Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ezekiel 18 & 19 - Repentance and a Funeral Dirge

LINK: Ezekiel 18 & 19 

BACKGROUND

Ezekiel 18 - Repent and Live!

The proverb quoted in 18:1-4 must have been popular because Jeremiah quoted it also (Jeremiah 31:29-30). The gist of its meaning was that Jerusalem thought they were suffering because of their parents' sin and God was punishing them for no reason except that he had stated that he would punish the children to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5). The people were blaming their ancestors and denying their own sin!

We are all individually responsible to God for our sin. Ezekiel used three examples of a grandfather, father, and son to get this point across and prove the fallacy of the proverb. Each is individually responsible before God; "The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him" (18:20).

There was still hope for the wicked man if he "turns away" (18:21) from his wickedness and follows God! "None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him . . . he will live" (18:22). Why? It is because God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked! That is a phenomenal truth about God. It is also true that if a righteous man turns to wickedness, there is no hope for him.

In all of this, God said that He was just and the people were unjust.

Bottom line message of this chapter:


“Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:30b–32)  

Ezekiel 19 - A Funeral Dirge for Judah's Leaders

This is the first of five laments or dirges in the book of Ezekiel (26:17-18; 27; 28:12-19; 32:1-16). A lament was a funeral song that was recited to honor the dead person. This one is about Israel and her leaders. Three of the other laments concern Tyre, and the fourth (32:1-16) concerns Egypt.

The time was 592 B.C., five years before the fall of Jerusalem, and Zedekiah was king. The "lioness" symbolized the nation of Judah. The first cub was King Jehoahaz who reigned after Josiah and was taken captive to Egypt in 609 B.C. by Pharaoh Neco II (2 Kings 23:31-33). The second cub was King Jehoiachin who reigned only three months before he was taken into captivity to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar for 37 years before he was released (2 Kings 24). He did not return to Israel.

In 19:10-14, Ezekiel spoke of King Zedekiah. Judah was the fruitful vine that was to be uprooted, thrown, stripped, and consumed by fire. The "east wind" (known as a sirocco) in 19:12 refers to the mighty Babylonian army.

After Zedekiah was overthrown, there would be no Davidic king to replace him until Christ's return with a "ruler's scepter".

Stay tuned. Christ is coming in 84 days!

REFLECTION

He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Blessed is the man who always fears [the consequences of sin],
but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. 
Proverbs 28:13-14, NIV

God wanted repentance from His people so that they could live the life He had intended for them, but they passed the blame for their sin to their ancestors and continued to live in bondage to it. God was standing there in His mercy asking them to "Repent and live!" Sadly, they would not take Him up on His offer. It was their loss and the consequences were serious.

I could not help but think about the people of Jerusalem when I was reading the chapter entitled "Life Beyond Regret: The Practice of Confession" in the very simple book called The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg. He writes:
To confess means to own up to the fact that our behavior was not just the result of bad parenting, poor genes, jealous siblings, or a chemical imbalance from too many Twinkies. Any or all of those factors may be involved. Human behavior is a complex thing. But confession means saying that somewhere in the mix was a choice, and the choice was made by us, and it does not need to be excused, explained, or even understood. The choice needs to be forgiven. The slate has to be wiped clean.
They thought their suffering was because of their parents' sin, but God was saying, "Take responsibility for your own sin!" He does not want repentance because He is a "cosmic kill joy" and wants to limit us. Quite the contrary, He wants to free us from its tight grip on our lives. He wants to heal us and change us so that we might truly live!

APPLICATION

Place yourself in God's loving hands today and ask Him to reveal any thoughts, words, or deeds that might not be pleasing to Him. Then take responsibility for your sin by acknowledging it to God. Ask God to reveal to you why you sinned and ask Him to get to the bottom of it.

You may have sinned against another person and need to ask them for his or her forgiveness. Lastly, resolve, with God's help, to change.

PRAYER

Tender, merciful God, we praise You that, "As far as the east is from the west. So far have You removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). We thank You that You are a forgiving God. You are a God of grace, and "You long to be gracious to us and wait on high to have compassion on us" (Isaiah 30:18). We ask that You will search our hearts and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin so that we might confess and walk in the light of Your grace and mercy today. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ezekiel 17 - Eagles, a Vine, and a Tender Sprig

LINK: Ezekiel 17

Here is where Ezekiel 17 fits in chronologically with the history and the prophecies of Jeremiah:


2 Kings 24:18-20
2 Chronicles 36:11-14
Jeremiah 49:34-51:64
Jeremiah 11:18-12:6
Jeremiah 23:9-40
Jeremiah 27:1-28:17
Ezekiel 1-23
Jeremiah 21:1-14
Ezekiel 24-25
Jeremiah 37-38
Ezekiel 29-31
Jeremiah 32-34
2 Kings 25
2 Chronicles 36:15-21

If you want to see how all the later prophets fit in chronological with the 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles accounts, see HERE.

