THE PURPOSE OF ELECTION DAY SERMONS
The purpose of these Election Day Sermons can be stated in terms of Deuteronomy 26:19---”...that He (God) shall set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God....” It was the earnest prayer of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century preachers of the gospel that through the preaching and teaching of the Holy Bible God would create, preserve and perfect a genuinely Christian and thoroughly Biblical social, moral and political order in America for the glory of God and as a model--”a city set on a hill”--for the rest of the world.
Nowhere is the purpose of election sermons more clearly and more intensely illustrated than in a book by David Gregg entitled Makers of the American Republic written in 1896.
“As patriotic Christians there is only one cry in our souls, and that is, ‘America for Christ! Christ for America!’ I mean to push this motto; I push it on three grounds: for America’s sake, for the world’s sake, for Christ’s sake.
1. We demand America for Christ for America’s sake. --Divorce your nation from Christ and you ring its death-knell.... Marry your nation to Christ and you open for it a door into a new future and secure for it a place among the nations of the world.... Tell me how the American Republic will treat Christ and I will tell you the future of the American Republic. --America needs Christ---the rule of Christ, the truth of Christ, the spirit of Christ, the gospel of Christ, and the men of Christ.
2. We demand America for Christ for the world’s sake. --...America taken for Christ means the nations of the world far and near taken for Christ; America a Christian nation means a mighty witness for God among all lands of the earth.... -- In the Christianizing of our nation the Republic has its life at stake, society its order, labor its reward, home its happiness, and the world its future.”
THE NEED FOR ELECTION DAY SERMONS
The pulpit has always been the most influential political, social and moral force in America. In the early days it was a powerful force for good, because it was generally faithful to the Word of God. Today it is a mighty force for evil, because it has generally abandoned the Word of God. Now more than ever, we need ministers of the gospel who will preach only the Word of God and all of the Word of God with boldness, humility, wisdom, forcefulness and in the power of the Holy Spirit of God. We must earnestly pray that our present famine of faithful preaching would come to an end; that God would raise up an army of fearless preachers of “the whole counsel of God”; and that God would use that preaching, on Election Days, and every Sunday, to turn the hearts of Americans away from their apostasy and to the Living God revealed in Jesus Christ.
THE CONTEXT OF EZEKIEL 11:1-25
Our Election Day Sermon this year (2008) is an exposition and application of Ezekiel 11:1-25. Little is known about the man, Ezekiel. The two most important facts we know about him are that:
1. He was a prophet of God who prophesied with divine authority; and
2. He lived during the Babylonian Captivity of Israel.
He wrote his book to impress upon the Israelite exiles that their captivity, and the destruction of Jerusalem, was Jehovah’s righteous judgment on their hardened apostasy. He also impresses his readers with the faithfulness, patience and mercy of Jehovah, who freely and sincerely offers forgiveness and restoration to all who return to Him in faith and repentance. One day God’s people will be fully restored to their Lord. They will return to the true worship of God. And the name of their redeemed and restored covenant community will be “Jehovah Shammah,” i.e., “The Lord is there.”
The Book of Ezekiel can be divided into three parts:
a. (1:1-24:27) Prophecies given before the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
b. (25:1-32:32) Prophecies of judgment given against foreign nations.
c. (33:1-48:35) Prophecies of the restoration of Israel given after the Babylonians had captured Jerusalem (586, B.C.).
Our text, 11:1-25, is the conclusion of a prophecy concerning the punishment of Jerusalem (8:1-11:25). The Glory of the Lord appeared to Ezekiel and “transported him in spirit” to the courtyard of the Temple in Jerusalem, (8:1-4), where God caused him to see the blatant idolatry of Israel, (8:5-18); and His judgment on the people, His burning of the city, and His abandonment of the Temple, (9:1-10:22). Then, after exposing and denouncing the apostasy of the political leaders of Jerusalem, (11:1-13), Ezekiel prophesies of a future salvation and restoration of God’s covenant people in Christ, (11:14-25).
Now to the text before us....
