9/21/18 “God’s Struggle to Discipline Those He Loves” (Daily Bible Reading: Hosea 11-12)

“My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him. ‘How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred’ ” (Hosea 11:7-8).

As a parent do you struggle with having to discipline your child? Perhaps, many of us can relate to and remember one of our parents saying to us as they were correcting us, “This is going to hurt me, more than it hurts you”. How does God feel in having to discipline His children for their wayward behavior? Does God experience any kind of pain in having to discipline His children?

The 11th chapter of Hosea describes God’s struggle in having to discipline those He loves. It also shows us the incredible tender love God has for His children. God says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son” (Hosea 11:1). The Lord adds, “I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them” (Hosea 11:3-4). These verses describe God’s tender love for His precious children.

However, God’s people of Hosea’s day had rebelled against and rejected God’s love for them: “As they called them, so they went from them; they sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images” (Hosea 11:2). As a result, God was going to discipline His children by allowing the Assyrians to take captive the northern kingdom of Israel: “He shall not return to the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to repent. And the sword shall slash in his cities, devour his districts, and consume them, because of their own counsels” (Hosea 11:5-6).

However, how did God feel in having to administer this tough measure of discipline for His beloved children? Notice God’s struggle: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror” (Hosea 11:8-9). It pained God’s heart to have to correct His children and God struggled within Himself to have to carry the punishment out upon His children.

God carried out the discipline because He knew it was the only way He could help His children come back to their senses. He knew that a better end awaited them once they learned from being corrected: “ ‘They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, like a dove from the land of Assyria. And I will let them dwell in their houses,’ says the Lord” (Hosea 11:10-11).

As a father I can relate to the pain God felt in having to exact tough corrective measures upon my own children. God does not coldly administer discipline to those He loves, but carries out the chastening that is necessary for those He loves even though it breaks His heart to do so. I rejoice that God loves me enough to correct me when I go astray. Today, I will strive to walk within God’s Will so that I will not break God’s heart by His having to discipline me.

“And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

9/20/18 “Their Deeds Are Before My Face” (Daily Bible Reading: Hosea 7-10)

“When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered, and the wickedness of Samaria. For they have committed fraud; a thief comes in; a band of robbers takes spoil outside. They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness; now their own deeds have surrounded them; they are before My face” (Hosea 7:1-2).

Ever since Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, men and women have attempted to the hide or cover up their sins from God (cf. Genesis 3:8). However, can we hide our sins from God?

The prophet Hosea describes the futility of trying to do this. As the opening verses describe, as God looked as His people in love wanting to heal them, He could not because their blatant wickedness. They were so thoroughly corrupt that when God looked down on them wanting to help them, what He saw was their glaring iniquity which surrounded them. There was no way for Him to be able to overlook their transgressions because they stood out so clearly before His face (Hosea 7:1-2).

In His patience and longsuffering God had attempted to help His people see their sins and turn from them. He had given them His law and sent His prophets to instruct them on how to live, yet they rejected these: “I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing” (Hosea 8:12). He had brought chastening upon them in order to help them realize the error of their ways and their need to turn back to God, but they refused to acknowledge their iniquity: “They did not cry out to Me with their heart when they wailed upon their beds. They assemble together for grain and new wine, they rebel against Me; though I disciplined and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against Me” (Hosea 7:14-15). What was left for God to do for these people He so loved and desired to heal (cf. Hosea 7:1)?

God would let them experience consequences of their sins. He would remove His blessings from them and allow them to taken captive by the other nations and suffer destruction: “Woe to them, for they have fled from Me! Destruction to them, because they have transgressed against Me! Though I redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me” (Hosea 7:13). Moreover, He adds, “For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it, but the Lord does not accept them. Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins. they shall return to Egypt” (Hosea 8:13). Even the prophet Hosea himself sees no other course for the people to whom he is ministering: “My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations” (Hosea 9:17). Facing the consequences of their own sins, Israel was bound to face destruction.

There are people all around us who are bound for destruction. Jesus warned, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). God has revealed “great things” in His Word telling us of how He loves us and has sent His Son to save men from their sins (John 3:16; Lk 19:10). However, many consider God’s message to them “a strange thing” (cf. Hosea 8:12) and reject God’s efforts to save them.

I realize I cannot hide my sins from God (cf. Romans 3:23; 6:23). But I also realize and rejoice that as a Christian my sins have been forgiven and God remembers them no more (cf. Hebrews 8:12)!

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3). b4AQd��a��<

9/19/18 “They Break Off All Restraint” (Daily Bible Reading: Hosea 4-6)

“Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: ‘There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed’ ” (Hosea 4:1-2).

How important is the daily study of God’s Word to my life? What benefit is there of having a thorough understanding of God’s laws? How does a lack of knowledge of God’s Word affect me?

These are questions that we can get answered as we look at the ministry of the prophet Hosea to God’s people. Hosea prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel during a time of economic prosperity for God’s people, but a time of spiritual decay and corruption. In fact, things in the northern kingdom of Israel were so bad that God warns the southern kingdom of Judah not to have anything to do with their northern brethren: “Though you, Israel, play the harlot, let not Judah offend…” (Hosea 4:15). Furthermore, God adds, “Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone” (Hosea 4:17). How had the people of God turned into such a degenerate people in rebellion against God?

During His ministry Jesus had warned, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). Unfortunately, God’s people of Hosea’s day are an example of how people are enslaved in sin. Through Hosea, God said, “Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart. My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God” (Hosea 4:11-12). How had a people who had gained liberty from the Egyptians becoming enslaved again, this time to sin?

