Wednesday, December 21, 2011


We are going to be covering an entire book of the Bible today - huzzah! Obadiah is actually the shortest book of the Old Testament.

v.1 - Throughout this book Obadiah is going to be prophesying about God's judgment of the people of Edom. The question is - what did the people of Edom do? Well, as we will see Obadiah speak of throughout the chapter...the people of Edom betrayed Israel during occupation by the Babylonian Empire. They helped captured fleeing Israelites and brought them back to the Babylonians and they also took part in the looting of Jerusalem.

v.10-11 - "Your brother Jacob" - what does this mean? The Edomites were descendants of Esau which means they were actually hereditary cousins to the people of Israel. So not only did they betray God's people, but they betrayed their own flesh and blood, and as the pagan Babylonians entered into Israel raping ad pillaging...the Edomites did the same. Though God had ordained the judgment of Israel through Babylon, it enraged Him that the cousins of Israel would delight in their conquest and participate in it. I would guess that it angers God and breaks His heart when He sees fellow Christians - made into family through the sanctifying blood of Jesus Christ - hurting one another, betraying one another, delighting in one anothers' failure. The Body of Christ should be a place of safety and love.

v. 15 - God is absolutely just...He cannot be unjust. When injustice happens in the world it will have to come face to face with the wrath of our all-powerful, just God. The Edomites sins were poured back on them and they were crushed. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we have been freed from the crushing death f our own sins, if we choose to believe. I hope that is where you place your trust.

v. 17-18 - Though judgment has been unleashed on Israel through Babylon, there will be survivors - a remnant. Edom will not be shown the same kind of mercy. For going to war against the people of God and betraying their own blood, they will be like the stubble on the fields after the harvest that is burned away - there will be nothing left. Within 100 years of this prophesy, Edom was in ruins and has ceased to exist. It never ends well when you set yourself against God and His people.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Amos Chapters 7-9

7:1 - Amos sees a vision of a huge swarm of locusts about to descend on Israel...the timing in this passage is very important. It is after the king's initial the king had feed for his horses Israel will use for food for themselves and their cattle. The king's army even at full strength will be able to offer the people no protection in the face of God's wrath. Amos begs for mercy for the people and God relents...He offers them mercy even though they have not turned back to Him. This verse highlights the meaninglessness of human strength and the willingness of God to relent on judgment if even one person will cry out.

7:12ff - The corrupt high priest of the temple tries to convince Amos to leave town and stop stirring up such a ruckus. He even offers a back-handed compliment when he calls Amos a "seer." While seer was a title of respect in the ancient world, it was also a profession where people made money by seeing visions. Often times, the more money the better the vision if you get my drift. The high priest, who only has his position because he is a lick-boot for the king, is accusing Amos of being in the prophecy game for the money. But Amos makes it very clear to the high priest...he is a poor farmer who prepares figs under the orchard trees...he has been called by God and cannot stop prophesying. Here we have a picture of two paths: those who try to use their supposed belief in God to serve themselves and those who will respond to God's call no matter what the cost or consequences - which one are you?

8:2 - Amos uses a really nice play on words here. He describes the nation of Israel as ripe summer fruit...which sounds really nice - you can imagine delicious juicy fruit ready to quench thirst and fill hungry bellies. But the word for summer fruit in Hebrew is very similar to the Hebrew word for "the end" which is used in the beginning of the last sentence in verse 2. They may seem like summer fruit on the outside, but the nation of Israel is rotten on the inside and the end is near for them. God's judgment is coming because of their choices and there is nothing they can do to stop it.

8:11 - God is going to give the people the most distressing famine of them all - He is actually going to take His presence away from them. With the Spirit of God gone from their country, they will find out what true emptiness is emptiness inside that dwarfs that of a hungry belly. Jesus tells us in John chapter 15 that if we stay connected to God, we will produce god fruit...we will be a part of the body of Christ. If we choose to reject God, we will be cut off from the source of light and life and will experience this same famine of God's presence.

9:1-4 - The judgment upon Israel is will happen...there is nothing that the people can do...they cannot escape. God has given them countless opportunities to repent and turn back and they have continually set themselves as His enemies. He promises here that He will no longer protect them and pour out good blessings on His people...He will allow the evils of the world to wash over them in crushing judgment.

9:14 and 15 - As always, no matter how bad the is always done as a means of bringing about life-change and repentance. It is clear to see as you read through the OT, that this has always been God's heart motivation in judgment.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Amos Chapters 4-6

4:1 - The area around Bashan was very fertile...good land for grazing cattle, so Amos uses a stinging play on words to describe the rich women that lived in this area. He basically calls them fattened cows, which has nothing to do with their physical appearance and everything to do with their hearts. The rich women in Samaria live in luxury and they pressure their husbands to crush the poor around them to maintain their lifestyles. Definitely applicable to our culture...people who are willing to use anybody they need to use and support systems of economic oppression to maintain consumer lifestyles.

4:6 - Cleanness of teeth - what does that mean? Well, let me ask you something - what are your teeth like when you haven't eaten anything? Clean, right? There is no food in your teeth when you haven't had food in a while. Amos is using that phrase to describe people who are in a famine. People who just happen to be so stubborn that they refuse to return to God no matter what He throws at them for discipline.

4:12 - This is the final climactic moment of the more will God warn more will He throw bad situations at them so that they will return to Him...He is coming. And it is never a good thing when somebody says, "Prepare to meet your God!" Especially when it is God Himself saying it. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). The time for warnings is over and the time for judgment has come. Nothing good ever comes from living life in opposition to God.

5:3 - Amos wants the people to understand the situation they are in - how dire it is. They will have no human power to place their hope in...their armies will be decimated by 90%! Human strength will fail them as it always does.

5:4 - This is such a powerful verse - "Seek me and live." These are the words of life. If we seek God we will find life. In John 14:6 Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the one comes to the Father except through me." Life has always been found in God...Jesus gives us access to God...all other roads end in death.

5:11-12 - Amos once again lays out the huge problem God has with the people of Samaria...God's people are neglecting the poor, abusing the weak, neglecting the helpless and oppressing others to feed their own greed. God hates behavior like this. As Christians who pattern their lives after Jesus Christ, we should do everything we can to fight systems that make oppression possible today.

5:15 - Amos gives us a little hint about how you combat the selfish human nature that exists within you...go to war on evil in your life - prepare for it, defend against it, know where you are weak, etc. Seek God as 4:6 told us to do and you will find will be able to love good things and live a life that brings honor to God.

5:20 - I know this verse sounds strange, but it really does make sense. The Day of the Lord truly is terrifying to those who walk in the dark. If you have spent your whole life refusing to live in the Light, then it is a fearful and terrible thing when God shows up. The Jewish people are crying out, saying that they want the Day of the Lord to come, but Amos is warning them - "No you don't! You people are the enemies of God because of your greed and selfishness...if He shows up your will be terrified!"

5:21-23 - God hates empty and meaningless religious behavior. It is pointless to go through the motions of worshipping God if there is no relationships behind it. This is just as true today as it was thousands of years ago. How many Christians today attend services week after week out of duty to "what they have always done" or "what is expected of them" as opposed to be driven to Christian community by their love of God?

5:24 - What happens when millions of gallons of water moving at a high rate of speed tear through an area? Mass destruction. Basically anything that is not solidly built is scoured away. Amos is crying out to God...let justice roll through this land like mighty waters that will wash away all the foundationless evil here. When God's justice rolls through - only that which is anchored in Him will be left.

6:4-6 - It is a terrible thing in the eyes of the Lord for the Jews to sit idly by, to stuff themselves, to live in comfort without a care in the world...while the Promised Land and the Nation of Israel are in an absolute sin-filled shambles. It is also a terrible thing for Christians today to ignore the fact that so few Christians are concerned about being actual disciples of Jesus and just living comfortably in their suburban bubbles.

6:9-10 - This sounds really weird, but it is a description of the destruction that will come down on the rebellious Jews in Samaria. Those who live in fortresses, believing that they will be protected by thick walls and strong arms, will die in their fortresses. When their concerned relatives show up to see if there are any survivors, there will be none. And they cannot call on the Name of the Lord, because it is already too late...they had their chance, but they refused to return to they are dead. This should remind us of the frailty of human strength and the necessity to seek a relationship with God now, because we never know how long we have.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Amos Chapters 1-3

1:1 - Amos is called out of the fields as a shepherd to become a prophet of God. This would have been pretty shocking and controversial in the Jewish world, because shepherds were considered second-class citizens. This goes to show that God has a habit of using those who the world least expects to do incredible things. Amos' life also becomes an illustration of what he is teaching the people, because his ministry is focused on the way the powerful rich have oppressed the powerless around them. This vile oppression is thrown back in their faces as a powerless shepherd is used as the mouthpiece of the all powerful God of everything.

Amos throws out a disgustingly impressive list of the vile oppression that the Israelite leaders have poured out on those around them. Amos frequently throughout the book reminds them that they were once slaves in Egypt themselves who were freed only by the mercy of God. This reminder highlights the twistedness of the people who have now become slave masters and oppresses themselves. This is a far cry from what God has called His people to be, and Amos is calling them to change their ways or suffer judgment. Here's the list...

v. 3 - Not caring about others or the future they have taken peoples' crops and destroyed their fields
v. 6 - Once slaves themselves, they show no mercy and sell others into slavery
v. 9 - They take their greed to deeper levels of depravity by selling their blood relatives into slavery (The descendants of Ishmael and Esau were still living in tribes and nations around Israel)
v.11 - They are pitiless, violent, angry and never-forgiving...the consequences of these sinful actions are still played out in the Middle East today!
v.13 - They kill everyone, including pregnant woman for the sole purpose of taking their land and expanding their holdings. They do not understand that life is more sacred than wealth.
v. 2:1 - They show no respect for the dead
v. 2:4 - They have rejected God's law (obviously)
v. 2:6-7 - They will do anything to feed their insatiable greed...they sell the righteous for money...they oppress the needy for something as small as a pair of sandals (Anyone reminded of Nike here? Paying poor laborers in other countries a few cents an hour to sew shoes.)

