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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 16-18

16:3 - The origins of Jerusalem itself actually predate the nation of Israel, which did not officially exist until after the Exodus story and the taking of the Promised Land. The land had been inhabited by Canaanite, Hittite and Amorite peoples before the Jews showed up. They were the founders of the depraved legacy of the land. God compares the people of this land to orphans who have been abandoned by horrible parents.

16:4-5 - None of the typically cleansing rituals were performed on this neglected infant. In fact the baby, Jerusalem, was left out to die of exposure (Something that was very common in ancient societies with regards to weak infants).

16:6ff - Yet when God sees the weak infant (i.e. the powerless Israelites and inhabitants of the land), He has compassion on them and adopts them into His family. He makes a covenant with them and stays faithful to His promises. He gives the Israelites, strength, food, power, success - God is their incredibly loving and committed Father.

16:12 - On a side note...I would say that if God is totally okay with allowing His kids to get their nose pierced - it's probably not that big a deal nowadays. Lighten up piercing haters!

16:15 - Heartbreakingly, in the face of everything God had given them (Which was absolutely everything, including their own existence), they chose to reject God and give themselves to others. They chose to ignore God and chase after false gods. They chose to prostitute themselves out to the powerless gods of heathen nations around them.

16:20 - Not only did they corrupt themselves, but they raised generation after generations of corrupt children. They allowed themselves to become a society where child sacrifice was acceptable. They slaughtered their own children...who are really the children of gods made of stone and metal. We ask ourselves, "How is that possible?" And I would say that is some ways that still exists today among God's people. How often do parents who claim to follow God sacrifice their children to cultural norms: "you have to achieve this", "all that matters is this sport", "you have to look like this", "you need to make me proud by _________." Not as brutal, but still heartbreaking and sinister.

16:29 and 30 - No matter where the people turned they could not find satisfaction. No matter who they gave themselves matter who they matter what they tried...they always came away from the temptations of the world unsatisfied. The people of God were lovesick...they needed what only God could offer them, but they refused to turn back and receive God's love. They continued to seek anything but God. I have seen this so many times in youth ministry. Students who are chasing after satisfaction...seeking out purpose, meaning, life. They chase it all over...they chase after sex, achievement, intelligence, success, relationships, entertainment and they always leave dissatisfied. Always. When will we learn - Oh the sinful nature of man!!!

16:51 - Why are the sins of the Israelites greater than the sins of the pagan people around them? Because the Israelites were in a covenant relationship with God and they turned away from Him. Christians who know God...who accept the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ and still turn away and knowingly whore themselves out to other "gods"...are not in good company.

16:59-60 - This is always the heart of God...even in the face of the Israelites unfaithfulness, God remains ever faithful to His covenant.

Chapter 17: 1st Eagle = Babylon. This eagle came in, took the shoot (The exiles) and brought them back to Babylon and gave them every opportunity to grow...placed the Israelite exiles on fertile ground and they prospered. 2nd Eagle = Egypt. The unsatisfied exiled leadership of Israel secretly sought the help of Egypt to destroy the Babylonians (Why trade one eagle for another?), yet they received no help. The first eagle finds out about the deception and rips out the healthy vine. See the problem is not that the exiles turned against Babylon, but that they have rejected God's plans. The prophets were very clear that the exile happened because of their unfaithfulness...the prophets were also very clear about the time frame of the exile. God was also gracious in His judgment because the Israelites were allowed to prosper in exile. Yet the exiled leadership tried to usurp God's authority and take matters in to their own hands and they paid a heavy price for it.

17:23 and 24 - After all the kings of Israel (Who the people begged to have because they wanted to be like everybody else) have failed in generation after generation of leadership of God's people - God still does not give up on His promises. But He will not go back to the unhealthy root in the royal lineage...He will take a new sprig from the line of kings far down the line, who will usher in the true kingdom of God. (In case you missed it - that sprig is Jesus!) This new kingdom will grow under the branches of the cedar that is Jesus and all nations will be saved through him. YAY!