As the opening verses above indicate, of His people God said, “They break off all restraint” (Hosea 4:2). What does this mean? The law of God points out what is sin. The apostle Paul wrote, “…I would not have known sin except through the law…” (Romans 7:7). Sin is a violation of the boundaries which God has set up for our lives. John wrote, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). God’s people were not walking within the boundaries God had set up for them to live within as contained in His Word. Instead, everyone felt there were no boundaries in which they had to live. They were not only hurting God by violating His boundaries for them, but also they were not respecting boundaries in each other’s lives as they stole from one another, committed adultery with one another, and even killed one another (Hosea 4:2).

They had forgotten God’s law. There was no knowledge of God in the land (Hosea 4:1). They had become ignorant of the boundaries God had set up for them to live within, as contained in His Word. As God condemned the priest for failing to instruct God’s people, He said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6).

It is essential for me to understand the boundaries in which God has set up for me to live within as contained in His Word. Striving to live within these boundaries does not mean I am trying to earn my way to Heaven, but simply that I know that God knows what is best for me and in love gives me His guidance so that I will not hurt myself or others. Today, I rejoice that God has given me these boundaries and I will diligently study His Word and live according to God’s instructions found therein!

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ " (John 8:31-32).

9/18/18 “The Amazing Love of the Lord for His People” (Daily Bible Reading: Hosea 1-3)

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.’ So, I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. And I said to her, ‘You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man--so, too, will I be toward you’ ” (Hosea 3:1-3).

How much does God love me? To what degree is God still willing to demonstrate His love to me in spite of my many failings? Through the prophet Hosea, we learn of God’s great love for His people.

The prophet Hosea ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel during the days of the reign of Jereboam the son of Joash. From an economic standpoint the nation was enjoying a time of prosperity and growth (cf. 2 Kings 14:23-29); however, from a spiritual standpoint moral corruption and spiritual adultery permeated throughout God’s people.

To illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and to show God’s unfailing love for His people, God gives Hosea a unique instruction: “"Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). Hosea’s relationship with his wife Gomer (Hosea 1:3), who formerly had been a harlot and who would be unfaithful to him as evidenced by her bearing the children of other men (cf. Hosea 1:3; 1:6; 1:8-9; 2:4-5), would serve to illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and God’s amazing continued love for His people.

As the opening verses above indicate, when God tells Hosea, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery…” it appears Hosea’s wife Gomer had left him and fallen into a hard life of prostitution as she had become the possession of another. Hosea had to buy her back (Hosea 3:2). When Israel forsook God and committed adultery by worshipping other gods, she had to bear the consequences of this. God’s blessings would not be upon Israel while she persisted in unfaithfulness and the nation would begin to suffer economic hardship (Hosea 2:9-13). God allowed her to suffer the consequences of her sins to bring her to her senses: “She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now’ ” (Hosea 2:7). God adds, “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:4-5).

During this time, did Israel’s unfaithfulness cause God’s love for her to cease? While having to let them endure suffering because of their own foolish ways, God’s love for Israel never failed. He loved them in spite of the fact they were not showing love for Him at the time. God would patiently continue to love His people waiting for them to come to their senses: “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20).

How comforting it is to me that God’s love for me never waivers in spite of my many failings. God’s love towards me motivates me to want to serve and honor Him. Today, I will strive not to break the Lord’s heart by being unfaithful to Him. I will rejoice in God’s amazing love for me as I serve Him!

“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

9/17/18 “A Heart of Humility to Understand God’s Will” (Daily Bible Reading: Daniel 9-12)

“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans-- in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:1-3).

How often have you found yourself questioning God’s Will by saying, “God why are you allowing this to happen?”? Perhaps, instead of questioning God’s Will, we would be better served to seek to understand God’s Will for our lives. In order to understand God’s Will we must first approach God with a heart of humility. As the opening verses above, we see Daniel seeking to understand God’s Will for Israel as he approaches God with a heart of humility.

To begin with, as the opening verses above indicate, Daniel had understood by the Word of God as revealed in the book of Jeremiah that God’s people were to be held in captivity for 70 years (Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 25:11-12). This shows us that in order to understand God’s Will for one’s life, one must take the time to actually study what God has revealed to us through His Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Because he had studied God’s Word, Daniel understood that the things which had happened to him and to his people were because God was simply fulfilling the judgments He had told them would happen if they rebelled against Him (Daniel 9:4-5, 7, 11). Daniel notes that up to this point in time, God’s people had not humbled themselves before God: “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth” (Daniel 9:13).

Daniel now humbly approaches God on behalf of His people. He acknowledges Israel’s sins (Daniel 9:5-7). However, Daniel does not just focus on Israel’s sins; He also focuses on God’s noble attributes: “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him” (Daniel 9:9, cf. v.18-19). Since the 70 years of captivity have been accomplished, Daniel appeals to God to forgive His people: “And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day--we have sinned, we have done wickedly! O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord's sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate” (Daniel 9:15-17).

Daniel is described by as “greatly beloved” by God (Daniel 9:23; 10:11, 19). At least part of the reason for this was the humble heart which Daniel possessed to seek and understand God’s Will for his life (cf. Daniel 10:11). As soon as Daniel began praying on behalf of his people, God had sent His angel Gabriel to Daniel to help Daniel to understand the future of God’s people (Daniel 9:20-23).

God will help us to understand His Will for our lives when we have a humble heart like Daniel to seek God’s Will. Instead of resisting God by questioning His Will, today, I will humble myself before God and seek to understand His Will for my life by studying His Word with an open mind and going to Him in prayer with a heart that praises Him for His greatness and acknowledging my weakness!

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).