As I have said before, I chose not to do a strict chronology because we would be jumping back and forth between books. I think it is easier to read each book as a whole and fit them together semi-chronologically. As you can see Ezekiel is much more chronological than Jeremiah! 

BACKGROUND

The first eagle in this allegory symbolized King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (17:12) who went to "Lebanon" (Jerusalem) and clipped off the top (King Jehoiachin, 2 Kings 24:8-16) of a cedar tree (Davidic dynasty) and replanted that top bough in a city of traders (Babylon). This occurred in 597 B.C.

The eagle (Nebuchadnezzar) took some of the seed of the land and planted it by abundant water and it grew into a spreading vine. After King Jehoiachin died in captivity, Nebuchadnezzar "planted" King Zedekiah as a vassal king in Jerusalem. This meant he was in a treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and under oath. He and Jerusalem would grow and prosper as long as Zedekiah kept his side of the bargain.

We know from the the accounts in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles that he did not. The vine (Zedekiah) stretched out toward a new eagle (Pharaoh of Egypt) in order to receive water (protection) and forgot the oath of allegiance made to the first eagle (Nebuchadnezzar) and rebelled against it. When Ezekiel prophesied this in captivity (sometime between 592 and 591 B.C.), this final revolt had not yet happened in Jerusalem (588 B.C.). Jeremiah prophesied the same thing in Judah (Jeremiah 2:36, 37; 38). Isaiah had preached it over a century before (Isaiah 31:1; 36:9).

The result of this rebellion was a disaster. The vine would not thrive. Zedekiah was not only rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar but also against God (17:19-21). Nebuchadnezzar captured Zedekiah, killed his sons, blinded him, and took him captive to Babylon, where he died in captivity (Ezekiel 17:16; 2 Kings 24:17-25:7; Jeremiah 52:1-11).

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Ezekiel's prophecy does end in a ray of hope. God said he would take a sprig (Jesus) from the very top  of the cedar (Davidic dynasty) and plant it on the mountain heights of Israel. It would prosper and provide shelter for all who come to it (17:22-24). 

Jesus came from the stem of Jesse and will one day establish His kingdom on earth (Isaiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-17; Zechariah 6:12-13) and all other kingdoms will fall.

REFLECTION

How often do we in our human wisdom try to trade the abundant, life-giving water of the Lord for "foreign" water that can do nothing to quench our thirst? The treaty with Babylon was God's protection for Judah, but they didn't drink.

Where is your water source?

APPLICATION

Meditate on Psalm 1 and talk to God about where you are getting your water these days.

PRAYER

Lord, help us to drink deeply from Your abundant, living water. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ezekiel 16 - Jerusalem the Prostitute

LINK: Ezekiel 16


BACKGROUND

The "cruel practice of infanticide was prevalent in the ancient world. Unwanted and deformed children were cast out at birth and left to die" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 1255). God likened Jerusalem to an abandoned child who had been thrown off because she was a product of the union of two wicked Canaanite cultures: Amorite and Hittite.

God noticed this "struggling infant" and helped her to thrive like a jewel in the field. She grew into beautiful womanhood and God made a covenant of marriage with her. He clothed her like a queen whose fame spread throughout the world (this may allude to the time of David and Solomon's reigns in 1 Kings 10:4-5). 

Sadly, she trusted in her fame and beauty and used it to become a prostitute to other gods. This began in Solomon's reign (1 Kings 11:7-13) and continued until the Babylonian Captivity. By Ezekiel's time, child sacrifice was practiced openly (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6; Jeremiah 7:31; 32:35).

Also, she (Jerusalem) became promiscuous with other nations like Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. This alludes to not only new foreign gods to worship but also alliances with these countries. God judged Jerusalem by giving her over to the Philistines (2 Chronicles 21:16-17; 28:16-19) who were even shocked at Jerusalem's wickedness. God's judgment would include God using her "lovers" to destroy her by stone and sword. Deuteronomy 13:15-16 states that if a city in Israel became involved in idolatry, its people were to be killed by the sword and the city was to be burned. This is exactly what happened in Jerusalem's fall to the Babylonians. The root of Jerusalem's sin was her failure to remember the days of her youth (16:43) when God bestowed favor on this abandoned child. God also referred to Samaria and Sodom as Jerusalem's north and south sisters. Not even Sodom, with its terrible sins (Genesis 19:24, 25), was as depraved as Jerusalem!

