Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 31 - Miriam

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 37-39; 32:1-6.

Well, I'm really kind of at a loss as to how to post about today's reading.  The Valley of Bones in chapter 37 is generally agreed, according to my reading, to have been fulfilled when Israel became a nation again in 1948.  Chapters 38 & 39 are very controversial chapters, apparently.  According to the reading I have been doing, it is quite clear that the battle described in these chapters has not yet happened, so the prophecy is unfulfilled at this time.  That leads to enormous speculation on the part of theologians to determine who Gog (leader) and Magog (league of nations) are, where they will come from, and when they think this will happen in relation to the end times.  (None of the reading I did predicted a year or anything, but used rather a timeline of the endtimes, as described in Daniel and Revelation, with occasional references from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Gospels.)

There is so much information, some saying one thing and some saying another, that I don't really wish to try to dive into specifics.   Generally speaking, Gog is thought to be the Antichrist.  The other nations mentioned, who are to make up Magog, are generally thought to include Russia and Turkey, possibly some other European nations, and one referred to Ethiopia as well.  It seems to be agreed that this battle is separate and apart from Armageddon.  Therefore it would have to take place before Armageddon.  Where it falls in the timeline of the endtimes exactly is a matter of some debate.

Personally, I don't feel a need to try to figure all of that out in advance.  What purpose could it possibly serve to expend so much time and energy on something that hasn't happened yet and may not even happen in our lifetime, when there are so many other things in our present - our day-to-day lives, and the world that exists around us right now - that require our efforts and attention?  Not at all to say that we should disregard prophecies - indeed they are very important - but it seems to me more helpful to view current events with the prophecies in mind rather than try to predict in advance.  People have tried time and again to say when the world will come to an end, and have been doing so since biblical times.  It may end tomorrow.  It may not end for another thousand years.  One often tends to miss the actual signs of prophecy fulfillment when one believes he or she has determined beforehand how it will happen.  We've been instructed to "Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come."  Mark 13:33  God's ways are not our ways, as we've seen time and again throughout our reading up until now.  How can we possibly be so arrogant as to predict how He will fulfill the prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled?   

I liked this comment in Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on chapter 37:

Events yet to come will further explain this prophecy. Nothing has more hindered the success of the gospel than divisions. Let us study to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; let us seek for Divine grace to keep us from detestable things; and let us pray that all nations may be obedient and happy subjects of the Son of David, that the Lord may be our God, and we may be his people for evermore.

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 32:17-33:20; Jeremiah 52:28-30; Psalm 137:1-9; 1 Chronicles 4:24-5:17.

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 34-36.

I want to focus on Chapter 34 and the contrast between bad shepherds and the Good Shepherd.

In his sermon Watchmen and Shepherds, Pastor David Legge speaks about the job of a shepherd or pastor - 'the unique combination of afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted.' Afflicting the comfortable, who are in a backslidden, lukewarm state - waking them up - but also comforting the afflicted. He confronts the fat sheep, that's what this passage talks about, he confronts the fat sheep and cares for the weak sheep. But the problem is that usually by upsetting the fat sheep, you're upsetting the people that support the church, that have sway in the church, that are influential in the extra-church society. Often the weak sheep are not comforted because it would just take too much time, and it's too demanding.

If you're sitting comfy in the pew every Sunday, either the preacher isn't preaching the Word, or your pride is refusing the Spirit access to your soul. I dare say the majority of North American Christians need to be awaken from their lukewarm state! Though times it is a painful process, it is also an exciting one, when you can see the hand of God at work in your life.

This passage confronts the bad shepherds of Israel who were fleecing their sheep instead of feeding them.

And then God speaks incredible words of comfort.

Can you imagine the comfort that that was to these people in captivity for their sin after Jerusalem had been destroyed in judgement, and God comes again after seven years silence and speaks to them 21 times: 'I will, I will, I will!'? What an assurance it was to their hearts, and what an assurance to our own. (David Legge)

Here are just a few of God's promises....
I will search for My sheep (v 11)
I will look after My sheep (v 11)
I will rescue My sheep (v 12)
I will gather My sheep together (v 13)
I will tend them, feed them and give them rest (v 14, 15)
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. (v 16)
I will judge between the rams and goats (v 17), between the fat sheep and the lean sheep (v 20)
I will place them under one shepherd - Jesus Christ (v 23)
I will make a covenant of peace with them (v 25)
I will bless them (v 26)
I will protect them, keep them safe, they will have no need to fear (v 28)
I will provide for them (v 29)
I will be with them and they will be My people (v 30)

What incredible promises! They also apply to us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is coming again and He will rule on the New Earth. But His reign begins already, in the heart of every believer, and we look forward to when His kingdom will come and last forever!

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 37-39, 32:1-16

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Guest Post By Alicia

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Jeremiah 42-44, Ezekiel 33:21-33
" My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice."
33 "When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them." Ezekiel 33: 31-33

I thought that last verse in today's reading summed up the attitude of the people so well. Or as John Calvin states:
The sum of what is said then is, that the Jews who dwelt in Egypt were unworthy of any pardon, because they had, as it were, designedly rejected the favor of God, and their obstinacy had become altogether hopeless.
He now begins with reproof, because they were so stupid as not to remember the vengeance which God had executed on themselves and on the whole nation. They had been left alive for this end, that they might acknowledge God’s judgment, and thus return to a right mind. Here, then, the Prophet upbraids them with their insensibility, that they had profited nothing under the scourges of God. They commonly say that fools, when they are beaten, become wise. As then the Jews had not repented, after having been so grievously chastised, it was a proof of extreme perverseness; for if the remnant had a grain of a sound mind, they would have been humbled at least by the final destruction of their nation, and when the city and the temple were demolished. Since then they followed the same wicked courses, for which God had inflicted so grievous a punishment, it was evident that they were wholly irreclaimable and destitute of reason and judgment.
(Taken from here)
I'm not sure why but while reading this story a verse kept coming to my mind:
Proverbs 26:11 "As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." or 2 Peter 2:22: "Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."

This is how I felt about this remnant returning to Egypt. EGYPT! Of all places...really? REALLY? So, I ask myself how this can happen and I think it's because these people were indeed so far gone as John Calvin above stated. Their heart motives are clear here:
"May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the LORD your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the LORD our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the LORD our God."