9/16/18 “Into the Lion’s Den” (Daily Bible Reading: Daniel 5-8)

“So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, ‘Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.’ ” (Daniel 6:16).

How do you feel about politicians? Many politicians are not looked very favorable upon by many in our society. However, try to imagine a holder of high political office whom you could fully trust what he or she said. Imagine a governor who had unquestioned integrity. This is exactly who Daniel was.

Since entering into Babylonian captivity, Daniel had served before the king of Babylon (Daniel 1:5, 19-21). Following his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he had been promoted by the king of Babylon to ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:48). Following the downfall of the Babylonian Empire to the Kingdom of the Medes and Persians, Daniel is promoted to one of the 3 governor positions which are over the whole kingdom (Daniel 6:1-2). In fact, Daniel had so distinguished himself that the king gave thought about setting Daniel over the whole realm (Daniel 6:3).

However, the other governors and satraps became jealous of Daniel and tried to come up with a plan to bring a charge against Daniel. Daniel was such a man of integrity that they could not find any kind of sex scandal, inappropriate financial dealing, or other matter in his life that could bring him in disfavor with the king (Daniel 6:4). “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God’ ” (Daniel 6:5). They come up with a plan and get the king’s approval that no man may petition any god or man for 30 days or else they will be thrown into a den of lions (Daniel 6:6-9).

How did Daniel react to this? As a holder of government office, did Daniel hold his finger up in the air and see that the winds of change were blowing against him? Did he decide that it was too risky for him to take a stand for God at this time? No, instead we read, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10).

Daniel knew he had to pay a stiff price for his decision to stand up for His faith in God. As the opening verses above indicate, he was cast into the den of lions. However, he had so glorified God by his actions over his lifetime that even the King expressed his belief that the God whom Daniel served would deliver him: “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you” (Daniel 6:16). God shut the mouths of the lions and the next morning Daniel is released from the den of lions while his accusers are cast into it (Daniel 6:19-24). Regarding Daniel’s accusers this could be said of them: “Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity; yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood. He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made” (Psalm 7:14-15).

I certainly wish more politicians would seek to follow Daniel’s example. More importantly, Daniel is an inspiring example for all of us to follow. Am I willing to stand up for godly principles as did Daniel or do I keep my mouth shut under the threat of being persecuted or humiliated by others? Today, I will follow Daniel excellent example and stand up for God’s principles in a way that glorifies God!

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

9/15/18 “Glorifying God before Kings” (Daily Bible Reading: Daniel 2-4)

“Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him. Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So, they came and stood before the king. And the king said to them, ‘I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream’ ” (Daniel 2:1-3).

Imagine having your boss, your teacher or even the President of the United States falling down prostrate before you and giving praise to God Almighty regarding some service you had performed on behalf of the Lord. That would be pretty awesome wouldn’t it? That’s what happened to Daniel.

As Daniel continues to serve before Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, during this dark period of the history of God’s people as they had been taken captive by the Babylonians Daniel 1:1-2, 20-21), the Babylonian king is troubled by a dream which he has had (Daniel 2:1). He desperately wanted someone to interpret his dream, but no one could. In his frustration, the king begins killing the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:12-13). When Daniel discovers the king’s decree regarding this, he asks for a little time to give himself a chance to petition God regarding the king’s dream (Daniel 2:13-18).

Previously, God had given Daniel the ability to understand visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17). As God reveals Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to Daniel, Daniel reacts by glorifying God in His heart and words: “Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So, Daniel blessed the God of heaven.  Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.’ ” (Daniel 2:19-22).

Following God’s revealing the dream and its interpretation to him, Daniel is brought before the king, where Daniel acknowledges no man can reveal the king’s dream and interpretation (Daniel 2:24-27). However, Daniel then adds, “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days…’ ” (Daniel 2:26-28). As Daniel reveals the dream and its interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:29-45), Daniel does not take the glory for this feat for himself. Instead, he glorifies God before the king by reminding the king that “there is a God in heaven” who has revealed the dream and interpretation to Daniel (Daniel 2:28).

Notice the king’s reaction to these events: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. The king answered Daniel, and said, ‘Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret’ ” (Daniel 2:46-47). Daniel’s example and actions before the great king of Babylon resulted in Nebuchadnezzar falling before him glorifying God!

Today, as I go to work, school, or even help around the house, what will my actions and example lead others to want to do? Will others want to glorify God because I conduct myself with honor and give glory to God for any and all accomplishments I may experience; or, will those around me question whether there is a God because I fail to set the example I should? Today, I will follow the powerful example of Daniel and strive to cause others to glorify God as they see Christ living in me!

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

9/14/18 “The Purposes in My Heart” (Daily Bible Reading: Daniel 1)

“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore, he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8)

The events in the book of Daniel take place during a dark period of history for God’s people Israel. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had come and besieged Jerusalem and carried some of the people there, including Daniel, away to Babylon into captivity (Daniel 1:1-2). Most scholars believe Daniel was only a teenager at this time as he is described as a young man (Daniel 1:4, 17). Although this was a dark period for the nation of Israel, Daniel would prove himself to be a bright light which glorified God by the things he thought, said, and did!

Young people typically have a lot of purposes in their hearts. Teenagers typically think about having fun with their friends, or being “crazy”, or extremely interested in exploring relationships with the opposite sex. If a teenager is more serious in nature, he or she might even begin focusing on achieving good grades at school or exploring different career paths.

