and that’s how long my folks are going to suffer because of their iniquity.
Now after you’ve done that for 390 days I want you to roll over and face…
On your right side I want you to face the southern kingdom, Judah, for 40 days…
Because each day is going to represent a year and I’m going to discipline them for 40 years."
>Now 390 days and 40 is 430.
Now I don’t know for sure whether that was going to be literal or not.
But I know this, when they heard about 430 years what do you think they thought about?
They thought about when their forefathers were in Egypt.
How long were the children of Israel in Egypt before Moses led them out?
They were there 430 years.
And so God was reminding them, "I really do bring discipline upon my children.
I really do bring discipline upon my people."
And when they heard that 430 years, they knew that God wasn’t kidding.
He had done it before and now he’s ready to do it again.
>And then we come to the third sign, and this is the one that’s the hardest of all.
God said, "Now every day, Ezekiel, while you’re out there lying on your side, drawing that picture and playing war…
I want you to prepare a daily meal.
Your meal is going to be little cakes."
I suppose something like what we would look at today, a rice cake.
It cannot weigh any more than half a pound, 8 ounces.
And that’s all you’re going to have to eat all day.
You’re going to make it out of wheat and barley and grain and beans and lentils and mullet and fitches."
I mean stuff you wouldn’t feed to a dog.
"You’re going to have a half a pint of water."
You remember wen you used to go to school and get milk, those little half pints?
That’s all he’s gonna have all day long.
Eight hours a day out there.
All he’s gonna have to drink is a half pint of water and that little round barley cake.
>Now if that’s not bad enough, he said, "Now I’m going to tell you one other thing.
I want you to cook it on a fire that’s made not out of wood, not out of sticks, not out of leaves…
But I want you to cook that cake on a fire made out of human dung."
Now Ezekiel at that point registered a protest.
I probably would myself.
But the reason he did it was because it was an act of defilement and Ezekiel before he was a prophet was a priest.
And as a priest he would not have done that.
And so the Lord, and I think probably it was just a test anyway.
I doubt that God wanted him to do that.
So God said, "All right, I want you to substitute for human dung cow dung."
Now that’s a little more socially acceptable.
Out in the west at cowboy cookouts they still use those old cow chips for firewood.
And they will often times cook and it seems to be a very good source of fuel.
But what was that a picture of?
It was a picture of coming famine to Jerusalem.
God says, "They are going to starve to death."
And so for 8 hours a day, 430 days, Ezekiel would be lying down outside…
Drawing this picture, putting up these little toy weapons of war…
He’d be cooking on cow chips…
The bread that he was going to eat having only a half pint of water to drink.
And people would come by and they would say, "Ezekiel, what does all of this mean?"
"Oh, this means that judgment is coming to Jerusalem…
This means that Israel and Judah are going to fall because they’ve sinned against our father.
They’ve sinned against God and sin never goes unnoticed and sin never goes unpunished.
And God says that he’s going to send judgment upon his people because they have erected a wall of sin,..
Between them and him.
And it’s going to last 430 years and they are going to starve.
Famine is coming, and they are going to starve."
>Now that’s what the 4th chapter of Ezekiel is all about.
Now how do you apply all that?
Well let me in just a couple of minutes make this application.
Six statements I want to share with you, and basically that’s what they’ll be is statements.
>Statement number 1.
There are many believers today who live out of fellowship with God.
At some point in the past they were saved.
Now understand, friends, there are many people who think they were saved who were never saved.
But there are some who have been saved who are living in rebellion against God.
Now have they lost their salvation?
Not if they were really saved.
The relationship is still there, but the fellowship is gone.
Now some may say, "Well as long as the relationship is there, then I don’t care much about the fellowship."
That’s a good sign you were never saved to start with.
Because you see, there is in the child of God a longing for the presence of God.
No matter how far away you may get from God, no matter how deep in sin you may fall…
There’s always in the heart of a real born again child of God a longing for the presence of God.
There’s a hunger for that fellowship.
You see, if you’ve ever been in fellowship with God, there’s not anything else that will ever substitute for it.
You can have all the friends…
You can have all the empires…
You can have all the money.
But if you’ve ever been in fellowship with God…
There’s nothing you can do to replace it.
And there are many believers today who are living out of fellowship with God.
>Now that brings me to the second statement.
As a result of living out of fellowship with God, they are experiencing the discipline of God.
Somebody asked me the other day, they said, "Bro. Joe, did your daddy ever spank you?"
Never one time.
My daddy didn’t spank.
My daddy whipped.
I never got a spanking…I got lots of whippings.
Now my daddy loved me when he whipped me, and he loved me when he didn’t.
But I’ll tell you one thing, I enjoyed the not getting a whipping more than I did the whipping.
I would rather be looking at cows with my dad.
I’d rather be in my truck with my dad going somewhere.
I’d rather be sitting at the house watching television with my dad than to be getting a whipping from my dad.
My dad never backed down from a whipping.
I never one time talked him out of it.
If he ever said, "I’m going to whip you when I get home"…
I knew the only thing that would spare me was death.
