message preached on Friday 28 May 2010
Praise the almighty name of YHWH, for He is good and His love endures forever, amen! We serve a wonderful and awesome Creator, YHWH we praise your name, HalleluYah! As children of the Most High, we are called to righteous living, called to live blameless; shining as a light in the darkness of a wicked and ungodly world. In spite of the opposition we face, let me tell you, it is possible for us to live righteous right here right now. When you see all the chaos in the news – people threatening to make Cape Town city ungovernable, all the strike action taking place of late and then to top it off – the slaughtering of a bull at a rugby match calling on the ancestors by 1000+ sangomas to come and bless the stadiums and land – these are idolatrous times. Many people have set up many idols in their hearts and have turned from worshipping YHWH in Spirit and in Truth, yet they come to YHWH when all else fails and demand His hand to move miraculously. How sad it is when we see people treating YHWH like a genie in a bottle that must jump when they scream, despite their lack of obedience. I want us to look and learn from Ezekiel 14 tonight on the need to guard our hearts from turning from the truth and keeping idols from setting up shop in our hearts. My message is called “A call for righteous living in an unrighteous world”. Let us read Ezekiel 14:
To set the scene for you; Israel was told by Jeremiah that they would be in Babylonian captivity for 70 years, but false prophets had come along and told the people that it wouldn’t be 70 years; YHWH was going to destroy Babylon and set the captives free. It was Ezekiel’s task to tell the people that YHWH was going to destroy Jerusalem and not Babylon just yet, but that a glorious restoration of the people would come and the temple would be rebuilt in Jerusalem. So here we pick up the story where some of the elders come to Ezekiel to seek a word. To the elders YHWH had simply become to them just one of many ‘gods’ of whose prophets they consulted. The others had not come through for them (obviously – for there is no other!) and so as a last resort, they come to inquire of YHWH. How true that is today with many of us – only when all else fails do we come running to YHWH for an answer!!!
The Word of YHWH comes to Ezekiel – it is interesting to note that almost 50 times in Ezekiel do we see the phrase, “The Word of YHWH came to me”, and this is an encouragement to us in that YHWH’s Word is not far from us, it is very near, in our hearts and on our lips that we may obey – His Word is never far from us, if we will but only listen!
The elders had come to hear what they wanted to hear and not what they needed to hear – let me tell you a true prophet will tell the people what they need to hear and a false prophet will tell the people what they want to hear. A true prophet points out sin, even hidden sin, and calls sinners to repentance speaking the Truth of the Word. This was the Word from YHWH to Ezekiel – He showed him that these elders had set up idols in their hearts – this was a sharp Word from YHWH.
You see, here Israel are taken from Jerusalem into captivity because of their idolatrous behaviour and still they continue in their idolatry which was now even more evident in their hearts – you can take people away from the sinful environment, but you cannot take away from the heart that desires to keep on sinning! Geographical changes do not always relieve problems for a heart change is necessary. Idolatry is a heart issue – it is about who or what you give yourself to, what you give of your time, your intellect and your resources to. To whom do you give of yourself to – in other words, what have you set your heart on?
You see some of the elders, not all of them only some had come to Ezekiel to hear; although they did not really come to hear the truth – they simply came to hear what they wanted to hear!!! YHWH knew their hearts and that they were not devoted to Him, they were not sold out for Him. James describes this state as double minded, unstable in all their ways!!! What the elders didn’t realise is that you cannot have YHWH as a backup plan or last resort – He must be the only way!!! Elijah put it plainly on Mount Carmel – choose whom you will serve – either Baal or YHWH, interesting to note that Baal in Semitic languages means ‘lord’ – so is it Baal (Lord) or is it YHWH! YHWH is our source and when we do not know what to do or we are unsure of something James again tells that whoever lacks wisdom must ask YHWH and it will be given, but we must not be double minded that is! What the elders had done here was simply make the very Word of YHWH just one of many options that they could hear and that is called compromise!!! They did believe YHWH to a certain degree, but also wanted info from other sources, including the enemy in whose territory they were held captive!
