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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary
Ezekiel 33

 

 

Verses 1-13

The Judgments of God

Ezekiel 33:1-13 , Ezekiel 33:28-33

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

It may not be pleasant, but it is necessary to warn the saint and the sinner against coming judgments.

1. We need to warn the church against her coming judgments. Even now we can see the gathering of the storm. The church has grown so worldly, so self-centered, so self-reliant; the church, in many places, has gone so far from the faith, denying the very Lord God who bought them, denying everything that is vital to the Gospel she was commanded to preach.

The church has too often turned aside to a social gospel which is not the Gospel. She has mingled herself among men, even the men of the world, and joined hands with them in seeking to direct the conduct of nations and of communities.

Think you that the church can go on much longer without being judged and punished for her unrighteousness?

2. We need to warn the world of coming judgments. The world is rushing headlong away from God. It is becoming more and more "As it was in the days of Noah"; and "as it was in the days of Lot."

The wicked are doing wickedly. Sin is holding sway.

Is not God preparing to send forth His judgments against the wicked? Do not the signs of the times show that the earth is ripening for judgment, and that judgments are hovering near? It is only the prophet who is blind to the prophetic Scriptures on the one hand, and to the daily course of events, on the other hand, who fails to see that history is rapidly running into the mold of Divine prophecy, and that soon the day of tribulation in which God shall judge the earth will come.

What then? Shall we fail to warn the wicked? Nay. Every true minister of Jesus Christ will cry aloud and spare not. Remember the words in Ezekiel: if we fail to warn the wicked, God will require their lives at our hands.

We must arise and sound the alarm. We must give the cry, "'Repent, repent, repent," or destruction shall fall.

God grant that we may not be reckoned among the false prophets and prophesy peace, when there is no peace; who call darkness light, and light darkness; who say of judgment, It shall not be; and of wrath, It slumbereth.

I. AN ILLUSTRATION (Ezekiel 33:1-3 )

1. The illustration. God looks out among men to find a simple illustration of His dealings with others. He describes a people against whom He is about to bring the sword. The nation, seeing impending danger, takes a man of their coasts and sets him for a watchman. Then, the Spirit says, "If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head."

The reason for this judgment is that he heard the sound of the trumpet and took not warning.

2. The application. The warnings of God are heard everywhere today. They are heard from the pulpit; they are heard in nature; they are heard in daily events, and all of them are saying: "There is danger ahead."

How many there are who have been warned by sickness. They were brought low; they looked the death angel square in the face; they felt their time had come; they knew that they were warned of God; then they prayed for help, and promised God that if He would spare them, they would live for Him. God did spare them; however, they went right on in their evil ways. Their blood shall be required at their own hand.

Here is another man. He is warned by some great physical disaster, a whirlwind sweeps down upon him; a terrific storm overawes him the lightnings flash, and the thunders roar; the winds howl. Then he cries unto the Lord, and God sendeth a great calm. Immediately he goes on in his evil way forgetful of his warning. God will require his blood at his own hand.

Here is still another man. This one is making money; he is living in ease with every comfort about him, and then, suddenly, a great financial crisis comes. His all is swept from him. This man is fully awake to the sense of his own loss, and he sees the ultimate sweeping away of everything from him, and he hears the call of God to repent and to lay up treasures where moth and rust do not corrupt. However, he refuses to hear and goes on his maddened way, seeking to reclaim his lost fortune, and to establish himself among his fellow men.

This man shall have his blood upon his own head.

II. THE WATCHMAN WHO WARNS NOT THE PEOPLE (Ezekiel 33:6-8 )

1. God's watchmen are set to warn His people. Every minister of the Gospel is a watchman. To him God has given a message of warning which is many-sided, and very vital to the safety of the people.

The Old Testament Prophets were watchmen. They were called to give God's warning messages to the people concerning their own sins, and God's judgments which were about to fall upon the people.

2. Many of God's watchmen refuse to warn of coming dangers. This is where Isaiah 56:1-12 comes in. Isaiah 56:10 says: "His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber."

There were many men similar to these among the Prophets. They told the people only the good things, the smooth things, when God prophesied disaster. They told the people all was well, and there was no danger ahead, when God had told them that the storms of His judgments were about to break.

There are many men standing in the pulpits today who simply refuse to give God's warnings. God tells us there shall be wars and rumors of wars. They stand in their pulpits and preach peace, peace, when there is no peace. They ruthlessly shut their eyes to actual facts as well as to the plain statements of God. God tells them to warn the people concerning the encroachment of worldliness and iniquity upon the church. They refuse and they preach "the contagion of good," and present only an ethical conception of the Gospel. They never tell them the wages of sin is death, and that the wicked shall be cast into hell with all nations that forget God.

