If we were to believe much teaching that comes out of contemporary Christendom, we would hold the view that God saves us (in itself a concept that is glossed over by much of the church today) for the purpose of making us rich and successful in this life, fulfilling all our casual whims, and generally making this life as pleasant as possible. It would seem that we need not worry about past sins or even give much consideration to eternity. After all, neither holds much interest for someone almost entirely consumed with present pleasures.
Unlike the church, whose promises focus primarily on eternal blessings, Israel’s blessings emphatically included promises of temporal wealth. In this light, we may be struck particularly by the emphasis found in the book written by Ezekiel the prophet. Although God was speaking to a different people in a different age through His anointed voice, the thrust of Ezekiel’s message is as pertinent today as it was when it was written nearly 2600 years ago.
It is worth noting that, although God had promised temporal blessings for His chosen people, when they sinned, He did not hesitate to withdraw those blessings. What is more, when they persisted in their rebellion, He brought severe judgment on them in the form of an army from Babylon that conquered them, razed Jerusalem, and took many citizens of Judah to Babylon as captives. Ezekiel, being among these captives, prophesied from the land of captivity. And what was the thrust of his message?
Interestingly, we find it amidst the revelation of God’s plans for a glorious millennial temple. Ah, we might think, God is emphasizing the wonderful blessings He intends to bestow on His people. Doubtless, that is true, but note the context in which He promises those blessings.
1. They must turn from idolatry. “Now let them put away their harlotry and the corpses of their kings far from Me; and I will dwell among them forever” (Ezek. 43: 9). “Their kings” probably refers to the idols that they had worshiped and bowed down to, having forsaken the Lord God who had redeemed them.
2. They must give heed to God’s revelation of the outline for the Millennial temple. “As for you, son of man [i.e., Ezekiel], describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan” (v. 10). What God had to say to them must become more important than anything else in their lives.
3. They must repent of their sin. “If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them” (v. 11). The purpose for which God reveals the manner in which He intends to bless His people is that they might repent for the dishonor they had brought upon the Lord and mourn what their sin had cost them. Should they do that, then the Lord would enlighten them with more and more details about His plans for them.
What has this to do with us in 2017? After all, we are not Israel. It has everything to do with the character and nature of God and of His purpose and plan in redeeming His people—whether Israel or the church. God has saved neither entity in order to give us a comfortable life. Rather, He has saved us that we might manifest the glory of His holy character. To Israel, He stated emphatically: “This is the law of the house: its entire area on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house” (Ezek. 43:12). To us, He says with equal emphasis: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
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