From Dry Bones to Streets of Gold

Ezekiel 37-39

Ezekiel 37 amber 

Friday, March 31

What a powerful passage.  If you would like a visual of the valley of dry bones, I recommend checking out this minute and a half Youtube clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dafYxu8cQQ).

 

While we can pull out hundreds of things to say about this passage, I am going to stick to two simple ideas.  Ezekiel 37 acts as a double prophecy.  In other words, we can expect two different things to happen:

  1. God will restore Israel and make a nation again from the scattered people. He will bring his chosen people back to the promised land.
  2. God will establish His kingdom on Earth. We know that Jesus is coming back to Earth again to reign until God Himself reigns above all men.

 

We see in Ezra and Nehemiah that prophecy number one is fulfilled as the temple is rebuilt.  In the New Testament we also get a glimpse at prophecy number two.  When Jesus died on the cross we know that the curtain was torn and we have hope in the future Kingdom! After all, Jesus did preach most about the kingdom of God during his time on earth.

 

As my dad says, he has two major goals in life: 1. To be sure he maintains a strong relationship with God, and 2. To get as many people into the Kingdom as possible.  I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to live forever on the streets of gold glorifying God and Jesus all day long! How are you furthering the Kingdom cause through your everyday actions?

 

Revelation 21:1-4: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look!” God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or morning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

-Amber McClain 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quit Something

Ezekiel 34-36

Ezekiel 34-36

Thursday, March 30

 

“It’s Thursday.  Quit being who you were.” – Bob Goff

 

Bob Goff, the author of “Love Does”, has a weekly ritual.  It’s called “Quit Something Thursday”.  Each Thursday, Bob Goff quits something to free up time or shake things up.  He has quit having an office.  He now works on a lobster boat he refers to as the Goffice.  He quit leaving phone messages to minimize the time that is wasted with the back and forth.  He throws away furniture, and has even resigned from the board of a non-profit charity.  Now the idea is not to back out of your prior commitments and become a wild-card liability for the people around you.  Instead, the idea is to give God room to show you something new. Bob Goff suggests quitting habits that keep us from being the best we can be.  On a more moderate scale, he suggests we might quit keeping score, quit sorting through our failures, or quit believing you are who you used to be.

 

So how does this relate to our reading today?  In Ezekiel 34 the sheep were scattered because the shepherd did not care for them; the shepherd only cared for himself.  However, we learn from Ezekiel 34:2-4 that it is the responsibility of the shepherd to care for the flock.  Instead, the shepherd “eat[s] the curds, clothe[s] [him]self with the wool and slaughtered the choice animals, but [he]did not take care of the flock. [He] did not strengthen the weak or heal the sick or bound up the injured.   [He has] not brought back the strays or searched for the lost” (Ezekiel 34:2-4).  The shepherds are too caught up in their own lives, their own ideas, their own health and fortune, that they lost sight of their purpose.  If not a shepherd, where is their identity? Thankfully God takes action and tells of the time when David (David’s line) will be the shepherd and God himself will be their God.  We see parts of the kingdom here on earth now, and we wait excitedly for the return of Jesus and the kingdom on earth.

 

We, too are shepherds tending to a flock.  As Christians who are no longer on milk, we have a flock to tend to.  We have a Church who needs us to show up in more ways than to simply fill a seat on Sunday.  As the shepherd cares for the flock, and strengthens the weak, we are called to do the same.

 

So the question becomes: what are you going to quit so that you can tend to your flock? Is your plate overfilled? How will you re-evaluate your obligations so that they align with your true priorities? It’s Thursday – quit something! I am going to quit washing my clothes because it takes up valuable time I could be investing in others…kidding mom, I really do wash my clothes.  But in all seriousness, I will quit placing so much emphasis on how others perceive me, and instead trust that the identity I have in Christ will carry me where I need to go.  What will you quit?

 

“We can’t change much if we don’t quit much” – Bob Goff

 

-Amber McClain

Return of the Watchman

Ezekiel 32-33

Ezekiel 32-33 amber

Wednesday, March 29

Ezekiel never fails to leave us with descriptive imagery and analogies.  Today is no exception, Ezekiel has left us a list of vivid images that reveal the plans for numerous groups of people.  The people of Assyrica, Elam, Meshek, Tubal, Edom, Princes of the North, Sidonians, Judah, and Egypt all fall to the sword of Babylon.  In the visual above, I have charted what this decline tends to look like.  NOTE: The Bible does not explicitly say that each of these groups fell in the same exact way; we do not know the details. However, we can say that each group of people did not follow God with their hearts and minds, which led to their fall from the sword of Babylon.

