Marked for Life: Discernment Ministry in Light of Ezekiel 9:1-11.
Someone once said that sin is as much a breaking of God’s heart as it is the breaking of His Law. When God looked down on the perversity of the people on earth before the Deluge, it was recorded that He "was grieved in His heart" (Genesis 6:6b). When confronted by resident wickedness both without and within the professing church, Christians can manifest one of three reactions: approval (1 Corinthians 5:2), indifference (Zephaniah 1:12), or disapproval as indicated by the presence of either anger (Psalm 119:53) or grief (Psalm 119:136). So the question becomes, as we see the worldliness-wickedness invading the church, how do we feel about it? Are you agitated by, indifferent to, or accommodating of it?
Not unlike the society and church of our times, during Ezekiel’s ministry Judah found herself in a moral and spiritual "melt down." Fraud, violence, adultery, and idolatry were running rampant amongst God’s chosen people. Idols had been set up in the Temple (Ezekiel 8:17; 9:9). From his location in Babylon, the Lord took Ezekiel on a virtual reality tour of the Temple, the place that beneath the Cherubim was to have been the seat of God’s Shekinah glory (Ezekiel 8:4). What he saw in that center of worship stunned the prophet. On his guided tour of the inner court, the Lord showed the prophet where first the people had substituted an idol image for Yahweh; where second, the elders worshipped animals; where third, the women sobbed over the death of Tammuz, a mythological fertility god who had married the Egyptian goddess Ishtar; and where fourth, the priests worshipped the sun (Ezekiel 8:5-18). Up-close and personal, the prophet saw how the nation had abominated into apostasy, how Israel had turned from worshipping the Creator to idolizing the creation and its creatures (See Romans 1:21-23.).
Yet in the midst of all those "alternative spiritualities," some believers, like the remnant of Elijah’s day who refused to bow their knee to Baal and kiss the idol god (1 Kings 19:18), preserved themselves to be holy unto the Lord. So the Lord instructed the angel dressed in white to mark an "X" on the foreheads of the faithful, a mark that would spare them from the divine judgment that was coming (circa 600 BC). Most have heard about "the mark of the beast", the mark the deceived will receive at the end of the age, an identity without which they will neither be able to buy or sell (Revelation 14:9-12). The prophet Ezekiel wrote about a different mark, an "X" that was to be written on the foreheads of those in Judah who had refused to go along with the popular spiritual trends of that day. The "X" would spare them from the wrath to come. So the Lord instructed the angel: "Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst" (Ezekiel 9:4). Pause with me . . . for a moment let’s project back to that era and ask ourselves the following question: Would the angel have marked us to be preserved in that evil day?
It was a remnant who strongly disapproved of the apostasy of the majority. In the words of the Lord, they groaned and sighed over the "abominations" they saw being committed in the name of religion in their midst. What they saw sickened them to the core of their emotional being. Would the angel have marked us if we had lived in that day? We should check our feelings out. Does the current unbelief in the professing evangelical church sicken our souls, or do we remain emotionally dispassionate? Do we love God enough to become upset when we see His truth being dishonored? Do we really even care what God’s truth is? Charles Feinberg observed: "Grief is always the portion of those who know the Lord in an evil day. The marked ones were penitent and faithful at a time of widespread departure from the will of the Lord." Another commentator adds that the criterion for receiving the mark was "an affair of the heart–a passionate concern for God and His people. Failing that, there was no mark . . ."
Some in the mainstream Christian media have called those involved in discernment ministry "Christian attack dogs." Maybe a better label would be "Christian guard dogs"! Discerners so love their Master (i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ) and His Bride (i.e., the church) that they protect His truth and her purity.