That was really the only part of that statement the people really said sincerely. All of their motives at this point are in the area of self interest, safety and prosperity. They are a little nervous that God has done something to them and they should probably seek Him as to what to do, but only if the plan sounds as good as the one in their heads. I think they half expected confirmation of their plan rather than opposition. Perhaps just something similar would have gone over better for them. Egypt looked powerful and safe, Babylon looked powerful too but deadly against them. They were willing to listen as long as they liked God's plan.
When it's not what they like they are ready to reject the man God has sent. I think there is great danger of this in our culture today. Men of the word are rejected for ministers who promise all the good things from God. They don't mention sin or judgement but seek to build up the self esteem of others with the love of God and the prosperity he provides (wrongly judged as being temporal when God promises treasures eternally).
So, when the shoe does not fit, they throw it off and turn back to the Queen of Heaven (otherwise known as the goddess Astarte congruent with Aphrodite and Venus, the goddess of fertility, sexuality and war). Why? Well, we read the reason here:
"We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine."

Their world view was so far off and ours is too when we let our selves be drawn to that which makes us think we are secure, prosperous and happy here. This view lead them open to the deception of another nation being their savior so to speak and if there was anything they believed, it was this. They believed it so well, they were willing to reject the messenger of God when they did not like his words. When the plan did not sound as soft and secure as theirs. When it seemed to put them in earthly harm and under the thumb of powerful man. They were forgetting that God turns the heart of the king, that nations rise and fall at his command, and that all the gold and silver are his.

There are people today, Christians today who reject God when he is no longer benefiting them. I've witnessed this personally. It shocked and surprised me but these views of God that are wrong are hard to see until trail brings them out.
The passage today also made me think of this clip by John Piper on the prosperity gospel. I found this a year after my dad died and I cried and cried through it. Not because it made me sad but because the truth that he spoke had become a part of my reality and I KNEW IT TO BE TRUE like never before. Let's not bow the the idol of "what God can do for me" because when God doesn't do what we want, we will be looking for another god.

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 34-36:38

Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 28th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Lamentations 5, Obadiah, 2 Kings 25:22-26, Jeremiah 40:7-41:18.

The book of Obadiah has a fair amount to say about pride, which is likely the root of virtually every sin.

In his sermon Eagle Edom Will Come Down, John Piper shares five lessons we can learn from this book....

First, God rules in this world right now and turns the course of nations and history as he pleases. If this were not so, he could not promise Judah that he would cut off Edom and establish Jacob. No Christian should have the jitters that the world is careening out of control toward a meaningless catastrophe. We may feel like people tossed around in an old stagecoach pulled by six wild horses, but fear not, God sits serenely over our heads, and the hands that made the world hold the reins.

Second, pride is deceptive. Verse 3: "The pride of your heart has deceived you." Pride makes us think we are independent, self-sufficient, invulnerable. Pride is based on a lie. The person who yields to the temptation of pride surrenders his capacity to think and feel and act without deception. Pride distorts every area of thought and life. My own conviction is that most of our perplexity regarding moral and theological issues is owing to the distortions caused by our pride, not to the complexity of the issue.

Third, God abominates pride and will bring it down. Verse 4: "Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, thence I will bring you down, says the Lord." Or as Jesus says in Luke 16:15, "What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God."

Fourth, therefore proud nations and proud individuals will reap what they sow. Verse 15: "As you have done, it shall be done to you, your deeds shall return on your own head." If we choose in our pride to live without God, then he will grant us our independence in the day of the Lord. And he will not be our refuge or our righteousness in that day. And our self-confidence will be like a feather in a hurricane when God's wrath is revealed from heaven (cf. Psalm 76:7).

Fifth, God has made a way of escape and salvation from his wrath. Verse 17: "In Mount Zion there shall be those that escape, and it shall be holy." Those who have fled from the wickedness of pride to the holiness of humility will find refuge on the day of the Lord. Zion, the city of God, shall be holy because it will be filled not with people who never sinned, but with people who have been broken and humbled by their sin and have thrown themselves for mercy on Jesus and have come to love him more than anything and any person in the world, because "he loved us and gave himself for us." (emphasis in bold mine)

Turns out that small books packs a pretty big punch.

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 42-44, Ezekiel 33:21-33

Friday, August 27, 2010

August 27 ~ tammi

So in the book of Jeremiah, we see the prophet predicting and anticipating the annihilation of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews and here in Lamentations, we see him reflecting on the aftermath.

I read something about Jeremiah the other day (but of course I forget what and where!) ~ it was just a passing comment in a list of OT prophets, but it said something to the effect of, "and then there was Jeremiah, who was just crying all the time..." And I was a little stunned by the disrespect and ignorance; how little understanding of Jeremiah's message and what moved his heart the writer seemed to have. And then I realized I probably would have said the same thing until this year's examination of the Bible. This has been a really good exercise, Tammy, I'm so glad you had this idea!!

I think of Jeremiah now, recognizing how sinful his nation was and being grieved at their spiritual condition. I think, as time went on and the Israelites continued on their ever-quickening path to destruction despite his warnings, that he must have been near panic at times as he foresaw their imminent subversion. I wonder if his speeches didn't get shorter, more frequent, more frantic, as time went on. I imagine many of his tears could have been tears of frustration and fear for the lives and souls of the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

We've all seen movies where the fear sets in slowly, but once the magnitude of what's inevitable is understood, the panic, the frantic attempts at escape are always accompanied by tears. That's kind of how I imagine Jeremiah. Trying to keep his beloved country from utter ruin, but his warnings and escape solutions (repentance) constantly falling on deaf ears... I can only imagine the hopelessness and frustration he must have felt.

Miraculously, only by the hand of God, Jeremiah is treated deferentially by the king of Babylon and allowed to return to live among the remnant ~ the poor and sick who were left behind. And now there's new reason to weep.

The devastation is complete; the horrors almost unspeakable. Normally compassionate and loving mothers cooking up and eating their children to avoid starvation; formerly strong young men unrecognizable under blood-caked wounds and emaciated bodies; infants dying of dehydration and starvation; dead bodies littering the streets.... These are heart-wrenchingly graphic passages.

And yet, in the midst of all this, we find Jeremiah's faith in God unshaken: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Jer. 3:22-26)

Jeremiah knew God. He understood God. "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins?" (3:38-39)

This reminds me so much, again, of the testimony of Rachel Barkey that was mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. Under horrible circumstances, she displayed the peace and grace that can only come from an incredible faith and an uncommon understanding of who God is. She urged people to get to know God, to know themselves, to know the Gospel, and to know their purpose ~ to have a correct view of all things and a faith that saves. Please click the above link and take the time to listen/watch if you haven't already.

