Not All Walls are Literal


russian-icon-of-ezekiel-holing-a-scroll-of-his-prophecyThe following article is from Kairos Journal. It is so timely, I felt I had to pass it on. Few Christians and even fewer Americans read the book of Ezekiel. Its images and metaphors are not always easy to understand. But the discerning and determined reader will gain much from meditating on its message and will find a warning for our present political and cultural situation. This brief exposition is a great place to start a renewed interest and application of God’s word through Ezekiel.

Set your heart to study, teach, and apply Ezekiel’s message. 

I Searched for a Man

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”

Ezekiel 22:30 (ESV)

Not all men are true men—at least not in the eyes of God. True men lead, speak out, and stand firm. They “stand in the gap” in times of crisis. They build great cities and organizations, but at their best, they build up the Church. In the counsels of heaven, a search committee of One looks for those who have the courage and moral fiber to do what is right. Because God is God, He does not need experts, technicians, or skilled orators to accomplish His work. He simply needs men.

During the time of the rise of [the] Babylonian empire, God looked for a man to warn the wicked people of Judah and its leaders of their impending doom. Judah’s breathtaking wickedness prompted God’s swift and righteous judgment on the inhabitants of Zion. The many dark deeds of Judah included bloodshed and murder (vv. 22:1-5), government corruption (v. 6), a hatred of parents (vv. 7a, 10), extortion (vv. 7, 12), sexual immorality (vv. 10-11), and greed (v. 13). For these and like actions, God promised decisive punishment. Although the Babylonian captivity certainly involved physical removal from Jerusalem, the penalty in full meant the complete undoing of an unfaithful people—“I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it” (v. 21).

Religious leaders led the parade of infidelity and hatred of God. The Lord described the prophets as co-conspirators with evil (v. 25). By approving the sin of Judah’s princes or staying silent, the prophets themselves betrayed the innocent. By refusing to speak out against the immorality of their day and by covering up for sins of political leaders, the prophets “smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them” (v. 28). In doing so, these supposed servants of God dipped their hands in blood unjustly shed. Those responsible for leading worship did the same. By failing to distinguish between “the holy and the common” (e.g., corrupting reverence toward God in worship), the priests made the sovereign God into a public laughingstock.

In the midst of such abomination, God “sought a man to build up a wall and stand in the breach” (v. 30). Such a man preaches sin and judgment—and the blessings of repentance—without fear or favor. But in all of Israel, God could not find this man. It takes courage, after all, to stand alone for God. Due to the shortage, God called Ezekiel, who informed Judah that they had not been forgiven. For this message, Ezekiel was mocked (cf. vv. 20:49; 33:30-32). Those who follow Ezekiel’s model should expect the same.

Could the Lord find a man in today’s multitude of preachers and teachers? Could He find a prophet who spoke the truth to cultural power and a priest who resolved to keep the holy things of God holy? Men act upon conviction and virtue. Cowards wait for poll results and position themselves in the middle. Godly men act out of confidence in the Word of God. False prophets say what people want to hear. True prophets embark upon a narrow way, a path not for the faint of heart.

Two lines I want to underscore:

  1. “Ezekiel was mocked (cf. vv. 20:49; 33:30-32). Those who follow Ezekiel’s model should expect the same.”
  2. “True prophets embark upon a narrow way, a path not for the faint of heart.”

Pray for preachers and your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to be bold in proclaiming the truth. Pray that we would follow Ezekiel’s model and not be faint of heart.

Five Things Athletes Know that Christians Don’t

Tuesday is for Thinking

Athletes are different.

Exercise, strenuous exercise is a driving passion in their lives. They love it. And whether they are elite athletes being paid high sums of money or …

Source: Five Things Athletes Know that Christians Don’t

Discipleship-More than Your Church Told You

Sunday Afternoon Musings

clarence-jordan
Clarence Jordan

I quoted this passage from Stanley Hauerwas’ theological commentary on Matthew this week as I exposited the text from Matthew’s gospel (4:12-25).

He was relating a story about Clarence Jordan. I just might spend the rest of my life studying the life of Clarence Jordan. What a great man of God! I’m looking forward to meeting him in glory one day.

Thank your Lord, for such men and such preaching.

Clarence Jordan, the founder of the Koinonia Community, an interracial farm in Georgia . . . illumines the difference between being a disciple and those who simply admire Jesus. In the early 1950’s . . . Clarence asked his brother, Robert Jordan, who would later be a state senator and a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court, to represent Koinonia Farm legally. His brother replied:

“Clarence, I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.”

We might lose everything too, Bob.”

“It’s different for you.”

“Why is it different? I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point.”

“Could that point by any chance be–the cross?”

“That’s right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

“Then I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer not a disciple.”

“Well now, if everyone who felt like I do did that, we wouldn’t have a church, would we?”

“The question,” Clarence said, “is, ‘Do you have a church?”
(First reported in McClendon 1990, 103)

Cited in Matthew, Stanley Hauerwas
(Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006), p. 57

Questions

  • Are you taking discipleship as serious as Jesus did?
  • If not, how can we call ourselves His followers?

Lessons from Jewish Fathers for Christian Fathers and Pastors

Discipleship as parenting and parenting as discipleship. This post is five years old but I am continually challenged to work more of this pattern into all of my dealings with people.

Musings on Discipleship I am convinced that Jesus’ pattern with his disciples was Hebraic in pattern. That is, the way that he taught his disciples was patterned after what a Jewish father wa…

Source: Lessons from Jewish Fathers for Christian Fathers and Pastors

What if Teardrops are Blessings?

I was driving back from Illinois in a rented truck to my new home in South Carolina. Talk radio and country music stations were all I could get and I was tired of both. So I turned the radio off and started praying for my kids and the kids of a former staff member from our previous church. About thirty miles down the road, I turned the radio back on and hit the search button and found this song just as it was being introduced.

Within minutes I was in tears, filled up with the longing that the song expresses.

“Oh God, if mercies and the nearness of your presence come in the disguises of storms and heartache, then give me a storm-battered life. Give me them that I might have You. Because I can’t live with the storms without You.”

Do any of us really understand what we are praying when we pray such prayers?

No.

Emphatically no.

But praying such prayers is a moment of clarity on the beauty of Christ and the glory of the gospel. Let Laura Story help you learn to pray. Let her help you learn that, with thanks to John Piper, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” Let your heart learn that we are most fulfilled, and grow in the capacity for the greatest joy when we are most delighted in Him.

They Were Made of Sterner Stuff

Updated: Rambo had nothing on this guy! I am in utter awe of both the man and his God.

On the way to his first mission assignment, a fellow team member suffered the loss of his wife and child. Shortly after arriving, a European nurse died and his own wife gave birth to a still-born c…

Source: They Were Made of Sterner Stuff

Days Without Grace

grace-x

She was being interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR). An American actress playing the mother of a special needs child in a new play from London now touring the USA. The play is getting rave reviews as it explores the inner workings of a 15-year-old boy whose parents love, but can’t touch because of his relational/physical/social discombobulation.

I have forgotten her name and the name of the play, and the director’s name (who I do remember also directed/produced the play, “War Horse”), but she used a phrase that I haven’t been able to forget. She was speaking of those times in a mother’s life (a father’s life too) when a parent seems, . . .  overwhelmed.

When it seems that nothing you do is right
Nothing you think is quite enough
Nothing you can say is said right
Nothing you can do is going to protect your son or your daughter
Those times when you can’t help
Those times when you are completely spent
When you feel that there just isn’t enough of you
When you feel that you are not enough
That your family would be better off without you
When you are completely beside yourself with a combination of sorrow and frustration, and anxiety and the deepening darkness chokes all hope from your soul.

“Parenting”, said a famous counselor, “is not for cowards.”

Maybe not, but that is how we parents feel sometimes.

“Those days,” she said, “those days that are days without grace.”

gracelessHave you been there in one of those graceless feeling days?

I have.

Too often to recount. So often, it might shock everyone who knows me.
And the chances are high, that if you are a parent, you have been there too.

You have been in that place where grace, unmerited favor, seemed as far away as Jupiter.

Farther.

Like, the end of the Hubble telescope’s ability to see farther.

It is crushing to feel that way. It is a soul-crushing, tear-dripping, sorrow-without-light, unadulterated pain to feel that way.

And yet,
if we are Christ followers,
it is not true.

It is real, all too real, but it is not true.

It can paralyze us. It can consume us. It can threaten to completely undo us.

But if we are part of God’s family (John 1:12), if we have received the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15), if we have been purchased by the blood of a sinless Savior (Acts 20:28: 1 Corinthians 6:19), if we have been sealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), if we have become inheritors of the promises of God (Ephesians 1:11) there is never a graceless day, never a moment when we are abandoned, never a millisecond that we are without hope, or light, or direction (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).

It just feels that way sometimes.

And those “sometimes” are when you need the word of God hidden in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Those “sometimes” are when you need a deep pattern of significant meditation in the heart of the gospel and the greatness of what it means to belong to Christ (Psalm 119:9-10). Those are the times when you need the word of Christ to “dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) so that the world, and you too, will see the beauty of Christ and promises of God as your strong tower and the place you can run to for rescue.