The Holy Spirit - Learning from Ezekiel
‘The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God... The Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel’(Ezekiel 1:1-2). The Lord opens our eyes to ‘see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Lord speaks to us and we must listen to Him: ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). ‘The Spirit came into me... Do not be afraid of them or their words’ (Ezekiel 2:2,6). Through the Spirit, we receive wisdom - ‘We have received the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand what God has freely given us’ - and strength - ‘God strengthens us with power through His Spirit in our inner being’ (1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 3:16). ‘Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart... Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word... Be Thou my Battleshield, sword for the fight’ (Church Hymnary, 87).
God speaks to us: ‘The Word of the Lord came to me’ (Ezekiel 3:16). We speak to God: “Ah, Lord God!’ (Ezekiel 4:14). We speak for God: ‘When I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, “This is what the Lord God says, Whoever will listen, let him listen...”’ (Ezekiel 3:27). How can we keep on listening to God, speaking to God and speaking for God? We need to be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit: ‘The Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet’ (Ezekiel 3:24). The Spirit is our ‘Helper’. He helps us to listen to God: ‘The Holy Spirit will teach you all things’ (John 14:26). He helps us to speak to God: ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness’ (Romans 8:26). He helps us to speak for God: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses’ (Acts 1:8).
God speaks to us about our sin - ‘Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people’ - and His salvation - ‘I will... put a new Spirit in them...’ (Ezekiel 12:2; Ezekiel 11:19-20). We must receive’ with humility, the bad news concerning our sin - ‘The wages of sin is death’ - before we can receive, with gladness, the Good News concerning God’s salvation - ‘The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23). God wants each of us to be saved: ‘The Lord... does not want anyone to perish; He wants everyone to turn away from their sins’ (2 Peter 3:9). To those who refuse to be saved, dismissing the bad news concerning their sin and closing their hearts to the Good News concerning God’s salvation, God speaks His Word or warning: ‘...I will punish them for what they have done’ (11:21).
In Ezekiel 20:41, we have a clear statement of God’s purpose for our lives: ‘Through you I intend to display My holiness for all the nations to see’. He wants other people to notice that we are different. He wants them to see that we have been changed by Him: ‘As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is to be our testimony: ‘What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!... I have ceased from my wandering and going astray since Jesus came into my heart! And my sins which were many are all washed away since Jesus came into my heart!’ (Mission Praise, 748). May God help us to live as ‘a new creation’, being ‘renewed every day’. Make it ‘your aim’ to ‘live for Him’ and ‘please Him’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:9,15,17).
‘Because you have forgotten Me and turned your back on Me, you will be punished for all your sin’ (Ezekiel 23:35). We are to remember the Lord. We must not forget Him. We must not let the Word of God ‘go in one ear and out the other’. We must be ‘doers of the Word’ as well as ‘hearers of the Word’ (James 1:22-25). Let’s put the past behind us and make a new beginning with God: ‘Return to Me, and I will return to you’ (Malachi 3:7). ‘Have mercy on me, O God... Cleanse me from my sin... Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation’ (Psalm 51:1-2,10-12). Let this be the prayer of your heart and the blessing of God will flow into your life.
‘I will punish you because of the way you lived’ (Ezekiel 24:14). God is calling us to think about the way we are living. He wants us to leave behind the old, self-centred way of living. He wants us to begin a new life, a life that is centred on Him. Real change comes from God. We must pray that He will change us - ‘Change my heart, O God. Make it ever true. Change my heart, O God. May I be like You’. We must pray for a deep work of the Spirit of God in our hearts - ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me... Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me...’. We must pray that we will become more like Jesus - ‘Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me, all His wondrous compassion and purity. Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine, till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me’ (Mission Praise, 69,613,410).
‘The day of the Lord is near... A sword will come against Egypt... The day of Egypt’s doom is sure to come’ (Ezekiel 30:3-4,9). We must not take God lightly. We can’t do what we like and get away with it. We must not ‘trample the Son of God under foot’. We must not ‘treat Christ’s blood as an unholy thing’. We must not ‘insult the Spirit of grace’. We must not forget: ‘It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’. God is speaking to us concerning ‘the Day of the Lord’, the Return of Christ: ‘He who is coming will come...’. He speaks His Word of warning: ‘Those who shrink back are destroyed’. He speaks His Word of promise: ‘Those who believe are saved’ (Hebrews 10:29,31,37-39). ‘When Christ comes, will He find faith...?’ ‘Search my heart, O God...’ (Luke 18:8; Psalm 139:23-24).
