Ezekiel 32 is God’s message through Ezekiel about the coming fate of Pharaoh and Egypt. They are going “down to the grave” and will be slain. They “once terrorized the land of the living” and were the powerful on this earth. But now, God is ready to put them in the grave. They have totally missed the fact that God is in control and is who He says He is. So…..God’s response is pretty straight forward. “When I strike dead all who live there, then they’ll realize that I am GOD”. It is easy to sit here in my office and wonder how they can be so darn stupid. But when I really ask that question, I have to answer the same for me – how can I miss God so often day after day. Because I don’t focus on Him. I allow the circumstances and activity of the day to get my attention and I just totally tune out my focus on God. That is not only wrong, it is dangerous. I miss my chance to join God in what He is up to and to minister to those He brings across my path if I am focused on me and what I need to do. Each day God has a number of divine appointments for my life. He brings many people across my path through face to face interaction, the phone, email or any other number of means. I miss so many blessings because I am too distracted by my own agenda to get in on His. It is high time for me to “realize that He is God” and that my life is all about serving Him. It is not about me, it is about a relationship with the God who created the universe and His Son who paid the ultimate price for my sin on the cross. I have to be careful I don’t get the attitude of Pharaoh and become a “pompous old goat” that God has to deal with. God is in control, and He demands my understanding and right response. I do realize that He is God. How about you?
Archive for April, 2008
Ezekiel has a picture of the coming destruction of Pharaoh and Egypt. God is not happy with them and as I read this chapter – a number of words jump off the pages at me about what God will do. Check out what God describes as ways He will deal with this disobedient and proud man and nation: “smash… topple…demolish…burn…punish…pour my wrath…knock…set on fire…writhe in pain…blown away…raped…killed…exiled…shatter…break…put an end…disappear… hauled off…scatter”. Things are not going to go well for the Egyptians. What occurs to me is that God is a God of action. He does not just sit by and idly watch someone thumb their nose at Him. He will take action to bring people into right relationship and reinforce the fact that He alone is God. As God ends His list of actions here in Ezekiel 30, He says this: “That’s how I’ll punish Egypt, and that’s how she’ll realize that I am GOD”. The point of the lesson for Pharoah and his people – to know who God is and recognize that He alone is in control. Sometimes we tend to forget that God is God and we start to take on the role of being in charge and believing that somehow life is about us. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Life is all about God and recognizing Him for who He is. It is about relating to a loving Father who wants the best for us and has made provision for our pathetic human sinfulness through Jesus. We have to realize that God is who He says and that means He is God of my life and yours. The sooner we figure it out and live that way, the better for us. It isn’t optional. He will help us get there if we don’t chose it on our own.
Ezekiel 29 begins with God’s directive to confront Pharoah, king of Egypt. Now that is some pretty bold orders. Here is the most powerful man in the world being told by a prophet that God is against him. That wasn’t exactly how it looked at the time. Pharoah was on top of the world. But the issue at hand was how Pharoah was viewing all that God had created. Two things jump out at me as God talks about the destruction that is to come. Pharoah has a problem recongnizing who is in control. God says: “I made it. It’s all mine”. We best remember that too. God made everything in this world and He alone owns it. At best we are given the opportunity to use it as stewards of what belongs to God. Secondly, God says destruction is coming so “they’ll realize that I am GOD”. We need to understand that God is who He is and we need to treat Him as such. Not because He has an inferiority complex, but because He is God. Scripture teaches us we need to “fear the Lord”. That is not about being afraid – but rather holding Him in His rightful place of high esteem and honor in our lives. We need to not only realize He is God, but confess and live like that in front of others. What we have is not ours, from the car in the driveway to the roof over our head to the paycheck we got last. It ALL belongs to God. The message Ezekiel was given to proclaim was to “stir up fresh hope” among the people. We are hearing a lot about hope in this political campaign. Unfortunately the source is very wrong – people can’t give hope. Only God can deliver on that promise. But along with the message, and the directive to Ezekiel to confront Pharoah, God says he will give “bold and confident words to speak”. Did you get that? God has a plan for Ezekiel to do what seems to be suicidal in many ways – to confront the most powerful man in the world and tell him destruction is coming – but when God directs us He always empowers us as well. God promises to give Ezekiel the words he needs. He will do the same for us if we open our mouth.
