Light in the Darkness
Would you take your Bibles please and turn to Ezekiel chapter 11:14-25...
>Now remember, since the beginning of chapter 8, we have been in a vision...
A vision that God allowed Ezekiel to see concerning Jerusalem and Judea.
But now the vision is coming to an end, and the last part of the vision is this cherubim bearing the glory of God.
It is the departure of the glory of God.
It had been predicted, and now in the vision itís coming about...
The departure of the glory of God from the land of Israel.
>Then did the cherubims, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
(Verse 23) The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.
(Verse 24) The spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the spirit of God. Then the vision I had seen went up from me.
Now thatís back where he was.
(Verse 25) And I told the exiles everything the Lord had shown me.
>Thus far in the book of Ezekiel, for 10Ĺ chapters...
We have seen the pronouncement of the judgment of God on the nation of Israel.
One might conclude that the book of Ezekiel is a book of judgment.
But in reality the book of Ezekiel is a book of the grace of God.
If you ever go to a really expensive jeweler to look at a fine diamond...
They will usually put the stone against the backdrop of a solid black piece of velvet...
Because the beauty of the stone is more readily seen when it is presented in front of a black backdrop.
Well may I say to you, friends, there is not any greater backdrop for the grace of God...
Than the judgment of God.
And even though much has been said about wrath and judgment...
The book of Ezekiel is primarily about grace.
God sets that gem of grace against a backdrop of judgment against sin.
What we find here is a picture in the book of Ezekiel of the grace of God.
As I said, for 10Ĺ chapters weíve seen judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment.
As a result of all that Ezekiel saw now in this vision...
He finally was forced to ask God a very important question.
>Look there in chapter 11 verse 13: Now as I was prophesying, Pelatiah son of Benarod, died. Then I fell face down and cried out in a loud voice, "Ah, Sovereign Lord! Will you completely destroy the remnant of Israel?"
>Can I paraphrase that for you?
Ezekiel was simply staggered at the picture, the scenes of the judgment of God.
He was overwhelmed.
God had shown him so much corruption and so much pollution of the people of Israel.
These were people that were supposed to be people of God.
These were people that were supposed to be in a covenant relationship with God.
But they had turned their backs on God.
They were living in total rebellion against God.
God had sent warnings to them.
The reason that Ezekiel and many others are living over in captivity in Babylon...
Was because God allowed Nebuchadnezzarís army to come in and take some of them captive...
Hoping to be a warning to the nation to repent and turn back to God.
But it was to no avail because the more that Nebuchadnezzar captured...
The harder the hearts of the people of Israel became.
As a matter of fact, according to verse 14 and following...
The people that were left over there in Israel...
They thought that they were the ones that were blessed of God...
Because the bad ones obviously were those taken captive...
"And since we were left, we must be doing something right."
But you see, they were wrong.
They werenít doing anything right.
They had turned their backs on God.
They were worshiping idols.
They were worshiping four-footed beasts.
They were doing anything and everything they could to insult the person of God.
And Ezekiel had seen all of that, and he had seen the judgment of God that was coming.
And finally he saw that they really did begin to die and he said...
"Oh Lord, is there anyone that can survive your wrath, your judgment, when it comes?
God will anybody be saved? Jew, Gentile, will anybody be saved?"
And God gives Ezekiel an answer to that question in the verses that Iíve read for you tonight.
>Have you ever wondered, "Does God really have an eternal purpose?"
Is he like that quilt maker who has a master design, a master plan from the start...
And every stitch he sews is moving toward that end purpose?
Or is he like a person who starts out to make a quilt and they donít have any design in mind?
They just get this piece of cloth and sew it to this piece...
And here they find a piece of cloth on the road and they sew it in.
They find another piece and sew it in...they find another piece in the garbage can and they sew it in.
And they end up with something that looks hideous.
Is that the way God is?
Is he like a quilt maker of a master design, or is he just doing the best he can with what heís got?
I mean, poor old God, is he just struggling along doing the best he can?
Is he like a baseball team manager?
Is he having to constantly change the play and change the picture?
Is God constantly having to go to plan B and plan C?
Does God really have an eternal purpose?"
>Well Iím glad to tell you that he does.
I want you to turn over to the book of Ephesians in the NT.
Ephesians chapter 3, and I want to share with you in verse 11 that Godís word teaches us...