18:25-27 - God has always been just...God will always be just. There is no injustice in God. The Israelite people who had completely shattered every aspect of their covenant with God had the audacity to accuse God of being unjust and He defends Himself. The righteous will be saved. The unrighteous will be judged. Thank God for the righteousness from God that comes through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Because there is a lot of unrighteousness in me, unfortunately)

18:32 - God takes no pleasure in anyone's death...that is not what He wants...that is not why He created us. This has always been the heart of God in both the Old and New Testaments. It is God's plan that all would be brought under the safety and protection of His "cedar" (See: Ezekiel 17:23ff)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 13-15

13:2-3 - God tells Ezekiel to call judgment on the false prophets who claim to be speaking on behalf of God, but who are really only speaking their hearts desire. This has to happen in church leadership today...doesn't it? In our own lives? How do you know the difference between your own selfish desires and God's will for your life? It is easy to simply say that anything you want to do must be what God wants you to do, because He made you that way, but that is dangerous ground to be walking on. I don't want God looking at my life saying, "Woe to you, because you said that your plan was God's plan." WOE is not good...not good at all. So how do you know? I think you have to seek the heart and character of God in His word and compare your desires with what God's heart chases after...that will probably give you some indication. If what you think God wants for you is self-serving, oppressive, greedy, relationally isn't what God wants.

13:6 - Here is another verse that talks about the same thing: they want God to do their will! Do you get that...instead of seeking to do the will of God, they want God to do their will. I gotta say, I am a human and I have known a lot of humans...and we are in no position to being telling God how to run the universe. How often does this attitude creep into your life? What can you do to combat it?

13:10 - When Ezekiel says that the people have built a wall, this is not a good thing. See the people have put their hope and trust in human ingenuity, man-made things, material possessions, cleverness, etc. The people think that they can take care of themselves and that they don't need God...they have built of these walls around themselves thinking that they are safe, but the walls are flimsy. Instead of showing the people the error of their ways, their leaders are coming in and whitewashing the walls. They are falsely confirming to the people that their idols will be enough to take care of them. The leaders that are supposed to be helping people turn towards God are actually enabling idolatry instead. How often does this go on in churches in the United States?

14:3 - How do we expect to hear from God...expect for Him to listen to us, if we have idols in our hearts and minds. If we have rejected God for something else...if we are worshipping things or people that are not God - we are cutting ourselves off from the sustainer of the universe. Sometimes when we can't feel God or we think we can't hear God's voice speaking into the quiet places of our souls, it is because we have turned away from Him.

14:11 - Always there is an end goal in God's mind. Even though His people have turned away from Him and He is pouring out His judgment and wrath on them, He still plans on bringing them back in the end. God works through humans evil and a fallen world to bring about His will.

14:14 - God tells Ezekiel to tell the people that even three of the most faithful men in Jewish history (Noah, Daniel and Job) could not save the corrupt land of Israel. The country is so far rebellious against God, that even if these incredible leaders would happen to time travel to Ezekiel's time there would be nothing they could do to change the hearts of the people. Only their individual lives would be spared. The land will be destroyed so that a faithful remnant of people like Noah, Daniel and Job can rise from the ashes.

15:6 - The vines that wrap themselves around huge trees are useless for anything except firewood. You cannot make anything durable or meaningful from the vine can only use them as fuel for the fire. They are not strong enough to be useful. These vines are an object illustration that tells the story of the Israelites during Ezekiel's time. Their faith is not strong enough to be used for anything useful because they have rejected they will be burned up by God's judgement.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 10-12

10:5 - I really like this description of God's voice. All the biblical discussion about the voice of the Lord carry such power: rushing waters (I imagine the roar of something like Niagara Falls), the storm, the wind...and now the beating wings of a legion of cherubim. God in the book of John is described as the Word. God spoke creation into existence. His voice is strength...His voice is is is awe-inspiring. Are you listening to the voice of God speaking to your soul through the Holy Spirit? Are you emulating God by using your voice to bring good to this world?

11:3 - The Israelites continue to go about their business as if there is nothing wrong...they build houses and ignore the judgment that is being poured out on them. I guess they figure if they act like nothing is wrong, then they might be able to convince themselves that such thoughts are true (Typical human idiocy). In reality, the world that they are working so hard to build up and beautify is a boiling cauldron and they are the meat stewing in their own abominations. They ignore the disgusting filth within their souls and focus on making sure their outer appearance is pristine. How about you?

