When God Wonít Hear
Would you take your Bibles please and turn to Ezekiel chapter 20...
Weíre understanding more and more about the character of God, especially about the holiness of God.
I have to be honest with you.
I think that the holiness of God is the most important attribute of God...
Because apart from his holiness all of the attributes fade in significance.
Godís love is not significant apart from his holiness because sinful man knows how to love.
But when a holy God loves, it adds a greater dimension to the concept of love.
So God is holy and we see that again in Ezekiel chapter 20.
>Beginning in verse 1, the Bible says...
Now remember, heís counting from the time they went into captivity, 1hich was 598 BC.
Ezekiel and most of the other Jews Ė not all of them Ė but most of them...
That are in captivity went in 598.
So this would bring us to about 591 BC, and it would be the early summer month.
>This passage of scripture brings us back to the house of Ezekiel in Babylon.
For seven years plus these Jews have been over in Babylon in captivity.
They had been over in Israel, but Nebuchadnezzar had led his army into Babylon...
And had conquered the northern part of the kingdom.
The nation of Israel had fallen.
Only the southern kingdom, Judah, still had any semblance of existence.
But most of the Jews had now been transported over into Babylon where they were in captivity.
When Nebuchadnezzar took those Jewish captives...
He took the very finest that they had to offer...
The most handsome young men and the most attractive young women.
He took the most brilliant, the most scholarly, those that had the greatest promise.
And all of them were over there in Babylon in captivity.
The elders of the people were the folks that were supposed to be the spiritual leaders.
They were not just men of age.
They were supposed to be men of spiritual maturity.
They were supposed to be men who sought the will of God.
They were supposed to be priests in that they represented the people before God...
And they represented God before the people.
But these men were failures.
They were not what God wanted them to be, and they were not what they should have been.
They were ungodly men.
They were just as ungodly as the people they professed to minister unto.
And yet here we find these elders, these so-called spiritual leaders...
We find them in the house of Ezekiel.
>Now the last time we saw the elders there was back in chapter 8, verse 1...
Which was really about eleven months before...
Which lets me know that everything that happened in chapters 8-19 happened in that 11-month period.
But now here they are back, and the Bible says theyíve come to inquire of the Lord.
>Now what does that mean?
That means they wanted some information from God.
Now I donít know what they wanted.
I donít know what they wanted to ask God, but they wanted to ask God something.
Maybe they wanted to know, "How much longer are we gonna have to be in captivity?
After all, weíve been here now for seven years.
How much longer do we have to spend over here away from our homeland and in bondage as slaves?
How much longer?"
Maybe they wanted to know, "Well Lord, in chapter 19, you told us that the nation of Judah was going to fall"...
And maybe they wanted to find out if that had already started or if it was still yet to come.
Maybe they wanted to know if anyone was going to come and deliver them from bondage.
Was there a redeemer coming from over the hill or even from the heavens?
Maybe thatís what they wanted to know.
I donít know.
But I know that they did not come humbly before God.
I know that they did not come in a repentant spirit.
I know that they did not come with hearts longing to meet God.
They simply came out of some kind of idle curiosity to inquire of the Lord.
And God says to Ezekiel, "Ezekiel, I want you to tell those bunch of reprobates that theyíre wasting their time...
Asking something of me. Theyíre no going to set the agenda for this meeting...
Iím going to set the agenda for this meeting...
And Iím not going to answer any of their silly questions.
But I do have something I want to tell them."
And then he asks Ezekiel two times, "Ezekiel, are you prepared to tell them this?
Ezekiel, are you prepared to tell them this?
Will you tell them the judgment that Iím fixing to talk to them about?"
Because you see, if Ezekiel was not willing to do it, then God would have gotten himself another prophet.
There have always been hired preachers, but God has always used men that would stand and say...
"Thus saith the Lord", and it doesnít matter if itís politically correct.
It doesnít matter if folks like it or not.
It doesnít matter if it soothes folksí feelings or tickles their ears.
It is "Thus saith the Lord", and two times God said to Ezekiel...
"Now are you able, will you tell them what Iím fixing to tell you?"