So far as the coming of the antichrist is concerned, they never mention it with one word of warning. Little does it matter to them that God, in His Word, has prophesied the advent of the man of sin, and the rule and the reign of the antichrist. Little does it matter to them that everything in world events shows that the world is hastening on toward the rule of one man. They say nothing about it. God will require the blood of His people at their hands.

God says, "Thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me." When, therefore, they refuse to warn the wicked of his way, and they refuse to tell others of the judgments about to fall, God says: "His blood will I require at thine hand." "Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; * * thou hast delivered thy soul."

III. GOD'S DESIRE IS TO SAVE AND NOT TO DESTROY (Ezekiel 33:10-11 )

1. A complaint. Israel was saying, "If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?"

There are many today who are decrying God for His judgments. Yet, they go right on in their sins. They want God to reserve His wrath, yet, they will not turn from their unrighteousness. They condemn God, but not themselves. They would make God a holy God, who does not demand holiness; a righteous God, who does not enforce righteousness. Their idea of God would be a God of love, who is foreign to judgment; a God of mercy, who knows nothing of wrath.

2. A vindication. The Lord's reply is in Ezekiel 33:11 . He says: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Some one will answer: "If God hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, then why does He say: 'The wages of sin is death'?" If He does not want the wicked to die, why does He slay them? In reply to such weak insinuation, the Lord says to the wicked, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."

God is saying that righteousness will bring life, even as wickedness brings death. In all of this He throws the death of the wicked upon themselves. The responsibility is theirs, not His. They die because they walk the ways of death, God cannot justify the ungodly. Therefore He is helpless to save the wicked in their wickedness.

3. A plaintive cry. Could any words be more filled with the yearnings of His heart than these which fell from the lips of the Almighty: "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O House of Israel?"

God is described here as pleading, calling, crying unto men to repent. He seems to be saying just what Christ afterwards said! "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" In this verse, 11, and in these words, "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" God is saying, I would save you, I want to, I am willing, I am ready, but ye must turn; ye must repent or else I cannot. Here it is: "I would, ye would not, I could not."

IV. THE JUSTNESS OF GOD'S DEALINGS (Ezekiel 33:12-14 )

1. The wicked man will die for his wickedness, and the righteous man shall live for his righteousness. The question before us is not the question of eternal life. We are not in the realm of salvation whatsoever. We are walking in the realm of judgments, and of rewards. God has been telling Israel, through Ezekiel, many things concerning His judgments. He tells why the people of Tyre perished. He tells why desolation fell upon Egypt. He shows, withal, His own lamentations for both Tyre and Egypt. He did not want either the one or the other to fall; but they repented not, they refused to turn from their evil ways, and they had to fall. Thus the wicked were overwhelmed because of their wickedness, and they died in their sins.

This is not at all difficult to understand, neither is it difficult to understand that the righteous will live for his righteousness. This is always true. If sin brings judgment unto condemnation, righteousness brings favor, and blessing, and happiness.

2. The righteous, if he sins, will die for his wickedness; while the wicked, if he repents, will live for his newfound righteousness. There are many illustrations of this in the Word of God. Under the first, "The wicked will live when they turn from their wickedness," we consider Nineveh. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn the people. Jonah was commanded to cry, saying, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Jonah refused, at first, to warn the Ninevites because, as he afterwards said, he knew that if the Ninevites repented and turned from every evil way, God was a gracious God, and merciful, and slow to anger, and of great kindness, and God would repent Himself of doing evil against the Ninevites. This is exactly what God did do. When the Ninevites put on sackcloth and ashes and turned from their sins, God could not remain the same God of honor, and true in His judgments, and still slay them. Thus, when the wicked turn from their unrighteousness, they shall live, and not be punished.

On the other hand, if the righteous turn from their righteousness, they shall surely die. The Children of Israel are a plain example of this. When they were righteous, they were blessed; when, however, they turned from their righteousness, and became sinful, the wrath of God was upon them and they were slain with His great sword.

V. JUDGING THE LORD UNJUSTLY (Ezekiel 33:17 )

1. "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" These are the words of Abraham as he pleaded with the Lord to spare Sodom. Abraham well knew the wickedness of Sodom. He made no plea whatsoever that God should spare the city on the basis of its own righteousness. He approached God from another viewpoint. He said: "Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt Thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?"

Abraham went so far as to say unto God, "That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" God did not condemn Abraham for the basis of his plea, because that is the basis upon which God judges. The Lord quickly replied: "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."

In the Book of Ezekiel, God is vindicating His judgments on the same basis, "If the wicked restore * * that he had robbed, walk in the Statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die."

2. Ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. This was the charge of the Children of Israel against God. They wanted Him to spare them because they were known as the righteous nation, even though they had turned from their righteousness. God said, "Nay." "When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby." Then God adds: "Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye House of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways."

VI. SOME SOLEMN APPLICATIONS (Ezekiel 33:25 ; Ezekiel 33:29-30 )

1. God's application of His message upon the Children of Israel. God is vindicating Himself in His judgments against Israel. Until this day, the Children of Israel, who were once a people, are scattered abroad among the nations of the earth as "not a people." They even, themselves, deny the Lord Jesus altogether.