11:12 - One of the chief sins of the people is that they have turned away from the way of God and have put more stock instead in the ways of the world and the cultures around them. Fortunately for us, no Christians in the United States would ever do anything like that...oh wait...that is right, the consumerism and hedonism of this culture continually worm their way into American churches.

11:17 - Ezekiel is worried that God will completely destroy the people of Israel, and God comforts him with these words. God promises that even as He scatters the people of Israel across the world, He will eventually gather the remnant back up and return them to the Promised Land.

11:19-20 - I love these verses! God says that He will give the people a new heart and a new spirit...He promises to remove the stone of their flesh that has made them stubborn and sinful and allow them to live godly lives as they were intended from the beginning. When the Word became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ...He showed us what that Spirit-filled-true human life is supposed to look like. Then he offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins to remove the stone of sin that was weighing us down...allowing us to become vessels for the Spirit of God (Something that was never available to the least not all the time). Awesome, huh?

12:27-28 - The people think they have the time to do whatever they want to do with their lives...that they have countless days to get their faith in order, but God's judgement is right there in front of them. I see this in people who claim to be Christians all the time...they say they believe in God and they focus in on the grace of God believing that they can live however they want to live NOW and get things right with God later (When they are 40 or something like that - lol). God is unchanging and we know about his attitude towards idolatry from profaning the sacrifice of Jesus by trying to take advantage of perceived "cheap grace"...not smart!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 7-9

7:4 - The message of this chapter is really tough to hear, because God is saying through Ezekiel that the time for repentance is over. There is no turning back to God now without punishment...there is no way to escape judgment. God will punish the people for their wickedness, with the hope that they will finally and fully learn that the Lord is the one and only God. The message is bitter, but there is a golden thread that runs through it...God is willing to do anything to bring His people back into relationship with Him.

7:19 - The gold the people of Judah have worshipped and have debased themselves to gain, will do nothing to protect them from the wrath of God. The gold is is not worthy of will not feed the starving when there is no food. How many Christians today struggle with this form of idolatry? How many people who call themselves believers bow down to the altar of wealth? It is an empty pursuit that will always leave you unsatisfied.

8:5-6 - The elders of Judah come before Ezekiel begging for a sign from God that the exile will be over sooner than had been prophesied. Ezekiel goes to God, and God takes him in a vision to the temple in Jerusalem. There is the outer courts of the temple Ezekiel is instructed to look out the gates of the city. There is an idol with human form sitting outside the gates of the is one of the sources of God's jealousy. Most likely, this statue is that of Asherah, a Babylonian goddess. The Jews would have put this statue up outside the city to protect it from invaders. In reality, the only thing it has done is enrage God.

8:10-11 - God takes Ezekiel into a hidden room of darkness where elders (like the ones sitting before Ezekiel in his house outside of the vision) of Israel are burning incense to all sorts of false gods and creatures of darkness. This is a form of idol worship that was most likely taken from the Egyptians. The Israelites are equal opportunity idolaters...they will worship false gods of any country in hopes of getting what they want...what they fail to see is that it is their idolatry that has brought all the suffering down on them. This passage also drives an important reminder home to each of us...God sees what we are doing...all the time. There are no hidden sins. The decisions we make every day, in every aspect of our lives matter very much to God.

8:14-15 - Ezekiel is taken to the inner courts of the temple where the women are weeping for Tammuz. This doesn't sound so bad until you understand what they are really doing. In the Canaanite religion, worshippers would weep for the death of the deity Tammuz because they hoped that they would receive good weather as the seasons changed. Canaanites believed that the false gods had a life/death cycle that mirrored the seasons. If they mourned enough for the dying god, they hoped to have pleasing weather and good crops. This is particularly disgusting to God, because in the inner courts of the temple of the Living God, the people of God are actually mourning the death of a non-entity. They waste their worship on human-created gods...when they could be connected to their Creator God. How do you waste your worship?

8:16 - The final degradation of the temple come in the altar room. In the center of the temple, where the Israelites believed that the glory of God are turning their backs on the altar of God and worshipping the sun. Worshipping the sun while turning their backs on the suns that is heart-breaking.

