Archive for November, 2013

Ezekiel 8

Ezekiel 8 has the prophet getting yet another message from God, but this time in a very different way.  Ezekiel was used to hearing from God, but this time “the hand of the Lord God fell upon me”.  God takes things to a different level as He reaches out and touches the prophet.  And then things really change as “I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man”.  God has gone from visions and spoken words to touch and the appearance of a man.  It wasn’t a normal man – this one had a lower body of fire and an upper body like gleaming metal.  It had to be quite a sight to see.

But it goes well beyond an appearance here.  “He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God”.   God literally reached out and touched Ezekiel.  He grabbed him by the hair and lifted him up to see God’s vision.  God took him around the city of Jerusalem and to the synagogue and showed him what was to come.  It sort of reminds me of the Scrooge story, but this is God’s way to prophecy what is to come.

And the picture is not pretty.  The view of the north gate had great abominations that were being committed and would “drive me far from my sanctuary”.  The sin of the people was more than God could handle.  We really don’t understand how much our sin grieves God’s heart.  He loves us and provides for us and blesses us, and we respond with disobedience and selfishness and idolatry, and God shows Ezekiel “all the idols” that are in the house of Israel.  It is sin to put anything ahead of God.  Idolatry is when we push God from His rightful place as King.  We all do it.  We all have things we allow to get in the way between God and that place.

What do we use as an excuse?  “For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land”.  God doesn’t see my sin.  God isn’t paying attention.  He’s too busy to notice I am disobedient.  These are all lies of the enemy.  God doesn’t miss our sin. He isn’t too busy to know what we are doing.  God is always alert and aware.  And unfortunately, His nature requires that He address our sin.  He can’t ignore it.  “Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them”.  The good news is that even though our sin requires God’s response, His love has provided us the way through the shed blood of Christ to send that punishment to the Cross.  He has made a way!

Ezekiel 7

Ezekiel 7 has the prophet once again delivering a very tough message from God.  He really is the bearer of bad news – really bad news.  “Now the end is upon you, and I will send my anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations”.  God is fed up.  He is going to take action.  There will be judgment and punishment without mercy.  “My eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways….then you will know that I am the Lord”.

God is making it clear that He alone is judge and jury.  He alone determines the punishment.  “Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you, and judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations….I will punish you according to your ways”.  It is personal for God.  He isn’t sending someone else to do the dirty work of cleaning up the lives of His people.  God Himself is taking action.  And He’s tired of waiting.  Several times in this chapter He says “The time has come; the day has arrived”.  God is patient, but only to a point.  And when we continue to sin and ignore His commandments, there is a price to pay.

The reality is that the people have gone off the tracks into the ditch in a big way.  “The rod has blossomed; pride has budded. Violence has grown” and God is done with it.  He is taking action to clean things up.  And while the people think they can get away with it, or buy their way out, God is clear that “silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord”.  You can’t pay to disobey.  God doesn’t tolerate disobedience.  There is a price to pay for living against God’s standards.  He will “put an end to the pride of the strong”.

Ezekiel clarifies just how messed up we can become.  “They seek a vision from the prophet, while the law perishes from the priest and counsel from the elders”.  We want to hear about the future and what is to come, but we ignore the commandments and direction from the present that should guide how we live today.  We want to hear something new, rather than living what we already know to be true.  God is about us living according to the truth already at hand.  He wants us to hear His teaching and listen to counsel from those in our patch who walk with God.  When we fail, and seek something new and different, we tend to ignore the present and just do our own thing rather than obey God. That is a bad plan.  “According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them, and they shall know that I am the Lord”.

Ezekiel 6

Ezekiel 6 has the prophet receiving another assignment from God – or more accurately more of the same.  “The word of the Lord came to me”.  When is the last time the word of the Lord came to you?  Do you hear from God regularly?  Are you listening?  I am confident that God is still speaking to us, but if you’re like me, He is likely having a hard time getting us the message because I don’t really spend much time listening.  My time with God is often pretty one way – me approaching His throne with an agenda of things I need His help with.  That is not how God wants us to relate. 

Remember what scripture says elsewhere?  “Be still and know that I am God”.  We need to approach his throne with the attitude we are there to hear.  Remember that God has already given us quite a bit to know and understand through His Word.  He wrote us a letter that tells us a majority of what we need to know to walk in obedience to His will.  But there are things God has for us individually, and we need to get into the habit of hearing His voice.  We need to listen so the word of the Lord can come to us. 

