Magdala, on the Sea of Galilee, home of Mary of Magdala.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Aug 28, Eze 9-12

Today's readings are Eze 9-12. Tomorrow's are Eze 13-15. 

In Eze 9, the glory of the Lord is on the move from within the Holy of Holies. A scribe is appointed to mark those in Jerusalem who have been faithful. The scribe is a type of Jesus, setting apart those who belong to God. Burning coals are gathered to be spread out over the city from God's chariot, a sign of judgment. We hear that the strange creatures described in Eze 1 are cherubs, moving out of the Temple, into the city, along with the Lord Himself. The Lord is departing from the Temple, His glory going with Him. The people in Jerusalem are so out-of-touch with their faith that they are oblivious to the departure of the Spirit. 

Meanwhile 25 leaders, including Jaazaniah and Pelatiah, are proclaiming to the city they will suffer no harm (Eze 11:1-2). Ezekiel is concerned that God is planning to destroy all the people. Yet, he continues to faithfully prophesy. God assures Him He will bring a remnant back from exile and bless them.

The chariot of the Lord leaves the city, stopping on the Mount of Olives on the way. The Lord has abandoned the Temple and Jerusalem, leaving it unprotected and vulnerable to invasion. They are still His people. But, their sin and rebellion have cost them His protection and presence. In a spectacular display of God's grace, God incarnate will return via the same route He left, the Mt. of Olives. 

In Eze 12, Ezekiel is told to appear as though he is sneaking away from the city and going into exile, a portent of what is to come. He is to tremble as he eats, another sign of the fear that will grip the city.  

All the time, the people are doubting, saying of Ezekiel's prophecies, "The days grow long and every vision comes to nothing." God says He will change that saying to, "The days are near and the fulfillment of every vision (will come to pass)". 

The people have taken God for granted. They have begun to view their sins as acceptable. God has delayed venting His wrath, giving them every chance to repent, and they have taken it to mean there is no wrath at all. They've taken Him so much for granted, they don't even notice that He is no longer among them. They no longer listen to His prophets but have decided to embrace those false prophets that tell them what they want to hear, "You're fine! There's no need to repent. He's not a God of wrath. Don't worry about your sin."

Disaster looms on the horizon when God's people mistake grace for a lack of the need to repent. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Aug 27, Eze 5-8

Today's readings are Eze 5-8. Tomorrow's are Eze 9-12. 

In Eze 5, we learn something valuable about God. His wrath must be satisfied. He demands righteousness from His people. However, they have exhibited spiritual pride and arrogance rather than righteousness. They believe they are superior to those around them but God declares them to be worse. Judgment will fall on them for their disobedience (Eze 5:7-8).

Their offenses are named in Eze 6. They suffer from pride and idolatry. Their arrogance (pride) has caused them to turn away from God and worship other Gods, themselves and, as we will see, their belongings (idolatry). 

Their hopeless nature is described in Eze 7. God will judge them according to their ways (Eze 7:3). The worldly things they valued and depended upon will not save them (Eze 7:17-20). Even the religious leaders have been corrupted (Eze 7:24-27).

Their worship is empty and the Temple has been defiled by their idolatry (Eze 8).

In short, these people who have been chosen by God to be His representatives on earth have been busy representing themselves and pleasing themselves, even becoming like the world and, in many ways, worse than the world. They have even turned their back on the one tangible thing that set them apart, God's dwelling.

None of what they are doing and none of what they have will save them because they have forsaken God for their won interests. This is sin and God has promised, repeatedly, to punish sin by venting His unbridled wrath upon it. 

What the people are failing to see is that their religion has, over time, become a self-centered religion that focuses on them instead of God. It's deteriorated into a faith and worship that relies on what they get out it instead of Who they get it from. They no longer truly worship God, they worship themselves and their "blessings".

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Aug 26, Eze 1-4

Today's readings are Eze 1-4. Tomorrow's are Eze 5-8.

Ezekiel is called to be a prophet in 593 BC, 7 years prior to the fall of Jerusalem. He was one of the early exiles taken into Babylon in 597 and spoke to his fellow exiles but also warned of the coming fall of the Great City. 

The book is divided into three sections. Eze 1-24 warn of the judgment coming upon Jerusalem and Judah. Eze 25-32 prophesy judgment on the nation surrounding Judah. Supernatural restoration and the resumption of godly worship are foretold in Eze 33-48.

Periodically, throughout the book, Ezekiel is called to act in an unusual manner, always symbolic of something going in among Gods people. Sometimes, the results are tragic, teaching solemn lessons and demonstrating God's uncompromising holiness. 