We remember reading of the time when God chose His people. We remember how they loved Him, and followed Him in the way. How great was God's blessing's upon them! How tenderly did He care for them! He loved them as a Father loveth his child.

We remember also how Israel sinned, and how God sent forth His Prophets to warn her. Yet, they repented not, nor turned from their evil ways. The result was that they were defeated in battle; they were driven from their own land, and unto this hour, they are under the judgments of God.

All of this, however, does not mean that God hath cast off His people forever, for He shall yet say unto the North, Give up, and to the south, hold not back. Behold a nation shall yet be born in a day, and God shall yet redeem His chosen nation.

2. God's application of His message to the Church. In the Book of Romans, chapter 11, we read: "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness : otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."

If God spared not Israel when she sinned, neither will He spare and neither does He spare His Church, when she sins. In Revelation 3:1-22 , we have the picture of the Laodicean Church. She is a worldly Church which has departed from her Lord, and the Lord Himself is standing outside the Church saying: "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth." The basis of God's judgments, in every age, are the same; and the basis of judgment against both the righteous and the wicked are the same.

Let no man think because he is a Christian that he will escape the chastening of God if he sins. Not that alone, but we read of certain saints, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Sin may not only cause chastening in life, but it may bring the chastening of physical death; it certainly will bring sorrow at the judgment seat of Christ.

VII. THE UNEQUALITY OF ISRAEL (Ezekiel 33:31-33 )

We now come to what is called, in the last words of Ezekiel 33:30 , "The Word that cometh forth from the Lord." Israel had accused God of a biased judgment. God is now, in plain words, going to show to His people the perfidy of their own hearts.

1. A vain profession. Here is God's first statement: "They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, * * with their mouth they shew much love * *. Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words."

All of the expressions above were true concerning Israel as they were approached by God's Prophet Ezekiel. They went through every formality and expression of loyalty to God. They outwardly appeared to be righteous.

2. The true state of affairs. Now we will take the whole of God's statement: "They hear thy words, but they will not do them." "They shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness." " Thou art unto them as a very lovely song," etc.: "for they hear thy words, but they do them not."

We begin, now, to understand why it was that they complained against God's judgments, for, even in the days of their apostasy they carried with them a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof.

In the days of our Lord, He still acknowledged their outward piety. He said that they paid tithes of mint, anise, and cummin. He spoke of the works which they did. He described them as making long prayers; concerning the Law, they would argue even to the details of straining at a gnat. Ceremonially, they made clean the outside of their cups and platters. Before men they appeared righteous. They builded the tombs of the Prophets, and garnished the sepulchers of the righteous. Thus, they appeared outwardly, and thus they still appeared to us when we recently visited Jerusalem. Here, however, is described their true spiritual condition, even as our Lord told it forth.

"All their works they do to be seen of men."

"They love the uppermost rooms at feasts."

"They shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men."

"They devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make a long prayer."

"They compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and make him twofold more the child of hell."

"They omit the weightier matters of the Law."

"They swallow a camel."

"Within they are full of extortion and excess."

"Within they are full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness."

"They are serpents a generation of vipers."

"They kill and crucify, scourge and persecute."

Do you wonder that God judged them?

With the nominal church we have a story quite as sad. In many places, very many, they have a form of godliness. They do many things just as outwardly religious, as did the religious Jews. Nevertheless, here is God's description of these very church people who have a form of godliness and deny the power.


Verses 27-33

Hearers, but Not Doers

Ezekiel 33:27-33

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

This prophecy of Ezekiel had to do with a people who were outwardly religious, but inwardly were far from God. They would come before the Lord, and sit before Him as His people. They would even go so far as to show much love, with their mouths. He was, unto them, a very lovely song; or, as one with a pleasant voice; or, as one who could play well upon an instrument. However, their hearts were continually going out after covetousness, and they never did His Words.

Our study shows a most pitiful condition a condition which is, alas, quite common today. We still have many people who go to church. They are like the proverbial willow tree, which bows its head, but does not lift its heart. If the wind blows from, the north the boughs bend toward the south; if the wind blows from the south, the boughs quickly bend to the north with the wind.

Some Christians go to church, as the people go. They sit as the people sit, but their hearts are far from God. If the minister says, "Let us pray," they reverently bow. If he says, "Let us sing," they join their voices with the rest. They do all of this, but their music has no more heart throbs in it, than the music of an instrument. They sing for the pleasure of singing, but Divine worship is far from them. They listen to the minister's sermon, but there is no translating of that sermon into their daily life and walk.

Such people remind us of a statement in the seventh chapter of Hosea which reads: "Ephraim * * hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned." Hosea's cake was baked on one side, and raw on the other. It is no pleasure to bite into such a cake.