That he really does have an eternal purpose, a master plan.
In Ephesians 3:11: According to his eternal purpose which he accepted in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now that tells me two things.
>It tells me first of all that God really does and always has had an eternal purpose.
There was not a time when eternity began.
There is not a time when eternity shall end.
Thatís what eternity is.
It just has no beginning.
It has no ending.
It just always is.
And there has never been a time when God did not have an eternal purpose.
God does have an eternal purpose, and secondly, that eternal purpose is wrapped up in the person of JC.
Now whatever Godís eternal purpose is, you canít be a part of it if you donít know Jesus.
I mean, you just mark it down.
If you donít know him, you are going to be left out of whatever Godís eternal purpose is.
It doesnít matter how much money you make.
It doesnít matter how many fortunes you acquire.
It doesnít matter how many fine automobiles you drive.
Iím telling you that you cannot be a part of Godís eternal purpose...
If you do not have JC in your life, because Godís eternal purpose...
Is wrapped up in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
>Well what is his eternal purpose?
Well go back to Ephesians chapter 3 again.
Look there in verse 1...
Paul says: For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles...
(Verse 2) Surely you have heard about the administration of Godís grace that was given to me for you...
(Verse 3) That is, the mystery made known to me by revelation.
>Here Paul is saying that the eternal purpose of God was a mystery up until the time Paul wrote these words.
Now what is a mystery?
It is not some kind of a novel with twists and turns involving crooks and good guys.
A mystery is a revealed secret.
It is a secret of God that man would have never known, not intentionally nor accidentally.
Man would have never discovered this truth by study, and he would have never just accidentally stumbled across it.
Paul says, "Iím telling you a mystery of God that man would have never known except God has chosen to reveal it to me...
And heís told me now to reveal it to you.
This is the eternal purpose of God.
It has always been, but it has been a mystery in time past.
But now you are going to be able to see what it is."
>(Verse 5) Which was not made known to man in other generations as it has been revealed by the spirit to Godís holy apostles and prophets.
Here it is...
(Verse 6) This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and heirs together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
(Verse 7) I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of Godís grace given me through the working of his power.
(Verse 8) Although I am less than the least of all Godís people, this grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
>Do you know what the eternal purpose of God is?
It is the church of the living God.
The church...thatís the mystery.
Thatís the purpose.
What is the church?
Is the church brick and mortar and buildings and cement and carpet and pews and stained glass windows?
I want to tell you, thatís not the church.
The church is people...people.
People who belong solely to Jesus Christ.
Itís not talking about that false church that has members that have never been redeemed by the grace of God.
Itís not talking about folks who have not done anything but walk down an aisle...
And fill out a card and get dipped in water.
Itís talking about people that have truly repented of their sin and been born again by the HS of God...
People who have been genuinely converted and whose lives have been transformed.
Thatís the true church.
The people of God, a people that will love him...
Thatís the eternal purpose of God.
It was never made known until Paul wrote it...
And it was all accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ.
>Now I want you to see that weíve seen glimpses of that throughout history.
God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
It was an expression of his eternal purpose.
God desires a people who will love him and live with him and fellowship with him.
God wants a people...God loves people.
Now listen to me...
God does not need people.
It is not that God has some kind of basic need that only you or I can meet.
Friend, God doesnít need anything.
God has everything.
Heís not in need of anything.
It is simply that God has chosen to have a people who would love him and fellowship with him.
Now that they would be puppets and he the marionette who pulled the string...
But that they would love him with hearts that are real and genuine.
To Adam and Eve, God was creator.
They owed their very life to him.
Before God created Eve, she was a rib in the side of Adam.
Before God created Adam, he was dust on the face of the earth.
Had it not been for God, they would have never come into existence.
Everything they had they owed to God.
He made them.
He gave them water to drink...he gave them air to breathe...
He gave them food to eat...he gave them the glory of God to wear.
Everything they had, they owed to God.
But I want to tell you this, God would never have a people if it were based upon their gratitude to him.
You see, friend, gratitude is an admirable commodity but we are prone to be very forgetful people.
We forget the good things people do for us.
How prone we are to turn on those who have cared for us.
How prone we are to say something harsh and ugly and sharp about people who have befriended us in the past.
You see, friends, gratitude is not a basis for relationship.
Adam and Eve knew him as creator, and their relationship to him was one of gratitude.
