Monday, September 4, 2017

Ezekiel 33:7-11 The Watchman of Israel

KEY TEXT: Ezekiel 33:7-9 "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul." 

KEY THOT: The responsibility of an OT prophet is an onerous one: his message is often bad news for the people: "Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 33:7-8). His message is often warning about God's impending judgment if His people do not repent. And sometime, God may give us NT prophets a similar message for God's NT people: when we see compromises with sin and the world, we may feel like Ezekiel a burden to speak out as God's watchman to warn His Church to turn away from their wicked ways. It's not a pleasant task because it may draw resentment instead of repentance from those who are engaged in these compromises.

But often, embedded in the bad news of divine judgment (Law) is the good news of God's mercy (Gospel): "As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (v.11). But the Gospel is only Good News because of the Bad News (Law). The Law is Bad News for sinners because it condemns sin and warns of divine judgment. But the Good News is that God has sent His Son to take upon Himself the consequences of our sins as curses of the Law (Deut 28:15-68). The Gospel must start with the Bad News in order that it may be Good News to those who turn from their wicked ways. For there is now "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do" (Romans 8:1-3).

So, the OT prophet is not just a gloom and doom preacher: he is also a preacher of God's mercy and grace. So, even now we have same responsibility to get the Good News out with the Bad News. We cannot proclaim Good News of God's grace apart from the Bad News of God's judgment for sin: "Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). When a person is in Christ, he is shielded from God's judgment by the blood of Christ whenever he sins. However, this doesn't mean he can choose to ignore the law. The law is still holy and God's standards of judgment. When we sin, we have access to the Blood of Christ which still cleanses believers from all sin. (Note the present tense in the verb "cleanses"):

  • 1 John 1:7-10 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses (present tense) us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse (Greek: katharos, purifyus from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 

The teaching that this confession is unnecessary for believers ignores the context of 1 John 1:9, which is "fellowship with one another", a clear reference to the church and believers. It also ignores verse 7 which speaks of the cleansing of the blood Jesus in the present tense, not past tense. Confession is not just about being forgiven of our past sins, but about keeping ourselves pure (katharos: purify) in the present. Even after we become Christians, we will still fall into sin when we yield to temptation ("if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves"). Thank be to God that we can be purified through confession of sin because the Blood of Jesus still "cleanses" us from all sin.

If we don't confess our sins, we stay defiled and impure before God. And sooner or later, this layer of unconfessed sins will cause a hardening in our hearts, making us indifferent and callous against further conviction of the Holy Spirit, resulting in a seared conscience: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared" (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The prophet's duty is not just to warn outsiders, but also insiders--the "house of Israel". It's not a pleasant task, but it is a necessary task to warn believers the danger of walking into spiritual disasters of their own making because they have chosen to ignore God's standards of holiness in their hearts as Jesus has defined it in the Gospels. Jesus' teaching in the four Gospels is not Law--it is Gospel! (A no brainer). The Gospel of Christ begins with Jesus, not with Paul: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1).

Abba-Father, deliver us from self-deception and open our eyes to understand the beauty of Your holiness. Make us conscious of Your holiness and Your grace, so that we would not take sin lightly and fail to confess when we have sinned. Amen.

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