Some Christians are like Ephraim only half-baked. We need saints young and old who will go all the way with God; who will enter into every phase of Christian life and service, with sincerity of purpose, and with love of heart.

The other day I was in a restaurant, and I told the porter I wanted a glass of "half-and-half." He said, "Half coffee?" I said, "No, I want half milk, and half cream." Many Christians are of the half-and-half kind; only they are half water, and half skimmed milk. There is nothing of the cream (the fuller Christian life), in them whatsoever.

God has very plainly said, that we are to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only. He that beholdeth his natural face in a glass, and turneth away, forgetteth what manner of man he is; so also is he who will hear, but refuseth to do the Word of God.

The one who is a hearer, and not a doer, is likened in the Bible to a man who built his house upon the sand. When the floods came and the winds blew, and the rain fell, that house could not stand. God help us to put into practice what we profess to believe to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving our own selves.

I. IT MUST BE GOD OR BAAL, NOT BOTH (1 Kings 18:21 )

Elijah came before the Children of Israel and said, "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him." Jesus Christ plainly stated, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

The human heart will either hold to the one and despise the other; or else it will love the one, and hate the other.

Elijah spake of "two opinions." We need men who will get on one side of the fence, or upon the other. A middle-of-the-roader never gets anywhere. We need decisiveness of character. We need conviction, and then the power to stand on our convictions. If the Lord be God, we should follow Him. If Baal be God, then, we should follow Him.

Always admire a person who has the courage of his convictions. If he believes in Christ Jesus, let him confess Him with his lips, publicly.

The modernist, as we see him, is a wolf parading in sheep's clothing. What right does the man who denies the Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, and His atoning Blood what right does he have to stand behind a pulpit dedicated to an orthodox faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? What right does he have to draw his salary from people who believe in a whole Bible and a humiliated Christ?

What right do young people who love the world, and the things of the world, who live for the lusts of the flesh, who have no vital faith or love for the Lord Jesus Christ, what right do they have to take an active part in a young people's society, to sing in church choirs, or to teach Sunday School classes? We would not drive the young people away, but we would urge them to either serve God or mammon.

II. IT MUST BE SERVING THE LORD, OR SERVING OTHER GODS (2 Kings 17:33-34 )

In Samaria there were certain ones who feared not the Lord, therefore the Lord sent lions among them which slew some of them. The result was that they feared the Lord, yet they still followed their own gods after the manner of the nations. From this they have never changed.

The text says, "Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the Lord, neither go they after their statutes, or after their ordinances."

There are many people, we fear, who are serving the Lord merely because certain circumstances drove them and compelled them to make a confession. Outwardly, they appear to fear the Lord; inwardly, they serve their own gods. They have a form of religion, but they know nothing of its power. Such a faith is a mockery, unacceptable to God.

In the Book of Revelation we read these striking words spoken of the Church at Laodicea: "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth." Another statement follows which is more than striking it is startling. Christ added: "I would thou wert cold or hot." Water that is lukewarm (tepid, we call it), is sickening. Hot water tastes all right; cold water is all right, but who wants to drink lukewarm water?

Along this line, there is a verse in the Book of Ecclesiastes which says, "Be not righteous over much; * * Be not over much wicked." The advice of "the man under the sun" is to be neither hot nor cold, just so-so.

We remember an old colored man in Georgia who used to greet us as he passed. Invariably when we gave him the top of the morning, and asked him how he was, he would say, "Just tolerable, Brother Neighbour." That word "tolerable" stuck with us. We began to wonder just how Uncle John did feel. We decided he was neither sick, nor well, just able to wiggle, that was all. God deliver us from saints like that. Their lives are miserable failures.

III. IT MUST BE PIETY OR PRETENSE (Matthew 23:14 )

The Lord Jesus Christ is speaking of the scribes and the Pharisees of His day. Outwardly they were very religious. They had religion to the excess, but they knew very little of spiritual life.

So far as their works were concerned they were abundant, but were only for display. They could bind heavy burdens on men, hard to be borne, while they themselves did not bend one of their fingers to move them. They made broad their phylacteries, and enlarged the borders of their garments, but all these things they did to be seen of men.

They loved the upper rooms at the feasts, and the best seats at the synagogue. They delighted to be called "rabbi," but they accepted not the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone was Master. These men could encompass sea and land to make a proselyte, but they made him twofold more a child of hell than he was before.

The whole difficulty with the scribes and Pharisees lay in the fact that they carried their religion on the hems of their garments, and on the tips of their tongues. They had no vital relationship to the Lord. They would pay their tithes, but they omitted the weightier matters of law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They delighted in straining at gnats, while they swallowed camels. The outside of their cups and platters they kept clean, but within they were full of extortion and excess. The Lord Jesus spoke of them as whited sepulchers, beautiful without, but full of dead men's bones and uncleanness within.

