Category: Ezekiel



24But since you refuse to listen when I call and nobody pays attention when I stretch out my hand, 25since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, 26I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – 27when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. 28‘Then they will call to me, but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. 29Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke. 31They will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32For the waywardness of the simple will kill them and the complacency of fools will destroy them, 33but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.'” –Proverbs 1:24-33

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Though Proverbs contain many verses which can cause elation, there are those scary ones as well, which warn and rebuke. Some of these like verses share in telling of the potential consequences of a life of sin. This group of verses however I think we are dealing with one sort of sinner. That doesn’t mean not all sinners can reflect upon the verses of course, for they are applicable to just about anyone. Yet, going into the text, I believe there is a group of sinners which are referenced here. To coin a term, assuming it hasn’t already been coined, I will call this group of individuals, “God’s bad weather friends.” We all know the idiom concerning a, “fair weather friend,” obviously signifying that a particular individual only has a relationship with you when the atmosphere is to his or her liking. God’s bad weather friends are exactly the opposite. These folks seek a relationship with God only in times of trouble. The rest of the time they go on sinning, yet when trouble comes along they look to God for deliverance.
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I hope to explain how the Lord drew me to these conclusions. First, however, to really follow the way my thought process was guided, we need to start from the beginning of this collection of Scripture. Verse 24 says:

24But since you refuse to listen when I call and nobody pays attention when I stretch out my hand,”

Foremost, what we see is that this verse, and those following it, are not only directed to an individual, but also a group of individuals. “You,” commonly is used to target a singular individual, though it can be used for a class of people, but “nobody” specifically refers to more than one person. Not only does this suggest a plurality, but an absolute as well. “Nobody,” as a term is negated whenever there is exception.

One of these notable exceptions in Scripture is the exception of Lot. In Genesis 18 we find the fascinating account of Abraham bartering with God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In an effort to help save Sodom and Gomorrah from God’s wrath, Abraham argues with the Lord.

25Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26The Lord said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’ 27Then Abraham spoke up again: ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?’ ‘If I find forty-five there,’ He said, ‘I will not destroy it.’

From Abraham’s questions I can’t help wonder if Abraham was trying to discover the value of a human life to God. Regardless whether or not Abraham even had that inkling, we do find out the answer. Every human life is important and holds immense value to God. The bartering and humble boldness of Abraham continues as the Lord eventually concedes that He will not destroy the city if there are ten righteous people. Of course, God couldn’t find ten righteous people, so the cities came under His righteous wrath. However, it was not the case that nobody there was righteous. A man named Lot lived in Sodom. It was for his sake that God, though He didn’t relent from His anger, but for the sake of one righteous individual, the Lord called him and his family out of the city delivering him another way.

In the study of Proverbs we have already discovered some city imagery, which I believe carries over into the verses addressed here. Right now we are hearing from the point of view of “wisdom,” which is literary personification of a concept, that is wisdom. Yet, it is much more than that. This wisdom is God, for Proverbs 2:6 says:

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

It is God that is “wisdom,” for absolute wisdom is an attribute of God Himself.

Concerning verse 24, they refuse to listen when God calls, and do not pay attention when God stretches out his hand. What does it mean for the Lord to stretch out His hand? It can mean several things. Out of the short list I have compiled, and I do not claim to have all the possibilities written down, I noticed that a lot has to do with the position of the palm when conceptualizing the Lord’s outstretched hand.
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It can be a reference to omniscience, an offering, acceptance, judgment, compassion, help, or the means of bringing about an event, either as a blessing, or as a calamity. “Since you refuse to listen when I call,” indicates that God has offered Himself to these people first, and they have not paid attention even when the Lord outstretches His hand. In this context, I believe the Lord’s outstretched hand to have the attributes of judgment, compassion, help and a means of bringing about a calamity. Meaning the people talked about here had a “bad weather” relationship with God. They reaped just consequence and then asked the Lord for his help. The Lord in His compassion, helped the folks in their time of distress, but they immediately went back to simple lives.