Ezekiel gets this assignment from God: “set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them”.  Certainly not an assignment that will make him popular – telling the people that they will be destroyed.  But it wasn’t to be his message.  God said tell them “hear the word of the Lord God….Thus says the Lord”.  Ezekiel was to be messenger – and to let the people know that they would be destroyed and killed.  Not a pleasant word to deliver.  Yet he faithfully served without fear because it was God’s message and the people needed to hear it.

Why does God do these things?  He is clear as He gives Ezekiel the instruction: “you shall know that I am the Lord….I will leave some of you alive….will remember me”.  God wants to clean up the sinful living and remove the idols and disobedience of His people.  But He wants them to know Him, and to know that He is God.  He wants to demonstrate that He alone is the true God and worthy of their praise.  And He wants to be sure to leave a few that can carry the message – remember His power and the touch of His hand – on the future.  God desires us to know Him.  He insists that we do, and Ezekiel has to deliver that message to God’s people.

Ezekiel 5

Ezekiel 5 has the prophet getting direction from God on what to do.  “Take a sharp sword. Use it as a barber’s razor and pass it over your head and your beard”.  Sounds a bit dangerous, doesn’t it.  Shave with a sword, cut your hair with a sword?  But God is making the point that He is going to cut off His rebellious people.  “She has rebelled against my rules by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes more than the countries all around her; for they have rejected my rules and have not walked in my statutes”.

The children of God have a problem.  And God is going to take action.  Here is the list of things He says He will do:

–       “I am against you

–       I will execute judgments

–       I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again

–       I will scatter to all the winds

–       I will withdraw

–       I will have no pity

–       I will vent my fury

–       I will make you a desolation

–       I execute judgments

–       I send against you the deadly arrows

–       I will send famine

–       I will bring the sword upon you

Do you notice how personal this is between God and His children?  He is taking direction action.  God’s nature does not allow Him to just ignore sin.  He can’t just look the other way.  He must respond, and that response is difficult.  He tells us “they shall know that I am the Lord – that I have spoken in my jealousy”.  This is a show of force.  It is a strong statement about the very nature of God.  And as a result, the outcome will be that everyone will know that He is Lord.  Every person will see that God is worthy of praise.

Why do we keep sinning when we can clearly see it is a very bad decision?  Because we lose track of who God is and who we are in relationship to Him.  We fail to understand just how important it is to have a right relationship, and what the cost is of sin.  We lose perspective, and soon we make choices that cause us to fall into sin and out of God’s will.  The good news is that God’s grace will cover those very bad choices, but only if we receive it through the shed blood of Christ.  Are you covered by the blood?  Are you in right standing with the Holy God?

Ezekiel 4

Ezekiel 4 has twin prophecies of God’s punishment for Israel and Judah.  The prophecy focuses on Jerusalem–the city where God chose to place His name. The temple of worship belonged to Jerusalem. Yet this chapter predicts woeful events that would destroy it. The first several verses portray the siege that would come upon the city. Then verses four through six predict the times of fulfillment based on two distinguishing events:

  1. the iniquity of Israel
  2. the iniquity of Judah

The prophecy says that God was going to punish Israel for 390 years.  Three hundred and ninety days, “each day for a year”, are appointed for the iniquity of Israel. God asked Ezekiel to demonstrate to the people for 390 days, lying on his left side, to represent the years of their iniquity and the besiegement and destruction of Jerusalem to follow.  This punishment is coming because of the evil and disobedience of the kings – with Jeroboam being one that really led the people astray.

Then comes the second part of the prophecy, that Judah would be punished for 40 years.  For Israel’s sin Ezekiel is commanded to lie on his left side, whereas for Judah’s sin he is to lie on his right side.  Not only does Judah’s sin come after that of Israel; it comes much after…a thousand years.  But both will receive their punishment based on how they lived.  God would not be mocked – as they lived – so they reaped.

The parallels between the two parts of this prophecy give the evidence that the interpretation holds true. Israel and Judah both rejected God. The sins are much the same. The fulfillment of the prophecy is the same. In both cases the temple, along with the city of Jerusalem, is destroyed.  The principle for us is that how we choose to live life matters.  If we do our own thing our own way and walk in complete ignorance of God’s commandments and requirements, we’re going to deal with the outcome which won’t bode well.  Ezekiel paints a clear picture that sin causes pain.  God will deal with it!