What a picture of many church people even of our own day! They go to church on Sunday, but they serve the devil all the week. We fear that many who are professing piety as a pretense are making their religious profession a mere cloak to cover up the sins of their hearts.

IV. IT MUST BE TRUE OR IT MUST BE FALSE (Isaiah 1:14-17 )

The Prophet, Isaiah, must have been strangely stirred as the Spirit of God dictated the words found in the first chapter of the Book which bears his name. The people of God on the one hand were called "the daughter of Zion"; on the other hand they were called the "people of Gomorrah" and "the rulers of Sodom."

The Spirit speaks positively. He tells them He delights not in their sacrifices. This sounds strange, at first, because these sacrifices had been commanded of the Lord. However, they never were commanded as a mere religious form, to be carried out by unclean hands and unsanctified hearts.

The Spirit of God continues to say, "When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand?" God does not want people treading His courts when their hearts are far from Him. He says, "Bring no more vain oblations." He tells them that their incense is an abomination. Their new moons, and their Sabbaths He "cannot away with." They are an iniquity. His soul hated their solemn meetings, and could not bear their gatherings.

Beloved, we wonder how God feels now, when people have no heart in their prayers, no soul in their songs, and no joy in their testimonies. We wonder how He feels when people with unclean hands, and unpurged lips serve in His Church. God help us to wash, and be clean. God help us to put away the evil of our doings, and to learn to do well. Then will He accept us as we come before Him.

V. IT MUST BE RIGHTEOUSNESS OR IT CANNOT BE CONSECRATION (Matthew 5:23 )

Here is a statement which appears to be a hindrance to consecration or a hindrance to giving any gift to God, The Lord said, "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."

In our mind's eye we see a young man, or a young woman, approaching the altar, not with a gift of money, but with that supreme gift of their own heart and life. The Lord watches them as they come. He has commanded that saints should do this very thing. Here are His words: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice * * unto God * * which is your reasonable service." However, God also says that before we bring our gift, we must, if need be, go and become reconciled to our brother, providing our brother hath something against us.

Is there something in your life that is wrong toward another? Do not imagine, then, that God will accept you at the altar of consecration and sacrifice.

Hearts that are unclean, hands and feet that are not separated from sin, cannot be a sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God.

The unrighteous and carnal Christian might desire to offer himself to God, with reservations, but God will not receive such a gift.

We read of the rich young ruler who came running to the Master. Christ saw that he was a lover of his wealth and position, and said, "Go and sell that thou hast, * * and come and follow Me." Consecrated lives, if they are to be acceptable to God, must be lives which are clean.

VI. IT MUST BE OF POWER AND NOT OF FORM (2 Timothy 3:5 )

Here is a verse which is needed. The Spirit is describing the last days, days which will immediately precede the Second Coming of Christ. He says that men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. He says many other thing's which describe anything but a real Christian. Then the Spirit tells us that these very people will have a form of godliness, denying the power thereof.

It is hard to conceive that those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God could have a form of godliness, and yet they do. Many of our churches are dominated by this very class. They are pleasure mad; they love the world, and they live in the world.

The dance, the card party, the movie, the beach, or any other form of worldliness is their delight, and yet, on Sunday, you will see them in the pews, and at the young people's meetings.

They have a form of godliness, but they know nothing of its power. It is hard to conceive how boys and girls who are disobedient to their parents, unthankful, and unholy can be so deceived as to imagine that their Sunday parade of piety goes over with God.

It is hard to imagine how people who are truce-breakers, and false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, will come into the assembly of righteousness and parade a form of godliness, when they know nothing of the power thereof.

Of this same "sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts," yet, they too have a form of godliness knowing nothing of the power thereof. What shall we do? The Bible is very plain. It says, "From such turn away."

VII. IT MUST BE OBEDIENCE TO AND NOT MERE MEMORIZATION OF TRUTH (Joshua 1:8 )

The words God gave to Joshua and to Israel are applicable to us. God said, "This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein!"

When the Christian opens his Bible to read, what is his objective? When a Christian sits down to memorize a passage of Scripture, what is his purpose? Is he studying it in order to know it, or to observe it? Does he read the Bible that He may do all according to all that it commands and inculcates, or does he do just that which is convenient to him, and which may please his flesh?

So far as we see it, we must take the whole Bible as our guide, as well as our faith. It is not understanding the Bible which proves a blessing; it is keeping it. Christ said, "If ye love Me, keep My Commandments." The Lord made our keeping of His Word the proof of our love. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

Unto the Church at Ephesus, the Lord said, "I know thy works, and thy labour." God knew something else: "Thou hast left thy first love."

We must have a Christianity that is more than skin deep. It is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness.

Let us once more come back to the question "How long halt ye between two opinions?" Examine your own heart today, and in all sincerity seek to discover whether you have Christ, or a form of godliness? whether you are hearing the Word, but not living it? whether you have piety or pretense? From this hour on, whatever else may be said of us, let us not be counterfeits. Let us be true.

