Scripture: Ezekiel 21
We’ve just heard from Ezekiel in about 590BC, prophesying that Babylon would destroy Judah and Jerusalem – all that was left of the 12 tribes of Israel. It’s easy to think of such apocalyptic OT writings as a bit literary and not literal, but before Ezekiel was a refugee and prophet, he was a real person with a real job (someone important). The events he describes were real, in v14 “Let the sword strike twice, even three times.” And Judah was struck three times, in 602, 597 and 586BC.
However, the real impact of this passage to the hearer would have been the idea that Babylon was God’s sword of judgement. This would be a devastating blow to the Jewish listeners, who considered themselves God’s people – how could God use unbelievers to punish His own people?
We’ve been through with the kids how wealthy we are in this country and what we do with our wealth. And there’s nothing wrong with having good things, even Jeremiah, the gloomiest of prophets, says God plans to prosper and not to harm us (Jer 29:11).
We are wealthy and powerful, because of many things (e.g. education, industrialisation, welfare) that came from Christians wanting to enable others to read the Bible and to know Christ. But as a society are we loving our neighbours as ourselves? Giving to Charity? £3.60 per week out of £533 (two-thirds of one percent)!
What might be the sword of God’s judgement today: global Islamic terrorism? the global economy and credit crunch? global warming and climate change? It’s fashionable today to laugh at preachers who preach doom and destruction. When the Revd Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s minister criticised American policy on a number of things he was turned on by the establishment. I was in the USA at the time and the vitriol being hurled at him was astonishing – but a lot of the things he said I could not factually disagree with. He concluded a sermon thus: “We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty … We are selfish, self-centered egotists who are arrogant and ignorant and betray our church and do not try to make the kingdom that Jesus talked about a reality. And — and — and in light of [this] God has got to be sick of this …” The US might be wealthier than us, but not 5-time’s wealthier.
In a moment we’re going to hear what ideas the kids have come up with to spend less and share more. Let’s not consider what they have to say in a spirit of fear, but in a spirit of desiring to please God – like Jesus.