And Ezekiel must have said, "Yes", because God proceeds with the instruction.
But here are folks who came to talk to God and they discovered that God was in no mood to listen.
>In these verses that Iíve read for you what God does is to outline or review the history of the Jewish people...
And he does it under four major divisions.
>First of all, in verses 5-9, he reviews the history of Israel while they were down in Egypt.
You know they spent 430 years in Egypt in slavery.
Now you have to understand that the nation of Israel was born in the heart of God...
In eternity past from a spiritual point of view.
The nation of Israel was born literally on earth when God called Abraham and promised him...
"I will make of you a great nation."
But from a practical point of view the nation of Israel really was not born until Jacob and his sons went to Egypt.
There was no nation of Israel.
Joseph had been sold by his brothers into slavery...
And he ended up down in Egypt as a slave.
And in the providence of God, Joseph was elevated from a slave to being the prime minister.
I mean he was second in command to Pharaoh himself.
>Well in the providence of God, Jacob and his other eleven sons end up down in Egypt.
There is a famine all over the world.
People are starving to death.
But word gets out.
"Thereís food to be had down in Egypt."
Now why do you suppose they had food down in Egypt?
Because God had told Joseph that famine was going to come...
And Joseph got the nation of Egypt ready for the famine...
By getting them to spend year and years storing up food supplies.
And so when the famine that God said was going to come...
When it did come and everybody else was starving...
Then down in Egypt there was plenty of food to be had.
And so Jacob and his eleven sons who were the brothers of Joseph...
They go down to Egypt.
But they go down as a family...theyíre not a nation.
I mean you canít say a man and eleven sons are a nation.
Now God had said theyíre going to be a nation.
But theyíre really not a nation.
You canít call 12 guys a nation.
You can call them a group or a fellowship, but hardly a nation.
But they go down...they spend 430 years there.
They begat so and so, and they begat so and so...
And when they got through with all that begatting 430 years later...
That little band of 12 had grown into a band of almost 3 million people.
Now thatís a nation, amen?
When youíve got three million folks, thatís a nation.
Now they didnít have a country.
But you donít have to have a country to be a nation.
Old Yassar Arrafat did it for years.
You donít have to have a country to be a nation.
Now it helps...
And so God says to the children down there in Egypt, he says...
"Iím going to give you al and, and itís going to be a land that is fairer than any other lands."
And so in verses 5-9 God says, "Let me remind you of how I dealt with your forefathers that were down in Egypt."
>Now look there in verse 5.
The Bible says, God says, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says, on the day I chose Israel."
Now when did he do that?
Well again, you can say he did it in eternity past.
You can say he did it with Abraham.
But in all reality, the nation of Israel was born down in Egypt.
God chose them...God manifested his favor toward them.
God especially blessed them...
And what happened? They began to multiply.
And even when the Egyptians turned against them and began to persecute them...
They continued to get bigger and bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger and stronger.
Why? Because of the sovereign grace of God.
>Why did God choose Israel to be his chosen people?
Well itís not because they were warmer or fuzzier than any other nation.
Itís not because they were kinder or gentler than any other nation.
It was not because they were sweeter or fairer.
It was just a matter of Godís sovereign choice.
He could have chosen Egyptians.
He could have chosen the Amalekites.
He could have chosen the Peresites and the Jebusites and Canaanites...
And Hittites and all those other ites.
H could have chosen any of those but he did not.
Instead he chose the nation of Israel while they were right there in Egypt.
He set his heart upon them.
And so God said, "I chose them."
>He also says, "I revealed myself to them."
The people cried out unto the Lord and the Lord heard their cry...
And he came down to deliver them.
And he chose Moses to be their deliverer.
And Moses put up some silly objections.
He said, "Lord, how can I go tell them to let the Jews go?
How can I go before Pharaoh and tell him to let your people go?
I donít even know your name."
And God said, "You tell them my name is I AM...you tell them that I AM hath said."
He AM in the past...
He AM in the present...
He AM in the future...
He just AM...amen?
Heís the great I AM.
And he said, "You tell them that I AM is the one that said...
Now Iím not the god of the river or the god of the moon or the god of the day or night...
