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HOW DOES THE WORD OF GOD AND MY LIFE COME TOGETHER?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE
HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

24 JANUARY 1993

By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Ezekiel 2:8-10
            3:1-4
Revelation 10:1-11

During the past several weeks, we have been receiving the government tax forms and reporting information.

These forms contain many words, most of which we wish we never saw or heard, but they are part of our life here in the United States; and if we wish to remain good citizens, we must learn to comply with them.

And there are other words, both printed and spoken, that immediately bring joy and comfort to our heart and soul.

These are the words that we want to take inside ourselves, and recall and repeat them over and over again.

Among these cherished words should be the Word of God. In fact, it should be the most cherished.

Even though all this joy and comfort is found in the Word of God, many consider it as they do their tax forms.

Why? Because they feel convicted by the Word of God, and because it wants them to pay honestly.

The Word of God, in giving comfort, requires us to give up our sins; just as the IRS and the State want us to give up our cash to reap the benefits of living here.

But unlike governments, God never leaves anyone who complies out in the cold or hungry or in poor health. God has a better place waiting for us.

Back in Ezekiel's day, there weren't any books, as we know of them today. Things were written on scrolls and tablets.

And as we look at Ezekiel 2:8 and following, we see that Ezekiel was sent such a scroll from God and given the duty of being a special kind of tax collector – a prophet.

8. "Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you."

9. Then I looked, behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it.

10. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back; and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.

So often, we fail to see this aspect of God's character. The majority of the house of Israel was in rebellion against His Word; and yet, His message to them was letting them know how their actions were breaking His heart, because God knew what would befall them.

The people and their leaders were not abiding by the rules of the game. They were fighting against the kingdom of God instead of supporting it.

But God's word to Ezekiel may also seem strange; for He wanted him to eat this scroll, and not to take it in his hand and go forth and read it to the people.

Listen to the first three verses of chapter 3:

1. Then He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel."

Ezekiel was to speak to the house of Israel, but not by reading the scroll.

Ezekiel was to speak to the house of Israel from his heart and soul.

Ezekiel was to take into himself the Word of God, digest it, and let it assimilate into his being, so that it became a part of his own nature; and then, he was to speak from his own heart, in his own words.

And this is exactly what we are to do today. So, what did Ezekiel do?

2. So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll.

3. And He said to me, "Son of man, feed your stomach, and fill your body [or inward parts] with this scroll which I am giving you." Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.

If God and His Word are precious to us, then His word will also be sweet in our mouths.

And when we allow these words to become part of our inner being, then our whole body will likewise speak forth God's Word through our actions.

If we appreciate what we have in the United States, and are thankful that we live here, rather than living somewhere else, then we will support what it takes to keep it as it is, and work to make it even better.

The same concept applies to every other nation, just as it did to Israel in Ezekiel's day.

This is the job that God had given to Ezekiel; and if we care to accept it, this is also the job that God has given to each and every one of us.

And then in verse 4, God commands Ezekiel to go forth:

4. Then He said to me, "Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them."

Now, remember what God is saying, and in the proper context.

Ezekiel is to go forth speaking the Word of God with his entire life, for his whole body has become part of the Word of God.

Are we opening our mouths to receive the Word of God, which is being handed to us, as it was to Ezekiel?

Are we doing what is required of us as citizens of the kingdom of God, as did Ezekiel?

What God is asking Ezekiel to do is to spread His message of grace to the people, in hopes that they would repent, and be forgiven and healed.

But if we fail to heed God's messages of grace, if we fail to comply with the rules of kingdom living, then we will receive a message of judgment.

The apostle John received such a message as part of his revelation. Please turn with me to Revelation 10:1-11, and note the similarities to what we have just read in Ezekiel.

And as we read, consider for yourselves: "What does the Lord require of me?"

1. And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire;

2. and he had in his hand a little book which was open. And he placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land;

3. and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.

This is a message of judgment, symbolized by the loud voice and the thunder.

This is a message for the whole world, symbolized by the angel with one foot upon the sea and the other upon the land.

This is a message declaring that the world has failed to abide by the Word of God; thus, they will be punished for their actions.

This is like the message of April 16th, to those who have failed to pay their taxes.

4. And when the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken, and do not write them."

If the world is not going to comply with the good Word of God, which has been written down for us, then the people of the world aren’t likely to eat and digest the judgment message, either.

Thus, in effect, God is saying to John: "What you say must be a living word. It must be part of your very being, so that it will be both seen and heard."

5. And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven,

6. and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer,

7. but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.

We don't know when this Day of Judgment will come – but it will come.

People can probably still get away with some evil for a while, but there will come a day when it will be too late to begin to change.

The longer they harden their hearts and minds toward receiving the Word of God, the harder it becomes to live in the love and compassion of God, which He wants us to share with each other, and all of His creation.

One of the reasons it becomes harder is because their witness is less believable, for others remember how they were.

People can cheat on their income tax for years and years, and seemingly get away with it, but the day will come when they will get caught, and because of their history of doing this, others will still believe that they will try to cheat again.

If we claim to be children of God, then we need to be living as His children, as a living Word, so that by our consistency of expressing God's love and compassion in our life, others will believe, for they will see Christ in us.

They will see Christ in us because we have eaten and digested the Word of God.

If enough of us are willing to eat the good Word of God, then we most likely won't have to also eat the judgment Word; for others will likely change their ways, also.

But in John's day, as he was shown the future in this revelation, and the way the world would be, he also had to eat of the judgment Word of God.

8. And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, "Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land."

9. And I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, "Take it, and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey."

10. And I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.

Have you eaten of the good things of God, and been filled with joy in your heart, for the taste of His Word is sweet?

But haven’t you also experienced what happens when others reject this good Word and even make a mockery of it? Doesn’t it make you sick to your stomach?

So what do we do?

The next verse tells us, in part:

11. And they said to me, "You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings."

For our part, we are to do what is right. We are to set the proper example here in our community.

And we are to speak out against the evil that is going on, both in our community and in the world around us.

The world will never be a better place to live in unless we – yes, we – we who are here today, do something to make it better.

Better things do not have to start in Albany or in Washington, for better things have existed before these places and their governments.

Better things are to be here in Athens and the surrounding community, because we are here.

And better things will be here, if we eat and digest the Word of God.

Amen.

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