They had set stumbling blocks before there own eyes, and this is such a powerful statement for what starts out to be something that seems harmless and small can become a stumbling block into sin, which is ‘missing the mark’, walking out of Torah, which is separation from YHWH. Let me remind you that a little sin can lead a valley of separation where you find yourself so far from the truth; you do not know what to believe anymore. What the elders and false prophets wanted to do, which you cannot do, was to sugar-coat the very Word of YHWH. The Word is sharper than a double edged sword – it shoots straight and here YHWH was revealing by His very Words what was wrong! Have you ever been there? When you have been compromising your lifestyle and you think that you can come and hear what you want from YHWH and the Word cuts deep!!!
The people had idols upon their hearts – the Torah teaches us that we are to have the very Word and Law/Torah of YHWH upon our hearts. What we must realise is that temptation is inevitable – it will come and it comes all the time – but giving it space is not inevitable – we can choose to give it space or not! These guys were putting idols in the place where they could not miss them, as a constant reminder – the very thing we are to do with the Word of YHWH. So these leaders were giving a wrong message and were a bad example to the nation.
People in ancient times were accustomed to worshipping objects of stone and wood etc and each idol was linked to a particular purpose which matched the desire of the human heart. Ba’al Peor for example was worshipped so that one could have more authority in the underworld after death. Asherah was worshipped for the sake of fertility etc. The images were but just symbols, but in making them, the worshipper felt they were more in control of the demon behind them.
1 Corinthians 10:20 tells us that the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to Elohim, and we are not to participate with demons!
Today we may not necessarily bow down to carving, although many still do, but many still worship their desires by putting them first. YHWH says in Psalm 103 that He satisfies our desires – nothing else should. An idol can be anything you set your heart on and be something as simple as your right to your own opinion!!! Career, sport, hobbies etc can all become idols we put before our eyes. How about those rugby mad guys – of which I used to be one to a degree – have the schedule on your fridge (before your eyes) so you wont forget, and at the same time you desecrate the Sabbath by running after your idols and dare to call on YHWH and expect Him to respond your way!!! When we cannot get what we desire, what typically happens for the majority of Believers? We come to YHWH, even though we are in essence still wearing the lipstick and perfume of our illicit behaviour with other idols and we expect YHWH to do something for us!
Do you know what happens when we come to Him with mixed worship? Well firstly mixed worship is not worship in YHWH’s eyes. ‘Sunday’ “Sabbath” worship – as sincere as it may seem – is not worship to YHWH! Yes we are to worship YHWH every day, but we are to ‘remember The Sabbath (7th day – Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) by ‘keeping it holy’ set apart for rest in Him! Sunday is not Sabbath – go and check Scripture yourself – see if you can find anywhere where Sabbath was changed to Sunday – you will not – because man changed it – way back in 341 CE by the newly established ‘church of Rome or Roman Catholic Church’! Come to YHWH with ‘mixed worship’ and like these elders whose hearts were already set on believing a lie, YHWH will answer according to the idols in the heart as judgement upon those who have mixed/vain worship.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 “For this reason Elohim sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
When you go with a heart filled with idolatry to inquire of YHWH, He will answer you according to your idolatry!!
Here there is a solemn call for repentance – turning away from anything that has taken up residence in their hearts which has no place in worship to YHWH. YHWH was saying that anyone who comes to inquire of the prophet concerning Him and has idols in His heart, YHWH will answer them Himself!!! When living for YHWH there can be no room for another. Once one knows the truth, tolerance or acceptance of anything else is a fault!!!
YHWH had told the prophet not to answer them and so I any prophet spoke to those filled with idolatry. It would be for blinding those whose minds were made up anyway, and so the prophet would be giving a false message and be as guilty!
These hypocritical elders came to the True Living Elohim, while they were whoring after other idols in their hearts. YHWH asks Ezekiel, “should I let them inquire of ME?” YHWH was not obliged to answer when they refused to acknowledge His sovereignty. So instead of giving them what they desired, He gave them what they needed – YHWH’s attitude toward idolatry. When you come to YHWH will idolatry in your heart, He will deal with that idolatry, in order to recapture your heart for Him!
