Posts Tagged 'servant of god'

EZEKIEL AND THE GOD WHO EQUIPS

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All Christians are called to serve God, and the secret to being a successful servant of the Lord is first discovering your role in His Kingdom. What does God want you to do? Where does He want you go? Serving the Lord has to do with what you are doing for Him in the world. It has to do with being His Ambassador among the lost.

Once you know what God wants you to do and and where He wants you to do it, the next thing a successful servant of God needs is a fresh vision of God. Ezekiel saw the Lord and His glory in Ezekiel 1. He saw a vision of God’s greatness, His holiness, and His justice. Isaiah, like Ezekiel, saw the Lord in Isaiah 6. And Saul, who would become Paul, saw the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and he was not “disobedient to the heavenly vision.”

A vision of God is essential if you want to be a top notch servant of God. When you know more of God’s holiness, righteousness, justice, and glory, that knowledge will propel you into the streets in whole-hearted service.

Do you want to be a successful servant of God? Is that important to you? It should be! When you stand before God, you’ll want to hear Him say these words:

Well done, good and faithful servant… (Matthew 25:21)

Here are some characteristics of all good and faithful servants as exemplified by Ezekiel:

1. They are full of the Holy Spirit

As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. (Ezekiel 2:2)

In the first chapter of his book, Ezekiel saw a glorious vision of the Lord and of the Lord’s glory. How that vision must have blown the young prophet away! He must have been left utterly speechless. When chapter 2 opens up, the Lord is heard calling Ezekiel to be a prophet and addresses him as “son of man.” Over 80 times in Ezekiel, the Lord refers to his prophet as “son of man.” For Christians, this may seem a little strange, since Jesus Christ is traditionally known as the “Son of man.” So, why does God call this prophet “son of man?” Out of all the prophets, only Ezekiel is addressed this way. We don’t really have a definitive answer as to way God calls him this; the Bible just doesn’t say. As far as Ezekiel was concerned, it may well be that this one-time priest needed a continual reminder that even though God had called him to the prophetic ministry, he was still just a man – a creature – frail and finite. Ezekiel, like any prophet or any servant of God, was of no use to God except the Lord fill his mouth with the right words to speak to his people. What people are desperate to hear are not the words of yet another slick Gospel huckster, peddling his “let’s get spiritual together” drivel, it’s the Word of God, delivered by a servant of God who is humble enough to sit before God, acknowledging his own spiritual shortcomings and bankruptcy of clever ideas.

God told Ezekiel to stand up, and he needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit just to stand in God’s presence. It was the Holy Spirit that helped the prophet obey the Word of the Lord. Here is a great example of the adage: what God requires of us, He enables us to do. Ezekiel was weak – and who could blame him for being “weak in the knees” after seeing such an incredible vision of God? This “son of man” did not have it in himself to even stand up in God’s presence, so God enabled him to do so.

And God will help you to be obedient to His Word, too, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit and come before Him with no pretense, in complete honesty. God wants to use you; God wants to reward you and bless you and honor you and He will go so far as to give you His resources, so that as you use them, you will be moved into a position to receive all the good things He wants you to have.

Yes, God’s successful servants are those who are full of His Holy Spirit.

2. The are sent by God

He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. (Ezekiel 2:3)

Ezekiel, drafted for God’s service, was told point blank where to go. God was sending him to the Israelites. This was going to be a difficult task to say the least. He was to go to his own people in exile – people who were by in large engaging in apostasy and sin and definitely not predisposed to listening to the Word of the Lord! Even in exile, the Israelites (the Jews) were impudent and rebellious. Even in exile, most of them were not weeping over the sins that put them in this terrible place. They were a stubborn people, not at all interested in hearing anything God had to say them.