Ezekiel 28 brings a couple of key lessons to light. The first is the impact of beginning to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. It grabs us and our “heart is proud” and soon we believe “I’m a god”. Probably not in a literal sense, at least not most of us. But we treat ourselves like a god. We believe the world revolves around us and that we can do whatever we want whenever we want it. I love what scripture says “you’re not even close to being a god”. That about sums it up folks. We are pathetic mere specs in comparison to the Creator of the universe. We are nothing when held up against our God. Yet we insist that life is about us – we selfishly look at ourselves as the center. We get a glimpse at some of the problem: “made a lot of money. But the money has gone to your head”. It goes on to say “you had everything going for you” and that is so true for us as Christ followers, yet we want to stray away from God and put self on the throne. We turn to the sin of self and then God has to respond. He says “So I set a fire around and within you”. We will battle on the inside and outside when we get our priorities messed up. God will be God. We can never have that place. We need to learn that fast.
Ezekiel talks about the city of Tyre and it glory as a merchant city where stuff happened. The ships came in, there was much business done, and people knew this place. Scipture says that because of the elite soldiers stationed there and all the city was it “put you on the map”. Everyone knew Tyre. The chapter describes all about that, and I saw the city Tarshish in this chapter – remember that one – where Jonah was trying to flee. But the question God asked me, and I ask you is this – what is it about your life that will put you on the map? What are you allowing God to do in and through you that people will notice. Too many of us want to live life under the radar. We don’t want anyone to know that we are a Christ follower. No questions to ask, no confrontations about belief, no world view discussions to have. But is that really how God wants us to live. I heard a statistic this week – not sure exactly how accurate – but that members of one particularly mainline church share their faith on an average of once every 16 years. Oh how sad that is. Even if it is off by a factor of 10, it is very sad indeed. God wants us to be a place on the map where people see Him at work in our lives. Where is your dot?
Ezekiel 26 is the warning to Tyre, a city that has been overjoyed by the demise of Jerusalem. Not a good decision to be happy about the fall of God’s people. Ezekiel paints the picture of how God will turn loose those around Tyre to come and destroy them – to reduce them to mere rocks. He is pretty clear about it – check this out: “When I turn you into a wasted city, a city empty of people, a ghost town, and when I bring up the great ocean deeps and cover you, then I’ll push you down among those who go to the grave”. We need to realize that God demands our love and does not look highly on us when we are joyous about the fall of another, particularly His chosen. But the thing that continues to hit me over and over in Ezekiel is this statement: “Then they’ll realize that I am GOD”. God is doing the things He does to get people’s attention. It is the 2X4 method here. I see that in scripture and I see it in my own life today. So many times it takes a big whack to wake me up. We can read scripture and wonder why these people make the same mistakes over and over. They walk with God, they fall away, they turn completely against Him, and then He has to whack them to wake them up and start the cycle all over again. Hello – there is a better way. This happens because people take their eye off the ball – they lose the connection with the Father and let self begin to rule. We don’t have to make those same mistakes, although many of us do. It is prevented by building Godly spiritual habits we are disciplined to exercise every day, and surrounding ourselves with people who will help keep us accountable and on track. If we try to live the Christian life alone, it will be a very tough road. Build habits, good ones, and find at least one person you can ask to keep you accountable. And of course, write down what God is doing in and through you. We serve a risen Savior and a loving God. He doesn’t get joy from whacking us!