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything - ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5). What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103). What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? - ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’. ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow... Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray. Unreservedly, have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You’ (Mission Praise, 274,241).
Gog’s defeat points forward to Satan’s final defeat (Ezekiel 39:1-6; Revelation 20:10). We look ahead to God’s final victory over Satan. While we’re here on earth, we must never forget that Satan is a very powerful enemy. He will do all that he can to make us sin against the Lord. We see this in the life of God’s people, Israel. They allowed Satan to get the upper hand - and God was not pleased with them: ‘The nations shall know that the people of Israel went into captivity for their sin, because they were unfaithful to Me’(Ezekiel 39:23). God’s Word assures us that - even when Satan has gained the upper hand - , we can be ‘brought back’ to the place of blessing. God will ‘have mercy’ on us. He will ‘pour out His Spirit’ upon us (Ezekiel 39:25,29). ‘Restore us, O God...’ (Psalm 85:4).
‘This is the Most Holy Place’ (Ezekiel 41:4). Here, God is speaking about the Temple. The Temple was the place where God’s people were to gather together to worship Him. There is another ‘holy place’, another place where God is to be glorified: ‘Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit... Glorify God in your body’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We worship God when we are in the place of worship. That is only a part of our worship. Our heart is to be a ‘holy place’ where God alone is worshipped. We are to worship Him in everything we do: ‘Be holy in all you do’. At the heart of our worship, there is thanksgiving for God’s love. At the heart of the holy life, there is love. We ‘obey the truth’ when we ‘love one another deeply from the heart’ (1 Peter 1:15-16,22).
Beyond the glory of the Temple, there is ‘the glory of the God of Israel’. This is the greater glory - ‘the glory of the Lord filled the Temple’ (Ezekiel 43:1,5). God is not only concerned about the creation of a beautiful place of worship. He wants our lives to be ‘radiant with His glory’. This happens when ‘the Spirit lifts us up’ and brings us close to God - ‘into the inner court’ (Ezekiel 43:2,5). We pray that the glory of the Lord will fill the place of worship: ‘May the fragrance of Jesus fill this place’. We pray that ‘the glory of Jesus’ will ‘fill His Church’. We are not only praying for God’s glory in the place of worship. We are praying for His glory in our lives: ‘May the beauty of Jesus fill my life... Fill my thoughts, my words, my deeds’ (Mission Praise, 462).
In Ezekiel 47, we see the rising of the ‘river’ of God’s blessing - ‘ankle-deep... knee-deep... up to the waist ... deep enough to swim in - a river that no-one could cross’ (Ezekiel 47:3-5). This is the river of ‘life’ - ‘a great number of trees.... Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows... large numbers of fish because... where the river flows everything will live’ (Ezekiel 47:7-9). ‘The Spirit’ brings ‘rivers of living water’ into our lives (John 7:38-39). Don’t settle for a shallow experience of God’s blessing - ‘ankle-deep’, ‘knee-deep’. ‘Deep calls to deep’. Let ‘the Spirit’ lead you into ‘the deep things of God’. ‘Launch out into the deep’. ‘Swim’ in God’s mighty ‘river’ of blessing. ‘Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ezekiel 47:3-5; Psalm 42:7; Luke 5:4; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 5:18).
‘The Lord is there’ (Ezekiel 48:35). He is with us when we gather for worship: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20). He loves to be among us when we are worshipping Him: ‘He looks down upon us, delight in His face, enjoying His children’s love, enthralled by our praise’. We are to come into the Lord’s presence with joyful praise - ‘The King is among us. His Spirit is near. Let’s draw near and worship. Let songs fill the air!’ - and reverent fear - ‘Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here. Come bow before Him now with reverence and fear’ (Mission Praise, 650,50). When we leave the place of worship, let us take His promise with us: ‘I am with you always’ (Matthew 28:20).