But a genuine servant of God will go wherever God sends them, regardless of how dreadful the destination may seem. It’s called “living by faith,” and it’s something a lot of Christians are fearful to do. Living by faith runs contrary to what is “the norm” in the world today. The reason why there are so many mediocre Christians is because they are not living by faith, they are living like people of the world but with a Christian worldview. But they’re only getting it half right! Here’s what the Bible says:

We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

It’s not enough to just be a “good person.” Anybody can be a “good person.” A Christian must be more than that; they must be one who is sent by God; on a mission for God, from God; living for God and living by faith. It may mean going some place not too desirable. It may mean doing something you’re unaccustomed to doing. It didn’t thrill Ezekiel to switch from being priest, ministering in the Temple to people who wanted to be ministered to. He was now in a bad place – exiled in a foreign land – and was being asked by God to prophesy to people who had no interest in hearing anything he had to say. Think about it. Ezekiel could have just stayed by the Kebar River in Babylon, making the best of his exile, spending his days fishing and keeping a low profile. He could have prayed for his fellow exiles; prayed for Daniel; prayed for the folks back in Jerusalem. But that’s not what God wanted him to do.

And Ezekiel had to do what God wanted him to do. No matter what, Ezekiel had to live by faith.

3. They have “received” God’s Word

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 3:1-3)

God’s call to the prophet involved hearing, understanding, and making God’s Word part of his being. He had to sit and absorb it. It may seem strange that a priest needed to sit still long enough and be taught by the Lord, but a true servant of God never knows it all; and never stops learning from the Holy Spirit. It’s one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit, by the way:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)

Unlike his stiff-necked and rebellious people, Ezekiel had to sit still, be obedient, and listen to God and not act like them. As a child eats from his mother’s hand, so a child of God – like Ezekiel – needs to receive the Word from God. A successful servant of God is a mature Christian, not like the Hebrews:

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

A successful servant of God will be like Moses, who though conscious of his shortcomings, received the Word of the Lord:

The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)

As we read on the book of Ezekiel, we see that the messages God gave the prophet to speak to the people were almost always heartbreaking, but nonetheless, Ezekiel had to make God’s Word part of his innermost being. Before Ezekiel could give the Word to others, it had to live in him. But notice, even though God gave Ezekiel the words to speak, gave him visions to inspire him, gave him clear directions to obey, in the end it would up to the “son of man” himself to put forth the effort, open his mouth, and speak. To do that, Ezekiel needed another characteristic.

4. The are courageous

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 house.” (Ezekiel 3:8, 9)

God’s commission to Ezekiel involved hearing, understanding, and assimilating God’s Word before venturing forth as a prophet from God. How the people received the Word, or treated God’s messenger was NOT to govern Ezekiel’s ministry. God warned Ezekiel of the tough row he had to hoe.

A successful servant of God will do the work of the Lord regardless of his how he or his message is received. There is no harder an audience to reach than those who are already familiar with what you are saying. They ignore you; they mock you; they may even argue with you. Often times it’s far easier to take the Word of the Lord to complete strangers. But we, like Ezekiel, must be strong. God will give His true servants the strength they need, and the determination to get the job done. As one Bible scholar succinctly wrote:

The fear of man is foreign to the man (or woman) of God.

5. They are faithful

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.” (Ezekiel 3:16-21, verse 17 cited)

It goes without saying that a successful servant of God is completely faithful to Him. As far as Ezekiel was concerned, his role was to be that of a watchman over the house of Israel while it was in exile. In the Old Testament, the watchman had an important job: he was to stand on the wall of the city; keeping an ever vigilant eye open for threats from within or without. If he saw an army approaching the city, he had to sound the alarm, rousing the army of the city.

It was up to Ezekiel to listen to the Lord – since the people were not – and to warn them of the judgment to come. Of course, the exiles in Babylon were already experiencing discipline and judgment for their sins. But a far greater punishment was waiting for the unrepentant sinner who continually turned a deaf ear to the righteous demands of God as expressed in His Covenant.

The true servant of God is faithful to God and faithfully discharges God’s call upon his life because he understands what’s at stake:

Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.” (Ezekiel 3:20)

What a chilling verse that is! God did not cause the righteous man to stumble; he had already turned from God’s ways and done evil. The stumbling block was put in his way after the fact to stop him from spreading his sin, and to see how he would respond. If he persisted in his sin, he would die. That stumbling block would be a kind of death sentence on a once-righteous man who decided to turn his back on God.