'Jeremiah' by Michelangelo @ ArtInThePicture.comJeremiah had good cause to weep. I think we do, too.

But Jeremiah also had good cause to hope. We definitely have that, too!

Tomorrow's passages: Lamentations 5, Obadiah, 2 Kings 25:22-26, Jeremiah 40:7-41:18.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Jeremiah 39:11-40:6, 2 Kings 25:8-21, Jeremiah 52:12-27, 2 Chronicles 36:15-21, Lamentations 1

God always means what He says.

In his sermon titled God is Reliable, David Moreland says....
Here is the climax of the book. This is the moment that Jeremiah has been predicting from the moment he started preaching as a young teenager. Now everything that Jeremiah had predicted came to pass.

The disaster would come from the north (1:14) and it did.
A foreign nation would attack (5:15) and it did.
The city would be besieged (4:17) and it was.
A horrible famine was predicted (18:21) and it came.
The whole land would be laid waste (25:11) and it was.
Foreign kings would set up their government in the land (1:15) and they did.
The city would burn (21:10) and it did.
The people would be taken into exile (10:17) and they were.
God had said He would bring upon Jerusalem every disaster He had pronounced against them (35:17) and He did.

God means what He says.

That Zedekiah doubted the day would come did not alter reality. Maybe those who listened to Jeremiah could not conceive that God would ever allow all this to happen.

Zedekiah simply did not believe he would ever need God. He was a man who could do it on his own. When this awful
day came he discovered that he could not do it on his own.

God means what He says. Whether we believe it or not makes no difference.

God also does not forget us.

Jeremiah was just one of many captives, but God did not forget him. In fact, in chapter 39, 3 royal men ensured Jeremiah's freedom. It appears Jeremiah may have been recaptured again (likely accidentally in the midst of war chaos) and he was freed again by Nebuzaradan who, though not a believer, acknowledged that God had given the Babylonians the victory.

And in Chapter 39 we are also told that God remembered Ebed-Melech who had courageously saved Jeremiah's life after he was thrown into the cistern. It says that God remembered Ebed-Melech because of his trust in God. Not his obedience or courage (though I'm sure he will be rewarded for that in heaven as well), but specifically for trusting God.

That is what we are asked to do. Trust God. When we truly trust Him, our actions will reflect that. When we truly trust Him, we will be obedient, we will be courageous, we will stand for truth even if we are the only ones.

God will not leave behind, or ignore, or forget, or misplace, or lose a single person who belongs to Him.

The king did everything he could to save his life, and yet he lost it. Ebed and Jeremiah took no interest whatsoever in protecting themselves and yet they lived. As Jesus said, “whoever loses his life will save it and whoever saves his life will lose it” (Luke 9:24). (David Moreland)

The fall of Jerusalem reminded me of the coming Day of Judgement, and I was not surprised to read this last paragraph in David's sermon speaking of exactly that...
The fall of Jerusalem mirrors Judgement Day. We have been warned again and again that it is coming. We have been told again and again that it is deserved. We stand where Jerusalem stood. A terrible storm is going to come upon us. Zedekiah represents those who make no preparation for the coming day. Zedekiah represents those who really do not believe such a day will ever come. But the day does come and Zedekiah suffers terribly. Jeremiah and Ebed-Melech represent those who believe the day is coming and who put their trust in God to save them. When the storm hits God does save them, and those who have put their trust in Jesus will find that when the storm of the Day of Judgement rages they will be quite safe.

Tomorrow's passage: Lamentations 2-4

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 26:15-28:26; 2 Kings 25:3-7; Jeremiah 52:6-11; Jeremiah 39:2-10.

The other day I found an excellent sermon series on Ezekiel. Click here for some amazing research and details about the prophecies and some of their fulfillments against the Gentiles through Chapters 25-35.

What caught my eye though was Chapter 38 and the fact that the King of Tyre (Satan) was the driving force behind the Prince of Tyre (the acting ruler at the time).

In his sermon titled Lucifer's Life Story, Pastor David Legge breaks down some of these verses for us....
This spirit being is described as being bejewelled with every stone fitted in beautiful settings of finest gold, and the only time you find these jewels mentioned again in scripture is in the book of Revelation, where the saints of God who stand in the glories of God and worship God are covered in these same jewels! This great angelic leader, this spirit being, is covered in the same - a mass of brilliant colour. I was trying to imagine this today in the study - from the tip of his toe, jewels and diamonds sparkling; and you look at him, a technicolour of absolute brilliance!

One thing that we know about gems and diamonds and precious stones is that they have no light of their own. If you take a diamond into a dark room you will see nothing. But they reflect another's light, and this is speaking spiritually of this creature - he is one who reflects another light. His beginning was... to reflect the very Light of the universe - the Light of God. It may have been that in the beginning, before his fall, he was given charge over creation - I don't know, the word of God doesn't tell us.......

Verse 13 says 'the workmanship of his tabrets and his pipes' - and that's musical language, that's a musical instrument. Musical instruments were originally created, I hope you know, to be a means of praising and worshipping God. But what God is saying here is that Lucifer had no need of musical instruments, for - if you like - he had a built in organ to praise God, he had his own pipes and his tabrets. The prophet is saying that Lucifer, because of this beauty, he was a musical instrument. He himself was an instrument of praise and glory to God. He didn't look for someone to play the organ, he was not just singing a doxology, he was a doxology to God! That would lead us to believe that this Lucifer was in charge of praise in heaven. You can see the picture beginning to be painted of his person.

Then we see further, in verse 14, his privileges. He is described: 'Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth...thou wast upon God's holy mountain'. Now let me say this: in the Old Testament Scriptures there were only three types of people who were anointed. There was the prophet, the priest, and the King....this spirit being is described as being the guardian cherub, the anointed cherub. Now a cherub, and we've learnt this in our studies, is an awesome angelic being whose purpose is to protect God's holiness. You remember when there was the fall in the Garden of Eden, and man sinned, there was a cherubim stood before the gate of the Garden with a fiery sword to make sure that they didn't get in and eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in their sin. He was guarding the glory and indeed the holiness of God, they vindicate God's righteousness, they protect and defend God's mercy - and indeed they execute God's government within the word of God.