But they did not become that people God desired.
>God called a man by the name of Abraham to be the father of a mighty nation, a Jewish nation, the Hebrew people.
God established a covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
God made a covenant with him.
God gave a law to them, and so to the nation of Israel God is not just creator.
God is lawgiver, and they entered into a covenant with God and said...
"We will do what you tell us to do. We will say what you tell us to say.
We will go where you tell us to go. You just say it and weíll do it."
And that was a basis of a covenant.
God was a lawgiver, and they were to be law obeyer, and that was the basis of covenant.
>But you see, the heart is desperately wicked.
Man soon forgets the vows that he makes.
We forget the promises weíve made, and we begin to do things we would never do.
And we begin to say words we said weíd never say.
And we begin to go places we said we would never go.
And because the nation of Israel violated the covenant of God...
They sinned against God, they would not walk in his ways...
Godís heart was broken again because he did not have a people.
Knowing God as creator can make you temporarily grateful.
Knowing God as a lawgiver can make you temporarily obedient.
>But then God chose to reveal himself again in the person of Jesus Christ.
He is not just God the creator.
He is not just God the lawgiver.
He is God the redeemer in grace.
God has called unto himself a people, not a people who are to love him out of some kind of gratitude...
Not a people who are to serve him out of some sense of obedience to a law...
But God has called a people to come and be a part of his very own family.
You and I who are the redeemed of God are the children of God.
God is not known to us as creator.
God is not known to us as lawgiver.
God is known to us as Abba, Daddy, Father.
It is a picture of the closest, most intimate relationship that a child and their father can ever have.
What God longed for in Adam, God did not have as creator.
What God longed for in Abraham and his descendants, God did not have as a lawgiver.
But what God longed for all throughout his eternal purpose, he now has through the person of Jesus Christ.
Now that is the eternal purpose of God.
>Now having said that, go back to Ezekiel 11.
And I want you to see Godís promise to those Jews that were over there in Babylonian captivity.
Most of them were young men when they were taken captive.
Most of them felt that they would never again see their homeland.
They would never again see the land of Israel.
They were kidnapped...they were captive...
They were not even their own men.
They were pieces of Chaldean property.
They served at the whim of Nebuchadnezzar.
They did what he said...
And yet, look what God promises them.
>There in verse 16, God says: I have been a sanctuary for them.
God says, "Oh yes, some of you have scattered. Some of you have been taken captive.
Some are living in foreign lands.
But I want to tell you, I will be a sanctuary for you."
Now what has God shown Ezekiel in this vision?
God has shown Ezekiel that the glory of God is departing from the temple.
What was the temple?
It was the sanctuary of Godís people.
It was a place where they could go and meet God.
But now God has lifted his glory off that Jerusalem temple.
But he says, "I want to tell you, I may have lifted my glory off that house...
But I have not lifted my glory off those who really, really love me."
As the ones in Israel were growing colder and colder and harder and harder...
Those in captivity were growing closer and closer to God.
And God said, "It doesnít matter who claims to be your king...
It doesnít matter whether itís Darius or Cyrus or Nebuchadnezzar or somebody else.
I want you to know I am going to be a sanctuary for you.
You may not have a majestic house in which to enter, but I am big enough to be your sanctuary."
>Notice a second thing he says.
Not only do I promise to be a sanctuary for you, I promise that one day Iím going to gather you again.
Look in verse 17: Therefore say, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered."
You are scattered, but one day thereís going to come a gathering.
Oh, he says, "My people are going to be gathered together."
>Notice a third thing he says.
In verse 17, the last part of the verse: and I will give you back the land of Israel.
God says, "Iím going to give you a land."
Isnít that good?
God says, "Iím going to be your sanctuary."
God says, "Iím going to gather you that are scattered."
And God says, "I am going to give you a land, a place to live."
>Now look what else he says to them.
He says in verses 19 and 20: "Iím going to do a work in your heart."
Look at it.
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit on them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
(A responsive heart, a loving heart, a true, caring, compassionate heart).
God says, "Iím going to do something inside of you."
Religion deals with externals, but relationship involves internal things.
God says, "Iím going to do something inside of you."
>Look what else God says.
He says that: Iím going to give them a heart of flesh, then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people and I will be their God.
God says, "Youíre gonna belong to me, and Iím gonna belong to you."
