Elon, North Carolina
One of the biggest obstacles for Jewish evangelism is the problem of Jewish unbelief. If Jesus really came to earth from heaven as God incarnate and did all of those miracles, if He is really the Messiah, then how did his own nation not see that? How did the leaders of the nation not see it?
How did the Jews for two thousand years miss their own promised Messiah? How is that even possible? The OT predicted that the Messiah would be rejected. Isaiah 53 says that he would be “despised and rejected by men.”
The Jews have a long history of rejecting people sent by God to them. Joseph’s brothers rejected him. They hated him and could not say a nice word to him. They threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. They did this to the one who later saved their life.
The Jews were in terrible bondage to the Egyptians for hundreds of years. Moses offers to help them. He even kills someone who was beating another slave but they did not want his help. They said, “We will not have this man rule over us,” so he fled to the desert of Midian for forty years.
Notice what God said about his own people to Ezekiel. “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house.” (12:1 ESV). He called them “a rebellious house” two times in one verse.
He called them a “nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (2:3-5 ESV).
That is interesting. God calls them stubborn, hard-hearted, defiant, and disobedient. He calls them a rebellious house and a rebellious nation. He did not flatter them too much. God is not like parents who fail to see the flaws in their children. Some parents see all of their kids as angels, even if some are serial killers.
Notice what God says about them in our chapter today. The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, WHO HAVE EYES TO SEE, BUT SEE NOT, WHO HAVE EARS TO HEAR BUT HEAR NOT, for they are a rebellious house” (12:1-2 ESV).
That is strange. He says that the nation has eyes but they don’t see. They are blind. They have ears but they don’t hear. They are deaf. They are not blind and deaf physically. They are blind and deaf spiritually. It is a strange disorder.
The problem was not that they COULDN’T hear or see (like physical deafness or blindness). The problem was that they WOULDN’T hear. They just did not want to hear certain things. They heard what they wanted to hear. They are like children who hear their parents but don’t hear them. The problem was not their ears or eyes.
The problem was their heart and their will. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, AND YOU WERE NOT WILLING! (Matthew 23:37 ESV)
There is a famous proverb. No one knows who came up with it. The old proverb says, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” That is true in religion. It is true in politics. You can give someone all kinds of facts about something but if they are completely close-minded, the facts do not matter. Their mind is already made up. People are not going to believe what they do not want to believe.
How does this apply to us? Many have selective hearing with God. Not everyone is open to receive spiritual truth. We hear the things we want to hear. We see the things we want to see but the things in the Bible that we do not want to hear, we do not hear. Jesus taught this.
He spoke to the crowds in Matthew 11. He spoke to them about John the Baptist who had been arrested and thrown into prison. He spoke highly of him. He said that among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist. He said that he was not only a prophet; he was more than a prophet. He called John “Elijah” and added the words, “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (11:15).
In Mathew 13, He spoke to another crowd of people. He told them a parable, one of his famous parables, The Parable of the Sower. A farmer sows seed in four different places and gets four different responses. He ends the parable saying, “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (13:9).
The interesting thing is that Jesus did not just say this to unsaved people. He did not just say this to pagans. He said it to Christians. In The Book of Revelation, Jesus had a message to seven different churches. They were all Christian churches in the first century.
At the end of each message, He says the words, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear!” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Why did he say this? Apparently, some believers do not have ears to hear. Some Christians also have selective hearing.
The Book of Ezekiel gives us several reasons why people do not hear when God speaks. God has a message for the people. He sends a prophet and they reject the message. Why do they reject it? We find one reason in Ezekiel 12. That reason is false proverbs. We will find another reason in Ezekiel 13.
Ezekiel mentions two false proverbs that were common in his day. They were common in the streets of Jerusalem. These two proverbs were one of the reasons why the message of the prophets was rejected. The funny thing is that these two proverbs that still repeated in the modern world. Let’s look at the proverbs and see what God’s response to them was.