This passage is a call to righteous living, uncompromised worship unto YHWH. YHWH speaks of His judgment that was to come on the land through the famine, beast, sword and plague and declares that only the righteous will survive.
This is important for us to understand today as we see in Revelation these four judgements coming upon the earth during the Great Tribulation:
Revelation 6:8 “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”
What will keep one safe during these judgements? Our righteousness – and righteousness is defined in:
Deuteronomy 6:25 “And if we are careful to obey all this law before YHWH our Elohim, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”
We cannot ride on the coattails of anyone else’s righteousness. We must observe and guard His Torah, now written on our hearts – we are to guard our hearts with the good deposit we have received from Him. Walking in Him will keep us free from harm, amen!
This chapter describes 3 key men in Scripture – Noah, Daniel and Job – three men who lived righteously from which we can certainly learn and be encouraged by as we live in an unrighteous world.
Noah lived righteously in the midst of a vile culture. What is culture? Well it is the way of thinking, living and behaving that defines a people group and underlines its achievements. It is a nation’s collective mind, its sense of right and wrong, its perception of reality and definition of self. It is the obligations we acknowledge toward our neighbours, our community and government. It is the standards we set and enforce for ourselves and others; culture is our definition of duty, honour and character.
So what was the culture like in Noah’s day?
Genesis 6:5 “And YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously.”
Noah lived in an extremely evil age – so much so that Genesis goes on to tell us YHWH was sorry he made man!!! Man was filled with wickedness. The faithful had intermingled with the wicked and had become absorbed into the evil world culture. All mankind had corrupted itself. Noah had remained righteous in the face of all this and by his faith became the heir of righteousness that comes by faith. Yahshua tells us that the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah. We are certainly living in wicked times. The world we live in today is described as:
1 – Secular – where there is little or no place at all for YHWH in the hearts of many!
2 – Materialistic – Most are driven by possessions and greed and not love for YHWH!
3 – Sensual – Most are motivated by pleasure and love for self.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of Elohim— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”
We are living in terrible times and we must guard the righteous deposit in us and walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh. When living in a world where everyone limps, a person who walks normal is sadly considered abnormal! May we walk normal in a crooked generation; for it is possible to remain faithful in a sinful world – we are in the world but not of this world – Noah walked righteous and so too can we, empowered by the Spirit of Elohim.
1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of Elohim lives forever.”
Titus 2:11-14 “For the grace of Elohim that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great Elohim and Saviour, Yahshua Messiah, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness (lawlessness) and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
Daniel lived righteously and undefiled under a repressive and wicked government. We can certainly be encouraged by Daniel’s faithful endurance to not compromise worship unto YHWH, despite the laws of the land. There is coming a time at the end of days where the worship of the beast will be enforced, taking upon the mark of the beast, which I have spoken of recently, as Scripture clearly shows us that our sign or mark as followers of Yahshua is keeping His Sabbath!
Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile his worship – his heart was free from idolatry, equipping him to live righteously before YHWH and therefore he walked in the provision, favour and grace of YHWH.
Job lived righteously, even under the greatest of personal trials. He had an overly critical wife who told him to renounce YHWH. His wife was killed as well as his children, he lost his wealth (bearing in mind he was the wealthiest in the east!) and lost his health to severe sicknesses, such that no one had ever endured. To top it all off – he had 3 critical friends who found fault with him and criticised him extensively – talk about beating a man when he is down! In his darkest hour his friends turned against him. And all that was happening to Job led others to believe that their must have been some secret sin in his life. They intimated that if he was righteous he wouldn’t be suffering like he was. Do you know what? They were all wrong in their criticisms. What we can learn from this is that a wrong spirit is a critical spirit! Often a person with hidden sin in their own lives will most certainly try to uncover sin in another person taking the focus off of themselves – how can you tell your brother to take the speck out of his eye when you have a log in your own!!!
Job remained faithful in honouring YHWH even under the severest moments in his life. Discouragement can often overwhelm those who are undergoing long trials – be encouraged by the example of Job and Daniel and Noah for the best thing to do is to come before YHWH in prayer. As you study the life of Job you find that YHWH vindicates Job and restores all that he had lost by giving him back double honour and he shook up Job’s critics by ordering them to go to Job for prayer, for Job’s prayer was acceptable before YHWH:
Job 42:8 “So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.””
