Rebel Hearts and the Heart of God: Ezekiel to Ezra

Published on Jul 24th, 2012 by City North Baptist Church
Rebel Hearts and the Heart of God: Ezekiel to Ezra

The last quarter of the Old Testament is probably the least read and least known of the whole Bible. It’s made up of books written by obscure prophets with names that are hard to pronounce and with messages that are even harder to understand.

Our tendency is to consign them to the “too hard basket” and assume that they are irrelevant to us today. But to do that is to make a bad mistake.

After the glory days of king David and his son Solomon the nation of Israel began to unravel in every way…… politically, socially, militarily, morally and spiritually. It split into two kingdoms with two kings, and they increasingly turned away from worshipping God in favour of idols. God sent them prophets like Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah, to call them to repent and turn back to God, but with no lasting effect. Their hearts were hard and rebellious. The northern kingdom was overtaken in 722BC by the Assyrians from the north and many were taken into captivity. They never returned, The southern kingdom survived for a further 120 years but finally succumbed to the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. His army totally destroyed Jerusalem, its walls and its magnificent temple in 587BC, and sent the people into exile in Babylon. This was Israel’s darkest hour. The people were in utter despair and without hope. Had God abandoned them?

When it seemed like the end for Israel as a nation, God spoke. He spoke to Ezekiel and through him to the exiles in Babylon. It was a word of warning and rebuke, and a call to repentance. But it was also a word of comfort and hope. God had not given up on them. One day they would return to Jerusalem and their homeland. One day God would “remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” and put His Spirit in them (Ezekiel 36:26-27). In 538BC these exiles were allowed to go home. Work began on rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple. It was difficult work with great opposition. The people needed encouragement from prophets like Haggai and Zechariah. Finally Ezra and Nehemiah came from Babylon to give godly leadership to the struggling reconstruction effort.

We live in an era when many people are chasing after the idols of this world (money, materialism, sex, power etc.) and have no time for God. Is there a prophetic warning we need to heed today? God is still speaking and calling people to repent. His offer of grace and restoration is still available. No, God has not given up on our generation. Through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, there is hope for everyone who truly repents. His heart still beats with love for us. In this series let’s ask God to examine our hearts, expose any lurking idolatry or rebellion, and lead us to a place of renewed hope in Him.