 

Ezekiel’s second calling as a watchman is also a significant event.   Thanks to Jeff Fletcher, we have a great recount of his first calling.  Once again, God uses repetition to stress the importance of the event. However, we can fall into an easy misconception that we as people are responsible for changing people and making them believe in the one true God and the hope we have in the eternal kingdom.  We cannot change people.  Only God through the work of the Holy Spirit can change our hearts and minds.  As shown through the example of Ezekiel as a watchman, we are responsible for planting seeds and illuminating the light of God.  We are called to holy lives, set aside from the world.  The Holy Spirit works in wondrous ways, bandaging wounds and changing hearts that we as humans cannot do.  It is our responsibility to share our faith and hope, but not our responsibility to change someone.  It can be frustrating not seeing the immediate results of our witnessing, but rest easy knowing God IS working!

 

I often find solace and motivation to keep on from Matthew 5:16:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”

May God bless you and your peers today as you share the Good News and hope we have in the return of our Savior!!

-Amber McClain

The Cycle

Ezekiel 29-31

ezekiel 29-31

Tuesday, March 28

Like Tyre and the other nations mentioned in Ezekiel 25, God will place Egypt into the hands of Babylon.

 

Here are a few of the main points/interpretations and moments of personal application that I picked out in our passages today as noted by the visual above:

  • Egypt = monster
    • Egypt will be like a sea monster with hooks in their jaw, and fish leaching onto its scales (29:3-5).
    • God will bring a sword (Babylon) against Egypt and they will become a scattered and desolate land (29:11)
    • After 40 years, God will reunite Egypt and they will be a lowly kingdom (29:15)

 

  • Egypt = Assyria = Garden of Eden
    • Assyria was once a thriving, beautiful nation. Even the “garden of God” (Eden) could not rival it” (31:8)!
    • Assyria was taken captive by the Babylon’s and Egypt has the same fate.

 

  • Life Application: I am a big-picture person. Therefore, it feels like I have basically read the same thing for the past five chapters.  The cycle looks something like this: there is a nation that disobeys God and subsequently God sends Babylon to conquer them, leading them to desolate decline.  So, what can we learn from this cycle? We learn that this matter is important to God because he repeats it over and over again.  God is trying to relay an important message to His children because He continually makes the same point through the prophet Ezekiel.  I pray that the Holy Spirit is working in your heart and mind as you read this text, and that you might open your heart to the change God desires.  What is God trying to show you through this repetition?

 

For me, I come back to the theme that God yearns for our attention.  He longs to hear from us and be in communion with us.  In Ezekiel, we see that God longs for the nations to follow Him and is willing to go to extreme measures to call His children back home.  I Corinthians 6:19 comes to mind, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have received from God?  You are not your own”.  We are not our own, but belong to God.  How can you break-up with your old self and give a new part of your plans, emotions, desires, and abilities to God?  God longs to hear from YOU!

-Amber McClain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Shift in Tone

Ezekiel 27-28

ezekiel 27-28 amber

Monday, March 27

Thanks to Rachel Cain’s devotion on Lamentations recently, we know that to lament means to mourn. Here, God tells Ezekiel to mourn Tyre.  To me, this looks like a shift in what we saw yesterday.  In our reading yesterday, God told the rebellious people not to mourn.  Here, God is calling for a season of mourning.

 

At the beginning, we see that Tyre was a great nation.  Some of the vivid imagery is displayed in the visual above.  Tyre is compared to great ship.  The ship is made of the finest wood and cloth; Tyre was a wealthy city who traded with many.

 

However, in 27:26, we see another tonal shift.  The east winds will come and break this beautiful, seemingly perfect ship into pieces.  Although I am by no means a Bible scholar, it seems like a fair assumption to say the east winds represent Babylon.  Tyre will be destroyed by Babylon, just like the nations foretold in Chapter 25.

 

We see this theme continuing in Chapter 28.  God tells Ezekiel in reference to Tyre, “Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations” (28:6).  Here, it is evident that pride is once again an obstacle for Tyre.  Their pride blocks their vision of the True God; whether explicitly stated or not, through the actions of Tyre.

 

Application to our lives: Although we may not explicitly state we are a god, do we sometimes un-purposefully act as though we are? Do we act as if we are entitled to a life of abundance?  Do we let our pride obstruct the divine glory of God?  I know that I can act this way sometimes.  When I feel these emotions creeping up on me, I remind myself of my identify I have in Christ, not my identity I have built up in treasures on earth such as pride and wealth.  I think of the disciples and how they left everything to follow Jesus.  This seems to be a theme I keep coming back to in Ezekiel.

