CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Do You Care?

Sep 3, 2019

Do you care about the things that God cares about?

I am not asking a rhetorical question here, but a very real one. Do you care? Of course how you reply depends on what you care about. Many folks care about how their fav football team will do this weekend. Many people care that they are not as wealthy as the Jones are, and cannot afford that third plasma TV or the next European river cruise.

Many people care about their image, and what other people think about them. Many folks care deeply about being powerful or successful or well-known. I am not speaking of such things. I am speaking especially to those who call themselves Christians. And I am specifically referring to this: Do you care about the things that God cares about?

Do you care that the world is in a mess, that multitudes are heading to a lost eternity, and that God is being rejected and hated on every single day? Does that bother you? Does that mean anything to you? Do you care? Do you spend sleepless hours on your bed at night thinking about these things and grieving over these things?

Do you cry out to God in prayer, broken-hearted over these things? Do you feel deeply grieved that God’s name and values are being spat on every day and people are destroying all of the good gifts that he has given to us, such as marriage and family, and life itself? Does that mean anything to you?

I write this in part because of two things that happened yesterday. One, I had a strong, courageous and well-known culture warrior call me yesterday wanting to talk about these very things. He was almost in tears concerning the state of the nation in general, and the NSW abortion law debate in particular.

Two, just hours before that call in my daily devotionals I had read some important words in Ezekiel 9 that had a direct bearing on his concerns. So I shared them with my friend and said that he was in good company, and that God cared greatly that he cared. I assured him that he was on the right page, and that he and Ezekiel would make a good pair.

So let me speak more to this passage. The surrounding context of Ezekiel 9 is God’s judgment on idolatrous Israel, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Chapter 8 speaks about abominations in the temple in Jerusalem, while chapter 10 speaks about the glory of the Lord departing from the temple.

The first five verses of chapter 9 say this (in the ESV):

Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, “Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.” And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar. Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity.”

A few other versions of verse four are worth offering here:

“Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” NIV

“Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” KJV

Notice the words used to characterise those that Yahweh will spare: they are the ones who sigh and cry and grieve and lament over all the horrible things taking place. They care, in other words, and they care deeply. It bothers them that these things are happening.

Unlike all the others who just do not give a rip, and who are thus subject to the just judgment of God, these people are full of grief and turmoil over what they see happening all around them. These are the people that God loves, and he spares them when judgment comes, by having a mark put on their foreheads. And the mark is the cross-shaped last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, tau.

We are reminded of similar things in the Old Testament of course. God had placed a mark of protection on Cain (Genesis 4:15). And when God judged Egypt while the Israelites were in bondage, he had a mark made in blood (also in the shape of the cross) put on the door frames of those who were truly his. The angel of death passed over these places when divine judgment was meted out.

And today, those who have availed themselves of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross at Calvary are also spared the judgment of God which will still come on those who refuse to bow to the one true King. So we see a clear pattern throughout the biblical storyline of how God deals with those who truly know him and those who reject him.

Some other observations are worth making concerning details of this passage. First, this is a vision that Ezekiel had. Things did not actually happen quite this way. In terms of judgment, it was the Babylonians who actually destroyed Jerusalem, not six angelic executioners.

But Ezekiel’s vision shows us that it is really God who is behind all this. He can even use pagan nations as instruments of his dealings with his people. As Christopher Wright notes, “Ezekiel’s vision interprets that historical event in advance by using the symbolic language of God’s own judgment being executed. At one level of reality, the swords would be in the hands of Babylonian enemies; at another level of reality, they would collectively constitute the sword of divine justice.”

Also, it is apparent that only a minority in the city were spared. Only one angel marked the faithful few, while the other six angels carried out the divine judgment. And even though there was a faithful remnant, that did not mean they were immune from the judgment on Jerusalem that God unleashed.

Steven Tuell offers us some contemporary application of this principle: “Faith is not a shield against suffering, as the examples of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus show all too well. The difference faith makes is not in the circumstances of life, but rather in the way the faithful perceive and endure those circumstances. We are to worship and adore God – not because that adoration conveys special privileges or benefits in this life, but because God is God, and worthy of praise!”

