“WAKE UP SLEEPER” (EPHESIANS 5: 14)
EPHESIANS 5: 8-20
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
‘Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
15 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Now, who is Paul talking to here? He’s talking to Christians! Not to unbelievers who are dead in their sins. He’s warning Christians to wake up…to be aware of what is going on in their lives and in the world around them…he goes on to explain what they need to wake up from:
- Rather than living like the world lives – compromising with the world – being influenced by the world – we should be “filled with the Spirit” – the Greek of which is the present continuous = “be being filled with the Spirit” – it is a daily act – decision – you can’t say “I was filled with the Spirit when I was ‘saved’”.
- There are a whole bunch of contrasts here:
- Before salvation I was in darkness, now I am not only in light but must live as light.
- I must not continue in the “fruitless deeds of darkness” but actually “expose” them
- When we are saved we “wake up” but maybe we have fallen back “to sleep”.
- So we must not live foolishly – the world’s way, but wisely – God’s way.
- Don’t be filled with the world’s spirit (evil) but with God’s Holy Spirit
Do we need to “wake up”? This is the call of “Wildfires” this year – a call that the church is slumbering, allowing things to happen in society that are wrong; worse still that the church has “fallen asleep” on its watch and has allowed the world to enter into its gates, and its walls to be broken down.
How might we have “fallen asleep” or become “dead” (spiritually)?
Well…let’s compare and contrast ourselves with what was happening in Israel and Judah during the dark days leading up to the exile of Israel to Assyria…
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
In the reigns of Jeroboam II in Israel (c.793-753BC), and Uzziah in Judah (c.792-740BC) there was a “golden age” of power and prosperity in Canaan. Territory that had been lost was won back and many people became rich. But the writers tell us that it was a spiritually bleak time: Jeroboam II “did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (2 Kings 14: 24) by continuing to allow worship of the golden calves – idols set up in Bethel and Dan by his name-sake, Jeroboam I, 150 years earlier (1 Kings 12: 28-30). Uzziah was swayed by the religious practices of the other nations and tried to enter the Temple to burn incense to the LORD himself (2 Chronicles 26: 16)…now, that might not sound too bad – but it was against the Law of God – and he was struck with leprosy for his “pride” (verse 19).
At the same time, to the north and east of Israel the kingdom of Aram, centred on Damascus, and the Neo-Assyrian empire, were getting more and more powerful, attacking Israel and taking much territory away from her.
We won’t complicate matters too much with the confusion of kings and assassinations in the Kingdom of Israel. Just let it be said that by 733BC, the revived Assyrian Empire was causing great fear in the region. The king of Aram-Damascus, Rezin, made an alliance with Pekah, the king of Israel, to try to hold the Assyrian advance back. Together, Rezin and Pekah attacked Judah, led by its king, Ahaz – probably trying to force him to join their alliance against Assyria. Ahaz took all the silver and gold found in the Temple and sent it as a gift to the Assyrian king (Tiglath-Pileser III) as a bribe to get him to attack the Israel-Damascus alliance. This the king of Assyria did. Rezin was killed, Damascus was destroyed and its people carried away into exile (732BC).
In the same year Pekah, king of Israel died, the kingdom became a vassal state of Assyria, paying annual tribute, and Hoshea became the new king of Israel. However Hoshea rebelled against Assyria, sought the support of Egypt (which never materialised) and was invaded by the new Assyrian king, Shalmaneser, who in the 9th year defeated Israel, destroyed Samaria and took its people away to exile. The northern kingdom of Israel ceased to exist.
Judah, in the meantime, under Ahaz, continued to be a vassal kingdom to Assyria, paying tribute and coming under their increasing influence.
What a mess!
What is going on here?…
IT’S A QUESTION OF TRUST
At this time of growing crisis God, out of His great love for His people, out of His hope that they would return to Him, sent prophets into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah – pleading with them to return to Him and foretelling disaster on them if they were foolish and did not (and let’s not blame God for this – there are always consequences to all we do, the Hebrews brought disaster upon themselves).
The prophets (Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah) and the writers of Kings and Chronicles, charge Israel and Judah with two things:
- Trusting in other gods – Baal, Asherah, Chemosh, Marduk, etc
- Trusting in other people – particularly Assyria and Egypt
They did not put their trust in God alone. They looked elsewhere and tried to sort out their problems on their own. They failed. No other god or person is worthy of our trust. They turned their back on the LORD, they walked away from the LORD, and the consequence was destruction and exile.
When the Assyrian king conquered Samaria and carried its people away in captivity, the writer of 2 Kings 17: 15 gave the reason for the catastrophe as this:
15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do.’
