BE ASHAMED AND CONFOUNDED…2600 years ago, along the ancient Kebar River in what is known today as the country of Iraq, the heavens opened to the ancient biblical prophet Ezekiel. Of all the places God could have chosen to reveal the end times of humanity, His choice of Iraq definitely confounds us 21st century Christians!
And that's exactly what we need today. Paul said it so well in 1 Corinthians 1:27: "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty."
God is definitely doing a awesome "confounding" job right now with His geographical choice for the foundations of the Bible itself. Iraq, about the size of California, is the ancient biblical land known as Mesopotamia, Greek for “in the midst of the rivers.” Strategically located in Iraq are the Tigress and Euphrates Rivers, two of the headwaters of Genesis 2:10-14 flowing from the river in the Garden of Eden itself.
In the centuries that followed, the list of folks who inhabited this same area reads like a Who's Who of the Bible. The mighty warrior, Nimrod, ruled Babylon from there, and most likely helped build the Tower of Babel nearby. Genesis 11:9. "Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."
The biblical city of Nineveh, also built by Nimrod, was Jonah's final destination after the whale adventure. Located at Mosul, Iraq, it’s nearly eight miles of ancient city walls enclosed an area of 1,700 acres. In Jonah 3:3 we read that it took Jonah three days just to cross the city
Abraham's home was originally in Ur, which is also in modern day Iraq. In neighboring Nahor, Abraham's servant found a wife, Rebekah, for his son, Isaac. Later, Isaac and Rebekah's twin son Jacob, renamed Israel by God, spent 20 years working for his chosen wife in Paddan, Aram, located in today's Iraq. And then he ended up with two. Wives, that is. And they were sisters! (Confound it!)
Daniel, and his famous friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were exiled in current day Iraq, known then as Babylon. Esther and Mordecai, and several other prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel were also captured during hostile invasions and exiled near the same area.
And it's further confounding to learn that the word "confound" is used by the prophet Jeremiah 19 times. Every single time it involved judgment on God's people for turning away from Him. One of the most thought-provoking verses is Jeremiah 51:17. "Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them."
"...Every founder is confounded by the graven image..." As God’s chosen people were in the wilderness headed to the Promised Land, they followed His “Shekinah” glory cloud in the desert for 40 years. They had seen the face of Moses radiant in the rays of that same glory after 40 days on Mt. Sinai. The Lord’s Glory hovered over the Ark of the Covenant and was physically observed residing in the Temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon.
But somewhere along the way, the presence of the Lord in His temple or in the cloud became less important to God's people than the graven image of the temple or the cloud itself and their worship practices and rituals that went along with it. They began to think of the Temple building and it’s adornments and priests as sources of holiness and glory.
Since they obviously had been "confounded by the graven image", God allowed their enemies to breech the walls of Jerusalem and send them into exile.
This brings us to the timeline of Ezekiel's vision along the river in Babylon. "In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” Ezekiel 1:1.
According to God's calendar appointment given to us in the Old Testament, June 19, 2018, is the fifth day of God's fourth month, Tammuz. So this lesson from Ezekiel is right on target for us today.
In Ezekiel 36:32, one of his most memorable chapters, Ezekiel prophesies that God will gather the nation together again in the final days of mankind so that the world can see Him in all His glory, rebuilding what He destroyed. "Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!”
Aren't we just like the folks of ancient Israel, still looking for the glory of the Lord in predictable earthly places and graven images, like church buildings, church programs, stained glass windows, well-known evangelists, etc.? And of course, we are of the considered religious opinion that God’s glory could only be revealed mightily in a country like the USA and never in Iraq, of all places!
At this point, it really should come as no surprise that the words "confound" and "confounded" are repeated for us in the King James Version of God's Word 55 times. And there are definitely instances where we see the word in action. In Ezekiel 1:26-27, Ezekiel writes “...high above on a throne was a figure like that of a man… glowing… as if full of fire… and brilliant light surrounded him.”
Consider this confounding similar scripture in Revelation 1:13-17, as John the Revelator writes, "…I turned and saw… someone like a son of man… his eyes were like blazing fire… his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”
Now go back to Ezekiel 1:28 where the prophet describes the brilliant light surrounding the man "like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him."
Compare this to Revelation 4: 2, 4 where we are confounded again with these words. “…There before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it… A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne."
In the very first chapter of Ezekiel, he describes four living creatures below the throne of one who had "a figure like that of a man" with “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord."
Compare this again to Revelation 4, as John describes the figures of four living creatures around the throne, who never stop saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." The twenty-four elders join the living creatures, singing "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being."
Can there be any doubt that this figure of a man in Ezekiel, and the one on the throne in Revelation are one and the same? Combine all this with the startling illumination of John 1:1-3, 14: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
1 Peter 2:5-6 delivers the eternal punchline for today's lesson. "You also, as living stones, are built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Therefore also it is contained in the scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be confounded."
Be ashamed and confounded no longer!