The First False Proverb
And the word of the Lord came to me: 22 “Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing’? (12:21-22 ESV)
The first proverb involved DENIAL It taught that “time passes, and prophecies come to nothing” (NLT). It is like all of these doomsday prophets who predict that the world is going to end on a certain day. It never happens.
Last week, on the internet there was a website that predicted that on September 23, there would be signs in the heavens in fulfillment of Revelation 12. September 23 came and nothing happened. In Ezekiel’s day, there were skeptics who said the same thing. They did not believe anything these prophets predicted would happen. It was all a bunch of malarkey.
We have people like that today. They are complete skeptics. They reject all religion as superstition. They reject the supernatural. They reject God. They reject the Bible. They reject faith. They are only open to things they can see and prove with the scientific method. The Bible talks about this. It is one of the signs of the last days.
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the PREDICTIONS of the holy prophets and the COMMANDMENT of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that SCOFFERS will come IN THE LAST DAYS with SCOFFING, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (II Peter 3:1-7 ESV)
One of the signs of the last days is not just unbelief but antagonism and hostility. People do not just reject the Bible; they scoff at the Bible. They mock and ridicule it. Jesus said that He is coming back soon but he has not come back yet. Thousands of years have gone by and He still has not come back. He must not be coming back.
Peter reminds people that God has already broken into history in the past. He sent a flood that destroyed the whole planet. He did it before and he will do it once again. God told Ezekiel that what he said would come to pass. It would be fulfilled.
The Second False Proverb
That brings us to the second proverb. The second proverb involves DELAY. And the word of the Lord came to me: 27 “Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, ‘The vision that he sees is for MANY DAYS FROM NOW, and he prophesies of times FAR OFF.’ (12:26-27 ESV)
This proverb says the prophecies are true but they are not going to happen in a long time, certainly not in their lifetime. It is going to happen many days from now. It is not going to happen to me. It applies to another time and another place.
None of that will apply to us. We have nothing to worry about. That would be like people saying today that Jesus may come back but it will not be in our lifetime. What was God’s answer to this proverb?
28 Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord God: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord God.” (12:24-28 ESV). God says that this will be fulfilled, not in the days of your grandchildren or great grandchildren or whatever, but in your days.
What happens in this chapter? Ezekiel had a reputation as a crazy prophet. He not only preached, he acted. He had a drama ministry. In this chapter, he does more strange things and he does them with people watching.
He digs a hole in the wall of his house and carried out a bag of belongings, bags for deportation. He carried the bag on his shoulder with his face covered. The people asked what it all meant. He said, ‘I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them. They shall go into exile, into captivity.’ (12:11 ESV). He told them what will happen to the Jews in Jerusalem and what will happen to Zedekiah the king.
Three Steps to Interpreting the Bible
Whenever we read the Bible, we need to do three basic things. There are three simple steps to interpreting the Bible. The first step is OBSERVATION. What does the text say? That is a big problem in the church today. Many do not know the Bible. The problem of biblical illiteracy is rampant in the church. They do not know what the Bible says.
The first step to interpreting the Bible is to find out what it says. The second step is INTERPRETATION. What does the text mean? That is something completely different. The third step is APPLICATION. How does it apply to us today thousands of years later in a completely different culture?
Six Applications for Today
Sometimes we read the Bible and there does not seem to be any application to us. When we look at Ezekiel 12, it seems like it has very little application to our own day. Ezekiel digs a hole in his house and crawls through it and takes some stuff out. How does that apply today? Much of this chapter does not directly apply but many things in this chapter are still true today. Let me mention six applications.
First, God still speaks to people today.
The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel. We are told that five times in the chapter (12:1, 8, 17, 21, 26). We may not all be prophets but God can give us a word as well. He can speak to us, like He did to Ezekiel.
Second, God still uses people to deliver a message.
Ezekiel was to speak for God. God uses us to speak for Him today. He still has spokesman. He called Ezekiel to minister to a rebellious house and a nation of rebels. He calls us to minister to people who are rebellious and wicked. We also have to minister to people who have eyes but do not see and ears but do not hear.