I. (11:1-13) THE FUTURE OF POLITICIANS WHO GIVE BAD ADVICE
The purpose of Ezekiel 11:1-13 is to teach the people that PERVERSE POLITICIANS CAUSE NATIONAL DESTRUCTION. As the N.T. says, if the blind lead the blind both will fall into the ditch, Mat. 15:14; Lk. 6:39. When political leaders defect from God and His Law, spiritual and moral defection will spread among the citizens. Therefore, a nation cannot escape God’s judgment, if it is corrupted by its politicians. In fact, this corruption of the leaders is the cause of its destruction, since the people are too easily led astray by perverse examples.
A. THE IDENTITY OF THE TWENTY-FIVE POLITICIANS AT THE TEMPLE ENTRANCE
THE POINT OF 11:1-13. Ezekiel, enlightened and made bold by the Holy Spirit of God, confronts the political leaders of his day with their sin and with their accountability before God for their actions and policies. He addresses twenty-five of these “leaders of the people,” and calls two by name, Jaazaniah ben-Azzur and Pelatiah ben-Benaiah. These “princes” represented the civil government of Israel in the capital, Jerusalem. Their number is probably comprised of twelve princes from each of the tribes and the twelve military commanders and the king, I Chron. 27.
Here we see the prophetic responsibility the church and the pulpit have toward the state--to call it to repentance boldly, forcefully, and specifically, warning it of God’s judgment if it refuses, and naming names if necessary. The ministry is being unfaithful to God if it is silent regarding political, social and moral issues. This is so: (1). because God has called the church and pulpit to address apostasy in any form; and (2). because the Bible is authoritative on everything about which it speaks, and it speaks about everything.
B. THE SPEECHES & POLICIES OF THE TWENTY-FIVE POLITICIANS
The charge God brought against these politicians through His prophet was that they are “men who devise iniquity and give evil advice in this city,” vs. 2. In their speeches, policies, counsel, consent, and adjudications, as well as by their own attitude and behavior, they were encouraging the people and the nation to rebel against God and His Law, and to live according to man’s sinful impulses, man’s own subjective standards, man’s goals, man’s priorities, and man’s will. These leaders were no longer governing the nation or their own lives in terms of the revealed will and pleasure of God. Therefore, as a result all their policies would only accomplish “iniquity” and all their counsel would encourage “evil” in the lives of the citizens.
When politicians turn from God as the source of salvation, life and sovereignty, and legislate, adjudicate and execute their laws and policies, they will always: (1). call evil good and good evil; (2). encourage evil and lawlessness in society; (3). bring down the judgment of God on their nation, which will dry up prosperity, blessing, health and security. Therefore, the policies such people impose are evil, and the answers they offer to the political, economic, social, agricultural, industrial, commercial, educational, and international crises of a nation are non-answers. There are no solutions for a nation in critical decline outside of Christ and the Word of God. Without faith, repentance, and a return to God in submission to His Laws in politicians and people, neither appealing “charismatic” politicians nor referendums by the people have any substance.
C. THE CONTEMPT FOR THE WORD OF GOD OF THE TWENTY-FIVE POLITICIANS
The evil counsel of these perverse politicians in Ezekiel’s day was: “Is not the time near to build houses? This city is the pot and we are the flesh,” vs. 3. The worst thing about these politicians is that they held the Word of God in contempt, and were always seeking ways to avoid its claims and to negate its warnings by mind-games, ridicule and mockery.
Here Ezekiel, to use Calvin’s words, “strips off their masks” and “cuts away their pretenses.” He condemns these politicians because, by their evil policies and example, “they have hardened the people in obstinate wickedness and encouraged apathy and lethargy, so that the prophet’s threats were unheeded.” They not only “stupefied the people by their enticements and took away all sense of repentance, they also set aside all fear of God’s anger which had been denounced against them.”-Calvin
What was the significance of the statement of the politicians regarding the prophet’s warning—“Is not the time near to build houses? This city is the pot and we are the flesh”? To understand their point we must understand that they were trying to elude the force of the prophecy of Jeremiah, who threatened them with God’s anger, when he wrote: “And the word of the Lord came to me a second time saying, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘Out of the north the evil will break forth on all the inhabitants of the land.’“-Jeremiah 1:13-14.