As a teenager, what were the purposes in Daniel’s heart? Was it girls or having fun with his friends? No, as the opening verse above indicates, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…” (Daniel 1:8). When he had been taken captive, Daniel, along with his 3 friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:6, also known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, Daniel 1:7), had been selected to undergo training to serve the king (Daniel 1:5). Part of their training involved being nourished with the “king’s delicacies”. For reasons we are not told, Daniel believed partaking of the food of the “king’s delicacies” and wine would cause himself to be defiled (Daniel 1:5, 8).

After telling the chief of the eunuchs, who was in charge of him and his training, he would not defile himself by eating of the “king’s delicacies”, Daniel placed his faith in God’s ability to nourish him and his 3 friends as he told his overseer, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants” (Daniel 1:12-13). The chief of the eunuchs did so and the appearance of Daniel and his friends was much better than those who had been fed with the “king’s delicacies”. God blessed Daniel and his friends during their training (Daniel 1:17) so that at the end of their training period it was said, “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” (Daniel 1:20). Daniel was now in a position to glorify God as he served kings (Daniel 1:21).

How wonderful it would be if more young people strove to have hearts like Daniel and purpose in their hearts not to defile themselves with alcohol, drugs, filthy thoughts and language, or having sexual relations prior to marriage. However, whether I am a young person or an old person, I can learn from Daniel’s example and consider, “What are the purposes in my heart?”

Is my purpose today simply to go out and make a living, get good grades at school, or to enjoy entertaining myself? Today, I will learn from Daniel’s excellent example and character and purpose in my heart not to defile myself. I will strive to glorify God in all that I think, say, and do!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). h

9/13/18 “THE LORD IS THERE” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 38-48)

“In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the Lord was upon me; and He took me there. In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city”(Ezekiel 40:1-2).

During the course of his ministry, Ezekiel had to hear the news of the destruction of the beloved capital city of God’s people, Jerusalem (Ezekiel 33:21). Jerusalem’s destruction was God’s judgment upon Israel because of her sins (Ezekiel 4:1-6:14). It was distressing news and caused many among God’s people to lose all hope for the future. They had said, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off” (Ezekiel 37:11).

However, towards the end of his ministry, God shows Ezekiel great glimpses of hope regarding the future of God’s people. He shows him a valley filled with dry bones which are brought back to life indicating how God is going to restore life to His people (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Furthermore, God shows Ezekiel how spiritually the divided nation of Israel will come together as one nation and will serve under one King, Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 37:15-25). God has accomplished this today in His Son’s Kingdom, the church (Matthew 16:18-19; John 18:36; Colossians 1:13). Finally, as the opening verses above indicate, 14 years following Jerusalem’s capture by the Babylonians, the Lord shows Ezekiel the New Jerusalem which He was going to build for His people (Ezekiel 40:1-2).

The majority of the last 8 chapters of the book of Ezekiel are devoted to graphic, detailed descriptions of the New Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:1-48:35). It can be cumbersome to read all these details. Why did God go into such a detailed description of this New Jerusalem?

Throughout the first part of the book of Ezekiel, God had spent much time breaking down His people by pointing out their sins and abominations. Because they had been engrossed in sins, God needed to humble His people. Following the destruction of their beloved Jerusalem, I believe God knew His people now needed to be build up and encouraged. It would be very encouraging for them to hear how each gate of the city, the court, and the temple was going to be rebuilt. Although I believe the city described applies spiritually to the church and not to a literal physical city, it would fill God’s people with hope that all was not lost. A bright future awaited them!

It is interesting that before the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel sees a vision of God’s glory departing from the temple at Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10:4, 18; 11:23). Now, in his vision of the temple at New Jerusalem, Ezekiel sees God’s glory returning (Ezekiel 43:1-5). God’s people are warned not to transgress according to their former abominations (Ezekiel 44:5-6). Then Ezekiel’s ministry ends as he closes his book with a beautiful, encouraging, and hopeful description regarding the name of the city: “and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE” (Ezekiel 48:35).

It is encouraging for us to know that the Lord is with us today in the church (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Lord is there! God has not abandoned us to live life on our own and by our own strength. Today, I will cling in hope to the assurance that God is with me today as I face whatever challenges come my way, and I look forward to being with Him forever in Heaven in His presence!

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God’ ” (Revelation 21:3).

9/12/18 “The Valley of Dry Bones” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 35-37)

“The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ So I answered, ‘O Lord God, You know’ ” (Ezekiel 37:1-3).

Have you ever felt there was no hope? The prophet Ezekiel had heard the news of the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians (Ezekiel 33:21). Hearing this terrible news must have created feelings of hopelessness for his beloved nation. What hope was there for Israel’s future?

As the book of Ezekiel closes, God shows His people there was great hope for their future. God had to bring His terrible judgment upon Israel and the other nations so that He might be just and His name might be glorified. God states, “I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So, the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward” (Ezekiel 39:21-22). The Gentile nations would know that God had executed His judgment upon Israel because of her sins against Him: “The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them” (Ezekiel 39:23-24).

Although bearing His judgment, God gave bright hope to His people: “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name-- after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid. When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,' says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 39:25-29).

As the opening verses above indicate, God illustrates His great hope for Israel’s future by showing Ezekiel the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-3). God told Ezekiel how these dry bones reflected Israel’s current feelings of hopeless: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ ” (Ezekiel 37:11). However, God gave His people great hope as He told them of His plans to bring them back from captivity: “Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it," says the  Lord’ ” (Ezekiel 37:12-14).

No matter how great my failures or how bleak I may feel about my hope, if I trust in God, He can still work amazing things in my life. He gives hope to the hopeless. He brings dry bones back to life!

“For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth” (Psalm 71:5). [[X�

9/11/18 “They Hear Your Words, but They Do Not Do Them” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 32-34)

“As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, 'Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.' So, they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed, you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass--surely it will come--then they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 33:30-33).

