The Inkhorn and the Sword

"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; ‘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. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were before the temple” (Ezek. 9:1-6).

What you just read is a passage that depicts a scene of judgment. It is one of many the Old Testament contains regarding the children of Israel. The children of Israel, who were the covenant people of God, had gotten away from God to the point that they were committing what the Lord calls “abominations.” Ezekiel is shown by the Lord that all the people, including the elders (who were supposed to be the leaders, the shepherds, of the people) were committing great sin, worshipping the creation and various idols – behind closed doors so as not to be seen. Further, they were doing such things in the temple of God which was at Jerusalem.

Something that is critical to understand is that everything that was written in the covenant between God and man in the days of old was written for our learning: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” One thing we must learn is that those things contained in the Old Testament are shadows of the things to come. Speaking of the state and duration of the Old Testament, Paul says “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Col. 2:16-17),” later speaking of it in this manner: “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ.”

What’s the point? Everything in the Old Testament was there for a reason: our learning. We are to learn that many things, including Israel and the covenant of the Israelites with God was a shadow of the things to come – the church and its covenant with God. We need to know this because, just as God judged Israel for their disobedience, so He will judge the house of God in the judgment.

The house of God is the body of Christ, the church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15; Col. 1:18, 22; Eph. 4:4). The church is made up of those who have obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, being added to it upon his or her baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-47).

If the house of God is the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is the church, then the house of God is the church. If the church is made up of Christians, then the house of God is made up of Christians. Peter has a sobering thought regarding those who are of the house of God:

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’” (1 Pet. 4:17-18).

In Ezekiel’s time those who were of the covenant of God had decided to forsake their God, turning aside to idols, forgetting and forsaking the word of the Lord, saying to themselves “The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land” thus convincing themselves that God did not care or was concerned about what they were doing. They were wrong.

Church, God does not accept whatever we give Him. God does not tolerate sin (see Acts 17:30). God does not “know our heart” all the while excusing our choices and actions. He does not allow for sin because of the Grace He has extended through Jesus Christ. In fact, he asks this question through the pen of Paul the apostle: “Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28-29). And again “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2).

Instead we ought to “sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done” both in our lives and in the lives of those who are called by the name of Christ – those who have put Christ on in baptism. We are the temple of God, and our sins are committed in His temple, just as in the days of Ezekiel. The goal is to live as Our Example lived: “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 Jn. 2:6). Jesus said, on two occasions “sin no more;” once to a man He healed and once to a woman who was brought before Him accused of adultery.

But, you say, God knows we will sin. Should that be our attitude? You may go to First John 1:5-2:2 to prove your point. Isn’t that presumptuous? To be presumptuous is to be “too confident especially in a way that is rude: done or made without permission, right, or good reason” ( We do not have permission to sin, nor do we have neither the right nor good reason. David said “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Ps. 19:13).

Take a look. John is said “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” This is the point. Walking in the light is the aim. That is the goal. That should be our focus. Any failure ought to cause us to “sigh and cry.” Jesus said “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt. 5:4). Sin should cause us great despair. It should cause us to sorrow in a manner that leads us to repentance. We should not be able to see habits in our lives that we know are sinful (no matter the frequency) with an excusing mind, but rather we ought to have a mind of sorrow, repentance and one that caused those of time past to sit in sackcloth and ashes.

My heart breaks over the Word of God - the warnings that are given over and over in His word regarding His coming judgment, which will begin at the house of God!

"If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries….It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb. 10:26-27, 31). The sword will be used against all those who do not do the will of the Father, which are those who do not obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This includes Christians.

Do not be deceived: the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, for Jesus says “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Mt. 7:21-23). Jesus is talking about those who call themselves disciples and Christians in the day of Judgment. Paul says “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” (1 Cor. 6:9). Paul was talking to Christians. James says “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas. 1:22). James was talking to Christians.

O that we would be among those who sigh and cry! My heart’s desire is for you. My heart’s desire is that you and I will continue examining ourselves making sure we are still in the faith (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5). Let us draw near to God, cleanse our hands, purify our hearts; let us lament and mourn and weep over sin and its devastating effects; let our laughter be turned to mourning and our joy to gloom; let us humble ourselves in the sight of God, for in due time he will lift us up (cf. Jas. 4:8-9; 1 Pet. 5:6).

Remember the inkhorn? God is not unjust. He will save those who are His. He will forgive those who have turned from and confessed their sin. He will forgive those who do not continue in sin, for to continue in sin is to be one who “practices lawlessness” (see Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:21ff).

Let us die to sin, to self, denying ourselves to pick up the cross and follow after Christ, choosing, yes, longing to be among those who sigh and cry!

May the instrument God commands toward you today be His inkhorn! May the instrument God commands toward me be His inkhorn!

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