Sermons About or Influenced by C.S. Lewis

"Ezekiel: The God Who Makes Himself Known"

As we continue our "Through the Bible" messages this morning, we turn to the Book of Ezekiel. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel was a prophet just before, during and after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple almost six centuries before Christ was born.. But unlike Jeremiah, Ezekiel was taken from Jerusalem as a prisoner some 600 miles away to Babylonia, where he lived in exile with some 10,000 other Jewish leaders.

In many ways I find this book to be the closest we have in the Old Testament to anything like the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. Much of what we read here is symbolic and clothed in a series of complex, mind-stretching visions and parables that focus first on Ezekielís call to the ministry and then lay before us Godís desire to make Himself known - first, to the Jewish people but also to each of us, to the peoples round about his chosen people. So much so is this true that the phrase, they shall "know that I am the Lord" is used over 50 times, and I think it is the key to understanding and hearing Godís heart as He speaks to us in this book..

Let me begin by saying that yes, there are some wonderful, very positive words of hope that we can take from Ezekiel this morning. I will be getting to them shortly. But because of the drastic situation in which the Jewish people found themselves, much of what God had to say through Ezekiel is not what we would consider good news. In fact, the whole first half of his ministry involved words of judgment against their idolatry and immorality, their hypocrisy and disobedience to Godís Word. And even as the days of destruction came closer and closer, they were still arrogant and proud. Their hearts were hardened, and they refused to repent and change their ways. And somehow, like many of us often think in our own self-deluding way, they imagined in their pride that as Godís chosen people that their punishment would be short and sweet, that there enemies would soon be defeated, that God would overlook their sins and that they could go on as always, in their selfish and sinful ways.

But, boy, oh boy! were they in for a surprise. God cared for them more than they ever imagined. He still kept trying to get through to them, but not just through words. In this sense I think that Ezekiel would like for us to hear the warning that C.S. Lewis also gives us in regards to how God often, not always, but often makes Himself known and speaks to us when we refuse to listen. He tells us that "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks [to us] in our conscience, but shouts [to us] in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (The Problem of Pain. New York: Macmillan, 1962. p. 93) And it was through this act of judgment. this pain and difficulty, that Israel finally came to her senses and heard again the Living God. And so it was "from their experience in captivity the Jews would remember [this] lesson [that] God taught them and they would never be guilty of idolatry again." ("Walking Thru The Bible: Ezekiel" in http://fly.hiwaay.net/~wgann/walk_ot/ezekiel.htm)

Our scriptures for today are printed in two different parts. In the first section I have tried to note some of the unique themes of Ezekielís message. Our first scripture in section 1 comes from chapter 1, where we hear his call to be a prophet. Here we see a majestic and symbolic vision of the power and glory of God sitting upon a mobile throne made up of four living creatures each moving in every direction within a huge wheel within a wheel. It symbolizes Godís awesome transcendence. And yet, His ability to be anywhere and everywhere at the same time. Ezekiel writes,

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. {16} This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. (Ezekiel 1:15-16)

Read the rest of that first chapter for yourself. Youíll truly be amazed at what Ezekiel saw.

Next, in chapter 18, verse 20, we hear Ezekiel tell us that no one can blame either their current problems or their eternal destiny on someone else. You see, for many back then this was a new message - one that we sometimes forget. For Ezekiel reminds us that God does not allow anyone who has reached the age of accountability, who understands right from wrong, to be a victim except of their own freely chosen decisions. In a day when everyone wants to blame someone else for their problems, itís a message need to hear. Ezekiel writes,

The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. (Ezekiel 18:20a)

We each must face God one on one.

Next, in chapter 22, God tells Ezekiel that He is looking for some men who will "stand in the gap" for others and call them to repentance. In verse 30 he writes,

"I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. (Ezekiel 22:30)

While each of us must take responsibility for our own actions and our relationship with God, we also are each called to pray for and encourage one another, to help and comfort each other, to challenge and exhort others to follow the Lord and His ways. We cannot idly stand by and let others go into destruction without sharing the way of escape with them.