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 11:22)

What a solemn responsibility was Ezekiel’s. A true servant of God is faithful because he must be; he really has no choice. He will be held responsible if he shirks his duty to the Lord.  There is no greater privilege than that of being a servant of the Lord.  But with that great privilege comes a great responsibility.  The good news  is that God will equip you to get the job done.  But first you have to trust Him.  

ISAIAH, Part 7

Serious Questions for the Backslider, Isaiah 50:1—3

On of the controversial aspects of the book of Isaiah is the identity of “the servant.” It is vitally important to have a correct understanding of his identity if you want to interpret certain chapters where the servant is spoken of in a prophetic sense correctly. While most Christians view the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah as Jesus Christ, Jews view him as the nation of Israel. However, the fact is, in Isaiah’s writings, there are two servants of the Lord, not one. There is the True or Perfect Servant of the Lord, who is identified prophetically as Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. But there is another, imperfect servant of the Lord, and that is the nation of Israel or Judah. A careful study of the context reveals which servant is being referenced at any given time.

As in chapter 42, in chapter 50 the True Servant of God is pictured as speaking to another of God’s servants, the rebellious servant, Israel.

Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one in covenant with me, blind like the servant of the LORD? (Isaiah 42:19)

In chapter 49, the tension between the perfect Servant of God and the imperfect servant of God is poetically played out. Of the imperfect servant of God, some marvelous things are noted:

Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” (Isaiah 49:1—3)

But now, the sin of idolatry, which in God’s sight is a form of spiritual adultery, had become so prominent throughout the land that, when pictured as a marriage, Israel’s marriage covenant with the Lord had been broken.

The immediate context of this chapter is the Babylonian Captivity, which was yet to occur in Isaiah’s time, and Isaiah, even though he was writing as though the nation was exiled already, he was really preaching to a generation not yet born, and admonishing them to return to the Lord and to forsake their idolatrous tendencies.

We know that while Judah (referred to by Isaiah as “Israel”) was in exile, they murmured and complained against God on account of the severity of their condition. They had become, generally speaking, a nation of “backsliders.” Of course, not all the exiled Jews in Babylon and later Persia had stopped following Jehovah, a large number of them were estranged or separated from God. They had not ceased to be God’s people; God had not left them, in fact He was still trying to win them back, but they were stubborn in their rejection of them.

Backsliders, Christians who are separated from God, are slow to blame themselves for their present miserable condition. And being separated from God is a miserable condition because it usually involves bondage to one sin or another. But, as we see this these verses, the Lord, their “spiritual husband,” demands that they face the cause of their estrangement head on, deal with that cause or causes, and then return to Him.

Here are the questions the Lord, the spiritual Husband of all believers, puts to the backslidden Jews. These penetrating questions can also be put to any Christian today who has strayed from his faith.

1. Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? (verse 1)

Under the Law of Moses, and because of the hardness of their hearts, the Lord allowed a man to divorce (“cut” or “cast off,” really) his wife if she was found unfaithful, by giving her an official “bill of divorcement.” This bill was proof to the community that she had been put away by her husband:

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house… (Deuteronomy 24:1)

Exiled as they were (or rather would be), Judah, the Lord’s wife, had assumed that God, her spiritual husband, had cut them off and was ignoring them. In other words, the exiled Jews were so unhappy, discontented and miserable, they simply concluded that God had dumped them, and was therefore not having anything further to do with them. They expressed as much in 40:27—

Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?

But here God, Judah’s husband, says He had definitely NOT divorced her; He had served no papers or posted no bills. Poetically, God demands that these rebellious children, born in Babylon of backsliding parents, produce His “bill of divorcement,” providing the proof that God was to blame for their present miserable state. Of course, no such document existed on Earth or in Heaven because God had never divorced Himself from His people. In fact, the people were separated from God, but it was on account of their sins, not due to any action on His part.

…because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. (verse 1)

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)

2. Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? (verse 1)

Another provision of the Law allowed a father, if he was oppressed with debt, to sell his children in order to pay that debt. That is the background of this question. God’s question to his wayward people was simply, “Did I sell you because of My poverty?” In other words, did God have to sell His children off one by one because He was too poor to keep them?

