God Will Do It, When You Can't (Ezekiel 17:22-24)

Text: Ezekiel 17:22-24

As we look at this text, I would like to ask a very simple question of you.  Who is ‘doing’ the verbs in this text?  Who is working?  Who is making things happen?  Who is the subject of these sentences?  It is God.  God is the one that is ‘doing’ the verbs.  God is the one acting.  God is the one making the promises. 

The reason why this is so significant is because things were looking really bad for the nation of Israel.  Let’s take a step back in time and set these verses in their context. 

During the Old Testament times, after the people of Israel were led by Moses out of Egypt, God entered into what is called a covenant with the people.  This covenant was essentially a two sided agreement.  Theologians call this the Sinai Covenant.  In this covenant God laid forth the agreement of what it meant to be His people.   He laid out the 10 commandments, the social laws and the ceremonial laws.  In this agreement God had promised them that if they should stray from Him and worship other gods, they would lose their Promised Land and bad things would happen to them.  Everything was laid out before the people so they could understand this covenant and the people responded saying, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will be obedient.” (Ex. 24:1-8)  In other words, we will do it! 

In our text today in the book of Ezekiel we get a picture of how well the people were able to do it.  Keep in mind that the people of Israel promised to “be obedient and git ‘er done.”  Well, during the time of Ezekiel things had gotten really bad.  To be honest they always were bad with Israel.  You see my friends, Israel was called to be a light to all the nations, they were chosen by God.  However, as we look at Israel we will consistently see a nation that failed to live up to the obedience that it promised to God.  They did not simply “do it.”  Please do not be deceived into believing that Israel was a perfectly Godly nation that we need to emulate.  No, they were far from perfect and they failed constantly.    

How bad was it?  Ezekiel chapter 16 uses what is called satire to expose and show just how unfaithful Jerusalem had become.  God gives to Ezekiel a story.  In this story, there is a child that is essentially abandoned, left for dead.  This child represents Jerusalem.  Essentially it was an after birth abortion.  She was left to be food for the wild animals until found by the person in the story who is obviously God.  So the child is found, taken care of, provided for.  As she grows she gets married to the one who found her and is treated like a queen.  She gets wonderful jewelry, is exalted and loved.  However, she begins to trust in her own beauty and turns away from her husband and vow. She turns to other men.  She takes all of her gifts from her husband and turns them into idols.  She even sacrifices her children to these idols.  She then begins to freely give herself to all of these other people.  Her heart is seriously, seriously sick. 

As a result we hear the hurt and agony of the husband but we also see the anger and wrath that comes from the husband.  God angers at Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness. 

Their ancestors had promised to be faithful.  As a people group they had promised to be faithful, but they were not.  They not only rejected God but they cheated Him by joining themselves to the pagan idols.    

My friends, it is easy to separate Ezekiel’s message from our present day and dismiss the events of the past as irrelevant to our present day.  However, as American Christian we are also guilty of this sin of idolatry.  The Church of God in America is God’s bride, yet we have been unfaithful at best.  Let me explain.  A.W. Tozer a theologian comments,

Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. “When they knew God,” wrote Paul, “they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true. Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.”

My friends, idolatry is not us physically worshipping a block of wood.  Idolatry happens when we don’t think rightly about God, when we construct God in our own image and when we understand God from our own experiences, our own imaginations and our own aspirations of what God must be like rather than knowing God from His Word. 

Last night I visited a website called, “Museum of Idolatry.”  It is a website that contains examples of ways that the American Church has sinned with Idolatry.  As read through the museum and watched various videos from a Pastor blowing fire from his mouth during a worship service to a Pastor preaching on the topic of Sex rather than the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, I found myself shaking my head saying, “God have mercy on me and your church. I have failed for I desire to be entertained rather than fed by your Word.” 

C.H. Spurgeon once said, "A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats."  We are a part of the church of America.  We can confess “God have mercy on us for not thinking rightly about you.” 

The nation of Israel is yet another example of a failed promise and an unfaithful group of people.  We live in a world of false promises.  Deep down we want to fulfill our word, we want to follow through on what we promise, we want to be faithful, but in reality our actions, attitude and abilities fail to uphold the words of our mouths, the promises that we make and to think rightly about God…. failure. 

Not only was the nation of Israel completely unfaithful, the culture around it was not looking good either.  The southern part of Israel, which is called Judah, would in several short years from the time that this was written, be taken by the Babylonians and the temple destroyed. 
Not only was the nation of Israel unfaithful, but the cultural circumstances were not good either.  The temple was about to be destroyed.  The temple was the place where God would come and meet man.  The temple was a picture of God and everything that was right about him.  The temple was a place where forgiveness was received and announced.

My friends we live in a time where we not only have concerns about the North American Church, but we could also say that our culture is also not friendly to the church.  It is more and more difficult for the church to be faithful in the 21st Century. 

This may result in us saying two things.  The church is unfaithful; there is no hope at all.  Secondly, our culture stands in opposition to the message of God.  Where is there any hope?  This is how some of Ezekiel’s time might have felt.  They looked around and saw an unfaithful group of people.  Israel, God’s chosen people were unfaithful.  Furthermore, we can imagine the agony that they felt when Babylon destroyed the temple and physically displaced everyone.  Not only was there no hope in Israel, but now the temple had been destroyed and there is a culture that stands against Israel.  What is a person to do?  What are we to do?

My friends, it is easy for us to become embittered with the culture and everyone else “out there.”  Don’t get me wrong, there are issues out there.  But as we hear this message from Ezekiel we are given two things.  We are given an opportunity to confess our sins, to confess, “Lord God forgive me, and your church for our unfaithfulness and idolatry.”  Secondly, in the midst of despair we get to hear the Gospel. 

In this text that we read today, we see that God does something profound.  Regardless of the unfaithfulness of Israel, regardless of the cultural circumstances of Babylon, God says that He will bring about the Messiah.  In other word, regardless of the status of Israel and the culture, God will do what He needs to do.  God’s power and actions are not restricted by Israel or the culture.  The same can be said for us today.  God is not held captive by the unfaithfulness of the church.  The unfaithfulness of the American Church does not make God unfaithful or limit His faithfulness.  The cultural context of our day and age cannot limit, negate or undercut God.  None of the events of the Old Testament could stand in the way of God bringing forth the Messiah to forgive us of our sins.  Nothing in the past, nothing in the present and nothing in the future can negate or restrict God’s actions. 

Just as God promised Christ and delivered, God promises us today that the Gospel will go forth.  The Gates of Hades cannot and will not overcome Christ and His Gospel message.  God isn’t as we imagine Him to be for unlike us… He will do it and has already done it, we have been given Christ.