Jeremiah warned that Jerusalem was like a pot and the fire which would cause her to boil in judgment would come from the north, i.e., the Babylonians would come like a fire to devour Jerusalem, which would be like a stewpot, filled with water and meat, placed on a raging fire, which soon dries up the water and scorches the meat. The politicians, who had read Jeremiah’s prophecy, now mock the prophecy and by mind- and word-games, try to circumvent its true meaning and “outwit” its author, (who by the way is not Jeremiah, but the Living God, who put the words in Jeremiah’s mouth, Jer. 1:9!).
They interpret it in a way that is directly opposed to its true meaning. Jeremiah told them they would be scorched with raging fire if they did not repent; but they said, “We may boil to death in this pot, but it hasn’t happened yet and it won’t happen for a while to come. Moreover, the temperature will rise gradually degree by degree, so it won’t happen soon, and when it happens it won’t be that bad. After all, a watched pot never boils. Therefore, let’s build our houses, enjoy life and stay on our present course, because we are safe for many years, and by then we will be too old to enjoy life anyway.”
Or to put their blasphemy another way. They were trying to evade the meaning of God’s words by saying that as the pot protects the meat in it from burning, so the city of Jerusalem would protect them from destruction. This attitude not only manifests their false confidence in the power of political institutions and social structures, it manifests scorn and contempt for the prophetic word of the Living God.
How evil was their audacity! They tried to make God look ridiculous as they tried to elude the force of His prophetic word. “For a laughing-stock they said that they could rest safely within the city, because they were not yet cooked but raw, so that if that prophecy is true, said they, we shall not so quickly depart from the city. For God foretold that we should be the flesh which was about to be cooked: if this city is a caldron, we ought to remain here till we are cooked: but this has not happened. Hence what Jeremiah pronounces is vain.”--John Calvin
Their audacity and deceit were so blatant and so blasphemous that God raises up another prophet to preach against them, vs. 4, because nothing is more intolerable than that men should audaciously ridicule and challenge the anger of Almighty God. “For if the mountains melt before Him, Isa. 64:3, if angels themselves tremble, Job 4:18, how comes it that the vessel of clay dares to conflict (challenge) it’s Maker, Isa. 45:9?”-John Calvin
D. THE HORRIFYING FUTURE OF THE TWENTY-FIVE POLITICIANS
God’s Word is inescapable! God’s judgment is escapable only through genuine repentance and faith. All attempts to manipulate or distort God’s Word so as to evade its threats and warnings are doomed to mortal failure.
The Lord told Ezekiel that the arguments of the apostate politicians did not impress or intimidate Him at all, because He knows what they are thinking, vs. 5. God does not read their lips, He reads their minds! “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” Heb. 4:12-13.
The Hebrew in verse five of Ezekiel says literally, “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.” The politicians were actors trying to impress and persuade men that they were sincere and honest- thinking men, but before the court of Heaven, God is their only Judge. And when our thoughts and intentions are known to God, it is sheer stupidity to think we can get away with hypocrisy and play-acting, “because God will not admit our subterfuges, nor will He allow Himself to be deluded by our smartness and cunning.”-Calvin. In fact, God will make the corrupt politicians laughing-stocks.
The prophet does not waste the time or the trouble to reason with the blabbering of the evil politicians trying to evade God. He goes straight for the jugular.
God turns the words of the politicians against themselves, and makes them shoot their arrows into their own chests, because, as God said, “He who sins against Me injures himself; all those who hate Me love death,” Prov. 8:36. God always makes foolish the wisdom of the world, I Cor. 1:20. Ezekiel in proclaiming the Lord’s Word is obeying that Word which says, “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes,” Prov. 26:5.