- DON’T PUT YOUR TRUST IN OTHER “GODS”
I don’t want to focus on this one in this session – I have spoken of it so often before.
Father God has always wanted the best for us – and He has always known that the best for us is to walk with Him as His children. But He has always known that we, like sheep, so easily go astray, so easily look to other “gods”. This is why, out of His great love for us, He gave us the first commandment:
“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 3)
And as Almighty God He made the following pronouncement:
“Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you” (Jeremiah 25: 6)
But the story of Israel is that they kept being led astray to worship the gods of the nations amongst whom they lived – gods who promised rain and sunshine on crops that would be bountiful if only they were obeyed. The cry of God through His servants, the prophets, was continually “come back to Me, get rid of your foreign gods who are no gods, put your trust in Me alone and all will be well”.
They didn’t…and brought upon themselves destruction and exile.
The message for us, we have already seen, is clear: don’t put your trust in the gods of this age. Money will not save you; good health and exercise will not save you; political parties will not save you; education will not save you, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll will not save you. None of these things, in themselves, are wrong; but they become gods when we put our trust in them to see us through our lives. For when we do the devil laughs and we will take the consequences.
Isaiah, writing at the time of the historical account given above, cried out to the people the message of God speaking of the time of “The Day of the LORD”:
“In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship” (Isaiah 2: 20)
- DON’T PUT YOUR TRUST IN OTHER PEOPLE
It is this one that I want to focus on in this session. The cry is “Wake up! Put your trust back in God alone – no longer put your trust in other people!”
Isaiah speaking to the Hebrews at this time of crisis (the attack of Rezin and Pekah, and the advance of the Assyrians) declared:
Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem? (Isaiah 2: 22)
From a human point of view the action that king Ahaz of Judah took makes perfect sense – he has a kingdom to protect; it’s being attacked by his northern neighbours; buy the support of the Assyrians to draw them off. It worked. Seems the right move. Assyria is the “big player” in the region; toe-the-line with them by paying them annual tribute; that’s going to keep the kingdom safe.
But…it was wrong!
Speaking through Isaiah, the message that God gave to Ahaz was this:
“Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smouldering stubs of firewood – because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 ‘Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.’ 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
‘“It will not take place,
it will not happen,
8 for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.”’
(Isaiah 7: 4-9)
Ahaz simply had to “stand firm in [his] faith” – that is, trust simply in God – and the invaders would fail. But Ahaz didn’t, and so he did “not stand at all”. He put his trust in the Assyrians and not in God and the result, the consequences – subserviency to the Assyrians for the rest of his life.
And it gets worse…2 Kings 16: 10-16 tells us what king Ahaz did next:
10 Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. 11 So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus and finished it before King Ahaz returned. 12 When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings[a] on it. 13 He offered up his burnt offering and grain offering, poured out his drink offering, and splashed the blood of his fellowship offerings against the altar. 14 The bronze altar that stood before the Lord he brought from the front of the temple – from between the new altar and the temple of the Lord – and put it on the north side of the new altar.
15 King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: ‘On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Splash against this altar the blood of all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance.’ 16 And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered.
When he put his trust in a man (Tiglath-Pilesar, king of Assyria) it was an easy next-step to begin to be affected by the life-style of that man: he saw the kind of altar that the nations were sacrificing on – and it looked pretty good. So he commissioned the priest, Uriah, to copy it, put it in the Temple to replace the one that had been built to God’s specifications…and then went and offered burnt offerings on it too!
Not only had he been influenced by people in the world, but he compromised his faith, and fell into sin…believing he was doing the right thing!
And what is maybe worse is that the priest not only did not tell him he was wrong, but colluded with him in the building of this altar. I don’t know why he did this – maybe it was fear of the king’s wrath if he refused. But the one man who should have stopped Ahaz failed to do so.
Let us learn the lesson of this: God calls us to put our trust in Him – and Him alone; when we start looking to people to sort out our problems and to protect us – politicians, armies, intellectuals, dating agencies – then before we know it we will not only become beholden to them but we will forget the LORD who promises to care for us. And when the church colludes with this – so as not to incur the wrath of society – then we are “in a real mess”.
Here is the word of the LORD for us – this year and forever:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight
(Proverbs 3: 5-6)
THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
Let us “wake up and smell the coffee”!
Look at what is happening in the world – wake up!
Look at the spread of other religions – especially Islam in our nation – wake up!
Look at the march of post-modernism in our society – wake up!
Look at the rise of anti-Biblical morality in our culture – wake up!
Look at the church asleep in our land – “Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead”!
Do not put your trust in the gods of this world.
Do not put your trust in the people of this world.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart!
THEN we will be renewed in our thinking, restored in our place and our service, then we will rebuild the Church in the land.