Wedding of Rhodri and Sibyl

Text: Genesis 2:24 Time: 12/09/09 Place: Childs Hill Baptist Church
Let me begin with a word of explanation. We want to celebrate Rhodri and Sibyl's marriage in various ways today but we've begun with the marriage vows themselves and that in the context of worshipping God. The most important thing in true worship is when God's Word is read and expounded. So although you may have been to weddings where there was no sermon, we're not going to do it that way today. There is a sermon and for the next 25 minutes or so I want us to look together at God's Word. The verse I particularly want to focus on is found in Genesis 2:24. It reads
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Now what I want to do is simply to look at the verse in its context and seek to explain what it says. In doing this I'm speaking especially to Rhodri and Sibyl but indeed to all of us gathered here today before God.
I want to say four main things.
1. Understand that marriage is not a man-made idea but a God given one
We begin with the words For this reason. At this point, it would appear, Moses, who wrote Genesis, adds a comment. Until now he has simply described what happened – how God made the world and particularly the first human beings.
In Genesis 2 he speaks here of how after God had first formed the world, there was no rain and no man to work the ground so God sent streams that came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then, we read in verse 7, the LORD God formed the first man, the man we call Adam. He used the dust of the ground - no great surprise there as we know that our bodies are made up entirely of materials found in the ground but (and we must never forget this) he also gave man a soul. He breathed it says into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Now this man was put, Moses reliably informs us, in a beautiful, well-watered garden planted by God himself, in Eden. Man's role there was to be to work it and take care of it. Work has always been part of being human – from the beginning. The man was allowed to eat from any tree except for one.
At first it was just Adam, but Moses tells us that, on what must still have been that same sixth day of creation, that (18) The LORD God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. That might have made a good text too today - It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Moses then explains how all the animals and birds that God had created were brought ... to the man so that he could name them and he gave names to all of them. That's another characteristically human activity that goes back to the very beginning – naming things, describing and cataloguing them. But, says Moses in verse 20, for Adam no suitable helper was found. And so what happened was that God performed the first ever operation. Using his own anaesthetic he (21-23) caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; while he slept, God took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.
Now I am well aware that many people think this is just a story and they prefer their own stories – however bizarre they may be. However, there is every reason to believe that this is God's Word and that what we are told here is true. This is how it all began – Adam, our first father, we are ll descended from him, being from the ground but with a soul; Adam first then the woman, Eve; the woman to help the man not the man to help the woman; the man and the woman, the first and only couple on earth.
Now you may say “okay you can believe that if you want but what does it have to do with what's happening today?”. Well, that's the point. It is for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, .... You see, you've come here today to wish Rhodri and Sibyl well but you're not necessarily saying that you think this is the only way of going about things. If that's what they want they have your blessing but you're not going to commit yourself any further. And it is very tempting for me to leave it at that. But we're not saying that this is simply a good idea, we're saying more. We're saying this is the right way to go about things, the only right way, the way that God himself ordained. Now I know that is offensive to many people today but I do want you to understand properly what is happening. This is not just a way of doing things, it is the right way, God's way, the way he always intended for human beings.
I was half listening to radio programme the other week on technical manuals for products. They interviewed a man about writing these things – the difficulties, the importance of not making assumptions, etc. Well, imagine a perfect product with a perfect maker's manual. Yes, you could use the product in ways not recommended in the manual but surely the best thing to do would be to follow the maker's instructions. That's what we're endeavouring to do today – to follow the Maker's instructions.
Marriage is as fundamental as there being seven days in a week and one of them being a day of rest; as fundamental as man being both body and soul; as fundamental as his working and naming things. Marriage is not just a good idea, it is a God idea.
2. Realise that it involves a man leaving his parents
So what does it say next? For this reason a man will leave his father and mother. What is happening here today is that we are formally recognising, firstly, that Rhodri is leaving his father and mother. He was born to us nearly 20 years ago now and although he hasn't been literally under our roof quite all that time, he's been our responsibility. Now today that changes. Not that we won't care for you or help you or even offer you a bed from now on – and Sibyl too, of course. I'm sure that goes for Sibyl's parents, Dennis and Josey too, as it's similar for Sibyl. In Psalm 45:10 the Bride is told Forget your people and your father's house.
So formally speaking, we are acknowledging, Rhodri, that you are leaving us, just as I left my parents all those years ago. You are forming a new household, with all the responsibilities that entails. In a similar way, Sibyl, you are leaving your parents to be with Rhodri.
Now again I am aware that not everyone does it this way. In some societies, for example the son doesn't leave his father and mother. Rather, the wife joins his family or more rarely he joins hers and they are both under one patriarch. That is not the biblical pattern. Rather, there is leaving your father and mother to begin a new household. In many ways it is not instinctive. Your mother and father are your own flesh and blood, the person you marry is not necessarily related to you at all – indeed must not be too closely related. Of course, as we shall see, there is more to be said, but it is in some ways counter-intuitive.
It is important to keep in mind this leaving idea. It will do at least two things.
1. It will keep us, as your parents (and Dennis and Josey too) from any temptation to meddle in your affairs. Inevitably, we are going to have differences of opinion on certain things – how you spend your money or organise your home, how you bring up any children, etc. Now it is important that we parents remember that you are leaving and do not try to interfere too much.
2. The other thing this does is to wake you up to your responsibilities. You are now the head of a new household, Rhodri. You are responsible. It's like a fresh start. You've seen us trying to do it and you can see (hopefully) some good examples and (no doubt) places where there could be improvements. It's a daunting thought in some ways – but God will be with you if you look to him.
3. Realise that it involves a man being united to his wife
A man will leave his father and mother is the negative side, really; the positive side comes next - and be united to his wife. The reason why you're leaving us today, Rhodri, is not that you're fed up with us (I trust) or something like that. Rather, it is in order to be united to your wife, to Sibyl. The word Moses uses means to cling or adhere to – like cling film or glue, I guess. It means to join or can be used for running hard after, keeping up with. You need to keep up with each other, we could put it. You two together are now forming a new unit, a new household, by being joined in this way.