The term, “since,” indicates a upcoming consequent. Proverbs gives us several reasons why this judgment is to occur. Aforementioned there is the refusal to listen to God and the fact that nobody pays attention when the Lord stretches out His hand. I myself have been guilty of this very thing. At times I will pray for something in earnest and when it is answered from God by His very hand, I have forgot about the Lord. Simply, I have forgotten to give praise and credit where it is due. Furthermore, I don’t always act the way I should when receiving deliverance or rebuke from the Lord. This is only one reason why this group of Scriptures is so convicting to me.
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In addition, to not listening and not recognizing the Lord’s outstretched hand, a couple more reasons are given as to why negative consequence will befall such people. These are because there is a complete disregard of the Lord’s advice and a non-acceptance of the Lord’s rebuke. How interesting it is that we are confronted with the term, “advice.” Many have the conception of God, that he is some omniscient arrogant deity that sits up on His thrown and just throws out commandments with a, “follow me or else,” type attitude. Though this is true to a degree, the fact is that such an unflattering view of God negates one of the most important attributes about God. That is His love and His desire to be in a relationship with every single individual that humbles themselves before Him. So while it is true the Lord has made commandments, at the same time it is also true that He desires a relationship. This is the meaning behind the term, “advice.” The Lord could have said, “Since you don’t obey me, then . . .” However, The Lord did not say such a thing, but makes His rebuke telling the objects of the Scripture that they have ignored His “advice.” When we juxtapose “command” with “advice” we find quite the striking difference. Advice suggests a deeper personal relationship. A relationship with somebody who cares about what direction the object towards which this advice is offered and is going.
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26I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – 27when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.” –Proverbs 1:26-27

To better extrapolate the meaning behind these two verses, it is necessary to jump down a bit to verse 31 and 32:

31They will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32For the waywardness of the simple will kill them and the complacency of fools will destroy them.”

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Although there is much contrast within this group of verses, there is also a coherence between who a man is and what consequence is to come to pass. The term fruit here is the consequent of these peoples state of heart and being. Their ways bring about a punishment which is corollary to their very behavior. “Simple,” in practical terms, refers to the indulgence of carnal desires. Such a simple man, no matter what Lynard Skynard might think, is completely wayward, for their ways suddenly shift in an effort to fulfill those carnal desires. Neither the wayward momentum of the simple, nor the stagnant ways of the complacent fool, will save them. Indeed, it will become their very downfall.

Even mockers will have their just and corollary reward. Mockers are brought up specifically just previously in Proverbs 1, Verse 22:

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?”

There are at least three classes of folks dealt with in our group of verses. The simple, the fool, and the mocker. As said before the simple indulges in the carnal desires. The fool is complacent and lacks knowledge, by choice, for there is a relationship between the simple and the fool. The mocker is included as well and more likely than not this has to do with a person who through behavior or by his spirit mocks God. God answers such as these in verses 26 and 27.

Yet, the Bible tells us in Ezekiel 18:32, that God takes no delight in even the punishment of the wicked. However, Proverbs specifically mentions God mocking and laughing. God also laughs which in turn can be a form of mocking. Is this God taking pleasure in the punishment of the wicked. We have somewhat of a paradox here, and when studying the Word, I love paradoxes. Why? Instead of writing them off as contradictions, the exploration of paradox gives us a deeper understanding into the Word of God and even God Himself.

Here we have a paradox between the absence of pleasure when God punishes the wicked, and His ability to mock. To settle this paradox we need to ask ourselves is it necessarily the case that mockery must be a form of pleasure. In practical applications, that is concerning human behavior, we find this not to be the case. Every mockery is not motivated by a joy. Quite the contrary, most mockery is a form of displeasure. Mockery, in human terms, seeks to lower another for a prideful purpose, as opposed to God whose motives are for just purposes. Since it is just, mockery from God seeks not to lower, but to reveal truth. God mocks the prideful, for next to God we are nothing. It is the pride He mocks. It is not directed at the punishment itself. Mockers mock due to prideful purposes, and because of that pride, God will mock the pride of the proud and bring them low. Thus, mockers too will eat the fruit of their ways. They will mock and in turn be mocked by God. For how misplaced is pride when compared with the Lord?
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There is much imagery shared here concerning storms and weather. Keeping along the lines of our current themes the storms too must signify something. Since it comes upon the sinners it must be a part of the sinners God is mentioning specifically. Simply, we find the punishment fits the crime in that the fruits of the sinner will be the very ones to befall them. So, mockery for the mockers, the simple, the carnal desires, and the fool, the lack of knowledge. Since we have all this corollary fruit, so too would the storms mention be representational of those spoken of in Proverbs. How can a storm be representational of an individual as regards sin?
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Let us take the waywardness of the simple for example. To be wayward, according to Dictionary.com, is to have turned away from what is right and proper; willful; disobedient. Swayed or prompted by caprice; capricious. Turning or changing irregularly; irregular. To be capricious is to be given to sudden unpredictable change, as one’s mind or the weather. Both these apply to the simple, in that they frequently change their mind to follow their own wayward carnal appetites and upon such the Lord will bring a storm of calamity. This storm will hit from all sides and the simple will make their plea to God for deliverance. Yet, the shifting storm is of their own doing much like their shifting desires and wills. It is this plea that will not be heard from by God. They will eat of their own just deserts. Verse 28 says:

“Then they will call to me, but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.”

In this arises another paradox for the Bible also tells us in Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9, “Seek, and ye shall find.” Aren’t these men seeking God by their plea? Is the Holy Word contradicting itself? Not at all. Rather than this being the case, we receive insight into the heart of such individuals. Verse 29 and 30 read:

29Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke.”

Such people hate knowledge, don’t fear the Lord, don’t accept his advice, nor his rebuke and being the case have not a heart for God, but a heart of self. It is only out of self-preservation that they cry out to God, not for the knowledge that they have done wrong and sinned. Nor is it for a healthy fear of the Lord. The Lord understands the human heart better than we ourselves do. Is the Lord bound to redeem those who have not heart for Him? Certainly not, though He does deliver the sinner at times to make Himself known unto them, but we should be wary of relinquishing ourselves to our basic “needs” and then begging the Lord for deliverance and forgiveness when consequence comes upon us. Such a repetition of behavior suggests a focus on self and not on the Lord.

To give scriptural evidence of this, the Book of James says in Chapter 4, Verse 3:

“Ye ask, and receive not because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

This is an amazing verse for it shows that the Lord doesn’t answer prayer if it is to encourage sinful behaviors. The people in Proverbs sought sinful behavior and ask for deliverance from trouble in order that they may continue to indulge in their lusts.

31They will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.” —Proverbs 1:31

Scheming certainly has its bad connotation. Yet, there are blessed schemes as well. Dictionary.com defines a scheme as a plan, design, or program of action to be followed, project, an underhand plot, intrigue. A visionary or impractical project. A body or system of related doctrines, theories, etc. Any system of correlated things, parts, etc, or the manner of its arrangement. A plan, program, or policy officially adopted and followed, as by government or business, an analytical or tabular statement. God has his own Holy schemes as is made evident in the sacred doctrine, but beware the underhand schemes of man which seek to deceive, if not self, then others including our Lord, but the Lord cannot be deceived due to His infinite perfection. What people desire in sin is often the very same means unto which they will meet their ends.

32For the waywardness of the simple will kill them and the complacency of fools will destroy them, 33but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

In addition, let us be wary of the complacency of the fool, complacency being foolish in and of itself. Being void of knowledge, wisdom, and is moreover given to sin. There are many things that bring about complacency. Drinking and drugs being two prime examples. We find that when these things are evident in life, complacency creeps into the lifestyle of the individual. Due to the dangers of idle hands we see an implicit and even explicit relationship between complacency and sin.

Despite some of the scary moments in Proverbs, there are messages of hope as well. The fact is we can choose to fear the Lord. We can choose to be non-complacent and non-foolish. We can chose not to be simple and not mock. We can repent and turn our hearts away from evil and towards the Lord. Such that do this will live in safety, be at ease, and be free of the fear of harm. Now that doesn’t mean that harm will not come to us, but in history time and time again we see those blessed men and women of the Lord who did not fear what harm was to come to them by the hands of man. Matthew 10:28 says:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

We can be free of the fear of this harm simply by fearing the Lord. This brings ease and rest to the soul. Due to the fact that we can count on this salvation, we can live in safety, knowing our salvation is secure in the Lord our God by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.
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2 Corinthians 5:20“Therefore, on behalf of Christ, we are ambassadors, as God is exhorting through us, we beseech on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

When we accept Christ and are found to be in Christ testified to by the presence of the Holy Spirit, we will naturally (as concerns our newly created actuality, rather than that of the old nature) have the desire to spread the gospel message of Christ, which amounts to a reconciliation between us and God. This desire and caring for the spiritual condition or well-being of others comes direct from the Holy Spirit. As I have mentioned before in other posts, “therefore” is a word that implies a direct conclusion. That which follows the word “therefore,” is the stated induced or deduced conclusion arrived at from the pre-stated premises or arguments which precede the word, “therefore.” We necessarily, then, arrive at the question, of which previous statements is Paul referring.

