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Before You Know It - Ezekiel



Ezekiel 25

The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, set your face toward the Ammonites and prophesy against them. Say to the Ammonites, Hear the word of the Lord God: Thus says the Lord God, Because you said, 'Aha!' over my sanctuary when it was profaned, and over the land of Israel when it was made desolate, and over the house of Judah when they went into exile, therefore behold, I am handing you over to the people of the East for a possession, and they shall set their encampments among you and make their dwellings in your midst. They shall eat your fruit, and they shall drink your milk. I will make Rabbah a pasture for camels and Ammon a fold for flocks. Then you will know that I am the Lord. For thus says the Lord God: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel, therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand against you, and will hand you over as plunder to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and will make you perish out of the countries; I will destroy you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

"Thus says the Lord God: Because Moab and Seir said, 'Behold, the house of Judah is like all the other nations,' therefore I will lay open the flank of Moab from the cities, from its cities on its frontier, the glory of the country, Beth-jeshimoth, Baal-meon, and Kiriathaim. I will give it along with the Ammonites to the people of the East as a possession, that the Ammonites may be remembered no more among the nations, and I will execute judgments upon Moab. Then they will know that I am the Lord.

"Thus says the Lord God: Because Edom acted revengefully against the house of Judah and has grievously offended in taking vengeance on them, therefore thus says the Lord God, I will stretch out my hand against Edom and cut off from it man and beast. And I will make it desolate; from Teman even to Dedan they shall fall by the sword. And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord God.

"Thus says the Lord God: Because the Philistines acted revengefully and took vengeance with malice of soul to destroy in never-ending enmity, therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the rest of the seacoast. I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them."

Ezekiel – have you read it? Ezekiel is listed as one of the major prophets; kind of makes you feel a little bad for the minor prophets. He was a Jew living in Babylon, exiled by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 b.c., he was a priest who would be called to be a prophet, he was married, and he lived in his own home. His writing is succinct, straightforward and fairly easy to outline and follow. God is mad at Israel. God is mad at the surrounding nations. God will restore Israel. The basics, I know, but he never really diverts his interest or jumps around – it’s a linear unfolding or telling of the word from God. But man is it strange.

Prophets rely upon poetic literary devices. Ezekiel records four separate, major visions from God. An example:

Ezekiel 1

As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf's foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body. And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings.

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.

Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

This would actually become the inspiration for my entire time of teaching the youth here at Reunion. The early church fathers related Ezekiel’s vision to the four gospels. Matthew was the Lion – showing Jesus to be the messiah of the Jewish people, from the tribe of Judah. Mark was the Ox – showing Jesus to be a servant. Luke was the Man – showing Jesus to be fully man, written from the perspective of a historian and physician. And finally, John was the Eagle – showing the divinity of Jesus as the true Son of God and recording more miracles than any other gospel.

Ezekiel knew that God was the Lord. Ezekiel knew that God was real. Ezekiel knew things that I am sure he never wanted to or even thought possible to know. He was called in a time of defeat. He was called in a time of doubt. He was called to have knowledge in a time that little was available, not knowledge of the world around him – that knowledge he and others had in abundance – but the knowledge of God.

I know that God exists. I know – and at times I wonder if it would be easier not to know.

God will make Himself known. Approximately 65 occurrences of the clause (or variations) “Then they will know that I am the Lord” testify to that divine desire and intention.

yada: to know

Original Word: יָדַע

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: yada

Phonetic Spelling: (yaw-dah')

Short Definition: know

ani: I

Original Word: אָ֫נִי

Part of Speech: pronoun singular, common

Transliteration: ani

Phonetic Spelling: (an-ee')

Short Definition: Myself

Yhvh: the proper name of the God of Israel

Original Word: יְהֹוָה

Part of Speech: Proper Name

Transliteration: Yhvh

Phonetic Spelling: (yeh-ho-vaw')

Short Definition: LORD

…will know that I am the Lord

To know something. What do you know? What is it to know something?

