Elon, North Carolina
We are studying the visions of Ezekiel. For the last two weeks, we have been looking at the second vision of the book. Ezekiel is in exile in Babylon. He had a reputation in the community as a prophet and the elders of his day pay him a visit in order to hear a word from God. Ezekiel is inside his house. He is sitting down. He is talking to the religious leaders of his day.
All of the sudden the Spirit of God comes on Ezekiel takes him out of his body and lifts him up. It is a strange method of transportation, transportation by the Spirit. Ezekiel is grabbed by a lock of his hair, lifted up, and taken a thousand miles to Jerusalem, where he sees all kinds of things.
This vision is four chapters long. It goes from Ezekiel 8 to Ezekiel 11. It all makes up one vision. In this chapter, Ezekiel receives six revelations. After he receives these revelations, he is transported back to Babylon and he shares everything he saw with the elders in Babylon. I want to quickly review the first four revelations and then we will look at the last two, which are found in Ezekiel 11.
Ezekiel’s Six Revelations in Ezekiel 8-11
1. He received a revelation of the DEFILEMENT of the temple.
We see that in Ezekiel 8. God gives Ezekiel a sin tour. The Spirit takes all through the temple and sees abomination after abomination. These abominations were not committed by uncivilized pagans. They were committed by God’s own people. They were committed right in the temple itself. There were big fat idols in the temple. They were committed by the priests.
2. He received a revelation of the DESTRUCTION of all idolaters
Ezekiel was given a revelation of terrifying judgment. He saw six angels with battle axes slaughtering people in the temple. He saw dead bodies desecrating the temple. He saw young people and old people killed. He saw men and women killed. The picture was so terrible that Ezekiel fell upon his face, and cried, “Ah, Lord God! Will you destroy all the remnant of Israel in the outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?” (9:8 ESV)
3. He received a revelation of the DEFENSE of all believers
Ezekiel was given a revelation of divine protection. All idol worshippers were judged. People who hated God were judged but people who loved God were all protected by a mark. The angels with battle axes could not touch them. They had a mark on their forehead by a mysterious man in white with an ink pen.
4. He received a revelation of the DEPARTURE of God’s glory
We saw that last week. Ezekiel saw God’s glory leave. It left the temple. It left the city. God’s visible presence had been manifest on earth in the form of a theocracy for over eight hundred years.
It had been present ever since the time of Moses (pillar of cloud, pillar of fire). It was present in the tabernacle. It was present in the temple but now it is gone. It left from the Mount of Olives, the same place that Jesus left the earth an ascended into heaven.
5. He receives a revelation of the DECEPTION of politicians
That brings us to our chapter today. Ezekiel sees twenty-five men in the temple. He saw twenty-five men in the temple before. In Ezekiel 8:16 he saw “about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east” ESV). This is a different group of people. Those sun worshippers were religious leaders. These twenty-five men are political leaders. They are called “princes of the people” (11:1).
Both were corrupt but they are a different group of people. They were members of the city council. Two of them were mentioned by name, Jaazaniah and Pelatiah (11:1). There was another Jaazaniah mentioned in Ezekiel 8:11 but that was not the same person. That Jaazaniah was the son of Shaphan. This Jaazaniah was the son of Azzur. Apparently, this was a common name back in the day.
Let’s look at what these twenty-five men did that was so bad and how it applies today. “Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and who give wicked counsel in this city; 3 who say, ‘The time is not near to build houses. This city is the cauldron, and we are the meat’ Therefore prophesy against them; prophesy, O son of man.”
And the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and he said to me, “Say, Thus says the Lord: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind. 6 You have multiplied your slain in this city and have filled its streets with the slain. 7 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Your slain whom you have laid in the midst of it, they are the meat, and this city is the cauldron, but you shall be brought out of the midst of it.
8 You have feared the sword, and I will bring the sword upon you, declares the Lord God. 9 And I will bring you out of the midst of it, and give you into the hands of foreigners, and execute judgments upon you. 10 You shall fall by the sword. I will judge you at the border of Israel, and you shall know that I am the Lord.
11 This city shall not be your cauldron, nor shall you be the meat in the midst of it. I will judge you at the border of Israel, 12 and you shall know that I am the Lord. For you have not walked in my statutes, nor obeyed my rules, but have acted according to the rules of the nations that are around you.” (11:1-12).
God says that these people devise iniquity and give wicked counsel. Apparently, these twenty-five leaders were doing more than just giving bad advice. These leaders either killed or plotted to kill Israelites. Apparently, property was being seized and the city officials were taking them over and killing their owners. There is no need to build their own houses. They just took over the houses of others and occupy them.
They also had two other characteristics. They had a false sense of security. They thought they were invincible. Nothing could ever happen to them. God was on their side. They had the temple. God dwelt in the temple. There was no way in their mind that God would let anyone destroy his people. They were in the pot. They were safe.
