What does God have to say about you?  We can only guess.  God has never spoken audibly to me.  The Bible says he loves me, so I often imagine God speaking the words to me,”I love you James.”  But I have not actually heard those words from God.  In the Gospels God speaks audibly from heaven about Jesus saying,”This is my Son, whom I love.”  God says this on three different occasions.  We know exactly what He has to say about Jesus.

I have been reading the book of Ezekiel lately.  God has a lot to say about the rebellious, disobedient, hardhearted Israelites.  The book is mostly about the judgment they have received so far, and more judgment to come.  I finished chapter 14 today,  and up to this point the book  has all been negative and full of God’s wrath – except for three people that God specifically mentioned in chapter 14.  God mentions by name three righteous men.  That was was refreshing and somewhat surprising after all the negativity.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be specifically mentioned by God as being righteous in His Holy Book?  People throughout history would see your name in the context of being righteous, in the context of a condemned, wicked people who were anything but righteous.  To me that would be the greatest honor God could bestow on a person.

So who are these three righteous men mentioned by God in Ezekiel chapter 14?  Job, Noah and Daniel.

I reread the stories of Job and Noah.  Job is immediately described as “upright and blameless”, synonyms for being righteous.  When Satan pays God a visit in heaven, God asked him if he had noticed his servant Job, upright and blameless.  God gives Job the highest compliment possible.  Satan is not impressed.  Satan exclaims that God has a hedge of protection around Job, and that it is no great thing to be upright and blameless with this circle of protection.  “Take the protection away and Job will curse you”, the Evil One bets.  God takes the gamble and removes the hedge of protection.  Satan takes away Jobs incredible wealth, along with his ten children through a series of tragedies.  This brings us to round two.

In the second round, after inflicting great loss on Job, Satan is once again found in the throne room of God.  I can picture a smile on God’s face as he questioned Satan using the same words as the first time, “Have you considered my servant Job, upright and blameless?”  In other words, Job did not curse God.  On the contrary, after losing everything, the Bible says that Job praised God’s name.

Satan must have been feeling a bit hot around the collar at losing round one, but he does not want the contest to end.  He thinks he has an ace up his sleeve when he declares that Job still has his health, and if you take that away and replace it with pain and misery, then you can throw Jobs upright and blameless behavior out the window, for surely then he will curse you.  Again God accepts the challenge and Satan departs to wreak havoc on the body of Job.

Job suffers excruciating physical pain, along with no small amount of mental and emotional anguish from the barbs of his so-called friends.

Through it all, Job remains faithful to God and continues blameless and upright.  There are no more visits from the defeated Satan and God rewards Job by giving him twice the wealth he had before disaster struck.  One can see why God held out Job as a shining example of righteousness to the prophet Ezekiel!

Noah didn’t have it so easy either.  He lived among people who were worse than the Israelites at the time of Ezekiel.  Genesis six says that all the people had their minds set on evil all the time.  They were also a violent people.  But Noah was a righteous man.  God spoke to this righteous man and told him that world as he knew it was going to be destroyed by water.  God was fed up with all the wickedness and a big flood was coming.  Noah and his family were going to escape the coming wrath because, well, because Noah was righteous before God.

God told Noah to build a huge boat that would be large enough for his family, oh, and by the way, for a pair of every mammal on earth, as well as the  birds l the insects.  The fish could fend for themselves.

Noah began this gargantuan task, and I don’t imagine it sat well with his wicked, prone to violence, neighbors.  One can only imagine what He had to endure as he began to build the monstrous sea going vessel, miles from any sea.  What it must have been like to explain to the town’s people what He was doing.  “God has not been too happy about your behaviour lately, so he is going to wipe you all out with a big flood.  He thinks I’m ok, so he is going to save me and my family and a lot of animals.  Yes, he thinks you all are worse than a bunch of animals.”

When a righteous person of our day lives among a bunch of heathen, he or she catches flack for it.  Imagine how the wicked people of Noah’s day must have responded.  With ridicule?  Certainly.  Perhaps also with threats against his life, or attempts to burn down the ark.  It’s likely.  Who knows what this righteous man and his family had to endure, but endure they did.  Day after day.  Week after week.  Month after month for who knows how long.