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Ezekiel 16:53-63 ends in hope. God promised to restore all three sisters. The captives in Babylon would be restored. God would establish an everlasting covenant (37:26; 2 Samuel 23:5; Isaiah 55:3) and reunite the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah under the Messiah. In fact, we know from our study of Isaiah that "all nations" will be united under the Messiah (Isaiah 2:2, 3). The "New Covenant" was prophesied by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and Ezekiel (11:18-20; 36:26-28; 37:26-28) and began when Jesus paid for the sins of all mankind by His death on the cross (Hebrews 10:8-10)!

No REFLECTION or APPLICATION today. This chapter was longer than usual!

PRAYER

Lord, my heart is grieved over Jerusalem's ungrateful idolatry when You had been so good to them and had blessed them. Help us to be grateful for Your many blessings of love and protection. Help us to be conduits of that blessing to the world rather than becoming involved in the world's idolatry. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ezekiel 13-15: Condemnation

LINK: Ezekiel 13-15 

BACKGROUND

Ezekiel 13 

This is the third message regarding the certainty of the coming judgment. In this chapter, God condemns the false prophets and prophetesses who were proclaiming peace when Jeremiah was prophesying destruction. They gave the people a false sense of security. They were bending the truth in order to be popular. Their lies were compared to "whitewashed flimsy walls." 

The people had been warned to listen to the prophets whom God had raised up (Deuteronomy 18:18), but there were serious consequences for false prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:15-22). 

Again, note the number of times God says, "That you may know that I am the Lord." 

Ezekiel 14 

This is the third message regarding the certainty of the coming judgment. In this chapter, God condemns idolatry. When the elders came to meet Jeremiah while confined to his house (3:24), Ezekiel condemned them for worshiping idols in their hearts and daring to come to him for advice. 

Ezekiel refers to three great men of God who were known for their devotion to God and for their wisdom: Noah, Daniel, and Job (Genesis 6:8, 9; Daniel 2:47, 48; Job 1:1), pointing out that these men could only save themselves and their personal righteousness could not save others.

Daniel was still alive during Ezekiel's time but had been taken into captivity eight years before Ezekiel was taken captive. At the time Ezekiel prophesied, Daniel had a high government position in Babylon. 

Some scholars believe the Daniel referred to by Ezekiel is a mythical Dan'el from Ugaritic texts. He was a righteous ruler and judge who could not protect his sons from the wrath of the goddess Anat. But why would Ezekiel use an idolatrous myth to condemn idolatry? Also, there is no evidence that this story was known to the Jews. So, most scholars favor the view that it is the Daniel in the Bible. 

Ezekiel 15 

This short chapter contains the first of three parables of judgment for Judah in Ezekiel 15-17. This parable is about a useless vine that became more useless after being burned. The people of Jerusalem were useless to God because of their idolatry, and so they would be destroyed and their city burned. Isaiah also compared Israel to a vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-8. 

REFLECTION 

It is so easy to condemn the Israelites for worshiping idols, but we all have idols in our hearts. Some of our idols might be reputation, acceptance, popularity, wealth, sensual pleasure or even wanting our kids to behave or be popular. A good definition of an idol is someone or something, other than God, we set as the object of our heart's devotion. 

APPLICATION

What are your idols? I have recommended the article below, and I will recommend it again. If you have not read it yet, I heartily encourage you to do so: 

The Progression of an Idol

PRAYER

Lord, may we set our heart to make You the only object of our devotion. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ezekiel 12 - Backpacking into Exile

LINK: Ezekiel 12


BACKGROUND

God told Ezekiel to pack his bag for exile and dig a hole through the wall of the city in order to communicate to His rebellious people that punishment was certain. The escape at night with a cover over Ezekiel's face was to predict Zedekiah's attempt to escape through a break in the city wall followed by his capture. This was fulfilled in 586 B.C. After an attempt at escape, Zedekiah was taken to Nebuchadnezzar, forced to watch his sons slaughtered and blinded. He spent the rest of his days in prison (2 Kings 25:3-7; Jeremiah 52:10,11).

The few exiles who were spared would be scattered among the nations and eventually come to "know that [He] is the LORD" (key repeated phrase: 12:16, 20).

Ezekiel was also to tremble as he ate food and shudder as he drank water (12:18) to illustrate the terror that the people of Jerusalem were about to experience.