Know nō verb

1. be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information.

synonyms: be aware, realize, be conscious, be informed;

2. have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.

synonyms: be acquainted with, have met, be familiar with; be friends with, be friendly with, be on good terms with, be close to, be intimate with

Do you know that God is real? How do you know this? I desperately wanted to know. Not in some crazy, quasi-spiritual, other-worldly warm feeling or something. At 19 years old I wanted to know. It would begin my life’s journey.

From my book (the one that I started 7 years ago…)

Chapter Three

“Therefore do they hate the truth for the sake of that thing which they love instead of the truth. They love truth when she shines on them, and hate her when she rebukes them. For, because they are not willing to be deceived, and wish to deceive, they love her when she reveals herself, and hate her when she reveals them.”

-St Augustine The Confessions of St. Augustine

John 14:6 NIV

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.”

The game was Kings. Roughly twelve of us sat around the massive wooden table, beautifully hand crafted with custom iron trimmings. Half-drank “party foul” beers littered the million dollar home located in the central corridor of Phoenix. Barbeque fragrances filled the air, my nostrils, and the cause of the aroma filled most stomachs present.

Amidst the clamoring of drunken conversation, ever so softly the sound of a phone ringing became apparent. The phone was answered and per request the device was placed on speaker.

The instructions were simple and swiftly put into action;

1. Take a pack of cigarettes

2. Remove the cellophane from bottom of the pack

3. Place the cellophane upside down on the table

The question was then stated, “what is it?”

The entire entourage sat in silent, excruciating anticipation, a rare situational expectation to be placed upon a drunken mob. And with the greatest of ease and gentlemanly tone, the voice on the other line of the phone stated plainly, “It’s the Minnesota Vikings Super Bowl trophy case.”

For a few seconds the puzzled expression on everyone’s faces seemed they would never fade, but the Minnesota Viking fan in the room was the first to break the collusion of expression – a look of disgust which would transform quickly to laughter.

Now, if you’re not a football fan this story most likely will make little sense to you. If however, you do love the greatest game to ever be played, and it is by the way, then you will fully appreciate the humor involved in the story – the Minnesota Vikings have never won a Super Bowl. To deepen the level of cruelty, the phone call was placed by a Chicago Bears fan, a heated arch rival and divisional foe of the Minnesota Vikings.

The phone call was true brilliance, a positively original attempt at humiliation that was executed with precision. I still don’t know if the caller came up with that on his own initiative, he is one of my best friends, but I would never put it past him. The rest of the party was rolling in laughter soon after the initial outburst, probably propagated by the fact that seventy percent of the party was comprised of ex jocks who live, eat, breathe and sleep football.

That event set the tone for the night. Light hearted escapades which swim in alcohol often drown in the pool they create from a puddle. Niceties and laughter, even seemingly innocent and tender in nature, breed undertones of cruelty and viciousness - darkness parading as light.

From football top ten lists, to the greatest band ever, including but not limited to; best singer, best lead singer, best bass player, best guitarist, best rhythm guitarist, best soloist guitarist… and then of course applied to each genre of music. Then to relationships, marriage or cohabitation, children, abortion, gay v straight debates. Philosophy reared its beautiful mug, along with politics and of course, everyone’s favorite drunken discussion topic – RELIGION. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

My plight, my arena of brass contention, God, god, gods… Heaven forbid we come upon a discussion of Jesus. You see, I always seem to take the side of the Christian when it comes to deep, drunken philosophical debates (feel free to pick that sentence apart at will). But let us not lie to ourselves here, most if not all of us have been privy to such conversations. Each time I articulate, surprisingly well in most instances, the defense for the Christian mindset, there seems to be that little imaginary prize or medal that you receive for besting others in drunken debate. It is an ego boost, a moral victory – term used loosely – and it suppresses a living, breathing, growing sense of conviction.

But this night was different.

