Eat your fill of what is good!

July 8, 2018

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

2:1 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

3:1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.

3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them.

Ezekiel 2:1-3:4

I love watching the show “Chopped,” on the Food Network. The premise of the show is simple: there are four contestants that compete in three rounds of cooking, first an appetizer, then a main course and finally dessert. After each round, one contestant is eliminated by the judges until one is left and declared the ‘chopped champion.’ The show builds intensity with time limits for the chefs as they cook and face the threat of elimination, but the greatest part of the show in my opinion is the ‘basket ingredients.’ Each round comes with a basket of four ingredients that must be present and changed from their original form in the final dish. Often, the basket ingredients are things you would never think to put together or types of food you’ve never even heard of. It’s a challenge for the contestants to make the basket ingredients into a dish that makes sense, but I imagine it is also a challenge for the judges to eat some of the creative dishes put before them. In our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel 2 and 3, Ezekiel was asked to eat something strange as well. God bless us as we are reminded of what Ezekiel ate and are also encouraged to eat our fill of what is good.

By the time God called the priest Ezekiel to be a prophet to Israel around 2610 or 2611 years ago, he was probably used to eating strange foods. Ezekiel was among the exiles of Israel to the land of Babylon, in modern Iraq, hundreds of miles from his homeland. He was surrounded by a rebellious and defeated Israel, so his calling as a prophet was different from most because there was no more warning about God’s punishment for rebellion. Instead, Israel was in the midst of their punishment. Ezekiel’s call was now to confront Israel with the harsh reality of their sins, which was the reason they were in exile, but also to give hope that God was going to restore them as his people like we heard six weeks ago on the Day of Pentecost from Ezekiel 37:14,

I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.”

Ezekiel’s calling to the exiled Israelites was difficult. I imagine that if Ezekiel had a choice between preparing a dessert on Chopped with basket ingredients of anchovies, vinegar, goat jerky and pine needles, and being a prophet to Israel, he might have picked making the dessert. When God called Ezekiel to go to Israel, he didn’t sugar coat it for him.

3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn.

God’s message to Israel through Ezekiel was going to be clear and bold to get through to this rebellious people. God’s message to him was described like this,

9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

Israel had to hear the reality of their sins once again. It was their lack of faith, repentance and continued desire to follow any sinful, wicked, selfish thought to its most destructive end that had landed them in Babylon. They were separated from the promised land of Israel, so often described as the land flowing with milk and honey. It was a hard message to deliver, but Ezekiel was to

say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them.

Many were going to ignore God’s message, but God still wanted his message shared for the sake of saving even a few of his people.

Ever since mankind fell into sin, God has constantly been working to save us. Paul reminded young Pastor Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:4,

[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Last week, we heard that crowds formed when Jesus came to their towns because they wanted to hear Jesus preach and watch him perform his miracles. But this week, we hear that not every town reacted that way toward Jesus. In our Gospel reading from Mark 6, Jesus was rejected in his own home town. You might expect the people of Jesus’ home town to have recognized him as the virgin-born, Son of God, who was given extravagant gifts from wise men from the East, who had angels as bright as the sun fill the sky and sing his praises the night he was born, but instead they saw him as the guy who makes tables and was strange because he has wisdom about the promised Savior and did miracles to help the sick.

It did not matter what great things Jesus did in his home town just like it did matter what miracles God worked through his prophets to Israel, the people were rebels. From Moses and the 10 plagues in Egypt to David defeating the giant Goliath to Elijah and the fire from heaven that burned up his waterlogged sacrifice, the rebellious hearts of people do not want to trust in God. Today, most of the world rejects the message of Jesus as their Savior, choosing to rebel against God and follow any other religion, life path, scientific theory, political party, celebrity, crystals, horoscopes, the universe or reject it all and just make as much money and party until their bodies give out. And, this is not only the world around us, these are the temptations our own sinful nature runs after in our hearts. You and I are still rebels just like Israel, which means you and I need to hear the message Ezekiel gave to Israel. We are the rebellious people of God living in an unbelieving nation away from our homeland, not the homeland of Israel on the other side of the world, but heaven where God waits for us to come home and be his people.

Ezekiel’s message to Israel was meant to turn their hearts back to God, even if it was hard to stomach. The bitter words of the scroll God gave to Ezekiel smelled of lament and mourning and woe, but once eaten, Ezekiel said,

they tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Ezekiel may have been afraid to eat the scroll God was handing to him, but God told him to eat it so that it would fill him down to the deepest parts of his body. The message Ezekiel brought Israel was harsh, just like the law always is for anyone, believer or unbeliever. God’s law reveals our sin and guilt, and when we only see God’s law, we are filled with fear at God the angry judge, but with faith in God there is also his gospel and the good news that God is eager to forgive us and restore our relationship with him. The words God gave Ezekiel were sweet because they were filled with hope that God was not going to abandon his people just like God will never abandon his promise to love and forgive each of us.

Ezekiel’s message to Israel was meant to fight the rebellion of sin in their hearts, but also to fuel faith. God made sure that Ezekiel himself was filled up with God’s Word first in order to share that message and in order to remain a believer himself. God warned Ezekiel that it would not be easy to be a believer and share his message with Israel. God said to you,

6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.

Ezekiel needed to be strengthened by God’s words in order to carry out his mission. You and I also need to be strengthened by God’s Word to remain believers and carry out our mission.

One of the most encouraging portions of Scripture is from our second lesson from 2 Timothy 3. Paul encouraged the young Pastor Timothy to remain connected to the Word of God because in it is revealed our Savior Jesus. Paul said,

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul goes on to tell Timothy all the uses for the Scriptures like teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. These are all uses for the Scriptures, but they would all be useless if not for Jesus.

Jesus is the central ingredient throughout the Scriptures because without him we are only lost rebels. From the beginning appetizer of Genesis to the main course of Isaiah’s prophecies about Jesus to his coming in the gospels and ending with the over the top dessert of Revelation picturing Jesus defeating the devil and taking all believers to heaven, Jesus is what we taste throughout the Bible. Without Jesus, we are like the basket ingredients, a hopeless mess ready to be tossed in the garbage, but with Jesus he completely changes us into a new creation ready to be presented to God in heaven. Jesus accomplished all of this by putting himself in our position and taking the punishment for all our rebellious ways. God knows that we are lost in our sins, but in Jesus were brought back into the promised land.

At first glance, the mess Israel was in because of their sins may have seemed like a lost cause and you may feel like a lost cause when you hear all God considers to be sin, but that is only half of God’s message. The good news is that God had a plan to save you and it all happened through our Savior Jesus. I’m always amazed at the creativity of the Chopped contestants to take the basket ingredients and make a beautiful, tasty dish, but there is something even sweeter, what Jesus did for us. When you get lost in your sins and fear that you have rebelled too much against your Savior, don’t go running after other things to find peace. Instead, eat your fill of what is good…The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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