Exile was inevitable, and Ezekiel delivered five messages between 12:21-14:23, with two of them being in this chapter. They were meant to leave no doubt in the people's mind that judgment was coming and to destroy their false optimism.

The first message (12:21-25) was given to combat the false proverb that the people were quoting that said "The days go by and every vision comes to nothing." A proverb was "a terse expression of a commonly held or self-evident truth" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 1250). This proverb was the exact opposite of the truth. The false prophets were wrong! (I suppose that is why they are called false prophets.) God said, "The days are near when every vision will be fulfilled."

The second message (12:26-28) was given to combat against the statement that the prophecies were in the distant future, but God combated this by saying, "None of My words will be delayed any longer" (12:28).

God was true to His word, Jerusalem was destroyed less than six years later!

REFLECTION

Ezekiel walking out into the night with the pack on his back reminded me of the show, Survivor.

On this show, contestants who think they might be voted out by their fellow tribe members pack their bags and bring them to Tribal Council. Some do not pack their bags because they are confident that they will not be voted out only to be "blind-sided" through tribal trickery and deception. Most pack their bags though because you "never know" in the game of Survivor.

When a contestant is voted out, his or her torch is extinguished and the host, Jeff Probst, proclaims, "The tribe has spoken. It is time for you to go." The familiar, sad music plays; and most of the time, the ejected member walks off in stunned silence into the darkness carrying his or her pack.

Unlike Survivor, there is no trickery or deception. God's words through Ezekiel were plain and clear: "They will go into exile as captives." It was time to pack their bags . . .

Yet, they still would not listen.

APPLICATION

This Old Testament reading and the confirmation of history should assure all of us that ALL that God says is sure to happen.

Jesus is going to return for His bride. Are you ready (Revelation 19:7)?

PRAYER

Lord, we know in all our hearts and all our souls that not one word of all the good words which You have spoken concerning us will fail; all will be fulfilled for us, not one of them will fail (Joshua 23:14). Help us to walk by faith and not by sight and protect us from false teachers. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ezekiel 11 - Vision of God's Glory Departing: Part II

LINK: Ezekiel 11

BACKGROUND

As God's glory hovered before its final departure, Ezekiel is transported to the eastern gate facing the Kidron Valley and Mount of Olives where 25 elders are meeting. The gate of a city was the place where important social and political decisions were made. It was the city's "courthouse." Some commentators believe that "Jaazaniah son of Azzur" was the son of the man named in Jeremiah 28:1, a false prophet and opposer of Jeremiah.

As Jerusalem's leaders, they were planning evil and wickedness and leading the people away from the Lord. They claimed they were the "meat" safe in the "cooking pot" of the city. Nothing could be further from the truth! So, God turned that word picture on its head by stating that the slain people would be the "meat"! They were dead meat and cooked!

God's judgment by the sword (11:10-11) was fulfilled when the captives of Jerusalem were deported to Riblah in Syria and killed (2 Kings 25:18-21; Jeremiah 52:8-11, 24-27).

For the second time, Ezekiel pleaded for the Sovereign LORD's mercy (9:8; 11:13), and God showed him that a remnant would not be destroyed and his "brothers in exile" (better translation than "your blood relatives" in 11:14) would be saved for a future time when they would return to the land. On the return, idolatry would be purged, and God would replace their hearts of stone and give them a "heart of flesh/undivided heart and new spirit." Many commentators believe that this "new spirit" would be the Holy Spirit who now indwells all believers. With these new hearts, they would be His people, and He would be their God (14:11; 36:28; 37:23, 27; Hosea 2:23).

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

But for now, God would have to judge them for their devotion to "vile images and detestable idols" (11:21). Sadly, the glory of the LORD departed and, taking one last stop over the Mount of Olives, would look to a future time when the glory of God would return via this same Mount of Olives (43:1-3) where Christ will ascend to heaven (Acts 1:9-12) and promise to return to the same place (Acts 1:11; Zechariah 14:4). 

REFLECTION and APPLICATION

God wants an undivided heart. How our hearts get divided all over the map these days with TV, internet, movies, texting (or SMS for you international readers), etc. at our beck and call! I am convinced that technology has made us too busy to really see and hear God!

We need to stop the insanity and return to our first love.

Leave your cell phone at home and take a walk out in God's wonderful creation and worship HIM! Ask Him to show you His glory (remember Moses in Exodus 33:18). Make this a regular habit.