Or the god of the frogs or god of the lizards...
Iím the I AM...and you tell them I AM said to let my people go."
And then Moses said, "Well, Lord, okay. Now that youíve told me your name...
How am I going to get that bunch of Jews to follow me?
I mean, after all I was raised in Pharaohís household...
You need to give me some signs."
And God gave him some signs.
He said, "Moses, put your hand inside your cloak and it will be nice and healthy...
But then pull it out and it will be covered with leprosy...
And then put it back in and bring it out and itís going to be natural and whole again."
Well thatís a pretty good sign.
That could convince me.
But then God gave him other signs.
He said, "Take your rod and throw it down."
He threw it down and it became a snake.
He said, "Now pick it up."
Hey, itís a lot easier to throw down a stick than it is to pick up a snake, amen?
But God said, "Pick it up"...
And he picked it up and it became a rod again, a staff again, a stick.
And boy I tell you, Moses surely had a good time shouting at that point.
I would have, wouldnít you?
And even those plagues were signs of affirmation.
The plague of the locusts...the plague of darkness...
The plague of frogs...the plague of lice...
The plague of the rivers turning to blood...
All of those plagues were signs to the people of Israel that God was going to deliver them out.
And so while they were there in Egypt God set his heart on them.
He chose them to make them a mighty people.
God sent Moses to deliver them, and God promises them that theyíre going to have a land...
A land flowing with milk and honey.
God said, "Iím going to do all of that."
>But look now in verse 7.
He says, "Now hereís what I want to ask you to do."
By the way, over and over in this passage of scripture we see God saying "with uplifted hand".
It is God raising his hand in an oath or a promise or a covenant.
Heís a covenant making God.
But this is a two-way covenant here in the book of Ezekiel.
God said, "I raised my hand and I promised you all these things...
I made you my choice...I sent Moses...
Now here is what I ask of you."
He says, "Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt...
I am the LORD your God."
>He said, "There are two things Iím going to ask you to do...
Iím going to do all these things for you, and Iím raising my hand to prove it...
But there are two things I ask you to do.
I ask you to cast away the abominations of Egypt and I ask you to cast away the idols of Egypt."
Now in the Bible abominations sometimes refers to idolatry...
But since he lists it separately I donít think heís being redundant.
The word "abominations" also refers to gross pagan sexual sin.
In the book of Leviticus we read about some of those sexual sins.
He talks about a man lying with another man.
He talks about a man having sex with his brother or mother.
And then he talks about a man having sex with an animal.
Now those were sexual sins of Egypt.
And God says, "I say to you, because of the covenant that Iím making with you...
I want you to cast away all those abominations, and also, I want you to turn your back on the idols of Egypt."
Egypt was an idolatrous nation.
That means they worshiped idols.
And they had gods for everything.
>Somehow we want to have a god that we can see with our eyes and hold with our hands.
It is especially nice to have a god that we have made with our own hands.
Because you see, if we have a god that we have made with our hands...
Then the truth is, he is dependent upon us instead of us being dependent upon him.
But folks I want to tell you, the God of the Bible is not a God that was made with hands.
His ways are higher than our ways.
His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
He is higher than the high...he is wider than the wide...
He is deeper than the deep...he is stronger than the strong.
He is God Almighty.
There is none like him, and there is no idol, no totem pole, there is no statue...
That could ever capture the wonder and glory of God.
And therefore, he has said, "Do not make any graven images unto me."
God says, "Now those are two things I ask you to do...
Cast off the idolatry and cast off the abominations."
>But now look in verse 8.
Hereís what they did.
But they rebelled against me, and would not listen to me; they did not get rid of the vile images they had set their eyes upon, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt:
Then I said, I will pour out my wrath on them, and send my anger against them in Egypt.
You know what God said?
God said, "When I saw that they would not do what I asked them to do...
After all I had done for them, after all the promises I had made to them...
After I had given them my name, I AM, after I had spoken to them and sworn to them by my name...
By my glory, by my majesty, by my honor...
After I had done all those things and all I asked them to do was cast off abominations and turn from idolatry...