Deep into a heated debate, my friend turned and looked at me with such clarity… and it was strange because it was as if the intoxicated state of the night had been lifted for a brief moment of realization. Now this friend is intelligent, and he has an intimidation that can build an argument all its own. Still he has the ability and knowledge to hold his own in conversation. He can be the biggest a**hole in the world. It’s true. But he looks at me, and I mean really looks at me, like when the Bible calls the eyes the “windows to the soul” looks at me. A veil was suddenly lifted and he said, “Todd, why don’t you stop saying it and start living it.”

I was destroyed, shattered. I had no substance and was called out, exposed in the sight of a world that had been mocking and laughing at me for years. I felt alone. I felt scared. I felt naked. I had always spoken of a truth, which not surprisingly, I knew nothing about.

With tears in my eyes and a heaviness in my heart I made a phone call of my own. This call would be placed to my pastor; a drunken, crying phone call at two a.m. And the statement that would forever change my life, well maybe the realization that would forever change my life, was spoken.

“I don’t know anything.”

And just as a truth was realized first by the Vikings fan in the room, a call upon his memory, recognition, and an innate reaction to a jest, I, a Christian, would realize an assault upon the fabric of my being, my soul, my entire paradigm and begin a quest to unearth that which was felt to be true.

I will soar, then, beyond this power of my nature also, ascending by degrees unto Him who made me. And I enter the fields and roomy chambers of memory, where are the treasures of countless images, imported into it from all manner of things by the senses. There is treasured up whatsoever likewise we think, either by enlarging or diminishing, or by varying in any way whatever those things which the sense hath arrived at; yea, and whatever else hath been entrusted to it and stored up, which oblivion hath not yet engulfed and buried. When I am in this storehouse, I demand that what I wish should be brought forth, and some things immediately appear; others require to be longer sought after, and are dragged, as it were, out of some hidden receptacle; others, again, hurry forth in crowds, and while another thing is sought and inquired for, they leap into view, as if to say, "Is it not we, perchance?" These I drive away with the hand of my heart from before the face of my remembrance, until what I wish be discovered making its appearance out of its secret cell. Other things suggest themselves without effort, and in continuous order, just as they are called for, those in front giving place to those that follow, and in giving place are treasured up again to be forthcoming when I wish it. All of which takes place when I repeat a thing from memory.

St. Augustine – The Confessions of St. Augustine

I would come to know so much more in my life. It’s funny to look back on my life at that point in time. Strange that my recollection of my recollection has become a look back now. Over the years, Pastor Steve would satisfy my intellectual pursuit. For years I devoured books – ancient writers, Greek Orthodox monks, philosophers, church fathers, history, and on and on and on. I would come to know more and more about God. But to “know” that He is the Lord – that is another story altogether.

So, a couple of years passed with no sign of me going into the missions’ field, I did not pursue it. One night, asleep in bed, I awoke for no particular reason. Now this is the part that sounds crazy, and for over a year I never told anyone of this experience in fear of rejection from others, but I know what I saw. There were three King David's standing next to my bed, how I knew it was King David I do not know. Each was looking down and held a large sword in their hands. As I attempted to study them visually without being detected, I realized that the third was a reflection in a full-size mirror that stands next to my bed. Terrified I lay there frozen until somehow, I fell back to sleep. The next day I studied as much about David as I could. What God showed me through His Word, what He had brought me to read, was that David's heart was to build the temple. What God had shown me that night was the two completed temples, real, substantial, full of life because He dwelt in them. The third was mere a facade, a reflection, no substance because God was not there. It was about the temple being rebuilt. The next day the snail for the dye for the chief priest’s garment was found in the middle east. They have been searching for it for 700-800 years. It is the final piece in the preparation of rebuilding the temple, besides acquiring the land back from the Muslims. Again, coincidence or God? So, at this point you probably think that I am crazy, and I thought for a while that I was myself. But later that year our church decided to go to Africa on a two-week mission’s trip. It was to Swaziland, predicted to become the first extinct country in the modern era. While I was there I experienced evil as I have never before. You can actually feel it weighing you down as you step off the plane there. There is so much death, hate, violence, it is insane. But I have also never heard the word miracle more in my life. I have never seen more effective prayer in my life. I feel like a blinder was removed from my eyes, and this spiritual world was revealed to me that before I thought the stuff of fantasies and myths. But now my King David experience didn't seem so nuts.