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The answer to this inquiry is 2 Corinthians verse 18-19 of chapter 5.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “And all this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”

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“On behalf of Christ,” according to the LITV, or Jay Green Sr.’s A Literal Translation of The Bible, is mentioned twice within the verse. The first instance modifies the statement immediately proceeding it, “We are ambassadors.” More or less, this reveals that “we are ambassadors for Christ.” The second instance, that we beseech on behalf of Christ, implies that we share the same message that Christ Himself shared, which is extant within the Scriptures and gospels.

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In addition, when the Word of God repeats itself, or seems redundant in repetition, it is truly not redundancy, but rather repetition is used for a means of emphasis. Therefore, Paul is emphasizing the fact that we are speaking on behalf of Christ, which means a number of things. Some of which will be explored in this blog post. A couple of the most basic though, are that it emphasizes that this message is not of human speech and motive alone, but rather a message preceding from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself. Moreover, we share in Paul’s divine appointment, which will be discussed later, as will we discuss the great responsibility of such an appointment.

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The term “ambassadors” that is utilized is truly an important one. As The Life Application Study Bible says:

“An ambassador is an official representative of one country to another.” –Life Application Study Bible

William MacDonald in his Believer’s Bible Commentary says:

“An ambassador is a minister of state, representing his own ruler in a foreign land. Paul always speaks of the Christian ministry as an exalted and dignified calling. Here [in 2 Corinthians 5:20] [Paul] likens himself to an envoy sent by Christ to the world in which we live.” –William MacDonald

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Given this definition or usage of the word, “ambassadors,” we find that it is more than appropriate. Ellicott’s commentary gives us a little insight into the origins of the usage of the word in this particular verse.

“’Ambassadors,’ which may be noted as singularly felicitous, first appears in the version of 1611. The word, derived from the medieval Latin ambasciator, and first becoming popular in the Romance languages, is found in Shakespeare, and appears to have come into prominence through the intercourse with France and Spain in the reign of Elizabeth.” –Charles John Ellicott

Prior to this the word used was “legates.” This word has a definition within both the Catholic and Roman traditions. The Catholic usage, is “a member of the clergy, especially a cardinal, representing the Pope.” However, because Paul was a contemporary of the Roman Empire, he obviously was using the word in the Roman context which meant, “the general or governor of an ancient Roman province, or their deputy.”

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Utilizing both “legates” and “ambassadors” we can reach several striking conclusions. The first concerns authority. By authority I mean that we are given a degree of this authority by Christ and His instruction to share this message of reconciliation. In addition, we are authoritative figures as we are both heirs to the Kingdom and beneficiaries of the glory of the Lord.

Romans 8:17, “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.”

Moreover, concerning this authority, the Christ Jesus says:

Luke 10:16, “Then He said to the disciples, ‘Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting Me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting Me. And anyone who rejects Me is rejecting God, who sent Me.”

Furthermore, in John, Jesus tells His disciples:

John 20:21, “Again [Jesus] said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’”

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However, being an “ambassador” means we are subservient to a higher rule, which is the Lord Himself. Due to the fact we are subservient, our message must correspond with the message of the higher ruling Agent, which is that of Christ Jesus. In addition, we have a great responsibility in sharing this glory, authority and message of reconciliation. As the Life Application Study Bible states:

“An ambassador of reconciliation has an important responsibility. We dare not take it lightly.” –Life Application Study Bible

This authority and responsibility in sharing the message of reconciliation denotes a couple of things. First, and again, it is extremely important that our testimony, witness, or appeal unto others must be in complete correspondence with the ministry of reconciliation as revealed by Christ and the Scriptures. Second, we must be a living testimony and sacrifice that our behavior will not conflict with the ministry. Within us the ministry of truth must be apparent as well as expressed, for we discredit the message by not being in obedience to it. I believe this responsibility and the extreme duty we have to follow Christ’s commandments is expressed earlier in chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 5:11, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.”