Ezekiel 3

Ezekiel 3 has the prophet hearing again from God.  “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel…and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey”.  God wants Ezekiel to know His word so he can “go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them”.  God has a very specific plan for Ezekiel to carry out.  He is to go speak truth to God’s people.  God prepares Ezekiel for that task, just like He will you or me when He calls us to take action.  God always equips those He sends.

The territory isn’t going to be friendly.  God sets the expectations this way: “The house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you….have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart….they are a rebellious house”.  God calls Ezekiel to go and tell these people what they should do, but he warns him that they aren’t much for listening.  They are stubborn and rebellious and really don’t want to hear what God thinks.  Sounds a bit like people today here, doesn’t it.  People have always struggled to obey God, clear back to the Garden.  But God never gives up speaking His truth.

So we see God’s faithfulness as He prepares Ezekiel for this task.  “Then the Spirit lifted me up…. the hand of the Lord being strong upon me”.  What God originates, God orchestrates.  He won’t send us unprepared.  We may fail to receive it, but God does His part.  He tells Ezekiel that He has “made you a watchman….whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me”.  Ezekiel doesn’t have to figure out what to say.  He merely needs to share what God tells him.  He is merely the messenger.

The picture is pretty clear what God desires the outcome to be.  Warn the people that they may be saved.  “If you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul”.  We need to carry a similar message to people in our patch today.  If we walk with Christ in obedience and have a personal and saving relationship with Him, we will spend eternity with God in heaven. We have a great message to share.  Are you doing that in your patch today?

Ezekiel 2

Ezekiel 2 begins with a direct conversation with God.  “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you”.  Can you imagine having God talk to you that way – just a conversation with the Creator and Ultimate Judge of the Universe?  Ezekiel gets up and “the Spirit entered into me” is what he records.  God’s Spirit is in us to help us converse with God.  We don’t have to know the words.  We just need to come to His throne.  We may never hear the audible conversation like Ezekiel does, but we can have a conversation with God whenever we want.  We just need to take the time and approach Him so we can have it.

God’s discussion was about His people “who have rebelled against me”.  God goes on to tell Ezekiel “they and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day”.  So the problems are not all based on the past – they are based on their current actions too. God calls them “impudent and stubborn” which is a great way to define what happens when we sin.  We make stupid choices and go brain dead – not considering the costs.  He calls them rebellious and warns Ezekiel they likely will refuse to hear.  Sounds a lot like people today, doesn’t it?  May even sound like you and me.

God’s plan is to have Ezekiel speak truth that “they will know that a prophet has been among them”.  God’s desire is that they hear the truth whether they want to or not, or whether they will listen or not.  He wants his man to speak it and instructs Ezekiel to go without fear and tell them what God has said.  God does warn that they may not be all that receptive.  We often don’t want to hear truth when it challenges what we are doing or what we think.  Ezekiel’s message will be in their face and not what they want to hear.

But God promises to be with Ezekiel, and asks him to “open your mouth and eat what I give you”.  And when Ezekiel looked, “a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it”.  God made sure Ezekiel got the straight truth.  No interpretation required – God wrote it down and presented it to him directly.  God has done much the same for us.  Not on a scroll, but definitely in a Book.  We need to take His Word and receive it, read it, study it, meditate on it, and live it.  It is the key to living well with God.  Are you in His Word every day?

Ezekiel 1

Ezekiel 1 introduces us to this prophet and priest.  We learn this about him:

–       “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God

–       word of the Lord came to Ezekiel

–       the hand of the Lord was upon him there

This is no ordinary guy.  He obviously is connected to God Himself and has a direct line to truth.  Ezekiel launches into a description of what he saw, and it is hard to understand exactly what he means as he describes it.

Ezekiel writes “from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures”. In chapter 10 we’ll learn that they were cherubim. These were the the protectors of God’s throne, and guarded the uniqueness of God.  They were the representatives before God of the whole living creation, for man, lion, ox and eagle represent all living creatures, man, wild beast, domestic animal and bird. As God comes He comes as Lord of creation, accompanied by the watchers over creation.  There will be lots of symbolism as we walk through Ezekiel’s letter.