And they rebelled against me and they did exactly what I told them not to do."
God said, "I was so mad I was ready to pour out my anger.
I was ready to BBQ them on the spot...
I was ready to bring an end to them."
>You say, "Bro. Joe, does God get mad?"
Well what do you think?
He was pretty mad here.
"Well, why didnít he do it?"
Look in verse 9: but for the sake of my name, I did what would keep them from being profaned.
What if God had destroyed them there in Egypt?
They deserved it.
I mean if God had sent a bolt of fire from the sky and burned every one of them...
From the top of their head to the bottom of their feet and just singed them...
And left them looking like a book of burned matches...
If God had done that he would have been just as holy, just as righteous...
And they absolutely deserved that.
The reason God did not destroy them was not because they were kind and cute and warm and fuzzy.
But it was because of the honor and glory of his name.
>You know the most precious thing to God?
His character...not this creation.
As a matter of fact, this creation is not permanent.
Heaven and earth shall pass away.
The most permanent, precious, glorious thing to God is his character.
And God said, "Even though I was angry enough to BBQ them off the face of the earth...
Because of the honor and glory of my name...
I would not let those heathen there in your land where you were being held...
I would not let those Egyptians laugh at my name and say, ĎOh, those Jews, they trusted in old I AM God...
And look what it got them.
Why he French fried them on the place."í
God didnít do it.
>The second part of the outline of this brief review of history...
Not only does God review how he had dealt with the Jews in Egypt...
Secondly he talks about how he dealt with them in the wilderness after he had led them out of Egypt...
Over the Red Sea into the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.
Not you have to remember there were two generations that God dealt with in the wilderness.
The first group, the ones that went in with Moses...
And then there was the second group.
>But look what he says to the first group.
Look in verse 10: therefore I lead them out of Egypt and brought them into the desert. And I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws.
What is he talking about?
Heís talking about the event that took place on top of Mt. Sinai.
God had led these people out of Egypt.
Now down in Egypt they were whipped.
Down in Egypt they were beaten.
Down in Egypt they were treated like animals.
Down in Egypt they were starving to death.
Down in Egypt they were working seven days a week before the sun came up and after it went down.
Some of them were making bricks.
Some were laying bricks.
Some were building houses.
Some were building cities.
Some were building pyramids.
But it was terrible, terrible work.
They were whipped with whips.
They were beaten with rods.
But God brought them out of that.
Wouldnít you think that when God brought them out of that theyíd get over in the wilderness...
And begin to sing and shout and praise God?
Well they did for a second.
You know when they went across the Red Sea and God parted the sea and it was dry...
And they went across and here came Pharaoh and his armies on the dry land in the middle of the Red Sea...
And God closed the sea and drowned all of them?
Well the Bible says, man, they began to sing and dance and testify.
Oh, theyíre Baptists all right, Baptist Jews.
But it didnít last very long because they leaked.
They back slid.
They began to long for the old life.
They began to long for Egypt.
They began to say, "You know, we had it pretty good down in Egypt."
Oh, the deceitfulness of sin.
They never had it good in Egypt.
It was awful down there.
But the deceitfulness of sin is so strong, and they began to crop up with idols again.
>But look what it says there in verse 11.
God said: I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws.
Verse 12: I gave them my Sabbaths.
What was the Sabbath day for?
It was for the nation of Israel.
It was a day that they set aside in accordance with the will of God...
Just to commemorate the covenant that they had with him.
It was a covenant sign.
Why did they rest on the Sabbath day?
Why did they have this day of rest?
Because it was a symbol of their covenant relationship with God.
>But look what they did in verse 13: but yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert, they did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws.
And God says: I would have poured out my wrath upon them.
But look in verse 14: But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned.
Again, God says, "I was at the very point of wiping them off the face of the earth, but I didnít do it."
Why? Because God says, "of the glory of my name."
Well, he says, "All right. But thereís not one of you over the age of 20 that is going into the Promised Land...
Except two men, Joshua and Caleb...
All the rest of you are going to die out here in the wilderness.
Only those 20 years of age and under are going to go in.
All the rest of you over the age of 20 are going to die."