PRAYER

God, forgive us for our divided hearts! Show us Your glory and make our hearts one with You. Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ezekiel 10 - Vision of God's Glory Departing: Part I

LINK: Ezekiel 10

BACKGROUND



My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
(Isaiah 48:11)

Ezekiel saw the throne chariot of chapter 1 with more details: the bodies of the cherubim were completely full of eyes (Revelation 4:8). Many commentators believe this means divine omniscience. There is one discrepancy between the two descriptions. The face of an ox in Ezekiel 1 is the face of a cherub in Ezekiel 10. In Akkadian literature the kuribu (cognate of "cherub") appear to have nonhuman faces. Perhaps the face of a cherub looked like an ox. We do not know!

The radiance of the glory of the LORD in the form of a cloud filled the threshold of the sanctuary (Exodus 33:9-10; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Isaiah 6:1-4). The angelic scribe was to scatter the burning coals between the wheels and cherubim (1:13; Isaiah 6:6) over the city starting in the temple and moving outward.

Because God would not share His glory with the gods His people were worshiping, Ezekiel saw God's glory begin to depart from His polluted temple as the wheeled cherubim throne rose upward, but they paused and God's glory hovered. Before God's glory totally departed, Ezekiel received a message of judgment and restoration.

To be continued . . .

APPLICATION

I have wanted to really understand God's glory. So, I did a Bible search for the word "glory". My word! God says quite a bit about His glory! 

Here are the results of my search:

GLORY BIBLE SEARCH 

Some are verses that talk of other applications of the word, but most are about God.

Meditate and let it lead you into worship of our glorious God!

PRAYER

Glory to the King! Amen!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ezekiel 8 & 9 - Vision of Judgment in Jerusalem

LINK: Ezekiel 8 & 9

BACKGROUND

Once again, the hand of the Sovereign LORD (see definition for this name of God HERE) came upon Ezekiel while he was in his house with the elders of Judah. Perhaps they were seeking Ezekiel out regarding the fate of Jerusalem. Ezekiel saw a vision of a "figure like a man" which is very similar to the one in Ezekiel 1. This was a manifestation or theophany of God.

In this vision, he was transported to Jerusalem, and he observed the idolatrous practices of the remaining inhabitants. The "idol that provokes jealousy" (8:5) probably means that it was an affront to God. God was being provoked to jealousy because a foreign god was being worshiped rather than Him. It may have been Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of fertility that King Manasseh was so fond of during his reign (2 Kings 21:7). 

Tammuz (8:14) is the Hebrew form of the name of the Sumerian god, Dumuzi, the deity of spring vegetation. The women in the chapter were mourning because during the hot summer months, his followers would weep and mourn his death and descend to the underworld that was thought to cause the death of all vegetation in the Middle East. In the spring, Tammuz would come up from the underworld and bring life-giving rains with him. In addition, priests were bowing and worshiping the sun in the east instead of facing west toward the altar of the one true God! They had literally "turned their backs" on God. On top of all this the people were "putting the branch to their nose" (8:17). Commentators do not exactly know what this means but early Jewish commentators believed it read "putting the stench to My nose," meaning that idolatry was putrid and offensive to the LORD.

All of these things were great abominations to God. This word occurs six times in these chapters and 117 times in the Old Testament. They were abhorred by God and brought down His wrath.

Ezekiel 9 is the vision of God's judgment on Jerusalem. Guards (probably angelic beings) and a "man clothed in linen who had a writing kit" came to the threshold of the temple. The man was ordered to mark the foreheads of those who grieved and lamented the abominable detestable things in the city (See Revelation 7:3-4). Those who were not marked were to be slain without pity starting in the temple (1 Peter 4:17) and moving outward to the city. The historical fulfillment of this is seen in 2 Chronicles 36:17-19.

The nation's sin had gone so far that not even Ezekiel's appeal in 9:8 could avert the Sovereign LORD's hand of judgment. Only those with the mark were spared.

REFLECTION

Do I "grieve and lament" over things that are detestable to God or have things crept into my life from today's culture that I do not even notice as detestable to Him?

I am pondering this today.

APPLICATION

Why don't we all ponder that?

PRAYER

This is not a pretty scene, Lord. I know You waited a long time for Your people to turn from their detestable ways towards You. Open our eyes so that we might see things in our life things that are detestable in Your eyes. Help us to grieve and mourn and lament over them and repent of them. Help us to set no worthless thing before our eyes. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ezekiel 6 & 7 - Then They Will Know That I Am the LORD

LINK: Ezekiel 6 & 7  

BACKGROUND 

"Then they will know that I am the Lord" is a key phrase in these chapters. You might want to mark it. It occurs 65 times in the book of Ezekiel. 