I'd like to cast your mind back to the book of Exodus, where the children of Israel were told to build an Ark - not Noah's Ark, but the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was to sit in the Holy of Holies, and Moses was told by God in Exodus 25 and verse 20 that God's glory, the Shekinah that we've already looked at in this book, it would dwell and His presence would hover between the cherubim on the top of the Ark. I hope you're seeing the picture. In Exodus 25 the presence of God hovers above the cherubim, and here we have this vision of this cherub who is called 'The Cherub That Covereth', 'The Cherub That Guardeth'. This is a fearful thing, a fearful being that's symbolic of the holy presence of God, of God's inapproachability. It's amazing! Do you know what this means? I believe this means that in eternity past, before earth existed when there was the angelic creation, this individual spirit being - Lucifer - had the responsibility to hover over and guard the very throne and presence of Almighty God. He covered God's presence!

If you look at verse 15 that would prove that to us I think: 'Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise' - and at the end of verse 16 - 'O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire' - Hebrews says our God is a consuming fire. It means that Lucifer was in the very presence of God walking over the fiery coals of God's presence, hovering over, protecting the presence and holiness and righteousness of God. He was anointed in this place of great authority, and the amazing thing to me is this: he probably had unrestricted access to the glorious presence of God. (emphasis mine)

He goes on to explain a bit about the wondrous creation described in Ezekiel chapter 1 as well, which I found very helpful.....
We saw a graphic picture of [the cherubim] in verse 10 of this chapter... they bore the likeness of a lion, a calf, an eagle, and a man - and you remember looking at how those four faces reflected the absolute completeness of the nature of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, prophetically how Matthew in his gospel presents our Lord Jesus as a King like a lion, the King of the jungle. Mark's gospel presents Him as the Servant King, the calf like the ox, the serving animal of the field. Luke's gospel presents Christ as the perfect man in His humanity and in His humility, and that's the face of the man again in the cherubim. Then the face of an eagle, that speaks of the skies, speaking of His divinity.

Please see the significance of this: apparently Lucifer was created, among other purposes, but one purpose was to demonstrate the earthly work of Christ as pictured in the four Gospels - the glory of Christ's humanity, deity, servitude and kingship!

Isn't this entire picture of the at-one-time perfect angel Lucifer incredible? He goes on....

That is his beginning, his person, his privileges, and then we look at his downfall where it all went wrong, and its cause. The cause of his downfall is found in verse 17, where God says: 'Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty'. This is the first sin, and the self-creation of the first sinner in all of the universe. The people say: 'Why did God create the Devil?', God didn't create the Devil, God created a perfect, moral, spiritual, glorious being! The Devil created the Devil when he sinned, and when his heart was inflated with pride.....

Pride is a deadly enough sin to destroy the most powerful, wise, holy and awesome being that has ever been created - how much more do we need to make sure that we are not walking independently of the Lord in self-righteousness, self-sufficiency and pride? We must make sure, as God's people, that we are dependent upon God, that everything is handed into the hands of God. What we need to face is the question: are we living in Satan's sin of self-dependence, or are we puffed up with self-importance? We need to remember that we are only sinners saved by grace, and whatsoever we have received we have received from the hand of God and there is nothing in ourselves! (emphasis mine)

He has some strong views on Harry Potter (I haven't read any of the books and don't have an opinion one way or the other as of now), and seems to think the end times must be approaching quickly (though he does not give any dates or predictions) - but overall I have found his research to be very informative and I'm sorry I didn't find this series earlier in our readings of Ezekiel. I might have to go back and re-read some of them yet.

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 39:11-40:6, 2 Kings 25:8-21, Jeremiah 52:12-27, 2 Chronicles 36:15-21, Lamentations 1

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24 - Miriam

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Jeremiah 32-33; Ezekiel 26:1-14.

One thing I thought of as I was reading the promise of restoration was that it probably made the exile easier to bear, knowing that God had promised to restore them to their home.  But then I realized that while it should have made it easier, for many people it probably didn't.  We have the promise of heaven.  We have the promise of an eternity of joy, praise and worship, and togetherness with God.  And yet, how often does that make it easier to bear our trials and tribulations in our daily lives?  Sometimes it does, but often we're so focused on the here and now, we forget to keep that promise for the future as a beacon of hope during times of trouble.

There is a -- I'd probably call it a devotional more so than a commentary -- on bible.org called Our God: Awesome in Power and Glory-Always Battling for His People by Greg Herrick.  It hearkens back a bit to the YouTube videos Tammy put on the blog a few weeks ago regarding the infinity of the universe and God who created it.  Here is a portion of it:

One of the attributes of God's greatness is his infinite and awesome power, particularly displayed in creation and redemption. In a children's book entitled Is A Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? Robert Wells gives us a taste of God's power in creation; he takes us from a size we can grasp to one we can't.

The largest animal on earth is the blue whale. Just the flippers on its tail are bigger than most animals on earth.

But a blue whale isn't anywhere as big as a mountain. If you put hundreds of blue whales in a huge jar, you could put millions of "whale jars" in a hollowed out Mount Everest.

But Mount Everest isn't nearly as big as the earth. If you stacked a hundred Mount Everests on top of each other they would only be a whisker on the face of the earth.

And the earth isn't anywhere as big as the sun. You could fit over one million earths inside the sun.

But the sun, which scientists tell us is a medium size star, isn't anywhere as big as the red supergiant star called Antares. Fifty million-that's right, count them all-fifty million of our suns could fit inside Antares.

But Antares isn't anywhere as big as the Milky Way galaxy. Billions of stars, including supergiants like Antares, as well as countless comets and asteroids, actually make up the Milky Way galaxy.

But the Milky Way galaxy isn't near as big as the universe. There are literally, billions of other galaxies in the universe. And yet, filled with billions of galaxies, the universe is almost totally empty. The distances from one galaxy to another are beyond our fertile imaginations. It simply defies exhaustive comprehension. And so does the One who made it! To think that he did all this with just a spoken word! Incredible! "Righteous"...as certain young people are wont to say these days. But if the truth be known, it was only an infinitely limited expression of his power. He did it in his sleep!

So when you approach your God today, come with humility, a profound sense of wonder, and a sober fear of displeasing him. For He is awesome in power and a fierce and relentless warrior on behalf of his people. There is good reason the Hebrews referred to him as El Shaddai, "the Almighty," Ish Milchamah, "a man of war"!

God is omnipotent; there is no end to his power to accomplish his saving purposes. Jeremiah the prophet said, "Ah sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched hand. Nothing is too hard for you" (32:17)!

Whatever your needs are, you have not exhausted his strength and power. Whatever your concerns, you have not run his emotional well dry. Whatever your situation, his hand is not too short to save, provide, lead, and fight for you. Whatever the depth of your offenses against him, he is not prevented from forgiving, releasing, and drawing near the truly repentant person. Nothing is too hard for him!

