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Beating a Dead Horse - To Life

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Our Scripture comes from Ezekiel chapter 2.  Beginning at verse 1 we read; “He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.’ As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.  He said: ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day.  The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn.  Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says.'  And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them.  And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.  Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions.  Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.  You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.  But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you.  Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you."


            Have you ever been told to do something that you knew you no matter how hard you tired there was no way the end result could be attained?  And not only did you know it but the person who told you also knew it.  How did you feel about that?  Did you wonder why you had to try this futile task even though it fail?  Did you feel that you were just beating your head against a brick wall?  Well that is how Ezekiel must have felt.  God is giving him what would seem to be an impossible task.  Even though God is giving what seems to be a task that cannot be accomplished He gives Ezekiel the power and strength to do so.


            At the very beginning God tells Ezekiel to stand – stand and prepare to go – to stand in the face of what would seem to be an impossible task.  God knew that Ezekiel couldn’t do it on his own.  So the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, entered Ezekiel and gave him the power to stand – the power to be able to go and do God’s bidding.


            In Old Testament times the Holy Spirit worked in a different way that He does today.  Today when a person accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In other words the Spirit lives inside us giving us the power to follow God’s will.  But in Old Testament times it didn’t happen like it does today.  The Spirit did indwell certain selected individuals but that indwelling was only temporary.  The Spirit would indwell, provide guidance and strength and then the Spirit would depart that individual.


            So what was this assignment Ezekiel given to do that required the indwelling power of God’s Spirit?  He was to go to a people who were rebellious – obstinate.  They rebelled against God.  Now when we think of being rebellious we get this mental image of someone who is protesting against a war, carrying signs with slogans like ‘make love not war’ and so on.  That’s not the type of rebelliousness that is spoken of here.  During this time the Jewish people were in captivity in Babylon.  God allowed Babylon to take His people captive as a punishment for their forgetful ways.  They kept turning their backs on God and trying to do it their way so God allowed them to be placed into captivity as a punishment for their sins. 


            So when Ezekiel is told go and give them a message he is informed that they will not listen because they are rebellious.  But their rebellion is not the kind where they are waving signs and shouting slogans.  The rebellion is that they are not acknowledging God’s judgment against them and confessing their sins against God they viewed their captivity as only a temporary setback which would be alleviated when they returned to Jerusalem. 


            But God had given Ezekiel a task.  What task was that?  He was to tell the people God’s word.  And it was going to be a difficult task.  God warned Ezekiel several times over that Israel was rebellious but whether they listened or did not listen, he was still to preach God’s message, God’s word.  Ezekiel would be surrounded by thorns and briers and he would live among scorpions.


            I have done a lot of traipsing through the woods with the Boy Scouts on many camping trips and have walked through a lot of brier patches and been stuck by thorns aplenty.  It hurts.  Briers pulling on your clothes, sticking to you, scraping your skin – It not a pleasant experience being in the middle of a brier patch.  Basically briers and thorns are just a nuisance which can trip you up and slow you down and distract you.  But not only would Ezekiel be surrounded by thorns and briers but he would be living with scorpions.  Certain species of scorpion can deliver no only a nasty sting but the venom can kill a person.  Ezekiel was told that not only would he be tripped up and be distracted by the thorns and briers but he would be living in the mist of people who would not hesitate to kill him. Even in the midst of all this Ezekiel is to take the word of God to the people.  Ezekiel is called to carry God’s word to a rebellious and stubborn people.  I’m quite sure that Ezekiel probably felt like he was going to be beating a dead horse – repeating a message that no one wanted to listen to.


            A few weeks ago I heard about a teacher who had a student ask her why she believed the way she do so in response the teacher related why she believed in Jesus.  Because she openly talked about ‘religion’ in a public school he job is on the line and she may lose it because of her answering a student’s question honestly.  Today’s culture is one of increasing secularism and is becoming more and more defiant against the message of the Cross.  We see on television, in the movies and in the music of today’s culture a trend of more sexual openness and glorifying violence, greed, and mistrust.  Christianity is seen more as a pastime than as a lifestyle.  If you believe in the Bible as the literal and ultimate word of God then you are na´ve, simpleminded, and foolish.  That is the way that Christians are viewed in the media and portrayed by secular society who wants to do whatever makes them feel good.  Remember the old saying “If it feels good – do it”?  In the late 1800’s and early 20th century one of the fastest growing religions was Christianity.  What is the fastest growing religion today?  It’s no longer Christianity – it’s Islam.