I could pretend to be sick…
I could claim to have a stomachache.
You know I could tell my daddy, "I’m going through the change of life…"
None of that made any difference.
If he said I was going to get a whipping, I was going to get a whipping before the sun set that night.
Never one time did I ever talk him out of it.
>Folks, I want to tell you, if you’re a child of God and you want to live in rebellion and out of fellowship with God…
And you hear me, if you’re living in rebellion you’re not in fellowship with God.
It doesn’t matter how much you claim to pray.
It doesn’t matter how much you claim to walk.
If you’re not walking with God, you’re in rebellion against him and you’re not in fellowship with him.
And if you’re out of fellowship with God, you’re going to experience the discipline of God.
>And that brings me to the third statement and I’ve already said it.
The reason for that is because sin never goes unnoticed or unpunished.
You see, friends, if God were to ever allow you to get away with sin…
God would become a collaborator in your sin.
God himself would become a sinner and God would need to be saved.
If God were to ever let you sin and get by, then God’s holiness would be called into question.
If God were to ever let one of his children sin and get away with it…
Then God’s character would have developed a flaw because God cannot let sin go unnoticed…
And he cannot let sin go unpunished.
If you don’t believe me, ask Jimmy Swaggart.
If you don’t believe Jimmy Swaggart, ask Jim Baker.
If you don’t believe Jim Baker, ask Bob Harrington.
If you don’t believe him, ask any other preacher that has fallen that you want to ask…
Or any other layman or deacon or whatever.
Sin cannot go unnoticed or unpunished because if that were to happen…
The character of God would be defiled.
>That brings me to the fourth statement.
Discipline lasts as long as people refuse to repent and get right with God.
You know how long my daddy used to whip me?
He’d say, "Son, are you going to do that again?"
Hey, I’m no fool.
I mean my daddy is standing there with a belt four and a half miles long.
You think I’m going to say, "Yeah, I’m going to do it again".
No, not me.
You see, when I got right my daddy quit whipping me.
Now folks, listen, my daddy didn’t love to do that.
My daddy loved to do things with me.
We were pals…we enjoyed each other.
My daddy never got delight out of whipping me.
He didn’t like that…he didn’t enjoy it.
And God doesn’t get a delight out of chastising his children.
God doesn’t want to whip you.
God wants to bless you.
God wants to bless your life.
God wants to bless your home.
God wants to bless your job.
God wants to bless your kids.
God wants to bless everything you’ve got.
Folks, if you put an iron pan up in front of his face, he’s not going to bless you.
He’s going to whip you.
And he’ll whip you as long as it takes for you to tear down that wall of sin and say, "Father, I’ve sinned."
>That brings me to the fifth statement of application.
As long as folks are unwilling to repent and live in the discipline of God, they are experiencing spiritual famine.
You say, "Bro. Joe, you mean Ezekiel had to eat that stuff?"
"You mean all that stuff with wheat and barley and grain and lentils and fitch cooked on cow dung?
He had to eat that?"
He had to eat it.
Boy that must have been awful.
I can tell you something worse than that.
To have access to the living bread and turn away form it for the swill of this world.
You talk about famine, friend, that’s famine.
>But the last thing, God will forgive and God will restore when his people repent.
God said, "I want you to do it for 430 days, representing 430 years."
And when they heard 430 years bells began to go off…
Because that reminded them of how long the children of Israel were down in Egypt.
But after they had been in Egypt all those years, what did they do?
The Bible says they cried out unto God.
For years and years and centuries and centuries they didn’t cry out to God.
They didn’t repent…they didn’t confess.
But finally they were broken and they fell on their face before God.
The Bible says that the Lord "saw their affliction", and the Lord "heard their cries"…
And the Lord said, "I am come down to deliver."
And Pharaoh and all of his army couldn’t hold them when God said, "I’m going to deliver them".
God is good!
>Maybe you’re here today.
There was a time when you did walk in fellowship with God but you’re not anymore.
There’s a wall…there’s a barrier…
You’re in the woodshed.
It’s not fun.
But folks, you don’t have to stay.
"There’s a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins."
And that blood is powerful and that blood will cleanse from all sin.
John was not writing to lost people.
John was writing to saved people when he said, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin."
If you’re here today, some have gotten caught up in a debate.
Do Christians have to confess their sin?
What a stupid, stupid debate.
Yes, Christians must confess their sins to God.
Not to have relationship with him, but to have fellowship with him.
And if you’ll confess and repent, the wall comes down.
The discipline stops and the blessings return.
>Maybe you’re here today and you’ve never been saved.
Jesus loves you.
He died for you.
He’ll save you if you’ll trust him.
Maybe you’re here today and you need a church home and this is where your heart is.
You like the things you hear here.
You like the music here.
You like the folks here.
There’s just something in your heart that registers, "You know, this is home."
We invite you to come and move your membership.
Whatever God tells you.
This is an altar.
If you’d like to come and just do business with God at the altar, you’re welcome to come.
If you need to be saved, come tell me.
If you need to move your membership, come tell me.
If you want to come and privately do business with God, the altar is here.