I don't know about you, but I frequently neglect to remember God's holiness when I come before Him in prayer.  I know that He is awesome and all-powerful.  I know that He is omnipresent and that He sees into the heart.  But what I often forget is that even though he is a God of compassion and love, full of mercy and ready to forgive, He is still holy and just and to be approached, as it says above, with humility, wonder, and sobering fear of displeasing Him.  The only reason we can come before Him at all is because of the unfathomable sacrifice of His Son.  I don't want to revert back to the days where everyone believed that only priests, monks and the like could approach God, but at the same time I think we've lost - perhaps not our humility, but - probably our wonder and certainly our sobering fear of displeasing Him.  There are definitely times I can remember in prayer actually making excuses for sins I had committed.  I am mortified with myself for making excuses especially to God!  Excuses and justifications have no place in prayer.  When you get a speeding ticket or a parking ticket, you can plead "guilty, with reason".  If your reason is decent, you might get out of or reduce the amount of your ticket.  That doesn't apply to forgiveness of sin.  Forgiveness of sin is reliant on repentance.  That means no "reason".  No excuse.  No justification.

Many times in church and in Bible study when we talk about who God is, we focus on His compassion, mercy and love, forgetting about the other side of the coin - judgment, consequences, and wrath.  I am really thankful for everything we've been studying here and for everything I've learned about who God is.

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 26:15-28:26; 2 Kings 25:3-7; Jeremiah 52:6-11; Jeremiah 39:2-10.

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23rd

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 24:15-25:17, Jeremiah 34, 21, Ezekiel 29:1-16, Ezekiel 30:20-31:18

Today I wanted to focus on the story of Ezekiel's wife.

There are two things I took from this story.

The first one is that Ezekiel's wife was a true preacher's wife. She walked faithfully beside her husband and stood behind her husband as he fulfilled his calling to God, preaching to a group of people that didn't want to listen to what he had to say. And ultimately, she sacrificed her life. I want to challenge you to do something to encourage your pastor's wife this week. Email her a word of encouragement, send her a note, bring her a meal and thank her for supporting her husband in his ministry at your church. Here is an excellent (and short!) sermon I found by a pastor's wife on this very topic.

The second thing that jumped out at me is this: there is a cost to following God. Sometimes, as it was for Ezekiel, the cost is high indeed!

In his sermon, When the Cost Comes Home, Pastor David Legge, says

We read that with one blow God took away the prophet's delight of his eyes, his only beloved, his dear wife, suddenly like a plague. Ezekiel was told in the morning that his wife would die, and that very evening just as he was told his wife died - and he was expected to go out and preach it to the people. This is remarkable, and I want you to enter into the spirit of these words tonight, I want you to try and grasp and imagine in your mind what this would have been like. Can you imagine God's prophet this day, the date that you have before you, getting on his face before God as was his custom early in the morning before the sun rose? Can you imagine him bowing before God, and the Holy Spirit of God coming upon the prophet, and getting this word from the Lord? Can you imagine the heartbreak when he got this revelation? Put yourself in his shoes! Losing your spouse, and losing your spouse at the hand of God for a preaching illustration to a rebellious and hardheaded, stiff-necked people!

The amazing thing to me about this is that there are no recorded protestations from this man. He doesn't cry to God and argue with God; he didn't run away from God like Jonah; he didn't weep before God like Jeremiah; he didn't in despair, like Elijah, run underneath a juniper tree and get depressed, and say: 'You're not asking anybody else to do the like of this, why should I do it?'. (Pastor David Legge, emphasis mine)

And what was this illustration supposed to tell the people of Israel?

'This means that the delight of your eyes will be taken away in a blow too. Jerusalem, the delight of your eyes; the temple, the delight of your eyes; the monarchy - all of it will be wiped away in one split second with God's hand. It will be buried, the temple will be destroyed and desecrated by heathens. Your sons and your daughters will be killed and will be scattered, and you will not mourn!'. Now, Ezekiel tells the people: 'If you want to mourn, God wants you to mourn for your sin!' - but it was too late now. They did not seek the Lord when He was to be found. They didn't call upon Him while He was near. God tells him in verses 25 to 27 that when the city falls fugitive, one man will come and one man will tell Ezekiel a message and give him power to speak. Imagine this: Ezekiel's wife dies, Ezekiel is told not to mourn, when the city falls under siege Ezekiel is not allowed to speak - in fact he is made dumb, he's not allowed to say anything from God to the people, why? Because it's too late! They no longer needed any preaching, do you know why? Because the judgement had come.

It amazes me that even in personal grief Ezekiel was still God's prophet. Do you know something? That is the struggle of cost, the struggle of the cost of being called of God. You see, this is the difference between a prophet and a pretender. When the cost comes home, when there's something more than just a message, but your whole life has to become that message. (Pastor David Legge, emphasis mine)

To me, the real kicker is, that from a human perspective, Ezekiel lost his wife in vain! Nothing changed. The Israelites didn't listen to his message. There was no dramatic revival, no repentence followed by a miraculous deliverance from God. Nothing.

You know, as any human being would read this story, I think one of the questions that would come to your heart is this: is it worth it? Now let's be honest here tonight: was it worth it for Ezekiel? To suffer all that he did, and then in the end to lose the delight of his eyes, was it worth it? I think Ezekiel would have had a problem fitting into church life today, where we give to the Lord of that which costs us nothing. Famous lines today are: 'OK, I'll do my best for God, but when it starts to affect my home or it starts to affect my personal life, well then I'll draw the line'. My friends, this was when the cost came home, this is when the cost was great - was it worth it? Well, you can only judge whether it was worth it or not, depending on which world you are living for - whether you are gathering treasures down here to enjoy now, or whether you're gathering them up in glory where moth and rust doth not corrupt, for your reward in heaven and for all eternity. That's how you will know if it is worth it! (Pastor David Legge, emphasis mine)

Are we letting our lives be the message? The Great Commission was to everyone. We can't pass the buck on this one by saying we're not preachers. Are we willing to count the cost? Are we willing to let our lives shine the Light in the darkness that surrounds us? Where are we storing up our treasures?

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 32-33, Ezekiel 26:1-14

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Guest Post By Alicia

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is:
EZEKIEL 22:17-23:49 2 KINGS 24:20-25:2 JEREMIAH 52:3-5 JEREMIAH 39:1 EZEKIEL 24:1-14

" 'I the LORD have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Sovereign LORD.' "
Ezekiel 24:14

This verse made me think of how a parent gets at times. When you have just had it and you resolve that the line is drawn, this kid need to learn such and such and you are not going to let them get away with it anymore. You are not going to give into letting it slide. Of course, God is perfect righteousness, we are not and the struggle to parent properly will never be what we want it to and will always take us to our knees. Still, I recognize a bit of God's "I've had it" in this final verse from the passage today. It's actually quite scary to read. Don't you think?

