We have been looking at the first ‘official’ task of Ezekiel – the prophecy against Jerusalem and the final destruction of all that remained of the nation of Israel. As we have already seen, this was prophesied even before there was such a nation, because Moses prophesied that this would happen. And, as we shall read again in today’s scripture, this was not only words and threats. God made these things happen and it is now a matter of recorded history.
We are in the final part of this prophecy, chapter 7 of Ezekiel, and as is usual for his style of writing there is a lot of repetition. Today’s reading does not bring us much that we have not already read in previous chapters and verses. But this also reveals something not only about Ezekiel, but also about God. So let’s continue with the reading for this study: Ezekiel 7:5-9
This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
‘Disaster! Unheard-of disaster!
See, it comes!
The end has come!
The end has come!
It has roused itself against you.
See, it comes!
Doom has come upon you,
upon you who dwell in the land.
The time has come! The day is near!
There is panic, not joy, on the mountains.
I am about to pour out my wrath on you
and spend my anger against you.
I will judge you according to your conduct
and repay you for all your detestable practises.
I will not look on you with pity;
I will not spare you.
I will repay you for your conduct
and for the detestable practices among you.
Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes you.’
As I already said, nothing new compared with what came before, and yet still there is something to learn.
One thing we have already learned and discussed several times is just how patient the Lord is with his people. That is in stark contrast to some preaching styles that are common today. It is in contrast to how we are as people with each other. The Lord was patient for 390 years, but we often can’t manage the same number of seconds.
But there is a quality that often accompanies that of patience. This quality is called perseverance. It’s the old idea of: if at first you don’t succeed, then try again. Sometimes you simply did not get it right or understand what you were doing properly the first time, so you check and try again. Sometimes it is a skill that needs developing, like learning new music on a musical instrument, and so you develop the skill by practice and try and try again. Sometimes you need to do something else to achieve the goal, and so you work out what this is and try again.
This is how it was with God and Israel. God used many prophets, and they all had much the same things to say about the evil that was in the land, and the sins of the kings. But they had different ways to show that God had his eye on the land and how he was not pleased.
There was the challenge to fire by Elijah. There was the angelic army with Elisha. There was the yoke of Isaiah. The fasting of Jeremiah. And so many other signs and ways of warning Israel. The Lord did not give up. He did not just sit and wait patiently. He was actively involved in trying many different ways to get his message across to his people.
There were famines, plagues, the threat of war, invasions, disasters. There was financial disaster, strange weather, and curses on the royal family. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear could not fail to understand what was happening. But as the old saying goes: there are none so blind as those who refuse to see, and none so deaf as those who refuse to hear.
So you have already been encouraged to be patient. But do you also persevere? Or do you act passive and only ‘wait for the Lord’s time’?
Yes, the Lord certainly has his time for certain things. We read in the gospels of how Jesus miraculously walked away through a crowd of people who wanted to kill him, because it was not yet his time. But did that mean that Jesus just sat quietly apart from others and simply waited on God’s time? Of course not! He was always very active, and also very compassionate – doing miracles that changed people’s lives for the better. He was always trying to show that God was with them and that the Kingdom was at hand. He was living as our example.
So, you have this dream or a vision and it has not come into your life yet. What are you going to do? Are you only going to sit at home or the church pew and wait for ‘god’s time’? I think you will miss out, and maybe others will be missing out too, if this is your attitude.
In my experience, the vision or dream from God, this thing that you are looking to have in your life in the future, is not going to be something handed to you on a silver platter all complete and ready for you to enjoy. Not once have I seen that! But rather it is like buying flat-packed furniture.
You ordered that wonderful new wardrobe and now it is delivered to you, but it looks nothing like it did in the catalogue! It is useless as a wardrobe! What do you do? Do you take it like this and put it in the place where you wanted the wardrobe and just leave it there? Do you think that, in ‘god’s time,’ this flat-pack box will suddenly and miraculously become a wardrobe? This is how some people’s ideas of ‘god’s timing’ suddenly becomes another lifetime and they never see the dream or the vision become reality in their lives.
Of course, with flat-pack furniture there is work to do. You need to take out all the pieces, check that everything you need is there, and contact the company if there is anything missing. Maybe you even need to purchase new tools if you do not have the tools for the job. You need to read the instructions and spend some time thinking clearly about the process of assembly, and to make sure that you understand the process. You need to plan the right place to do this, because often it requires a large empty space to be able to do this.
Then, sometimes, while you are in the process of building the furniture, you discover that there are skills to be used that you never used before. This can be scary. So maybe you stop and practise this skill on something else first, and then return to the main job. Maybe you discover that you made a mistake, and so have to take it apart again, or at least partially, and then redo it correctly. If it is a large wardrobe, maybe you need some strength because the pieces are heavy. Maybe you need a friend to help you, and that two working together will make it happen.
You persevere, and as a result you achieved something through your own work. Maybe you became closer with a neighbour or a colleague as a result, or confirmed how good a team you are with your partner or family member. Maybe you learned some new skills in the process. But in the end, you will have this wardrobe you dreamed of. But more than that – you have more confidence, and also the right kind of pride because you know that you learned some new skills, and that you were blessed by family or friends, and that together you achieved something.
So you have that dream or vision? Don’t be lazy! It is NOT just a matter of now sitting back and waiting for ‘god’s time.’ I am convinced that one purpose of a vision or a dream is to improve us as people, to train us for the work of the Kingdom. You need to analyse what you need to do to get from where you are to the result in that dream or vision. Maybe you need to change some things about yourself – learn new skills, develop your strength, find out new facts and information that you did not know before. Maybe you need to share this with someone who will help you to achieve these things.
Oh, certainly you will need to pray and to remain sensitive to the Spirit. But don’t let this become an excuse for inactivity! You know, you can pray while you work! Or while you are walking to the shop to buy that tool you will need for the job.
So press on! Don’t give up! Do what it takes! Go on – just do it! As the title of a famous book says: feel the fear and do it anyway! If it didn’t happen first time, don’t give up – ask yourself why it did not work. Make the adjustment and try again.
You may find yourself thinking these kinds of things: It will never happen for me. I will never manage it. I can’t do that. It is impossible. It is too hard. It takes too long. I don’t want to work with that person.
There are many other such thoughts and words. But let me be clear: these all come from the deceiver. You are to challenge these thoughts and words. You are to put yourself against such ideas. It is much more than a switch to positive thinking, it is a switch to accepting that what God says may indeed be possible and about to happen!
Quite the opposite of the Israelites who were the subject of the prophecy in the reading above. They had seen the signs and heard the prophets, but just carried on as if god would never do such things. They had believed that they could just carry on the way that they had always carried on.
But if you do not listen to god and believe him, you do so at your own peril.
For the Israelites it was prophecy of a coming disaster that would destroy the nation, and yet they ignored it. It made as much sense as standing in the middle of the road, seeing the speeding truck coming straight at you, and deciding that you are perfectly safe to stay right where you are.
For you as a child of God, for sure there will be a dream or a vision for you. But waiting for it to all ‘just happen’ will be to miss it completely. Get up and get going! Build that dream and let it happen!
Yes, there is still god’s timing – and so the process may be either shorter or longer than you expect. But it will still only happen if you agree with God and get moving towards that dream.
Enter into your blessing now – by moving forward. It is wonderful what happens in your life when you begin this process!