2:13-16 - They have become arrogant in every aspect of their lives. They believe they can do whatever they want to do because they have earthly power. They believe that might is right. But God, speaking through Amos, makes it clear t them that their human strength will fail in the end and they will reap the toxic harvest that they have sown. Never forget that you cannot save fades...physical strength fails...our trust must be in God alone.

3:12 - Though Israel will face judgment and destruction for their sins...there will be a remaining remnant that survives because God is always faithful to His covenant even when the Israelites are not. Like the last bits of a lamb stolen from the mouth of a lion...there will be some piece of Israel that survives the coming wrath of God. There is always light at the end of the tunnel...always hope...God always relents for those who repent and turn back to Him.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Joel Chapters 1-3

Read this and you have read a book of the Bible today...nice work!

2:13 - I love this verse!!! This is a picture of the heart of God...He is the God of second chances...if we are willing to return to Him and throw ourselves on His mercy He will relent from the destruction we deserve and He offers us grace instead. Thank you God.

2:25 - Even though we will face the consequences of our sinful actions and poor choices (Most likely we have all figured that out by now), God's awesome forgiveness offers hope and the possibility of redemption in the future. All is not lost! Return to God. No matter what you have done...your relationship...your hope...your soul...can be restored by the power of God's love.

2:28 - Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we see lived out in the Gospels - a perfect sacrifice that was made "once for ALL" - the Holy Spirit of God has been poured out on ALL of humanity. God is working in this world and working in our lives...shaping us...are you listening?

2:32 - For me this has echoes of Romans 10:9 which says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead - you will be saved." ALL who call on the Lord will be saved...again we see God's heart for all the people of the world, not just the Israelites. The Lord is calling to us...calling us to life...calling us to perfect community...calling us to hope...are you willing to see how inadequate you are to save yourself and cry out to Him?

3:16 - This reminds me of an incredible picture painted by C.S. Lewis in the "Magicians Nephew." It is the picture of the lion Aslan (Jesus/God), roaring out a song of love...a song of creation...a song of power...that brings the newly created world into being. Everything around Aslan reverberates with the perfect majesty and power of His voice. God voice roars out and the world trembles beneath His perfection and power. The Word (The Roar) became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world He gave His one and only son, so that whoever believes in Him will not parish by have everlasting life." This event shook the very foundations of human history and brought hope.

3:21 - Never forget that God is justice...and justice will be met out. Vengeance is for God...not for us. We must always trust int he way that God works out His plan and the path through which He will bring justice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hosea Chapters 10-14

10:12 - The old, "you reap what you sow" adage is used throughout the scriptures (It probably originated in the Bible). Hosea is very clear that if you "sow" the righteousness of God...if you live out your faith and strive to walk in God's truth, you will "reap" love, creation, redemption, joy, etc. When you "sow" selfishness and rebellion against God, you "reap" destruction and heap guilt on your head.

11:1 - In this passage, this verse is used to reference God's calling of the Israelite people out of Egypt during the exodus...but it is also a prophetic reference given to Hosea that speaks of the coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew 2:15 tells us that this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus because Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaped to Egypt to avoid the infanticide that was taking place in Israel around the time of his birth. Later, God called his son back from Egypt to begin his ministry to the Jews.

11:8 - Even though God knows that His people deserve harsh judgment for what they have done, He loves them too much...He cannot destroy them...He shows compassion to them. God's compassion and love are always there in His character...they always offer us a glimmer of hope in spite of our sinfulness. It was that loving compassion that drove God to give himself as a sacrifice for our sins. To take our judgment so that we might be spared.

13:4 - This passage is very clear...there is only one entity in existence who can save - God. Salvation can only possibly come through based on what we know about the NT - Jesus is God in the flesh. If salvation came through Jesus and salvation can only come through God, than Jesus is God. This is just another passage that supports a trinitarian understanding of the nature of God.

13:14 - This verse is basically a hope filled taunt that God throws in the face of sin and death. Death as inevitable and powerful as it is, cannot overcome the love of God. Death will never overcome God's mercy. Death has no power in the face of God, and so God says, "Where o death is your sting?" Where is your strength...where is your power, because it does not exist before me. In the wins.

14:3 - This is another heartbreaking example of the rejection of God that is still so prevalent in believers lives today. The men and women of Israel began to cry out to and worship idols they had created with their own hands...that sounds so absurd doesn't it? But how many of us bow down and worship our jobs, our hobbies, our possessions...things that are meaningless on an eternal scale. Be careful where you use your worship.

14:4-7 - What a way to end the book of Hosea! Future hope. Promises of healing. No matter how far we have fallen God is strong enough and loving enough to handle our sins and bring redemption to our lives. The only place we will ever truly flourish is in the presence of our awesome God.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hosea Chapters 7-9

7:3 - Hosea is telling them that the whole land is corrupt from top to bottom. As the people continue to sink deeper and deeper into the mire of idolatry and sinfulness...where are their leaders? Where are the kings and princes that the people so desparately longed for (So they could be "like everybody else!")? Are they calling the people to change? Are they leading by example? Are they creating accountability? No. They actually rejoice at the sinfulness of the people...they cheer as the people reject God...they are the antheisis of godly leadership. In the areas of your life where you are a leader - does you leadership reflect godliness or human selfishness?

7:14 - The people are distraught and lost...they feel empty and unsatisfied...they cry out for help, but they do not really seek God. They try to fill the emptiness within them...they try to fill it with food...they try to dull their minds with alcohol...they try to cut themselves, so they can feel something...anything...but it all leaves them empty, because they are not truly seeking God.

7:16 - They say they want to come back...they say they want things to return to the way they were, when times were good, but they refuse to look up. They refuse to look to God for help and strength. They will not humble themselves before God, so they will continue to be trapped in the emptiness of their corrupt lives.

8:2 and 3 - They claim to know God, but they do not. Their true feelings are demonstrated by their actions and their words. They defy God at every turn...they revel in their sinfulness...they are not believers. How about us? The truth of our faith is lived out every day. Are we driven to holiness by the blood of Jesus Christ, or does wickedness pour out of our faithlessness? It doesn't really work any other don't get to claim to follow Jesus and then refuse to follow him.

8:8 - Israel has been so twisted and influenced by the pagan world around it, that they have become utterly useless to the kingdom of God. God called them to be His priest stand out as a light to the draw people towards the holiness of God. But they allowed themselves to become just like everyone else. This same thing happens today. How many of us have become useless vessels for the kingdom of God, because when non-Christians look at our lives they see nothing different about them? That cannot be the case!

9:10 - They offered themselves us to false gods, idols, temptation and sin...and they became as vile as the objects that they worshipped. We take on the twisted, sick characteristics of the sins we partake in. Let's not pile guilt and perversion on our heads by getting caught up in things that run contrary to the way of Jesus.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hosea Chapters 4-6

4:1 - No land is "God's land" if the majority of the people are faithless and do not allow the truths of God to shape their everyday lives. That is why I often find is laughable when people refer to America as "God's Country"...look around...look at the way we consume while others starve...look at the filth we export across the world...I think we live in a culture that chases after pagan idols made of metal and wood (electronics and money) much like Israel in Hosea's time.

4:6 - One of the many things that destroys our lives is our ignorance to God's plans for us...our lack of understanding about what will really bring us fulfillment. When we choose to ignore God's truth, we invite destruction into out relationships, work places, and souls.

4:7 - Look around with a discerning eye and you will see that it is often the most wealthy and successful people that quickly turn away from God. When life is good and you don't have to fight for survival every day, you can start to believe that you don't need God...start to believe that you can save can bring yourself never works. One of the great truths about the equality of human beings is that rich or poor, successful or not...we are all in desperate need of the salvation that comes through God and only God.

5:13 - When we rely on human strength and ingenuity to save us, we will always be let down in the end. Nothing in this world can save not cling to after His truth and the rest will take care of itself.

6:1 - This verse lays out for us the purpose of God's discipline on His people. God brings judgment so that His people will return to Him. He allows pain so that we will seek His healing.

6:2 - I like this promise of hope and allusion to the future salvation that comes through the cross. God will raise his people up on the third day. In Judaism, after the third day, the person was considered well and truly dead...this highlights the fact that only God can save us from the death and destruction brought on by sin. We know that Jesus actually experienced death on our behalf...he was no simply asleep...he was not drugged...he was dead in a tomb and God brought him back to life. God is the bringer of life and resurrection for every person.

6:4 - Human love is often fickle and disappearing like the morning dew. This is a stark contrast to the eternal and steadfast love of God. Which love should you put your hope in?

6:6 - This is what God wants from us...this is what faith looks like lived out. A living faith is demonstrated by steadfast love for God and others, and a thirst for His truth. Do these characteristics define your life?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hosea Chapters 1-3

1:2 - God calls the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute...why would God do this to a man who loves Him? God wants Hosea to experience this difficult relationship, so that Hosea can more deeply understand and be able to communicate to the people of Israel what God feel when they are unfaithful. Often, difficult trials in life enable us to rely on God more deeply and understand His love even better. You will also notice, that Hosea never objects to God's instructions to marry Gomer. He is faithful to God and apparently in love with his adulterous wife. In Hosea's commitment to Gomer, he follows in the merciful footsteps of God who continuously loves people who reject Him.