In Ezekiel 25, God’s message is pretty strong. “Because you cheered when……because you clapped and cheered….”. God is upset that the people have been excited that the things of God were desecrated and destroyed. Bad decision on the time to celebrate by the children of Israel. They had lost connection with God, become totally focused on self, and now are hearing what is going to happen. Not a good scenario at all. God is going to turn the nations loose on them. They are going to be torn apart. I love this one: “I’ll turn your capital, Rabbah, into pasture for camels…..” That is some serious change and makes me think of the farm. God can take anything and turn it into something very different. And He will. If we fail to recognize that it all belongs to Him, if we turn away from Him and treat it all as our own and fail to be good stewards, it is really no surprise that God will respond. Yet so many of us are waking up every day and don’t give God a second thought until we have a problem, and then we come running and want Him to fix it. That isn’t quite how it works. We have to get up each morning and recognize that God is in control, 100% of the time on 100% of the stuff that will happen today. There are no surprises to God, no curveballs He didn’t know were coming. We need to know that God owns it all, controls it all and wants us to treat His world as such. His alternative to us figuring that out on our own is to whack us. Pay attention to the truth He shares through Ezekiel: “When I bring vengeance, they’ll realize that I am GOD”. We have a choice, to recognize and understand that God is who He is and controls all, or learn the hard way. I am opting for door #1 on this one. God is my controller, how about you?
Ezekiel starts by telling the people to “write down this date”. Those who have the privilege (or maybe the penalty) of having to be around me much in person know that I am a big believer that we have to write down what God is teaching us and doing in our lives. That is called journaling by some, you can call it what ever you want, but in God’s Word I believe it is called “remembering”. Scripture is full of commands that we must remember what God has done. I can tell you that doesn’t happen if we have not written down His faithfulness, the answers to prayer in our lives, the things He has taught us. Start today to write it down. God does something amazing in your life and mine each and every day – I guarantee it. But if you are like most of us, you can’t remember yesterday let alone last week or month or year. We are robbing God of His touch in our life when we refuse to remember. So I urge you to start doing that today – maybe not every day at first – but just start. See what God will do with that. Ezekiel continues by sharing this truth: “I wanted to clean you up, but you wouldn’t let me”. God is in the business of cleaning up our lives. He is all about removing the bad stuff (sin) and getting us lined up with what He is doing. Why – here is the result of sin: “your sins will eat away at you from within”. Even though sin often seems pretty painless and not a big deal – that is a lie of the enemy. Sin will destroy you. It will keep you from experiencing eternity with the Creator. God is in the clean up business. But we have to be willing. We have to repent – which means we stop what we are doing, turn a 180 and go the other way – and we need to believe and allow Jesus to be Lord. Are you cleaned up? God’s plan is to put off the old and put on the new – to make us His and holy!
Ezekiel 23 paints a word picture for us of sin. He uses one of the enemy’s great tools – sex – as the example. The lesson here is pretty frightening, but really gives us insight into the evil we face. Satan will come after us in the areas we are weak. He knows us and will attack us when we are tired and lonely and away from home. He will come after us incessantly. Check out what scripture says: “She never slowed down”. The “she” here is evil. Nancy travels with me to most every event I attend. Why? It isn’t because she loves hanging around with geeks all day and night. Quite honestly, here desire is to be home and away from crowds and people. But she also loves me, and I love her, and we both know that being alone on the road for long periods under stress and a tough schedule opens the door for the enemy. So I have asked her to be with me so that temptation is controlled. She also is such a blessing in terms of encouragement and support, and during this season of our life, is making huge impact on people through her quiet and gentle spirit. Our travels are truly a labor of love by both of us to serve others. But the root of us trying to be together is really based on my knowledge of what we are against – and the understanding he has one desire for my life and my marriage – to destroy it. Sin has some ugly results – not just in the immediate circumstances – which can be a problem in themselves, but listen to some of what God says about responding to one who continues to live in sin: “I turned my back on her….. I’m at the point of abandoning you…. Because you’ve forgotten all about me, pushing me into the background, you now must pay for what you’ve done”. Folks, we are not talking about something that just hurts for a while when we chose to do it any way but God’s way. We are talking about an eternity that leaves us separated from our Creator and His plan for our life. Sin will cost us everything if we don’t deal with it. Sin will be paid for by someone. Fortunately God loved us enough to send His Son to pay that price, but even though that grace is free, it only works in my life if I make the choice to receive that payment for MY sin. Have you dealt with sin? What is your disaster recovery plan for your life? Jesus is the way to deal with the burden and penalty of sin. We then need to focus on walking with the Father and living a life pleasing to Him. God bless us as we pursue Him with all our heart.