            There are many reasons that could be cited for this but one of the largest factors is the apathy that has beset those who call themselves Christians.  No longer is the Bible viewed as the authoritative, inerrant Word of God and no longer are prayers said in schools.  Even in many churches the Bible is not view as accurate and in more churches that I want to count the Bible is not preached.  Instead of God inspired messages we hear politics, budgets and how not to offend others of different religions.  We have become a rebellious and obstinate people much like the Israelites we read about in Ezekiel.


            Where is the Ezekiel of today?  How can God’s word be given to a people who don’t want to listen?  Romans chapter 10 verses 14 and 15 say, “How then can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without some one preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’.”


            This verse isn’t speaking of the pastor of a church or someone with specialized training.  So who are the ones called to be sent?  Who are our Ezekiel’s of today?  It’s you, it’s me, and it’s every believing Christian.  Mathew 28 tells us that. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”  It’s called the great commission and it basically says that we are God’s ambassadors to baptize and teach.  And what are we to teach – what God has commanded.  But unfortunately so many rationalize reasons as to why they cannot.  I have so many things that I am doing now.  I have a job that takes the majority of my time and what little time is left over I have to be with my family.  I don’t have the specialized training it takes to teach the God’s word.


            The biggest excuse though is that we don’t have enough time.  I have to do this, I have to do that.  Excuses piled on excuses.  Here again we are trying to rationalize why we cannot do something.  Let me give you a little example of time management.  You get a jar along some walnuts and uncooked rice.  The jar represents your day, the walnuts represent what God wants you to do in a day and the rice represents what you want to do.  Now you fill the jar with the rice, basically do all the things that you want to do first, and then when you try to put in all the walnuts they don’t fit.  Why, because the jar is full of rice.  What you have done is that you have filled your day with what you wanted to do and couldn’t fit in what God wanted.  But let’s look at it a little different.  If you put to walnuts in first, do what God wants you to do, then when you put the rice in, the same amount as before, it all fits in the jar.  What happens is that all the rice fits around what God wants and both completely fits in your day.


            So if we are to do what God wants us to do, that is take His word to a rebellious people, where am I going to get the intestinal fortitude, the strength to handle the ridicule that will come my way.  How will I face those who will think that I’m just one of those religious fanatics and be laughed at?  How and where do I go?  Acts 1:8 tells us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit come on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”  Remember what I said earlier about how God’s Spirit only indwelled certain people in the Old Testament for only a short period and then left them after what needed to be done was done?  Today it’s different.  When we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In John 14:16 & 17 Jesus tells us, “And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth.  The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him or knows Him.  But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.”


            Because we have the gift of the Spirit, we do not have to be afraid of what people will say or do.  Remember in Ezekiel when God told him not to be afraid of the thorns, briers and scorpions?  Well we don’t have to be afraid either.  Mark 13:11 says, Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand what to say.  Jus say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking but the Holy Spirit.”  Now I am not saying that we are all going to be arrested and put on trial as criminals but in reality we keep ourselves in captivity because of our fear and our trial is what we feel others might say about us.  Let the Holy Spirit do what He is supposed to do. Luke 12:11 & 12 Jesus tells us, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”


            We have been called, just as Ezekiel was called, to preach God’s message of salvation to those who do not want to hear it.  Just like the Israelites of Ezekiel’s time, people today do not feel they are doing anything wrong.  They don’t realize that without God in their lives, they are on a one way trip to eternal death from which there is no escape.  And what is so bad is that they do not realize that they are already dead.  Ephesians 2:1, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…”


            Ok we have been called.  We are called to take God’s message to a rebellious people.  So what is the message that we are to be telling everyone?  It’s a basic and simple one.  God loved each and every one of us enough to die for us so we could live.  That what John 3:16 says.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  That’s the message that we need to keep on telling people over and over again.  We have to stand boldly and be ready at all times to carry this message from a loving God.  We can’t just relay God’s message when it’s convenient for us.  We have to be ready at a moments notice.  2 Timothy 4:2 says, Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out…”


            God gave Jesus to us so that by our belief and trust in Jesus as our Savior – by believing that Jesus was God’s Son and He died for us, then we are no longer dead.  Ephesians 2:4 &5, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace that you have been saved.”  God’s grace – God’s mercy.  But we have to telling everyone.  We can’t stop.  We have to keep beating the horse – because eventually the message will get through and because we have kept on beating that “dead horse’ of God’s message, someone was made alive through faith in God’s grace.


            Don’t stop beating the dead hors of God’s message.  Don’t stop telling others about God’s Word and what He has done for you.  Because you are planting seeds – seeds that hopefully fall on fertile soil and will one day spring forth into new life.  You have been given the gift and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Listen to Him and let Him work through you and guide you in all the ways of your life.


            My prayer for you is the same as Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (3:14), “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”