9:4-5 - God has had enough of the disgrace that has been heaped on Him by His own people and the time has come to act. Ezekiel sees a vision of the judgement of God that looks a great deal like the judgement of Egypt celebrated during Passover. In Exodus 12, the Israelites were instructed to put lamb's blood on the doorposts of their homes so that the angel of the Lord would not bring death to their house. In Ezekiel's vision, the remnant of Israel will be marked for salvation, while the unfaithful will be the recipients of God's wrath. In the midst of all this judgment and suffering, God never forgets His covenant with the Israelites and always protects the faithful remnant.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ezekiel Chapters 4-6

4:3 - The other stuff is pretty self-explanatory, but what is the iron skillet all about. Is Ezekiel going to treat himself to a delicious omelet while watching the diorama of the siege? No, the iron skillet is a representation of the impenetrable wall that has been placed between God and the people of Israel. Their sin and debauchery has created this wall and God has cut Himself off from them. Even if they wanted to cry out for mercy, they have no one to turn to...God will not listen and act on their behalf. The power that is behind the siege of Jerusalem is not the Babylonian army, but Himself who is letting it all happen to judge His people.

4:5-6 - Ezekiel then changes the illustration of God's judgment. He has gone from representing God in control of the siege, to the Israelite people who are suffering in the siege. He will lay on his two sides for a total of 430 days to represent the unfaithfulness of the Israelites and the suffering they will endure in the siege. Over a year on his side! He had to get sores and his muscles must have atrophied...he was probably never the same physically for the rest of his life. While almost everyone else in Judah is living in unfaithfulness...Ezekiel demonstrates his absolute commitment to God. People must have thought he was crazy...they must have tried to get him to get up...but all Ezekiel cared about was serving his God. That is the kind of commitment God deserves from you and me as well.

4:9 - This recipe forms an almost inedible mixture of grains for one disgusting piece of bread. In the 3rd century, a rabbi made some bread according to this recipe and found that even dogs would not eat it! Ezekiel lives on 8oz of bread a day while laying on his sides - that is barely enough to keep someone alive! He does this to represent the starvation and famine that the people in Jerusalem will face during the siege.

4:12-15 - God instructs him to cook over human dung which would make a Jew unclean in the eating laws given by God. On top of being unclean....EWWWWW! Seriously! God wants him to do this so that people will be reminded that they will be unclean and totally defiled in the eyes of God during the siege. They are going to eat anything to survive (Including each other) - they will become as vile as you can be. Interestingly, Ezekiel begs God not to make him cook the bread over human dung, because he has never eaten unclean food in his life. God hears his prayer...amends the instructions and allows Ezekiel to cook the food over cow dung. Now the real questions is - why did God tell him to do that in the first place? God knows everything...God knew that Ezekiel had kept himself totally clean...why not tell him to cook over cow dung the first time? I think God was testing see how committed Ezekiel was to God's Law. When Ezekiel fought for his purity before God, God immediately changed the instructions. God allows him to remain clean because Ezekiel is one of the few remnant faithful followers of God in all of Israel and he shows it over and over. Is faithfulness at any cost that important to us?

5:1 - Having the hair and beard cut off was one of the utter signs of humiliation in the Jewish world. Ezekiel once again sets himself up as a living illustration for the people of Judah. They should all be humiliated about their behavior, so Ezekiel is going to boldly walk among them in humiliation...making everyone fell hopes that they might understand the message.

5:11 - What have the people of Judah done to bring all this judgment on themselves? They have defiled themselves in idol worship and pagan rituals and they have defiled the temple of God in the same way. They have offered sacrifices to false gods in Gods sanctuary. They have utterly turned away from God and so God has turned away from them.

5:14 - This verse was deeply saddening to me. The Jewish people are God's chosen...they are supposed to be a priest nation that stands out as a light to the world, bringing people to the one and only Creator God. Yet instead, they have become detestable to the world, they have brought humiliation on God. How many times have Christians done this? I want my life to be a light that leads people towards God, not a one that pushes people away from God because of my unfaithfulness.

6:9-10 - Those who escape God's wrath will actually become an example to all of Israel and all of the world. After all God's judgment has been poured out, they will finally be able to see the disgusting nature of their actions and fully understand that God is the only God. Sometimes stubborn human beings need to be brought to their knees in suffering before they can see that they are in such desperate need of God.

6:12-13 - Whoa. Brutal. God wants His people to know that He is God through His power, mercy, love, the beauty of creation, etc...but if He has to...if we have forced Him to it...God will teach people that He is Lord through His fury.