AN ILLUSTRATION

Here is a little girl who both heard and did.

A very little girl attended a meeting, and heard about "the best robe." When she went home she said to her father, a policeman, "Father, have you got on the best robe?" He replied, "What do you mean, child?" "Father, have you got on the robe of salvation?" The father looked very perplexed, and, turning to his wife, said, "What does the child mean?" The child said, "The preacher told us that Jesus Christ had made a garment for us, and that God gives it to every one who asks for it; and he told us that if any of us wanted it, to hold up our hands, and I held up ray hand, and now I have got it on." "How do you know that, child?" "Why," she said, "of course I know. Jesus said so. He told us that He would give it to us. I asked Him, so; I have on the best robe." That night, before she went to bed, she said to her mother, "Have I been naughty today?" "No, my child; you have been very good." "Mother, I did one naughty thing I slapped Polly (her sister), and when I did that I made an ugly spot on my best robe; but the preacher told us that if we got any stains on our best robe, we were to ask Jesus to wash them away; so I knelt down and said, 'Please, Jesus, wash my best robe, and make it clean again.'" The Christian Herald.


Verses 28-33

The Judgments of God

Ezekiel 33:1-13 , Ezekiel 33:28-33

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

It may not be pleasant, but it is necessary to warn the saint and the sinner against coming judgments.

1. We need to warn the church against her coming judgments. Even now we can see the gathering of the storm. The church has grown so worldly, so self-centered, so self-reliant; the church, in many places, has gone so far from the faith, denying the very Lord God who bought them, denying everything that is vital to the Gospel she was commanded to preach.

The church has too often turned aside to a social gospel which is not the Gospel. She has mingled herself among men, even the men of the world, and joined hands with them in seeking to direct the conduct of nations and of communities.

Think you that the church can go on much longer without being judged and punished for her unrighteousness?

2. We need to warn the world of coming judgments. The world is rushing headlong away from God. It is becoming more and more "As it was in the days of Noah"; and "as it was in the days of Lot."

The wicked are doing wickedly. Sin is holding sway.

Is not God preparing to send forth His judgments against the wicked? Do not the signs of the times show that the earth is ripening for judgment, and that judgments are hovering near? It is only the prophet who is blind to the prophetic Scriptures on the one hand, and to the daily course of events, on the other hand, who fails to see that history is rapidly running into the mold of Divine prophecy, and that soon the day of tribulation in which God shall judge the earth will come.

What then? Shall we fail to warn the wicked? Nay. Every true minister of Jesus Christ will cry aloud and spare not. Remember the words in Ezekiel: if we fail to warn the wicked, God will require their lives at our hands.

We must arise and sound the alarm. We must give the cry, "'Repent, repent, repent," or destruction shall fall.

God grant that we may not be reckoned among the false prophets and prophesy peace, when there is no peace; who call darkness light, and light darkness; who say of judgment, It shall not be; and of wrath, It slumbereth.

I. AN ILLUSTRATION (Ezekiel 33:1-3 )

1. The illustration. God looks out among men to find a simple illustration of His dealings with others. He describes a people against whom He is about to bring the sword. The nation, seeing impending danger, takes a man of their coasts and sets him for a watchman. Then, the Spirit says, "If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head."

The reason for this judgment is that he heard the sound of the trumpet and took not warning.

2. The application. The warnings of God are heard everywhere today. They are heard from the pulpit; they are heard in nature; they are heard in daily events, and all of them are saying: "There is danger ahead."

How many there are who have been warned by sickness. They were brought low; they looked the death angel square in the face; they felt their time had come; they knew that they were warned of God; then they prayed for help, and promised God that if He would spare them, they would live for Him. God did spare them; however, they went right on in their evil ways. Their blood shall be required at their own hand.

Here is another man. He is warned by some great physical disaster, a whirlwind sweeps down upon him; a terrific storm overawes him the lightnings flash, and the thunders roar; the winds howl. Then he cries unto the Lord, and God sendeth a great calm. Immediately he goes on in his evil way forgetful of his warning. God will require his blood at his own hand.

Here is still another man. This one is making money; he is living in ease with every comfort about him, and then, suddenly, a great financial crisis comes. His all is swept from him. This man is fully awake to the sense of his own loss, and he sees the ultimate sweeping away of everything from him, and he hears the call of God to repent and to lay up treasures where moth and rust do not corrupt. However, he refuses to hear and goes on his maddened way, seeking to reclaim his lost fortune, and to establish himself among his fellow men.

This man shall have his blood upon his own head.

II. THE WATCHMAN WHO WARNS NOT THE PEOPLE (Ezekiel 33:6-8 )

1. God's watchmen are set to warn His people. Every minister of the Gospel is a watchman. To him God has given a message of warning which is many-sided, and very vital to the safety of the people.