Oholah and Oholibah- Samaria and Jerusalem; Ongoing Discontent

God made a covenant (symbolized by marital language) to these two. The children from there were considered the children of that covenant. The language of this story really punches the reader with the emotions God really has about his people and what they have done. It's uncomfortable, convicting and heart breaking when one reminds oneself that these women symbolize his passionate love. Thus, the imagery of the wife. It's the same old story but more intense this time.
Think about it. While in the wilderness, what were we hit with the people doing over and over? Complaining, and being discontent. Back then it was "little stuff" like food and water, the basic essentials. They struggled over and over to trust God for His provision and be happy with what he did give them.
Now, the story of the two sisters shows us the level of depravity the people have gone and the depth of their adultery.
The sexual imagery is intense, and in fact, it is said to be the most pornographic chapter in the bible. Probably not one you want your husband to read at family time. Yet the shocking imagery is to show the intensity of lust. The lovers virility symbolizes their strength and military might. Instead of trusting the God of their covenant to fight for them with slings and stones and men of little might, they are craving the connection to power. The sexual imagery is to give us a taste of the intensity of their lust for this when God is on the other side wanting that simple yet satisfying intimacy with His people. It's loud and obvious and a huge blow to Him as their God. In order to gain this military might they have to "go to bed" as the saying goes, with these foreigners. They have to sacrifice their devotion, intimacy and communion with God to attain it, and they decide it's worth that price. Just as an adulterous woman would decide it was worth breaking communion with her husband to give herself to her lust for a man.
These women now had to take on the religion of their lovers, the political views, and worse of all, the battles they fought. The lovers are fighting for power, and selfish gain, and the sisters have to fight right along side them. These are not the motivations of the Holy God of Israel, but of bloodsheding men. That is why the passage says that their is blood on their hands. When God sent them to kill, it was for HIS purposes and it was therefore a righteous war.
Trust in another power, another provision, another might are all problems in this story. Trust enough to give up oneself in the most intimate ways. Mind, body and soul are given over. All which God wanted for himself and he wants from all of us.
I think Ezekiel will tie in well with Hosea and I think some of us will be having flashbacks when we get there. The journey of these people gets seemingly worse before it gets better, but it allows us to see the passion of God for his people and the heartache we can cause him with our idolatrous hearts and minds and even bodies.

Tomorrow's passage:
Ezekiel 24:15-25:17; Jeremiah 34:1-22; Jeremiah 21:1-14; Ezekiel 29:1-16; Ezekiel 30:20-31:18

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday, August 21-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 20-22:16.

Scripture: Ezekiel 22: 13 & 14
"I will surely strike my hands together at the unjust gain you have made and at the blood you have shed in your midst. Will your courage endure or your hands be strong in the day I deal with you? I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it."
Observation: Sin has consequences

Application: We all sin and it is only through God's mercy and grace that we are forgiven. We deserve to be punished for our sins and face the consequences of our disobedience. In Ezekiel 20: 32 it says: "We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone." How true it is that we want to be like everyone else? We desire to have the same possessions, the same looks, the same car, the same house or maybe even better or more than everyone else. I think this is true even of our sins. Why should we seek to adhere to the laws that God commanded us when we see our friends and neighbours going against God's will. If they are doing it...why can't I? It's hard to stand up for what you believe and know is right and it just becomes easier to do what everyone else is doing. We know longer live in the times of Ezekiel but the struggle is still the same. We allow sin to sneak into our lives and we begin to follow the ways of the world instead of the ways of God. We serve "wood and stone" or maybe more appropriately, "money and possessions" instead of God. But where does that get us?? In verses 22: 13 & 14, it is clear that there are severe consequences for our sinful actions. We have seen how patient God has been with his people. He has been slow to anger, compassionate, asking - no, begging - people to repent. And they have not. And things just keep getting worse and worse and worse. Isn't that exactly how sin takes over our lives as well. It may start off small but then it grows and separates us from God in a very harsh way. In verses 13 & 14, God promises to deal with us and our sin. The consequences for sin are very real. Let us never forget the truth of Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Prayer: Dear Lord, Sometimes we need to realize that our sin is very real and it is only through your grace that we can be forgiven and not have to face the consequences that we so rightfully deserve. Please help us to not want to be like everyone else. Your plan is for us to be separate and yet we often find ourselves wanting and yearning for the temporary things of this world. Guide us to desire the eternal things instead. Lord, you always say what you mean and mean what you say and it gives us comfort to know that you are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Amen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 20th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 17-19

So yesterday my best friend came over and wanted to share with me something that she had read in her Bible that day that had really impacted her and guess where it was? Ezekiel 18. Coincidence? I think not.

My friend's husband has made some very poor choices (putting it mildly) and she was very concerned about her son and what kind of chance he stood with such a poor example for his father, especially if there is no miraculous ending and they end up divorced as expected at this point.

Maybe you're in a similar situation. Or maybe you're young and worried the like-father-like-son saying will prove true for you. If that's the case, these words will be of great comfort to you, like they were to my friend.

Or maybe you've been relying on the righteousness of your parents to save you, in which case these words will be very convicting ones.

The soul who sins is the one who will die. Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just right....That man is righteous; he will surely live," declares the Sovereign Lord. "Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (thought the father has done none of them)...Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. But suppose this son has a son who sees all teh sins his father commits, and thought he sees them, he does not do such things...He will not die for his father's sin; he will surely live. But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people. Yet you ask, 'Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?' Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The soul who sins is teh one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him." Ezekiel 18:4b, 5, 9b-11a, 13b, 14, 17b-20

You are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of your wicked parents. The cycle can be broken! You are not responsible for anyone else but yourself.

If you are a righteous parent and your child is not living for God, do not despair. Though we are obviously accountable for how we parent our children, we are not our children's Holy Spirit and we cannot make them become followers of God. Even if they are currently living in sin, do not despair. As long as there is breath in their bodies there is hope of them turning to God in repentence. Even if it is on their death bed, God will not turn them away. Sayings like "once a cheater, always a cheater" (or any other type of sin) do not have to be true. Nothing is impossible with God.

If you are married to a wicked man or woman, there is hope for your children. They will have the chance to make their own decisions, they are responsible for no one but themselves.