1:6ff - The first child: Jezreel - why the strange name? This child is actually Hosea's and God instructs him to name the child Jezreel as a prophetic message to the people of Israel, that the dynasty of Jehu that began with a blood bath in the valley of Jezreel (2 Kings 9 and 10), will come to an end in the same manner. The second child: Lo'tuhama - due to Gomer's adulterous behavior, this child might be Hosea's and might not. The second prophetic name is used to tell the people that God will allow their sin and rebellion to go on unchecked. There will be consequences for their actions and He will allow those to play out without mercy. The third child: Lo'ammi - this is almost certainly not Hosea's child, but one that was conceived out of adultery. Not only is Lo'ammi not Hosea's child, but God wants the people of Israel to understand that they are no longer His people because they have broken their covenant promises and prostituted themselves out to the cultures around them.

1:10ff - Amazingly, Hosea parallels the child name prophecies immediately with opposing prophecies that offer hope in the future. Though God is going to allow His people to face the consequences of their sins...He is allowing it in an effort to bring them back to Him. God does not punish His people out of spite or because He enjoys it...He brings punishment so that there might be change and hope. The people of Israel who hear this prophecy and take it to heart will have the opportunity to once again be the people of once again be connected to the living God...the God who brings life! God actions always bring redemption and hope in the end.

2:4 and 5 - This highlights the destructive cycle of cultural sinfulness and perversion. Cultures that are dominated by anti-God behavior and principles, produce generations of people that are the same way. This is what was happening in Israel for generations. In the same way, children who grow up in twisted home environments, often find themselves twisted in the same fashion. Parents must always remember that great responsibility that comes with shaping the lives of their sons and daughters.

2:13 - God is deadly serious about the sin that exists in our lives. Are you? Are you doing everything you can...are you crying out to God for strength and mercy in dealing with the sin in your own life? When we bow down and worship the things of this world, we set ourselves against God. When we chase after the material wealth and success of our cultures, we become blinded to the point where we can no longer see God. That is very dangerous.

2:19 and 20 - As always with God, there is hope at the end of the period of punishment. Even in the face of Israel's cultural adultery...even though they have turned from Him over and over...God is willing to "marry" them...He is willing to be in covenant relationship with them and give them everything they need. That is the God we serve...that is the God who loves us...honor your vows to Him.

2:23 - Yet another picture of God's gracious and undeserved love. He will love the unlovable. He will have mercy on those who do not deserve it. He will take the rebellious, the adulterous, the sinful, the broken, and make them into His people once again.

3:1 - This is the ultimate explanation for why God asked Hosea to make his married life into a prophetic illustration. The prophet will take Gomer back, just as God take His adulterous people back. Can I follow in the footsteps of Hosea? Can I exhibit this kind of faithfulness to the calling of God? When I go through difficult/painful experiences, can I choose to become more like God rather than blaming Him? That is what Hosea does.

3:2 - Such a great picture of reconciliation with God. Look at what Hosea does here: he pays the price for Gomer's adultery; he takes her back into his home and sets up the rules for how they can redeem their marriage; and he promises even in the face of all she has done to love her as his wife. Incredible. God paid the price for our sins on the cross. God invites us into the community of the Holy Trinity and calls us His bride. God promises to love us. In light of your own struggles and sinfulness, what kind of rules do you need to set up to make sure that you are honoring God with your life? What needs to change? What do you need to stay away from?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Daniel Chapters 10-12

10:5ff - Daniel comes face to face with the vision of an angelic being - some have guessed over the years that this may be the angel Gabriel who is often used by God to deliver messages to people, but there is no clear evidence in this passage to make a strong case for naming him. What is clear is that this is a being of great power.

10:7ff - It is interesting that Daniel's friends cannot see the angel, yet they know that they are in the presence of a great source of power...they go running in fear, though they can see nothing. I think it is possible that this face to face meeting is more than just a dream-like vision. I think Daniel may be getting access to the world behind the veil...he is most likely looking into the spiritual realm that exists around all of us all the time. He can see the reality of what is going on that we are so often ignorant of.

10:13 - Though some have tried to make the case that this powerful being is God, I do not think that is the case because the being says that it needed help from another angel, Michael, to be able to get through to Daniel. I promise you, God is infinitely more powerful than any of His created beings. We get the picture here of angelic and demonic warfare. The angels have been trying to get through the Daniel to give him a message, but evil forces of the prince of Persia have held them at bay. Finally with the help of Michael, the chief warrior angel, the messenger is able to break through and approach Daniel. Makes me wonder what kind of spiritual warfare is going on around all of us all the time. Never forget that prayer is not just about asking for things you want...prayer is one of the most powerful weapons you have in the face of the spiritual war that is constantly raging in our midst.

Chapter 11 - I do not have the time to write this all out in detail, but this is an amazing example of biblical prophecy that can absolutely be backed up by secular history. Written years and years before any of it happens, Daniel is able to chronicle the fall of the Persian Empire that had just come to power, the rise of Alexander the Great and his quick demise, the splitting of Alexanders great kingdom into four parts and the intrigue and warfare that take place after that transition. It is amazing how detailed and perfect the account is. The greatest of the four that was mentioned previously in Daniel is the ruler Antiochus Epiphanies who did his best to eradicate traditional Judaism. The one thing that is unclear about the prophecy in chapter 11 is how it seems to switch gears in verse 36. Though the prophecy has clearly been about Antiochus in the previous verses, it seems to change roles and make reference to a more distant future anti-Christ that will lead the world into chaos before the final judgement of God. It is okay to get to a point where we say that we cannot definitively say what a prophetic passage means, because the mysteries of God are not something that can be perfectly placed within a human create systematic theology. What we know is that the world will continue to be attacked by leaders and followers who display anti-Christ behavior, until the end when God will make everything right.

12:2-3: This is an incredible passage that is the only one from the OT that clearly articulates a double resurrection in the end. A resurrection of both the followers of God and those who refuse4d to humble themselves before Him. The one is resurrected for future hope and glory, and the other is resurrected for judgement and condemnation. I know what side I wanna be on!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Daniel Chapters 7-9

We have to remember as Daniel switches gears into the prophetic, that he is using language that was common in the ancient world. He is using apocalyptic language...or language that revolves around the end of empires and the end of time. These visions are not generally meant to give us an exact timetable about how to figure out when the world is going to end, but affirm for us over and over, that though human evil is strong in the world...God is always in control.

7:1-8 - I'll give some basic ideas about these symbols (Again, not an exact science here)...
The Sea - we see that the waters of the sea are violent and turbulent and they give the impression of chaotic times ahead. The Babylonians had a creation myth revolving around Tiamat (Also know as "The Sea") who tried to destroy her children when they killed her husband/their father. In Babylonian mythos, Marduk (The chief God of Babylon) defeated his mother "the Sea" in battle and created the world with parts of her body. Though he defeated her, he had to enclose the sea because she violently continues to fight back. So the Babylonians associates the sea with chaos. Daniel uses this imagery to highlight the terrible things that will be coming to the world in the future.
4 Beasts - These beasts can be interpreted in various ways revolving around the Babylonians Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans and future kingdoms. The imagery that we need to focus on is the fact that the beasts are all mutant hybrids of various created beings. They are vile abominations and their very nature goes to war against God's created order. They represent the chaotic and sin-filled human systems that have plagued the world since the first sin.

7:9 - The Ancient of Days is picture here as an old and wise judge sitting on a throne of justice. It is verses like this that lead people to picture God as an old man with a long gray beard. Hopefully you know that God is not human...God is not an old man...God is not weak in any form or fashion...this is apocalyptic imagery used to highlight the ancient and wise nature of God. God is no more an old man, then the Greek Empire was literally a leopard with 4 sets of wings. This is symbolism. What you need to understand is that no matter how evil the systems of the world become, God is in control and will make sure that justice is given in the end.

7:13 and 14 - As is always clear from prophetic scripture, God wins out in the end. That is what really does not matter when it is going to be - Jesus says we will not know the day or the hour in which the end will come. What we do know is that we can put our trust in the FACT that God will prevail. Daniel says that a son of man who is like the ancient of days will come and bring an eternal kingdom that will never be overthrown. Does that sound familiar to anyone? The word became flesh and dwelt among men. Jesus is the son of man, who not only is like God, but is God...who came to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to bear in the world. A kingdom bought and paid for by his blood and a kingdom that cannot be overcome.

7:18 - Though they may seem weak in the eyes of the world, it is the saints - the humble servants of God who will actually inherit the kingdom of God. Through selflessness and faithfulness, we show a strength that is unassailable to the world.

8:3 - The ram with two horns (as later interpreted by the angel Gabriel) is the Medo-Persian Empire which displaces the Babylonians and takes control of the middle east soon after this vision.

8:5 - The powerful goat with one horn is the Greek Empire led by a single powerful ruler - Alexander the Great...who conquered much of the known ancient world.

8:8 - The vision is so historically accurate it is almost scary...remember, this is written hundreds of years before any of this happens...Alexander the Great dies at the ripe old age of 33 (My age - eek!) and his sons are quickly slaughtered and his empire is split between his four most powerful generals (four horns - get it!).

8:9ff - One of the four new rulers rises up and becomes greater and more powerful than the others. Antiochus Epiphanies is most likely the little horn that grows to be large. He was the head of the Seleucid Empire which became great and powerful due to his political savvy and deceptive nature. He tried to eradicate Judaism by getting the Jewish elite to become more like the Greeks. He sacrificed pigs to Zeus on the altar of the Lord and allowed sick sex rituals to take place in the Temple.

