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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Old Relevance

What do you think about the Old Testament in light of the New Testament? I suspect that we often read the New Testament and view that as if it is what really applies most to modern-day Christians. We tend to view the Old Testament as more of a history lesson … powerful, but not so much for modern day living. If that is the case, it’s a sad one.

The Old Testament is just so much more than a collection of historical accounts of what happened in “Bible times” (whatever those times are). For starters, it reveals much about the character and nature of God. The priorities and views of God are laid out for us in explicit detail. If you want to know God, I don’t think there’s a better place to start than at the beginning of His Word.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked facets of the Old Testament is that there are numerous enduring truths in it. In fact, it is chock full of them! They are timeless truths that endure through the ages and through the generations.

What was said centuries ago is just as relevant today as it was then. The 33rd chapter of Ezekiel, for example, has some profound statements for modern-day application. Let me show you what I mean.

Ezekiel 33:7-9
“I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.”

Think about what God is saying here. He’s speaking to the appointed shepherd (the equivalent of today’s pastor). And God tells this pastor to listen and warn the sheep. It’s not a suggestion either. He says if the shepherd doesn’t warn the sheep – the pastor doesn’t warn the congregation, the blood of their death from sin will be on his (the pastor’s) hands! Pastors should be forewarned. In fact, I think this should be printed on the back of every ordination certificate that gets issued.

Ezekiel 33:11

“'As surely as I live’, declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!’”

We’ve always been told that God is not willing that even one should be lost. That has always been true. God will destroy the wicked that do not repent of their sinful ways and turn to Him. But He doesn’t like to have to do it. So it’s an urgent warning, from God, “Don’t make me destroy you!”

Ezekiel 33:12-16

“'The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it.”

Essentially God is confirming a point that most contemporary Christians seem to miss. The point is that no matter how good of a person you are, you won’t be saved because you were “basically a good person.” Similarly, no matter how bad you’ve been, once you turn to God your past cannot condemn you. Again, it’s a message that many of us even today struggle to embrace.

“The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.' If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. And if I say to the wicked man, 'You will surely die,' but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right - if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.”

Here God continues to drive that same point home. No matter how bad you are, there’s always hope --- if you’ll turn from your sinful ways. Similarly, no matter how good you are, you should never trust in your own righteousness. Your own goodness will never be enough to save you. (Any questions?)

Ezekiel 33:18-20

“If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so. … I will judge each of you according to his own ways.”

And the point continues. Did you know God could be so verbose to drive home a critical point? By now you might be tempted to think, “Lord, give it a rest! I get your point already!” But do we? Do we get the point? Just how cognizant are we of the fact that we will all face a judgment day with the Lord?

Ezekiel 33:30-33

"As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, 'Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.' My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.”

Oh this one is my favorite part. It’s where God acknowledges that people are drawn to good speakers. They’ll fill the church pews and maybe even the financial coffers of the church. But that doesn’t mean that they’ll put into practice whatever the preacher has preached. Seriously, this was true thousands of years ago. And it is true today. Go figure.

“Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.”

So God continues that point and basically says to the preacher, “Don’t kid yourself. People are drawn to you (and/or your church) because you’re an attraction.” Unfortunately, God was supposed to be the attraction.

We have way too many preachers today who are the drawing card for the church. We have too many programs, good coffee, comfortable seats, etc. that are the drawing cards. Sadly, people aren’t drawn because they seek God and want to know His ways. They hear. They just don’t do.

"When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them."

Finally God acknowledges that when the people are lost – when the judgment day arrives – the truth will be revealed. They will know that a prophet (today’s pastor) was among them. And they will realize that they should have listened to him.

We’ve got thousands of modern day prophets preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus Christ all over the world. Who is listening to them? It is the obligation of the prophet to call the people to repentance. And God intends to hold each prophet accountable for executing his (or her) own calling.

But God also tells us that we aren’t responsible for the sometimes dismal outcome. Rather the prophet is responsible for his obedience. And it may only be at the end of time that his or her true calling as a prophet is recognized by the people he or she was called to lead.

The Old Testament reveals so much about today. And its revelations are such that none of us can afford to miss them.

So, what Old Testament truth is enduring in your life today?

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