Ezekiel 47God forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. God removed them from that beautiful garden when they chose to disobey for He had said: “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.” [Gen 2:17] When they disobeyed they died, not physically but spiritually. But, now in the New Jerusalem, Ezekiel sees a river extending from the threshold to the Dead Sea with its healing powers. Along that river is the Tree of Life, no longer in the Garden, but along the river banks. Its leaves are offered to heal and its fruit to feed.
No longer will the Dead Sea be dead but a living and vibrant sea full of fish of all kinds. Men will fish, and men will eat. That is a picture of the transforming power of the gospel. We have the gospel message that heals the “Dead Sea” of men’s hearts and its fruit; the Word of God, to feed their hearts and minds.
Jesus used that picture as he taught the disciples. He said to them: “feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep,” and we do that with His life-changing message of love and hope.
Gen 1 to 18 and Ezekiel 18 “The problem of blame-shifting.”
Theology is the study of God, and today’s lesson is about upside-down theology. From Gen 1 to 18, we learn that what was perfect was destroyed by sin. First, Adam blamed Eve, then Eve blamed the serpent, and so it has gone since time began. Here the elders sat before Ezekiel complaining (maybe in their hearts?) that they were in this fix, meaning in Babylon, because of their father’s sin. Ezekiel asked them just as God asked Eve and then Cain; “what have “YOU” done, not what has your father done. Each is responsible to live righteously or live in sin. You can’t use the thinking of Flip Wilson: “he made me do it.”
Ezekiel told them, “the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” [Ezek 18:20] We are all responsible for choosing righteousness or wickedness/sin. We all must stand before God alone, and God will not hear our complaint that “it was because of so and so” or “he made me do it.” Ezekiel then points out the beauty of God’s mercy. “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.” [Ezek 18:32]
May we all stop and thank God that we are not responsible for another’s sin.
Ezekiel 5 to 8 Today we live in a world that seems turned upside down. What was in yesterday is out today. Who was in yesterday is out today. However, this one thing we know: God is the same yesterday as He is today. [Heb 13:8] He may scatter as he told Ezekiel over and over, but no matter where they would be, He is sovereignly orchestrating His plan; no matter the time, circumstance, or season. No one can say they did not know: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” [Rom 1:20]
Ezekiel is the “man of the hour” for the captives by the River Chebar. Even though far from home, God will retain a remnant. Just as then, Paul reminds us: [Rom 11:5] “So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” The remnant is “saved…not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy,” [Titus 3:5]. God has left his remnant so that His truth and the gospel of peace may be carried far and wide to a lost and dying world.
We are that remnant with a message of hope that many need. Are our feet prepared to carry this “good news of peace,” [Eph 6:15]
Ezekiel 1 to 4 The ways of God are unsearchable, so says Paul: Rom 11:33 “Oh, the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable are his judgments, and how unfathomable are His ways.” Do you find it hard to wrap your mind around the way God is, the way He works, and His timetable? Do you stand in awe as Ezekiel must have done?
How do you respond when you see the glory of God? Do you like Ezekiel and others who have had this experience, fall upon your face in humble adoration? What is yur response as you listen to this marvelous book of prophecy? How do you understand the vision of God and His charge?
God called Ezekiel to speak to a specific people whose language he knew, whose ways he knew. God is calling you and me to the same path. Will we share the good and bad news with those God places in our path?
Jeremiah 43: There is a phrase that says: “There is a sucker born every minute.” It seems that in Jeremiah’s day that statement was more than true. Having seen the devastation of the land, the temple, and the carrying off of prisoners, the ones left still did not trust their faithful prophet, Jeremiah. Over and over he had said to yield to their captors, trust God and you will live but they would not. And so we see that the fools decided the words of Jeremiah were untrue, packed up and went to Egypt, and sure enough, trouble followed them. They never returned to Israel, just as God said. They were of the Dennis the Menace generation. I am sitting down on the outside but standing up on the inside. I refuse to admit I am wrong, I refuse to obey, yet are the first to complain when trouble comes their way.