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If we are to be sincere and be fearful in our responsibility about this ministry of reconciliation, then it follows that not only will we preach the truth, but we will live according to it. Moreover, to some degree we can see how the two are mutually interconnected, so that if we cease to live by Christ’s expressed truth, the message we share with others will become distorted or open to falsehood. In addition, if we accept or let a false message creep into the message we share, how long before there is a concurrent output that becomes evident in our lives. Christians need to beware at making compromises or concessions to their faith based on sympathies or the ways and arguments of the world, for when we give these freedom or speak them, they will produce a harvest of falsity in our faith and detrimentally affect our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, we are to be partners with the Lord and not oppose Him, basing our relationship with Him on invasive doctrines. Unfortunately, this is all too common, which Paul recognized as he said, stating both our responsibility and this danger:

2 Corinthians 6:1, “As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.”

It is God Himself who enables us both to be in obedience and to be ambassadors to the Good News, thereby let us adhere to God’s ways, the ways of the Spirit, the commands of Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:6, “[God] has enabled us to be ministers of His new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”

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This enabling by the Lord is perhaps nowhere seen more explicitly than in the example of Paul, who was chosen by the Lord, by grace and divine appointment, to spread the message of reconciliation unto the Gentiles. As Christ tells Saul at his conversion:

Acts 26:17-18, “And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in Me.”

Though we might have authority by being trusted with this ministry, it does not mean we share, at this time, in kingly comforts which the world might tend to bestow to those who have authoritative positions. It is Paul again who mentions himself as an ambassador even though he lay in chains.

Ephesians 6:20, “I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly as I should.”

These prayers were most certainly answered, for Paul becomes an example for Christians to follow as it applies to the ministry. Obviously our prime example is Jesus Christ, but the early church fathers do present examples of how should live and how we are to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. This concerns not only how they lived there lives in obedience to their faith, but also how they shared the message of reconciliation.

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The Christian cannot help but be impressed with the love of God. That the Lord implores, beseeches, and pleads with us to be reconciled to Him expresses this deep love. This love is manifest in both the Testaments. Some have the perception that the God of the Old Testament is entirely wrathful, while the God of the New Testament is entirely loving, yet the discerning Christian will realize that the Old Testament has attributes of love, while the New Testament speaks too of wrath. Yet, our Lord loves us and implores us not to come under this wrath. We live under two realities, we can either live under wrath, or we can live under grace and love. It is apparent, which one the Lord wants from us. Ezekiel (a rather wrathful book in itself) states God’s great love and desire to impart mercy.

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Ezekiel 18:31-32, “Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live!”

Concerning man’s rebellion, Matthew Henry exhorts us:

“Now man must lay down his arms of rebellion, must cease his stubborn revolt, and must be reconciled to God.” –William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary

This shows the Lord’s earnest pleading, and it is not because God is on some power trip or selfish, for what does our Lord have to gain or lose by us coming to Him or not coming to Him? Matthew Henry expounds on this point:

“Though God cannot lose by the quarrel [the enmity between God and man], nor gain by the peace, yet He beseeches sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept the salvation He offers.” –Matthew Henry

Concerning this enmity, William MacDonald states matter-of-factly:

“If any enmity exists, it exists on man’s part.” –William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary

Paul implores, pleads, begs, and beseeches that we would be reconciled to God. Again, God Himself is doing this! The Creator of the universe is begging before the likes of man for us to be reconciled to Him. This speaks amazingly of God’s great love, and brings forth images of Christ washing the disciple’s feet. That the Lord of all, would be so humble as to implore us is almost beyond belief. Yet, I am not the only one to be struck by the reality of this and its implications.

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“[Beseeching] seems rather strange language to apply to an ambassador. Usually we do not think of an ambassador as pleading, but that is the story of the gospel, that, in it, God is actually on bended knee and with tear-dimmed eye begging men and women to be reconciled to Himself.” –William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary

Truly, it is an amazing God we serve, and we should do so, in full knowledge of God’s love, and our love for Him, in complete obedience and servitude for this is what He deserves. Further, this is the message that we should portray and share with others, that those we come into contact with may experience the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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