Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good Work

Daniel 1:16-21
(16) So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
(17) As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
(18) At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
(19) And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king.
(20) And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.
(21) And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

This is the end of the chapter that describes the situation for Daniel and his four friends. They were taken from their home in Judah and then trained to work for the king. God honored their decision to remain separate from the rest of the youths. They ended up better both physically and mentally than everyone else.

A note in my ESV Study Bible got me thinking about their situation. They were serving a pagan king among pagans. They remained faithful to God, but they still did their jobs. They weren't worried about the influences of the Babylonian culture, so they didn't hole themselves away in a bunker like the Amish. They still did their jobs and they even did them better than others.

This is a good reminder for me. My work environment is certainly pagan. It's not hostile to the faith, but it's certainly not open to it either. I have one coworker who goes to church each week, but he doesn't like to hear constant talk about religion. Two of my coworkers and I have some interesting discussions because of our varied faith backgrounds. We can get away with this, but it is hardly a Christian workplace and I constantly feel the tension that we need to tone it down a little bit. Many of my really good conversations with a friend who is very devout in his faith happen over instant messenger.

My point is that I see doing our work well as an example of:

Ecclesiastes 9:10
(10) Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

Daniel and the three other exiles had work to do. They did it with all their might, but they didn't compromise their faith to do it. May we have a similar attitude as we go about our days.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Living Water

Ezekiel 47:1
(1) Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.

This is near the end of Ezekiel's vision for the new temple. It reminds me of:

Revelation 21:6
(6) And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

And further along in that passage we find:

Revelation 21:22
(22) And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

It seems to me that Ezekiel's temple will not be an actual temple existing forever. It seems more likely that this is metaphorical, but that it speaks to how Jesus became the fulfillment of the Law. It assures me that Jesus has taken care of all the sin offerings for me. I can rejoice knowing that the price has been paid and my sin has been atoned for.

I hope that you have a similar assurance. Come to the Living Water!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sin Offerings

Ezekiel 45:17
(17) It shall be the prince's duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.

This verse is a bit confusing to me as is the whole temple narrative. Here we see that the prince has to provide for sin offerings. If this points forward to a temple at the end of time then this seems impossible. Christ has paid for sin in a once-for-all sacrifice. Therefore, there has to be a different understanding of this text.

I suppose that it is possible that this text had its fulfillment in the second temple that was around when Jesus was born. However, I don't think that is the case.

Maybe it has its fulfillment in a temple that will be built before the second coming. My question is why God's glory will fill the temple if the Jews were not atoned for by Christ's sacrifice on the cross. We know that He doesn't want the blood of animals anymore.

Frankly, I'm kind of stuck on this one. I can use my Deuteronomy 29:29 safe exit for anything I don't understand, but this one does puzzle me. Then again, I'm not sure how critical it is for me to come to a decision on this text either.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Ezekiel 44:1-3
(1) Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut.
(2) And the LORD said to me, "This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut.
(3) Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the LORD. He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way."

This shows us that there is something special about the eastern gate of the new temple. Specifically, it is to remain shut because God entered through it. Presumably it can remain shut because He is never going to leave the temple again. The only use of the gate is for the prince to eat in fellowship with the Lord.

I wonder if we have any kind of that sense of the holy today. The specific reason given here is because God went through it. Whatever He touches becomes holy. It would seem that would include His people as well.

I don't think that makes us in any way untouchable or extraordinary. What I do think is that it should remind us of what it means to be holy. The perfect and unapproachable God of the universe humbled Himself by becoming a man and dying so that we might approach Him. We often take this too much in stride. Let's remember what an incredible privilege it is that we can meet with Him. And let's not abuse that privilege, amen?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Ezekiel 43:9
(9) Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.

This comes at the end of a passage that I find very difficult. I'm not quite sure how to understand the idea of Israel having a wall between them and God forever. Is this the nation or is this the church? I don't think that there is a very easy answer for that.

However, I do know what this verse is all about. God demands repentance from the people. The consequence of repentance is that He would dwell in their midst forever. I have heard it said that all sin is the result of losing focus on the first two commandments. That seems consistent with this as well. The people had turned their love away from God and given it to others.

Where is your love? What are you whoring after if you are not pursuing God? What junk from your past needs to stay there as the dead bodies of the kings? Unlike Israel, we do not have to go through elaborate sacrifices if we are to come to know God. Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice and He tore the curtain in the temple so that we would have access to the Most Holy Place. This would be unthinkable to a Jew, but that access is made available to us today. If you have not done so I urge you to repent and come to Christ.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Future Vindication

Ezekiel 39:25-29
(25) "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name.
(26) They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid,
(27) when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations.
(28) Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore.
(29) And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD."

