A Vision by the Rivers of Babylon

In the year 586 BC, the Jewish nation was carried away into captivity by the Babylonians. Eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel (Heb. “God will strengthen”), the son of a priest named Buzi, was taken to Babylon in the captivity of Jehoiachin.

“And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. 13 And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. 14 And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. 15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (2 Kings 24:12-15)

In Babylon, Ezekiel, and other Jewish exiles, was settled on the banks of the River Chebar. Here, along the River Chebar, the message of God came to him. “The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.” (Ezek. 1:3)

Ezekiel’s call to minister came “in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile”, 592 BC. “In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,” (Ezek. 1:2)

The only personal facts we know about Ezekiel is that he was married, and had a house. His wife died suddenly of a stroke. “And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell there upon me.” (Ezek. 8:1)

The last date Ezekiel mentions is the 27th year of the captivity. Therefore, his public ministry extended over a period of 22 years. “And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,” (Ezek. 29:17)

In the ancient world, the concept of conquering people, deporting, and enslaving them was common. When enslavement came to the Jewish nation, the people of God wondered, “Where is God?” “How could God allow this to happen?” “Has God abandoned us?”

The book of Ezekiel functions as a theodicy, or a defense of God and His dealings with Israel in His wrath, and in His righteousness. Ezekiel was uniquely qualified to give a defense of the justice of God because he was a priest, and he was prophet. There was not a dramatic distinction between these two offices. The compassion, generally associated with the priestly office, and the stern rebuke associated with the prophets, is united in Ezekiel.

Though trained to be a priest at the age of 30, God interrupted his priesthood, and ordained Ezekiel to be a prophet. As a prophet, the theodicy begins in the second chapter.

“And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. 2 And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. 4 For they are impudent children and stiff-hearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. 5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. 6 And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. 7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.” (Ezek. 2:1-7)

In the midst of a clear call to minister to the Jews in exile in Babylon, Ezekiel begins his ministry amidst a strange spiritual setting. What Ezekiel initially beheld in chapter 1, was a visible manifestation of the chariot throne of God.

In the Old Testament, when the Ark of the Covenant was moved, it was carried from one place to another by pole inserted through loops on the outer edges of the Ark. The Ark signified the throne of God and His leadership of His people. All that was going on in the earth symbolically was a reflection of spiritual realties that defied human comprehension in the inner chamber and inner sanctum of God. There were times when God manifested Himself in a chariot of fire to reflect a mobile form of judgment. That is what Ezekiel saw.

“Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 17 When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. 18 As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. 19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20 Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.” (Ezek. 1:15-21)

Ezekiel saw an outward vision of the heavenly throne of God. The throne of God in the form of a chariot was on the move. Judgment was coming to Israel. When Ezekiel saw it, he fell on his face. “And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.” (Ezek. 1:28) God spoke to Ezekiel out of the vision of the judgment throne. The message God gave to his new priestly – prophet was a message of judgment.

Ezekiel was called, “Son of man,” a title that later was given to Jesus. The theodicy was understood by Ezekiel. He was to tell the people that what was going on in the Babylonian Captivity is the providential judgment of God upon Israel because of their rebellion. After this bad news was given to Ezekiel, God required something very unusual of him. Ezekiel was to literally eat a roll of a book.

“But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. 9 And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; 10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.” (Ezek. 2:8)

Ezekiel’s image of the book will be found again in Scripture in the New Testament in the Apocalypse. No one was worthy to open John’s book until the Lamb of God prevailed to open the seals and look upon the hidden message.

“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? 3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. 4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.” (Rev. 5:1-4)

This point is important to understand for much of Ezekiel, like Daniel, is cloaked in apocalyptic literature, a style of writing designed to conceal, and to reveal. In apocalyptic literature there is much which is enigmatic, and there are strange images. Ezekiel shared what was written on the scroll he was to literally eat. On it were written “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (Ezek. 2:10). The scroll that Ezekiel was called to eat, is a message of doom and judgment. Ezekiel was obedient, and ate the scroll.

“Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2 So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.” (Ezek. 3:1)

Ezekiel did not just taste the scroll. He consumed the Word of God so that it permeated his whole body. This was not a casual encounter with the Word of God but a digestion of it. In his mouth, the scroll was like honey in his mouth. That is a jarring contrast to the effect of the words on the scroll. How could a message of woe and doom be sweet? The sweetness of the message is found in that it was the Word of God. Every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God is to be sweet to the child of God, no matter how disturbing the message may be.

Jonathan Edwards was a modern day prophet like that of the Old Testament men. Yet, in his writings, one of the most common adjectives discovered in his writings was the word, “sweetness”. The second word was the word, “excellence”. He spoke of the sweetness and the excellence of Christ.

While Jeremiah was prophesying in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon. The final explanation Ezekiel gives for all that was happening to the Jews is revealed in an often repeated phrase: “that they might know that I am the LORD.” Sixty times God said this.

“And they shall know that I am the Lord, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them.” (Ezek. 6:10)

The Psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). This passage is misunderstood. The Hebrew could be translated, “STOP YOUR COMPLAINING! SHUT UP! HOLD YOUR MOUTH! BE QUIET! AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.” It is not a peaceful passage, but a passage that exalts the righteous judgment of God.

That is what Ezekiel is saying. Though Ezekiel delivers his prophesy of judgment he does not leave the people without hope. The nation shall yet live again.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, 2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.” (Ezek. 37:1)

In the Valley of Dry Bones, Ezekiel sees bones bleached by the sun because they have been exposed for so long. This open graveyard, filled with the dead, was a place where God would work and cause the dead to live again.

When God asked Ezekiel a question, the prophet was wise to bow before the sovereignty of God. He did not say, “Of course the dead cannot live again.” Rather, Ezekiel deferred to the omniscience and omnipotence of God.

Here is a message for the dead in trespasses and sin. The dead can live again. Sinner, you can live again. You who are dead to God, can live, if God so wills it.

You who have no ears for God, no eyes for God, no heart for God, can be given a new heart that beats for God, new ears that will listen to His Word, and new eyes to behold the Lord of Glory. What must be done is to preach to the dead.

“Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezek. 37:4)

When the gospel is faithfully preached with divine power, the dead live again. There is a spiritual resurrection.

“So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. 8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. 9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.” (Ezek. 37:7-10)

The end of the book of Ezekiel comes with the promise that God is not going to leave His people. There will be an end to their captivity. There will be a resurrection of His people.

I Have Ceased from Sin

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” (1 Peter 4:1)

Suffering for the sake of Christ became a large theme in the life of Peter, and for a very good reason. There was a time when Peter fled from suffering with Jesus, and for His cause, and kingdom.

Peter did not mean to protect himself in the hour of trial. In fact, he boasted that he would die for Jesus, even when the Lord informed him of his impending betrayal.

“Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. 34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.” (Matt. 26:33)

Poor, Peter. He thought he was braver than he was. He was putting too much trust in the flesh.

Follow, now, the footsteps of Peter from the feast of the Last Passover Supper with Jesus, through the Lord’s trails, and His crucifixion.

Matthew 26:36-75
Peter was with Jesus in the
Garden of Gethsemane

     36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.

37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Peter was with Jesus when He was
Betrayed by Judas

     47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.

49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

Peter Tried to Honor His
Commitment to Christ

     51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.

,    52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.

56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

Peter was with Jesus when
He was Arrested

     57 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.

Peter was not with Jesus
in the Palace of the High Priests for Peter
Sitting with the Servants

     58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.

59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;

60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,

61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee?

63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.

64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

66 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

67 Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

68 Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

Peter was not with Jesus
When the events inside the Palace took Place
Peter was Outside the Palace Denying Christ

 The First Denial of Christ

     69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

The Second Denial of Christ

     71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.

