Summary: This began as a sermon about helping the less fortunate, and became a sermon about repentance and hardness of our hearts
t: Ezekiel 11:1-25, Title: RRB 6: How to Fix a Hard Heart, Date/Place: NRBC, 8/9/09, AM
A. Opening illustration: Jonah’s preaching experience and the massive repentance in Nineveh
B. Background to passage: Explain that I was working on a good message about Jesus promising to be with us always. And how that when the Father and the Son wanted to minister and reach fallen man, Jesus came to be with us. He had an incarnational ministry which is our example. And in preparation, I was looking for statistics on poverty in Tifton, and saw that I had a note about it in the sermon that I preached last year, but couldn’t find the actual statistics, so I listened to the last half of that message. And in wrestling with my own heart toward the poor, and reading the quote from McCheyne in The NT Deacon, p. 40, I was convicted that my sermon last year was on target theologically, but ineffective. AND that my heart was just as hard as yours. Speak about the stir I caused with the blog post about the poor. And so I asked this question:
C. Main thought: How do we fix a hard heart? For this is truly our problem, not only as it relates to helping the poor, but to taking the gospel to the nations, tithing, sexual purity, gossip, discipleship, loving our wives, and every other sin and problem that we face. This text shows us how it’s done.
A. God Scatters (v. 5-16)
1. The context of Ezekiel’s day chronologically was in between the 597 BC raid on Jerusalem and the 586 BC destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar. The people of Israel had been taken captive and scattered in about 720 BC, and the southern kingdom of Judah heeded the warning only slightly. And as hard as their heart was, a hundred years later, they had slipped into many of the same sins that brought the downfall of the north. Primarily, they had failed to know and love God (evidenced in their treatment of the temple and their approach to worship). They had failed to obey the commands of God, keeping the law with a pure heart. And they had discounted their obligation to their fellow man in the oppression of the poor. They had adopted the culture of the Gentiles around them, and forsaken their relationship with God. And so God had scattered them, just as he promised he would do. Note the language that He uses to explain there sin, and His actions
2. Deut 28:36-37, 47-52, Ex 14:4, 13, Dan 4:25, 34-37,
3. Illustration: our national economic woes are a small example, 9/11 would be bigger,
4. The hardness of heart, and the sins that Judah was caught up in, are strangely similar to our day. The one consistent thing that God uses to begin to soften hard hearts is suffering and crisis. Our hearts tend to get harder on their own, rather than softer. And most of us have trouble hearing the small still voice, but are clear when trouble comes. But crisis usually breaks us down and makes our hearts soft. Yet another reason to thank God for painful suffering. I guess it’s sad that it take that, but grateful that we have a God who loves us enough not to leave us in our hardness (for His presence left the remaining Jews in Jerusalem, and went to be with the exiles). If we continue to persist in a hardness of heart that, we are in for a great awakening. If we continue to hear the word, and practice no repentance; if we continue to see the need, but turn the channel; if we continue to do the same ol’ thing, when it is not working; if we continue to coast in our walk of faith, instead of pursue; if we continue to make things comfortable for us, and not think with a kingdom mentality…we put ourselves and all that we hold dear in danger. God will stop at nothing when He has purposed to break our hearts that He may use us to accomplish His purposes. If God is turning up the pressure on your life, stop complaining and fighting, and realize God is doing a work in your life. But if we are hard-hearted and complacent about it, we should know that God will reclaim His own, and infuse them with passion, but only by first bringing suffering and pain.
B. God Gathers (v. 16-18)
1. In the middle of Ezekiel’s prophecy Pelatiah (God Rescues) dies. He was one of the leaders there. And his death causes Ezekiel to ask God if He was going to wipe out all of Israel. Then God fills them in that He has a plan. Those that are left in Jerusalem, who would have assumed God’s favor because they were still there, would experience the removal of God’s presence from Jerusalem. And God would go and be a “sanctuary” to those who were being purified in exile. Then God says that He will gather the scattered, lead them back to the land, and give it to them; and they will repent. Repentance is key to work of softening, and key to regaining God’s favor. But notice that their repentance would bring forth fruit worthy of that repentance.