You've seen how your own parents did things, you've seen other couples, and, as we said, there are things you like and things you've been less impressed with. Now it's your turn. As long as you seek to follow the patterns laid down in Scripture and as long as you remain committed to both the leaving (leaving your parents) and the cleaving or uniting (Rhodri to Sibyl, Sibyl to Rhodri) then there is plenty of flexibility and a wonderful opportunity for you to do things (hopefully) at least as well but hopefully much better than those who went before.
I think that when you see marriage in these dynamic terms it's really exciting. It's made me quite excited again as I have prepared this. It is not 'just a bit of paper' as some people say. No, it's a covenant of leaving and cleaving, of departing and uniting that is full of potential for the glory of God. Do try always to think of it in that way.
You have not been forced into this. It is your choice to marry each other. It is a reminder to us all that choosing a life partner is one that cannot be taken lightly. It takes a lot of prayer and a lot of patience. The important thing for you now though is to be united now to each other in every way. You remember Jesus's famous words that I used earlier Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.
4. In marriage the two become one flesh
Then the last bit - and they will become one flesh. Moses takes things a step further here. Yes, a man is united to his wife but, more than that they will become one flesh. You sometimes see these number plate style things on wedding cards, etc – U2R1. That's about right I guess.
Now obviously, this happens on a physical level in sexual union. Great efforts are constantly being made to divorce sex and marriage. Many people today want to see sex as just a way of recreation. “You don't have to be married to have sex” someone may say. No, but then you can drive a car that's not yours or kill your next door neighbour or tell lies, too, and do many other things. 'Can' and Should' are two different words. The fact is that God wants people to enjoy sex in the marriage bed – not anywhere else. Again, it is a question of whether we are going to follow the Maker's instructions or not. You can open a tin of paint with a chisel (I confess I've actually tried it but don't recommend it) - but it isn't good for the chisel!
The idea of becoming one flesh reflects what Adam said when he first saw Eve (23) This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman' for she was taken out of man. This is not to say that a single person is less than fully human – Jesus himself never married. However, the Bible does a have a very high view of marriage and we should too. There is something essentially wholesome about it. It is a reminder that the first woman was bone of Adam's bones and flesh of his flesh. The very name woman, in Hebrew at least, reflects the fact that Eve was taken out of man – not forgetting at the same time, of course, as Paul reminds us, that every man also comes from woman by being born to them. We are intricately connected.
The verse that follows also ought to be noted (25) The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. These were the days of man's innocence, before sin came into the world. It is not like that now but within marriage there is no shame in nakedness and by God's grace something of that beginning may be recaptured.
Being one flesh, of course, is much more than sexual union. What goes on ideally in marriage is that the two partners, man and wife, are increasingly woven together as one. Just as they entwine their fingers and their bodies so their lives become entwined. Obviously they remain two people but their lives become so intertwined that it is sometimes difficult to know the difference. I have noticed since my mother died how certain things that I thought were very much her are in fact things more characteristic of my dad. I think it is fair to say that this melding process is difficult, especially in the beginning. I'm sure you've heard me say that even walking under the same umbrella arm in arm is almost impossible. You know each other quite well – but you don't know everything about each other and living as one flesh is bound to bring out things not yet discovered. This is how it is to be, however, they will become one flesh or indeed are one flesh or even have become one flesh. It can be translated in different ways.
In the New Testament, in Ephesians 5:28, Paul concludes from this that husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He argues He who loves his wife loves himself. For you, Rhodri, to fail to love Sibyl entirely is not only wrong but it is a form of madness. Do love her and never be harsh with her. And you Sibyl, as you know, are to submit to your husband(s) as to the Lord.
So, to conclude - marriage is not a man-made idea but a God given one; it involves leaving your parents and being united to each other so that you become one flesh.
If you are married, remain committed to that marriage.
If you are not, do consider what God has ordained and respect it.
Rhodri and Sibyl, may you increasingly, day by day, know the joy of living according to this God-given ordinance and may he bless you in it. Amen.

Hear God's Word, Act on it

Text Ezekiel 33 Time 09 09 07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
I want us to turn again to the Prophecy of Ezekiel and to begin on the final section of it, which is in Chapters 33-48. These chapters contain the third round of prophecies.
You may remember that chapters 25-32 are taken up with prophecies against the nations around Israel. Now in Chapter 33 Ezekiel begins to turn back to his own people again. Part of what he says in this chapter repeats what he said near the beginning of his ministry back in Chapter 3 and that he amplified in Chapter 18. It is ground worth covering again, however, as it reminds us of Ezekiel's work and of the basis on which God deals with people. We also hear in this chapter of the taking of Jerusalem and at the end judgement is announced on those who refused to listen to Ezekiel.
There are four things to consider here then
1. Understand what God's spokesmen do – that they are watchmen
God's Word comes once again to Ezekiel. He is told to speak again to his countrymen. First a picture is established then it is applied. So
1. Consider what a watchman does
God says When I bring the sword against a land, when there is an enemy attack then and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, that's what a watchman does – he sounds the alarm (4) then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. You need to listen for the alarm and act. Verse 5 Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. I suppose a modern equivalent would be if in a hotel there was a fire officer whose job was to sound the alarm if there was a fire. If you heard the sound of the alarm but didn't do anything about it then your blood would be on your own head. You would be responsible.
Alternatively (6) But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood. To take our modern example again – if for some reason the fire officer failed to sound the alarm even though there was a fire then it is likely someone would be hurt, someone might even lose their life. Further, the fire officer would be accountable for that person's life – because he failed to warn them.
It is a simple picture then - the watchman has the responsibility to warn people. If they do not respond there will be repercussions. If the watchman himself falls down on the job then he will be held responsible.
2. See how a man who speaks for God is like a watchman
Now the point of all this comes from verse 7 on. Son of man, God addresses Ezekiel once more I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. Ezekiel the prophet is like a watchman to Israel. The very words he is speaking are to be delivered with this in mind. There are two possible outcomes here -
1 Not speaking
Verse 8 When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you will surely die, says God and you (Ezekiel) do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. If Ezekiel should fail to speak, he would be like an ancient watchman seeing the enemy but not blowing his trumpet or a modern fire officer failing to set off the fire alarm even though there is a fire. That's true not only of Ezekiel and the other prophets but of all who are called to speak up in God's name. If I fail to warn you of the dangers ahead – of sin, of God's wrath, of Satan, of death, of judgement, of hell then I am letting you down, I am failing you – and God will hold me responsible for such a failure. Indeed, all who are Christians have a responsibility to some extent here. We must sound the alarm. We must let people know their danger
2 Speaking
Alternatively (9) God says But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself. If the fire officer raises the alarm but people refuse to respond it is a tragedy but the officer cannot be blamed for it. We must let people know their danger – whether they then turn to the Lord or not. Some may turn but others will not. Nevertheless we must let them know the truth. We have a responsibility. Are we taking this responsibility seriously?
