During my first week in Fairfax in May 2011, Susan and the kids were still in KC finishing some responsibilities they had. During that week, a few members of our church invited me for dinner, and took me around town (and county) showing me certain things and introducing me to certain people. One of those trips was with Mel. We went to the nursing home in Mound City, then to Tarkio, and while in Tarkio we stopped at the post office so he could introduce me to his daughter Lori.
All of that was fine, but at each stop, he left his car doors unlocked. That didn’t really bother me until we were in downtown Tarkio. Granted downtown Tarkio is not Manhattan or even KC, but being from the city, I thought it strange.
At the time we moved up here, I made a comment about the side entry door to our garage. It did not lock (well). And it was not secure. But I was assured that Fairfax was safe, and that I shouldn’t worry. But if you remember that Spring, the flooding was just beginning to hit this area in a major way. With I-29 being shut down for months, the traffic was rerouted through Fairfax on US-59. And with the increased traffic, I heard people say they were locking their car doors and homes more than ever.
The truth is, when we feel secure, we act one way. When our security is threatened, our actions change to reflect ways to make us secure. This idea is true in so many areas of life, but it is certainly true from a spiritual perspective.
The truth of why we change our actions is that we are often seeking security in the wrong ways. For instance, it could not have been easy for a man like Daniel to know he would be placed with lions, but his security was in God. We know it was not easy for Jesus as He prepared to die – even asking for the burden to be removed from Him, but His security was in God.
But sometimes God has to shock us to get our focus back on Him. I have shared it before, but besides the enduring imagery of the burning buildings and crash sites on 9/11, the scene that is etched in my mind is of all of Congress standing united on the steps outside the capitol building singing God Bless America. How distant that unity seems now. But our nation was shocked, and God used that tragedy to draw people to Him (remember the challenge of finding a seat the next Sunday in church!).
Today, we are going to be studying Ezekiel 24. My intent is to show you what God was preparing that should have left the people in awe of God. But we know from history that they did not change their minds or their attitudes toward God. If they didn’t change then, what makes us think that we will turn and let God be our security today? (And by we, I don’t mean other people, I mean all people, including those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ.)
A Pot Boils Over (Ezekiel 24.1-14)
Last week’s Sunday School lesson was on Ezekiel 11. In that chapter, the people indicated that Jerusalem was like a pot and they were the meat inside the pot, protected from the fire. The metaphor here is that the fire represented the challenges facing God’s people. Read Ezekiel 24.3-5.
So far, so good. God seems to be echoing what they are saying. God says don’t only put meat in the pot, but make sure it is choice meat. That is what the people of Jerusalem felt. They were the people of Judah. They were in God’s holy city. They are the choicest of people represented in this parable as the choice meats. They thought that they, being God’s chosen people in God’s chosen city, were safe from the harms that fell on their countrymen. They thought wrong!
In Ezekiel 24, God used that belief of the people of Jerusalem against them. They believed their security was based on their name and in their position, not in God. So, God shocked them with a message through Ezekiel. In other words, the parable turns. Read Ezekiel 14.10-12.
God says to kindle the fire hotter. Mix in spices so presumably the meat will taste better. But the copper pot will be put directly on the coals and when it is emptied, the corrosion of the pot will show. The flames will reveal the scorched pot. The good meat really isn’t so good because the corrosion was cooked into it.
God’s point is that when we allow our pride to take control, we believe we are protected (perhaps believing we are even protected by God). But unless we remain humble before God, our arrogance will trump any bit of humility and demand that God gets our attention in a bold and shocking way. The consequences may be punishment, but God’s intention is always to bring us back to Him.
As always, we need to compare the people of Israel (and in this case Judah) then, to ourselves, and our country today. In this country, people proudly imply, “We are America.” So what? “We are one nation under God!” I think if you watch the news, you will see that we are anything but one nation, and that is partially because we are not under one God.
We are America. And we have been one nation under God. But the key is being a people with God. We need to find our security in Him, not in ourselves, otherwise, we will face the same fate as the people of Israel some 2600 years ago who thought they were a particularly special nation as well.