Well it took God 40 years to kill them off.
He just let death take its course, let them die natural deaths.
And 40 years transpired before the last one of that old generation died.
But now hereís a new generation.
With the exception of Joshua and Caleb the rest of them are young.
I mean they are 20 years of age or younger when this thing starts out...
And they see their older generation die out there in the wilderness.
And they know that the reason that their daddies and mamas are dying...
Their grandmothers and grandfathers are dying...
Their great-aunts and uncles are dying out there is because they disobeyed God.
They rebelled against God.
Now wouldnít you think that young generation would say, "Well itís not going to be like that with us...
Iíll tell you right now, weíve got better sense than our parents had...
We see the result of disobeying God...we see the result of sin...
We see the consequence of raising your fist in the face of God and saying, Ďweíll do it our way.í"
Wouldnít you think that younger generation would do that?
Well youíd think they would.
>But look in verse 18: I said unto their children (thatís the second generation, those young ones) in the desert, do not follow in the statutes of your fathers or keep their laws.
>"Donít do like your daddies did," God says.
He says in the next verse, "I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes and keep my judgments and do what I tell you to do."
Verse 20: keep my Sabbaths.
Verse 21: But the children rebelled against me.
Thatís the younger generation.
They did exactly what their daddies did.
They did exactly what their mamas did.
"They rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes. They did not keep my judgments."
>Look in the bottom of verse 21: then I said, I would pour...
There it is again.
God is mad enough again to wipe them out.
I would pour out my wrath upon them.
Verse 22: But withheld mine hand, for the sake of my name, I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations.
Do you see a pattern?
It happened in Egypt...it happened in the wilderness with the first generation...
It happened in the wilderness with the second generation...
Well letís get that bunch behind us.
Letís get into the Promised Land.
Letís get into the land of Canaan.
Surely, surely when they get into the Promised Land things are going to be better over there.
>Well look down in verse 27: therefore, son of man, speak unto the people of Israel, and say to them, "this is what the Sovereign Lord says: yet in this also your fathers have blasphemed me, by forsaking me.
When I had brought them into the land I had sworn to give them and they saw any high hill, or any leafy tree, they offered me their sacrifices.
Now what does that mean?
God says there in verse 27: even after I have brought them into the land of promise, they blasphemed my name.
Do you understand what God is saying?
God says, "The only reason I didnít wipe them out down there in Egypt was because of my name.
The only reason I didnít wipe them out two times in the wilderness was because of my name.
And now here I have brought them into the land that I promised them, a land of milk and honey...
A land like unto which theyíve never known or seen before...
And after I have done all this and brought them into the land that Iíve given to them...
They have blasphemed of all things my name.
Theyíve committed a trespass against me."
What was it? Well he describes it in verses 28 and 29.
>Hereís what they were doing.
You have to read the books of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Leviticus to get all of this.
But when they got into the Promised Land God said to them...
"Now there are gonna be times that I want you to come to Jerusalem for special days of feasting and worship...
There are gonna be times when I want you to come to Jerusalem to worship and praise my name and celebrate me."
And they said, "You know itís a long way to Jerusalem...
We donít want to go to Jerusalem...
Instead of all of us going to Jerusalem just because God says do it...
Why donít we worship God the way we want to worship him?"
And so they found all these high hills, and they made places of worship there.
You know what they did?
They put idols on every one of them.
They said, "We donít know what Jehovah looks like so weíll just make an idol that captures his personality."
And all over Israel and all of the mountaintops and hilltops they had these places of worship.
Well thatís not what God said.
God said, "donít worship me with idols."
God didnít tell them to go up on the mountains to worship him.
God said, "I want you to come to Jerusalem three times a year and worship me."
They said, "Weíre gonna worship God when we want to, how we want to, where we want to...
And he wonít have anything to say about it."
>What do you think happened?
Well God got mad enough again to BBQ them off the face of the earth.
But he didnít.
What did he do?
He let the Babylonians come and get them.
Thatís why they were over there in Babylon right now.
Thatís why these elders were just sitting at Ezekielís house in Babylon.