1. THE INDICTMENT OF THE POLITICIANS FOR “MULTIPLYING YOUR SLAIN IN THIS CITY, FILLING ITS STREETS WITH THEM,” vs. 6-7.
God accuses the politicians of filling the streets of Jerusalem with the bodies of the people they had slain. These words not only imply that for the politicians human life was cheap, they also signify “all forms of injustice; for we know that God esteems those homicides who oppress miserable men, overturn their fortunes, and suck innocent blood. Since, then, God esteems all violence as slaughter, he properly says, ‘that the city was filled with the slain.’”-Calvin. These politicians of Ezekiel’s day sound like American politicians of our day, for whom life is cheap, as is evident by the legalization of abortion, and who overturn working people’s fortunes and suck their blood by deficit spending, bureaucratic controls, an inflationary monetary system, massive taxation, unjust judges, federal regulations, tens of thousands of unjust laws and a welfare system which penalizes the hard-working citizens, rewards the shiftless, and encourages immorality, violence and lawlessness as Walter Williams’ book, The State Against Blacks, shows.
2. THE PRONOUNCEMENT OF MORE SEVERE JUDGMENT ON THE POLITICIANS, vs. 7-11.
Now God turns to sarcasm and to dark humor to refute the audacious interpretation of His word by the politicians and to pronounce imminent condemnation upon them in no uncertain terms.
The politicians argued that, although God would bring judgment upon the city, it would be a long time in coming, since they were the raw stew-meat in the boiling pot, and it would not be so bad when it came, since it would come gradually. The pot and the water would protect them from the flames, or so they thought. That meant that they could continue their life “as is”, since they would be old men when the judgment would finally come.
God “treats them wittily, and plays off jests in answer to them; meanwhile he strikes a deadly wound, when He shows that they joked so petulantly to their own destruction....”-Calvin. God argues: “You politicians by your policies and actions have filled the pot with meat, i.e., those whom you have slain, so that there is no longer any room in the pot for you! Therefore, I will throw out the rotten meat, i.e. the politicians. I will throw you directly and immediately into the fire where you will be burned to a crisp! I will boil the people, but I will roast the politicians in the fire of the Babylonians according to Jeremiah 1:13. Because you joked and laughed at My prophetic Word, greater vengeance from Me awaits you. You never stop provoking My anger.”
God’s exact words are these:
“Your slain whom you have laid in the midst of the city are the flesh, and this city is the pot; but I shall bring you out of it.” (11:7)
“You have feared a sword; so I will bring a sword upon you,” the Lord God declares.” (11:8)
“And I shall bring you out of the midst of the city, and I shall deliver you into the hands of strangers and execute judgments against you.” (11:9)
“You will fall by the sword. I shall judge you to the border of Israel; so you shall know that I am the Lord.” (11:10)
“This city will not be a pot for you, nor will you be flesh in the midst of it, but I shall judge you to the border of Israel.” (11:11)
The city with its institutions and traditions, and the policies and regulations of the politicians will be of no protection to them when God begins His certain judgment of them for giving evil advice to and for imposing unjust laws on the people. “This city will not be a pot for you....”
God is informing the politicians that they will be forced from their refuge in the city and brought to the frontier of Israel where they will be brutally cut down and wiped out. This threat was literally fulfilled in the bloody scenes at Riblah described in Jeremiah 52:24-27. Because they perverted the Word of God, mocking it and refusing to obey and enforce it, they would find no protection in Jerusalem or in the land of Israel. Their punishment would be soon, intense, humiliating and horrifying. The king of Israel would see his own sons murdered, then he himself would be painfully blinded and dragged into slavery in Babylon, and all his princes would be killed, II Kings 25; Jeremiah 39.
The sudden death of one of the princes of the people, Pelatiah, while Ezekiel was preaching, was intended to assure the people and the politicians of the certain, inescapable fulfillment of the word of God. The death of Pelatiah was a “prelude” of the slaughter that was at hand, 11:13.