2. Understand God's basic outlook and the terms on which we stand before him
In verse 10 Ezekiel says that people were saying Our offences and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live? This sort of message is too much Ezekiel. We can't cope with it. But listen to these important and indeed wonderful words here.
1. A vital principle to understand concerning God
Verse 11 Say to them, As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. What a vital thing this is for us to grasp! Yes, God is a God of wrath, a God of judgement, a God who punishes but let us be absolutely clear about this – he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. No, he wants everyone to repent and to turn to him. When we speak to people about Jesus Christ this must be the conviction in our minds and thoughts. Now I know there are some difficulties in seeing how what appear to be to us conflicting ideas fit together yet this is the plain word of Scripture. God says I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. And if your theology has no place for this then your theology is wrong and needs to change. There are people with a morbid fascination with the sufferings of others, sadists who like to torture others and see them in trouble. Yet, this is the very opposite of what God is like. We had this foot and mouth outbreak in the summer and cattle were slaughtered wholesale. Did anyone take any pleasure in that at all? Only some sort of pervert could. No it was horrible but necessary. That is one way we can think of hell - horrible but necessary. There is such a place as hell but be in no doubt at all that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather longs for them to turn from their ways and live. If that is God's outlook, it should be ours too.
2. See how the vital principle is applied
The application is obvious Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Says the Lord Why will you die, O house of Israel? He urges Ezekiel to speak to his countrymen and say (12a) The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. What does that mean? It is very simple
1 See the need to persevere in righteousness
Verses 12b, 13 The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness. If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. Here is a person, say, he is brought up to go to church, he says he agrees with it all, gets baptised and becomes a church member. Perhaps he is a deacon in the church. He has a good reputation with everyone. But he grows proud of his reputation and status and he begins to get careless and evil begins to creep into his life. That is not a godly man. That is not a man who is acceptable to God. He will die for the evil he has done.
2 See the need to turn from wickedness
Verses 14-16 And if I say to the wicked man, You will surely die, but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right - if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, for example returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live. Or suppose another person. He is not brought up to go to church, indeed he never goes there and says he disagrees with it all. He has a bad reputation with everyone and causes trouble wherever he goes. But say he the turns away from his sin. He cleans up his act, begins to come to church and to try and out right all his wrongs – returning stolen goods, paying back debts, etc. In short, he becomes a faithful Christian. Well, that is a man who is acceptable to God. God will forgive him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.
3. Complaining is unacceptable
Yet people complained then and they still complain now that there is something unjust about God's ways. Verse 17 Yet your countrymen say, The way of the Lord is not just. The truth is that it is their way that is not just.
Think it through (18) If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. Isn't that fair? Here's a person who says he'll be good and appears to be but then goes and does just what the wicked do. What is unjust about God punishing a person like that? Would you want to say that because the man started off okay then he should live? That would be like saying to a child if you are good all morning then there will be a reward at lunch time and then saying 'Ah well, you were good for the first hour but then you did something wrong but I'll still reward you'. No, an hour of good is a not a morning of good just as being good for a while, when you are young say, is not the same as a life time of righteousness.
Similarly (19) And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so. Isn't it to God's glory that he is willing to forgive? Surely it makes sense. Here's a child and you say 'Well, you've been bad all morning or all morning and afternoon but if you can be good for the rest of the day – until bed-time, I will forgive you and we'll forget about your naughtiness.' What is unjust there? Verse 20 Yet, O house of Israel, you say, The way of the Lord is not just. Then he adds But I will judge each of you according to his own ways. 'Oh how unfair God is' people complain but that is simply not true.
Are you righteous here this morning? Have you found the righteousness that comes through trusting in Christ and seeking to do his will? Well, then go on being righteous in him. Don't turn from it. If you do, it will simply prove that you were never the Lord's in the first place. It will show you never really did love the Lord. You will die in your sins. Don't trust in your own righteousness real or supposed. Trust only in Christ and look to him.
Or are you wicked this morning? Full of a sense of your own sin and evil? There's a sense in which we can all say that. Then turn from your sins now. If you turn away from your sins and do what is just and right then there is hope. You will surely live; you will not die. None of the sins you've committed will be remembered against you. You will live. Do not doubt it.
3. Consider the fall of Jerusalem and this final word of judgement on Judah
Three things here
1. Hear about the fall of Jerusalem
Have you ever received bad news? Bad exam results, a disappointment, a death? It is a terrible thing. Even if you're expecting it – that moment is not easy. As we come to verse 21 there is a change of pace. Ezekiel describes how one day he received bad news. Verse 21 In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, The city has fallen! The very thing that Ezekiel has been prophesying has now come to pass. It has happened. Back in 24:5-7 it was described to him - And you, son of man, on the day I take away their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes, their heart's desire, and their sons and daughters as well - on that day a fugitive will come to tell you the news. At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak with him and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD. The actual arrival of the news appears to be well over a year later but given the situation that is understandable.
Ezekiel then explains that (22) the evening before the man arrived, the hand of the LORD was upon me, and he opened my mouth before the man came to me in the morning. So my mouth was opened and I was no longer silent. The point here appears to be that Ezekiel began again to prophesy to the people (rather than the nations around) at just about the same time. Just as Ezekiel's prophecy came true here so all the prophecies in God's Word will come true. There is no need to doubt even one of them. Ezekiel spoke the truth – hear him!
2. Beware of false hopes
The rugby world cup has started. The hosts, France, are hotly favoured. Being the hosts they played the first game, against Argentina, a game they fully expected to win. But that's not how it turned out. They were beaten 17-12. Their hopes were great – but they were false.
