I am currently in the Book of Ezekiel in my daily Scripture reading. As I began the book today I am using the New Living Translation. As I read first about the vision he describes, I am in awe of the picture he describes in the 4 beings he sees coming from the storm.
As you read through the book, Ezekiel makes it clear about God's thoughts and reponse to the evil of man. In this case specifically, His chosen people. The description of their sin and their walking away from God as they are taken in that direction by even those who were suppose to lead them.
There is an important observation in Ezekiel as to the responsibility of leaders and especially spiritual leaders to do the right thing and lead in the right way. I am just going to say it and make it clear to all. Bad leadership will and does cause people to fall away from what is right.
It was clear in the days of Ezekiel that leadership was the subject God has him dealing with chapter after chapter. In chapter 18:30-32 NLT we read this as God is speaking through Ezekiel-
““Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!”
In Baker's Encyclopedia of the Bible speaking of chapter 18 he states that -
Chapters 18–22 contain Ezekiel’s oracles to Judah, its leaders, and the exiles. First he enunciates God’s standard of righteousness: “The soul that sins shall die” (18:4). The people are charging God with injustice, for they believe themselves to be under God’s judgment for the sins of their ancestors (18:25, 29). Although the Ten Commandments do say that God may punish “the iniquity of the fathers … to the third and the fourth generation” (Ex 20:5), the prophet vindicates God’s justice, telling the people that they are not being punished merely for their ancestors’ sin. Each person must be directly accountable to God; the sinner will die in wickedness, and the righteous will live by righteousness. A life of faithfulness to God’s moral and civil law will be rewarded (18:5–9). Even if one’s father was a sinner, the father’s sin is not transferable (vv 14–18). God is ready to forgive any sinner who repents (18:27). The prophet’s vindication of God’s justice becomes a call to repentance. The sinners in Judah and in exile were thus warned of the consequences of their evil, and exhorted to return to their God and his standard of right and wrong (18:31, 32).
As I read these Scriptures, I have found myself taking the time to observe not only what was going on then but what we are seeing happen today. There can no doubt that man is rapidly running away from God. Not just the belief in Him but any simblance of acting in what are ways consistent with His standards.
There was a time, and it was not too many years ago, that the church and Christians were considered by most of society in these United States to have a special regard afforded to them. Pastors were revered in the community and treated in a very respectful way. That is not so much the case today. What is even more amazing is that the very churches and Christians who had been and should be afforded a special regard have acted in as Ezekial describes in verse 26-
“When righteous people turn from their righteous behavior and start doing sinful things, they will die for it. Yes, they will die because of their sinful deeds.”
There may be some of you right now that are starting to have some questions about where is all of this going today. Hang in there and take a deep breath. To use an old adage "the horse is heading for the barn". I am not going to explain that one. Look it up for yourself. I can't do everything for you.
In Ezekial, God is declaring His intentions for His people. He is showing the importance of living an honorable and righteous life. There was a reward for such action. He also makes it clear that if the opposite is true and the life is not honorable and is thus unrighteous then death and not life are inevitable.
This is an Old Testament accounting from a prophet to God's people on that day. What do we see and learn from it through God's Word? Well, it is clear to see that people can and do make up their own minds as to what they do in life. It was true then and it is true today. People do it and churches do it, too. As people and as churches, we can choose to follow God and do what is right. Likewise to choose to turn away from God and thus do what is wrong. It is really up to us as individuals and as churches.
This really isn't hard. We can read Scripture, be encouraged by the Holy Spirit and do the right things. Unfortunately, we can also do the direct opposite. There is an important concept in Ezekial and that is repentance. That same concept is integral to our life today in the 21st century. The Lexham Bible Dictionary says that repentance is-
A change of attitude and action from sin toward obedience to God. The concept of repentance differs slightly in the Hebrew and Greek minds, but an emphasis upon right behavior is consistent throughout.
I have often commented that repentances occurs when we are saved, it is not a one and done event. Just as God is calling to His people in the days of Ezekial to repent and turn back to Him. We today have the same opportunity. When we individually and as churches turn away from God we must repent and turn back to Him. It is the only thing we can do as the result of our failure can and will have a major impact on our lives.
In God's Grace,