Two Common Errors and How to Avoid Them
By John A Carroll
Week 47 in the Word—November 19-25, 2021
If you are following the Concealed and Revealed schedule, we are in the book of Ezekiel and will be reading James and beginning the first letter of Peter.
Last week, I pointed out that the weird visions in the book of Ezekiel were meant to overwhelm the prophet with the glory and holiness of God driving him to fall on his face in worship. Ezekiel was called to a hard and largely unsuccessful work, and he would need a deep understanding of who God is to persevere in the face of coming resistance and potential discouragement.
The same is true for followers of Jesus today. If we are to endure until God calls us home, we will need to know God much better than we do. We get to know Him through consistent intake of His Word (both in corporate settings like worship and preaching and personal settings like private reading combined with prayer). That is part of the reason I post this blog regularly.
Apparent failure and resistance to the gospel is a source of frequent discouragement to Christians. No doubt missionaries, pastors and other leaders are tempted to give up in the face of such “failure” and many do. We need to know God better than we do. We don’t know Him as well as we think. God prepared Ezekiel by giving him visions which he would never forget, and which drove him to speechless worship of the Holy God who made heaven and earth.
As Ezekiel wrote in exile from Babylon, God was sending the armies of Nebuchadnezzar to destroy the beautiful city of Jerusalem and her temple, and to take the people into captivity. This was going to raise questions about the goodness and power of God. Did God not love His people enough to protect them from such devastation? Or did He love them but not have the power to stop the violence and deliver Judah?
Ezekiel would see that God lacked neither love nor power to protect Jerusalem and Judah. What Ezekiel needed to understand was the depth of human sin, particularly the sin of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Those who had been entrusted to shepherd God’s people as priests, prophets, and kings had engaged in horrendous idolatry. The nation had become so corrupted that God was sending military forces to disrupt their way of life and to bring them to repentance and humility. So, the Babylonian invasion was not the result of God’s unwillingness or inability to rescue His people but rather concrete proof that He is Holy and that He uses world empires to discipline His people and accomplish His purposes for them.
The apparently severe judgment of God upon His people was not unjust nor capricious, but rather unmistakable evidence of His holiness, justice, and wisdom. In chapter 8, God showed Ezekiel the abominations being done secretly in the temple. Ezekiel learned that Israel’s unfaithfulness was like ungrateful daughters who rebel against their father who saved them from shame, starvation, and death (Ch. 23).
Furthermore, Ezekiel prophesies against the seven neighboring nations around Judah who also will come under the judgment of God (Ch. 25-32). God is not unjust in His judgments nor is He limited in the scope of them. He is the God of all the earth and all nations must answer to Him.
Throughout his book, Ezekiel repeats the LORD’s message “then you will know that I am the LORD.” God is not hiding. He has revealed Himself to mankind since the creation where He made man and woman and instructed them in what to do and not do. When they disobeyed, God sought them although they tried to cover their shame and hide from Him. Again and again, it is clear that God is not hiding, but mankind tends to flee from His presence.
It was the LORD who brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, gave them His law by which they would flourish pending their obedience, and then guided them through the wilderness into the promised land. He gave them a system of laws, a way to worship Him, a place to live in security and fruitfulness, but they rebelled, worshipped other gods, and disobeyed His law over and over. He faithfully disciplined them; however their repentance was often short-lived. Finally, they reached the tipping point and God sent the Assyrians to topple Israel and (a few generations later) the Babylonians to topple Judah.
God is neither unjust nor limited in His judgment of all the peoples of the earth. If He appears to be slow in carrying out judgment it is because He is also patient and as Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:8-10 ESV).
If we are to avoid the common errors of unbelief and despair, we will need to know God better and to face more honestly the depth of human sin. Then we will be better equipped to live as if He might come back today. And He might.
Week of November 19-25, 2021
November 19/Day 323 Why Does God Save? (Ezekiel 20-21; James 1)
November 20/Day 324 The Man Who Stood in the Breach (Ezekiel 22-23; James 2)
November 21/Day 325 Two Kinds of Wisdom (Ezekiel 24-26; James 3)
November 22/Day 326 Humility before God (Ezekiel 27-28; James 4)
November 23/Day 327 God’s Wrath (Ezekiel 29-31; James 5)
November 24/Day 328 Seeing Yourself Correctly (Ezekiel 32-33; 1 Peter 1)
November 25/Day 329 The Soul Shepherd (Ezekiel 34-35; 1 Peter 2)
This schedule and devotionals are taken from my book Concealed and Revealed: a year in the old and new testaments. Available here.