Here in verse 23 we read how the word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel again (24) Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession. Incredibly, despite the fall of Jerusalem, people back in Judah were still confident of being able to get out of the situation. Ezekiel has a message for such people (25, 26) This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, (in other words they were merrily sinning against God) should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you do detestable things, and each of you defiles his neighbour's wife. Should you then possess the land? They were typified by a lack of regard for religion, by idolatry and violence. They were proud, wicked and lustful. It was a false hope to think that they could retain the Promised Land. Are you entertaining false hopes? You hope to go to heaven – but do you know what heaven is like? Do you not see that your lifestyle is in conflict with that? Beware of false hopes.
3. Hear this word of judgement against sin
And so we have this word of judgement again from God in verses 27-29 As surely as I live, those who are left in the ruins will fall by the sword, those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to be devoured, and those in strongholds and caves will die of a plague. I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done. Yet again they are being warned because they still hadn't listened. Are you hardening your heart? Are you refusing to listen? Don't do it! Be in no doubt that God will judge you if you continue to resist him.
4. Are you in danger of hearing God's Word but not putting it into practice?
So once again I am declaring to you God's holy Word. But will it do any good? People heard Ezekiel in his day. They were present when this great and holy man of God spoke – but they are in hell now. Why? Because although they heard the words that Ezekiel spoke, they did not really listen. Look how it is described here at the end of the chapter, in verses 30-33. God says As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD. It sounds encouraging but look at verse 31 - My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. They seem to be good and holy people but they are not interested in religion only in making money unfairly. See verse 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. They're like people listening to someone singing a song, says God. Oh, they liked to hear Ezekiel prophesy, and may be you like to hear preaching too but it's like listening to the radio. You put the radio on, you enjoy the music but if I said to you – what was that man singing about or what was that woman singing about you would only have the vaguest of ideas, and even if you did know it would not be something that would affect your life. You wouldn't be changing your lifestyle because of something you heard in a song.
And is it any different when you listen to the preaching of the Word? Do you remember what is said? Do you do anything about it? Is the Word of God shaping your life? Is it having an impact? For many in Ezekiel's day the words they heard from him really made no difference. Let's not make that mistake.
Finally, the chapter ends not on a discouraging note but an affirmative one. Verse 33 When all this comes true - and it surely will - then they will know that a prophet has been among them. Just as it was in Ezekiel's day so in our own, the truth will out in the end. We can look back at Ezekiel's day and we can see that he spoke the truth, without question. So it will be in the future too. You can be assured that we are speaking the truth about sin, judgement, the world to come. Do not doubt it. Amen.

Five Pictures of Judgement

Text Ezekiel 30-32 Time 01 07 07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
This morning I want us to look at Ezekiel's final prophecies against the nations as found in Ezekiel 30-32. Like Chapter 29, these chapters are all given over chiefly to prophecies against the Egyptians, although other nations are mentioned too. In these chapters we find some five prophecies – one undated, then two from the eleventh year and two from the twelfth year. We are familiar now with the sort of language used. The theme is again judgement and several more times we have the prophecy and they will know that I am the LORD.
In each of the prophecies we have words of judgement against the Egyptians and in each of them we can pick out one very vivid picture that is used to help bring home to us the judgement. As we have said before these are temporal judgements against the Egyptians but they prefigure the final judgement that is going to come on us all.
1. Consider this prophecy with no date and picture the day of the Lord as coming like clouds and a storm
In Chapter 30 from verse 2, Ezekiel is told to Wail and say, Alas for that day! For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near - a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. The phrase the day of the Lord is a favourite one in Scripture for speaking about judgement.
He speaks of a sword coming against Egypt anguish coming on their neighbours Cush. The slain will fall and Egypt's wealth will be carried away and her foundations torn down. All their neighbours will go down too - Cush and Put, Lydia and all Arabia, Libya and even some from the Promised land too. These allies of Egypt will fall and her proud strength will fail. Several Egyptian cities are mentioned as God circles round, as it were, destroying them one by one – Migdol, Aswan and all between will be left desolate and ruined. What fear and anguish there will be all around. God will destroy the idols and put an end to the images in Memphis. No longer will there be a prince in Egypt. God will lay waste Upper Egypt, set fire to Zoan and inflict punishment on Thebes. He will pour out his wrath on Pelusium, the stronghold of Egypt, and cut off the hordes of Thebes. He will set fire to Egypt; Pelusium will writhe in agony. Thebes will be taken by storm; Memphis will be in constant distress. The young men of Heliopolis and Bubastis will fall by the sword, and the cities themselves will go into captivity. Tahpanhes will also suffer.
The actual carrier out of this judgement is, of course, Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. He and his army - the most ruthless of nations - will be brought in to destroy the land. They will draw their swords against Egypt and fill the land with the slain ... by the hand of foreigners I will lay waste the land and everything in it.
Other images are used - a sword, a yoke being broken, fire, being crushed, drying up the Nile and selling the land to evil men – but if we focus on this picture of - a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations, a dark day at Tahpanhes and elsewhere, She will be covered with clouds, and her villages will go into captivity – it will help us to get into our minds what that day is going to be like.
We are having some unseasonably bad weather at the moment and this week I'm sure you've looked into the skies and seen the dark clouds and realised that another storm is about to come. Well, in a similar way the dark clouds of judgement are gathering and soon God's doom will come on the nations. Jesus speaks of it at the end of the Sermon on the Mount
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine about seeking and finding and taking the narrow way and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Turn to Christ now before the storm comes and you cannot escape.
2. Consider this prophecy from the eleventh year and picture the judgement as like having two broken arms not healed
At the end of Chapter 30 (20-26) we have a further word of prophecy – given early in the eleventh year of exile. Here the picture used is of Pharaoh having his arms broken and them not being healed.
First God says I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt. It has not been bound up for healing or put in a splint so as to become strong enough to hold a sword. Then he says I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt. I will break both his arms, the good arm as well as the broken one, and make the sword fall from his hand. More prosaically, I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries. Through the strengthening of the arms of the Babylonians God is going to break the arms of Pharaoh, and he will groan before him like a mortally wounded man. Verse 25 I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh will fall limp. Twice more we get Then they will know that I am the LORD.