Does God’s Word have an effect on my life? God certainly intends it to. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

As we come to the 33rd chapter of the book of Ezekiel, it appears Ezekiel had been ministering to God’s people for over 7 years (cf. Ezekiel 1:2; 33:21). As he prophesied to God’s people who had already been taken captive by the Babylonians, he clearly warned them that Jerusalem was soon to fall to the Babylonians (Ezekiel 4:1-6:14). Yet, did God’s people heed this warning?

At this point in his ministry Ezekiel learns that Jerusalem has been captured by the Babylonians: “And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, that one who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, ‘The city has been captured!’ ” (Ezekiel 33:22). However, notice the reaction of God’s people back in ruins of what was left of the Promised Land. They were saying, “Abraham was only one, and he inherited the land. But we are many; the land has been given to us as a possession” (Ezekiel 33:24). They did not want to accept God’s message and embrace the reality that they had lost their inheritance. Again, God tells them these were the consequences of their abominations (Ezekiel 33:25-29).

In Babylon, God’s people were, likewise, having difficulty in actually listening to God’s message as well. As the opening verses above indicate, God’s people HEARD God’s Word through the prophet Ezekiel, but did not HEED God’s Word. In fact, it appears they ENJOYED listening to what Ezekiel had to say, but they had no desire to APPLY the prophet’s message to their lives. Ezekiel was to them as a “lovely song of one who had a pleasant voice”. With their mouths they would show much love, but their hearts were in selfish pursuit of their own gain (Ezekiel 33:31-32).

I wonder how often I have a heard a sermon or lesson from God’s Word and thought, “What a nice message” and then walked away and failed to apply it to my life. James warns us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (James 2:22-24). It is great when one enjoys hearing God’s Word, but it is essential that one be sure to apply God’s Word to their lives. Today, I will strive to not only hear God’s Word, but also to heed God’s Word!

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 2:25). cutecom

9/10/18 “Trusting in the Broken Reed” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 29-31)

 

“Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt. Speak, and say, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers, who has said, 'My River is my own; I have made it for myself.' But I will put hooks in your jaws, and cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, and all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales” ’ ” (Ezekiel 29:2-4).

As God continues describing His judgments against the surrounding nations following His terrible Judgment upon Jerusalem, having finished pronouncing His Judgment upon the city of Tyre, now God turns His attention to the ancient nation of Egypt (Ezekiel chapters 29-32). The nation of Israel had placed its trust in Egypt to help deliver it from the invading Babylonians. When the Babylonians threatened Jerusalem, Judah’s last king, King Zedekiah, turned to Egypt for assistance (2 Kings 24:20; Ezekiel 17:15). However, God does not describe Egypt as a strong support for Israel, but as a “staff of reed” (Ezekiel 29:6).

What is a “staff of reed”? A reed is “any of various tall grasses with slender often prominently jointed stems that grow especially in wet areas” (Miriam-Webster dictionary). All along the banks of the Nile River in Egypt these plants grew. However, these plants were not strong and firm, but were weak and flimsy and would break if one leaned upon them. God describes Egypt as a “broken reed” (cf. Ezekiel 29:6). In placing her trust in Egypt, Israel was foolishly trusting in something that did not have the strength to support her in her hour of greatest need (cf. 2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6).

Through prophets such as Isaiah, God had warned His people not to trust in Egypt: “ ‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the Lord, ‘Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!  Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation’ ” (Isaiah 30:1-3). God described how helpless Egypt would be for Israel when the Babylonians invaded: “Nor will Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company do anything in the war, when they heap up a siege mound and build a wall to cut off many persons” (Ezekiel 17:17).

In bringing judgment against Egypt, God would teach His people how utterly foolish it is to place one’s trust in the power of nations. Regarding His coming judgment upon Egypt, God says, “It shall be the lowliest of kingdoms; it shall never again exalt itself above the nations, for I will diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore. No longer shall it be the confidence of the house of Israel, but will remind them of their iniquity when they turned to follow them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord God” (Ezekiel 29:15-16). God’s people would learn to put their trust in Him alone and not in the power of other nations.

Today, I am privileged to live in one of the world’s “superpowers”. Although it is enticing to trust in our country’s might, it is utterly foolish to do so. God rules in the kingdoms of men and gives them to whomever He chooses (Daniel 4:32). Today, I will put my trust in the Lord alone as my Deliverer!

“Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm 2:10-12).

9/9/18 “The Lifted Up Heart” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 26-28)

 

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god, behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you, the most terrible of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, and defile your splendor. They shall throw you down into the Pit, and you shall die the death of the slain In the midst of the seas” (Ezekiel 28:6-8).

After bringing His terrible Judgment upon Jerusalem, now, through Ezekiel, God pronounces His judgments against the surrounding nations. He begins with the city of Tyre. The Phoenician city of Tyre was located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Due to its advantageous geographical location and its good ports, Tyre became one of the wealthiest trading cities in history. The city also was situated in a location that offered excellent protection for its inhabitants. 

Tyre had rejoiced over the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians because she thought this would result in her gaining even more wealth as additional traders would come to her. Regarding Tyre’s rejoicing over the downfall of Israel’s capital city, God told Ezekiel, “Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, 'Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste’ ” (Ezekiel 26:2). Furthermore, Tyre had trusted in her beauty as she said, “I am perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 27:3). Tyre thought so highly of herself, she even viewed herself as a god. God further instructed Ezekiel regarding Tyre’s spiritual condition, “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Because your heart is lifted up, and you say, 'I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas,' Yet you are a man, and not a god, Though you set your heart as the heart of a god” ’ ” (Ezekiel 28:2).

