WITH THEIR MOUTHS THEY EXPRESS DEVOTION, BUT THEIR HEARTS ARE GREEDY FOR UNUST GAIN… This week’s timely message on Gods calendar is about another time and place where a religious people felt very self-righteous about their position in the world. What eventually happened to them was predictable, yet totally avoidable.
King Nebuchadnezzar had attacked Jerusalem and taken some of the people to Babylon to live in exile. But there seemed to be some hope for their future return, since he had left many people in Judah, and even appointed one of their own to be king. The prophet Ezekiel had been prophesying from Babylon about the underlying sins of the people which would eventually result in the final downfall of the city.
“In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, "The city has fallen!" Ezekiel 33:21. The evening of December 28th on our 2022 Gregorian calendar marks the beginning of the fateful day when the grand and glorious nation of Judah, the remnant nation of Israel, and their capital city, Jerusalem, was reported to have fallen to their Babylonian enemies.
Ezekiel 33:22-26 tells the rest of the story. “Now the evening before the man arrived, the hand of the LORD was upon me, and he opened my mouth before the man came to me in the morning. So my mouth was opened and I was no longer silent. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, 'Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession.' Therefore say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you do detestable things, and each of you defiles his neighbor's wife. Should you then possess the land?’”
The people who lived in Jerusalem were a proud and righteous people who worshipped God together as a nation. They had an awesome house of worship, the magnificent temple of King Solomon. In those days in that nation, everyone went to worship on Sabbath, and many other holy days. They even worshipped for whole weeks at a time and prayed and fasted together as a nation.
Yet, they had acquired a state of mind that believed their nation and place of worship had become their own possession, to do with as they saw fit. They had bowed to the world’s traditions, justifying it because they also continued to worship God on His appointed days. The truth was their daily lives were full of religious hypocrisy and disrespect for the Almighty’s word. Yet their expectation, indeed their self-righteous prayer, was that God would look favorably on them and restore their nation.
This is God’s reply in Ezekiel 33:27-29: "Say this to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: As surely as I live, those who are left in the ruins will fall by the sword, those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to be devoured, and those in strongholds and caves will die of a plague. I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done.'’
Finally, God sums it all up as He speaks these words to in Ezekiel 33:31-33 “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. When all this comes true--and it surely will--then they will know that a prophet has been among them."
Our lesson today is a warning straight from Israel’s history. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11
“WITH THEIR MOUTHS THEY EXPRESS DEVOTION, BUT THEIR HEARTS ARE GREEDY FOR UNUST GAIN…”