Taking God Seriously

IMG_48491This morning we got up early and prepared for our trip to Atlanta. We will be visiting Stephan, Nathan, Mason, Carter and Mackenzie for the next four days. We brought Caedmon, (Christian and Bridget’s second son) with us to see his cousins. They waited until the last minute and surprised Caedmon about the trip by showing a video from his cousins in Atlanta breaking the news to him that he was coming for a visit. Of course, that creates a reaction from his siblings. They haven’t learned the “rejoice with those who rejoice” quite yet. 🙂 But Christian, Bridget and two remaining kids are headed to the mountains for a special time this weekend, so hopefully that will help.

We arrived in Atlanta in time to see Mason and Carter’s football game. This is a 6-8 year old team. The parking lot was full and there were even little “cheerleaders” about ages 4-6 (in their little uniforms and even a halftime “show.”) The grand kid’s team was winning 38-20 so we left early to beat the crowd. Welcome to the home of the SEC!

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “The Lord spoke his word to me, saying: …the people of Israel are saying, ‘The vision that Ezekiel sees is for a time many years from now. He is prophesying about times far away.’ “So say to them: ‘The Lord God says this: None of my words will be delayed anymore. What I have said will be done, says the Lord God.’” Ezekiel 12:26-28 NCV

Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied to God’s people before their final days of judgment and complete captivity. Ezekiel was taken captive during the initial wave of exiles to Babylon and still spoke God’s message back to Jerusalem. The voice of these two great prophets sounded the warning over and over, from different vantage points.

They spoke of coming judgment and the need to repent and return to full devotion to the Lord. However, the Lord’s mercy and patience created mockers in Ezekiel’s day just as it will before the Lord returns. Peter writes, “…you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3,4 NIV)

This is what was happening just weeks before God’s final judgment came to Jerusalem through the Babylonians. We read about the attitude of the people and the Lord’s response. ‘The [people say] days go by and every vision comes to nothing’ So say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: I will make them stop saying this, and nobody in Israel will use this saying anymore.’ But tell them, ‘The time is near when every vision will come true. (Ezekiel 12:22,23 NCV)

Jeremiah preached for years, so did Ezekiel. Both men were used by the Lord in some dramatic ways to get the people’s attention. But soon, their response to the message turned from refusing to listen and respond to contempt and intolerance and eventually persecution.

What lead to this? The people misunderstood the meaning of God’s delay. As time worn on the ears and hearts of the people became hardened. They even failed to see the connection between the words of the prophets to events that had already taken place and failed to realize “something worse” was happening. The Lord spoke to Ezekiel about these people,

“They have eyes to see, but they do not see, and they have ears to hear, but they do not hear, because they are a people who refuse to obey.”  (Ezekiel 12:2 NCV)

Then we see the spiritual confusion brought by false prophets. It was not just the Lord’s prophets who were speaking to the people. There were other “prophets” whom the people listen to and were complicit in the people’s disobedience and continued to lull them into complacency. The Lord spoke and said, “…How terrible it will be for the foolish prophets who follow their own ideas and have not seen a vision from me!…they lead my people the wrong way by saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace. (Ezekiel 13:3-4,10 NCV)

I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy centuries later, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV)

Finally, we see the people had convinced themselves that God doesn’t know or notice what they are doing. “…have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the dark? Have you seen each man in the room of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord doesn’t see us. The Lord has left the land.’”  (Ezekiel 8:12,13 NCV) The Lord showed Ezekiel God’s people with their backs toward the Temple, worshiping the sun. The Lord revealed their “hateful things and violence” that had filled the land. In all that they were doing they either believed the Lord didn’t see or care or that they were “on their own” and so it didn’t matter. But they had to come to these conclusions while shutting out the voice of the Lord through His prophets.

The message and warning for us and for our day, is to take God and His Word seriously. Many fall into the trap of believing that if what they are doing is “not right” that God will instantly “strike them dead.” I’m glad God doesn’t do that…nobody would be around. But this twisted view of God lulls people in our world today into complacency and apathy.

We need to remember that what the Lord has said will happen…will happen. Throughout time there has been confusion and distortion about the Lord’s return and “who the anti-Christ” is or will be. Some people fall prey to the “chicken little” syndrome. They don’t something happen and their hearts become hard and they become cynical.

Then remember the Lord’s knows our “ways” and our actions. He knows our hearts and where we place our trust and confidence. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah, “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. (Jeremiah 16:17 NIV)  David declared, “O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. (Psalm 69:5 ESV) We need to be open to the Lord’s message when it confronts more than comforts.

In the book of Ezekiel the Lord makes reference to the righteousness of Noah, Daniel and Job. (Ezekiel 14:14,20) When we reflect on the lives of these men, we can observe they “took God seriously.” They trusted in the Lord, obeyed and remained faithful. As we live in challenging days and in a world that in many ways is “headed for destruction” we need to remember the day of the Lord is approaching faster than what we may realize.