God Keeps His Word

Casket Empty   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:02:28
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God Keeps His Word

The Christian mindset is perhaps for the most part one of thinking positive. Many of us have favorite verses that we can recite from memory of the Lord’s promises for blessings to us. And it is easy to read the Bible that way.
Of course God is for us, because we believe in Him.
God has promised good to those who ask.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.
If God is for us who can be against us?
These ideas and more give us a positive outlook on life and on our future in general. The challenge for anyone who is serious about their biblical study is to ask the question, “Is that a complete view of God?”
I would contend that most of us like to view God as being on our side, that God of course approves of what we’re doing. I think that was part of what Israel experienced.
They were God’s chosen people.
God had literally fought for them, defeating their enemies for them.
God had delivered them into the promised land.
There was perhaps a sense of entitlement.
One could easily make the argument that they were really good at recounting the Lord’s blessings promised to them, and that they were not so good at recalling God’s promises of curses should they disobey.
Throughout our journey through the Old Testament we have seen again and again, Israel’s rebellion. Whether it be simply not following God’s commands or deliberately doing the opposite of God’s commands we’ve seen the whole spectrum.
In 605 BC we see God’s response as the Babylonians invade Judah and leading citizens of Judah are taken to Babylon including members of the royal family, nobles, and some of Judah’s best young men who will be pressed into service in the Babylonian kings court.
Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are among the first wave of deportees from Judah to Babylon.
The second wave happens in 597 BC when Ezekiel and then king of Judah, King Jehoiachin are taken to Babylon as well. And Jeremiah warned that Jerusalem - the city of the Great King (in many minds, the city of God) would fall.
As Nebuchadnezzar is besieging the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah is asked to inquire of the LORD about the Babylonians. Jeremiah announces that God himself is waging war against the kin and that he and the people will be given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar because God is punishing their sins.
In 586 BC, Jerusalem falls. Now the people of God are in Exile. No longer do they dwell in the “promised land”.

Long History of...

Through visions God had given Ezekiel a review of the history of God’s covenant people, highlighting their ongoing rebellion against God and their failure to follow his laws. In one vision with Israel’s sin in full view, Ezekiel sees God’s glory leave the temple. This was a devastating confirmation that God would allow his own house to be destroyed.
This is the most tragic event in Israel’s history! They are God’s chosen people. Yet God is not finished. The prophet would also speak of the restoration of God’s people. Carol Kaminski puts it so well in our book “Casket Empty”
Ezekiel understands that Israel’s bent toward idolatry is anything but superficial. On the contrary, the worship of idols is firmly lodged in the human heart. We are reminded that idolatry is the outward manifestation of the internal condition of the heart. The making of idols, which is rampant in Israel’s story, exposes the human heart (including ours) that refuses to relinquish control and submit to the one true God. This is the inner disposition of every heart when left to its own devices, without the atoning work of Christ and the pouring out of his Spirit. Not surprisingly, when Ezekiel speaks of the restoration of God’s people, he describes it as an act of new creation. God will cleanse Israel’s heart from idols and give them a new heart; he will replace their heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26). This is a stark reminder that the solution to Israel’s heart (and the human heart which they represent on a national scale) is found in the transformative work of the living God and in the indwelling of his Spirit. We should also be gaining a sense of the depth of sin in the world which is in need of atonement.
Kaminski, Carol. CASKET EMPTY: God's Plan of Redemption through History. Old Testament Reader (pp. 221-222). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Kindle Edition.
Our sin strips us of everything that is good in the eyes of God. That’s what our text this morning speaks of - in the valley of dried bones. What you see is Israel stripped of everything. There is nothing but death. Ezekiel has pointed out Israel’s sins, but predominantly has pointed out four particular sins: Rebellion against God; Not walking in his statutes; their heart continues to go after idols; they have repeatedly profaned God’s sabbath.
Kaminski points out well that we need to remember that the most defiling source of ritual impurity for a priest was a human corpse, and yet Ezekiel finds himself in a valley of dried bones, surrounded by death. The vision depicts God’s people under God’s wrath. The people have forsaken the God who gives them life and their death is a testimony to the absence of righteousness, for the prophet had said that if a person “walks in my statutes, and keep my rules by acting faithfully — he is righteous and he shall surly live”.
And yet there is hope! As the vision continues we see only God who first breathed life into Adam, can breathe life into God’s people, Israel, again. This is a vision of restoration of God’s people after the exile.
God tells Ezekiel so in verses 11-14:
Ezekiel 37:11–14 ESV
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
The message of Ezekiel 37 is that God’s plan of redemptive history does not end with the Exile. Instead life will be given again through God’s life giving Spirit. This points us to the resurrection because we see that the curses of God’s covenant lead to death, so restoration can be nothing short of the resurrection from the dead. It is God who breathes life into these dry bones and reminds us of the beginning of creation when God breathed his life into man.

Exile = Separation

The exile for Israel felt like a separation from God. No longer were they near the temple. In fact, the temple had now been destroyed. For Israel it was a loss of their identity in many ways. At the same time it was a wake up call to the idolatrous ways.
Despite a multitude of prophets reminding them repeatedly of God’s statutes they had openly disobeyed, rebelled, and denied God their worship - thus denying themselves of His favor and His blessings.

Our Own Separation

If anything, as we read through the Old Testament, we have to reflect on our own idolatry, and rebellions against God. In just a couple weeks we will enter the season of Lent. A season of repentance and reflection. Yet it is never too soon to start.
I read the Old Testament, and in fact I read the New Testament and I cannot help but be struck by how personal God takes not just my sin in general, but each and everyone of my sins. Each and everyone of our sins.
And it pains me.
And yet, God continues to lead us with the promise of His faithfulness no matter what ours may or may not be. Even prior to this vision of dried bones given to Ezekiel God said to him:
Ezekiel 36:26 ESV
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
It’s a beautiful promise. And it’s the promise to us as well. It hasn’t happened yet, but we know it will.
To HIs Glory!
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