This is a very blunt and straightforward picture of judgement. One moment you are busy doing things with both arms, a sword in one, some other weapon in the other but then - first one, then the other is broken and the weapons drop from your hands. Have you ever broken an arm? First there is pain and then there is the inability to act. If both arms are broken you can do little for yourself – you certainly can't defend yourself.
So I say to you, give up your fight against God now. Surrender! You will not be able to fight on. Your arms will be broken.
3. Consider this prophecy given less than two months later and picture the judgement as like the felling of a magnificent tree
In Chapter 31 we have another prophecy directed chiefly at Pharaoh king of Egypt and ... his hordes. The image used here is that of a great and magnificent tree, such as a cedar or something similar, crashing to the ground. Again, other ideas are brought in but that's the main one.
1. A picture of worldly glory as a magnificent tree
God says first Who can be compared with you in majesty? Consider Assyria, (this may rather be referring to the name of a tree) once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; it towered on high, its top above the thick foliage. We read of the waters nourishing it, deep springs making it grow tall; ... streams flowing all around its base and watering all the trees of the field. This tree towers higher than all the trees of the field; it grows outward as well as outward its boughs and branches growing long and spreading. Birds nest in the boughs, all the beasts of the field give birth under its branches. Other nations benefited from Egypt's success. It was majestic in beauty, with its spreading boughs, for its roots went down to abundant waters. Even the trees of Eden couldn't compare with it nor could any other tree match its beauty. I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God.
2. Its judgement is announced
From verse 10 God goes on Because it towered on high, lifting its top above the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height, I handed it over to the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. Egypt is cast aside. The most ruthless of foreign nations (the Babylonians) cut it down and leave it. Its boughs fall everywhere. Its branches lay broken in all the ravines of the land. The birds flew off and the animals went. There was nothing any more for the nations who previously looked to Egypt. Further from verse 14 God says Therefore no other trees by the waters are ever to tower proudly on high, lifting their tops above the thick foliage. No other trees so well-watered are ever to reach such a height; they are all destined for death, for the earth below, among mortal men, with those who go down to the pit.
3. The reaction to the judgement is described
There is great mourning for Egypt. Lebanon is clothed with gloom. All the trees of the field wither(ed) away. The nations tremble at the sound of its fall when I brought it down to the grave with those who go down to the pit. There is consolation now for the trees of Eden – the other nations, but Those who lived in its shade, its allies among the nations, also went down to the grave with it, joining those killed by the sword.
4. The judgement is summed up
Verse 18 Which of the trees of Eden can be compared with you in splendour and majesty? Yet you, too, will be brought down with the trees of Eden to the earth below; you will lie among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his hordes, declares the Sovereign LORD.
In the Sermon on the Mount again Jesus speaks of good deeds as being like good fruit on a tree. Where there is no fruit or the fruit is bad the tree must be cut down and thrown into the fire. By nature we are bad trees who bear bad fruit but Christ can change us so that we produce good deeds for his glory. If we do not we will be cut down, felled. We will go crashing down.
4. Consider this prophecy from the twelfth year and picture the judgement as like the capture of a wild animal
In Chapter 32 verses 1-16 we have yet another prophecy, this time from the twelfth year. Ezekiel is again commanded to take up a lament. This time Pharaoh is pictured as being like a lion among the nations; or, as before a monster in the seas thrashing about in your streams, churning the water with your feet and muddying the streams. What is about to happen is that God is about to cast his net over him and they will haul you up in my net. Then (as before) he is told he will be thrown on the land hurled into an open field. Birds of the air will settle on him and all the beasts of the earth gorge themselves on him. God will spread his flesh on the mountains and fill the valleys with his remains. His blood and flesh will be everywhere.
Then using an image more like the first one God says (from verse 7) When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, ... When Egypt's destruction comes many will be troubled and appalled by it. Kings will shudder with horror ... In the day of your downfall each of them will tremble every moment for his life. This, of course, is because God was going to send the sword of the King of Babylon against them. Egypt will be conquered. Babylon would shatter the pride of Egypt and overthrow its hordes. Her sacred cattle will be destroyed and her waters stirred up until they are allowed to settle again.
Yet again we have (32:15) When I make Egypt desolate and strip the land of everything in it, when I strike down all who live there, then they will know that I am the LORD.
Those who rebel against God are like wild animals running from God but they will be captured in the end. There is no escape. His net will be cast and you will be trapped. When a wild horse has a rider on its back for the first time it does all it can to throw him off. Eventually, however, it is subdued. We too must be subdued by Jesus. Accept his rule. Submit to him.
5. Consider this final prophecy also from the twelfth year and picture the judgement in terms of going down into the pit
In Chapter 32 verses 17-32 Ezekiel is called again to wail for the hordes of Egypt. This time Egypt's future is pictured as being among the dead – in the pit. Egypt is to be consigned to the earth below. Egypt and other nations will go down to the pit. Ezekiel is to say Are you more favoured than others? Go down and be laid among the uncircumcised. They are going to fall by the sword and in the abode of death those who have gone down into the pit before will say They have come down and they lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.
Other nations that have already come under God's judgements are then spoken of as also being in this pit.
Verses 22, 23 Assyria is there with her whole army; she is surrounded by the graves of all her slain, all who have fallen by the sword. Their graves are in the depths of the pit and her army lies around her grave. All who had spread terror in the land of the living are slain, fallen by the sword.
Similar things are said about Elam, Meshech and Tubal, Edom and all the princes of the north and all the Sidonians. Then Egypt will realise that the same fate has overtaken them because of their sins in the land of the living.
Hell is pictured in various ways in the Bible. Here it is the realm of the dead, the lower parts of the earth, a deep pit filled with those who opposed God.
Is that your destiny? It is if you go on in sin and refuse to repent. Repent now. Turn to Christ before it is too late.

Don't love the world, it's doomed

Text Ezekiel 29 Time 24 06 07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We are looking at Ezekiel's prophecies against the nations around. We have considered his brief prophecies against Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia, and his longer prophecy and lament against Tyre and then, more briefly again, against Sidon. The last of these prophecies is again at some length and concerns the nation of Egypt. There are four chapters altogether containing different prophecies given at different times. It's around a twelfth of the book then. We will look today just at what is found in Chapter 29. That chapter contains two prophecies - the first given on the twelfth day of the tenth month in the tenth year of Israel's exile in Babylon and the second some 16 years later on the very 1st day of the twenty-seventh year.