Tyre was a city full of pride. Her arrogance was so great she even though of herself as a “god”. God would bring down this prideful city and would show her who really was God. Ezekiel writes, “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her, and say, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Sidon; I will be glorified in your midst; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I execute judgments in her and am hallowed in her’ ” ’ ” (Ezekiel 28:20-22). In bringing judgment against Tyre, God would be glorified! King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would begin to destroy Tyre, but was unsuccessful (Ezekiel 29:18). It would be many years later, but Alexander the Great of Greece would eventually destroy Tyre and fulfill God’s prophecy against her: “I will make you a terror, and you shall be no more; though you are sought for, you will never be found again,' says the Lord God" (Ezekiel 26:21).

As I consider the ancient city of Tyre, I am reminded how tempting it is for all of us to become ensnared in the sin of pride. As men and women, our world encourages us to take pride in our physical looks, our achievements, and our wealth. Even though we know we should give glory to God for His blessings, many of us struggle wanting a little glory for ourselves. However, I am reminded of the warning words of wisdom by King Solomon: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Today, I will learn from the city of Tyre the terrible consequences of the sin of pride and will strive to walk humbly giving God all the glory He deserves!

“Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person” (Psalm 31:23).

To take a closer look at Tyre and her destruction as prophesied by Ezekiel, I recommend the reading at the following link: https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1790

9/8/18 “I Take Away From You the Desire of Your Eyes” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 23-25)

 

“Also, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, behold, I take away from you the desire of your eyes with one stroke; yet you shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down.  Sigh in silence, make no mourning for the dead; bind your turban on your head, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your lips, and do not eat man's bread of sorrow’. So, I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died; and the next morning I did as I was commanded” (Ezekiel 24:15-18).

Has God ever given you a command to follow that you thought was too difficult to obey? When I get to thinking like this, I am reminded what God told Ezekiel to do in the opening verses above. God told Ezekiel that Ezekiel’s wife (i.e. the “desire of your eyes”) would die and that Ezekiel would not be allowed to weep for her (Ezekiel 24:16). Why would God command such a thing?

At the beginning of the 24th chapter of Ezekiel, we learn that the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians had begun (Ezekiel 24:1-2). God was executing His final judgment upon His own people because of their sins: “ ‘I, the Lord, have spoken it; It shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not hold back, nor will I spare, nor will I relent; according to your ways and according to your deeds they will judge you,’ says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 24:14).

In destroying Jerusalem, the Temple at Jerusalem would be destroyed as well. For the Jews in Babylon to whom Ezekiel had been ministering, the Temple, as well as their children whom they had left back in Jerusalem, had been precious in their eyes. These had been the “desire of their eyes” and God was taking them away in His terrible Judgment upon Jerusalem. When asked why Ezekiel was not mourning at the death of his wife, through Ezekiel God states, “'Behold, I will profane My sanctuary, your arrogant boast, the desire of your eyes, the delight of your soul; and your sons and daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your lips nor eat man's bread of sorrow. Your turbans shall be on your heads and your sandals on your feet; you shall neither mourn nor weep, but you shall pine away in your iniquities and mourn with one another. Thus, Ezekiel is a sign to you; according to all that he has done you shall do; and when this comes, you shall know that I am the Lord God” (Ezekiel 24:21-24).

At the beginning of his ministry, God had told Ezekiel, “I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and not be one to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God.' He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 3:26-27). Up until this point in his ministry, Ezekiel had been able to speak only when the Lord opened his mouth. Following the death of his wife, and upon hearing the news of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, Ezekiel’s tongue will be loosed (Ezekiel 24:25-27; 33:22).

God had taken Ezekiel’s wife as a sign of the terrible pain the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, as well as the loss of their own children back in Jerusalem, would have upon these rebellious Jews in Babylon. These events remind me of the how I should be fearful of sinning against God and having to face His terrible judgment. Today, I will strive to live according to God’s Will for my life so I can rejoice in His goodness and avoid the severity of His judgment because of my sins.

“Therefore, consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).

9/7/18 “Standing in the Gap” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 20-22)

 

“So, I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore, I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,’ says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 22:30-31).

The book of Ezekiel rings with God’s message of His impending judgment of the nation of Judah culminating in the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem. It is not a pleasant message to read. For example, through Ezekiel God says to His people, “"Behold, therefore, I beat My fists at the dishonest profit which you have made, and at the bloodshed which has been in your midst. Can your heart endure, or can your hands remain strong, in the days when I shall deal with you? I, the Lord, have spoken, and will do it. I will scatter you among the nations, disperse you throughout the countries, and remove your filthiness completely from you. You shall defile yourself in the sight of the nations; then you shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 22:13-16).

Why was God bringing such punishment upon His people? They were facing God’s judgment because of all of their abominable practices (Ezekiel 22:1-2). Regarding the priests, God says, “Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26). About Judah’s governing leaders, God adds, “Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain”. Ezekiel 22:27). Moreover, concerning the prophets, God notes, “Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord God,' when the Lord had not spoken” (Ezekiel 22:28). Finally, about those remaining in the land of Judah while Ezekiel was ministering to the captives among God’s people in Babylon, God states, “The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger” (Ezekiel 22:29). God had good cause to bring such judgment upon His people!

Yet, as the opening verses above indicate, in spite of all the evil among His people, God searches to see if there was a man among them who was still righteous. He was seeking “a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it…” (Ezekiel 22:30). This is reminiscent of Abraham bargaining with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if just 10 righteous men could be found in these cities (cf. Genesis 18:32). However, like Sodom and Gomorrah, regarding the Jerusalem of Ezekiel’s day, God’ search for a man to “stand in the gap” comes to a sad end. God states, “…but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30).