This ends a passage describing what is going to happen to Gog and Magog. It won't be pretty for them as they end up being food for birds and other eaters of carrion. Their destruction will be so massive that Israel will be able to use their weapons as fuel for 7 years. That's a lot of weapons.

The "therefore" of verse 25 is a connector to the previous statement that Israel will know that the Lord acted because of how He dealt with them in their treachery and uncleanness. That is why they had to spend some time in exile. In the end it will all work out for them though.

I can't help but think of New Covenant promises when I read this. It sure sounds to me like the promises that God makes to us as believers. Ephesians 1:13-14 describes how we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Other passages describe how we are filled with the Spirit. I guess I can see a little bit of both sides as I read this passage. It does seem like somehow Israel gets grafted back into the body as they enjoy the same blessings we do as believers in Christ. Or, it would be much simpler to see "Israel" here as the church. However, that is not plain from reading the text.

Either way, God is making a promise that He means to keep. There are consequences for our idolatry. However, if we are His then we can be assured of final restoration in Him. I'm looking forward to that final union with Him in eternity and I think keeping that perspective will help me to avoid sin and its consequences.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The New Kingdom

Ezekiel 37:24-28
(24) "My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.
(25) They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.
(26) I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.
(27) My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
(28) Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore."

This is one of the passages that makes me have some Covenental leanings in my theology. It comes at the end of the chapter where Ezekiel has the vision about the valley of dry bones. If we take this simply at face value, it looks like Ezekiel is speaking about the nation of Israel proper.

However, the imagery of "David my servant" seems to imply to me that Christ is involved here. It looks to me like it predicts the end of days when Christ is reigning in glory. That is when everyone will be united under Him. I just have a hard time reading this and separating Israel from the church.

Either way, this is a powerful prediction. God has a plan and He means to accomplish it. Let's not forget His reason stated in verse 28. This is all for the sake of His name. No matter how you read this passage God must still get all the glory. Let's give it to Him, amen?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Holy Brokenness

Ezekiel 36:31
(31) Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.

This is in the great passage where the Lord promises to restore Israel. It is the basis of the idea of monergism, which states that God is the one who effects salvation in the believer. Even those who are not soteriologically reformed rejoice in the idea of having a heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh. It takes God to do this in us, whether it is preevninent grace or the traditional reformed view.

I thought that this verse was very interesting. It certainly goes against the grain of much in American evangelicalism. We have this idea of a happy-clappy joyous relationship with Jesus. That is certainly a part of it and to ignore that would be to thumb my nose at a good bit of the New Testament. However, there is something that must happen first. We must repent.

This verse makes it clear that there will be a time when we remember our sin. We will realize just how badly we need grace for our salvation. We will realize that we cannot do this on our own. This will lead to joy, but first it must bring us low.

The good news is that we do not need to stay low. As we realize our own wretchedness we can find joy in the salvation that comes in Christ. He saves us from our state once we realize the hopelessness of it in ourselves. Turn to Jesus!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Small Consolation

Ezekiel 32:31-32
(31) "When Pharaoh sees them, he will be comforted for all his multitude, Pharaoh and all his army, slain by the sword, declares the Lord GOD.
(32) For I spread terror in the land of the living; and he shall be laid to rest among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword, Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord GOD."

This is the last bit of a long passage of condemnation against Egypt. Just before this we saw how several other nations would end up in the same boat as Egypt. Apparently, this would comfort Pharaoh.

This reminds me of how much I love company when I am miserable. I think that there is something inside of us that always wants to compare. I'm currently listening to a series of messages about the parable of the two sons. I think we all have a little bit of the older brother in us. We prefer it when we are doing the right things and we can look down on someone else. We don't seem to have a natural predisposition toward grace.

Yet Paul gives us a different command:

Romans 12:15
(15) Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

This is not something I like to contemplate much because I'm not very good at it. I get jealous of those who rejoice and I feel superior to those who weep, particularly when they are weeping about something they brought upon themselves. How much different is the way we are commanded to live!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Growing Hunger After God

This was my Tozer reading yesterday and I think it's too good not to pass along. Enjoy!

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
--Psalm 42:1-2a

In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will
they be content with correct "interpretations" of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.