We must continue to remain true to worship unto YHWH no matter where we live, the times we live in or the circumstances we find ourselves in – we must hold on to the hope we have in Messiah.
1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Yahshua Messiah is revealed.”
We are to live upright, holy lives – righteous living in an unrighteous world! And there are certainly benefits and promises for us who live right in Messiah. By faith we have become the righteousness of Elohim in Messiah. That means we by faith appropriate what Messiah has done for us and now live in Him and walk as He walked – living righteously led by the very indwelling Spirit, having the Torah now written on our hearts; we are to have hearts that are not defiled by idolatry but filled with His Word, amen!
The reward and assurance for righteous living in an unrighteous world is amoung many benefits:
1 – Deliverance: Ezekiel 14:14 “Even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Master YHWH.”
2 – Prosperity – Daniel 6:28 “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
The Wicked may rule and reign on the earth but YHWH will cause the righteous to prosper, amen!
3 – Restoration – Job 42: 12-13 “YHWH blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters.”
Job’s life was restored and received a double fold restoration! Has the enemy stolen from you? Hold on and persevere in righteous living for your restoration is at hand.
4 – Redemption – Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Living in a world that is unrighteous we have the assurance of our Father, we have His abiding presence and protection, He knows us by name and in our lives His name is exalted. May we understand the blessing Yahshua speaks of in the Beatitudes when He says “Blessed are you when you are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
May we be strengthened to live righteous in an unrighteous world, not coming to ‘demand’ stuff from YHWH when we know that our lives are full of compromise – get rid of all compromise and live by His Word given to us as a gift. Live as a faithful Bride remaining true to the marriage covenant. In this world you will have trouble says Yahshua, but we are to take heart for He has overcome the world, therefore as we walk in Him we too are overcomers, amen! Righteousness is imputed to individuals by faith, not based on your family history, denomination, nationality or heritage – it is by faith and no one else can believe for you – we will all give an account of ourselves before YHWH (Romans 14:12).
Each person alone chooses to accept Yahshua and thereby choose to obey and follow and live for our Messiah. You alone have the choice to live righteous in an unrighteous world. Do not compromise your worship unto YHWH and approach Him with ulterior motives in your heart, seeking only what you want to hear, but come to Him with an open heart to be filled with His love – with His Word. Let us be encouraged to live right and not wrong, no double minded living but rather wholehearted devotion to YHWH.
James 4:7-10 “Submit yourselves, then, to Elohim. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to Elohim and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before YHWH, and he will lift you up.”
Let us not be like those elders that came to Ezekiel, and like the false prophets of the day who were comfortable in their ways instead of being faithful to YHWH, who lived ‘fast’ and ‘loose’ refusing to hear YHWH calling them to repentance but rather accepted falsehood as opposed to Truth, as the false prophets were declaring a message that was contrary to the very Word of YHWH – they did not want to change their behaviour so they changed their message!!! We see that happening big time today, let us not fall into that trap. To understand YHWH’s truth you must be obedient to YHWH’s will – and that is to obey Him!
Some of the false notions that are spoken or thought of by many today are:
- We have got plenty of time; let us do what we want now!
- We can play with the Truth, it won’t hurt anyone! Let me remind you that they way is narrow and few find it!
- We can place well on the team! Some think that if others do all the obedience then they will be ok, because were all on the same team right!!! No, each member must do his part and not be lacking in reverent worship to let the team be unified in worship!
May we live pure, holy and upright lives, living free of all compromise. It is the condition of our heart that determines our response to YHWH’s tests!
Is there anything hidden in your life today, perhaps the message of the prophet Ezekiel has pointed out hidden areas that need to be changed? Can you honestly say that your life lines up with YHWH’s Word in your relationship with Him? If yes, keep on going, praising Him all the way. If not, then come and turn from whatever has taken you away from Him and Walk in Him afresh today – this is a call for righteous living in an unrighteous world!