They also had feelings of superiority. They felt good about themselves. They thought they were the choice cut of meat. Those taken captive are under God’s judgment and those left in Jerusalem have God’s favor and blessing. The exiles are wicked. They were the riff-raff. God took them away in judgment and deported them to Babylon.
He was mad at them but the people of Jerusalem were the good people. They are the cream of the crop. They still had the land. They had no feelings of sorrow or compassion for their fellow exiles who were deported. They only had feelings of superiority. They thought they were better than them and looked down on them.
God says that the opposite was true. The ones who were exiled were in better shape than they were. Their fate was going to be far worse than theirs. God told Ezekiel to prophesy against these leaders. It was an unpopular message. It would be like someone standing up and giving a prophecy against America.
Ezekiel was in the minority. He is outnumbered twenty-five to one but after he speaks one of the twenty-five leaders drops dead on the spot. That is powerful preaching. His sermon killed someone. Is this hate speech? Ezekiel did not kill anyone God did. This is like what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in the NT. They also dropped dead suddenly as a result of divine judgment.
Notice Ezekiel’s response. He did not rejoice. He did not say “another one bites the dust.” He falls on his face and prays. And it came to pass, while I was prophesying, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then I fell down on my face and cried out with a loud voice and said, “Ah, Lord God! Will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel?” (11:13 ESV)
Ezekiel says, “Are you going to kill everybody?” Ezekiel was concerned. It was the second time Ezekiel had this reaction (cf. 9:8). We will look at God’s answer but first I want to talk about some applications. How does this first section of the chapter apply to us today?
Message for Today
1) Bad Counselors
First, this chapter tells us what God thinks of people who give bad advice. God said, “These are the men who devise iniquity and who give wicked counsel in this city.” One of the worst things people can do is to give wicked advice but people do it all the time. Christians even do it.
How many people have gone to a so-called Christian counselor and been given completely unbiblical advice. Wives are told to leave their husbands without any biblical grounds. Much of Christian counseling is not biblical; it is psychological. It is humanistic. Christian counseling in some cases is no different from completely secular counseling. We learn from Ezekiel 11 that one day wicked counselors will be judged.
We need good counselors. The Bible says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14 ESV). Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (ESV). Proverbs 20:18 says, “Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war” (ESV).
Proverbs 24:6 says, “By wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (ESV). It is good to have counsel but there are some dangers to avoid. There is godly counsel and ungodly counsel.
There is counsel that comes from the Word of God and counsel that comes from the world. Who you listen to is very important. Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (ESV).
Many also follow their own counsel, rather than godly counsel. Jeremiah 7:24 says, “But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward” (ESV).
2) Bad Politicians
In this section, we see God’s judgment on politicians. Not all politicians are bad but these twenty-five were. There were members of the city council. God said that they were evil.
Signs of a Wicked Politician
How do you know when politicians are evil and wicked? There are several signs of a wicked politician but let me point out two characteristics from this passage.
1) Wicked politicians pass bad laws.
Wicked politicians reject God’s Word and God’s standard. God says, “For you have not walked in MY statutes, nor obeyed MY rules, but have acted according to the rules of the nations that are around you” (11:12 ESV).
They reject God’s standard and follow a different standard. Wicked politicians propose immoral legislation (e.g., segregation laws, same sex marriage laws, transgender laws).
God’s Word says that marriage is between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court in 2015 decided it had the authority to change the definition of marriage for our country. It is incredibly arrogant.
God says one thing. The court says the exact opposite. It calls evil good and good evil. God says “Thou shalt not commit murder.” The Supreme Court says abortion is legal. If you want to kill your child before it is born, you can.
Their wicked laws “devise iniquity” (11:2). They do not just COMMIT iniquity; they DEVISE iniquity. They plan it. They legislate it. What the Supreme Court says is the law of the land. It is the court of “last resort.” It cannot be appealed but it is really not the supreme court. There is a court above that court. One day God will judge all of the judges who are on that court.
2) Wicked politicians hurt people
They abuse their authority. They take advantage of people. They kill the innocent. You have multiplied your slain in this city and have filled its streets with the slain. (11:6 ESV). They have little regard for human life.
3) Wicked politicians are arrogant.
The politicians in Ezekiel 11 had no compassion for the exiles in Babylon. They looked down on them. They had no compassion for the people in their own land. They were expendable. A characteristic of many politicians today is arrogance. They have a huge ego. They are the most arrogant people on the planet.
6. He received a revelation of the DELIVERANCE of the exiles
The last message Ezekiel receives is positive. It is good news. After a lot of bad news, he receives some good news. God gives Ezekiel six special promises to the exiles. This is good news to people who have already experienced bad news and tragedy. They are found in Ezekiel 11:14-20. Many Christians teach that God is done with the nation of Israel. These six promises contradict that idea.