72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.

The Third Denial of Peter

     73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.

74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

Peter Left Jesus in Custody in the Home of
Caiaphas the High Priest

The gospel narrative indicates that Peter was an eyewitness of many important events surrounding the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus. However, there were also some critical events that Peter did not witness personally, and for a good reason. Peter did not want to suffer the same fate of Jesus. He did not want to be arrested, or crucified.

Therefore, Peter took actions to avoid identifying himself with Jesus. Peter denied the truth, and in so doing denied the Lord of Glory. Peter moved to protect himself with disinformation, and then by leaving the area where the trials of Jesus were taking place.

Why is this so important? It is important because Peter wanted to teach the church how to suffer for the sake of Jesus lest they do commit the same sin he had committed.

What sin did Peter commit? He denied the Lord of Glory. Peter refused to suffer in the flesh. There was a time when Peter did not have the mind of Christ. There was a time when Peter sinned in a specific way.

The good news is that Peter ceased from his sin. The time came when Peter confessed his sin of denying the Lord of Glory. Jesus forgave Peter, and restored him to fellowship, and to the work of the ministry.

Once Peter was reinstalled in the ministry he had to feed the sheep. That meant, in part, he had to prepare God’s people for persecution, and suffering. Peter would prepare the church for suffering by first showing them how to arm themselves, and second by giving them a good gospel motive for enduring suffering.

In preaching to the church, Peter would be preaching to himself, and cryptically giving an autobiographical statement. The way the church can arm herself to endure persecution and suffering is to have the same mind of Christ. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.”

The mind of Christ was fixed. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)

The mind of Christ looked beyond the moment, to the eternal. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” (Psalms 2:8) “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18)

The mind of Christ endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2)

What is to motivate the Christian to endure suffering? One gospel motive is that we shall not sin, in the singular, in this specific area. We shall not deny Christ.

Why should that, in and itself, bring so much joy? The Biblical answer is this, “Because of the gospel promise associated with it!”

Listen to Jesus as He promised: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32)

You want to talk about motive? You want to talk about what is of eternal value? Then, arm yourself with the mind of Christ in the matter of suffering, and shout, “Halleluiah!” Christ will honor those who honor him.

When a gospel message is taught, it needs a proper messenger. The question arises, “Is Peter the proper messenger to be talking about enduring suffering?” “Peter, did you not once protect yourself from suffering with Jesus, in His greatest hour of need?”

The honest answer would be, “Yes.” Peter did sin. He did deny Jesus. But, then came repentance, restoration to fellowship, and renewal in the Holy Spirit. Peter learned to suffer for Jesus.

At the time of writing his epistle to the saints, c. AD 65, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, he had suffered much for Christ, including imprisonment (Acts 12:3-19)

Peter had earned the right to speak. He was a man with a message, because he had lived the message. He had ceased from sin. He had stopped denying Jesus, and started confessing Him before the world.

There is one loose end to tie up concerning this narrative. If Peter was not a witness to the sufferings of Christ, how was he so familiar with them? How do we know about what happened inside the house of Caiaphas?

There are several ways that what happened to Jesus can be believed.

Divine revelation. God was watching over His Son. Under divine inspiration He could have revealed what was done. However, more likely, God used natural means to record the events that took place, including eyewitnesses. Luke makes this point in his gospel.

“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word.” (Luke 1:1-2)

So, who were the eyewitness?

Members of the Sanhedrin who were converts to Christ, and who were probably present, such as Nicodemus, would have shared what they witnessed.

Household servants might have given an oral report. Many people were waiting to hear about the midnight proceeding taking place. Jesus was too well known. The news of His arrest would spread like a wildfire. There are cities that never sleep, such as New York, and Jerusalem.

John Mark would have been able to give an account of what was happening to Jesus, if he is the disciple referred to in John 18:15 “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.”