Another important lesson is found in verse six which informs us that the destroyers were to “begin at My sanctuary”. God’s people in general, and their leadership in particular, are the first to receive judgment. We find the same principle in the New Testament of course, with 1 Peter 4:17 saying that “judgment must begin at the house of God”.

Also worth noting: some contemporary Christian readers may be rather squeamish about this comprehensive and fierce divine judgment. But can I suggest that this is likely because they lack a sense of both God’s holiness and the seriousness of sin. Things were in a real bad way back then. As we read in verses 9-10:

Then He said to me, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of bloodshed, and the city full of perversity; for they say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see!’ And as for Me also, My eye will neither spare, nor will I have pity, but I will recompense their deeds on their own head.”

Thus major judgment was required. And this complete destruction is what is known as the tradition of holy war in the Old Testament. It involved the total destruction of God’s enemies, but sadly, it could also apply to Israel when it was awash in sin and evil. As Iain Duguid comments:

Holy war stands as the clearest possible declaration of God’s commitment to the purity and holiness of his people, totally separate from possibly defiling influences. God’s holiness remains implacably opposed to sin. In the present, we are therefore enrolled as his people in a no-holds-barred contest with the forces of the evil one (Eph. 6:10-18), while in the future there will yet come a day when God’s wrath will be poured out comprehensively on the wicked (Rom. 2:5).

Or as Douglas Stuart puts it, “Total elimination of the population is associated with Old Testament holy war (Deuteronomy 20), which is a divine war of extermination of a wicked society in which the human soldiers are merely agents of God’s wrath. Thus the implication for Ezekiel and his eventual audience was clear: The coming destruction represented God’s condemnation, not just a political-military success for the Babylonians in Palestine.”

Let me return to the words used of those who receive the protective mark. As Wright says, these terms refer to “those who are genuinely and deeply repentant and distressed by the kinds of wickedness described in the preceding five scenes. Grieve and lament are strong, rhyming words [in Hebrew] which portray a very real, physical grief being expressed loudly and emotionally.”

Or as Daniel Block comments, the seventh angel is to scour the city looking for signs of repentance. The terms ‘moan and groan’ “will resurface in 21:11-12, where the moaning will be a symptom of a broken heart and intense grief over impending doom. In 24:17 [groan] describes the grief that Ezekiel expresses over the death of his wife.”

I return to the phone call from my friend. He was in grief and turmoil, almost as if he had just lost his own wife. As I told him, this passage deals with similar sorts of grief, and it deals with similar sorts of people whom God loves dearly. Like my good friend, these few ancient Israelites grieved and mourned and wept over the state of play of the nation, and of the sad condition of God’s own people.

I wish I had more friends like this. They will not contact me deeply grieving because their favourite sporting team just lost, or because they missed out on a chance to make a kazillion bucks, or because they did not make it into the top ten in a popularity contest.

They will call me because their hearts are broken. And their hearts are broken over what breaks the heart of God. That is the sort of person that God can use. That is the sort of person that is highly favoured by God. Bless you my friend. I know all about your sadness and sorrow over what is taking place in the world and in the church.

But better yet, God knows all about your broken and bleeding heart as well. And as paradoxical as it may sound, I urge you to keep standing strong as you remain on your knees. And to the rest of my readers I again ask: Do you care?

[1952 words]

20 Responses to Do You Care?

  • Thought provoking and challenging to think about!!!

  • I have forwarded some of your articles to my brother, and how he responded to the last one I sent him seemed appropriate to this article. Here’s what he said: “You know Jack, I really don’t care how many Aussies change their gender. I also don’t care what they call themselves. Male and female is still on the list along with many other “Genders” I just don’t want the government getting involved because then I (we) have to pay for it.” He “claims” to be a christian. I’m afraid this is the mentality of the majority of professing Christians. Our world is going to hell in a hand basket!
    Kind Regards,
    Jack

  • We do care about what is happening around the world and with our unsaved families and friends, but most don’t want to know the truth. Jesus already warned that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and MANY enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a FEW find it. (paraphrased Matthew 7: 13-14.)

  • Thanks Bill….needed this. I anguish daily at the state of this world and the wide road filled with the lost who cant see where their path is leading, looking for leading on how I can make more of a difference before its to late. Praying for you.

