Summary: A message showing how we sometimes limit God in using us to accomplish His will in our lives.
INTRO: Imagine for a moment that the year is 2998, one thousand years from now. You are an archaeologist and you have just unearthed a newspaper from 1998. In it you read a story about bulls and bears fighting on a street in New York. You find a drawing of a donkey laughing at an elephant. Are these odd, meaningless images, or did they communicate clearly to the people who first read them? Obviously, they communicated something to someone. We immediately recognize the symbols of Wall Street and our two political parties. As these images are familiar to us, so the bizarre, seemingly irrelevant images used by Ezekiel were familiar to the people of his day.
To understand Ezekiel’s images we must place ourselves in his position. Many of Ezekiel’s hearers were convinced God had abandoned them. They were defeated and alone. The Temple stood in Jerusalem; that’s where God was, not with them in Babylon. God was in the holy of holies, the central part of the Temple, not here in the midst of the city whose name stands for sin. The people were hopeless, helpless, and empty. They felt cut off from God and had no sense of His presence.
The images that Ezekiel saw: creatures with parts of many animals, clouds, storms with lightning these images spoke a distinct message to the Hebrews in exile with Ezekiel. They were familiar images that symbolized the presence and glory of God.
I. EZEKIEL PROVED THAT GOD IS LIMITLESS.
To the exiles, what was odd about Ezekiel’s vision was not the images he used but he saw these images in Babylon not in Jerusalem. The wheel within a wheel was the way God revealed to Ezekiel His ability to move anywhere. He wasn’t limited by the geographic boundaries of Judah. He wasn’t prohibited in coming to His people by the sin and disbelief of the Babylonians. He wasn’t even hindered by the limited beliefs of the Hebrews who never expected to see Him there.
Ezekiel’s images told the exiles: "God is here! He is with us! He isn’t just the God of the Temple or Jerusalem or a small area of Palestine. He is the King of the universe and the Lord of creation. He is everywhere."
Imagine how narrow or limiting those Hebrews must have been. Imagine thinking God was shut up in the Temple. How could they have limited Him by stone walls or geography? What a pitiful understanding of God they had.
Yet how enlightened is our thinking? How sophisticated are we in the way we understand God’s presence and activity in our world? We may not like to admit it, but we aren’t much different from them. Our faulty expectations try to limit God.
How? We slyly limit Him with the calendar. We shut Him up on Sunday and think He can’t get into the rest of the week. Or we lock Him away in our sanctuaries, thinking the only place He touches our lives is in the church building.
How many times have you heard someone who has not attended church in a while say; "Why, if I walked in there, the ceiling would fall in" as if God were at a particular address waiting for them. Perhaps they think God doesn’t get out much any more.
II. HOW DO WE LIMIT GOD?
Those methods of limiting God are obvious. However, I want to describe a much more subtle way we limit God. It’s when we say, "He’s Lord of my heart." Don’t let that surprise you, but the greatest limitation we place on God is when we say, "He is Lord of my heart." What we intend to say is that He is my Lord. He is in control of my life.
Let me describe for you what often happens when we think of Him as "Lord of my heart." Our faith can become a small, little thing that fits into a cavity inside our chest. And that’s where it stays, inside us. We begin to talk about how it’s private, how it’s internal. Next we might decide we should keep it to ourselves.
Or we say to our children, "God lives in our hearts." And they grow up thinking He doesn’t live anywhere else. Often they fail to know He is also the King of Creation and the Lord of history.
His kingship extends to all the world, whether the world knows it or not. He does not have to wait for some future date in another age to be King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus does not have to wait for a fiery Armageddon to begin His rule. He is already at the right hand of the Father.
The word Ezekiel spoke to the exiles is a word we need to hear. God is not shut up in a building, nor is He alive only in our hearts. He rules all the world. No king reigns, no parliament governs without His permission. The grand sweep of eternity will end in His favor because He has been behind it all the time.