This is the only real harbinger of revival which I have been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be the cloud the size of a man's hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany faith in Christ, that wonder which has all but fled the Church of God in our day. The Pursuit of God, 7.

This is something that really hits home with me. My seminary studies easily turn into a pursuit of the correct interpretation. In fact, I'm considering getting a PhD about finding a correct interpretation of Scripture. In the end I have to thirst after God. My prayer is to want more of Him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Keeping Promises

Ezekiel 28:25-26
(25) "Thus says the Lord GOD: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob.
(26) And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God."

As we've gone through the prophets we have certainly seen plenty of places where God pronounces judgment against Israel. Plus, He has pronounced judgment against the foreign nations around them. In fact, this passage is sandwiched in the middle of such pronouncements.

There is some controversy about whether these prophecies refer to the people of Israel or God's future church as spiritual Israel. Either way, it is a wonderful promise of God's care. He certainly judged them as they deserved, but then here He promises to gather them by His grace. Why does He do this? Again, it is for the sake of His name.

Have you been gathered? Are you dwelling securely? Do you know this peace that this passage describes? If not, I invite you to God by way of the cross. Come to know Him. You can't beat dwelling securely by God's provision.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Standing is Not Guaranteed

Ezekiel 27:33-34
(33) When your wares came from the seas, you satisfied many peoples; with your abundant wealth and merchandise you enriched the kings of the earth.
(34) Now you are wrecked by the seas, in the depths of the waters; your merchandise and all your crew in your midst have sunk with you.

This is a passage about the destruction of Tyre. Tyre was a trading city right on the Mediterranean. Its utter destruction is predicted in this passage as part of a three-chapter passage about it. Since there is a modern city of Tyre the utter destruction has not quite happened, but chances are not too many people have heard of the city of Tyre. Therefore, it does not have its former splendor.

When I read about Tyre I can't help but think of New York. There is a very distinct parallel with New York as they are both heavy commercial centers on the sea. The 9/11 terrorist attacks reminded me of the destruction of Tyre. I am not one to say that we can read modern cities into biblical prophecy, but I do think that the parallels are compelling.

Whether it's valid to make the direct association or not, the destruction of Tyre as well as the destruction of the World Trade Center both serve as a warning for us. There is nothing we can build that cannot be destroyed. The destruction of the World Trade Center was pretty much unthinkable. The same goes for the destruction of Tyre. Yet both happened. It is a sober reminder to me that we are just men and that ultimately all we can do is build really sophisticated ant hills.

Yet God is eternal. He is unchanging. He is no different now than He was when He created the universe. Read through the New Testament and look for all the building imagery used when describing Christ. He is a strong tower. He is the firm foundation. Let us put our hope in Him and not in anything man can do.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who you Root For

Ezekiel 25:6-7
(6) For thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel,
(7) therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand against you, and will hand you over as plunder to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and will make you perish out of the countries; I will destroy you. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

It's football season in case you haven't noticed. My alma mater has a huge game tonight. The honor of the school and the conference is on the line as both have been much maligned over the past few years. Normally I would do homework on a Saturday night, but this is a special enough game that I will take time to watch it with my brother-in-law. He and I go all the way back to our freshman year at OSU in 1991, so this is something we do together.

Millions of people around the country will be doing something similar this weekend. Many will even do it twice -- once on Saturday for their college and then on Sunday for their pro team. People rearrange their lives for these games. I think that, in the main, it is idolatrous and foolish. It can certainly be good fun, but more and more serious Christians are realizing how easily it turns to idolatry.

In the end, it really doesn't matter if you root for OSU or USC tonight. It doesn't matter if you root for the Browns or the Vikings. When Jesus comes back in judgment I don't think anyone will be concerned about who won the Super Bowl this year. The games serve little ultimate purpose by themselves.

However, this passage makes it clear that there is a kind of rooting that can be disastrous. You want to be rooting for God's team. Now I don't think it's as easy to determine God's team as many out there would have you believe. I'm not sure that His team is necessarily the Republican party or the Southern Baptist Convention, though I think that they contain some of His players. His team is composed of those who love Him and want to glorify Him with their lives. It is those who have repented from their old way of life and have turned to worship Him.

This passage shows us what happens to those who root against God. It won't be pretty in the end. I submit that it is a good idea to get on His side earlier rather than later.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Radical Obedience

Ezekiel 24:15-18
(15) The word of the LORD came to me:
(16) "Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down.
(17) Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men."
(18) So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.