Three months later I was living in South Africa. We spent the first two weeks living on a game farm, studying the Bible, the culture, and rehearsing skits and presentations. One of the books we were studying was called Three Kings, about guess who, King David. Coincidence? A man named Derick and his wife and children came to stay with us for a few weeks to lead us in worship. Now it was told to us that Derick dealt in prophetic words or something, something which in my cynicism I blew off. But after his introduction he looked at me and said he had a dream about a man with a red beard, bald, and big like me coming to Africa. I shrugged it off, but hey, I was in Africa, a prophetic word might be kind of cool. After worship one night he came up and began to pray over me. He began in a prayer language, and I sure was skeptical, but then he proceeded to pray things that were only known to my heart, my mind, things that were only between God and myself. It scared the crap out of me. He said he saw battle in the spiritual realm, a large sword, prophecy, a large anointing being poured out through a shofar (ram's horn), and he said I would be a target for the enemy because of the ministry that I would be involved in, that my name would be dangerous for me. Well, that terrified me. I did not know what to think. So, I made my way out into a field, in solitude, and released my thoughts and emotions to God. I told Him that if all of this were true, that He could take me or send me anywhere and I would follow, but that He had to fill me up with His Spirit to do so. I was praying towards the moon, so visible and bold in the sky that I can still picture it with exactness now. The next morning in class I could not stay my thoughts. They ran wild. I realized that where I was globally located, that the night before the moon had me praying towards Jerusalem. On the paper in front of me my hand wrote down, "Muslims?" and it seemed without stopping it continued to write, "Yes." Of course, not wanting to see that, I said to God that I needed a sign that this was really happening. At that moment I started paying attention to the class happening around me. The instructor said to open to Acts 1:8 which starts out go into Jerusalem. Still unconvinced, I told God that I needed more. Just then the instructor said that for some reason he felt compelled to stop class and show a short movie to us. It was about a Muslim kid who was ministered to through Book of Hope and how more Christians were needed to be bold and go out to the Muslim world. I cannot deny God for too long, He seems to have the upper hand in these matters. After a couple of months of teaching and ministering in the field, going to schools and handing out God's word and playing with kids all day, we wound up in Swaziland, where my first missions’ trip had taken me. We were there just in time for Easter. Easter morning, I awoke to the awesome sound of a Shofar, so loud that it shook me awake. I looked over at the other guy staying in my room and said, "Well, I guess Jesus is coming back," then rolled over and went back to sleep. When we went to church that day, I began looking around at the banners hanging from the wall. To my left was a banner that said spiritual warfare with a picture of an angel with a large sword. So, I looked straight across from me and the banner read anointing, and pictured was a shofar pouring oil out over a person’s head. Nearly floored, I told everyone on my team. Then I said, "how about that shofar this morning?" No one except my roommate had any idea what I was talking about. NO ONE ELSE HEARD IT. It shook the two of us awake. There was a shofar being played that morning, but a couple of miles away. Not in my room! There was another shofar playing that morning as well, but that was my father playing his half way across the world in my home church.

I know that God is real. Every time that I stand before this congregation and blow my shofar, I know that He is real. It’s not easy to know this information. In fact, it makes life seem daunting at times. It makes self-reflection intense. It exponentially increases conviction. In an odd way, it creates more room for doubt.

The path to actual knowledge of who and what God is; it’s painful, it’s terrifying, it erases excuses. I would have it no other way.

I don’t know if you “know” that He is the Lord. I don’t know if you want to “know” that. What I do know is that I have been profoundly impacted – and I would never go back.

#sermons #ToddBookout