A Wife Dies Suddenly (Ezekiel 24.15-19) Read Ezekiel 24.15-18
I am not spending much time on this section because it really sets up the next point. But from verse 16, we see that Ezekiel must have adored his wife – she was the delight of his eyes. Ezekiel knew she would die, but he went about the work God gave him. Ezekiel learned his wife would die in verse 16-17, then went about the business of God throughout the day and when he returned home that evening, she died. And then he went about God’s business the next day as well (v. 18).
I mentioned this passage a couple of weeks ago when I talked about the responsibilities of a prophet. This may not seem fair to any of us, but remember, Ezekiel was given the task of being God’s voice (and he was still mute at this point unless God allowed him to speak). And God used the death of Ezekiel’s wife to get the attention of the people as we see in the next set of verses.
A Nation is Destroyed Completely (Ezekiel 24.20-27)
Again, the challenge Ezekiel faced knowing his wife would die, then dying, then not being to mourn must have been significant. But to think that God used that situation so that Ezekiel could share a message with the people, must have been truly challenging. Read Ezekiel 24.21-24.
In verse 16, we read that Ezekiel’s wife was the delight of his eyes. What was the delight of the people of Israel? The temple (sanctuary, v. 21). God was going to allow His temple to be destroyed. And the people were going to respond as Ezekiel had been commanded to respond in v. 17 – putting turbans on their heads, sandals on their feet, and not mourn or weep. They would groan to one another. But more importantly, on the day the temple was destroyed, someone would bring the news to Ezekiel, and his mouth would be opened finally (v. 27).
Why would it be opened? So that he could tell the people that this was God’s plan all along. The people thought they were secure in being the chosen people of God. The people thought that they were secure in being located in Jerusalem. The people thought they were secure in their relationships. The people thought they were secure with the temple in their sights. But none of those items brought real security. The only real security was, and is, in God.
And, of course, what was true in 590 BC is still true today. People place their trust, their hope, and their dreams, in so many different items thinking it will bring security. Perhaps it is your family. Perhaps it is your name. Perhaps it is your location. Perhaps it is in your job. Perhaps it is in your relationships (even a spouse like Ezekiel). Perhaps it is in this church. I don’t know what it is for you. I have my own thoughts about what it is for me. But we can all be tempted to find our security apart from God. And when that happens, we can only hope we return to Him before He sends something to shock us into remembering who He is – “then you will know that I am the Lord God” (v. 24, 27).
I began this message by talking about locking cars and houses. Locks are helpful, but they are not full proof. We have seen this truth lately as people are using a smash and grab tactic to steal from stores in cities in parts of the US. Even with high tech security, innovative thieves can break in and steal. Personally, our garage door was changed early this year. That does provide more security in one sense.
But Ezekiel 24 shows that real security can only be found in God. It is easy for any of us to forget that. We must choose to remember, or we should seek reminders. Because when we forget, we risk a campaign of shock so we will be in awe of the one true God.
The Christmas season is really a perfect time for this message. So many people around the world celebrate the holidays, with Christmas being a big part of it. We have all heard the phrase, “the reason for the season” in a context of not forgetting. But as a reminder of last week’s message, we do forget – all too often. However, God does not forget.
So, this Christmas season, we are signing and sending cards (along with prayers) to many different people. We have delivered them to the nursing homes. And we are now signing even more for the people who serve at the hospital and in law enforcement. It is a simple gesture for us to spread hope and joy and to remind others of the love God showed in the giving of Himself in a manger, and the hope we can have because of the gift He gave in laying down His life on the cross.
For us, it is an opportunity to serve those who serve us. For the recipients, it may be a reminder that could prevent them from facing a shock. God may use these cards as a nudge. However, He uses them, that is up to Him. But we can do our part in sharing a little of the love and hope we have because of all that God has done for us.
Note: Title, Main Points, and some parts of the explanation are taken from Lifeway’s Explore the Bible, “Ezekiel-Daniel”, Winter 2022 Pastor Resources (relating the sermons to the SS lessons).