Peter was invited into the house of the high priest, and he almost went (John 18:16-18), but then he backed away “and warmed himself” by a fire.

Later, he did not back away. Later, Peter ceased from sin.

The Source of All Sin

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Sam. 15:23)

I recently received in the mail a series of counseling books. There was a book on Anger, Depression, Rejection, Victimization, Fear, and several other topics as well. As I perused the material, I realized that in all of these counseling books, nothing was being said about the source of all sin.

While it is important to treat any symptoms of a mental or physical issue, it is far better to find the source of the problem. In the spiritual world, the source of all sin is traced back to Satan, whose original name was Lucifer, meaning “brightness.” The Bible provides a cryptic insight into what happened, one dark day, in eternity past. Before he ever spoke a word, or moved to act, Lucifer talked to himself. In his heart he formulated a plan of rebellion against God.

“For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isa. 14:13-14)

It is in the heart of every created being that the sin of rebellion originates. It is in the heart of every person that rebellion, the ultimate source of all sin, finds its origin. What Lucifer eventually did overtly, in making war with God, was simply to carry out his secret plan of rebellion. What every individual does is simply to give visible expression to their own personal, secret, plan of rebelling against God.

Of course, what is secretly planned in the heart is known to God, for as the Creator, He is omniscient. “Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me.” (Job 21:27)

Sin is no surprise to God. The Lord is hurt, and angry with sin, to be sure. The Lord is angry with the rebellious, and for good reason. There is no need for it.

In His infinite mercy and kindness, God has provided everything that is necessary for the comfort of His creatures. Yet, in the act of rebellion, individuals say, in essence, “God, you have not done enough for me. I want more. ”

When a person, be that person an angel, or a human, tells God that what He has provided, and what He had made known to be His will is not good enough, then, in that moment, they have entered into a state of rebellion. Simply defined, rebellion is a refusal to obey rules, or accept the standards of behavior. There is a spirit of defiance that undergirds the overt expression of the same.

Whatever transgression of the Law a person performs, whatever manifestation of the flesh a person may display, the source of that transgression, the source of whatever is manifested, is rooted in rebellion.

When a person rebels against God in order to manifest a particular sin they are determined to commit, they must first become hard hearted. Moses recognized the union between rebellion and having a hard heart when dealing with the people of Israel. “For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?” (Deut. 31:27)

Jesus united a hard heart with the sin of a man divorcing His wife thereby rebelling against the known will of God regarding the permeance of marriage. “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matt. 19:8)

Because sin is an expression of a hard heart against God, because a hard heart is the overt manifestation of secret rebellion formulated in the heart, consider what it takes for a person to have a hard heart in order to carry out a rebellion. Since every sin is patterned after Satan, Lucifer becomes the prototype.

Self-talk. The Bible reveals that one day Lucifer began to talk to himself. “For thou hast said in thine heart.” The reason why God tells people to guard their heart, is because it is possible to talk one’s self into the most despicable acts, and feel virtuous in the process. While virtue is honored, vice is embraced. No doubt, Sarah felt magnanimous when she gave Hagar to Abraham, and told him to have a child by the slave woman. There was nothing noble in the act. The world is aflame today because of the consequences of Sarah’s sin, and then Abraham’s sin, being passed on from generation to generation. When a person talks themselves into rebelling against God, there is nothing virtuous in such foolishness, no matter how eloquent it might sound in the solitude of one’s mind.

A plan. Once he began to talk to himself, Lucifer formulated a plan. “I will ascend into heaven.” What Lucifer was saying was, “I will be like God.” “I will dethrone God.” That sounded like a good plan to Lucifer. When a person does something, they do it because it seems good to them. No one ever acts against their own self-interest. No matter how much pain and suffering is inflicted on someone else, a person proceeds, because their plan is in their own best interest, as far as they know.

