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.