8:14 - What is the 2300 mornings and evenings all about? Scholars are not quite sure. It could either means a literal 2300 days or 2300 morning and evening sacrifices that would take place in Judaism, which would take place over the span of 1150 days. Interestingly enough, both of those interpretations work in conjunction with huge events in Antiochus' desecration of the temple and the subsequent Jewish rebellion and rededication of the Temple.

8:17 - I always find it interesting that ever single biblical occasion where an angel shows up, people get really scared and fall on their faces. They must be incredible beings to behold. Yet, we must remember that they are simply beings that were created by our awesome God. How much more terrifying and awe-inspiring is the presence of the one and only God? Maybe one of the reasons that God does not show Himself to us, is that we could not handle it?

9:3ff - We have already seen throughout the book of Daniel, how faithful Daniel remained to God no matter what was happening around him. Yet here we see that he stands as an intercessor for his people...the people of Israel...crying out to God for forgiveness and mercy. We must always remember that faith is not something that is to be lived out on an individual is something that is supposed to be worked out int he context of community. Are you and I taking responsibility for the failures of the worldwide Church? Are we crying out to God for forgiveness...or are we looking for excuses so that we can blame others for the failings of the Church?

9:24ff - This "seventy" number is generally understood to be seventy-sevens or seventy weeks of years, which actually comes out to be 490 years. Gabriel is confirming Jeremiah's prophecy of a 70 year exile, but also saying that the return to Jerusalem will only be the beginning of a judgement that will last nearly 500 years. When Antiochus sacrifices pigs (unclean animals) on the altar of God, the Jews referred to that act as the abomination of desolation or an abomination that is so vile that it only brings desolation. Now check out Daniel 9:27 - the abominations that makes desolate. After the Jewish people rebelled against Antiochus and eventually earned their freedom, they were able to rededicate the Temple to God. And shortly after that, one who was like a Son of Man came to earth...born of a virgin...born in Bethlehem the hometown of King David...and he came so that we might have life and have it to the full...he came to put an end to the abomination of desolation and make it so that we could become part of his eternal kingdom.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Daniel Chapters 4-6

4:19-27 - I find it interesting that Daniel seems to legitimately care about what happens to Nebuchadnezzar. This is the king who sent Daniel and company into exile and destroyed Jerusalem...yet he has found good in the king and actually wants to help him. He does not want to give the king the bad news about the dream interpretation, and then when he does, he strongly encourages the king to live in humility and righteousness to avoid the fate of the dream. This seems to imply that the dreams are not necessarily prophecy as much as they are warnings about what will happen if nothing changes in the life of the king. I wonder if by the grace of God we can offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us and find the good in them...even getting to the point where we can pray for blessings and mercy in their lives? That kind of attitude and strength is only available through God.

4:30 - It seems like the king must have taken Daniel's words to least for a little while. For a year, the king is left in a healthy state, until one day when he is walking on the rooftop of the palace and surverying his kingdom. He sees the beautiful hanging gardens of Babylon and the wall that a four horse chariot can drive across the top of (Both wonders of the ancient world), and he decides to arrogantly worship himself. Her revels in the pride of believeing that he has built this all through his own greatness...when everything he has been allowed to build has been a gift from God. Pride and arrogance lead us on a path away from God and toward destruction, as Nebuchadnezzar quickly finds out.

4:34-37 - After being driven into the wilderness to live for possibly seven years as a wild beast - Nebuchadnezzar learns his lesson. It is interesting that to learn that he is not a god, he must become a creature that is more animal than human. The most stubborn of us sometimes have to be brought to our knees before we can clearly see how desperately we need God. Fortunately at the end of his time in the wilderness, Nebuchadnezzar humbles himself before God and offers worship. I hope that this attitude of humility pervaded the rest of his life and that he became a God-fearer...I hope to see Nebuchadnezzar in heaven some day.

5:1ff - about a change of pace. In one verse, Nebby is gone and a random guy named Belshazzar has taken over power. What we don't see in the text here (because it didn't matter to the narrative) is that there are two other rulers in between Nebby and Bel. In fact, Belshazzar is really only a ruler because he has run his father Nabonidus off and taken over. Wait, doesn't verse 2 tell us that Belshazzar us the son of Nebuchadnezzar? Well, not really. It says that Nebby is his father, but the word used for father can also mean predecessor, or one who came before. It is kinda like calling the Israelite patriarch "Father" Abraham...he is not really the father of every Israelite but he is a predecessor and leader of is people. Apparently Belshazzar, backed by the priests of Marduk, ran Nabonidus (Who preferred the Babylonian God Sin) out of the capital and he was living in a nearby oasis city with an army of his own. We are coming into the story at the tale end of some serious court intrigue.

5:3 - Bel has grabbed all the leaders of the Babylonian Empire together for a pep-talk/last supper in the palace, because the Persian horde has invaded their country. He apparently wants to inspire the leaders of the empire to work together to fight the Persians and he so desperately wants to make a good impression that he has his servants dig out the holy golden chalices that Nebuchadnezzar stole from the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. These are objects so sacred that even Nebuchadnezzar never had the audacity to use them. Belshazzar serves wine in them in a last ditch effort to inspire the troops by reminding them of the glorious conquests of Babylons past. Unfortunately for him, this is the last straw for a dying empire that has become more and more vile since the death of Nebuchadnezzar. They use the sacred temple objects to worship false gods of wood and stone...and God has had enough!

5:10ff - The woman who steps onto the scene is most likely the "queen mother," who just happens to be Nebuchadnezzar's wife (It makes sense, since kings usually had plenty of younger wives and this is only 20 years after Nebby's death - rulers liked to keep relatives of beloved kings around as a reminder of their power). She remembers the incredible wisdom and faithfulness of Daniel and begs Belshazzar to send for him.

5:17 - I want you to notice how differently Daniel treats Belshazzar than he used to treat Nebuchadnezzar. He sees no redeemable qualities in the spoiled young ruler and does not treat him with the respect that he used to give Nebby. He plainly tells Belshazzar that he wants nothing to do with his gifts...but that he will interpret the meaning of "the writing on the wall" for free. Where he was once heartbroken to have to give bad news to Nebuchadnezzar, he now almost gleefully prophecies against Belshazzar...he knows that the Babylonian Empire is beyond redemption and ready for the cleansing judgement of God.

5:22ff - While standing before a man who could slaughter him in an instant, Daniel pulls to punches with his interpretation. He tells Belshazzar that because of his arrogance and disrespect towards God, that he had been judged and found lacking. The Babylonian Empire will end with Belshazzar.

5:30-31 - Interestingly enough, non-biblical historical texts tell us that Babylon was conquered during a secret night raid by the Persian Empire. While the rulers of Babylon were drinking in honor of non-existent gods...the ruler of all creation allowed their enemies to sneak into the kingdom and bring it to utter destruction in one night.

6:1 - There is no non-biblical record of Darius ruling in Persia until Darius I who does not come to power for many years after this moment. So who is this Darius? There are various options, but the most likely is that Darius was a Babylonian title given to the general of the armies of the true Persian king Cyrus. While Cyrus ruled his vast empire from Persia, it makes sense that one of his generals would have become an under-king in Babylon - under the authority of only Cyrus in all the world. We know that he is a discerning man because he is instantly drawn to the wisdom and humble leadership of Daniel. Just as Nebuchadnezzar before him, Darius makes Daniel a high-profile leader in Babylon.

6:4 - Jealous co-regents look everywhere to find fault in the life that Daniel leads, yet even his worst enemies can find nothing bad to present to the king. This is a testament to the integrity and faithfulness in which Daniel lived his life. This is an excellent challenge for us - to let out faith dictate the way that we live in every aspect of our lives.

6:9 - A law that says that Darius is the only god who can be worshipped for 30 days? That sounds really weird? Why could he not see through their ploy? What is the point of proclaiming your deity for only 30 days? In the time during the transition of power from Babylon to Persia, he most likely seeks to cement his own importance into the minds of the people he now rules. He probably thinks that 30 days of worship will be a great way to get his leadership burned into people's hearts.

6:10ff - I love this picture of the unwavering faithfulness of Daniel. This verse also goes to show that there is no way Daniel bowed down to worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar made (He most likely just wasn't there). After hearing the decree that the people of Babylon can worship only the king, Daniel goes immediately to his rooms...goes out on the porch so that all can see and prays to the one and only God in the universe.

6:14 - This gives us a picture into the heart of Darius - there is goodness there. He does not want to kill Daniel...Daniel is his favorite regent (Unlike Nebuchadnezzar who if you can remember, was violently angry at Rak, Shak and Benny when they refused to worship the idol he made). He looks for a loop hole in the decree, but cannot find a way to break the unbreakable law he has made. Maybe that is why he chooses to have Daniel thrown into the lion's den instead of just having him beheaded or something like that. The lions are more of a test of guilt rather than an execution (As you can see when Daniel is released the next day - he doesn't just get left in there indefinitely). None of this changes that fact that Darius' own arrogance is what led to this brutal situation.

6:24 - You cannot deny the miracle of this event...the lions were not full...they were not tired that day...when the other regents and their families are thrown in, the starving lions catch them in the air before they can even touch the ground and begin devouring them. It is God and only God who saved Daniel.

6:26 - Again, because of Daniel's faithful love of God - God's name is honored by pagan lips. I hope I can leave behind a legacy like where even non-Christians could see the hand of God at work in my life. Wouldn't that be great?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Daniel Chapters 1-3

1:2 - The writer of Daniel makes it very clear from the beginning of the book that God is in control. Nebuchadnezzar may think it is by his own power and intelligence that he has captured Israel, but it is really only because God has allowed it to happen. God has allowed this enslavement to take place because if the faithlessness of the Israelites, but also because it offers a chance for His name to be made know in Babylon.