Courage. Once Lucifer had his plan worked out in his mind as to how he would proceed to openly defy God, he had to reach inward, and find the courage to continue. Any child can tell you that it takes a certain amount of courage to rebel against mom and dad. Any criminal can tell you that it take courage to defy the law. Courage is simply the resolve to face a difficult or dangerous situation. Lucifer had to have courage to go against God. A person must have the courage to continue in a particular course of action they know to be contrary to God’s will.

Determination. United to courage, is determination. Determination will strengthen the resolve, and help harden the heart against God. Make no mistake about it, people are committed to their plans. They are wedded to the evil, or injurious behavior, they have talked themselves into. They have found the courage that is needed to continue, because they are determined to pay any price to have their way. That is part of their self-talk.

“I will live with the consequences,” they say. “Even if I am wrong, or unsuccessful.” That thought is a shallow thought, but it emboldens the sinner.

People who plan to transgress, know not of what they speak. Most have never actually experienced the consequences they think they are willing to endure. They know nothing of the pure wrath of God, or the hell into which they will one day be plunged.

A willingness to accept any negative consequences for one’s actions is part of the deceptiveness of sin. Nevertheless, self-talk makes a person bold, determined, and hard hearted.

Allies. Once Lucifer talked himself into a state of rebellion, once Lucifer formulated his plan, the next step was to find allies. Some Bible scholars believe that Lucifer was able to convince no less than one third of the created angels to join him in his rebellion against God. These angels became demons. They are now the devil’s angels, for they are no longer God’s holy angels (Matt. 25:41)

Like Lucifer, people who have entered into a state of secret rebellion against God, people who formulated a plan to proceed in open defiance of the Word of God, people who no longer care that they have a hard heart because they mistake false courage, and determination, as being virtuous, people who convince themselves they are willing to accept any negative consequences for their actions, including divine wrath, must find allies.

Some will use God talk to try to find allies in Christian churches, counselors, or pastors. They learn God language. They learn Biblical concepts. They just have no intention of honoring them. Jesus recognized such people, and asked, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

Once a person with a hard heart realizes that a true Christian will never respect, or unite with them in their rebellion, they become angry. They claim they are misunderstood. They tell themselves that anyone in their position would do what they are determined to do. They tell themselves they just want to be happy. God wants them to be holy, but they want their personal happiness. They just want peace, at any price. In this way, many a person has sold their soul to the world, the flesh, and the devil, for a small price. They are like Esau, who sold his soul for a bowl of soup. They fail to value their soul.

Such people, just like Lucifer, want allies to join them in justifying the unjustifiable. When they fail to find an ally in one person, or place, they turn on those they once claimed to love.

The practical problem is this. In order to love, there has to be the capacity to love. Those who hardened their heart against God have no capacity to love. These people will use phrases and expressions of love, but they are just words to manipulate others with, and to find allies. These people even think it is virtuous to stop loving someone. That, of course, provides a rational for separation, in our society, regardless of any vows taken before God.

Suppression of the truth. In order for Lucifer to rebel against God overtly, he had to suppress the truth. What was the truth? Lucifer could never be like God. God is God. Lucifer was a creature, subject to the Creator, no matter how much he rebelled against his status.

In like manner, the person who cultivates a hard heart in order to continue to sin must suppress the truth. This is easily done. The woman who would murder her baby simply says that the life in her womb is not a baby, but fetal tissue. The person who is angry with someone else simply says they have a right to be angry. They are vitreous. They will not tolerate – whatever the transgression might be. They demand respect. Meanwhile, they show no respect to God, His Word, or godly counsel. Why, because they need to suppress the truth.

Countless hours are spent in counseling dealing with the symptoms of sin, such as anger, infidelity, lying, profanity, pornography, verbal and emotional abuse, and much more. Perhaps it would be better if Christians considered more fully the source of these transgressions, which is rebellion. Follow the heart. How did it become hardened? Consider the original sin of rebellion.