In chapter 24 Ezekiel discovers, as we all discover, that not only his words but also his life lived out before others is to be a sign and an example for others to follow:

Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.' (Ezekiel 24:24)

Is this not the case when we say that "your life may be the only sermon that others around you may ever hear"?

In this sense Ezekiel also mentions that God had made him a watchman for his people, someone who would like a guard standing on the walls of the city, to give them warning of the enemy that was coming against them. Let's read verse 7 from chapter 33:

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. (Ezekiel 33:7)

Again, each of not only is responsible to live faithfully our own lives before the Lord, God also is depending on us to warn others of the enemy that would come against them as well.

Our next verse reminds us of Jesusí words in the Sermon on the Mount about hypocrisy. Letís read them from chapter 33:

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. (Ezekiel 33:31)

Itís often so easy to listen to the preacher and mouth the words on Sunday at church, and then never let them affect how we live each day.

I threw in this next verse from chapter 34 because itís the basis of an old hymn that many of us know about Godís blessings. Itís a promise that comes in Ezekiel after a time of judgment and punishment has come and gone. 

I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:26)

May we seek those showers as well.

But even more let us seek what God wants to give us in chapter 36. Do you see what I am talking about? Letís read verse 26.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26) 

This morning, do you need a new heart? Do you have places of hardness like a stone in your heart? Is their any place of bitterness or anger or revenge that hinders God using you to bless others? Donít leave this morning without letting Him turn your stony heart into a heart of flesh, sensitive and caring, full of Godís Spirit.

That takes us now to the section 2 of our scripture readings. Look with me now at this most well-known of Ezekielís visions, the vision in chapter 37 of the valley of dry bones that somehow come back to life, not in their own strength, not in their own power, but because of two things. You listen and you try to hear what those two things are as I read this passage that is so symbolic of death, symbolic of the need that each of us has for revival and restoration. As we read these verses, try to imagine what Ezekiel saw as this vision comes to him from God.

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. {2} He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. {3} He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know." Ezekiel 37:1-3)

Thatís the great need today, isnít it? We, both as individuals and as a church, are often lifeless and powerless to do what God expects of us. Many are complacent and content with things the way they are, thinking that things are okay. Yet, God sees a different picture, doesnít He? He sees a valley full of dry bones. He see a church in need of revival. What do you see in your life? ( Eric W. Hayden. "The Valley of Dead Bones." in Preaching Through the Bible, Vol 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1967. p. 134)

Letís go on now, beginning at verse 4, to the cure, to Godís answer for His people in need of revival and restoration, in need of hope and healing.

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! {5} This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. {6} I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.'" {7} So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. {8} I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. {9} Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" {10} So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet--a vast army. {11} Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' {12} Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. {13} Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. {14} I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'" (Ezekiel 37:4-14

Did you hear the two things that God used to bring them back to life, that transformed that valley of dry bones into a vast powerful army of God. First, they had to hear the Word of God. This is preaching but not just preaching on Sunday mornings. This is also personal study of Godís Word. This is coming together in small groups to learn from one another just as Jesusí disciples joined with each other in fellowship and study. This is saying to God, first and foremost, I want to be all that Your Word expects of me and I will do whatever I have to do to hear your voice each and every day I live.

But second, and just as important, is being receptive and open to the Holy Spirit in our daily life. God commanded Ezekiel, not only to speak His Word, but also to pray for Godís Spirit to enter into the body of that army which had come to life. You and I need this same infilling and power of the Holy Spirit today. This message was not just for Israel. It wasnít just for the early church. In fact, if they needed it then, how much more do we need to seek, receive and know the power of the Holy Spirit in our own lives today.

In many ways today, you and I, and the church are in the same situation that Israel and Ezekiel faced. God was faithful to bring Ezekiel to His people, to give them both discipline and judgment for their sin, and strength and hope for the days ahead. This morning, where is your heart, What is your need? Will you hear Godís Word? Will you receive His Spirit? Will you offer yourself in repentance and commitment to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loves you and who died for you, who gave His life that you and I might know afresh Godís heart and Godís love, that in Him we might receive Godís Word and be empowered by His Spirit. This morning, may God speak to our hearts as we invite His Spirit afresh to come into our lives. May God and His Son be glorified. Amen.

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Last Updated: Sunday, September 02, 2001