And when you come to verses 30 and 31, heís not talking about the Jews in Egypt.
Heís not talking about the Jews in the wilderness.
Heís not even talking about the Jews in the Promised Land.
Heís talking about that bunch of Jews over there in Babylon.
Look at them in verse 30:
Therefore, say to the house of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says, will you defile yourselves the way your fathers did and lust after the vile images? For when you offer your gifts, the sacrifice of your sons in the fire, you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols.
Wouldnít you think that bunch that had been taken captive, taken away from Jerusalem...
Taken away from Israel, carried away over here in Babylon and were being held as slaves...
Wouldnít you think theyíd repent and get right with God?
Oh, the deceitfulness of sin.
What does God have to do?
What does he have to do to get folks to worship him?
Even over there in Babylon, instead of repenting and crying out and begging Godís forgiveness...
And asking for deliverance, theyíre over there involved in worshiping of idols and child sacrifice.
Jews putting their own children to death worshiping idols.
God says, "This bunch wants to come and inquire of me...
I will not be inquired of by this bunch of hicks."
When God wonít listen.
>Very hurriedly, Iíll just mention these and Iím through.
Just write them down...I can guarantee you there are four times when God will refuse to listen.
There are four reasons why God wonít hear the prayers.
>#1 Ė when we are insincere in our approach to God.
In Jeremiah chapter 29, and verse 13, listen to these words...
And you shall seek me and find me when you shall search for me with all your heart.
I want to tell you, anytime we come before God with an insincere heart, he will not listen.
>#2 Ė when we have unconfessed sin in our life God will not listen.
Psalm 66:18: If I regard iniquity in my heart, then the Lord will not hear me.
If we come into the presence of God with sin in our life that weíve not confessed and repented of...
Then God will not hear our prayers.
>#3 Ė when there is selfishness in our heart, God will not hear.
Over in the book of James 4:3: when you ask you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives.
James says, "Oh, youíre praying all right...youíre asking but youíre not receiving."
What did Jesus say? Ask and receive.
James said, "Youíre asking but youíre not receiving."
Why? Because youíre asking from the wrong motives.
What does that mean?
It means youíre asking for something to satisfy your own lusts.
You have selfishness in your heart.
>#4 and this is all Ė when there is no desire for the will of God in our life, God will not hear our prayer.
In the book of I John 5:14: and this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us.
>Have you ever heard anybody praying something like this?
"Now Lord, if it be thy will, do thus and so."
I want to tell you, thatís no way to pray, friend.
If you donít know the will of God about something, you better not ask him to do it.
We donít have a right to pray, "Lord, if it be thy will."
You find out what his will is and then pray, and if you pray according to his will...
Whatever you ask heíll do it...heíll answer you.
>Here was a group of elders in Ezekielís house.
They said, "Weíve come to inquire of the Lord."
Youíd think that God would be tickled to death to have anybody come to see him and want to talk to him...
But heís not.
I mean God is not just sitting up there begging folks to come talk to him.
Heís not like some old man or woman in a nursing home whose loved ones never come to see him.
God invites us to come.
He doesnít beg us to come.
He made a blood-sprinkled way whereby we might come.
God doesnít hear all prayers.
If weíre insincere in our approach, if thereís unconfessed sin in our life...
If thereís sinfulness or selfishness in my heart...
Or if thereís no desire to know the will of God in my life...
God will not hear. When God doesnít hear.
>I can tell you one thing that always is the will of God.
It is always the will of God for lost people to be saved.
The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Anytime, anywhere, on any spot of the globe, when someone comes broken and repentant...
And says, "Oh dear God, please forgive me of my sin; Jesus come into my heart and save me, I give you my life."
I tell you thatís always praying according to the will of God.
I may not be the will of God for you to have a new house or a new car or a new suit.
But itís the will of God for you to be saved.
And if you pray asking God to forgive you of your sin and youíre genuinely sincere in your heart...
Then I promise you, thatís praying in his will.
>Maybe youíre here and youíve never been saved.
We invite you to come to Jesus now.
Maybe youíre here tonight and you need a church home and God has said, "This is where I want you."
We invite you to come.