And then one day, after the ark was completed, a pair of elephants showed up and lumbered onto righteous Noah’s big boat.  And then a pair of giraffes and hippopotamus.  After that some lions and tigers and bears.  The neighborhood must have exclaimed, “Oh my!”

With all the animals on board, God told Noah and his family to enter as well.  I imagine them getting in with dark clouds over head, lighting flashing and thunder booming.  The first large raindrops beginning to fall to earth.  And I do mean the First raindrops ever to be seen or felt by creation.  The Bible tells us that it had never rained before.

The ridiculing, violent, wicked people of that age that lived within running distance of the ark must have took out for the ark at a mad pace.  Mad in the sense that they were crazy to hitch a ride on the Noah Queen.  Also mad in the sense that some must have been angry with Noah and wanted to kill him.  Whatever the case, they were too late.  God had closed the door to the ark and the cleansing flood waters were on their way.  Righteous Noah and his family were safe on board.

Which brings us to righteous Daniel.  Who is this guy anyway?  Probably our first thought goes to the biblical Daniel, interpreter of dreams and lions den survivor.  The only problem with that interpretation is that Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel.  When the Babylonians conquered Judah, they carried off into exile the smartest Jews that they could find, including Daniel and his three amigos.  When the puppet king of Judah rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians returned and reconquered Judah, and carried everyone off to Babylon except the poor.  This included Ezekiel.  Daniel and Ezekiel found themselves exiles in a strange land far from home, neither one famous or known for their righteousness at this point.  The biblical Daniel doesn’t seem to fit the profile of the famous, ancient company of Noah and Job.

We return to the question, who was God referring to then, when he mentioned Daniel.  Some scholars think the reference is to a Daniel written about in an ancient Ugaritic manuscript.  This Daniel seems to have been well known throughout the land of Canaan and was referred to as wise and righteous.  But, a problem arises with this Daniel as well.  His god was Baal, one of the gods that Ezekiel and Yahweh were railing against because many of the Jews were following and worshiping this god.  It hardly seems plausible that God would commend a Baal worshiper as righteous.

So nobody really knows for sure who this righteous Daniel was.  I think God purposely left it up in the air because any “righteous” person could put their name in the Daniel slot.  Righteous Daniel is a righteous “everyman”.  The point that God was making with Ezekiel and the Jews is that you can only be spared the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem if you are righteous; or that anyone that will ultimately be spared from the wrath of God, are the righteous.  You can’t claim an exemption from divine judgment by saying that your parents were righteous, or that you went to church every Sunday, or that your righteous wife or husband or grandmother prayed for you everyday.

The only way that any of us escape eternal punishment on judgment day is by being made righteous by God.  Paul addresses this issue in Romans chapter three.  In verse 12 he declares that no one will be declared righteous by the law.  The law only points man to his sinful condition.  The Jews forced into exile had the law and a trustworthy revelation of the one true God, but they disobeyed the law and ran after other gods.  They were immoral, disobedient and didn’t care to help the poor (Ezekiel 18).  Noah and Job on the other hand, didn’t have the Law, nor any clear revelation of Yahweh, yet were declared righteous by God.

Paul goes on to say in chapter three that Jesus redeemed us, that is to say that he paid for us.  He paid the price we owed for our sin, our rebellion against God, which was death.  Eternal death and separation from God.  He also bought us out of slavery to sin, so that we could not only live a life of righteousness before him, but that we could be his adopted children (Romans 8).  He paid this price by shedding his blood and dying on the cross.

By accepting this great gift, we become righteous “Daniels” in the eyes of God.  We don’t need to hear an audible voice from heaven to know what God thinks of us.  We can hear God’s voice through the words of Paul, “this righteousness is given through faith in Christ Jesus to all who believe.”  Thank you God for this great gift!

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But now the righteousness of God has been made known.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  Romans 3:21,22

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