Ezekiel 28: 11 – 18 When Everything You Believed About God Falls Apart, Part 4 – 10/9/2016

Theme: God is still sovereign over all the nations even if ungodliness and its effects have not yet been checked.

 

Purpose: Members catch a glimpse of God’s role for them in secular culture.

 

Of the many question being asked by Christians during this presidential election – evangelicals and progressives alike – questions like who is the better candidate?  Which are the most important issues? Who has the better foreign policy? Etc. . . .

 

One question I’ll better you never hear posed: “Where is God’s hand in this election?”

 

“What is God up to in this election?”  “What’s his agenda?”

 

And the reason is because no one has any real answers.

 

All the attempts to answer that question in the past have been lame. 

 

The choice of candidates is clearly not a question of good over evil; both candidates have plenty of dirt on their hands.  No serious Christian can buy that.

 

You can’t narrow the entire will of God down to one issue or one problem: abortion, same-sex marriage, Iran, Syria, global warming.  God’s kingdom is bigger than a one-issue platform.

 

There’s no unified church voice; the church is all over the mat.  If one of them were actually articulating God’s singular will, it would be anyone’s guess which one.

 

And so the question remains: what is God up to this election?

 

 

The reason we can’t properly answer that question is because we’ve bought into what Mark Labberton calls “Promised Land” thinking.  The secular version is the promise of the American Dream.

 

The reasoning goes like this: If God is alive and active, then he is surely for us and not against us.

 

And if he’s for us and not against us, surely blessing and abundance and prosperity is just around the corner, right?  I mean, is this the promised land or not?

 

Either America will, to use the phrase of the day, ‘become great again’ or we will be wisked off to another world – heaven – where the problems we left behind will be some wisp of a memory.

 

 

 

We’ve talked about these trends for the Jews in Babylon, right?

 

In the top half of the 6th century BC, having been removed from their homeland and settled as foreigners in the capital city of the Babylonian empire, there were many prophets who predicted that either the overthrow of this pagan empire was imminent, or they would wisked back to Jerusalem and the throne of David would be restored.

 

One way or the other, God had to deliver them from this.  It’s what God did!

 

But Ezekiel’s prophecies over and over again stood in the face of this quick fix mindset.

 

What if we’re in exile for a while to come?

 

What if we’ll be foreigners in a foreign land for a few generations to come?

 

What if there’s no quick fix?

 

What if Babylon as an empire is going to be around for a while?

 

Then, what IS God up to?

 

And as America becomes more and more foreign to us who always saw it as a Christian nation, we ask the same question.

 

The religious landscape is different, the political landscape is different, the social landscape is different.  And none of it looks Christian.  None of it looks like God’s redeeming work.

 

Is God still active on the national level?

 

And here’s where the myth lies: if God’s not going to deliver us from our sins tomorrow, then he must have abandoned us.

 

Promised Land thinking.

 

 

Exile thinking, on the other hand, says God is still at work, even in secular society, even without a temple or church, even without a chosen people, even without a Christian nation. 

 

God doesn’t need His people to do His work.  It’s nice!  But not necessary.

 

Chapters 25 – 32 include several vignettes on how God is still at work even in countries that don’t know God.

 

You don’t have to be a Jewish nation or a Christian nation in order to God to be at work!

 

Take a look at Tyre, says Ezekiel.

 

Tyre is actually an island in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of what is today Lebanon.

 

Today it connects with the mainland but in ancient times it was an island and as such it had two main advantages: 1) it had a natural harbor and 2) enemies couldn’t lay siege to it because it was surrounded by water.

 

It boasted a vast maritime business with the most advanced fleets for shipping cargo to all parts of the known world.  Even King Solomon had done business with the king of Tyre back in his day to build his palace.

 

It was the Dubai of its day. 

 

An oasis of success.

 

For the humbled, ostracized and forgotten Jew, it represented everything they didn’t have: autonomy, self-sufficiency, the envy of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

What was God’s agenda for tyre?  Did he even have an agenda?