Allow me to propose a litmus test as to whether or not we might have been marked in Ezekiel’s day. Does the fact that worldliness is invading the church concern us? Does it bother us when we see the methods of church growth obscuring the Message, when the end of church growth seems to justify any means to achieve it? Does it grieve us to observe the church believing God’s truth less but enjoying "the celebration of worship" more? Does the rampant immorality amongst professing evangelicals cause us to groan? Did it bother you a few years ago when one evangelical leader, who led a movement in his state to preserve the institution of traditional marriage, was accused of and then admitted to soliciting sex from a male prostitute? Do false teachers with their strange and unbiblical teachings bother you? Given our media age, does the development of the personality cult around evangelical leaders and speakers, where appearance and a schmoozing style trump substance, concern us? Do some of us remain unaware that there are such critters as false teachers who stupify their followers with their heretical teachings? In short, are we discerners? If we are not, then we should not expect to be marked. Remember it was Peter who warned, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you" (2 Peter 2:1; Compare Matthew 7:13-15.).
Well, you might be asking, how can we know whether or not a person is a false teacher? Through Jeremiah the Lord provided this description of false prophets: "The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds" (Jeremiah 14:14). Of such prophets Jeremiah said that, "They speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:16b). Again, I ask you, do you know of any false prophets today? You may protest the question and saying, "Well, I know men who speak for God who are true." But that’s not the question posed. Do you know any false teachers? I know this is a discomforting question–but do you? If you don’t, I would say that you have a very grave problem . . . a very grave problem indeed. And it is this: You may not value God’s truth enough to know what it is and thereby be incapable of differentiating truth from error.
From his study of human history, a famous historian once remarked how he observed that the majority was seldom right. Jesus agreed with that conclusion. He said: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it." He continued to say, "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it." Then the Lord concluded: "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:13-15). Interesting, isn’t it . . . that the Lord warned the multitudes to watch out for false prophets in the very context in which He differentiated the majority from the minority way. It’s as if majority will follow the way of the false prophets and teachers to their own destruction. Like those compromisers of Ezekiel’s day–to get along they went along–the majority of the unmarked are headed for destruction. So allow me to ask you again: Dear Reader, do you know of any false prophets around today, or are you living in denial, in a spiritual fantasy world? Will you choose to remain unwarned by the very warning that Jesus and the rest of the prophets and apostles warned you about; mainly, that false prophets and teachers will arise who will lead multitudes astray in the broad way leading to destruction? Remember: The majority is seldom right.
For any Christians concerned to discern, they may be comforted to know they’re taking the narrow way. Discernment is symptomatic of true faith. The Lord’s sheep care, yes, even "sigh and groan" when they see fellow evangelicals lapsing into worldliness and ungodliness. However, goats remain unmoved (Matthew 25:31-46). Yet the caring can be comforted to know that their discernment evidences their solidarity in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Being concerned enough to discern marks them out– "X" — as true believers (See 1 John 2:18-24.). Yet in the midst of any discerning, our overriding emotion ought to be that of grief. Yes, there may be a time for anger. God gets angry. He was with Ezekiel’s generation, so much so that after He had told the angel in white to mark the believing remnant, the Lord instructed the other six angels, "Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house." (Ezekiel 9:5b-6). We note that judgment was to begin in the sanctuary and then work its way out through the entire nation (Compare 1 Peter 4:17.).
Yet we must remember that, "the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). So it’s truly a sad day when we see those professing to know God believing and behaving as if they do not. Thus Paul was compelled to command the congregation at Rome: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:17-18, KJV). But any such marking ought to be attended to with a sigh and a groan.
Pastor Larry DeBruyn
 Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969) 55.
 The mark was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a taw (i.e., the Hebrew "T"). Early Christian commentators noted that often the last letter was written as an "X" that could substitute for a person’s signature. See John B. Taylor, Ezekiel (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1969)103.
 Ibid. 102.
 David Aikman, "Attack Dogs of Christendom," Christianity Today, August, 2007, 52. Aikman writes: "By all means criticize fellow Christians if necessary, but do so with grace." Real discerners do it with a sigh and a groan.
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