1:8 - Why do they refuse to east the food? This is probably some of the tastiest food of the highest quality that they have ever come in contact with - what is the deal? There is a very good chance that this food had been first offered to false gods. It was typical in the pagan near-east for kings to first offer their feast food to the gods so that they could eat their fill (Since their gods weren't real, there was always a lot left for the generally greedy kings). After the king and his officials were done easting, the leftovers were given to the young men being trained like Daniel. Daniel and his friends show their faithfulness by refusing to eat food that had been offered to non-existent gods. It is a shame that most current day Christians are so undiscerning about the things that they consume (Not just food, but entertainment as well). Do you consider everything that comes into your life along the basis of whether or not it will defile you...defile your heart?

1:12 and 13 - I love the attitude of Daniel here...he could have played the martyr...he could have boldly refused to eat anything and also could have been killed for his insolence. Instead of acting in a rebellious fashion, he offers the chief of the servants a reasonable alternative. How many problems could be averted in this world if people respectfully looked for compromise during arguments as apposed to arrogantly refusing to budge.

1:17 - Did you read that? Daniel, the hero of the faith, was trained in all the ways of the Babylonians: divination, sorcery, Babylonian philosophy and religion, ancient science and technology. Not only was he trained in these things, but he was the head of the class - he excelled in every area. He drank in knowledge and used his understanding of the pagan world to serve God's kingdom. Isn't that a refreshing change of reminds me of Paul's deft use of Greek argumentation and thought in the NT.

2:18 - When faced with a huge problem and no answers, they immediately go to God in prayer...where they faithfully ask God to reveal the mystery to them. And Daniels faith is especially evident because he sets up the appointment to meet with the king before he even has time to pray. He trusts that God will provide and so he acts in faith and then immediately begs God for the answers he needs. Do you seek out God's wisdom and listen closely for His voice?

2:27-30 - Daniel makes it absolutely clear, even before he reveals the nature of the dream, that it was God who was able to reveal the mystery to him. He uses the opportunity, in front of a man who could ordered him to be killed on a whim, to glorify the name of God. Do you and I use every opportunity available to us to make God's name great in this world?

2:36ff - The statue - golden head = Babylon. Bronze = the Persian Empire. Iron = The Greek Empire. Clay/Iron = The Roman Empire.

2:44 - The stone that crushes the feet of the statue represents the kingdom of God which came crashing to earth through an introduction by Jesus Christ - God made flesh. This is a kingdom that has invaded, pervaded and transformed every culture and human kingdom that it has come in contact with since its inception. It is an everlasting kingdom that is not made through human ingenuity, but through the faithfulness of God. Thank you God for allowing me to be a part of a kingdom that is so much greater than myself or anything I could ever do!

2:47 - Through Daniel's faithfulness, God's name is honored by a pagan king - who just happens t be the most powerful human being on earth. What is your faithfulness going to are you going to change the world and bring honor to God's name with your life?

3:1 - Why did Nebuchadnezzar want this statue built? At the end of chapter 2 he acknowledges the wisdom and power of Daniel's God, and then suddenly makes a 90 foot idol of some pagan image - what is up with that? Well, we need to remember that Nebuchadnezzar is a polytheist (Which means he believed int he existence of many, many gods)...he was wowed by Daniel's ability to interpret the dream, but he never fully places his faith in the one true God. I am sure that this idol just represents the latest religious fad for a bored king who has everything of human importance, yet who cannot fill the emptiness within him.

3:12 - Where is Daniel in this portion of the story? Where are all the other Jewish men who were in the same situation? Did they all bow down to the idol, leaving only Rak, Shak and Benny to stand for their faith? No, I don't think that is the situation at all. If you remember, Daniel asked that his friends would be made into powerful advisers in the Babylonian empire. I believe that this created some jealousy amongst the other wise men of the day and they saw this as their opportunity to get rid of their rivals. That is why they were singled out...if you notice, the Chaldeans remind the king that he had made Rak, Shak and Benny into powerful advisers...they are clearly holding a grudge.

3:17 and 18 - I love their faithful answer to the king here...they give the king no satisfaction...this is a lose/lose situation for him. They do not say, "Well, if we live our God is real and if we die you are right, king." They say, "Our God has the power to save us, but he may choose to let us die in this furnace...either way, we will never stop believing in the one and only God." Do you and I carry this same attitude of incredible faithfulness into our lives. Good or bad...come what may...can you faithfully worship God?

3:22 - The furnace (Which is there probably because it was used to cast the huge statue) is so hot that the men who throw Rak, Shak and Benny in are instantly incinerated. Now that is intense heat!!! When you follow false gods and faithless leaders, it can only end in death and destruction.

3:28 - Again, because of the faithfulness of God's followers, His name is worshipped by pagans. I hope that my life displays a faithfulness and hope that will allow even those far from God to get a glimpse of His love.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 46-48

47:1ff - The visionary temple that Ezekiel has been describing in the past few chapters becomes the source of river that goes against the laws of nature and grows deeper and deeper as it meanders through the world. The trickle of water eventually swells to become a torrent that Ezekiel cannot cross. The river becomes a great source of sustenance - abundant with fish and fruit and offer life to all who come to its shores. This reminds me of the picture of the river in Revelation chapter 22, that flows from the throne of God and gives sustains the tree of life. Ezekiel's river flows out of the temple, because it comes from clearly paints the picture of God's salvation plan. From out of the worship of the chosen people of God, the Israelites, the sacrificial system was set up...from out of the tribes of Israel will come Jesus Christ - the ultimate sacrifice...and from the sacrifice of Jesus comes the hope and salvation for everyone, if they are willing to come to him - they will have life.

47:21ff - No longer are the human kings in charge of divvying up the land for their people, they have too often dealt out only corruption. A great example of this is Jezebel having Naboth murdered so that she could acquire his vineyard for the king. When human beings are given great authority it is almost always corruptible. Now, the divine king, God, will tell them exactly what the land portion is for each of the tribes of Israel. We also once again see God's love for the entire world because He opens up the inheritance of the land to non-Israelite people who are living in those areas. God's plan has always involved ALL the people of the world!

48:8ff - If you notice, each reference to the division of the land is described as going from east to west. I find it interesting, and important, that the north and south dimensions of the land are not mentioned. What does this mean? Well it most likely stands as a powerful symbol about what is supposed to be the motivation of the Israelite people. There is no vertical dimension according to the map, because what really matters is their vertical relationship with God. Being the chosen people of God is not about acquiring as much land as is really all about looking "up" and seeking out a right relationship with God. It is not about human effort - God will give them what they need and what really matters is that God is their inheritance. They are not successful as a people because of human effort - their success is based solely around the blessings of God. Jesus in the NT said that the meek shall inherit the earth...the meek do not take it over...they do not buy the earth...they do not fight for it - they inherit it from God. Never forget that your portion is an inheritance from God.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 43-45

43:2 - When I read this verse I imagine the roar of a huge waterfall...have you ever been near a really large water fall? Think about Niagara Falls with millions of gallons of water pouring over every day. The sound of the waterfall frowns everything else seems to be shaking its is awe inspiring. The presence of the Lord is absolutely overwhelming and majestic.

43:5-6 - The Spirit of the Lord brings Ezekiel into God's presence, which sounds very similar to John's description of entering into the presence of the Lord in Revelation. The Spirit is verse six is also described as a this an OT picture of it the personification of the Spirit as a part f the triune nature of God? Not sure...what do you think?

43:10 - Why have there been such detailed descriptions of the temple over the past few chapters? Because God wants the people to very clearly understand exactly what they are missing out on when they rebel against Him. He wants them to be ashamed of what they have spurned...they have rejected their Creator and a meaningful/satisfied life, for false gods and emptiness. Do you ever think about the things that you are missing out on when you choose to turn from God's way?

44:3 and 9 - These verse and much of this chapter are focused on the extreme holiness of God. Wherever the Lord passes is holy ground, so the gate is barred from human use. The presence of the Lord is holy and the Israelites are a holy nation of priests, so anyone non-Israelite is not allowed to enter into the sanctuary of God. But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, changed everything on the cross. The walls and gates that kept us separated from God where torn down and all men were given access to the presence of Gd should they choose to enter. By his death, Jesus circumcised the sin from the lives of all humankind and so all men and women have the option to enter into the holy presence of God. Thank you Jesus!

44:18 - No sweat...hahaha...I like this Ezekiel guy!

44:28 - When we learn that all we need is God, we learn the most valuable lesson in all of existence. We were custom made by and for God, and everything we seek out to satisfy us other than Him will always be a let down. In fact, all the problems of the world stem from the fact that we insist on chasing after things that are not God. When are we going to get it through our thick skulls that God is the inheritance we long for...Gd is the only filling to the emptiness within us.

45:8 - A major part of the sinfulness of the Israelite people that kept leading them into exile, was corrupt leadership. Godly leadership does not take advantage of its position. Godly leaders are as much servants as they are masters. They do not oppress, they offer hope and freedom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 40-42

Ezekiel chapters 40 - 48 describe a future temple of the Lord that Ezekiel sees in a vision. These chapters are often skipped over quickly because of the great attention to detail that Ezekiel pays to the measurements and exact layout of the structure. But God would not have given Ezekiel this vision if it did not represent something very important. God is painting a picture for Ezekiel of what the kingdom of God looks like...He is given the prophet a sneak peak into the new world order that God will be setting into place as He works out His plan for salvation for the world. The visionary temple represents the safety that exists when we enter into God's presence...the separation of the holy and the profane. The temple wall is 10 feet high and 10 feet is a wall that cannot be easily overcome (v. 5). The gates of the complex are huge and long, making them great focal points for defense of any opposing forces, which is important, because gates are usually the weakest part of a defensive structure and these gates are by no means weak. These things work together to show that people who enter into the kingdom of God and dwell in His presence will be safe and secure. The imagery of the cherub and the palm tree that decorate the inner parts of the temple structure represent God's divine justice and fertility respectively (v.41:19). Together they show us a picture of the just kingdom of God that is full of hope and new life - that is the place to be!