 

 

Yes, says Ezekiel.  Tyre does not stand outside the sovereignty of God any more than any other nation.

 

Here’s why:

 

God ordained Tyre as a nation and blessed it

            Eden

            Cherub

            “on the day that you were created they were prepared”

            The holy mountain of God!

 

When they begin ruling inappropriately, God will take their prosperity away.

            Violence enters into trade (16)

            Beauty turns the heart proud (17)

            Splendor corrupts wisdom (17)

 

            Hence:

            Remove cherub

            Cast to ground

            Expose kings

            Turn you to ashes

 

This is what God does to nations who stray from his ways

 

Likewise, God ordained America whether it was a ‘Christian’ nation or not!

           

We can argue until we’re blue in the face how “Christian” our forefathers were

 

It doesn’t change the fact that God allowed this country to form

 

And by the same token, God will remove our prosperity likewise if we stray from righteousness and justice.

 

            Dependence on foreign investment

            Overconsumption of earth’s resources

            Anger/ resentment between races festers

            Billion dollar porn industry

            Infidelity and divorce run rampant

            Spending what we don’t have – future

 

In sum, we’re not in a special category: there will be hell to pay if we don’t correct the evils in our society. 

 

There’s no special chosen status for America; we are much like the rest of world:

Judged on the basis of righteousness and justice, our relationship to God’s ways and God’s precepts determines destiny

 

 

 

Gee Norm, this sounds like a lot of doom and gloom.

 

Is that our role, to preach hell, fire, and brimstone now?

 

Ah, here’s where the fun begins!

 

We don’t have to bash America – instead, we can offer an alternative!

 

We don’t have to bash its leaders – we get to change our own lives to conform with God’s!

 

We don’t have to preach doom and gloom, because if God brings us down, he can restore us.

 

He erodes our prosperity in order to get our attention, to prune us, to make us stronger, to make us more whole!

 

God’s very judgment is the beginning of our redemption!

 

And the church’s prophetic role is be the signpost of that redemption!

 

Prophets have always been strange birds: feeding widows in the wilderness, marrying prostitutes, raising up bones from the dead.

 

Their lives are signposts for nations, beckoning them to see a new way for the future.

 

And the church of the 21st century can do the same:

            Community garden – St. Matthew’s Pres. Church in Silver Spring

            Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center

 

Lou Federmann lives 6 minutes from an RV Park in Huntington Beach, California. When she heard Pastor Tamara John preach at a local church about ministering among the RV community, Lou knew she wanted to be involved.

So Lou now invests her time being present and building relationships with over 140 people who find themselves in transitional housing often due to personal crisis. While Tamara offers counseling and preaching from the chapel built into the back of her own RV onsite, Lou is primarily responsible for pastoral care and organizing activities like Friday Fun Nights, RV Maintenance Days, Healing through Arts projects, and Gardening together events.

 “I leave my chapel door open and it’s about the power of presence; it’s about the power of just being there and available. With this type of ministry you can’t go up to people in crisis and if they want to talk, you say, ‘Well, are you available next Tuesday at 5o’clock?’ No! It’s all in the moment and coming alongside and locking arms and encouraging them through this and helping them.

Tonight, there’ll be a lot of leader bashing.  A lot of mudslinging.

 

At least two very different views of the way forward for this country.

 

It will be hard to see God’s hand anywhere in the process.

 

But that’s OK.  It was hard to see it in Babylon too. 

 

It was hard to see it in the island of Tyre at the time, as prosperous as they seemed to be.

 

But God never gives up on his people.  Any of them.

 

He’s still at work in the United States of America.

 

But don’t look for him in the debates, or at the national forums, in the speeches, in the political party platforms.

 

He’s hiding in small unnoticed acts of righteousness done by thousands of faithful followers across the nation.

 

One of them may be you as you act prophetically becoming a signpost by your deed of kindness!!

 

God is working his purpose out
as year succeeds to year:
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled
with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.