In these two chapters, there are two messages from the Lord:

1) Idolatry had defiled the land and the temple 

You may recall that part of God's covenant promise involved the land. If they followed the covenant, He would bless them in it (26:1-13). If they did not, he would punish them (Leviticus 18:24-30).  Their worship of foreign idols had caused judgment to come on them because they had defiled that land that He had given them. The high places with idols on the mountains were particularly abominable. 

2) The nature of the judgment - utter devastation of the nation and its land

Even though there would be devastation, He gives mercy to the remnant once again (6:8-10). 

REFLECTION (written in 2012) 

God's purpose in judgment is not because He gets thrills out of revenge. His purpose is so that we will know that He is the Lord!  He wanted His people to know that they could not rely on their idols, prosperity or possessions. 

Neither can we. 
Today money, sex, and power have become idols for many. Punishment will come upon all who put other things ahead of God. It is easy to forget that the Lord alone is God, the supreme authority and the only source of eternal love and life. Remember that God may use the difficulties of your life to teach you that he alone is God. 
(The Life Application Bible, Ezekiel 6:14, p. 1409)
My husband has usually had jobs that rely on "soft" research money that comes and goes. But even the time he had a job from a major Fortune 500 company did not give us financial security! Most people work there for life, but he was cut in the first wave in 2008 during the economic recession. Now, he is back to "soft" money, and he informed me two days ago that he had a 20% reduction in pay. 

We have never had "job security" because the Lord wants us to always be aware that our security is in Him. He is the one holding the purse strings.  I have been through 22 years of marriage with so many job changes! He was even unemployed when we became engaged, but we have lacked nothing.
Whenever we begin to trust in jobs, the economy, a political system, or military might for our security we put God in the back seat. 
(ibid, Ezekiel 7:12, 13, p.1409) 
I am so glad He is not allowing us to put Him back there. God, here are the car keys. Would you please drive the car? 

Praise God for the pay cut! 

2014 Update: God has abundantly provided for our every need. 

APPLICATION 

Lay your money out before the Lord and give it back to Him. 

It is His anyway. If you are holding on to it, you stole it from Him. 

GIVE IT BACK and MOVE OVER AND LET HIM DRIVE. 

(Now you can sit back and enjoy the ride.)

PRAYER

Lord, we want to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that You are the LORD! We lay all that we have before You. We give it all back to You. We commit ourselves to steward Your gifts for Your glory. Amen. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ezekiel 4 & 5 - Visions of Judgment

LINK: Ezekiel 4 & 5

BACKGROUND 

These chapters contain four signs of coming judgement:

1) The brick/clay tablet or tile (4:1-3)

Ezekiel followed God's instruction by acting out symbolically the siege and fall of Jerusalem on a brick (the primary building material for Babylon). The iron plate was similar to what the priest used for preparing the offerings (Leviticus 2:5; 6:21; 7:9). This symbolized the wall that stood between God and the sinful Jewish people. No blessing would be pronounced on them. 

2) Ezekiel lying on his sides (4:4-8)

Next, God commanded Ezekiel to lay on his left side 390 days and 40 days on his right. Different commentators interpret this different ways. It was the number of years of their rebellion. Some think 40 was for the 40 years in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. The 390 years might have been going back to the reign of King Rehoboam when he forsook the Lord (2 Chronicles 12:1) up until Ezekiel's time when King Zedekiah reigned. 

The priests would "bear the iniquity" of the people in their duties, and Ezekiel did this as a priest (Exodus 28:36-38; Numbers 18:1). This does not mean bearing iniquities as to take on and atone for our sin like Jesus did though. 

Ezekiel was bound, and his arms were bared to symbolize the binding of the people as prisoners and the baring of God's holy arm of judgment upon them. 

3) The unclean food (4:9-17)

This symbolized the results of the siege of Jerusalem. The combination of the grain and vegetables to bake bread was the poorest kind of bread. This represented that food would be very scarce as a result of the siege. They would even eat one another (Deuteronomy 28:49-57).

God asked Ezekiel to cook this over human excrement which was a sign of total poverty, but Ezekiel begged God not to do such an unclean thing because it violated the laws for purity, and the Lord relented (Deuteronomy 14:3; 23:12-14)

4) The shaved head and divided hair (Ezekiel 5)

This symbolized mourning, humiliation, and repentance. A few strands of hair  tucked in Ezekiel's garment symbolized the small remnant of the faithful whom God would preserve. The three parts of the hair symbolized the division of the judgment among the people: one-third would die of pestilence and famine, one-third would die by the Babylonian sword, and one-third would be scattered. 

