Ending on a Hopeful Note

 Today we are wrapping up the book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel is, at times, quite difficult to read. Perhaps not as bad as Leviticus, but it is definitely one of the tougher Prophets to get through. The first two thirds of the book is about judgment (not a very happy subject). But you’ve made through that and arrived at the uplifting stuff about Israel’s restoration and their place in the Millennial Kingdom.

In Chapter forty-seven we read about a river that flows from the temple. When the water pours into the Dead Sea, it turns the salt water fresh. Fish will be in this river, and fisherman will stand on its shore, casting their nets, catching many different species of fish. Trees will grow along its banks, bearing fruit monthly. “Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

In Chapter forty-eight, the final chapter, we read about the division of the land among the tribes of Israel. A special portion of this land will be set apart for the LORD and be given to the priests and in its center will be a sanctuary for the LORD. There will also be a city, with twelve gates named after the tribes of Israel; this city will be called “the LORD is there.” Yahweh is there.

As has been already mentioned, Ezekiel is writing this book in a tumultuous time for the Israelites. They are in a hopeless state. Feeling forsaken and wondering if God will ever restore His people. The last fifteen chapters of Ezekiel offered the Israelites hope that God would indeed restore them. Ezekiel ends on a hopeful note: a city in the middle of the Promised Land named Yahweh is there. Those who were in a land that was not their own, suffering under the hands of great oppressor would have certainly been uplifted by such a promise from a God who shows He won’t forget His people.

We, too, serve that God who doesn’t forget and doesn’t break His promises. Even when you’re in the deepest, darkest, depths of depression have hope. Even when the world is crumbling around your feet, and it seems like it will never get better, know it will. Even when your doubts overtakes all other feelings you have, believe God is stronger. He has a plan. He’s made a promise. And He keeps His promises. One day we will be in God’s Kingdom and Yahweh will be there.

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Responding to the Glory of God

 

Ezekiel 43-44

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Sunday, April 2

How should we respond to God’s glory?

To be able to answer this question, we should know what God’s glory is. A simple definition is His character, holiness, and excellence revealed. It is the essence of God on display.

In today’s passage, we read about Ezekiel experiencing God’s glory in a vision. He hears the voice of the LORD (Yahweh), which sounds like “the roar of rushing waters,” sees the land “radiant with his glory,” and witnesses the glory of Yahweh filling the temple (Ezek. 43:1-6).

You and I will likely never get the opportunity to receive a vision from the Almighty in which we can see His glory in such an amazing fashion. But God has revealed aspects of His character, holiness, and excellence to us in several ways. In these we can experience the glory of God and respond to it.

God has revealed Himself through His creation. This idea is called Natural Revelation. Romans 1:20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When one looks at nature it is difficult, at least for me, to believe that everything seen came about by chance and was not designed by an intelligent being. While Natural Revelation doesn’t tell us much about who God is, it does show a great deal about what He is capable of and how great He is.

God has also revealed Himself through the scriptures. What Natural Revelation leaves out about who God is, the Bible fills in much more. The writers of each book in the Bible were inspired by God through His holy spirit. They rely stories of the wonderful things He has done and inform readers of what He can do, and some even reveal what He will do in the future. The Bible offers a large portrait of the greatness and goodness of God, but doesn’t give a complete picture. Not until we dwell with Him in His kingdom will we experience the full weight of His glory.

God has revealed Himself through His son. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is an expression often used to illustrate how a son is very much like his father, this could be said of Jesus. But more accurately it would be said that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree at all, it is essentially still part of the tree. Jesus is the exact representation of His father. If we want to get a better picture or understanding of God, the best thing we can do is to simply read the Gospels that tell of Jesus. The character of Christ is the character of God. The attributes Jesus exhibits are the same of his father. The glory of God is seen in His son.

The question still remains, how are we to respond to God’s glory?

I think our response should be twofold.

(1) We should be reverent. God is not like us. He is perfect. He is holy. He has great power. He created the world in which we live and, when we messed it us, had a way to make it right again. So, he deserves to be praised. He is entitled (it is his right) to be worshiped. This reverence we have for God should lead to not just passive adoration, but active glorification. We can stand in church and say God is great, but if we think this to be a great truth, it should move us to give our lives to him and serve him everyday of our lives.

(2) We should be repentant. When I say God is holy this means two things: he is set apart and he is pure. We, as human being who engage in sin, are not pure and we tend to act the same as everyone else, making us not set apart. That being said, we are called to be holy as God is holy. The first step towards holiness is repentance. We must forsake our sin and choose Jesus instead. He is the only one who can make us holy.

As you read our passage for today, as you go outdoors and see the beauty that is nature, and when you read about Jesus in the gospels, think about how you should respond. After all, you’re experiencing God’s glory.

-Joel Fletcher

Joel Fletcher is a former student of ABC. He currently lives in Minnesota with his wonderful wife Stephanie. He likes to read boring non-fiction books, watch boring baseball, and hang out with his NON-BORING wife in his free time. He is planning on teaching a class at FUEL this year (its topic will not be boring).

In His Sanctuary

 

 

 
Ezekiel 40-42

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Saturday, April 1

Confession time: It is really easy for me to skim over these chapters filled with rich detail and precise measurements of the ideal temple. However, I am trying my best to pull some application out of this beautifully described temple.

I do not believe that God would give Ezekiel this vision for no reason. Perhaps God gave Ezekiel this vision to make a point about how God wants the people in exile to live. As a child I can remember being told not to run in the sanctuary. So, instead we learned to play tag, fast-walk edition. I can remember my parents telling me that we did not want to run in God’s house.

Whether it be a sanctuary in our modern-day church, or a temple during the times of Ezekiel, The Holy Spirit dwells in these places of worship. Perhaps God shares vivid imagery of this temple to express how badly he wants to dwell with the Israelites again. God awaits the reconstruction of the temple because he wants to live among the people. God yearns to spend time with us! However, like my parents had to tell me to stop running in the sanctuary, sometimes we need to be disciplined to put us in our place. God had to discipline his chosen people in hopes that they would turn away from their sin and follow the desires of God. In order to change their ways of idolatry and sin, drastic changes were necessary.

Phew! Aside from the description of the breathtaking temple, we have some application!

I pray God blesses you as you continue your daily walk with Him!

-Amber McClain

From Dry Bones to Streets of Gold

Ezekiel 37-39

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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 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quit Something

Ezekiel 34-36

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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

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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

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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