March 23, 2013

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament XVIII: Black Eyes and Thickskin

Girl with Black Eye

The Saturday Evening Post
Oil on canvas
34 x 30 in.
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut


I will be skipping over Isaiah and Jeremiah for now as there is a lot to cover so I will save them until the end. As for Daniel I have done a series on Daniel and Revelation already so I will be skipping Daniel completely as I have covered that ground in the Apocalypse Prophecy series last year. As such I will move on to Ezekiel.

For a time Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporary. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel will have to preach and prophesy to hammer-headed people. Like Jeremiah he took up the theme concerning the future of his people. Ezekiel was a priest as well as a prophet, and in the thirtieth year of which he speaks, God withdrew His presence from His sanctuary at Jerusalem, and His chosen people were afterwards represented by the captives in Babylon. To these He promised to be "as a little sanctuary" in the land of their captivity, indicating that He would not confine His glory to any particular spot. The people had made the Temple their object of worship instead of God so God removed them from their Temple.

Vision of the Cherubim.

First is the vision of the Cherubim. Ezekiel stands out as a man entirely at God's disposal. To prepare him for service the Lord granted him a double vision. In the vision of the cherubim Ezekiel saw four living creatures which were absolutely at God's disposal.

Ezekiel 1:12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.

The same unwavering shadowing the Lord expected from Ezekiel. It is the same devotion that God expects from us also. There is the image of the lion, the strongest, the ox, the most steadfast and enduring; the eagle, the one that soars the highest; and we had man made in the image of God. These four bring the highest forms of natural life. They move with the synchronicity of one creature. In the midst of "the enfolding fire," we see an image of God's will perfectly executed, as His redeemed saints will fulfill it

Parallels: Vision of the Lord

We barely start reading and we immediately encounter Christ in Ezekiel. The prophet beholds Him in vision in the very first chapter. For surely the "Man" upon the throne can be none other than Jesus, Son of the invisible God. We recognize in this vision the prophetic announcement of the Incarnation.

It is interesting that within Ezekiel there is minutiae and detail in the prophecy(ies) that is equivalent to the Revelation of John. What is even more interesting is that the minutiae in some cases is similar at many points if one reads closely enough. As with Revelation the One discussed is not totally clear but the signature of Jesus Christ is all over the descriptions in their glory. Ezekiel saw a Man…

Ezekiel 1:26 ~ “Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man.

John the Revelator saw

Revelation 4:2 ~ “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.

They both saw the rainbow the symbol of the covenant (Genesis 9).

Ezekiel 1:28 ~ Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.

Revelation 4:3 ~ This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

They both saw the purity of God's presence, which nothing can escape. In Ezekiel it appeared as a firmament or vault of sparkling crystal.

Ezekiel 1:22 ~ Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked something like a vault, sparkling like crystal, and awesome.

In John a Sea of Glass

Revelation 4:6 ~ Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

Revelation 15:2 ~ And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God

As I continue to read the opening of Ezekiel I continue to have my memory rattled by echoes of Revelation.

They both had a vision of lamps of the fire of the Spirit.
They both had a vision of the four living creatures, with the sound of many waters.
To both was given a book which he was commanded to eat, and then told to prophesy.

…and so on.

The "glory” in this book is in the manifestation or presence as revealed by the Son, Jesus Christ. It is interesting that Ezekiel would say that the Spirit entered him and it was at that point that he heard Him speak to him. I believe here we see a direct allusion to the Holy Spirit as another or like kind or another of the same kind (John14-16).

A Vessel For God’s Use

Like the modern day believer who is commanded to take the Gospel out into the world, Ezekiel was commanded to be a prophet of God. Whether they accept or reject the believer or Ezekiel is irrelevant. What the world should not be able to deny is that, “a prophet was among them [the world]." In other words, for us, the work of God should be so obvious in our lives that even those that reject God or those in secular culture should note something different about us just as they did in Ezekiel’s time. Ezekiel was a faithful and obedient prophet and he spoke when the Lord opened his mouth. He was willing to be mute when the Lord closed it. There was no mistake when the Lord spoke forth through Ezekiel. Can God use us in like manner?

We are not in a unique or different situation from Ezekiel when we go to evangelize the world and are roundly and soundly rejected (if not mocked outright).

Ezekiel 3:5-11 ~ “You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel— not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.” And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.”

Ezekiel was charged with taking God’s word to difficult and inflexible people. Sometimes we are too. We need to get thicker skin to do the work Jesus Christ has called us to. I know this from personal and recent experience  I mean good grief, Ezekiel was charged with speaking to dry bones! Jesus had to do the same in the form of the religious people of his time, the rich and the spiritually destitute. It required that Jesus and Ezekiel needed to be resilient and "harder than flint." We also need to be thick-skinned and resilient in the face of adversity. We do this by residing in Christ, His word and His principles. We cannot cave into the push-back from culture. 

This means we must stand fast in our theologies and doctrine. We must stand fast on the Inerrancy of Scripture and other core truths of the Bible while simultaneously being understanding of the fact that people can be sincere in their beliefs and still be sincerely wrong. It is up to us to correct them if their error leads them down the primrose path to false teachings and heresy. Jesus confront false teaching and error with truth of Scripture, not ecumenicalism and a watering-down of God's word. We must be impervious to unbiblical criticisms by depending on the Lord and be able to respond in a rational and reasoned manner to still win people to the truth of Christ (therefore the faith). Sometimes we are going to get black eyes. It is better for us to get black eyes for the Faith than it is to give black eyes to the Faith with negligent behavior or failures to carry-out our duty to Christ

Do we honestly believe it will be easier for us than it was for them? Seriously? If it was an easy task all of us could do it and everyone would respond. If it was easy everyone would be Christian. Such is not the case. You should consider this and ask yourself why. It is why many never find God and die in their sins to face condemnation. Another question you need to ask yourself is this:

Did they die in their sins due to their hardness of heart or were they condemned because you did not take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them in a firm and forthright manner (or both)? If is someone you care about, isn't it worth taking the risk to try and determine which?

So remember, black eyes for the Faith, not given to the Faith. Learn to take it on the chin, keep smiling...and preach the Gospel in season and out (2 Timothy 4).

2 Timothy 4:1-2 ~ In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 

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