This has always been a difficult passage for me. I try to imagine how I would feel if I received word from the Lord that He was going to take my wife from me. Ezekiel got this word and then had to deal with it really coming to pass. Through it all he was faithful.

The passage goes on to describe the shock of the people:

Ezekiel 24:19-24
(19) And the people said to me, "Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting thus?"
(20) Then I said to them, "The word of the LORD came to me:
(21) 'Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword.
(22) And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men.
(23) Your turbans shall be on your heads and your shoes on your feet; you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another.
(24) Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do. When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord GOD.'

Talk about an object lesson! This definitely got the people's attention. One wonders if it was really necessary. Did God really have to use such a powerful lesson? Apparently He did.

God is very serious about His name. He is also very serious about the covenants He makes. Sadly, we are not so serious about these things. We need to get smacked on the head from time to time. I don't really know how I would do if I were in Ezekiel's shoes. I don't really want to find out. However, I do know that God is good and what He does is good because He defines what is truly good. It is not up to me to decide whether His actions are right. They are right because He is the one who does them. May we always remember that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Learn from Others

Ezekiel 23:11
(11) "Her sister Oholibah saw this, and she became more corrupt than her sister in her lust and in her whoring, which was worse than that of her sister.

This is a very graphic chapter. In fact, I would have a hard time with Lily reading this now because of some of the stuff I would have to explain. The overall theme is that Samaria was unfaithful to her covenant promise and then Judah was even worse. Not only did Judah behave more badly than her sister Samaria, but she had a chance to see Samaria in action and the consequences of her actions.

There is no doubt that examples are important to us. Kids want to emulate their parents. When we're in a new situation we need someone to show us what to do. I think of the buddy system that Lily's school uses for the new kindergartners. It works well because the fifth graders show the kindergartners what to do. We all need someone like that sometimes.

But what happens when it is a bad example? Basically, Judah should have known better. However, she was so corrupt that she not only followed after her sister's bad example, but she intensified it.

1 Corinthians 15:33
(33) Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."

How could Judah have known better? Obeying this key text from Deuteronomy would have helped:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
(4) "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
(5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
(6) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
(7) You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
(8) You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
(9) You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Or reading Psalm 1 might have helped too. Judah shows us why we must know the Word of God and delight in it. We must delight in the Lord more than in sin. Otherwise we are going to be chasing after men in turbans, in some way or another.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Little Milestone

I'm away from my resources, so I'm going to just write something personal. I remember when Amanda and I were dating. I was a pagan and she dragged me to church. I really enjoyed First Presbyterian of St. Petersburg. I particularly enjoyed it when one of the pastor's friends from a local seminary came by to teach our Sunday School class.

This guy thoroughly impressed me. I'm not sure that he even had his own copy of the text. He would ask us to read our various translations and then he would comment on the accuracy of them. He explained the Gnostic heresy to us and how that was a possible framework for what Paul addressed in the letter. I just remember being impressed by how much knowledge he had at his fingertips.

This morning in my small group we discussed 1 Peter. I am nowhere near that guy, but if I have a Greek and an English text I can do just fine. I feel like seminary is starting to pay off a little bit. Obviously I would be a lot more effective with the preparation we are supposed to do, but I could participate in a discussion over a familiar book pretty much off the cuff.

I realize that this may seem like an awfully proud post and maybe it is. I'm just excited that I am getting to a place where I always wanted to be. I don't think I'm quite there yet, but I sure am a lot more conversant with the text than I once was.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Burned Away

Ezekiel 22:18-22
(18) "Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are dross of silver.
(19) Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem.
(20) As one gathers silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into a furnace, to blow the fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in my anger and in my wrath, and I will put you in and melt you.
(21) I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it.
(22) As silver is melted in a furnace, so you shall be melted in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD; I have poured out my wrath upon you."

Ezekiel continues his statements of woe upon Israel. This passage is particularly striking. He is not describing a purification process, but a complete destruction. Note verse 18. All of the house of Israel has become dross.

This stands in contrast to the Christian life. The process of sanctification is often compared to a silversmith burning the dross away in a fire. Many have seen the email that describes how a silversmith knows when he has burned enough away and he says, "That's easy. It's when I can see myself in the silver that I know I'm done." This is then compared to how we are sanctified when we look like Jesus.

This is a lovely image and I think it does apply to the Christian. But for those who do not know Jesus there is going to be a melting process. The problem is that there is nothing pure in there to save. All of it is going to be consumed. I believe that this concept has a parallel in the New Testament:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15
(11) For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(12) Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw--
(13) each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
(14) If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
(15) If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

There is going to be fire. Some may have works that survive the testing. However, none of that will matter if the foundation is not Christ. I hope that He is the foundation for your life. There is going to be final judgment. Are you ready for the fire?

