Pulling Off an “Ezekiel”

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Photo credit to unknown internet source.

 

“Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment.” (Ezekiel 4:4)

 
Can you imagine lying on your side out on the ground where everyone is walking by for 390 days? And then doing it again on your right side, the other side, for another 40 days? Now, before that you were asked to make a sketch in a clay brick or maybe use those clay bricks to lay out a model of the city of Jerusalem under siege. And here you are, laying down, which isn’t an easy task physically, so God Himself helps you to be strong enough to do it. He places “cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other” until the days are completed. If that’s not bad enough, you have to eat what God tells you, this unpleasant mix of grains that isn’t even tasty and maybe even considered unclean by Hebrew standards. Let’s take it a step further, because then it’s supposed to be cooked over human dung.

 
Human dung! Are you kidding me? If mixing grains and beans was unclean, then what about cooking over human dung!  Now, Ezekiel didn’t object until this point. And I’m not surprised that he cries out to the Lord. “God, I’ve never defiled what went into my mouth. Please don’t make me now.” So the Lord, has mercy and tells Ezekiel he can cook over cow dung instead. Now that still seems nasty here, but in many cultures with lack of wood for cooking, there’s nothing unusual about that.

 
Speaking of unusual though, this whole thing is pretty unusual, pretty far out there, don’t you think? This is an interesting way to warn the children of Israel and Judah of their impending doom if they don’t repent. But as I read it, it’s not just a story about Israel and Judah and their sin, it’s a story about the call of God on a man and about the faithfulness of that man. And it goes even deeper. It’s about the call of God on any of us, and the evidence of the measure of our faithfulness to that call.

 
The call of God has nothing to do with ease and a life of bliss. It has nothing to do with living life in the wonderful by and by and escaping the here and now. I mean, really, look at Ezekiel. Ezekiel was chosen by God to be His representative and did he live a life of ease? Or was he expected and called to do hard things, things that most ordinary or “normal” men wouldn’t ever humble themselves to do? Where was his wealth? Where was his ease? Where was his blessing as we think of and expect blessings? Was he counting down the days until he died so he could go to heaven? I think not, because the Jews in that time period didn’t have that concept of heaven. What would compel Ezekiel to obey?

 
Why would Ezekiel allow himself to be bound like this? Why would Paul, some 600 years later, allow himself to be bound? “And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” (Acts 21:11) And I wonder if it all has some bearing on this man in the middle of both, this man who was also God, whose name is Jesus, who allowed them to bind him and lead him away and deliver him over to Pilate the governor? (Matthew 27:2)

 
It’s funny. Jesus allowed a lot of people to bind him. First there was the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews who arrested him and bound him. (John 18:12) Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (John 18:24) And even after his death, those who loved him took his body and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. (John 19:40) But I guess it really doesn’t matter how man binds something. Because ultimately, Jesus broke all those bands when he rose again. But he had to wear those bands. He had to take on that burden.

 
What was that burden? It was the burden that God was placing on Ezekiel, the sin of the people. And Ezekiel was bearing it symbolically. Even so, he needed God to help him bear it. And Paul, he was carrying that burden from God too. That’s why he went all over the world preaching the good news of Christ that others might be set free. But Jesus, He’s the one who can actually bear the whole burden. He alone can carry the full weight.
Ezekiel was a picture for all to see. But it was a picture bigger than Ezekiel. It was God using Ezekiel to display what He was doing and what He was going to do.

 

Do you want to see the whole picture? Let’s look at it in Isaiah 53. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

 
You know, I forgot to mention that while Ezekiel was lying on the ground on his side, he was told to lie down like that with his arm outstretched. Is that supposed to be a Deja Vu? “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God…” (Exodus 6:6-7) This is the word, sabal- to bear, from the Hebrew siblot. It’s the word used in Isaiah 53 where the suffering servant bears our iniquities. It’s the relieving of the burden of those things that enslave and cause servitude, of those things that cause punishment and penalty. This is what the suffering servant, Jesus can bear and do for us. He is our Deliverer who can show Himself strong on our behalf in miraculous ways.

 
But the word of bearing that Ezekiel was called to do and like that which Paul would do or I is a whole different word. In Ezekiel its the word nasah. That’s a word used about testing and trying and proving. It’s like when God tested the faithfulness of his children when they were coming out of Israel. Only at Massah, they didn’t only just quarrel. They accused God and Moses of not being sufficient and of not caring. They basically said that God was impotent and indifferent because He wouldn’t do it there way. It was a challenge to God’s power and goodness despite the prevalent evidence all around.
The truth is that God has already demonstrated His faithfulness and goodness time and time again. It’s not up to Him to prove Himself. We are called to be proven. We’re the ones that need to pass the test, not God. Do we really get who God is and what He has already done? Are we just willing to be used to be witnesses of Him and not ourselves? Am I truly willing to bear His image and forsake my own? Can I forget my needs and desires for the sake of God’s glory and His desires to be manifested by me instead?

 
Am I willing to adopt a Biblical view of my calling or am I going to make it fit my own design?  Because that’s not the way God works. If Jesus came and allowed Himself to be bound and to suffer at the hands of men so that God’s glory would be manifested, and He’s our Master, then how could we be called to anything less? What if my goal wasn’t about receiving blessings but about manifesting the glory of God by a life humbly submitted to His will no matter what He required?

 
What if Ezekiel’s message is a message of choosing God’s will no matter the cost? What if that is what real faith is all about? It takes me to Matthew 19:29 and Jesus’ words, “And every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” That word for forsake is aphiemi. And it does mean to leave, but it also means “to dismiss, to send away, to let go.” There’s a personal involvement on our part just like there was on Ezekiel’s part. He had to decide to go with God’s plan. He had to decide to lay down and stretch out his arms each day in front of everyone. He had to make a conscious choice to manifest God’s picture through Himself despite what others would think and despite how they would treat him.

 
So the question is, am I willing to bear the burden that You place on me God, that shines forth Your image in this world that so badly needs to see You and know You? Do I know You so well that I would be willing to do whatever You required of me so that You could shine through me? Would I be willing to look like a fool to those who don’t understand so that You can look like God to those who will understand? How faithful am I really? Am I faithful enough to pull off an Ezekiel? God, make me able. As I consciously choose You, bind me in that decision in You.

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The Assayer’s Apprentice

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Photo found at http://www.mgsrefining.com/

“but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”  1 Thessalonians 2:4

So, Lord, if I’m still searching into what it is to believe, at least, what it means to You for me to believe, then where is the word “believe” here?  Well, I had to look at the Greek to find it.  It’s that word “to be entrusted.”  That’s where I find “pisteuo.”  And it seems that believing is a trust that You give me.  That Your Good News from the beginning of time in Jesus Christ was “allowed of God” to be put in my trust.  I was given it not just to believe in my head, but to act upon every part of it.

But what in the world does this “allowed” or “approved” by God part mean?  Does this mean that God gave me permission to pass on what I believe?  Did he approve of me as a believer?  Does this mean I passed the test and won this right or privilege?  What does that Greek word “dokimazo” mean?

“Dokimazo” actually mean a lot more than met my eyes when I first read this.  I suppose, Lord, that’s why You want us to really dig into Your word like we’re searching for treasure, because sometimes we have to look deeper.  We can’t always get all the precious nuggets out unless we take the time to look closer.  I’ll find nuggets, but I may miss the mother load.

The word that Paul is using here for how You, Lord, came to entrust me with Your Gospel has to do with testing and discerning.  It’s a two tier word.  I have to do the testing in order to be able to discern.  Or I have to go through the testing in order to discern.  It’s the same word that is used in Romans 12:2 where Paul tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  What dokimazo means is “to watch, to determine what is reliable, of value.”  I learn Your will by coming under testing.  I am to “test the spirits.”  I am to test myself.  I am to test the times.   But what am I testing?  What am I trying out?  I’m testing Your word, I’m trying it out by acting upon it, and as I do, I find it’s worth and receive discernment.  But if I spend my whole life analyzing and evaluating Your word instead of applying it, I won’t ever experience it’s truth in my life.

Simply, because I hear Your word, I try it, I do it.  I practice Your practices.  I don’t have to understand them or know why but I trust You and do what You say I should and act the ways You say are right and believe what You tell me I need to believe.  I avoid what You tell me to.  I get into the “culture” of Jesus Christ.  I practice what You practice and I practice what the believers in the Bible practiced and I practice what other followers are faithfully doing on the basis of Your word.  It gets absorbed in my being.  And as I put Your word to the test in my life by acting in it, I will come to know Your will, “the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  And I won’t just know what things are good and acceptable and perfect, but I will come to experience being good in Your eyes, being accepted by You, and being perfected in You.

I can test God’s will and come to know it.  That word “dokimazo” again, brings about transformation.  Looking at things this way,  through Your eyes, Lord, causes me to transform my life patterns and it causes me to renew my mind because it changes the way I think.  See, Adam and Eve fell first because they thought about the fruit according to their own eyes and not according to the way You saw it.  They thought they could see clearly on their own.  But we only see clearly and rightly when we look through Your eyes and see things Your way.   I have to see things Your way in order to know Your perfect will.

When I allow You to incorporate “dokimazo” into my life, I can get there.  Remember, it means “to test, to discern, to distinguish and to approve as a result of testing.”  Do you know where that word came from?  It was a word used by metal assayers.  You would put the metal under the fire to test it’s purity.  Then it would be placed on the scale.  What was left was the real metal.  The assayer’s job was to prove what was true gold.  And I am to be like that.  As You have transformed me, I am to determine Your true will.  Your process for doing that is guaranteed.  It will have the results You intended.  You are telling me that I, and every believer, can know Your perfect will.  I can pray the way You intend for me to pray.  I can live in accord with Your purposes.  I can live in Your word and fulfill Your will for me.  You’ve designed it to work that way.  See, You are the Assayer and I am being apprenticed under You to learn to assay myself and all things placed in front of me.  And I must remember, I am learning under the Master Assayer!

Paul reminds me again in Philippians 1:10 that this is “so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”  See, Lord, You are busy in me.  And You are teaching me to be busy in me.  You are calling me to join in with You to prove my inner value.  But our value, according to You, is in the “essential spiritual qualities of a person.”  I can see that value through Your eyes if I go back to the Old Testament.   If I go back to Jeremiah 11:20 I see what You are doing, Lord.  You “judge righteously, that tries the reins and the heart…”  You are testing me, each of us in order to make us Your workmanship in Your image.  But here You are giving us a responsibility.  You are giving me the responsibility to judge and test myself, my quality.  How do I do that?  I take on Your perspective and I do it as You would do it.  I delve deeply within myself to see what I find.  I judge it according to Your standards.

How did I ever get this responsibility that used to only be Yours in the Old Testament?  Paul gives me the answer in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”  Therefore, God resides in me because He resides in His temple.  You are God with us, Emmanuel.  Since You dwell inside of me, I have the power to see the world through Your eyes and according to Your ways and Your standards.  I can see things through Your perspective.  Because of You, I can do the testing.  My Master Teacher lives inside of me and is always teaching me His perspective.  The question is, will I listen and live it out?  Will I do it Your way?

When You “approved” me, it wasn’t because You found me worthy.  You are making me worthy in You and teaching me to see and value worth Your way.  And every time I agree with Your perspective and see things Your way and act upon them, that Good News You’ve entrusted to me shines brighter and is shown to be more and more alive.  It’s not easy, learning to examine and test myself like You do, but it’s worth every fire I have to go through.  So, Lord, keep teaching me and showing me how to go through the fires of testing and come out like pure gold on the other side.  And the other side isn’t heaven.  The other side is every time I come out of the fire, after every trial.  I want to come out having been transformed to be more like You, to have come out on the pure side, letting my impurities be burned away.  Someday, I’ll be on the heaven side, but until then, I want to be always living on Your side of perspective, in the side where I am pleased by what pleases You, where You and I are continually enjoying each other together in life.  Thanks for making me able to be entrusted with Your Gospel so that I can be made pleasing to You and You become everything that is pleasing to me.