  • When it comes to “marked men”, the words of Paul in Galatians 6:14-17 are apposite:

    Yet God forbid that I should boast about anything or anybody except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which means that the world is a dead thing to me and I am a dead man to the world. But in Christ it is not circumcision or uncircumcision that counts but the power of new birth. To all who live by this principle, to the true Israel of God, may there be peace and mercy!

    Let no one interfere with me after this. I carry on my scarred body the marks of my owner, the Lord Jesus. – [J B Phillips]

  • Thanks Kevin, Jack, Helena, Ess and John!

  • Dear Bill, here I sit very uncomfortable and needing your words to make me feel that way. May God please help me.
    Mark Bryant

  • Standing strong with you in our grief – and God’s grief – Bill, as we remain on our knees. Thank you for this profound encouragement.

  • Thanks Bill, I wept over your article. Ezekiel paints a very vivid picture of what to expect. Unless Australia as a nation repents, judgement will follow. God hasn’t changed, and He hasn’t gone soft. Wether folk like it or not Bill, PLEASE KEEP DISHING IT OUT!!
    Blessings in abundance for you & your family, Kel.

  • Totally agree with your words and perspective, Bill. I am drawing from those prophets continually to see how God responded to those societies. While many Christians can seem oblivious to what is happening, and others simply keep waiting for Jesus to return, I am looking for God to come down to confound the evil and corruption in our society. But judgement MUST be in the wings. And God has used other nations to execute His wrath before. The West is so undermined and morally compromised on so many levels it is laying itself wide open. I remember reading some time ago words to the effect that if the Church will not pastor (the West), then totalitarian influences will rise within 40 years. And we are seeing that now.
    Thanks for your article.

  • Thanks Mark, Suzanna, Kelvin and Bruce!

  • Excellent and much needed.
    If we really believed what we say we believe we could not help being grieved and burdened.
    Jesus cared.
    We are to be like Him.
    We are to be indwelt and controlled by Him.
    He cared!

  • Meanwhile we have a Liberal government that has drafted a lying “religious freedom” document that essentially says that your religious freedom must be retained in a box and have no interaction with society. It tells us that people with enough economic power, e.g. Alan Joyce, are completely entitled to use that power to stifle whatever beliefs they happen to want.

    This bill looks to me like a very deceptive work of the devil himself. It really appears as wickedness incarnate and only gives power and authority to those who want to oppose the Truth and especially those who have the money to back their wickedness. This really is a bill to prevent people buying and selling unless they have the mark of the Beast and clearly works to prevent freedom of any Christian/societal interaction. This bill would do nothing except make things worse.

    See the ACL’s Martyn Iles’ comments here :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr9yoivyNjw

  • I am sad for young people especially those raised in a christian home who parents did not take charge of their education and instill them with christian values but let the world raise them. So many simply “raised them in the church” only to have them leave eat the end of high school or college. They had such potential as kids but the world snuffed it our and the church let it happen. We thought one hour of church and 1 hour of Sunday school a week will raise a true christian. Many have left the faith and are not coming back others never were part of the faith. They have been raise in secular humanism and outright atheism in society and schools and not by us. Even if your 2-4 year old says he is choosing Christ you still have to teach him about christ. a 2 year old can not make such a decision and we should be smart enough to know that. (Unfortunately too many stop teaching seriously thinking they no longer need to.)

    I am sad for baby boomers they had no reason to rebel. Their parents were good to them and provided for them yet they through away the faith of their parents and the values of their parents and decided to over through the western world. Recreating it in sex drugs and rock and roll. The damage they did is enormous. And so many are still doing it. While many have come to repent and come to christ they still did great damage and must live knowing they brought this about (which I imagine is very hard to do). Others somewhat came to Christ trying to mix the sex, drugs and rock roll life with Christ like a cocktail (take two parts Gods with 3 part SD&R&R mix liberally serve at room temperature.) As a result they do less damage but still do some or they are just going through life ineffectively. I am saddened much of a whole generation bought into satan’s lies.