The First Promise – A Promise of Refuge
And the word of the Lord came to me: 15 “Son of man, your brothers, even your brothers, your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Go far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession.’ 16 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been SANCTUARY to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’ (11:14-16 ESV).
A sanctuary is a place of protection, a hiding place from trouble (sanctuary cities). No matter how far the Jews are scattered as a nation, no matter how much tragedy they experience, they will survive (loss of homeland, attempts at annihilation). That is the miracle of the Jews. They are indestructible as a nation. Hitler tried to kill all the Jews in the Holocaust. He called it “the Final Solution.” Six million died but they miraculously survived.
Today, are surrounded by a group of nations that want to destroy them. Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel right in its charter. Some nations today are threatening to destroy Israel off the map and are trying to get nuclear weapons to do it but Israel will never be destroyed and can never be destroyed because God made an everlasting covenant with them. Isaiah said that no weapon formed against the Jews will prosper (54:17).
That is amazing when you think about it. Many nations in the ancient world have died out (Hittites, Amonites, Perrizites). Many have just assimilated into other countries. The Jews have been preserved as a people group for thousands of years. They have a distinct racial identity, going back to Abraham, the first Jew. A sanctuary is not only a place of protection; it is a place of worship. It is also a holy place (temple, church), a place where they met God.
The Jews were used to worshipping God in Jerusalem in the temple. That was their meeting place. It was their sanctuary. God says that the sanctuary is not at Jerusalem anymore. He left it. It is just a building now.
God is no longer working with the Jews in Jerusalem. He is working with the exiles. God did not say that he would BUILD them a sanctuary far away from the temple (synagogue). He said that He would be a sanctuary to them. God could BE a sanctuary even to the Jews under judgment in exile. God could be a sanctuary to them in their darkest hour in pagan lands hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem.
The Second Promise – A Promise of Return
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I WILL gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered” (11:17 ESV). This will be a new exodus. Today, the country with the largest number of Jews is Israel (44%). About 40% live in the US and the rest live in the Europe and Canada but the majority of Jews today live outside of Israel. One day, all Jews will live in Israel.
The Third Promise – A Promise of Repossession
God says, “I WILL give you the land of Israel” (11:17). One day, the Jews will get the land of Israel and no one will take it away from them. Has this been fulfilled yet? There is a partial fulfillment. Jews have their own nation today. They are in the land but they are not in all of the land and they are not all in the land. A majority of them do not live in Israel.
The Fourth Promise – A Promise of Repentance
“And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations” (11:18 ESV). The nation in the future will not only be re-gathered and take possession of the land of Israel; it will live differently. There will be no idolatry.
The Fifth Promise – A Promise of Regeneration
And I WILL give them one heart, and a new spirit I WILL put within them. I WILL remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. (11:19-20 ESV).
What is the problem? The problem is our heart. We have a heart problem. We all have heart disease. We have spiritual heart disease. Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (ESV). We see this in Ezekiel as well.
Ezekiel 11:21 talks about people whose hear goes after “detestable things and their abominations.” Ezekiel 14:3 mentions people “who erected idols in their heart.” Ezekiel 20:16 says “their hearts have pursued their idols.” We are all born with a heart problem. We do not have not with hardening of the arteries but hardening of the attitudes.
Our hearts are completely hard. They are not spiritually soft and tender. They are as hard as a rock to spiritual things. The only way to get saved is to get a new heart. The old heart does not need to be fixed. It is completely broken. You have to get a new heart. You can’t do it on your own by self help or man-made religion. God has to give you one. He has to remove the old heart and put in a new heart.
You have to have heart surgery. You have to get a heart transplant. God is the cardiologist. He is the spiritual cardiologist. He has to perform spiritual surgery on you. When we get saved, we become new creatures in Christ. We get a brand new heart. If we make a profession of faith and don’t act any different, we are not saved. If you get a new heart, you will act different. If you have a bad heart and get a new one, you feel different.
The Sixth Promise – A Promise of Relationship
God says, “They shall be my people, and I will be their God” (11:20). Has this promise been fulfilled yet? Some Jews have gone back to the land. After the Babylonian Captivity, many Jews did go back to the land. You can read about that in the Book of Ezra. Jews today have their own homeland but most of them are not regenerate. Most have not repented. They are in unbelief. They have rejected their Messiah. Most of them are secular, not religious. This promise has yet to be fulfilled.
Ezekiel 11:20 is the goal of the whole Bible. This promise is repeated twenty-eight times in the OT. It is also in the Book of Revelation. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God (Revelation 21:3 ESV). That is not just Jews. It is everybody.
The ultimate goal is fellowship. God wants to have a personal relationship with us. He wants to have communion with His people. Genuine salvation will result in fellowship with God. How do you do that? You spend time with God every day. You walk with God every day (like Enoch and Noah did). You talk to God in prayer. You spend time in His Word and listen to what He has to say to you.