God's holy people had failed to honor the covenant by being a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). Instead they allowed the Gentiles to lead them into the darkness of sin. Therefore, the day of reckoning had arrived. 

REFLECTION 

I followed-up, Annie, about a week after my friend, Mark, led her to Christ. She was over-the-moon excited about her new found faith, and she was telling everyone. What a LIGHT she was to that University Inn dorm!  You could not stop her from telling others about what God had done in her life. Her excitement was contagious. 

She was in love with Jesus, and her love brought light and life to all around her. 

Israel was blessed with a special relationship with God, but they were not a light to the Gentiles. They chose to walk away from the light into the darkness of the Gentile nations.  

The church in Ephesus was doing so many things right, but they had lost their first love. Jesus warned them that they would lose their light if they did not repent and obey (Revelation 2:2-5).

Warren Wiersbe says, "The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be." 

Love for the Lord begets light. It was too late for Judah, but it is not too late for you. 

APPLICATION 

How is your love for the Lord doing? Are you overflowing with His light or has it gone dim?

Take a little walk. Pause and recommit yourself in love for the Lord. Ask Him to flood you with His love and light for a lost world. 

PRAYER

Lord, I know it is all about overflow. Love begets life. We love You Lord. We never want to lose that passion for You. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ezekiel 2 & 3 - Ezekiel's Commission Word Studies

LINK: Ezekiel 2 & 3

BACKGROUND

You can learn so much about a chapter by looking for key repeated words and phrases. Go back over these chapters again and mark them. Then, refer to what I found in my observation:

Son of man (ben-ādām) occurs 10 times in these chapters and 93 times in the entire book. God addressed Ezekiel in this way in order to emphasize the humanity or finiteness of the prophet compared to the transcendence of God and stresses the distance that separates man from God.

Spirit occurs four times. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit only indwelt selected persons temporarily for God's service (Ex. 31:1-11; 1 Sam. 10:9-11; Psalm 51:11). The Spirit lifted Ezekiel up and caused him to stand. Even though Ezekiel was a finite human, the Spirit would help him!

Sovereign LORD (ăḏōnāy Yahweh) occurs three times here, but Ezekiel used this title of God an astounding 217 times! It only occurs 103 times elsewhere in the entire Old Testament. This name stresses God's sovereign authority and his covenant-keeping faithfulness. Ezekiel would be a channel for His message.

Rebellious occurs eight times (and another eight times elsewhere in Ezekiel). God used it to describe Ezekiel's audience: the exiles who thought their captivity was only temporary. They refused to admit their sin.

Stubborn and obstinate occurs five times in the two chapters. It refers to the people of Israel but also how God wants Ezekiel to be with them. 

Here is a fascinating thing I discovered:
The most interesting uses of mēṣaḥ are in the Ezekiel passages, plus one from Jeremiah. God says to Ezekiel (3:7) that all Israel is stiff of forehead (ḥizqē mēṣaḥ) and hardhearted (qĕšê lēb). The phrase “stiff/strong of forehead” suggests, perhaps, the picture of an animal, an ox or ram, butting its head. But in the next verse (3:8) God says that he has made the prophet’s forehead stronger than the foreheads of his foes. That is to say, God will not only give him hardness equal to that of his foes, but that he promises Ezekiel to make him harder for the truth than the people are against it. There may be here an intentional play on the prophet’s name which means “may God harden/strengthen” from the verb ḥāzaq. Cf. also 3:9. 
(Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (522). Chicago: Moody Press.)

The word "strong" to describe the hand of the LORD (3:14) is the same Hebrew word for stubborn used above.

Do not be afraid occurs four times. God had equipped Ezekiel, and he did not need to be afraid, only obedient. It is interesting to note that there is no record that Ezekiel hesitated in proclaiming God's message due to fear!

Eat/Ate occurs five times and pertains to God's direction to eat the scroll. Ezekiel was to be open and receptive to God's words of lament and mourning and woe that Ezekiel would deliver in Ezekiel 4-32. Ezekiel is recommissioned in Ezekiel 33 with words of hope and restoration. See also Psalm 19:10, Jeremiah 15:16, and Revelation 10:9-11 about eating God's words!

Listen(ed) occurs eight times. Ezekiel was to listen and obey even if God's people did not.

APPLICATION

What can you learn from this study of the key words in Ezekiel 2 and 3 that you can apply to your life?

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for not giving us a call without giving us the resources to carry it out. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for lifting us up and making us stand. Thank You God for Your Word that is sweeter than honey and a message for all peoples. Teach us to listen to Your voice and not to be afraid to carry the message You have through us regardless of the reception of those hearing. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ezekiel 1 - Ezekiel's Vision and Buckle Up!