I have included a great picture I found of the temple complex online...the artist did his best to try to make a structure that stuck to the biblical description as close as possible. The reason this imagery is so powerful comes fully into light as we think about the person of Jesus Christ. Ezekiel's temple is impossible for us to get into...the walls are too thick...the gates are too strong...the separation between the holiness of God and the fallenness of ourselves and the rest of the world is too great...we do not have access to the awesome kingdom of God. But God had a plan to bring us access to His presence all along. He came down to earth in the form of a man - Jesus Christ. Jesus became the literal temple of the living God. This was a temple that was not impervious like the Ezekiel temple...the body of Jesus was fragile and weak like all human bodies. The temple of the living God was nailed to a cross...the temple was torn down as a sacrifice for our sins. Now because of that sacrifice we have access to the presence of God. We are covered in the blood of Jesus and we can enter into the sanctuary of God's presence. His sacrifice is the only proof we have to show that we belong with God. All we have to do is accept and choose to enter. But for those who refuse to accept...for those who refuse to let the sacrifice of Jesus Christ cover their sins...there is no access. The holy and the profane are still separated.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 37-39

37:3 - God, in a vision, takes Ezekiel back and forth across a valley of dry bones. It is clear that there is nothing living...these bodies are not recently dead, they are brittle bones...there is no life in this valley. And God asks Ezekiel, "Will these bones live?" Ezekiel is unsure...he has seen first hand God's wrath...he has seen God pour out His judgment on the people of Israel because of their sin - he cannot answer definitively, so he says, "Only you know what is going to happen here God." Ezekiel knows that God may choose not to give the bones life, but also that God has the power to bring new life no matter how thick the stench of death is. Ezekiel faithfully understands that God has the power to do anything, but realistically knows that sometimes God chooses not miraculously act. Can we be faithful to God no matter how He answers our prayers? No matter what His will for out lives is?

37:5-12 - God tells Ezekiel to preach to the dry bones and he does. As he is prophesying to the bones, they begin to rattle together and muscle and sinew wraps itself around the bones...then skin is stretched across the bodies in the valley. After Ezekiel finishes preaching there are newly formed bodies everywhere, but they are not alive. The resurrection is a two step process, like the creation of man in Genesis, where God forms Adam and then breathes life into Him. This tells us that redemption is is a does not comes easy, and the only way for it to bring new life is if the Spirit is intricately involved. God instructs Ezekiel to preach again - to call the "ruach" - the Spirit, the breath, the enter into the bodies in the valley. And the bodies spring to life...what was once utterly dead and lifeless is now living and active. God gives Ezekiel this vision as a reminder that new life is always matter how far gone a person matter how corrupt a nation...there is always hope for redemption. It is hard is not a quick fix...but if we invite the Spirit of God to enter into our lives, we can be recreated!

37:21ff - The two sticks represent the split kingdoms of Israel and Judah. God confirms that they will once again be brought back together under the leadership of a ruler from the line of David (Jesus anyone?). Though they have split and hate each other...though it seems like the relationship is irreparable...there is always hope when God is on the move.

38:11ff - The descriptions of Gog are most likely a symbolic picture of the enemies of God that surround the people of Israel. Ezekiel paints a pretty interesting picture here. The Jewish people have once again been restored to their relationships with God...they are living peacefully int he mountains of Israel. No longer are they trying to be like the rest of the world...going to war and chasing after false gods...they are living under the protection of God. But when the enemies that surround them see their peaceful ways, they begin to lick their will be easy plundering to storm into Israel and take everything from the defenseless Israelites. They will pour over the nation of Israel like a flood, expecting them to be easy prey...but they couldn't be more wrong...

38:21ff - As they attack Israel, God will pour out His judgment on them...they will be utterly crushed. The true strength of Israel lies with God. This prophecy highlights perfectly the source of true strength. The people around Israel mistakenly think that the Jews are weak because they are not building huge walled cities and living like the rest of the world. But they have a hidden strength that comes from God that is greater than anything in the world. This reminds me of the failed attempts to wipe Christianity off the face of the earth in the Roman Empire. It was easy to slaughter the early Christians who refused to fight back and refused to back down from their faith...but the more the Romans persecuted and killed...the more faithful the Christians became and the more the Gospel of Jesus Christ spread. They had a strength that the Romans could not and I have access to the same strength. Do you tap into it?

39:7 - God's name will once again be synonymous with power and strength as it should be. God uses the Israelites who look weak by the standards of the world, as a signpost for His might...they are victorious by His power and not by their own.

39:17ff - In the ancient world, animals were always used as sacrifices to gods and then the people would feast on their flesh in celebration. But God flips the whole thing around...the animals will actually be the ones feasting on the flesh of the enemies of God (Pretty morbid stuff!). As the carrion birds feast, they declare the glory of the Lord through His great power.

39:23 - And finally God will be vindicated...finally the world will understand that Israel was destroyed and sent into exile because of their own sin, not because their God was too weak to protect them. God was in control all was God that was in control of the enemies of Israel who were allowed to enslave them, and it will be God who restores the fortunes of Israel as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 34-36

34:2-3 - The "shepherds," the kings of Israel, have chosen to take advantage of their positions of leadership instead of taking seriously the sacred and holy task of leading God's people. They have oppressed the people, sent their sons off to die in meaningless wars, taken their money so that they could live fat and is truly a shame. It is always disturbing and destructive when people use their authority and power to hold others down for their selfish gain. Make sure as leaders: fathers, mothers, bosses, teachers, o not fall into this category. Honor God with your leadership.

34:5 - Because of the failure of the kings and the leaders of Israel, the flock (a.k.a. the people) have been scattered...they are roaming lost. Nobody stepped up to guide the nation back to God and they were destroyed.

34:12 - Because of the failure of the earthly leaders, God has taken matters into His own hands, and God Himself will become the Shepherd. This is going to be a fulfillment of the prophecy that one coming from David's line would always be the ruler over Israel - Jesus, the descendant of David (And also David's creator, being God) will be this Shepherd of prophecy.

34:16 - And Jesus is a shepherd that takes seriously the duty of shepherd. He searches out the lost and hungry and brings them back into the fold and gives them sustenance. He is also a leader of great power, willing to destroy those who prey on the weak.

35:2 - What is this Mount Seir that is spoken of? Well, it is the tallest mountain or chief mountain in the nation of Edom (The Edomites are the descendants of Esau who sold his birthright as the leader of God's people for a bowl of soup - ouch!).

35:5 - The Edomites have never gotten over the loss of the birthright. They have been bitterly jealous of the Israelites ever since and when God allows the people of Judah to be conquered, they rejoice and see it as an opportunity to take the land for themselves. To take back the birthright to the land that they believe is actually theirs. When I am punishing one son for something and my other son expresses his delight at the pain...the joyful son soon finds himself crying alongside the disciplined son. It is truly wrong to delight in the pain of another and the Edomites are going to find that out the hard way. (35:15)

36:1-7 - This may seem strange but Ezekiel is speaking to the land of Israel (He is using this a creative communicating device to give hope to the scattered people of Israel). Though the land has been overrun by people that are enemies of God, God assures the land that He is at work. Restoration will come and God's name will be honored once again int he land of Israel. We must always remember when times are brutally difficult, that God is always at work and restoration is always just around the corner.

36:1-21 - After countless years of rebellion from the Israelites...after idolatry and hatred and evil being lived out over and over in cycles among His covenant people - God has every right to be done with them. They broke the covenant with Him...He has every right to destroy the people of Israel. But His name is tied inextricably to the nation of Israel. For the sake of His own name...for the holiness of the name of the creator of all things...He will show the people undeserved mercy.

36:22-24 - Though Israel has done nothing but smear the name of God and bring dishonor on His holiness, He will restore them once again and bring vindication to His name before the entire world. When you look at your own life, the things you say, the things you do...are you bringing honor to the name of God - are you joining Him in the vindication of His holy name? Or are you bringing dishonor to the name that you represent?

36:26 - Not only will He restore them physically tot he land of Israel, but He will remake the people spiritually and internally. He will give them a new heart...not a heart made hard by the weight of their sin...but a heart of flesh...a living heart filled with the Spirit of God. This amazing work of mercy is done by God on the cross...where He died to remove the sins from our hearts and make it so that we could be temples of the living God. Thank you God for your sacrifice and this picture of grace!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 31-33

31:3ff - Egypt is described as Assyria was once described, like a great tree. The tree is beautiful and strong...the roots run deep and offer nourishment and support...Ezekiel says that this tree - Egypt - is even more beautiful than the trees in the garden of Eden. How is that possible? Probably because the kingdom of Egypt is made up of human beings - the crown of creation. Egypt stands as this incredibly awesome example of what humans created in the image of God can do when they work together and use their God-given wisdom. Yet, int he midst of their success they set themselves up as greater than God and it all comes crashing down! The great tree is chopped down and scattered across the world...the thunderous sound of the crash is a warning to other nations and to the Israelite people, "This is what happens when you set yourself against the one and only God."

31:16 - Sheol is the place of shadows...the place of the unworthy is separation from is an OT picture of hell. Egypt in its arrogance and rebellion is headed towards Sheol and they will be joined their by those who followed them in defiance against God (Like the Israelites who would often put their trust and hope in Egyptian strength and technology rather than trusting God).