Many trees have been sacrificed in an effort to interpret Ch 1 and the vision contained therein. Most attempts fail to recognize that Ezekiel and his primary readers are living in Babylon, a pagan nation worshiping pagan gods. Even the Jews living among them would be aware of the gods the Babylonians worshiped. 

Eze 1 finds Ezekiel near the Chebar Canal, probably about 20 miles Northwest of Babylon.

Ezekiel receives a vision of a storm coming out of the North, a prophecy of the coming invasion. The strange vision resembles the characteristic of a number of gods in the region while pointing cryptically toward the one, true God at the same time. The descriptions are vague and subject to interpretation. What is not subject to interpretation, though, and what is primary to the vision, is that the glory of God rises above all the rest and sits enthroned over all else. Ezekiel's vision is a message conveying the truth that the God of the Hebrews has sovereign authority over all nations and all other gods (Eze 1:26-28).

In Eze 2-3, Ezekiel is called, sent to another city and told to sit in silence for a week. Ezekiel was going to be a watchman and prophet. If he was faithful to the call, proclaiming the word of God to the righteous and the wicked, they would be judged according to their behavior. If Ezekiel failed to deliver the message, he would be responsible for the lives of those he watched over. 

In Eze 4, the symbolism begins. He was to lie on left side for 390 days, one day for each of the years Israel would be in captivity. Then he would lie on his right side for 40 days, one for each of the years Judah would be in captivity.He would eat 8 oz of bread each day and drink about 10 oz of water, symbolizing the food rationing that would be necessary during the siege of Jerusalem. He had to bake the bread over dung, foreshadowing the trials of the exiles who would have to eat the food of an unclean people in an unclean land.

What we see established in the first four chapters is a man of God, sent to His people with a very specific message. If they listen to him and repent, they will be spared judgment. If they reject him and his message, the wrath of God will fall upon them.  

God is setting the template for the arrival and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Aug 25, Lam 3-5

Today's readings are Lam 3-5. Tomorrow's are Eze 1-4. 

The voice of the people is heard in Lam 3:1-20, lamenting their suffering. The author (presumably, Jeremiah) speaks in Lam 3:18-41. He laments his affliction but places his hope in God. Lam 3:37-39 is particularly interesting and may be a bit of a challenge for some. 
"Lamentations 3:37–39 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?"
Confessing that good and bad come from the Lord, the author points out that good, bad and suffering are the results of the inherent sin in mankind and that no one should complain about the just punishment for sin. 

But, the author does not leave us hanging and hopeless. In Lam 3:40-41, we see the remedy for punishment is self-examination and a return to the Lord. He's speaking of heart-felt repentance. 

The residents of Jerusalem reply in Lam 3:42-4:20 expressing their repentance and lamenting the extreme consequences their sin ultimately confessing that they have brought this upon themselves and God has treated them justly. 

This is the heart of true repentance, confessing that God is true and just and turning back toward Him and His goodness. 

The author has the final word in Lam 4:21-22. God has forgiven, He will redeem His people. He reiterates their plight in Lam 5, a reminder of how far they have fallen and the magnitude of God's forgiveness and grace.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Aug 24, Lam 1-2

Today's readings are Lam 1-2. Tomorrow's are Lam 3-5. 

Lamentations was written shortly after the fall of Jerusalem, most likely by Jeremiah (2 Chron 35:25). It is comprised of 5 poems, a chapter each, all mourning the losses of that great city. While it is graphic in its descriptions of devastation and grief, the high point of the poems is found in ch 3 where we hear that the suffering and sorrow would produce hope because God's mercies are "new every morning" and inexhaustible .

In Lam 1, we hear the author's lament (vs 1-11) then the personified lament of the city in vs 12-22. 

Lam 2:1-10 details the Lord's anger unleashed upon the city. Vs 11-19 are the author's lament and his call for the remaining people of the city to pray. In vs 20-22, Jerusalem, once again personified, laments her own destruction. 

Everything has happened exactly as God said it would. That Jeremiah is lamenting and praying, calling the city to repent is the ember of hope that God still intends to do good for His people. Looking back on the Book of Jeremiah, there were times when Jeremiah was specifically instructed by God not to pray for the people (Jer 7:16; 11:14; 14:11). God's judgment was coming but it was to refine not destroy. Now that judgment has fallen, God signals His intention to redeem by allowing prayer for the city and people once again. 

We should see mercy and grace in God's treatment of His people. It's far too easy to look upon the destruction of Jerusalem and label God as vengeful and angry. However, the arc of the story line of the Bible consistently exhibits His grace. This would be a good thing for us to remember when we come upon hard times. God intends to refine and grow us, not destroy us.