LINK: Ezekiel 1

Please read the Introduction to the Prophetical Books if you have not already done so. 

Review the Overview and Timeline to see where Ezekiel fits in chronologically.

BACKGROUND

This is where Ezekiel fits into the history:

----------------605-586 - BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY OF JUDAH (SOUTHERN KINGDOM) 

                     605-536: DANIEL 1-12
                     593-559: EZEKIEL 1-48

Overview of Ezekiel

Ezekiel prophesied among the Jewish exiles in Babylon during the last days of Judah's decline while Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem. Historically, Ezekiel falls somewhere between Daniel 3 and 4. We will read the whole book of Daniel after Ezekiel. 

Ezekiel's call came on July 31, 593 B.C., 12 years into the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel had been taken into captivity in March of 597 B.C. and was resettled on the Kebar River - a canal off the Euphrates. He was 30 years old, the age this priest would normally have entered service, but God had a plan for Ezekiel to be a street preacher rather than a priest.

The good news about Ezekiel is that it has a fairly straight chronological arrangement as opposed to the books of Jeremiah and Daniel which do not!

If we were to contrast Jeremiah and Ezekiel, it has been said that Jeremiah was the "prophet of tears" while Ezekiel was the "prophet of vision."

Ezekiel Outline:

I. Prophecies of Judgment (1-32)
A. On Judah (1-24)
B. On foreign nations (25-32)

II. Promises of Restoration (33-48)
A. Restoring the people of God (33-39)
B. Restoring the worship of God (40-48)

(Sorry, there is more judgment. Is it any consolation that Jesus is coming in 100 days?)

Even with all the judgment, Ezekiel focused on the glory and character of God like no other prophet, he began with his original vision and continued to refer to God's glory throughout the book (1:28; 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23; 39:11, 21; 43:2-5; 44:4).

God's character determined His conduct throughout the book. God stated (through Ezekiel) that He had acted so that the people would "know that I am the LORD" over 60 times! This will be a very important key repeated phrase throughout the whole book (especially in Ezekiel 6) that will be very important for you to ponder (and maybe even underline).

With that in mind, let us begin!

Ezekiel 1

God gave Ezekiel an overwhelming vision of His glory that would profoundly influence him throughout his ministry to a stubborn and obstinate people.

Ezekiel's Vision by Raphael 1518
I have been in awe all morning and into the afternoon. I am overwhelmed and terrified by it in the same breath. God is BIG!

Ezekiel saw God's glowing spender through a cloud flashing lightning surrounded by a brilliant light. From the cloud came four living creatures that showed Ezekiel that Jerusalem's impending destruction was judgment because of their sin. These same living creatures are seen in Revelation 4:6, 7.

The four living creatures are identified in Ezekiel 10 as cherubim, a special order of angelic beings who have special access to God (28:14, 16; Exodus 25:17-22; Numbers 7:89). They each had four faces, symbolizing God's perfect nature. Some interpreters think that the lion represented strength and power, the ox represented diligent service, the eagle represented swiftness or divinity, and the man represented intelligence. Others interpret them as representing God's creation. 

The early church fathers thought they presented Christ in the four gospels:

Matthew - the lion as Christ, Lion of Judah
Mark - the ox as Christ, the Servant
Luke - the man as Christ, the perfect human
John - the eagle as Christ, the Son of God, exalted and divine

The wheels moving in all directions are thought to indicate that God is present everywhere (omnipresent) and able to see all things (omniscient).

The figure "like a man" on the sapphire throne (more properly lapis lazuli, an azure-blue stone) looked like bright, glowing metal and fire. The radiance of God's glory was "like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day" (Isn't that beautiful? Check out Revelation 4:3 too!).

When Ezekiel saw the "appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD" (1:28), he fell on his face! Who wouldn't?!!!! WOW!

REFLECTION

I have been "on my face" in awe of God most of the day. Some things are happening that have His glory written all over it. That is a major reason why this post is so late: I AM UNDONE, and I cannot apologize for that!

What a vision! What a glorious and terrifying adventure Ezekiel will be for all of us. Thank you for coming along.

I want to see God. I want to have a vision of His glory that leads me to a 24/7/365 kind of worship that overflows to the lost and dying world around me. How about you?

Buckle your seat belts and armor up (Ephesians 6!). I have a feeling Ezekiel is going to be an amazing ride!

APPLICATION

The only application for this chapter is full-on, unhindered worship. Let this vision of God's glory lead you.

PRAYER

Lord, help us to see Your glory and character through the book of Ezekiel. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.