    I am sad for the Greatest Generation and how they had to watch their children do this. go from sweet children to obnoxious teens with NO REASON! To have them destroy the world they fought to keep. To have them throw off their faith for hedonism. To know that their sons were off at a wild concert having sex in the mud with girls he never saw before and would never see again instead of saving the sacred act for marriage. To see pure hatred coming out of their own offspring who were shown nothing but love. To watch society go from God fearing to God denying in their lifetimes. To see homosexuality be something rare and hidden to being something young people are recruited into (the snowflake generation numbers are far above the traditional 2-3%) and being paraded down main street that MUST be celebrated. To see men in dresses be celebrated and reading to their great grand kids. They must weep most of all.

    I am also mad. Mad at what has happened in America and the west. Mad at the church for letting this happen and in some cases aiding and abetting it. I am mad conservatives who used to understand the value of christianity even when the weren’t christian but now cowtow to ungodliness. I am mad that the church thought compromise was ok. We thought it is such a small insignificant change that is shouldn’t be a big deal. But that is how it starts! Satan doesn’t ask for big changes right away he starts with the smallest and most insignificant changes first to soften us up and make compromise easier to do and slowly ratchets up the level. (can you imagine if he had tried to get gay marriage and transgenderism and drag queen hour back in the 70’s???)

    I wonder to you have articles on “underestimating the enemy”????

    So many think that satan is powerless unable to do anything and thus are totally unprepared to fight him when he comes. yes Jesus defeated him on the cross but we still fight battles against him and you have to know what you are up against. NO general goes into battle without knowing the strength go the enemy. You wouldn’t want a general to show up with 100 men on horse back and find when he gets there the enemy has 500 of the latest tanks to oppose him. The bible says that the devil is a roaring lion looking for whom he may devour yet we seem to think he is a toothless tiger who will run away when you say ‘BOO!’. We almost think of satan as a snotnosed 5 year old with trouble holding his bladder and ourselves as a teen middleweight so in that matchup why would we need any help fighting him?? Why call on Jesus to help as any teen can beat up any 5 year old. We picture ourselves holding the little brat (satan) at arms length flaying his arms trying to attack us. If he is then WE can handle him ourselves we don’t need help. Truth is satan is a very powerful fallen angel the equal of Michael the archangel! Much more powerful than ANY human being is and thus we NEED Jesus to help us. We NEED the armor of God. Our whole idea of who satan is and what he is capable of has to change if we are to REALLY fight him. Some say satan’s greatest achievement was getting the world to believe he doesn’t exist. I say his greatest achievement was getting the church to believe he is powerless and weak. if satan is as weak as a toddler taking on the heavyweight champ then why do we need to rely on anyone but ourselves to beat him???

    NOW I will say THIS for people who I often run into who will scream “are you saying he is more powerful than GOD??” NO I AM NOT!!! But he is more powerful than any human more powerful than you can imagine. For the description of him pre-fall as the anointed cherub he sounds like he was the best of creation to that point. The pinnacle of angelic creatures. The best God had done to that point. For about 1900 years people in the church knew he was a powerful advisory and treated him as such. Now we seem to treat him with disdain with lack of proper understanding. When you don’t understand your enemy he will defeat you. We need not fear him but we must understand him and know what we are up against. Satan has been working on America since at least 1880’s if not the 1850’s longer for the western world as a whole especially Europe. That might surprise some who would think that satan is impatient and wouldn’t want to wait 100+ years to get his plan done. I fear the church is often the impatient one not willing to plant and let another water or water and let another reap. too many want to plant water and reap all themselves. At some point satan got int the seminaries and started changing things and know we are a shell of the once great church. powerful preaching that would bring you to you knees trembling for fear for you very soul has been replaces by laser lights fog machines and slick entertainment. We teach our kids silly rhyming songs but not and thing of substance. We talk with them about who was the first redhead in the bible but we don’t talk about the meaty issues that the need to know. We talk about the Kardashians and other relevant things but not how the bible IS relevant to all of todays issues. rather than teach our kids EVERYONE is made in Gods image and should thus not be teased or bullied we allow schools under the guise of antibully education to teach them ‘buttsex is great and you should try it’. IF ever the western world was in need of judgment NOW is it. And Judgment always starts with the House of God. Woe unto the hirelings who pretend to be shepherds and deceive the flock YOU will be first to feel the judgment. Leaders have greater rewards true but also greater CONDEMNATION for when they cause stumbling among the flock.