Now Egypt, of course, was one of the great powers of the day with powerful Pharaohs, great economic power and plenty of influence over other nations, although even then it was very much in decline. It had been the most powerful nation in the area but those days were in the past and they were currently struggling against the Cyrenians, were about to suffer at the hands of the Babylonians and would soon be more like be the nation we know as Egypt as today – (29:14-16) a lowly kingdom ... the lowliest of kingdoms not exalting itself above the other nations. ... so weak that it will never again rule over the nations.
When we read about Egypt in the Bible we are reading mostly about earthly or worldly power and it is a reminder to us of at least three things.
1. Opposition. The way that the world mistreats and abuses God's people. The world's opposition to God and his people is strong now – Egypt stands for suffering and slavery and figuratively is where our Lord was slain (Revelation 11:8). The world, with the Devil and our flesh, is one of our three great enemies.
2. Worldliness. Of how so often believers can be drawn to the world and think that the world can and will help us. Sometimes we are tempted in various ways to think that we can harness the word's power and use it for God's kingdom, as Israel was.
3. Judgement. That though the people of this world have much power now it will not last. They will be brought down. The world cannot last. Judgement is fast approaching.
1. Consider God's opposition to worldly pride and learn not to trust the world
1. Beware of pride
So here once again is ... the word of the LORD that came to Ezekiel. It said (2,3) Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. Speak to him and say: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, "The Nile is mine; I made it for myself."
As you may know the River Nile was very important in the economy of Egypt – everything was dependent on its ebb and flow. Here Pharaoh is pictured here as a great fish or a crocodile or some other water creature wallowing in the Nile and proudly declaring "The Nile is mine; I made it for myself." It seems faintly ridiculous put like that but that was how Egyptian kings behaved. Pharaoh was filled with arrogance and pride in his self-sufficiency. He thought he was unique and independent but the Sovereign Lord, the true God, is against him and his deceitful pride cannot last.
It's how people behave today too. Think of fat cats sat on their pile and saying "The money's mine; I made it for myself" or someone who has known some success boasting "I did it my way" – people even have that song played at their funerals!
And you may luxuriate in what God has provided and you may boast that you are the "captain of your own ship" but in fact you are in God's hands and he can do with you just as he pleases. Remember that. It is the answer to all the pride and self-glory that lies at the root of the world's attitudes.
2. Hear this threat of judgement
4, 5 But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. I will leave you in the desert, you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air. God is going to put hooks in the jaws of this creature and pull him out. In the process all the other fish that cling to him, all the hangers on in Egypt and beyond, will be affected too. They will be dragged from the Nile, as it were, along with him and left in a desert – exposed and abandoned - food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air.
The historian Herodotus wrote of how Pharaoh Hophrah reigned in prosperity for 25 years and was so full of his own success that he boasted that 'God himself could not cast him out of his kingdom' but he suffered a rude awakening.
Hear this threat of judgement to all who seek to oppose God and live for self. God will deal with you as he will deal with all who rebel against him.
3. Consider the result of God's judgements
Here it is again (6a) Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the LORD. This is the purpose of God's judgements. You have heard the phrase many times before. Remember it. The world strenuously opposes God now but one day they will know that he is the Lord.
4. Learn not to trust in the world
It goes on (6, 7) You have been a staff of reed for the house of Israel. When they grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched. This prophecy was given at a time when God's people were particularly prone to thinking that Egypt was the answer to their problem with the Babylonians. An alliance with the Egyptians – that is the answer. But no – this walking stick that they though would help them along was going to splinter and tear into their shoulders as they leaned on it. It was going to wrench their backs as they tried to put their weight on it.
We who are believers are also tempted to get embroiled in the world and to start following its ways and relying on it too. What foolishness. Such supports are bound to fail and we will go crashing down with them if we dare to rely on them. Look to God alone. Lean on Christ. He'll uphold you. Don't start thinking like a worldling – living for money or for entertainment or for so-called 'success'.
2. Consider God's judgement on the world and the note of mercy sounded here
1. Consider God's judgement on Egypt
In 8-12 we have a description of the coming judgement on Egypt. God says
I will bring a sword against you and kill your men and their animals. Egypt will become a desolate wasteland. Then they will know that I am the LORD. Because you said, The Nile is mine; I made it, therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. No foot of man or animal will pass through it; no one will live there for 40 years. I will make the land of Egypt desolate among devastated lands, and her cities will lie desolate 40 years among ruined cities. And I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries.
Here is a warning of the sword then - of war, of devastation and desolation, of scattering and exile. Ezekiel has the coming Babylonian invasion in mind but it points us to the final judgement that will surely come at the end. God is consequently bringing his judgements on various nations – they rise and they fall at God's will. Each one points us on to the coming final judgement. It's a little like mock exams in school perhaps. They are important but their aim is to prepare you for the real thing. Are we ready for that coming judgement? Do we realise what will happen to the world, to those who oppose God then? It seems strong now but not then when devastation comes and they are scattered. How will you face the judgement? Are you holding on to Jesus now?
2. Consider the element of mercy mixed with his judgement
Already we note that the worst of the judgement is limited – to 40 years. In 13, 14 the words of mercy are spelled out. Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: At the end of 40 years I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered. I will bring them back from captivity and return them to Upper Egypt, the land of their ancestry. There they will be a lowly kingdom. Around the time of Israel's own return from exile something similar happened it seems to the Egyptians.
Notice that it is only a partial mercy. 15, 16 It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it will never again rule over the nations. God's purpose in this is the good of his people - Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.
Here is an encouragement then to consider God's providence - the things he does in the world. There are not only judgements but also acts of mercy. Take this country as an example. My father is now 78 and so he is old enough (like one or two of you) to remember 'Empire day'. I'm only 48 but I can still remember articles with 'Empire made' (which usually meant Hong Kong) written on them. Yes, Britain was once (and not too long ago) a superpower like America today or Russia a little while ago. But that is now gone. Nevertheless, God has continued to show us many mercies. We still have a stable government and much freedom to preach the gospel. We should be thankful and see it as a sign of God's favour. Let's take full advantage of it.