At first, this may seem like a ridiculous argument to make, but consider what caused many a backslider to turn on God. How many Christians have left God because He didn’t answer a prayer they prayed? Or because, in their eyes, He didn’t bless them enough? The notion that God is unable to supply all our needs is still a motivating factor in the decision of some believers to turn from God to seek other means to fill a need.

But the truth is, God has all the resources of Heaven and Earth at His disposal and is therefore able to meet all our needs! It’s all matter of perception.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

And it’s all a matter of knowing what your real need is. Far too many believers get wrapped up in the temporal world; in things that they think will satisfy but never do because their need is spiritual and can only be met by the Lord. A Christian trying to find satisfaction from worldly things is as futile as trying force a square peg in a round hole.

Once again, the Lord’s answer is simple and direct:

Because of your sins you were sold… (verse 1)

If the people had been sold, it wasn’t God that had sold them! They had, in fact, sold themselves. God puts the blame His people’s present state squarely where it belonged: on their shoulders.

2. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? (verse 2)

Verse 2 rebukes Judah’s unbelief. Even though the prophets of God had called to the people, nobody listened to them; nobody took their words seriously. The entirety of Hebrew history seems to be the story of God continuously reaching out to the people He loved so much, only to find the people either not interested or actively rebelling against Him.

You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. (Isaiah 48:8)

This is a truly sad situation; it pictures a loving husband coming home to his bride and finding only an empty house. He called and called, yet she never answered. This pathetic story continues to this day with Christians who become have so dissatisfied with their backslidden condition, yet, inexplicably, they still refuse to pay attention to God’s call to repent and return. It’s the only way out of bondage into freedom for them, yet like the wayward wife, they just can’t see it.

Through the Holy Spirit, God still calls out to the self-oppressed backsliders. Thankfully, He doesn’t give up on them as easily as they gave up on Him!

3. Was my arm too short to deliver you? (verse 2)

Sin alone is what separates from God. The problem was never with God; the problem was with the Jews. The problem is with the backslider., who may have wandered from the fold, but can he wander so far as to be beyond the reach of God? This is a question every backslider must answer: Is God unable to take you back? Is the precious Blood of Jesus Christ to weak to redeem the backslider?

When we read this question in connection with what follows it, it becomes a tragic picture indeed:

By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. (verse 2)

Here, the Lord is likely referring to the Red Sea and to the deliverance of the Hebrews from their Egyptian bondage. The phrase “a mere rebuke” shows just how simple it is for God to deliver His people. It was nothing to change the course of nature to help His people. The Lord had demonstrated His power to save in history and in nature, yet still the people refused to bend.

Salvation is a relatively simple thing; we tend to complicate it with with all kinds of “classes”: discipleship classes, baptism classes, and so on, but really, getting saved is a snap:

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13 and Joel 2:32)

That’s pretty simple! But for the backslider, for the one who has wandered from God, calling out to Him is a monumental task.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

That simple act of confession is very difficult for one who has known a close relationship with Christ. Pride, embarrassment, or anger, whatever the reason that keeps the backslider from owning up to their problem must be overcome if they are to return. And God wants them back!

5. Do I lack the strength to rescue you? (verse 2)

From outward appearances, it seemed as though God was unable to do anything to help the Jews during their Babylonian bondage. This was yet another accusation of the Jews; God was powerless to help them because if He could have, He would have. What’s particularly nefarious about this question is that not only did the Jews think this way, but because of their sin and refusal to come back to the Lord, it appeared to the Babylonians that their God was weak and powerless.

As long as a backslider remains in their backslidden state, they are dragging the Name and Character of the Lord into public dishonor.

And now what do I have here?” declares the LORD. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the LORD. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (Isaiah 52:5)

If ever there was a good reason to live righteously, this must be it! How the believer lives in public reflects the Character and Nature of his God!

As if to remind them of all the good things He has done for them, God speaks of His actions in their history and in nature:

I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering. (verse 3)

Imagine the great condescension of God of having to remind His wayward children of all the things He had done for them. It was as though love was not reason enough to return to Him.

Imagine the great condescension of God in giving His only Son to die for us on the Cross?

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4—6)

Do you really think God lacks the power to save the backslider?

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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