Today the gospel is free but many refuse to listen and submit to God’s ways. They still think that their works are better than God’s ways. Clearly, as Paul wrote: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” [Eph 2:8-9]
Jeremiah 10 to 14 is all about Jeremiah reminding the people that they can “know” God, not just “about” God. Paul reminded the reader of Romans this truth: “since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.” [Rom 1] in sharp contrast to the idol worshipers. Jeremiah boldly told the people of Judah that idols are man-made blocks of wood covered in silver; they must be hammered to stand upright, they have no ears to hear and no mouths to speak. All who worship them “will prove to be stupid and ignorant.” [Jer 10:14]
In the book of Ruth, Orpah “knew about” God from Naomi. but Ruth “knew God.” We can discern that because of their response. Orpah knew about God, but she turned and went back to Moab when Naomi said, go home. Ruth, however, did not and insisted on going not back to Moab but forward to Bethlehem. That is the picture of the gospel. We either turn back to the world or move forward toward the “house of Bread” Bethlehem.
You can “know” God, not just “about” God. The question is, where are you?
Turned on a dime is a phrase we use to point to when all of life changes—in a moment in time. The Israelites point to Egypt as that point when all of life changed, and they began to follow God. Over and over they remind themselves of that moment. God called, and they followed. Centuries later, Jesus came; He called and said, “follow Me.” Some did, and their lives forever were changed; others ignored or refused, and they missed the greatest blessing ever. We call that a watershed moment in which they made a choice and their lives were forever changed. If you are a believer in Christ, you can point to that moment when all of your past was washed away as you crossed the Red Sea or the Jordan River. You heard God’s call, and you left your Egypt and followed God. You did it because His mercy endures forever. You did it because Egypt was a land of death, and following God meant life forever.
Share with us your watershed moment when you chose to follow Jesus.
Joshua 9-10 Have you ever made a snap judgment only to find it blow up in your face? The Israelites did just that when the Gibeonites entered the Israelites camp and deceived them by wearing rags and carrying moldy bread, along with a tale of their journey. Their deception included meekly approaching the camp of the Israelites who accepted them at face value.
But as quickly as they deceived the Israelites, they now found out that their cleverness just might be their undoing and the Israelites will learn a hard lesson in accepting others without checking in with God. This unlikely friendship has turned the Gibeonites into enemies in the land and others seeing them as betrayers. Without Israel’s help, they would have been defeated. Even though the Israelites were not happy with the leaders for their rash decision to accept the Gibeonites, they fulfilled their promise of protection and God will use this experience to bring Him glory and teach the Israelites never again to accept others on what they see rather than checking in with God.
Remember the truth of Romans 8:28 “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God used Joshua’s error in not seeking God’s wise counsel regarding the Gibeonites to bring honor to Himself. God can and will use our mistakes to honor Himself. We often only see the cloud’s underside, but the silver lining, although hidden, will be revealed, so God gets the credit, not us.
When was the last time you didn’t check with God? Did you stop and give Him praise for how He used your mistake to bring about His good?
Numbers 1-2 It has been two full years and still, the people are no closer to the Promised Land than the last experience of the Passover night or their exodus from Egypt. Yet, God’s plan is to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land. As part of that plan, He has Moses begin numbering the men twenty years and older to be His servants in peacetime and in war. What we lack in comprehension, the Holy Spirit reveals to us in our understanding. God wants us to know that He is a God of details. He knows when a sparrow falls; He knows each hair on your head. God has a plan, and your name was on it from eternity past.
God knew that Moses needed others to serve, and God devised a plan for His people. From every tribe, men were to be ready to serve in whatever capacity God had planned. That was then, and it is the same today. God cares for you, and He has chosen you for His kingdom’s work. He calls you His servant. A servant serves others even when inconvenient, whether he or she dislikes the duty. The circumstances are unimportant. God is looking at our heart’s attitude towards His work.
In eternity past, He chose you and me for His work, and God did all of that so men who are in spiritual darkness will hear the good news. He uses people like you and me. Amazingly God wants to be glorified through us. Stop and think about that today and praise God for His lovingkindness that He chose you for His work. It is called evangelism.
What work are you doing today that will glorify Him?
Exodus 31 The Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity who gifts men for the purpose of ministry. He gifted Bezalel with four gifts: in skill, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship. However, the Spirit did not leave Bezalel to do this work alone. He also gifted Oholiab from the tribe of Dan to work under Bezalel. Paul expands this idea in Romans 12 where he explains that each member of the church community has a gift specifically apportioned for the work of the ministry in the church. To the Ephesian church, he told them that we are “equipped for the work of the ministry of God that is to build up the body of Christ.”[Eph 4:12]
It is often heard people say one of two things: (1) I don’t know what my spiritual gift is OR (2) I don’t have a spiritual gift. To say either is to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. This nothing more than a false idea; instead stop and consider yourself blessed to be given your gift so you can serve the ministry.