In the previous study we looked at the effects of anxiety on our lives, and how Jesus taught us to live without anxiety. Then we saw from the scripture how Israel was being judged because of the violence of its people.
Brothers and sisters, if your heart is filled with the love of Christ, I do not understand how any thought of violence can exist there.
The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, what is this proverb you have in the land of Israel: “The days go by and every vision comes to nothing”? Say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to put an end to this proverb, and they will no longer quote it in Israel.” Say to them, “The days are near when every vision will be fulfilled. For there will be no more false visions or flattering divinations among the people of Israel. But I the Lord will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without delay. For in your days, you rebellious people, I will fulfil whatever I say,” declares the Sovereign Lord.”’
The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, the Israelites are saying, “The vision he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies about the distant future.”
‘Therefore say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: none of my words will be delayed any longer; whatever I say will be fulfilled, declares the Sovereign Lord.”’
We have all met the kind of person who makes promises, but you know that he or she will never keep them. They say they will do something, but after a while, if we ask about it, there will always be a reason why it is not done. If they are embarrassed that they forgot, there will always be some reasonable excuse.
God is not like that, and he doesn’t make or need to make excuses.
When I was a child, I was taught by my father that, when everything else is lost, a man still has something very precious left: his word. He must live by his word and stand by his word. If his word is not true, or if it is not trustworthy, then it is worthless. And then, even if the man is wealthy in money, he truly has nothing. I thank my father for this teaching, and it has always remained in my heart. I wonder how much such ideas are taught in these modern times?
Sad to say that, in my life, I have seen it happen that a person can make a vow on their wedding day in church, and just 2 or 3 hours later break that vow.
What value is there on honour these days?
Today’s text shows that god is different.
People can make promises and fail to keep them, but God keeps all his promises. People may say that they will do something and then not do them. But God does all that He says he will do.
The people in Israel and Jerusalem had heard many prophecies against them, about their sinfulness and the consequences of this. But they misinterpreted the patience of God for something that is more human. As I said, we have all met the kind of person who says that they will do something, but that something, whatever it is, never gets done. And the Israelites were beginning to think of God as maybe having this kind of very human failing.
They did not see the beginning of any of the terrible things, or else the terrible things always seemed to be happening to somebody or something else. They did not understand that it was the great mercy of God to delay. They did not understand that there was the great patience that came from great love. The Lord God was delaying in order to give every last chance for the people, and for the nation, to turn from their wicked ways and to draw close again to their God.
Although we read these words from Ezekiel in reference to a time when Jerusalem was under siege and when Israel was under great judgement from God, these are words that are universally true – because they reflect something about the very nature of God Himself. This does not only refer to prophecies and visions of judgement and curses, it also applies to prophecies and visions of love and blessings.
You can be given a vision from God of something that is also the deepest desire of your heart.
I will pause and add a word of caution here. Not every desire that you hold in your heart will necessarily be something that God wants to give you. In fact, if we are honest, there are sometimes desires in our hearts that are decidedly ungodly.
But even some things that we can hope for, and that we can desire, may be things that God has not planned for our lives. So it is important not to jump to conclusions here. It is important to believe for happiness and hope in the things that are true and that are from God. Don’t place all your hopes, all your happiness and all of your desire on something that the Lord would rather you did not have.
I would go even further. Sometimes I think the Lord even answers our prayers and lets us have something only so that we can see how this is something that really we should not have had our hopes in from the beginning. This can become a very painful lesson for anyone to learn – especially if it has involved love to another person.
I think that nearly all of us who know the Lord will have a vision that means something deep within us, and that also reflects the deepest of desires in our hearts. This vision that was a confirmation from God that he wants to answer our prayers and bless us in this way, because our desire is in oneness with the desires of the Lord.
This kind of vision or prophecy is really precious, and it is what can keep you pressing onwards, despite obstacles and difficulties that come into your life. In another part of the bible, we are told this:
“without a vision the people perish.”