As I consider this 22nd chapter of the book of Ezekiel, I wonder, “Will God find a man (or woman) to ‘stand in the gap’ today? In our age which so many believe it is essential to be “tolerant” above all else regarding other’s belief systems, can God’s search for a man to actually stand up for the truth of God’s Word be found? I am not suggesting we should oppress other’s beliefs, but are we willing to take a stand for our beliefs based on God’s Word? Today, I will strive to rise to the challenge and “stand in the gap” for God as I practice God’s Word in my life and promote what God has done for me by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and standing up for what God’s Word teaches!

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

9/6/18 “The Fairness of the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 17-19)

 

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.’ ‘But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.’ ‘None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.’ ‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord God, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’ ” (Ezekiel 18:20-23).

Do a parent’s actions affect their children? Without a doubt most of us would agree that parents have a strong influence upon their children. The way a parent nurtures and disciplines a child has a huge impact upon that child’s life. However, does this then mean that a child has no say in the direction of his or her own future? Is the child not accountable for his or her own choices?

As Ezekiel continues his ministry to God’s people who had already been taken captive to Babylon shortly before the ultimate fall of Jerusalem, God’s people had begun to blame their problems on the  actions of previous generations. God makes Ezekiel aware of this: “The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, ‘What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge”?’ ”(Ezekiel 18:1-2). In other words, the Israelites were saying their father’s actions were affecting the children and the children were suffering the consequences of their father’s sins.

Furthermore, because the Israelites believed this, they accused God of not dealing with them fairly. They felt God was punishing them for their father’s sins. Through Ezekiel, God says to them, “"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair?” (Ezekiel 18:25, cf. v.29). As the opening verses above indicate (Ezekiel 18:20-22), God states that He does not hold the children accountable for the sins of their fathers, but rather He hold each soul accountable for their own actions: “ ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die’ ” (Ezekiel 18:3-4).

God states that a child has the power to either follow parents example or not (Ezekiel 18:14-17). God calls upon each of His people to consider their own ways and turn to Him: “ ‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord God. ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God. ‘Therefore turn and live!’ ” (Ezekiel 18:30-32).

I praise God that He is both just and fair. He doesn’t hold me accountable for the sins or my parents or my children. He gives me the power to choose my own actions and the course of my own life. He has no pleasure in the death of one who dies. Today, I will turn to Him and live!

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

9/5/18 “Persisting in Unfaithfulness” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 14-16)

 

“The word of the Lord came again to me, saying: ‘Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it’ ” (Ezekiel 14:12-13).

For those who always want to hear a positive message from the Word of God, the book of Ezekiel is difficult to read. Much of his message reflects God’s anger and judgment against His own people, Israel. However, for those who seek to really know and understand God, Ezekiel’s message provides valuable insight into the heart of God. The book of Ezekiel helps us to understand the hurt God felt and having His people abandoning their faith in and love for Him. Ezekiel’s ministry is to God’s people who had already been taken captive and are in Babylon shortly before the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 1:1-3). His prophesies help us to understand why God was allowing Jerusalem to be destroyed by another ungodly nation, Babylon.

As the opening verses above indicate, God describes His people as having “persistent unfaithfulness” (Ezekiel 14:12-13). They treated God callously as their hearts hardened towards Him. They would go and worship idols and then come to inquire of the Lord (Ezekiel 14:1-3). As God asks the question, “Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?”, God tells Ezekiel, “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols” ’ ” (Ezekiel 14:3, 4-5). God refused to allow His people to treat Him with such disrespect!

God tells Ezekiel, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations” ’ ” (Ezekiel 14:6). While God had run out of patience being disrespected by His own people, God wanted His relationship with them restored, “that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me, nor be profaned anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be My people and I may be their God…” (Ezekiel 14:11).

God’s people had a choice to make: Would they turn back to Him and seek to restore their relationship with Him or would they continue to forsake Him? Sadly, Israel chose the latter. They chose to “persist in their unfaithfulness”. As a result, they would face God’s terrible judgment: “Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so I will give up the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will set My face against them. They will go out from one fire, but another fire shall devour them. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I set My face against them. Thus I will make the land desolate, because they have persisted in unfaithfulness,' says the Lord God’ ” (Ezekiel 15:6-8).

As Christians, we will always struggle with sin (1 John 1:8). We can fall so deeply in sin that we become unfaithful to God and our hearts can become hardened towards Him (Hebrews 3:8, 13). However, we do not have to persist in that unfaithfulness. God calls us to come back to Him (1 John 1:7, 9). Today, I will guard my heart against “persisting in unfaithfulness” towards God!

“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

9/4/18 “Walls of Untempered Mortar” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 12-13)

“Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, 'Peace!' when there is no peace--and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar-- say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, 'Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?' "(Ezekiel 13:10-12).

God had sent Ezekiel to prophesy to God’s people who have been carried away captive to Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1-3). Jerusalem had not yet fallen. Its city walls were still standing to protect it (cf. 2 Kings 25:8-10; 2 Chronicles 36:19). However, through Ezekiel, God warned the captives that the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians was imminent (Ezekiel 4:1-7:27).

Yet, false prophets began to arise saying quite a different message than Ezekiel. They were saying that peace was soon coming for God’s people. Of these false prophets, God says, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, “Thus says the Lord!” But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed’” (Ezekiel 13:3-6). God adds that these false prophets had spoken nonsense: “Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, 'The Lord says,' but I have not spoken.  Therefore, thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,’ says the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord God” (Ezekiel 13:7-9).