3. Consider God's timing and the fact that though it may seem long in coming his judgement will arrive
From verse 17 we have another prophecy of Ezekiel. You notice that it was given some 16 years later than the first one and is one of the last of his prophecies to be recorded in the book. It is put in here because it fits with the theme. After destroying Jerusalem Nebuchadnezzar spent two or three campaigns in the conquest of the Ammonites and Moabites. He then spent a long 13 years on the siege of Tyre. All that time the Egyptians were embroiled in a war with their Cyrenian neighbours and with each other, which very much weakened them. Now just as the siege of Tyre comes to an end God speaks through Ezekiel again to show him that the utter destruction of Egypt he had foretold 16 years before would now be completed by Nebuchadnezzar.
God tells Ezekiel (18-20) Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon drove his army in a hard campaign against Tyre; every head was rubbed bare and every shoulder made raw. Yet he and his army got no reward from the campaign he led against Tyre. Having spent 13 years on it, most of the plunder had been spent and what was left was hardly compensation for such a long campaign. But God has better spoil for Egypt – he says I am going to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will carry off its wealth. He will loot and plunder the land as pay for his army. I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD. Nebuchadnezzar was not consciously working for God, of course, but with a certain irony God points out how he was using Nebuchadnezzar to fulfil his purposes.
It is a reminder again of the sovereignty of God. He uses who he will in his service – an Ezekiel yes, a Nebuchadnezzar too if he chooses. We may have our doubts about God's power to judge, especially if it seems a long time in coming but he is working his purposes out and his will shall certainly prevail.
4. Consider God's continuing mercy to his people
Then finally in 21 we have this wonderful word of encouragement for God's people On that day I will make a horn grow for the house of Israel, and I will open your mouth among them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.
There are three things here then.
First, the promise that God will make a horn (a symbol of strength and power) grow for the house of Israel, then the promise to open Ezekiel's mouth in prophecy again among the people. Finally, that very familiar Then they will know that I am the LORD. We should probably understand this prophecy, like most prophecies, as having a more immediate and a later fulfilment.
So first, the horn that would grow might be Zerubbabel the prince who eventually had a hand in leading Israel back from exile or perhaps Cyrus, the Persian King who decreed the return. Although his words are not recorded, presumably Ezekiel had a ministry among God's people for many years after. All this combined to bring the people to a greater knowledge of the Lord.
More remotely we think of the coming of Messiah ad the ushering in of the new age in which we also now live. Jesus can be thought of as a horn growing for the house of Israel there in Bethlehem and Egypt and Nazareth and Capernaum. He is the King of Kings and his people's strength. Like Ezekiel he is the son of man whose mouth was opened to prophesy and whose words we still have - wonderful words of life from God for all who trust in him. Through his power and his words we can know forgiveness for sin and reconciliation with God. How? Because of something not spoken of here – his priestly work of sacrifice on the cross in the place of sinners. Look to him as your prophet, priest and king. He alone can save. The world can do you no good - it is doomed. Come out of it and come to him. Put your faith in Christ and be saved forever.

Turn from Pride, Trust in the Lord

Text Ezekiel 28:1-19 Time 10 06 07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We looked last week at most of the material in Ezekiel 26-28. You remember that these verses are taken up with words of judgement chiefly against the leading Phoenician city of Tyre and also of Sidon. We made the following points
1. We considered Tyre under the figure of a rock and some words of condemnation from the Lord
Remember the speaker, God himself
Ponder your sin and some ways in which you've offended God
Recall the coming judgement on all who sin
Consider God's great aim for you and me – that we may know that he is the Lord.
2. We considered Tyre under the figure of a majestic galleon and we thought of man's pride and where it leads
We said
Do you have something you're proud of?
Be ready for the judgement
See how people react to judgement and consider
3. We considered the promise of restoration to Israel and the comfort in it
Now the section we missed out is in 28:1-19. Here the focus seems to be on the King of Tyre. First Ezekiel is told to speak words of judgement to him and then to take up a lament concerning him. The king at this time was a man named Ethbaal or Ithobaal. He was, apparently, an accomplished man, very well regarded, famous, but a sinner nevertheless.
Some writers also want to see a reference here to the fall of Satan. See for example the words You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God. We have reason to believe that Satan was a mighty angel of God but when Ezekiel says You were in Eden, the garden of God this parallels with Adam rather than with the Devil. Other writers think the whole royal family is referred to, including foregoing kings as far back as Hiram, which is possible.
Certainly this passage is a blast against all forms of pride and a warning of God's judgements against such sins – one that we all need to take heed of.
I want to say five things to you then
1. Consider the sin of pride and repent
Ezekiel tells us yet again (1, 2) that The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, This is what the Sovereign LORD says and first he speaks about his sin, the sin of pride.
1. Consider how deluded you can be and repent
Now what we learn here is that the King of Tyre was under a delusion. His delusion may seem to you a rather strange one but you would be surprised at just how many people on this earth live in a fantasy world just as unreal as the one in which this ancient king lived.
1. Consider the delusion
In the pride of your heart you say, I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas. Now it wasn't that the kings of Tyre were officially considered to be gods, as with the Egyptians and later with some of the Roman Emperors. Rather this man simply began to forget just who he was in reality and began to live not just as a great king but as though he was a god. When one has power and authority and many privileges that sort of thing can happen.
Blackburn Rovers recently signed a player from Cape Town, South Africa, called Benni McCarthy. He's been signed for £2.5 million from the Portuguese club Porto and is apparently doing well on the pitch. Although from a very poor background things are very different to how he grew up. Someone does the cooking and there's a housekeeper and he'll soon have a different car for each day of the working week. Already he has a Mini "to run around in when the traffic is heavy", a Range Rover "for when it rains" and a Bentley Continental for "when he feels like a change". He plans to buy an Aston Martin next! His brother says he spends "hours on his Playstation 3", off-nights "chilling out" with friends at the best restaurants or quiet nights home "at the movies" - he has a cinema at home with a huge screen and projector ... and about 500 movies. If he gets bored there's also a gym and a pool room in his house in a posh suburb of Manchester. His brother Jerome says "The fans love him, they treat Benni like a god".
