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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Consequences for Evil Overflow

Ezekiel 20-21

ezek 20-17

Friday, March 24

In Ezekiel 20 God reviews Israel’s history.  Over and over God provided for His people, over and over He warned them to get rid of their idols, keep His commands and observe His Sabbaths.  Over and over Israel failed to obey God and experienced the consequences.  Over and over God was compassionate and loving and forgave His people and restored them to blessings.

Israel has repeated this history again.  They failed to get rid of idols, they failed to keep his commands and observe his Sabbaths, and now they were about to experience the consequences of their sins.  God would once again treat them with mercy, not as their sins deserved and restore them to their land.

Ezekiel juxtaposes God’s promise to be merciful and restore His people with the threat that His judgment is coming and that both the evil and the good will be cut off from the land and the city and the temple.  Yes, everyone will suffer the consequences of the evil behavior of some.

There is tension throughout Ezekiel.  The wicked will suffer for their sins and the righteous will not suffer, except that at first they will suffer for the sins of others.  Sometimes when God brings his judgment designed to bring people to repentance there is collateral damage.  Good people suffer when bad people sin.  It’s how it was then, it’s still how it is today.  God’s salvation is coming, earth will one day be restored and made whole and good, but in the meantime, good people will suffer alongside the wicked.  Christians are martyred in places like Pakistan and Syria.  Christians sometimes suffer persecution in the United States.  Trials may come to God’s people during times of judgment, but those who trust God and repent of their sins will be saved.

-Jeff Fletcher

(photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Ezekiel_20:17)

God of Mercy. God of Justice.

Ezekiel 17-19

ezekiel

Thursday, March 23

God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel.  He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented.  But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall.  So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt.   This led to a revolt against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt.   Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.  Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed.  Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.

In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.

In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad.  Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.

There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18.  God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die.  God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil.  God wants everyone to repent.  If an evil person repents, God will not punish them.  If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior.  God is a God of both mercy and justice.  He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil.  This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses:  30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

 

In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David.  Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel.  But that has been brought to an end.  There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel.  Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We live on this side of the New Testament.  After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus.  One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth.  In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment.  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation.  We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.

-Jeff Fletcher

Spiritual Adultery

Ezekiel 14-16

ezekiel 16 14

Wednesday, March 22

Chapter 14 gives us a picture of the heart of God.  Elsewhere in the Bible it says that God is a jealous God.  God loves His people Israel as a husband loves his bride.  Israel turned away from God’s love, their hearts were no longer given to God.  God wants more than anything else to recapture the hearts of His people who deserted him to pursue idols.  God wants them to repent and turn back to Him.

God wants to have His people love Him exclusively.  He will not let them worship idols, yet still come to him for prophecy.  This would be similar to a woman who both goes to her lover but then comes to her husband as well.  God will have none of this, no two timing wife.  Israel must have a change of heart and that will only happen through judgment.  The prophets were not permitted to prophesy for people who were also consulting idols.  If the prophets did prophesy to those seeking idols, they too would be punished.

God tells Ezekiel that His judgment is certain and that no human being, no matter how righteous or faithful can stop that judgment.  He warns that even if such great men of faith as Noah, Daniel or Job sought to keep Israel from judgment that their righteousness would not be able to save Israel.

In Chapter 15 God promises to make Jerusalem as desolate and useless as a dried up vine that has been thrown into a fire.  Just as the vine will be totally consumed by the fire, so too, will Jerusalem be consumed by the fire of God’s judgment.

Chapter 16 is one of the most graphic passages in all of the Bible.  If the Song of Solomon was rated PG-13, Ezekiel 16 would probably be rated R or NC-17.  It is extremely disturbing to read.  God compares Israel to an unwanted, discarded child whom God rescued from its disgrace.  God later came along when Israel was old enough to be married, but she was naked and dirty.  God cleaned her up, covered over her nakedness, dressed her up like a princess and made her his bride.  Israel was blessed beyond imagination by God her husband.  But then, tragically, Israel turned to prostitution.  Here Idolatry is likened to a form of spiritual adultery.  Israel had brought great shame upon her husband.  In fact, she was worse than a prostitute in that she paid others her gold and silver to sleep with her.  It’s such a disturbing picture.  And it’s designed to give us a visceral reaction.  It’s a gut punch.

The fact that God must punish Israel for her spiritual adultery is not surprising.  Israel is only getting what they deserve.  What is surprising is that God is going to restore Israel.  Not because Israel deserves it now any more than it deserved it when God first cleaned her up and made her His bride.  God is doing it because God is faithful to His Covenant promises.  God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, Israel.  God does not forget His covenant or break his promises.  God is filled with steadfast love for His people.

After punishing Israel, God will then make atonement for them.  He will cover over their sin and guilt and forgive them and take them back.  Then they will remember their vows and be ashamed of their guilt and will become a faithful wife and turn away from idols.

As Christians, we have been grafted into God’s family and we are now included as God’s bride.  Through Jesus Christ God has found us in our sin, cleaned us up and made us His own.  Are we sometimes guilty of idolatry?  Do we ever act unfaithfully toward God and give our hearts to someone or something else instead of God?  Remember, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to Love God with all your heart.  God wants All your heart.  God is jealous when we give our hearts to another.  May Israel’s spiritual adultery remind us that we must give our hearts fully only to God and no one else.  Otherwise, God may have to win our hearts back the way he did Israel, and we can see how unpleasant that process was for them.  Let’s always keep our hearts faithful to God alone.

-Jeff Fletcher