Monday, September 07, 2009

More Tools

Ezekiel 21:28-30
(28) "And you, son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites and concerning their reproach; say, A sword, a sword is drawn for the slaughter. It is polished to consume and to flash like lightning--
(29) while they see for you false visions, while they divine lies for you--to place you on the necks of the profane wicked, whose day has come, the time of their final punishment.
(30) Return it to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your origin, I will judge you.

Back in Isaiah I wrote quite a bit about God's sovereignty in using kingdoms for His purposes. Here is another example. My ESV Study Bible note on verse 30 made the point that the command to "return it to its sheath" is another example of God using a kingdom to judge another, but still saving that kingdom for its own destruction.

I can remember how I would read the Old Testament and shake my head at the ignorance of the people. I would wonder how they could be so thick. I realize that I've written on this over and over again, but I think it bears repeating as often as God repeats it in His Word. The ignorance of Israel reminds me of how foolish I was and continue to be in my own life. I know that I keep making the same dumb mistakes. I know that it takes me a long time to learn some lessons.

The good news is that I serve a very patient and loving God. He blesses me way beyond what I deserve. I deserve death from Him and He gives me life. I deserve dryness and He gives me bounty. All I can do is thank and praise Him.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Having it Both Ways

Ezekiel 18:25-29
(25) "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
(26) When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die.
(27) Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.
(28) Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
(29) Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?

This is part of a bigger passage that deals with the need for repentance. The repeated phrases in verses 25 and 29 bracket this section nicely. God is saying that the wicked have second chances if they repent, but the righteous can blow it if he turns to wickedness.

This is a passage that must be handled delicately on this side of the New Covenant. I do not think it means that any sin will thrust the believer back into his old state. However, I do think that it tells us something very important about the human condition. The assumption that the people made was that they were basically good and that they should get a lot of credit for their previous righteousness. This passage turns that upside-down.

I think on this side of the cross we realize that man is not good. Our righteous deeds are as menstrual cloth. Paul described his great devotion to being a Jew as being manure. This is some pretty vivid imagery. Basically, there is nothing we can do to merit salvation. No one is good enough.

Except for one person. Jesus was good enough and His righteousness stands in our place.

My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Grace in Action

Ezekiel 17:24
(24) And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it."

This ends a passage with a lot of imagery involving an eagle and a vine. It has descriptions of transplanting and then explains how this relates to the Babylonian captivity. Basically, this is another reminder of what the people had to endure as a result of breaking their covenant with God.

When I read this verse I am immediately thrust into the New Testament. I remember when I thought myself quite smart. God brought me low. But it was in that state that He could start putting my life back together again. I had to be broken before I could flourish.

I realize that I am hardly perfect. I'm not looking forward to the pruning that I must someday endure. I don't know what it is or when it will come, but I do know that the Vinedresser will do that work on me. Overall, I know that it is for my good. I also know that God promises to do it. Fighting it makes no sense. He is God and He will do it.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Overcoming Great Sin

Ezekiel 16:62-63
(62) I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD,
(63) that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD."

Ezekiel 16 is pretty graphic. He compares Jerusalem to a beautiful girl who is even worse than a prostitute. Jerusalem went after other lovers, but instead of receiving payment for her services like prostitutes she actually gave gifts to her lovers. The overall message is that Jerusalem broke her side of the covenant. But then the chapter finishes with this passage.

What is this covenant? I have a hard time seeing it as any of the covenants made up to this because the tense is future, though in Hebrew you have to be careful about being too dogmatic about that. Still, the rest of the sentence indicates that this is something that will happen in the future. So what does this mean?

It seems to me that this points us forward to Christ, which would fulfill the covenant made to David and to Abraham with a new one. The Lord promises to make a new covenant that will atone for all that they have done, which is plenty. They deserved to be cut off forever.

I don't know about you, but that reminds me of me. I deserved death for my sin. I went hard after my sin. I was at least as bad as Jerusalem with my idolatry. Yet God made a way for atonement for my sins. It's at the cross.

Won't you look to the cross today? There is forgiveness there. The blood of Christ washes away the guilt and shame of sin. Ezekiel 16 describes how Jerusalem was unclean in her blood, but in the New Testament we have:

1 John 1:9
(9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Oh, how precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow!
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.