E. THE REASON FOR THE HORRIBLE FUTURE OF THE TWENTY-FIVE POLITICIANS
1. THE VINDICATION OF THE GLORY OF GOD, vs. 12a.
God brings this terrible judgment upon the evil politicians “SO YOU SHALL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD. -- THUS YOU WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD...,” 11:10, 12. In pain, suffering and gruesome death these apostate politicians will know that the Lord whom they mocked is really the God He has revealed Himself to be in the Bible. Apostate politicians “are said to know God when, being struck by His hand, they unwillingly acknowledge His power: because whether they will or not they feel Him to be their judge. But this knowledge does not profit them; nay it even increases their destruction.”-Calvin
To say that these leaders will “know that I am the Lord,” when He begins judging them, is not to say that the ignorance of Him by which they sinned against Him is justifiable or excusable. Calvin explains:
“Doubtless Ezekiel reproves the sloth which was the cause of such great defiance; for they had never dared to contend so perseveringly with God, unless their minds had been stupefied; for were we to reflect that we are striving with God, horror would immediately seize upon us; for who labors under such madness as to dare to contend with God his Maker? This dullness, therefore, Ezekiel now obliquely reproves, when he says that the Jews would know too late that they were dealing with God. Although therefore they sinned through ignorance, it does not follow that they were without excuse, for whence arose their ignorance except from being inattentive to God? It sprang first from carelessness: then that carelessness and security produced contempt, and contempt sprang from their depraved lust of sinning. Since therefore they determined to give themselves up to all manner of sinning, they put away as far as possible all teaching: nay they willingly endeavored to stupefy their own consciences, and thus we see that depraved desire impelled them to contempt, and contempt begat in them security, in which at length this ignorance plunged them.”
2. THE FAILURE OF THE POLITICIANS TO OBEY AND ENFORCE BIBLICAL LAW, vs. 12b.
God was not being too harsh, nor was He demanding too much, nor was His judgment on them too heavy. His judgment was severe, because it was perfectly just. He was giving the politicians what they deserved, nothing more. He had given them His Law in the Bible by which they were to govern; and yet they rejected it, choosing instead to imitate the pagan nations around them and govern according to the standards of man, rather than by the Standards of God. As Calvin wrote, this was to prefer Satan to God Himself with full deliberation. It was to follow the lie of the tempter again, that man has the right and ability to determine what is good and evil for himself without any reference to God and His Word, Genesis 3.
“Thus you will know that I am the Lord; for you have not WALKED in My statutes nor have you EXECUTED My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you.” (11:12)
The politicians were punished severely by God because they did not live by the Law of God for the sake of Christ in their own personal lives, nor did they obey and enforce Biblical Law in submission to Christ the King, in their political positions. Politicians and nations that seek to be religiously and ethically neutral, who pride themselves on their pretended religious pluralism, are in direct, audacious and inexcusable rebellion against God. Their speeches, laws and policies are repugnant to God because they reveal: (1). deep ingratitude to Him for His goodness to them; (2). audacious contempt for His Word so clearly revealed; (3). irrational belief that man has the right and ability to determine good and evil for himself; (4). reckless disregard for the divine command that God alone is God and He alone is to be worshiped and served; (5). trust in politics and human ingenuity; (6). and because those evil politicians will corrupt the people, who will try to imitate them.
Therefore, in the light of this verse, what is the responsibility of a person in a position of political authority? He personally is to “walk” according to God’s revealed will in the Bible, and he is to “execute” that revealed will in his use of political authority. In this sense, the civil magistrate is to be “a minister of God,” Romans 13:4, who influences the people to do good and who does good for the people by administering justice by enforcing Biblical Law for the sake of Christ. Without the absolute standard of God’s revealed Law in the Bible, the civil magistrate has no way of distinguishing “good behavior” from “evil behavior;” hence, he will use the sword to be an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices good, and he will reward and protect the one who practices evil. The politician who obeys and enforces Biblical Law is the protector of good people; but the politician--whether he is a political liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican-- who seeks to impose and enforce a law-order other than God’s Law found in the Bible is a “Beast,” Rev. 13, a deadly threat to the good people, families, communities, businesses and churches in the land. Such politicians are a curse, and must be exposed, resisted and opposed. Use the qualifications for a politician found in Deuteronomy 16:18-22 and 17:14-20 to be your standard in evaluating candidates. And if a candidate will not “walk” by and “execute” Biblical Law as the basis of liberty and justice for all, he is your enemy, the enemy of your family, and the enemy of God, whom God will certainly, swiftly and severely destroy.
II. (11:14-25) THE FUTURE OF VOTERS WHO TAKE GOOD ADVICE
The future does not belong to evil politicians. It belongs to the faithful people of God in Christ. Even in Ezekiel’s day, with its perverse politicians corrupting most of the people, God preserved His faithful church and kept her from corruption. To the generations of the faithful people of God, God has promised a glorious future, regardless of what the evil politicians might try to do to them, or regardless of how heavy God’s judgment may fall upon those politicians and the people who believe them and are influenced by them.
Some of the most wonderful promises of God in the Bible are to be found in Ezekiel 11:14-25. It is in those promises we are to trust, and it is to the One who gave those promises that we are to look for security, growth, victory, national healing, and the future of our generations.
A. THE PROMISE OF A SANCTUARY, vs. 16
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Though I had removed them far away among the nations, and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I WAS A SANCTUARY FOR THEM a little while in the countries where they had gone.”
Even in times of severe national judgment, God knows how to protect, encourage and support His faithful people. However far they may be scattered by persecution or judgment, God Himself is their sanctuary, their secure home, their hiding place, their shelter in a time of storm. Even in this life God is present with His people. Even here he wipes tears from our eyes, comforts us in our mourning, crying and pain; shelters us from the scorching winds of judgment on the apostate and reprobate; shields us from the fiery missiles Satan hurls at us.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My Refuge and my Fortress, my God in whom I trust.’ For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His wings, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon, a thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes, and see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the Lord, my Refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.” (Psalm 91)
B. THE PROMISE OF A LAND, vs. 17
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, ‘I shall gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I shall give you the land of Israel.”
The church of God will not always be in a “scattered” and humbled position, suffering under the oppression of evil men. God uses such times to test her, to purify her, to bring her to repentance, renewed faith, obedience, and restored health and prosperity, Deuteronomy 8 and 28. Notice in our text that God will be a “sanctuary” for His people in exile in Babylon for “a little while,” vs. 16. His purpose is to bring them out of judgment and oppression into a new era of greatness, freedom, faithfulness, peace and prosperity. He promises to bring them into their own Land of Promise with a rebuilt Sanctuary in Jerusalem, where they can worship and serve the Lord with exuberance.
As we have learned on many other occasions from the Bible, the Land of Promise is not limited geographically to the land of Palestine. The Bible universalizes it to include the entire earth as the inheritance of the covenant people of God. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” In Romans 4 Abraham is called “the heir of the world.” The promise, then, is this: in the future, under the blessing of God, the covenant people of God in Christ will inherit the earth, enjoying its pleasures and using its resources to construct just and free societies and godly civilizations according to the word of God, in submission to Christ the King, in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of the triune God. Oppressors will be destroyed or converted. “They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war,” Isa. 2:4. “And they shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build, and another inhabit, they shall not plant, and another eat.... My chosen ones shall wear out the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord, and their descendants with them,” Isa. 66:22.
The O.T. promise of a rebuilt Temple, (“Sanctuary”), in Jerusalem, was historically and partially fulfilled, after the release of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity, when they were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and the temple. But the promise was not exhaustively fulfilled at that point in time. Its ultimate fulfillment is in Christ and in the bringing of the Gentile world into the Christian Church, which is the Temple of God, Eph. 2:21, and the Holy City of God, Heb. 12:22. In Acts 15 the presbytery in Jerusalem is concerned with the conversion of so many non-Jews to Christ. James announces that it is to be expected, since the conversion of the non-Jewish world to Christ, (along with the conversion of the Jews to Christ), is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos 9:11. James quotes the O.T. promise: “After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the Tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who makes these things known from of old,” Acts 15:16-18.
C. THE PROMISE OF A MORALLY SOUND SOCIETY PURGED OF EVIL POLITICIANS, vs. 18 and 21
“When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it.”
“But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I shall bring their conduct down on their heads, declares the Lord.”
God’s people do not always have to expect to be vexed in societies dominated by perversion and apostasy, ravaged by judgment. In future history, when God brings His church to full restoration globally, those societies that are Christian will enjoy extensive freedom from the tyranny of the detestable and the abominable. Crimes will greatly decrease, evil will be greatly pushed into the back allies, detestable and abominable politicians who do not obey and enforce Biblical Law will be put out of office, along with their ilk in the media, pulpit, courtroom, classroom, executive office, etc. To the “city” who returns to God, God says, “I will turn My hand against you, and will smelt away your dross as with lye, and will remove all your alloy. Then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning; after that you will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city. Zion will be redeemed with justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness. But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together, and those who forsake the Lord shall come to an end,” Isaiah 1:25f. There is coming a time in Christian societies when any politician or voter who allows his heart to go after detestable, abominable things, God will cause his sins to be found out, and will bring the consequences of his perverted and rebellious thinking and behavior crashing down on his head.
D. THE PROMISE OF A NEW HEART, vs. 19-20
“And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people and I shall be their God.”
Here we have the heart-promise of the New Covenant in Christ, Ezekiel 36:26f; Jeremiah 31:31f; Hebrews 8:6-13. God promises His covenant people in Christ that He will renovate the entirety of their inner lives that they might live in daily obedience to God’s revealed will and enjoy daily, and eternal, union and communion with Him in Christ. This regeneration of the heart and spirit is made manifest in the believer’s obedient behavior and is blessed with intimate and eternal fellowship with the Living God day by day, and perfectly in eternity.
1. THE ONE HEART
To be given “one heart” is to be given a heart that is not divided, that is not distracted by evil and error. It is a heart that “wholeheartedly” lives on God’s Word, subjecting itself to that Word, content with the God of that Word, and addicted to true holiness of life. The hearts of evil men are divided, distracted and dominated by evil.
2. THE NEW SPIRIT
God works a complete transformation of the inner life of His chosen ones, of their affections, their imagination, their intellect, their will, their disposition, their entire “spirit.” No one can forsake his sins and turn to God until his spirit has been renewed, unless it has been born again by the Spirit of God, John 3:3. His spirit must be washed clean of sin’s depravity, set free from sin’s dominion, and reformed by the Word of God. In giving us a “new spirit” “God takes away that depravity by which we are bound down.”-Calvin.
3. THE REMOVAL OF THE HEART OF STONE
A heart of stone is a heart which is not inclined toward God, but which is inclined against Him toward evil. A heart of stone is a heart that will not and cannot make any proper responses to the overtures and commands of God, because it is dead in sin, Eph. 2:1f. “The heart of stone has no susceptibility to the impressions of the word of God and the drawing of divine grace.”- Keil. “The word of God, the external leadings of God, pass by and leave no trace behind. The latter may crush it, and yet not break it. Even the fragments continue hard; yea, the hardness goes on increasing.”-Hengstenberg. This is the heart of all fallen human beings untouched by the saving grace of God. But, God has promised us that in Christ, He would remove that depraved, hardened heart, so that we will no longer be helplessly and hopelessly willing slaves to our inclination to evil. In Christ we are liberated from the death and tyranny of sin. In Him we die to the power of sin and arise to newness of life, Rom. 6.
4. THE IMPLANTING OF THE HEART OF FLESH
After removing the heart of stone, God implants within us a heart of flesh, i.e., a tender heart, a heart susceptible to the drawing of divine grace, a heart responsive and yielded to the Word and Spirit of God, a heart full of love for the triune God, His people, His world, His Word, and for mankind, a heart that longs to live for the pleasure and glory of God, a heart full of faith in Jesus Christ, a heart held captive by the Word of Christ.
5. THE NEW WALK
The fruit and effect of the renewal of the heart is behavior from the heart and in the daily life that is obedient to the revealed will of God in the Bible. Obedience is proof of faith. Faith without obedience to God is dead. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him,” John 3:36. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” Eph. 2:8-10. In other words, God promises His people that in Christ, He not only will save them from the punishment of sin, He will save them from the tyranny of sin, so that they will die more and more to sin and live more and more unto righteousness, I Pet. 2:24. God told Joseph and Mary to name Mary’s child “Jesus, for He will save His people from their SINS,” Mat. 1:21.
6. THE NEW FELLOWSHIP
Once the image of God is renewed and restored in God’s covenant people in Christ in the power of the Spirit with the Word, God will bring that believer into the deepest, most profound, most intimate, mystical, vital and eternal union and communion with Himself possible for human beings to experience. To these chosen, redeemed, regenerated and sanctified people God will be their God and they will be His people. “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance,” Psa. 33:12. “Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever,” Psa. 16:11. Jesus prayed: “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity.... Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory...,” John 17:20f. Therefore, would you rather have the rich promises of the faithful God or the empty promises of bad politicians?
1. What is the future of all politicians who refuse to obey and enforce the Word of God in submission to Jesus Christ? Answer: God will severely punish them.
2. What is the future of all those voters who vote for, believe, and are willingly influenced by these evil politicians so that their desires and behavior are not governed by the Word of God but by the word of man? Answer: God will punish them.
3. What is the future of the USA if we continue to elect men and women to public office who will not obey and enforce Biblical Law for Jesus’ sake? Answer: God will destroy us.
4. Multiple choice: Which of the following candidates for presidency will obey and enforce Biblical Law for Jesus’ sake if elected to office: John McCain; Barak Obama; None of the above.
5. As Gary North has written: “When civil justice departs, Presidential campaigns don’t make much difference.”
6. What do Christians want in a political candidate? In 1694
Samuel Willard answered that question in his sermon, “The Character of a Good Ruler”: “He that ‘rules in the fear of God’ is one who acknowledges God to be his Sovereign, and carries in his heart an awful fear of Him; who owns his commission to be from Him, and expects ere long to be called to give in an account of his managing of it; which makes him to be diligent in all things to please God, and to be afraid of doing anything that will provoke Him.
“And accordingly he is a student in the Law of God, and ‘meditates in it day and night,’ making it the rule into which he ultimately resolves all that he does in his place. We find that in the old law, the king was to write a copy of it with his own hand, and to make use of it at all times; Dt. 17:18,19.
“If he has anything to do in the making of laws, he will consult a good conscience and what may be pleasing to God, and will be far from ‘framing mischief by a law.’ And if he be to execute any laws of men, he will not dare to give a judgment for such an one as directly crosses the command of God, but counts it ipso facto void, and his conscience acquitted of his oath. ---
“In a word, he is one that will take care to promote piety, as well as honesty, among men; and do his utmost that the true religion (of Christianity) may be countenanced and established and that all ungodliness, as well as unrighteousness, may have a due testimony borne against it at all times.”
7. What is the hope of America? The sovereign God of the Bible, who has mercy on whom He will have mercy, who has compassion on whom He will have compassion, and who hardens whom He will. Our only hope as a nation is that He would regenerate and restore His people; that He would give the American people one heart and a new spirit; that He would take away our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh that we may walk in His statutes and keep His ordinances. Then we will be His people, and God will return to us and be our God. Outside of America’s wholehearted return to Christ by her politicians and people, neither party offers any solutions to the deadly crises we face. Until that day both parties will be comprised generally of evil politicians who will lead us down the road farther from God and who deserve to be roasted like rotten meat over a raging fire.
Therefore, earnestly and constantly pray for God to revive the churches of our land by His Spirit and reform them by His Word, that they might rise up with one voice crying out to our land: “Behold your God!” Perseveringly and compassionately work to win the hearts and minds of Americans with the gospel of Christ. Don’t stop until you see the world’s nations become Christ’s disciples.
8. Whether America has a future as a nation is yet to be seen. Will she go the way of the extinct cultures of the past? Will she be restored to greatness and national glory? Only God knows. But, one thing we know for certain, the faithful Church of Christ in America has a glorious future in her coming generations. God bless and defend that church.
9. Now to end on a sad note, because that is the way our text in Ezekiel ends. Notice verses 22-23---“Then the cherubim lifted up their wings with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them. And the glory of the God of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood over the mountain which is east of the city.”
How tragic! The Glory of God departs from Jerusalem! Israel will not listen. The church will not repent! So, God abandons them to their evil politicians. Election Day 2008, will reveal again whether God has abandoned America to evil politicians and to judgment. Repent, America! Repent and turn to Christ! God bless America….with repentance!
Soli Deo Gloria!