There is one interpretation of this scripture which is about adherence to the law of God, because it is our guide and without it we are as those who are blind – and if you are blind and without a guide, how can you survive? But the other sense is that to have a vision is to see a goal to aim for, and so it gives direction to your life. Having a sense of purpose is good, and it has even been shown to be good for mental health (and so, also, for general health and well-being).
There is something important, though, about visions, dreams and prophecies of blessing. These do not arrive in your lap, completed and on a silver platter. They arrive more like flat-packed furniture. There is work to do! Maybe even new skills to learn and develop. There can be difficulties and obstacles to overcome. And only after all this will you be able to see in reality what you first saw in your dreams long before.
So, with that prophecy, dream or vision – be assured that God has given it. But of course you can be in that very uncomfortable position of waiting. And the longer you wait, the more you begin to question whether the vision was really from god or not. The doubts grow over the years until you reach the point of saying to yourself that maybe it was not really god after all, maybe only a human desire and all the signs and signals were misinterpreted because of the strength of human desire.
I would say not to lose faith! Don’t allow this change in attitude to happen in your heart. This is only part of a wrong path that leads much further, and at the end of it is bitterness.
I think you need to stop and to consider something. Are you only waiting? Or are you examining your life and walking on the path towards the goal?
There are several examples in scripture of people who were convinced from God that a certain blessing was going to come their way, but then found that they had to wait very many years. Some of the clearest stories in this vein were about the desire for children.
Abraham and Sarah wanted a son and heir. This was their deepest desire, but Sarah had been barren. But then the Lord visited Abraham and gave him the promise that there would be a son. But how long did he have to wait? He was 90 when he became the father to the promised son!
There was the mother of Samuel, feeling disgraced through being childless. She would go to the temple to pray, and once was even accused of being drunk because she was rocking through emotional turmoil as she prayed. And later in life the promised child came, and in gratitude she presented him to the temple to be the Lord’s.
And then there is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, who were at the point of giving up hope for a child, because they were getting old. It was even hard for Zechariah to believe when the angel Gabriel spoke with him about this fulfilment of promise.
I often wonder why such visions of blessing are sometimes delayed for so long. I even, at times, felt that it was cruel – to be given a promise about something so deeply desired, and then to have to wait decades before the fulfilment.
But God is not being cruel. He is being a Father. I have learned that it is not a matter only of waiting. It is also a matter of preparing the way for the fulfilment of the vision. Things had to change in Abraham’s life first. He was a good man in many ways, but yet he could be belligerent and there were times when he would take things into his own hands. This was shown a long time before the birth of Isaac when, after talks with his wife, they decided to bring about the promise in their own way by having Abraham bear a child through Sarah’s servant.
God does not want us to ‘take the law into our own hands.’ He wants us to be pure to the promise.
I believe that part of the delay was a waiting for Abraham to learn some things in his life and to grow up in parts of his personality. To become more the kind of man that god wanted him to be.
The same could be said about Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. He and his wife prayed for many years for a child. But did they really believe that they would receive? Jesus told his disciples that they should not expect to receive what they pray for if they did not believe they would receive it. Somehow the key of faith needed turning. (It is not always lack of faith when people do not receive, and it can be cruel to accuse a person of lack of faith. Do not be swift to judge someone in this way! Most of the miracles in the bible and that I have witnessed in life did not depend on the faith of the person receiving the miracle, but on the person ministering.)
Yes, sometimes God wants to wait. But there is a purpose, usually, to that waiting. We must ask and pray, and sometimes just open our eyes, to learn what that purpose is. I strongly believe that sometimes the delay is because God is waiting for us to change, or to make the preparations. But god does not want us to do it the way that Abraham did it – to find a solution that, when you add it all up, does not really agree with either the will or the vision of God.
But be sure of one thing: the vision and the prophecies that god gave will come to pass. This is true not only for the prophecies of judgement, but also for the prophecies of blessing.