Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sermon on Ezekiel 36:22-28, for the 7th Sunday of Easter, Exaudi (1 Year Lectionary), "God Vindicates His Name"

Sermon Outline:
Context: Prophet Ezekiel, less than 600 years BC; on the world stage the Babylonian empire was rising, and over a couple of decades during the lifetime of Ezekiel, his homeland of Judah was overthrown. Ezekiel > exile early with the king, nobles and officials. Writes of God’s promised restoration of Israel—His redemption plan.
Ch. 36 God lays out His agenda to act for the sake of His holy name. He’s going to act to vindicate His Name. Restore honor and holiness of His Name. Why needed? What had they done? Defiled or polluted the land—not with toxic waste or chemicals, but a pollution of toxic deeds/actions/beliefs. Worship of idols (Ezekiel calls them fecal deities, or something more disgusting..), bloodshed in the land, expelled from their land by the curse for their obscene disobedience. Problem—the dishonor was not “contained” to the people of Israel alone—they had profaned or dishonored God’s Name also. This is the effect when we bear God’s Holy Name—we represent Him. Honor or dishonor
God declares why He will act—not for their sake, but for His Holy Name. Recalls Deut. 9, coming into promised land—not because you were a righteous or holy nation, (stubborn!), but to show to all the nations God’s power and glory. Same here. In the sight of the nations, among the nations, God will restore the holiness and honor due His Name by taking matters into His own hands. Grace alone! Not because of their goodness, but God’s grace alone, for the sake of His own name. So that the nations will know that God is the Lord
Do we dishonor or profane God’s Name? Lord’s Prayer “Hallowed be…” Keep God’s Name holy by living godly lives…profane His Name by teaching or living contrary to His Word. Protect us from this Heavenly Father!  1 Timothy 1:8–11 (ESV) 8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
Broad range of sins that profane God’s name, and we are to avoid them. Abuse of parents, murder, sexual sin, slave dealing (or kidnapping?), lying, making false oaths, and everything else contrary to sound doctrine. The evil of the world must be set apart from Christians and God’s Name. Not to pollute or profane God’s Name by engaging in these practices
Instead, called to live a life worthy of His Name, in all godliness and self-control. Repentance and forgiveness, even for the chief of sinners.
How’s He going to do it? Vindicate? His punishment was already upon the people—now it was time for grace. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
First—purge them of their uncleanness and idolatry—sprinkle water, cleansing. Hard to miss association with baptism and the washing/cleansing in the blood of Jesus. Isaiah 52 “sprinkle many nations”, Hebrews 10:22 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 12:24 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Baptismal waters bring us the cleansing performed for us by Jesus’ death on the cross. Purity, holiness, restored honor from all your guilt and shame, no blot or blemish
Second—new heart and new spirit. Heart transplant! Old stone, stubborn, inflexible, unable to be reformed—new flesh! Living, beating, shaped by Spirit of God
Third—Spirit within you! Walk in my statutes, carefully obey my rules. God transforms from the inside out. Life is redirected from sin and evil, foolishness of sinful pursuits to godliness and wisdom and good. Learning from and obeying God’s commands. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy name. Amen. Delight and obedience, to glorify God’s Name. holiness of name
Fourth—dwell in the land—I will be your God and you will be my people. Return from exile, God’s presence with His people. Revelation—God will be the God of His people for eternity. Intimate presence of God among His people—He had left their Temple before because of the great insult to His Name and holiness that they had brought through idolatry. Now He promises to be back among them as their God.
By these four gracious acts, God is restoring the honor due His Name, vindicating the holiness “before the eyes” of the nations (and Israel).
This would come to full realization in Jesus Christ, God carrying out His full agenda to restore the holiness and honor of His name, in the sight of all nations—bore great dishonor and His Name was profaned, defiled as He hung on the cross. Polluted with our sins. But in death He buried our old heart of stone, together with the uncleanness and pollution of our sins, sprinkled clean water on us, to cleanse, restore, make whole again.
Acted for the sake of His Name, not on account of our righteousness, poured out grace abundantly. Work of the Holy Spirit is prophesied, transforming hearts, new obedience, faithfulness. God has restored the honor of His Name and made us cleansed and holy, fitting bearers of His Name to bring glory to Him. Give thanks that God acted, and that we are the undeserving beneficiaries of His grace! Lord keep us obedient to you so that we may honor and glorify your Name in the sight of all people. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1. What can cause God’s land to be defiled? Psalm 79:1; Ezekiel 36:16-21. How does this mean that God’s Name was profaned by Israel? What was their punishment for this? Ezekiel 36:18-19.
2. What was the reason God acted to “vindicate His Name”, and what was not the reason? Ezekiel 36:22. Compare this to Deuteronomy 9:4-7. In both cases, what is God trying to teach His people?
3. In what way had Israel “profaned” or defiled God’s Name among the nations? Ezekiel 36:22-23; 13:19; 22:26. When God acts to vindicate the holiness of His Name “before their eyes” (36:23) or “in the sight of the nations” (20:22), what does He intend to show them?
4. What is considered “profane?” 1 Timothy 1:8-11. How does God address such gross sin? 1 Timothy 1:12-15. How do we live a life that is worthy of the Lord, and honors His Name? Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10.
5. What are the actions that God takes to vindicate and honor His own name before all people? Ezekiel 36:24-28.
6. How will He cleanse them from their uncleanness? Ezekiel 36:25. In what ways does God cleanse His people through “sprinkling?” Isaiah 52:15; Hebrews 10:22; 12:24. What cleansing comes through the washing of baptism? Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5-6.
7. What kind of “heart transplant” does the Holy Spirit give us? Ezekiel 36:26-27. What was our heart condition before, and what is it after? What new willingness flows out of this “heart transplant”? (v. 27); Romans 7:22 (and following). What remains a struggle for us?
8. Ezekiel 36:28—God promises to dwell with His people, and be their God. Why is this both essential for our survival in faith, but also deeply comforting?

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