-Amber McClain

 

 

 

 

 

Bearer of Bad News

Ezekiel 24-26

ezekiel 24-26 amber

Sunday, March 26

When I think of Ezekiel, the phrase “bearer of bad news” comes to mind.  After completing numerous acts of valor such as eating a scroll, becoming mute, laying on his side for over a year, shaving his head, and scattering his hair among the Earth, Ezekiel continues to be one of the few servants of God in his time.  As a major prophet, he does not have news of prosperity and victory to recount to the people.  Instead, he continues to call the rebellious people in exile (and in the surrounding nations) to repentance, ultimately forewarning of their destruction and the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

To me, Ezekiel is no “easy read”.  At times, these scriptures seem abstract and I have a hard time finding application to my daily life. Therefore, I have created a visual to help me, and hopefully some of you understand some of the main concepts in these passages.  I hope these illustrations help some of the content “stick” and become real for you.  If my amateur doodles aren’t your thing, I completely understand that too J

 

Here are a few of the main points/interpretations and moments of personal application that I picked out in our passages today as noted by the visual above:

  • Parable: Jerusalem as a Cooking pot
    • Pot = Jerusalem
    • Scum = corruption of the people *notice this corruption is visible; it cannot be hidden from God.
    • Choice meat = God’s chosen people
    • The meat (God’s people) is thrown out because it is ruined from the scum (corruption/sin)
    • The pot must be set on coals until it’s impurities are burned away (Jerusalem must be destroyed).
    • Application to our lives: Don’t let the scum of your life keep you from bearing good fruits. Find your peace and fulfilment in God, not in the approval of others, your work, sin, the media, and other worldly influences. These things will fail you, God will never fail you.

 

  • Death of Ezekiel’s Wife
    • Ezekiel is told not to mourn, but “groan quietly” (24:17)
    • Interpretation: God instructs Ezekiel and the community not to mourn as he tries to give them perspective into their behaviors. The rebellious people do not mourn when the temple, which should be “the object of their affection” (25:21), is destroyed.  Therefore, they ought not mourn when something of lesser tragedy takes place.  God should be the top priority of all men.
    • Application to our lives: Where are your priorities? Do you value the gifts of this earth more than you value the glory of God? Do you worship the approval of others, celebrities, idols, your children or spouse on accident?

 

  • Prophesies against nations near Judah
    • Because the nations of Ammon, Moab, Tyre, Philistia, and Edom did not care when the temple was destroyed or when the people of Judah went into exile, they will also be punished. The entire nation will know that HE IS GOD.
    • Application to our lives: Earlier in Ezekiel we read that Ezekiel will be held accountable for the sins of others if he fails to spread God’s word. Here we see that other nations are held accountable to a similar degree. We too must spread the good news to ALL nations! What a blessing and a privilege!

 

Do you allow yourself to accept the peace that only God brings?

-Amber McClain

 

Amber McClain cannot wait for the Kingdom.  If she won the lottery she would 1.) Buy a helicopter so that she could spend weekdays learning and teaching in the USA and weekends with our brothers and sisters abroad.  2.) Pay for her fiancé, Josiah to get his helicopter-flying license, and 3.) Throw a world-wide pizza & prayer party; everyone in the world is invited!

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

Ezekiel 22-23

ezekiel 22

Saturday, March 25

Throughout Ezekiel there are certain themes that keep circling back around: God’s judgment against Jerusalem, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In today’s reading we see another very graphic depiction of Israel’s immorality.  This time, it’s the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah.  They are likened to two sisters who prostitute themselves.  They again perform lewd acts shaming themselves before their neighbors.  It’s very sad, indeed.

God searches for someone to help:  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”  God could find no one righteous to fill the gap and act as the mediator between God and His people.

We know the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom.  One day, Jesus would stand in the gap to keep God from destroying the earth.  Jesus on the cross fills the gap between a holy God and a sinful people.

I hope that these devotions from Ezekiel will help you to see some important truths with greater clarity.  God loves His people very much.  God wants His people to be faithful and obedient.   Some are and some aren’t.  When His people are unfaithful, God brings calamity and judgment, in order to turn people’s hearts back to Him.  It’s not the judgment that ultimately turn hearts, but it’s the fact that despite all of our wicked acts that deserve punishment, God is faithful to His promises and His steadfast love remains.  Ultimately, its God’s mercy that leads us to repentance.  May you know His love and His mercy through Jesus Christ, the man who did stand in the Gap for us.

-Jeff Fletcher