But you can also not ride the coattails of your righteous parents. There is a very accurate saying that God has no grandchildren, only children. You cannot inherit faith. You need to make it your own.

Whether this passage is convicting for you or comforting for you will depend on your life circumstances and the state of your own personal relationship with God. The Holy Spirit both convicts and comforts, we just need to be willing to let the Spirit work.

Every soul has a personal relationship with God. When you stand before God you answer only for yourself. You will not be rejected for your father's sin. You can't slip in on your wife's righteousness. We are what we are by our own choice. (Chuck Smith, emphasis mine)

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 20-22:16

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 19th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 14-16

The passage of today's readings that I found rather fascinating was the section on Noah, Daniel and Job.

It seems that the people were under some sort of delusion that God wouldn't actually punish Israel because of the faithful remnant - reminiscent of Abraham praying to save Sodom if there were 10 righteous men in the city.

But Ezekiel firmly and repeatedly states that people are not saved corporately, they are saved personally.

Our parents, no matter how devoted they are to God, cannot save us. Going to a Bible-preaching church won't save us.

Every single individual needs to have their own personal relationship with Jesus in order to be saved.

Now, why these 3 men in particular? I looked up a few different sermons and commentaries and here are some of their thoughts....

Mark McWhorter (in a children's sermon) says that It is possible that God is representing different aspects with the three men. Noah represented preaching to the world. Daniel represented preaching to a nation. And Job represented preaching to a family. These three great men fulfilled their roles well. Yet, not even these men, if they preached at this time, could get God's people to listen to them. (It is interesting that Daniel was living at this time but was not prophesying as yet.)

Here is another possible way God was using the three men. Noah represented the preaching realm. He preached to the world. Daniel was in the political realm. He had a good amount of power and was close to the ruler. Job was a wealthy man with many possessions as well as a loyal family. He represented a family man. These men were successful in each area of life represented. But even if they could bring the message that Ezekiel was bringing, it would not matter. The people that Ezekiel was speaking to were not going to listen.

According to this sermon, another possibility is that the 3 men represented different portions of the scripture at the time (the Law, the Prophets and the Writings which were everything else) - Noah was the earliest patriarch and represented the Law or the Torah, Daniel represented the Prophets and Job the Writings. The Word of God (the Law, the Prophets, the Writings) cannot save us either - only the saving blood of Christ can save us. The Word is obviously extremely valuable to the believer, but is not what saves us.

The same sermon or commentary adds that we can see some symbolism of the Trinity here, with Noah, the father of nations representing God the Father; Job, the suffering servant representing the Son; and Daniel, the prophet, representing the Holy Spirit.

The three men also represent the universal nature of God's work.....
Noah was the father of all the nations, of course, after the Flood. God made a covenant with him that was supposed to apply to all humanity, not just Israel (see Gen. 9:12-16). Job was from the land of Seir (Edom), as far as we know, probably before Israel even left Egypt – he was not an Israelite. Finally, Daniel lived almost his entire life in Babylon & Persia, and his prophecies – unlike those of the other Major Prophets – focused primarily on the rise and fall of empires outside Israel, rather than the future of Israel itself. They were the perfect characters to illustrate the universal problem of sin and judgment (”for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3:23), and the universal solution that God provides – salvation through the blood of Jesus (”all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” Rom. 3:24).

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 17-19

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 10-13.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20

True conversion, brought about solely by the grace of God, results in obedience out of love for God.

An undivided heart refers to the desires of our souls. It is human (sinful) for our hearts to be focused on many different gods (be they tangible idols, or intangible ones such as money and power). An undivided heart would be a heart that is focused on serving God alone.

A heart of stone obviously does not refer to our physical hearts as we would be dead if we actually had hearts of stone. And that is the exact spiritual application. Without God we are spiritually dead.

In his sermon The Heart Transplant, Ben Edgington says....
We do not love him, we do not believe him, we do not trust him, we do not delight in him, we do not obey him. As far as God is concerned, our inner beings are as responsive as rocks.

This is the way we are born. Not one of us was born with a heart that is alive to God. Ever since the Fall, we have inherited a defect that has left us with a heart problem; a heart made of stone; an inner being that is dead towards God.

The prophet Jeremiah, a contemporary of Ezekiel's, says, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Our heart condition cannot be cured. We cannot make ourselves alive to God. We cannot make our cold, stone, lifeless hearts beat with warmth towards God any more than we can take a rock and make it live.

I really like the analogy Ben uses in his sermon. Our heart of stone is the diagnosis, the treatment is a heart transplant, the only doctor that can perform that surgery is God himself, and the donor for the heart transplant is Jesus Christ.

Similar scriptural passages promise the same thing....

For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness. Ezekiel 36:24-29a

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

This process of regeneration can only be performed by God himself, but we need to be willing patients for this surgery. And we will be able to tell if the surgery was truly successful by our post-operative behaviour.

Lord, thank you for being the surgeon that can replace our hearts of stone with a heart of flesh. Jesus, we thank you for being the donor for us. The condition of our hearts was incurable and impossible from a human standpoint. Only your perfect sacrifice and the miraculous work you perform in our hearts and lives can result in our lives being transformed. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Help us to live our lives in obedience, dedication, devotion and love for you alone. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 14-16

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17 - Miriam

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 5-9.

The Book of Ezekiel, Part 1 from bible.org covers the theme of the first 24 chapters of the book of Ezekiel.  A couple of excerpts from the commentary:

One of the most basic weaknesses of the church today is not having enough emphasis on the knowledge of God. J. I. Packer, in the preface of his book Knowing God, writes:

The conviction behind the book is that ignorance of God – ignorance both of His ways and of the practice of communion with Him – lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today. . . The modern way with God is to set Him at distance, if not to deny Him altogether; and the irony is that modern Christians, preoccupied with maintaining religious practices in an irreligious world, have allowed God to become remote.

Knowing God is the basic theme of the Book of Ezekiel. The phrase, “They/you shall know that I am the Sovereign Lord” is used around 70 times in this book.

On the one hand, the book presents God as holy and sovereign. On the other, it provides the picture of the sad predicament that the people of God – in a sense the whole world – has come into because of their lack of the knowledge of God.

It is not just the lack of the knowledge of God; it is a lack of desire for the knowledge of God. The picture is of willful ignorance and rebellion in spite of God’s clear revelation. The Apostle Paul writes in the New Testament:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:18-23).

If God holds the heathen accountable for their willful ignorance of the knowledge of God, how much more His own people, who in spite of His clear revelation in His Word would ignore Him?