And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went”.  The idea behind this is total obedience. Their one purpose was to do what God wanted. Nothing could divert them. They obeyed the prompting of the Spirit of God, as God prompted them from His throne.  If only we could have that same approach – single minded obedience to God.  These cherubim never did anything that God didn’t tell them to do, and did everything He had for them to do.  That is the picture of obedience God desires!

And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking”.  Having seen God, even though veiled, was something that stirred Ezekiel to the depths of his being, and was something he would never forget. It put the past and the future in a new light. He had seen God as the omnipotent One on His throne, as the omniscient One whose eyes saw everywhere, and as the omnipresent One in constant movement about the world. He was there with them in Babylon, and He was there on His throne. The effect of the experience appears constantly throughout the book as Ezekiel will meet God face to face several times!

Lamentations 5

Lamentations 5 gives us a summary as the writer cries out for God to “look and see our disgrace”.  Things are tough.  God’s punishment wears on and it is getting to be too much.  God’s people are under duress and experiencing much pain and agony.  Why?  The legacy of leaders and fathers who did not live well.  Certainly some will argue that this is not fair.  But life is not fair.  God never said it would be.  The reality is that there is always a penalty to be paid for sin.  Sometimes that comes quickly and impacts the guilty one.  Sometimes, it carries forward generations.

The writer is clear of the challenge they face.  “Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities”.  Not only did the originator of the sin pay a price (are no more) but they passed forward the penalty and now it is being delivered upon their followers and offspring.  The price was large, and the payment is taking generations.  Was the sin worth it?  It seldom is.  But we seldom count the cost when facing the choice of whether to sin and disobey.  In the moment, we make a very bad choice that can cost us much and for a very long time.

So what are they experiencing?  Scripture is pretty descriptive:

–       “Slaves rule over us

–       We get our bread at the peril of our lives

–       Our skin is hot as an oven

–       Women are raped

–       Princes are hung up by their hands

–       Young men are compelled to grind at the mill

–       boys stagger under loads of wood

–       old men have left the city gate

–       The joy of our hearts has ceased

–       our dancing has been turned to mourning

–       The crown has fallen from our head

–       our heart has become sick

–       our eyes have grown dim

–       Mount Zion which lies desolate

That is a steep price for some bad choices – the choice of evil rather than good – disobedience rather than obedience.

But there is hope.  The writer remembers God and His faithfulness.  “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations….us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old”.  There is good news here.  No matter how far we stray. No matter how much trouble we get into.  No matter how bad we are, God never leaves us.  He waits for us to return.  His promises endure for all generations and His faithfulness never wavers.  We just need to return to Him in humble obedience with a repentant heart.  He will restore us.  He will draw us near if we draw near to Him!

Lamentations 4

Lamentations 4 is a somewhat depressing chapter as it captures the reality of what happens when we choose evil versus good, sin versus obedience.  It is not a pretty outcome.  In fact, it is quite a battle.  The writer here captures the reality of what has happened.  “Those who once feasted on delicacies perish in the streets; those who were brought up in purple embrace ash heaps….their face is blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets”.  This isn’t a simple little slap on the hand.  It is a serious pounding.

But they earned it.  God does not look kindly when we make choices to be disobedient.  “The Lord gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations…. The kings of the earth did not believe….This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests”.  Boiling it down – a big chunk of this relates to bad leadership.  The people were led astray.  They chose to follow blindly, but the reality is that God doesn’t give passes when we make the choice to sin.

The writer ends the chapter with this truth: “he will punish; he will uncover your sins”.  God isn’t going to ignore how we live.  We can try and convince ourselves all day long that His love will just allow us to do whatever we want and He’ll look the other way but it just isn’t true.  His nature and holiness don’t allow it.  Justice will happen.  We will either pay the price for our sin, or we will be covered by the blood of the Lamb when Jesus shed His precious blood for our sin on the Cross.

It isn’t a question of whether someone will pay for our sin.  That is a fact and scripture is very clear about it.  The only question is how that price gets paid.  We can face that penalty on our own, which leads to eternal separation from the God who created and loves us.  Or we can accept the free gift of grace through the shed blood of the Savior Jesus Christ.  We can have our debt paid by God’s only Son and receive His covering and the forgiveness and mercy that comes through His sacrifice.  Which will it be for you?

%d bloggers like this: