Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

You will “know that I am the Lord”

You will “know that I am the LORD”

The controlling feature of Ezekiel’s life was “the word of the LORD came to me” (forty-nine times in Ezekiel; see previous post here). It speaks of historical encounters. It occurred again and again in specific moments. By each experience, he was immediately constrained and restrained by “the word of the LORD.” It was a past event that of necessity governed and controlled his present and future moments.

But the even more frequently repeated demand that those who hear that word “will know that I am the LORD” (seventy-two times in Ezekiel) speaks of the effect the fulfillment of that word would have on those who heard Ezekiel. Each occurrence of the expression pointed to a future event. When “the word of the LORD” that came to Ezekiel (and which he then obediently spoke) came to pass, then those who heard him would “know that I am the LORD.”

That “the word of the LORD came to me” is a report of a personal encounter. It is a report of revelation given. But “will know that I am the LORD” is a divine guarantee about what will come of that revelation and those to whom it has been given. When God speaks it can’t not happen. When it does, those who heard it will later realize they missed the boat, they should have listened but didn’t.

“The word of the LORD came to me” is the moment for listening. You “will know that I am the LORD” is a moment of reckoning.

When “the word of the LORD came to” Ezekiel, he listened. When he spoke the Lord’s word to the people, they didn’t. Ezekiel already knew the Lord. His listeners didn’t. But their unwillingness to hear did not lessen the effective power of God’s word. It would come to pass and then they would come clearly to know the identity of Him who had spoken through the prophet.

There is no more wonderful moment than when God speaks His Word with Spirit-given illumination and understanding. There is no more dangerous moment than when God speaks His Word. Everything hangs in the balance.

So, again, open your Bible. Bow your head. Ask the Author of this book for light as your read. And then, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7b-8a; Heb. 3:7, 15; 4:7).

The Word of the Lord

“The word of the LORD came to me.”

This expression occurs forty-nine times in Ezekiel. Elsewhere in the Bible it is found ten times in Jeremiah and only three other times. Clearly, Ezekiel’s entire life and existence was bound up under this controlling encounter. This simple, but oft-repeated line, tells us he was a man defined and controlled by revelation (“the word of …”), living under authority (“… of the LORD”), by grace (“… came to me”), and that this was profoundly personal (“… to me”) in its implications.

Revelation – Why did God use words to reveal Himself? Is this why He was so set against “images”? God set Himself before us not primarily through visions and dreams but through words. He did not have to reveal Himself at all. Yet He did. And He chose to do it through words of propositional truth and divinely guaranteed promises. This is one reason for the enduring relevance of Biblical religion. This comes to us while the prophet pronounces woe and doom and judgement over the surrounding nations (Ezek. 25ff; cf. Isaiah 13-23, Jeremiah 46-51). None of those nations exist today. Israel does. Those nations received God’s word of judgment. Israel received God’s promise.

Authority – This is not just any “word,” it is the word “of the LORD.” Yahweh, the self-existing, independent, un-contingent, eternal, covenant-making, covenant-keeping God has spoken. His voice brought into existence everything we know. Now he has addressed “me”! There has never been and never will be words like His. I must listen!

Grace – These words, Ezekiel testifies, “came to me.” They have arrived at my ear by grace, entirely by divine initiative. I did not ask for them. I didn’t seek them. I wasn’t expecting or listening for them. I did not know they existed. I didn’t think of this as a possibility. God took gracious initiative. I was going along, doing my own thing and God interrupted me, broke in on me with His “word.” I am an object of and a debtor to His gracious initiative.

Personal – and all this came “to me.” Not simply to us, but to “me.” I can’t farm out any resulting responsibility, it falls upon me. When “the word of the Lord” comes to you, you are, from that moment and by that “word,” an owned man. You have at that moment lost all personal will. You are a captive. A glad captive but a prisoner, nonetheless. You suddenly stand in light you did not know existed before that moment. You see in a way you never saw before. You have heard and can’t unhear. When “the word of the LORD” comes to you, you are from that moment gripped and held captive to that “the LORD” who has spoken. There exist no chains, shackles, zip-ties, prison walls, or contract that could hold you more securely than this “word.” You are an owned-man.

So, open your Bible. Bow your head. Ask the Author of this book for light as your read. And then, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7b-8a; Heb. 3:7, 15; 4:7).

The Most Certain Thing in the World

“… it is impossible for God to lie …” (Hebrews 6:18)

Contemplate this simple sentence. Dwell on the reality it holds out.

Consider, then, the absolute surety of God’s Word. If you hold a promise from God you possess the most certain thing on earth. It cannot help but come to pass. Balaam was a false prophet and sell out but he was right when he said, ‘God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19). The “God, who never lies, promised” something to you (Titus 1:2). Whatever may come, “he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). The “character of his purpose” is “unchangeable” (Hebrews 6:17).

Are you among “the heirs of the promise” (Hebrews 6:17a)? Then “be … imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (v.12). Let there be no doubt or wavering. The surety of the promise is not found in earthly circumstances or appearances. It is a matter of faith in one who is unseen, yet utterly reliable. His timing is not ours. It will require “patience.” But time does not diminish certainty, it only heightens desire.

The promise must come to pass for “it is impossible for God to lie.”

The Fear of the Lord #6

See the previous posts in this series here, here, here, here, and here.

Approaching the conclusion of our reflections, let’s recap. You desire success? You’ll need wisdom. To have wisdom, you’ll have to embrace the fear of the Lord. You’ll never embrace the fear of the Lord apart from God’s revelation of Himself to us, supremely in Jesus as held before us in the pages of the Bible.

We come then to the third movement in the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is evidenced by obedience to God.

How do I know whether I fear the Lord? There’s only one answer: Am I currently walking in obedience to God?

How do I know if someone else (maybe someone I love deeply) fears the Lord? Same answer – are they walking in obedience to God?

The Bible underscores this repeatedly. Here are just a few samples:

  • “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.” (Proverbs 8:13a)
  • “… by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6b)
  • “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.” (Proverbs 23:17)

The evidence of whether one fears the Lord is not how passionate one feels during corporate worship, how much passion arises within one over certain issues, nor how many Bible verses one can quote. There is only one test – obedience to God.

If you obey God’s Word, you fear Him. If you, at any point, do not obey God’s Word, at that point you fear something or someone more than your fear the Lord. That thing is your god, whatever else you may say.

In C.S. Lewis’s masterpieces known as The Chronicles of Narnia there is a passage in the opening book that sets before us this matter of the fear of the Lord.

In the account the children Lucy, Susan, and Edmund have entered into the make believe world of Narnia. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver were showing them about and have begun to tell them of Aslan.  He is a mighty lion, who represents the figure of Christ in the story. They described Aslan’s might, power, wisdom, and awesome presence. Yet the children did not seem to grasp who he was. Finally Mr. Beaver said, “You’ll understand when you see him.”

“But shall we see him?,” asked Susan.

“Why, Daughter of Eve, that’s what I brought you here for.  I’m to lead you to where you shall meet him,” said Mr. Beaver.

“Is, is he a man?”, asked Lucy?

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly, not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man.  Is he—quiet safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?,” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

Therein lies the heart of the matter. The fear of the Lord is not the opposite of love for God. The fear of the Lord is love in full blossom. And love for God is the fear of the Lord at its designed zenith.

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