32:4 - Again Egypt is described as the great dragon or crocodile that sits in the middle of the Nile river stirring up trouble and believing in its own invincibility. And yet again we see in very graphic language that the great beast will be destroyed - the vivid language (carcasses covering the earth and blood flowing through the valleys) speaks to the great fall of Egypt from world power to nothingness. After the fall the waters of the Nile will once again become calm and the people of Egypt will know that God is the Lord of all.

32:22ff - Ezekiel makes a list of all the prideful and rebellious nations that Egypt will meet when they descend into Sheol. It is a dark and terrible place. Just as the kingdoms listed here terrorized the earth, they will now terrorize one another in Sheol. This reminds me of C.S. Lewis' book "The Great Divorce." He writes of hell as a Greytown where the citizens cannot stand one another and are driven further and further into bleak loneliness by their own selfishness and vile behavior. Don't live out the traits of hell on earth - start living in eternal life communion with God - it is so much better.

32:31 - Egypt will not be alone as they go down in Sheol - there is plenty of vile company there for them. Strangely, they are so twisted that they find comfort in the demise of others who are like them...they find joy in the fact that others will suffer alongside them in Sheol. That is sick!

33:2ff - When the people refuse to listen to the watchmen who says that war and death is coming on the horizon...their blood is on their own hands. The same goes for those who refuse to listen to the prophet when he calls them to turn back to God...they are without excuse...they were warned and would not listen - their judgment is their own doing.

33:7 - Ezekiel is the watchmen who has been talked about in this passage...he is the prophet who is supposed to be bringing God's message of repentance to the people. But we also have to remember from back in chapter 24 that Ezekiel has been made mute by God. He currently cannot speak...the people have lived in corruption for so long that the judgment of God is inevitable. But after the butt-kicking comes hope as Ezekiel is once again able to speak and call the people back to God. (v.22 - mouth opens up again)

33:11 - God takes no pleasure in punishing even the most wicked people of the world - all people are His children. He wants people to turn from their wickedness, no matter how evil they are - He is willing to show mercy. Isn't it a beautiful thing to be loved by a God like this?

33:18-19 - God is not to blame for the judgment the people of Judah are facing...God is not unjust. He shows mercy to those who repent and judgment to those who rebel - He is ultimately just.

33:24-27 - The people of Judah cry out to God saying that it is unfair that they are in exile...that they cannot have their own land again. They say, "God, come one, you gave Abraham the land and he was just one man! We are a whole nation and you will not give us the land back!" Ezekiel reminds them that Abraham was faithful - he did not defile the Promised Land and turn from God. Again we see that God is always just.

33:31-32 - Many preachers face this same issue every week. People come to church to hear a good get warm-fuzzy listen to well thought out words...but if they hear God's Word and refuse to do what it says in their lives, then it is all meaningless. In fact it is actually sinful to hear the words of God as they apply to your life and refuse to do anything about it. That doesn't make church quite the comfortable experience that it usually is, does it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 28-30

28:2 - The continued prophecy against the king of Tyre is a perfect picture of pride coming before the fall. The king of Tyre had been so successful in gaining money and power that he began to claim divine wisdom (A pretty common deal for ego-maniac rulers in the ancient world). Ezekiel makes it clear that though he thinks he is a god...the king of Tyre is simply a man and God will cause him to come crashing down because of his arrogance. There is much to learn for us in these passages, where time after time we see how detrimental pride is to human lives. Where do you see pride rearing its ugly head in your life? How does it impact your relationship with God?

28:12-19 - There are many people who believe that this passage gives us a clear picture of Satan's fall from power in heaven...but unfortunately, that is not really what is going on here. Just as Tyre is not literally a ship as described in chapter 27 and Pharaoh is not literally a dragon (or crocodile) as described in chapter 29...this is not a description of Satan's fall. The prophet is using bold imagery to show us how great the king of Tyre's fall from grace was going to be.

28:14-19 - Ezekiel brings up imagery that is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, where the guardian cherub protects perfect creation, which tells us that the king of Tyre really was quite a man. He is very wise and very powerful...he is almost super-human in his abilities and his creativity, but he wastes his God-given talent on self-service and rebellion against God and he will be thrown down. When we choose to use the gifts that God has given us in corrupt fashion, it is travesty. The more gifted we are in leadership or intelligence...the greater damage we can do if we turn away from God. Reminds me of the words of Jesus in Luke12:48.

29:3 - Again we see a vivid description of one of the rulers of the world: Pharaoh is described as a dragon or a giant crocodile. He claims that he has created the Nile and he feels that he is safe and secure in the confines of the Nile river valley. He fancies himself a great crocodile who is so fearsome that no one would dare approach him. But the creator God of everything is going to show Pharaoh exactly who made the Nile and who is really in charge of everything.

29:4 - Even though Pharaoh thinks he is a crocodile God safe in his domain, he will be captured with hooks like a common wild crocodile by the hunter that God has empowered to destroy Egypt - Babylon.

29:21 - As the kingdoms that surround Israel (Who delighted and mocked as they faced God's wrath) are brought low, the nation of Israel will once again rise to prominence in the world. The horn of victory will sound, the words of the prophet Israel will be validated and the world will know that the God of Israel is the one and only God. Even as all these other nations are addressed and prophesied against, God's plan for the Israelites remains the central focus. His faithfulness knows no bounds, and He is working out his salvation plan for all the earth through these chosen people...Jesus the Savior of the world will come out of the lineage of the people from this small country that has been destroyed and who have been sent into exile.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 25-27

25:3 and 6 - "Aha!" is the ancient equivalent to cheering. The people of Ammon cheered at the destruction of Judah...they celebrated, clapped their hands and rejoiced. And because of their glee at Judah's failure, they will be met with destruction themselves. It is a particularly twisted form of evil when you rejoice in an other's downfall. Make sure this kind of attitude has no place in your life.

25: 8 and 9 - Moab and Seir also mock the fall of the Israelites. They say, "See, the Jewish people are just like everybody else!" This is highly offensive to God, because what they mean is that the people of Israel are not special...their God is not powerful...they are just like every other human kingdom - which is absolutely not true. Because of their evil celebration and false claims they will pay the price. The irony of the whole matter is that they were actually right in what they had said - just wrong in the meaning behind the words. Judah had become idolatrous and rebellious like the rest of the world and that is exactly why they were facing judgment. As Christians, we must remember to stand out as different than the rest of the world. Yes, we are going to face trials and hardships like everyone does - but we can choose to react to those things differently. We can choose not to reflect the flawed beliefs of our culture and instead reflect the nature of God into the world.

25:12 and 13 - Remember that the Edomites are actually close cousins to the Israelites. The Edomites came from the line of Esau who was the brother of Jacob. Yet instead of being heartbroken at the demise of their cousins...they actually join in on the slaughter and pillaging of Judah. And just as they took part in the destruction...they will face destruction themselves.

26:2 - Tyre gets two and a half chapters of prophecy against them because they took the mocking of Israel one step further than the ones who have already been mentioned. They do not just mock the Jews, they want to step in as the replacements. When this passage says that the door has swung open, they mean it is their turn to rise up as the chosen city...the nation to which all others are drawn. And because they seek to set themselves above God's chosen people and outside of His will...they will be utterly wiped off the face of the earth.

26:19 - Tyre was an island city, surrounded by water on all sides. This is why Ezekiel uses the sea imagery to prophecy about the city's destruction. The waves of surrounding empires will rise against them and total cover the city. Tyre will be like an island that sinks into the sea - gone forever.

27:3-7 - If you look at the imagery Ezekiel uses her, it is as if he is describing the building of a beautiful ship. Because Tyre was a powerful seaport, the ship imagery works very well. The city is described as an almost perfect ship that has begun sailing the ocean. Unfortunately, the people who captain the ship have become overconfident in themselves (Much like the builders of the Titanic)...they think they have become invincibly powerful and will get a rude awakening.

27:25-27 - Ships should never be overburdened when they sail in the open sea, because it throws off the balance and functionality of the ship. Here Ezekiel describes Tyre as a ship that is over-full with cargo from all over the world, that sails the stormy seas regardless...they pride will be their downfall. So even though they had everything going for them: great position on the ocean for trade, great defensible position surrounded by water, etc...the beautiful ship that is Tyre will be sunk by the will of God. Pride separates us from God and causes innumerable problems in our lives - where do you see pride rearing its ugly head in your life? What do you need to do to keep it in check?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 22-24

22:6 and 7 - These are just some of the signs of the corruption that is running rampant in Israel. Their leaders care nothing for human life, there is no respect for parents/authority, foreigners are abused and taken advantage of, and the widows and orphans are forgotten and oppressed. The people have become so wicked that they will take advantage of anyone for personal gain. I see signs of these kind of attitudes in our own country (personal gain at any cost to anybody)...what can you do to live in opposition to this way?

22:8-12 - The people of God not only profane the temple of the Lord, they profane their own bodies with perversion of every kind. Christians must remember that we are temples of the Holy Spirit of God and must do everything we can to fight for purity. Don't drag the Spirit of God dwelling within you into perversion.

22:20 - Metals of different types are brought together and melted so that they can form a stronger metal. To make sure that the metal is as pure as possible, the dross (Or imperfections like dirt and grime) are removed as they float to the top of the molten mixture. All that remains will be pure metal. That is what God is doing with His people...His judgement has a point. He is putting His people through the fire so that the dross will be removed and only the pure will remain.

22:27 and 28 - Once again we get a picture of the leadership of Israel: blood-thirsty, power-hungry princes and religious leaders who whitewash everything the people do and tell the princes what they want to hear. We must not allow ourselves to be corrupted by the power that has been made available to us - whether we are church leaders, parents, bosses at work...we must remember that it is not about us and that everything we have been given is from God.