The emphasis in the New Testament is upon the love of God, and the grace of God. We do not talk much about the holiness of God and the wrath of God. However, why would we need the grace of God if there was no cause for the wrath of God? The tendency in the church today is to give them the “good” news; why talk about the bad news? However, the good news is good news only in the background of the bad news. But we do not want to scare the “seekers” away by preaching the wrath of God!
The result is that we have produced a wishy-washy Christianity that talks only about the promises of God, without mentioning commitment to God, and brings God down to the level of a vending machine. Again, hear what Packer says about the subject of God’s wrath:
The modern habit throughout the Christian church is to play the subject down. Those who still believe in the wrath of God (not all do) say little about it; perhaps they do not think much about it. To an age which has unashamedly sold itself to the gods of greed, pride, sex and self-will, the church mumbles about God’s kindness, but virtually says nothing about God’s judgment.
There is no other book in the whole Bible that presents the sins of God’s people in as much detail as the Book of Ezekiel. Do you want to get the full picture of the sinfulness of man? Do you want to get the full picture of the hopeless situation of man? Do you want to get the full picture of the awesome character of God and His holiness? Do you want to get the full picture of the wrath of God? Study the Book of Ezekiel, and your life will be transformed.

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 10-13.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Ezekiel 3:16-4:17; Jeremiah 27-28:17; Jeremiah 51:59-64

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. Ezekiel 3:17-19

Ezekiel was to be a watchman for Israel, and, though he was not responsible for the Israelites response to God's messages, he was responsible to deliver the message God had given him.

From my Life Application bible
God's description of Ezekiel as a watchman on the walls of the city captures the personal nature of his ministry. A watchman's job was dangerous. If he failed at his post, he and the entire city might be destroyed. His own safety depended on the quality of his work. The importance of each person's accountability before God was a central part of Ezekiel's message. He taught the exiles that God expected personal obedience and worship from each of them.

Just like Ezekiel, we are responsible to share the Good News with those around us. We are not responsible for their reaction to it, but we will be held accountability for our obedience (or disobedience) to God.

This is a bit of a wake up call for me. Witnessing is not something only some people are called to do. It's not optional.

Lord, if we truly believe the Good News, and if we truly believe in a literal heaven and hell, then we should be passionate about sharing this Good News to those around us. But sometimes complacency, or fear or rejection, or any other excuse, causes us to be hesitant about speaking out. Give us the courage we need and give us the opportunity to share Your incredible news with those around us. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Ezekiel 5-9

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Guest Post By Alicia

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Jeremiah 37:11-38:28, Ezekiel 1-3:15

I'm sorry for getting this out so late, it was so much to digest that I was having a difficult time.

Jeremiah leaves us rather on the brink of the final curtain falling. We head over into Ezekiel who was taken exile after Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem on March 16, 597 BC. He was one of 10,000 taken at this time. Final destruction would come in 586 BC.
Since this is a pretty intense book of the bible, I really recommend taking the time to read the introduction to the book if you have a study bible. Although it will be interesting, it's full of difficult and debated imagery. I even found it interesting when looking at my two favorite pastor's (besides my own who is excellent) John MacArthur and John Piper did NOT have Ezekiel in their scriptural sermon menu.
The first section of Ezekiel introduces us right away to some of the most intense imagery. My personality is to investigate as much as I can to practically understand these images. So, I will link you in a moment here to what I felt was very helpful for that. Instead of reading much here, I think you would benefit more from being sent to this link, and it's not very long.
Before I do I wanted to say something I was thinking about though regarding this imagery. Like doctrinal differences, which are important, imagery interpretation (more so I think) can be a distraction from the main point God wants us to get. It's incredibly fascinating that God put this imagery and vision in scripture and I'm sure he's excited when we run with our investigations into what he put there for us. However, I was reminding myself not to forget the point of these passages. They are bringing the judgement of an all knowing, directional, focused, sovereign God on a people who he has long warned this was coming. It's obviously a huge historical occasion in God's mind to let us see the supernatural side of these happenings. Though we are awed, we have to remember this supernatural stuff is going on around us all the time unseen. God's purposes are awesome and intense. The point of the beginning of Ezekiel is to take God seriously at what he warns and says he will do. To recognize the power of his glory and might and the lesson to be learned of his judgements.
On that note, I hope you enjoy this page on the details of some of that intriguing imagery.

Tomorrow's Passage:
Ezekiel 3:16-4:17; Jeremiah 27-28:17; Jeremiah 51:59-64

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Jeremiah 51:15-58; 2 Chronicles 36:6-10; 2 Kings 24:10-17; 1 Chronicles 3:10-16; 2 Chronicles 36:11-14; Jeremiah 52:1-3; 2 Kings 24:18-20; Jeremiah 37:1-10.

Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet. King Zedekiah, however, send Jehucal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: "Please pray to the Lord our God for us." Jeremiah 37:2-3

King Zedekiah and his officials didn't want to listen to Jeremiah words or warning and judgement, but they still wanted the benefit of his prayers and blessings.

From my Life Application Bible
King Zedekiah and his officials did not want to listen to Jeremiah's words, but they wanted the blessings of his prayers. They wanted a superficial religion that wouldn't cost anything. But God is not pleased with those who come to him only for what they can get rather than seeking to establish or deepen a relationship with him. We would not accept that kind of relationship with someone else, and we shouldn't expect God to accept it from us.

So often we want God to be a genie in a bottle. We want to be able to live our lives however we think is best, virtually ignoring Him and our so-called relationship with Him, until we need something. Then all of a sudden we have time to pray - at least the part of prayer that involves supplication anyway.

That's not a relationship. There's nothing genuine about that and God is not pleased with it in any way, shape or form. It is not acceptable.

We try to get the best of both worlds - live how we want, yet still receive God's blessings. We want to have our cake and eat it to. It doesn't work that way.

We need to be willing to accept both discipline and blessing, both accountability and mercy from our God who is not only merciful, loving and compassionate, but holy, wrathful and just. Sometimes we like to put God in a box - asking "How could a loving God send anyone to hell?" instead of "How could a just God let anyone into heaven?" We cannot limit God to any one attribute.

Lord, we thank you that it is even possible for us to have a relationship with the Lord of the universe! Help us not to take that for granted. Help us to realize what an absolutely precious gift that is. Help us not to relegate you to genie status, but to invest in a relationship with you, to spend time with you, glorifying you and getting to know you better so we can become more like you. Give us an all-consuming desire for YOU.

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 37:11-38:28, Ezekiel 1-3:15