Isnít that a great promise?
>You say, "Well when was that fulfilled?"
Well part of it was fulfilled about 150 years after Ezekiel wrote it down.
Because about 150 years later the people did go back to Israel.
Ezra and Nehemiah led the people back.
They rebuilt the walls of the city, and there was a restoration.
There was a spiritual revival.
God did a work 150 years later after Ezekiel had been given this vision.
But friends, I want to tell you, all of this wasnít fulfilled until Jesus came.
Jesus is the one who gives a man a brand new heart.
Jesus is the one who makes God our Father and makes us his children.
Apart from Jesus there would be no hope whatsoever.
And so what we find right here is fulfilled in our day.
Every time somebody walks down one of these aisles and says, "Bro. Joe, I want to be saved"...
Thatís God doing a new thing in their heart.
And friend, I want to tell you, one day God is going to gather his bride.
Christians today are scattered all over the face of the earth...
But one day heís going to gather us and heís going to give us a land.
Oh, itís not the land of Israel...Bless God!
Itís better than that.
Itís the land where the streets are paved with gold, where the walls are made of jasper and the gates of pearl.
Itís a land where there is no more sorrow and no more tears...
And no more sickness and no more pain and no more death.
Listen, Israel is nothing compared to heaven.
I see suffering...I see pain.
But folks, there will be none of that when we get home.
Going home. Iím going home. Praise God! Weíre going home.
>But not only do I find here in Ezekiel 11 what God says heís going to do to those that belong to him...
I find in verse 21 what God says heís going to do to those who do not.
But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their heads what they have done.
You see friend, if you say "no" to Jesus, then youíve brought the judgment of God on your own head.
People send their own selves to hell.
Nobody goes to hell because God makes them go.
Jesus died to save the sins of the world.
The blood of Jesus can wash away every sin.
The vilest sinner can be made clean in the blood of Jesus.
But if a man says "no" to Jesus, then he brings judgment upon his own head.
>What does God ask us to do as his children?
Well look there in verse 18: They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols.
God says to the Jews in Ezekielís captivity...
"One day Iím going to let you come back to Israel and youíre going to find...
That the land has been downtrodden with detestable things and idols...
And I want you to get rid of all of them."
You see, one of the things God wants us to do as his children is to stand for the truth.
God expects his people to stand for the truth.
>Iíll tell you something else God expects his people to do.
(Verse 20) Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Not out of a sense of gratitude.
Not out of a sense of coercion, having to do it.
But because God has given us a heart to love doing his will.
Folks, I want to tell you, itís a joy to serve the Lord.
Every once in a while I go and somebody will give a testimony in a revival meeting and theyíll say...
"Now I tell you before I was saved, man, I was rich and glamorous.
I had all of these things and I had my own private jet and I could go to this nightclub and that nightclub...
And I had sex with this man and this man, and I did all this and partied and I caroused.
And then I got saved and hadnít done nothing since."
Well I want to tell you, thatís just a lot of malarkey.
I want you to know all of Satanís apples have worms in them.
There may be pleasure in sin but itís only for a season.
You look at some of these people that glamorize the life of sin...
And they look like a horse thatís been rode hard and put up wet.
Iím telling you, Jesus will give you a heart that will make you want to do the things of God.
Itís not a burden to want to praise God.
Itís not a contrary thing to want to pray.
Itís not a negative thing to want to read the word.
Itís not something you hate to do trying to share with somebody that Jesus loves them...
And will give them a brand new heart if they will let him.
Those are not things we do out of duty.
Those are things we do out of hearts that have been changed by the power of God.
>One last thing.
God says, "I want my people to stand for the truth.
I want them because their hearts have been transformed to walk in my statutes...
And let the world see that there really is joy in believing and doing my word."
And then God says finally, "I want them to belong solely unto me."
God said, "Iím going to give them one heart, a unified heart."
And then at the end of verse 20: and they shall be my people and I will be their God.
God says, "I want my people to just love me. Just love me.
I want them to be mine, and Iím going to be theirs."
>This little song says, Now I belong to Jesus. Jesus belongs to me.
Jesus said, "No more shall I call you servant."
Jesus said, "Iíll call you friend."
You see? Weíre not objects of Godís creation.
Weíre not subservients of Godís law.
Weíre children in Godís family, and thatís Godís eternal purpose.