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Contending For The Faith

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 13:14
So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.
NKJV

Contending for the Faith is fighting for your beliefs. Contending for the Faith is doing battle for the Lord.

Contending for the Faith is something that may not make you very popular in the eyes of the world and many of your "friends." Consider the histories of many of the heroes of the Bible. They were not friends of everyone around them. They had enemies, just as you and I do, for we are not of the world. But, in reviewing the history of the Bible, we find many who have contended for the Faith.

One example that immediately comes to mind is Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was a young priest in training when the Babylonians commenced carrying the nation of Judah into captivity. He was taken captive during the second movement of Jews to Babylon (597 B.C.). He was called to his prophetic office five years later. Ultimately, in 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, but by this time, Ezekiel was firmly settled in Babylon.

God used the priest as a prophet, calling upon him to deliver a series of messages, both in verbal and picture form, designed to convey God&s oracles to the people. Only, Ezekiel would learn that most of the people paid little attention to him - just as most of your acquaintances will pay little attention to you. But, keep talking, even if "only a few be saved" (1 Cor 9:22).

The Book of Ezekiel is 48 chapters long and contains prophecies against the Jewish nation and against several of the surrounding nations. Ezekiel&s prophecies also contain great statements of future hope and restoration for the Jewish nation.

Our focus will be on just a few verses, however. For background, remember that the Israelites were in Babylon due to their failure to be obedient to God. Earlier, after substantial warnings by other great prophets, including Elijah and Elisha, the ten northern tribes had been carried into captivity by the Assyrians (721 B.C.). This invasion is used by the prophets as a picture symbol to the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but for most of the intervening hundred plus years, the southern nation failed to listen. So, in a series of invasions beginning in 605 B.C., the southern tribes are carried into captivity by Babylon.

Further, understand most of Ezekiel&s prophecies point to that day in 586 B.C. when Jerusalem falls. Indeed, in chapter 24, Ezekiel&##8;s wife, the "desire of his eyes" (24:16) dies on the very day of the City&s capture. And the prophet is prohibited by God from mourning!!!

On the way to this event, God calls on the prophet to denounce the things - and people - around him. Ezekiel issues words denouncing his fellow Jews. For our purposes, let&s focus on chapter 13, and in particular, Ezekiel 13:2-3, and 8-12:

2 "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, &Hear the word of the Lord!& " 3 Thus says the Lord God: "Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! . . . 8 Therefore thus says the Lord God: "Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you," says the Lord God. 9 "My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord God. 10 "Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, &Peace!& when there is no peace--and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar--11 "say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down.1 2 "Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, &Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?& "

Consider, here is Ezekiel, perhaps sitting in church, or maybe teaching Sunday school, but more likely discussing religious and national matters in his own living room (8:1; 14:1; 20:1). God calls upon him to denounce the events occurring elsewhere in the building. And notice that the words the prophet is to speak will be less than flattering to many of those hearing the speech. Ezekiel denounces everything popular. He argues in favor of the faith as it has been delivered to him. He cannot help but be unpopular in his efforts.

Consider further that he background of the prophet is much like the background of today. Ezekiel spoke against the seduction of the people away from the Word of God. How many of our churches have weakened the Gospel message. How often are loving acts equated to being Godly. Good deeds are important, but God&s call is a call to holiness and righteousness, a call to obedience.

The task of the prophet, and our task, is to speak the Word of God, even in the face of persecution and unbelief. Notice the measuring stick imposed upon Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 33:1-9
Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 "Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: &When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 &when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 &then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 &He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 &But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman&s hand.& 7 "So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8 "When I say to the wicked, &O wicked man, you shall surely die!& and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 "Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

And, even in the face of these denunciations, the leaders come to him, seeking God&s favor. Move into chapter 14 and look at verses 3, 6, and 7:

>3 "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? . . .6 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: "Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. 7 "For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself.
How many idols do you see today? How often do you find other demands invading your time with God? Where do your priorities fall? How often does God truly come first in your life. How often do you speak against these idols? How often do you stand for the truth of the Word of God? How often do you contend for the Faith? Consider Ezekiel.

In the face of delivering unwanted messages to the people in exile, what does the prophet do? Does he water down his message? Does he take a part of God and make it the whole? NO! The prophet continues along the same path he has been traveling. He delivers God&s message just as he has received it! He is faithful to the truth of the Gospel as it has been revealed. He stands up for God.

Now, look around you. How many pagans, misfits, unbelievers do you encounter in a week&s time? How often is the doorway open whereby you may act like Ezekiel and talk about the truth of the Gospel? How many seeds could you plant, if only you would be as Ezekiel and OPEN YOUR MOUTH, ALLOWING GOD TO SPEAK? This is the challenge of the contending for Faith. This is message of Jude. It is a timely message for today&s Christians.

We are too timid, shy, and unknowledgeable about the truth of the Gospel. Too many of us fail to take the message of Jude to heart. The world is composed of New Agers, cults, weak, baby Christians, Muslims, and other religious groups. In this environment, it often seems "easier" to speak softly and allow our manner of life to paint the Gospel picture. For certain, we are to do this. Paul, John, and Peter all talk of walking in the proper manner to show our Christianity through our actions. But more is required. Jude says we must contend - fight - strive.

We must be like Ezekiel. People will accuse us of being intolerant, of being uncaring, of being unfair. Such charges did not stop Ezekiel. They should not stop us. God had the answer for Ezekiel.

Ezekile 33:17-18
"Yet the children of your people say, &The way of the Lord is not fair.& But it is their way which is not fair! 18 "When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it.

This is God&s answer for us as well.

 

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November 12, 2018

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