Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Inkhorn Man

And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.

And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side;

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

And to the others he said in mine hearing, 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. . . .

And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.

Ezekiel 9:2-6, 11

I learned this afternoon that a reformed man, whom I had corresponded with from time to time, had abandoned the Protestant faith and converted to Catholicism. I consider this a disaster, but it is in God's hands. Others I know are playing with the strange fire of neo-legalism. A war is going on and casualties are falling on all sides.

In our days of moral relativity, ambiguity is the rule. Degrees of grey define our ethics.

These amorphous standards are perhaps Satan's master stroke for our era. They comprise a false two-edged sword: the doctrine of the image of God is perverted by denying virtue; the doctrine of total depravity is neutered by assuming that everyone is good.

A steadfast person fulfilling his calling is a terrifying thing.

The Inkhorn Man had no such problem. He was given a terrible and clear-cut duty: identify by a mark those who weep at abomination. He knew full well the consequences because God told him and the five others what was to happen. Everyone without the mark -- man, woman, or child -- was to be executed.

Ezekiel had just been shown how the elders of Judah were worshipping idols. The women were weeping for the Babylonian fertility god Tammuz. Priests were worshipping the sun. Yet, in public, they all pretended to be faithful.

The Inkhorn Man was not distracted. He walked quietly through the city evaluating each person he met. One step after another, one mark here, no mark there -- no appeal and no second chance. When done, he reported without self-congratulation, "I have done as thou hast commanded me."

We also have been given commands from our King. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We often tell ourselves that compliance is impossible. And so it is. But this should not keep us from emulating the single-mindedness of the Inkhorn Man. We walk one step at a time, read line by line, and pray.

Every day we are bombarded by distractions, rumors, false doctrines. Wolfish teachers beckon from the internet and from the streets. Vanity Fair is doing brisk trade and hundreds are drawn to its gates. Some of them are friends going astray. Yet our duty is to warn them and walk on. "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." We are to keep our eyes on the prize, the Word who sustains us.

It is a frightening thing to be His servant. It is also frightening to see professing Christians drift toward shipwreck. His yoke is easy yet they find a way to make it chafe. Playing games with the gospel is deadly and serious. We are to walk in sobriety and with a single eye.

God be praised that he keeps his own.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Hebrews 13:5.

2 comments:

Mrs. B said...

The man with the inkhorn had an objective standard and a holy calling. It was given to him to know those who would persevere and those who had fallen into perdition. His marks were final.

We are not given to know who will persevere and whose failures might yet be redeemed. We are to pray for, not mark the lost, but also to blot those things that bring death from our path and fix our course as you say on the "prize, the Word that sustains us."

This is a fine reflection on a difficult passage.

Mike Pitzler said...

Yes. It seems I saw him on my street.