The Old Testament Prophets were watchmen. They were called to give God's warning messages to the people concerning their own sins, and God's judgments which were about to fall upon the people.

2. Many of God's watchmen refuse to warn of coming dangers. This is where Isaiah 56:1-12 comes in. Isaiah 56:10 says: "His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber."

There were many men similar to these among the Prophets. They told the people only the good things, the smooth things, when God prophesied disaster. They told the people all was well, and there was no danger ahead, when God had told them that the storms of His judgments were about to break.

There are many men standing in the pulpits today who simply refuse to give God's warnings. God tells us there shall be wars and rumors of wars. They stand in their pulpits and preach peace, peace, when there is no peace. They ruthlessly shut their eyes to actual facts as well as to the plain statements of God. God tells them to warn the people concerning the encroachment of worldliness and iniquity upon the church. They refuse and they preach "the contagion of good," and present only an ethical conception of the Gospel. They never tell them the wages of sin is death, and that the wicked shall be cast into hell with all nations that forget God.

So far as the coming of the antichrist is concerned, they never mention it with one word of warning. Little does it matter to them that God, in His Word, has prophesied the advent of the man of sin, and the rule and the reign of the antichrist. Little does it matter to them that everything in world events shows that the world is hastening on toward the rule of one man. They say nothing about it. God will require the blood of His people at their hands.

God says, "Thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me." When, therefore, they refuse to warn the wicked of his way, and they refuse to tell others of the judgments about to fall, God says: "His blood will I require at thine hand." "Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; * * thou hast delivered thy soul."

III. GOD'S DESIRE IS TO SAVE AND NOT TO DESTROY (Ezekiel 33:10-11 )

1. A complaint. Israel was saying, "If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?"

There are many today who are decrying God for His judgments. Yet, they go right on in their sins. They want God to reserve His wrath, yet, they will not turn from their unrighteousness. They condemn God, but not themselves. They would make God a holy God, who does not demand holiness; a righteous God, who does not enforce righteousness. Their idea of God would be a God of love, who is foreign to judgment; a God of mercy, who knows nothing of wrath.

2. A vindication. The Lord's reply is in Ezekiel 33:11 . He says: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Some one will answer: "If God hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, then why does He say: 'The wages of sin is death'?" If He does not want the wicked to die, why does He slay them? In reply to such weak insinuation, the Lord says to the wicked, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."

God is saying that righteousness will bring life, even as wickedness brings death. In all of this He throws the death of the wicked upon themselves. The responsibility is theirs, not His. They die because they walk the ways of death, God cannot justify the ungodly. Therefore He is helpless to save the wicked in their wickedness.

3. A plaintive cry. Could any words be more filled with the yearnings of His heart than these which fell from the lips of the Almighty: "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O House of Israel?"

God is described here as pleading, calling, crying unto men to repent. He seems to be saying just what Christ afterwards said! "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" In this verse, 11, and in these words, "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" God is saying, I would save you, I want to, I am willing, I am ready, but ye must turn; ye must repent or else I cannot. Here it is: "I would, ye would not, I could not."

IV. THE JUSTNESS OF GOD'S DEALINGS (Ezekiel 33:12-14 )

1. The wicked man will die for his wickedness, and the righteous man shall live for his righteousness. The question before us is not the question of eternal life. We are not in the realm of salvation whatsoever. We are walking in the realm of judgments, and of rewards. God has been telling Israel, through Ezekiel, many things concerning His judgments. He tells why the people of Tyre perished. He tells why desolation fell upon Egypt. He shows, withal, His own lamentations for both Tyre and Egypt. He did not want either the one or the other to fall; but they repented not, they refused to turn from their evil ways, and they had to fall. Thus the wicked were overwhelmed because of their wickedness, and they died in their sins.

This is not at all difficult to understand, neither is it difficult to understand that the righteous will live for his righteousness. This is always true. If sin brings judgment unto condemnation, righteousness brings favor, and blessing, and happiness.

2. The righteous, if he sins, will die for his wickedness; while the wicked, if he repents, will live for his newfound righteousness. There are many illustrations of this in the Word of God. Under the first, "The wicked will live when they turn from their wickedness," we consider Nineveh. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn the people. Jonah was commanded to cry, saying, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Jonah refused, at first, to warn the Ninevites because, as he afterwards said, he knew that if the Ninevites repented and turned from every evil way, God was a gracious God, and merciful, and slow to anger, and of great kindness, and God would repent Himself of doing evil against the Ninevites. This is exactly what God did do. When the Ninevites put on sackcloth and ashes and turned from their sins, God could not remain the same God of honor, and true in His judgments, and still slay them. Thus, when the wicked turn from their unrighteousness, they shall live, and not be punished.