22:30 and 31 - Am I a man to stand in the gap as described here? Are you a person that will stand in the gap? Stand against the prevailing beliefs of our culture and remain faithful to God? God give me the strength to make my stand with mater what the matter what the matter what the temptation...God help me to stand in the gap.

23:4 - The two daughters described here are the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel. The chosen people of God split into two nations when they chose to follow opposing kings. The northern kingdom followed the false religions of the people around them, were eventually destroyed by the Assyrians and populated by people from all over the Assyrian empire. These people intermarried with the Jews in northern Israel and they became Samaria. A people that the southern Jews considered to be half-breed and not Jewish at all.

23:5 - The northern kingdom rejected God and sought "lovers" from other cultures around them. They worshipped false gods and broke their covenant vows with the Lord. We see as their history is played out in this chapter (In the form of a prostitute), that they were never truly satisfied and ended up finding only destruction after their rebellion against God.

23:11 - The southern kingdom is the one that is always seem as the more faithful of the two. The prophets of the OT are mainly men that prophesied to the southern kingdoms and these were the people that remained the true nation of Israel. Yet here, we are told that they become even more vile than the other kingdom. Why is that? Because even after they see the northern kingdom utterly destroyed because of their refusal to maintain their relationship with God...the people of Judah follow in their footsteps and become religious adulterers.

23:19 - Okay this is a little graphic and gross, but lets just deal with it. Using the prostitution analogy, Ezekiel is saying that the prostitute Judah is longing for her days in Egypt where the men were hung like donkeys and their emissions (i.e. flood/ejaculate) was like that of horses. Ewwww! And I am sorry that is a bit graphic, but that is what the passage is talking about. Why on earth does Ezekiel say this? Well, he is trying to make a really strong point with the people. The men of Egypt are not even described as humans, they are described using animal terms, so it is a fantasy. The people of Judah are remembering back to their time in Egypt (Probably forgetting about the whole slavery thing)...but thinking about the power, the possibilities, the strength of the nation of Egypt. They are living in a "grass is always greener" fantasy world that is totally unrealistic. They are longing for something that was never really even there...longing for satisfaction from false gods, which does not even exist. They are fooling themselves, turning away from God yet again and heaping judgment on their own heads.

23:27-30 and 49 - This whole analogy has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with idolatry and false worship. They have rejected their creator God - the God who just happened to make them into the chosen people that they are - for the "popular" beliefs and gods of the cultures around them. It is the ultimate betrayal and the shattering of the sacred covenant and they will pay dearly for it. Good thing believers nowadays have no problem rejecting the siren song of false cultural beliefs around us, right?

24:7ff - In this analogy, all the choicest and best ingredients are put into the pot. Though the meat looks really good on the outside, it is corrupt and vile on the inside and no amount of cooking will get rid of the vileness. The only option is for the fire to be cranked up and all of the soup to be utterly burned away until the corruption is destroyed. Pretty self-explanatory right?

24:16 - This seems so cruel. Ezekiel is one of the few faithful people in Israel and God is going to allow his wife to die! Does God not have the power to save her? Of course He does. So is it God that actually kills Ezekiel's wife? Some would say that by allowing her to die, He is killing her, but I see this passage in a different light. Remember the passage from Job 2:10 that says, "Shall we receive good from God and then not receive bad?" We can't just have it one way...God never promises us that everything is going to be perfect and easy...but we do know from His character that He is working through the corruption and sin of this world to bring about His will. God uses the evil of death (In this case the death of Ezekiel's wife) to bring about good

24:21ff - So what is the analogy? Just as Ezekiel's wife was his pride and joy...the light of his eyes, the temple in Jerusalem is the pride of the Jewish people. The temple is their crown is the place of is the center of community and life in Judah...and it is going to be utterly destroyed. God is going to allow His own holy temple to be profaned because of the idolatry and betrayal of His people. And God would not allow Ezekiel to publicly mourn (Which is not to say that Ezekiel could not privately mourn) because it was going to be a picture of what would happen to the Jews when the temple was destroyed. They will be so confused by the lose of worship, community, connection with God that the temple represents that they will become numb. They will be unable to publicly mourn, because it would shut down the entire nation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 19-21

19:3 and 4 - The lioness is Judah - protected and fed by the Lord God...the first cub that is raised up out of Judah in this analogy is most likely Jehoahaz. He grew up strong and powerful like a lion should, but eventually allows his nature to be corrupted - he becomes a man-devourer (The kings began to see people as tools at their their pride, they corrupted their nations). The rulers of Egypt are alerted to the danger of Jehoahaz in his pride and blood lust and he is captured and carted off to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco.

19:6 and 9 - The imagery stays the same...the next lion cub that grows to become a powerful king is most likely Jehoiachin. He, like Jehoahaz, allows his pride and blood lust to bring the wrath of Babylon to Judah. He is captured and carted off the Babylon (He and Ezekiel were in exile at the same time).

19:10 and 11 - This is the imagery of God planting the nation of Israel in fertile them water and nutrients to grow...allowing strong branches to rise up out of the vine and become the kings that the people so desperately wanted (Even though as you will recall from I Samuel, that this is not what God wanted for His people...they did not need a human king, they had the Creator of the universe!).

19:12ff - But through their pride and evil leadership, the kings of Israel bring about the wrath of God. The healthy vine is ripped out of the ground. The strong branch of the kings is burned to ash, and no one will rise from that line again. (Though from a more distant part of the Davidic line, Jesus is eventually born into the world as a man, fulfilling the prophecy that someone from David's line will always be on the throne)

20:1 - This is strange because the elders have come to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord...yet God is angry with them. Why is is bad here for the elders to inquire of God? Isn't that what all God followers are supposed to be doing? Yes it is good to inquire of the Lord...but ONLY to inquire of the Lord. These Israelite elders were simply seeking out God as one of many options. They were following pagan rituals, seeking false gods, and using the one and only God as a last resort. God is not one of many options...He is the only option. Do not fall into the same trap that the elders have fallen into. Many current day Christians rely on self and money and others and cultural values for direction in their lives, as opposed to seeking the will of God from the beginning. Don't be in that you can seek from Ezekiel, that is not where you want to be!

20:7 - 29 - This is a synopsis of the heartbreaking cycle of rebellion in the relationship between God and the Israelites. When the people were in Egypt they forgot about God and turned to Egyptian idols. God allowed them to become slaves in Egypt. Then God frees the Israelites from slavery, so that they will remember who He is and turn back to Him. He gives them laws and teaches them about the Sabbath (The Sabbath was really important because they offered one day out of seven to the worship and contemplation of day in seven was given to rest...given to trusting that God would take care of them, even if they took a day off. This is important to know because all the pagan religions at the time revolved around the seasons and positions of the moon...the Israelites marched to the beat of their own drum). Yet the people refused to honor the covenant and follow God's statutes. So God allowed an entire generation of people to die in the desert without seeing the Promised Land. When He finally allows them to come into the Promised Land, they immediately start worshipping idols on the high places. So God scatters them amongst the nations of the world. This is the cycle of rejection and perversion God has had to deal with in covenant relationship with His people.

20:30 - He questions the people, "Haven't you seen the twistedness and sinfulness of your ancestors? Yet you still continue to follow in their rebellions? Why?" How about us? Haven't we seen the meaninglessness of money...the corruption of power...the vileness of selfishness...yet we continue on generation after generation, chasing after the same sinful things earlier generations in our culture chased after. When are we gonna learn?

20:37 - Because of His great love for His people...God punishes them, so that they will once again join Him in a covenant relationship. There is no love in freely allowing someone to destroy their lives with no repercussion. God will do whatever it takes to bring His people back to Him.

20:41 - When we allow the holiness of God to permeate our lives, we become a pleasing fragrance to the Lord...a fragrant offering...we become living sacrifices.

21:3 - Both the righteous and the wicked will be punished? That doesn't seem very fair! This phrase is similar to the phrase, "everything from A-Z" is meant to represent the righteous the wicked and everything in between. God wants the people to understand that it is too late...all of the people will suffer under God's judgment...the good, the bad...the righteous, the wicked. The wicked have made the nation of Israel an abomination and the righteous have sat off to the side allowing it to happen, so there are really no righteous people.

21:9 and 10 - Over and over in this chapter we see the twin images of a sharpened and polished sword. This imagery represents the total destruction that will come upon the people of Israel. The sharp blade will cut and the polished blade will bring lightning/fire. It is bold imagery of slaughter.

21:14 - I imagine the prophet Ezekiel walking through the town swinging a giant sword from side to side. Slashing wildly...1...2...3 times - a living illustration of the judgment that is to come. If the people will not listen to a wild man brandishing a sword, they won't listen to anything. What kind of message does the way that you live your life send to people?

21:21-22 - God will use a pagan king in Babylon to bring about His judgement of the people of Judah. The rattling of the arrows, the household idols and the examination of the liver of a sacrificial animal, are all pagan methods for divining the "will of the gods." Interestingly enough, though these are pagan rituals that has no power because they are performed for gods that do not even exist...they will inadvertently give the Babylonian king the correct answer because God has chosen to use them. This is just another example of the humiliation that the Israelites have put God through. He uses pagan men who think they are victorious because of non-existent gods to do His will, because His own people refuse Him.

21:25 and 26 - The unnamed price here is Zedekiah. He was raised up to lead God's people, yet he has chosen to lead them astray. And like the cancer he is, he will be removed.

21:31ff - The finality of this judgment is set in stone...there is no going back. God's love has turned into wrath in the face of countless abominations by His people. I look at the strong language here and something is very clear to me...I do not want to be fuel to the fire of God's wrath. I do not want to be an object of God's indignation. I want to be the fragrant offering that was referred to in chapter 20...I want my life to be an offering to God.