These false prophets were persuading God’s people to hope in their message of peace much like a city would hope in its city walls for protection from the enemy. However, as the opening verse above describe, trusting in the false prophet’s message was like trusting in city walls that had been erected with “untempered mortar”. What is untempered mortar? Untempered mortar means that the mortar which held the bricks of the city walls together had not been brought to a proper consistency and hardness when the wall had been erected. Such mortar would not harden correctly and keep the wall held together properly. It would not take much force before the wall came crumbling down.

It is common among men that we do not enjoy hearing bad news. In Ezekiel’s day, God’s people did not want to hear about how their beloved Jerusalem was going to be destroyed by the Babylonians because of Israel’s sin. God’s people were easily persuaded by false prophets who instead promised them peace. Though the message of peace sounded better to their ears, trusting in this false message was like trusting in walls constructed of untempered mortar. Today, I will strive to heed all of God’s Word because I want my spiritual life to be built upon the solid foundation of Christ!

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

9/3/18 “Marking the Righteous Remnant” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 9-11)

 

“Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer's inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.’ To the others He said in my hearing, ‘Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were before the temple” (Ezekiel 9:3-6).

The prophet Ezekiel ministers to God’s people in Babylon who have already been taken captive by the Babylonians. Jerusalem has not yet fallen to the Babylonians, but it in on the brink of destruction. The verses above speak about how God is about to bring great judgment upon Jerusalem because they had provoked Him to great anger. Why was God so angry at His people?

God had shown Ezekiel visions of what was happening back in the city of Jerusalem while Ezekiel was ministering to God’s people in Babylon (Ezekiel 8:3). In this vision, Ezekiel is shown how there is an idol, an “image” which “provokes to jealousy” (Ezekiel 8:3-5), at the gate going into the inner court of the Temple of God. Furthermore, in this vision Ezekiel sees all the idols of the house of Israel portrayed all around on the walls of the court of the Temple (Ezekiel 8:7-10). In addition, Ezekiel sees 70 men of the elders of the house of Israel engaged in idol worship in the courtyard of the House of God (Ezekiel 8:11-12). As God shows Ezekiel even greater abominations being committed by His own people, Ezekiel sees women weeping after the idol Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:13-14), and 25 men in the inner court of the Lord’s House worshipping the sun (Ezekiel 8:15-16)!

God’s people had provoked Him to jealousy and anger by engaging in such idol worship (Ezekiel 8:3, 17). They had the audacity to engage in idol worship even in the midst of the Temple where God had instructed His people to worship Him! As a result of their actions, God will bring terrible punishment upon them: “Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them" (Ezekiel 8:18). Furthermore, as God can no longer tolerate their desecration of His Temple, His glory will depart from the Temple at Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9:3).

However, not all of God’s people engaged in these horrible, brash acts of idol worship. Some had mourned and sighed over these abominations (Ezekiel 9:4). God remembers these and will spare them from the impending doom as He sends His servant to place a mark on their foreheads to note they are not to be harmed when judgment comes to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9:4-7).

We live in an age where many are very brazen when it comes to disobeying God. Even among some professing to be Christians, there are those who have little regard for actually following God’s law. Yet, in spite of this, there is and always has been a righteous remnant who have remained faithful to God through such perilous times. I am very thankful for these faithful followers of God who serve Him with all of their hearts. Today, I will strive to be a part of the righteous remnant who remain faithful to God and His Word and who will be spared of His impending judgment upon the world.

“Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5).

9/2/18 “Crushed by Their Adulterous Heart” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 6-8)

"Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries. Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them (Ezekiel 6:8-10)."

Adultery is a sin that is terribly painful to bear. For example, adultery breaks the heart of the innocent wife whose trust in her unfaithful husband has been completely shattered. When the husband who has been unfaithful to his wedding vows acknowledges the wrong he has done, his heart is wrecked with the guilt over the terrible wrong he has committed. Adultery is a heartbreaking sin!

Furthermore, the innocent spouse struggles with rage at what has been done to them. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon describes the rage of a husband whose wife has committed adultery: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul.  Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away. For jealousy is a husband's fury; therefore, he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will accept no recompense, nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts” (Proverbs 6:32-35).

As the opening verses above indicate, God uses the pain caused by the sin of adultery to describe the pain He felt because of Israel’s sin against Him (Ezekiel 6:8-10). As a faithful husband, God had loved Israel, nourished her, and provided for her every need. He had delivered her from Egyptian bondage and provided for her a beautiful home in the Promised Land. However, Israel had forsaken her relationship with God and committed adultery by worshipping the idols of the other nations.

God describes for us the pain He felt because of this. The Lord states “…I was crushed by their adulterous heart” (Ezekiel 6:9). God’s heart was broken over the pain Israel brought upon Him by breaking her covenant with Him. Like a husband whose wife had turned to another lover, God becomes filled with wrath and would bring great calamity upon Israel: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, “Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. He who is far off shall die by the pestilence, he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who remains and is besieged shall die by the famine. Thus will I spend My fury upon them” ’ ” (Ezekiel 6:11-12).

We often think of our pain when others hurt us. Sometimes we even think of the pain we cause other people; but, how often do we think of the pain we cause God because of our sin? In Ezekiel, God describes how He is “crushed by their adulterous heart” (Ezekiel 6:8) when His children forsake Him.

Today, I do not want to cause God pain because of my sin. God understands my struggle with sin and will faithfully forgive me when I turn back to Him in repentance (1 John 1:7-9). God does not demand perfection from me, but like a spouse He does expect me to be faithful to Him. I rejoice that God is always faithful to His commitments to me. He will never forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). Today, I will strive to remain faithful to Him!

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelations 2:10).