On the other hand, if the righteous turn from their righteousness, they shall surely die. The Children of Israel are a plain example of this. When they were righteous, they were blessed; when, however, they turned from their righteousness, and became sinful, the wrath of God was upon them and they were slain with His great sword.

V. JUDGING THE LORD UNJUSTLY (Ezekiel 33:17 )

1. "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" These are the words of Abraham as he pleaded with the Lord to spare Sodom. Abraham well knew the wickedness of Sodom. He made no plea whatsoever that God should spare the city on the basis of its own righteousness. He approached God from another viewpoint. He said: "Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt Thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?"

Abraham went so far as to say unto God, "That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" God did not condemn Abraham for the basis of his plea, because that is the basis upon which God judges. The Lord quickly replied: "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."

In the Book of Ezekiel, God is vindicating His judgments on the same basis, "If the wicked restore * * that he had robbed, walk in the Statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die."

2. Ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. This was the charge of the Children of Israel against God. They wanted Him to spare them because they were known as the righteous nation, even though they had turned from their righteousness. God said, "Nay." "When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby." Then God adds: "Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye House of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways."

VI. SOME SOLEMN APPLICATIONS (Ezekiel 33:25 ; Ezekiel 33:29-30 )

1. God's application of His message upon the Children of Israel. God is vindicating Himself in His judgments against Israel. Until this day, the Children of Israel, who were once a people, are scattered abroad among the nations of the earth as "not a people." They even, themselves, deny the Lord Jesus altogether.

We remember reading of the time when God chose His people. We remember how they loved Him, and followed Him in the way. How great was God's blessing's upon them! How tenderly did He care for them! He loved them as a Father loveth his child.

We remember also how Israel sinned, and how God sent forth His Prophets to warn her. Yet, they repented not, nor turned from their evil ways. The result was that they were defeated in battle; they were driven from their own land, and unto this hour, they are under the judgments of God.

All of this, however, does not mean that God hath cast off His people forever, for He shall yet say unto the North, Give up, and to the south, hold not back. Behold a nation shall yet be born in a day, and God shall yet redeem His chosen nation.

2. God's application of His message to the Church. In the Book of Romans, chapter 11, we read: "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness : otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."

If God spared not Israel when she sinned, neither will He spare and neither does He spare His Church, when she sins. In Revelation 3:1-22 , we have the picture of the Laodicean Church. She is a worldly Church which has departed from her Lord, and the Lord Himself is standing outside the Church saying: "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth." The basis of God's judgments, in every age, are the same; and the basis of judgment against both the righteous and the wicked are the same.

Let no man think because he is a Christian that he will escape the chastening of God if he sins. Not that alone, but we read of certain saints, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Sin may not only cause chastening in life, but it may bring the chastening of physical death; it certainly will bring sorrow at the judgment seat of Christ.

VII. THE UNEQUALITY OF ISRAEL (Ezekiel 33:31-33 )

We now come to what is called, in the last words of Ezekiel 33:30 , "The Word that cometh forth from the Lord." Israel had accused God of a biased judgment. God is now, in plain words, going to show to His people the perfidy of their own hearts.

1. A vain profession. Here is God's first statement: "They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, * * with their mouth they shew much love * *. Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words."

All of the expressions above were true concerning Israel as they were approached by God's Prophet Ezekiel. They went through every formality and expression of loyalty to God. They outwardly appeared to be righteous.

2. The true state of affairs. Now we will take the whole of God's statement: "They hear thy words, but they will not do them." "They shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness." " Thou art unto them as a very lovely song," etc.: "for they hear thy words, but they do them not."

We begin, now, to understand why it was that they complained against God's judgments, for, even in the days of their apostasy they carried with them a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof.

In the days of our Lord, He still acknowledged their outward piety. He said that they paid tithes of mint, anise, and cummin. He spoke of the works which they did. He described them as making long prayers; concerning the Law, they would argue even to the details of straining at a gnat. Ceremonially, they made clean the outside of their cups and platters. Before men they appeared righteous. They builded the tombs of the Prophets, and garnished the sepulchers of the righteous. Thus, they appeared outwardly, and thus they still appeared to us when we recently visited Jerusalem. Here, however, is described their true spiritual condition, even as our Lord told it forth.

"All their works they do to be seen of men."

"They love the uppermost rooms at feasts."

"They shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men."

"They devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make a long prayer."

"They compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and make him twofold more the child of hell."

"They omit the weightier matters of the Law."

"They swallow a camel."

"Within they are full of extortion and excess."

"Within they are full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness."

"They are serpents a generation of vipers."

"They kill and crucify, scourge and persecute."

Do you wonder that God judged them?

With the nominal church we have a story quite as sad. In many places, very many, they have a form of godliness. They do many things just as outwardly religious, as did the religious Jews. Nevertheless, here is God's description of these very church people who have a form of godliness and deny the power.

 


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Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Ezekiel 33:4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lwc/ezekiel-33.html.

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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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