    May God bring the Judgment the church needs to humble her and bring her back to him. Be it a national judgment a religious persecution or combination whatever it takes Lord to bring your church back to you. We will suffer for your Glory. We will die for you if that is needed. Honor will be brought to your one way or another. Many times God has used satan to be the instrument to chasten his people. It is coming. There is a quote “we are surrounded by signs and portents and I feel a darkness pressing at our backs”. A great darkness is pressing, about to breakthrough, but a great light is behind it. It will be a difficult time but we will survive we will get through. Like gold we will go through the fire and come out refined and having lost the dross. we have way too much dross in the pews. This will be painful, chastisement always is (it isn’t fun when your dad gives you a much needed spanking but in the end it is for the best), but christianity isn’t supposed to be a easy comfortable life.

    Sorry this is so long when I feel moved to write I often get lengthy. I don’t want to shorten the message I am being moved to write.

  • Hi Bill
    This is slightly off this topic but I thought you may be interested in my latest youtube video:
    ‘The Aborting of NZ’.
    Spread the link if you think it worthwhile…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2xRm5jVwI4&t=49s

    All the best
    Renton Maclachlan

  • Yes Bill, we do care…..greatly, grieviously & sometimes despairingly (God forgive me) but we also act positively, opportunistically and courageously.
    We seek people to talk to, engage with, we write letters to our local newspapers, talk with Politicians hoping to inform them of just a little of the all-encompassing evil alive in our world.

    Personally, you with the Blessed Gift of Culture Watch and it’s faithful contributors through The Mighty Power of The Holy Spirit has activated me & countless others.

    We Care – so we act in accordance to God’s Will – we are ignored, attacked, villified and we stand firm – We know God’s Won the War but we need to equip young members for armies for the battle for souls.

    And it’s happening Praise God at my new church @ City on a Hill, Geelong.
    I’m humbled and full of praise for the Spiritual maturity which I encounter with those 30yrs and under.
    Take heart, Faithful Warrior!
    We Care!

  • I care, but not enough, and not always from a righteous perspective. My prayer to God is, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (MK 9:24)

  • Keep standing strong Les.

  • Thanks, Bill, for your thoughts and message from Ezekial, which I believe to be particularly pertinent to today’s call to arms for believers who are strongly opposed to the Women’s Reproductive “Health Care” Bill, 2019! Absolutely, we care!

    Has anyone noticed the link between the timing of the proposed legislation currently waiting for the final upper house debate, which purports to be about “Women’s Reproductive Health” and is actually the most draconian legislation ever? I see photos of the state of NSW’s drought stricken farmland and the widespread raging bushfires in the north, today and over the past week. This has an unprecedented severity in both the number of fires occurring so early in the season and in the severity of the drought affecting NSW.

    Seems that God cares about the unborn fetuses that are struggling to be born! And what about the rights of the most vulnerable, the young women who may, as the result of the proposed legislation, have to endure the double humiliation of a perpetrator rapist being able to order the Dr. to abort the child, and to potentially cover up a crime if she does not have to receive any counselling and is coersed! The legislation, if passed, has the potential to cause devastating damage to our nationhood! Not just by drought, fire and possible famine to follow! The question remains: will God raise up a Babylonian horde like He did in Ezekial’s time?

    And what about the true Aussie spirit of the “fair go for all”? Has that died along with the millions of babies that have already been aborted on a yearly basis, “illegally”. I cannot dare to contemplate what Jesus would think if we, His people, do not stand up to fight, and to say something in the public arena, if the legislation legalising the murder of full-term babies goes ahead, in our hospitals, on demand!! I do hope that would be enough to cause the unsuspecting doctors and nurses called upon in the public health system to stand up and to NOT perform their duty of the “proposed” abortion on demand, especially if the act would contravene their personal belief in a Holy God who ABHORS the ideal of the humanist doctrine of selfish rights that have no bearing on the potential of the child, the woman and the health professionals concerned. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish… but shall receive everlasting life.” Jn 3:16 is still pertinent today, and may the Almighty have mercy on us all, especially, on the unborn.

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