Now most of us are never going to face pressure like that but it is still easy to delude ourselves that we are something we are not – that we are more like gods than people. Some think they are immortal and will live forever. Some think they are omnipotent and can do anything they please. Some think they are perfect and that whatever they do must be right. Some think they are very clever indeed – as wise as God himself, wiser even. These are delusions, the delusions of pride.
2. Consider the reality
Was the King of Tyre in fact a god? Was any King who claimed to be god, god in fact? Are the fans right to treat Benni McCarthy as a god? In the seventies you would see graffiti declaring that the guitarist Eric Clapton was God. In the 1990s they wrote the same thing about the footballer Eric Cantona. But those men aren't God and never were. And although you may feel immortal or omnipotent or perfect or very special indeed some days - you are not. But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. Pride will eat in at all sorts of places. Some of you may say – "I've never thought I was a god!" Yes, but you have acted as though you were. You have demanded things. You have considered yourself above all laws. You have thought of yourself as immortal. You have considered yourself very clever indeed. It is all rooted in pride – anti-god pride. Yet the truth is that we are but men. We cannot deny it. We must humble ourselves and recognise our weakness, our mortality, our imperfection.
2. Consider what people are proud of and take care
How did this king get to be so proud? Basically because he was a successful king in worldly terms he thought he was very wise and because he was very wealthy that just added to his pride. So we say
1. Do not be proud of your abilities
This king thought that he was as wise as God himself. And so he is asked (3) Are you wiser than Daniel? Is no secret hidden from you? Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, of course, although he may have someone else in mind. We have already had a Daniel mentioned back in 14:14, a man of prayer. Daniel certainly became famous throughout the empire as a man of wisdom and great skill. Daniel didn't think he was God but he did acknowledge the gifts God had given him. Now the truth was that whichever Daniel is in mind here, the very mention of his name put the King of Tyre in the shade. Was the king really suggesting that no secret was hidden from him? When we get delusions of grandeur we only need to ask ourselves a few questions to see how far from being gods we are. You have abilities – but how long will they last? And are they even approaching the skills of those greater than you – let alone God himself? In 1 Corinthians 1:25 Paul says the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
2. Do not be proud of your possessions
This king was also proud of his possessions. 4, 5 By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud. On one hand, it is the easiest thing in the world to be proud of possessions; yet on the other, what is the point of it? As Paul again says in 1 Corinthians (4:7) Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? That is true both of our abilities and of our possessions.
2. Consider the coming judgement on the proud and repent
We will look next at verses 6-10. We can divide it up in various ways but let's say
1. Consider who God judges
In 6, 7 we read Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations .... It is this king who thinks that he is wise, that he is as wise as a god, who will be judged - he and his people who have followed him into sin. More than once in Scripture we are told that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble - He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, says Peter that he may lift you up in due time. If we are proud there is no hope for us, but if we humble ourselves before God there is hope.
2. Consider how God judges
So God is going to bring foreigners against the king of Tyre. They will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendour he is told (8) They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas. You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD. Tyre would be besieged by Nebuchadnezzar and his armies and eventually ruined. That is a temporal judgement – a judgement in time – but it points forward to the coming final judgement, when all the proud will be brought down completely forever. That will be the end of any supposed beauty or wisdom in the proud. God will pierce their shining splendour. Again, realise where pride leads.
3. Consider why God judges
In verse 9 God asks Will you then say, I am a god, in the presence of those who kill you? No you will be but a man, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you. God reduces the man to size, as it were. He shows him up for what he really is. The truth is revealed.
Again I say then, beware of living in a fantasy world. Wake up to reality now before it is too late!
3. Consider man's glory and rejoice
In verses 11-19 The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel again and this time he is told Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: This is what the Sovereign LORD says. First the king is pictured in all his beauty and splendour. Partly the description is only of how the king thought of things but what is said here also describes in elevated language how it was in fact. It is difficult to divide the passage and not every reference is obvious.
1. He was a model of perfection
You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created. Clearly here we are not speaking of a real blamelessness but of a comparative perfection. This is how the king thought of himself and to an extent that is how it was. A certain wisdom and beauty was present and Tyre was a model of success to other city states.
2. He was like Adam in the garden
13a You were in Eden, the garden of God. This seems to be a reference to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Just as Adam was king over that wonderful kingdom so the King of Tyre was in not a perfect kingdom but one that at least harked back in some way to the perfection of Eden.
3. He was adorned in precious stones
The artist Damien Hurst has recently taken an 18th century skull and studded it with 8,601 diamonds and everyone is impressed with it but here we read Every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. This sort of thing was literally seen in Tyre. The emphasis is on the glory of the king – not some precious stones but every precious stone.
4. He was like a guardian cherub
14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. It is not clear whether we have the cherubim spreading their wings over the ark of the covenant in mind here or the cherubim who barred the way to the Tree of Life after the Fall. The reference to the holy mount of God suggests the former. Whichever, the king saw himself as a guardian angel to his people – protecting them, guarding them. He was glorious among them.
Now as we have said before, the Bible does not seek to denigrate human achievement. Yes, the achievements of the king were great. That is not denied. He was like Adam in the garden, like a guardian cherub. And perhaps you could merit such praise too. But that is only part of the story.
4. Consider man's sin and realise
In verse 15 God says You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created ... till wickedness was found in you. He goes on (16) Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. Despite his exalted status, despite all his advantages, it did not lead him to humble himself before God as it should have. He was in Eden – but that is God's garden. He was anointed as a guardian cherub but why? For so I ordained you. It was on the holy mount of God he served. How easily we forget the source of our gifts and advantages. We should remember that (in the words of James 1:17) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. The moment we forget that we are in big trouble.
5. Consider man's ruin and repent
Because of his sin, this king is warned of coming punishment. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. ... So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. ... So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.
Despite his very exalted status he came crashing down. A horrible end came. He is no more. What a warning to all who are proud. 17, 18 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour ... By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.
How careful we must be! You know the proverb (16:18) Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Take warning and turn to the Lord and humble yourself before him now. If you look to Jesus Christ there is hope.
In 1 Corinthians 1:20-24 Paul asks Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? He answers Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.