Third, God still predicts the future.
God predicted what would happen to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the leaders there and He was right. He is the only one who knows the future. You cannot get it from psychics or horoscopes. Only God knows the future and He predicts it.
These predictions are very specific. There were some very specific prophecies about the Jews in Ezekiel 12. There were specific prophecies about Zedekiah. He is called a prince in this chapter, not a king (because he was just a puppet ruler and not considered the legitimate king of Judah). The predictions were also literally fulfilled.
And I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, yet he shall not see it, and he shall die there. (12:13 ESV). That was literally fulfilled. And the inhabited cities shall be laid waste, and the land shall become a desolation (12:20 ESV). That was literally fulfilled.
But I will let a few of them escape from the sword, from famine and pestilence (12:16 ESV). That was literaly fulfilled. God said that he would “disperse them among the nations and scatter them among the countries” (12:15 ESV), which happened as predicted
The Bible makes other predictions about future events on earth which will take place. They will also be literally fulfilled. As Jesus put it, “heaven and earth will not pass away until every dot and stroke of a letter in God’s Word is fulfilled.” It will all be fulfilled, down to the smallest letter. The weather man may be correct most of the time, but God’s Word is always correct about what it predicts.
Four, God still judges sin today.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:2 NIV)
That is interesting. It says there are two parts to God’s nature: His KINDNESS and His STERNESS. If we are balanced, we will teach both. Some preachers in the past only emphasized his sternness. He is a God of wrath and judgment. These are the hell-fire and brimstone preachers. They are the Jonathon Edwards types who only preach sinners in the hands of an angry God.
Many preachers today go to the other extreme. They only talk about His kindness. They emphasize His mercy, grace and forgiveness. Some prosperity preachers fall into this camp. They only preach about God’s kindness and His blessing. They are all positive. They never preach against sin. They never talk about repentance. What we see in Ezekiel 12 is that God judges sin. He judges it in His people. That hasn’t changed.
Five, God still is in control of history.
God is still sovereign. Many Christians do not like this doctrine but it is in the Bible. God is sovereign and we see it clearly in this chapter. God is sovereign over world events. Nebuchadnezzar invades another country and causes devastation, destruction and death. The Temple was destroyed. People lost their possessions. They were kicked out of their land. Zedekiah saw his sons killed right before his eyes (II Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 52:10).
How would you like to see your kids killed right in front of you? Then, his eyes were put out. He was bound in chains, taken to Babylon and thrown in prison until his death (Jeremiah 52:11; II Kings 25:7). Who was responsible? Who did all of this to the Jews?
And I WILL spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in MY SNARE. And I WILL bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, yet he shall not see it, and he shall die there. 14 And I WILL scatter toward every wind all who are around him, his helpers and all his troops, and I WILL unsheathe the sword after them. 15 And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them among the countries.
This is very interesting. God didn’t blame this destruction, death and devastation on Nebuchadnezzar. He didn’t blame it on Satan. He did not blame it on bad luck. God said, “I did it. It was part of my plan.” This is a strange picture. God sets up a net and catches people in snares.
Usually the wicked do that. Here God is the one casting a net and catching the wicked in a trap. I am sure Zedekiah blamed Nebuchadnezzar for killing his sons and for blinding him. This was not just military aggression. It was not just a war crime; it was divine judgment.
Sixth, God’s Word contradicts the contemporary message of society.
There were some proverbs going around in Ezekiel’s day which were completely false but many people believed them. There are many false opinions and ideologies today, which are very popular, which are completely unbiblical. God’s word is always counter-cultural.
Submission of wives to husbands is counter-cultural. That goes against the women’s lib movement. Traditional marriage is counter-cultural. That goes against the gay rights agenda. Staying sexually pure before marriage is counter-cultural. That goes against the idea that if it feels good, do it. Preaching against sin and false religion is counter-cultural. That sounds intolerant and hateful by secular standards.