9/11/17 “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).

9/10/17 “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).

9/9/17 “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

9/8/17 “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).

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).

9/7/17 “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

9/6/17 “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).

9/5/17 “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).

9/4/17 “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).

9/3/17 “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).

9/2/17 “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 partner 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).

9/1/17 “I Have Made You a Watchman” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 3-5)

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:17-19).

How many of us would stand idly by while we saw someone robbing our neighbor’s house or trying to lure their young child into a car? Our choosing to do nothing in such situations certainly would not be carrying out the 2nd great commandment, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Matthew 22:37-40). We all agree we should watch out for our neighbors and their children in such situations.

Spiritually, how many of us believe we need to watch out for our neighbors? It appears the majority in our society believe religion is something we should keep to ourselves. Pressure is placed upon us not to tell others of the consequences of not obeying God and seeking a relationship with us. We are frowned upon as being “Jesus freaks” if we talk to others about Him. What does God say about this?

In considering God’s message to the prophet Ezekiel, we certainly learn what God wants us to do when it comes to watching out for our neighbor’s spiritual welfare. Ezekiel the priest is called by God to prophesy to God’s people who have already been carried away to Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1-3). God tells Ezekiel that the people he is going to preach to are not going to listen because they are a rebellious house (Ezekiel 2:3-5; 3:7). However, since Ezekiel knew up front that these people would not listen to God’s message did this relieve him of his duty to speak God’s warnings to them?

As the opening verses describe, God still expected Ezekiel to preach God’s message to them. If Ezekiel warned them and they did not obey, they would die in their sins, but Ezekiel would have delivered his soul. On the other hand, if Ezekiel failed to speak God’s Word of warning to them, they would still die in their sins, but God would require their blood at Ezekiel’s hand (Ezekiel 3:17-19).

Does this mean we should stand on the street corner and yell at people warning them of God’s impending judgment? That is certainly one method, but it is probably not a very effective method. Looking at how Ezekiel began his ministry to these captives, we see he goes and simply sits among them for 7 days (Ezekiel 3:15). The text says he was “astonished” among them. He “sat where they sat”. Ezekiel empathized with the plight of his people. Although God had told Ezekiel these people were a “rebellious house”, Ezekiel tried to understand them and the heartache they faced.

Knowing God’s Word brings an obligation upon us to warn others around us of the consequences of sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23). However, it also gives us an opportunity to share with them the Good News of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. Learning from Ezekiel, we see the importance of not just criticizing our fellow man for their sinful behavior, but also of trying to empathize with our fellow man and the heartache they face because of their sins. Sharing the gospel with them gives us the opportunity to point them to a better life on this earth and eternal life in the future through Jesus Christ. Today, I acknowledge I need to be a good neighbor and warn those around me of the consequences of sin and I will look for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with others!

“…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15-16).

8/31/17 “They Will Know That a Prophet Has Been Among Them” (Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 1-2)

“And He said to me: ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse--for they are a rebellious house--yet they will know that a prophet has been among them’” (Ezekiel 2:3-5).

How do you feel when you share the gospel with someone you care about and they have no interest in it? Depending upon how we view our role in sharing the gospel with others, such instances can be very discouraging to us and we can take such rejection as a personal failure on our part.

Ezekiel the priest is summoned by God to prophesy to God’s people who are in captivity in Babylon. The Babylonians had been attacking Judah multiple times during this period, had carried many of God’s people captive to Babylon, but had not completely destroyed the city of Jerusalem. As Ezekiel begins his ministry to God’s people in Babylon, it would be roughly six more years before Jerusalem would be destroyed and burned (cf. Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2 Chronicles 36:9-11; Jeremiah 52:4-15).

God wants Ezekiel to proclaim His Word to God’s people already taken captive by prior attacks of the Babylonians before the ultimate fall of Jerusalem. God reveals Himself to Ezekiel in an awesome vision as Ezekiel beholds a whirlwind coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself, four living creatures, and the appearance of God’s throne in the sky (Ezekiel 1:4-28).

As the opening verses above describe, Ezekiel’s chances for “success” (i.e. as typically defined by the world’s standards) would be unlikely. God tells Ezekiel that He is sending him to prophesy to a rebellious people (Ezekiel 2:3-5). God encourages Ezekiel to not be afraid of them even though they are rebellious (Ezekiel 2:6). However, God defines His standard for Ezekiel’s successful ministry much differently than does our world. God only cared that Ezekiel proclaim God’s message to these rebellious people:  “You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious” (Ezekiel 2:8). God only wanted His people to know that Ezekiel was God’s prophet who had been among them (Ezekiel 2:5).

In an interesting display for God giving His Words to Ezekiel, God has Ezekiel eat a scroll containing God’s Word and then sends Ezekiel out to speak with His people (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3). As he sends Ezekiel to them, God lets him know that are going to reject Ezekiel and the message of God he brings: “But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted” (Ezekiel 3:7).

As we share the Good News of Christ with those around us, God does not hold us accountable for whether those around us obey the Gospel. God only holds us accountable for doing our part to spread His Word (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:4). In sharing the gospel with others, am I seeking my own glory so I boast of all the great works I have done or am I seeking God’s glory (Matthew 5:16)? God is glorified any time I let others know what the Lord has done for me. Today, as I seek opportunities to share the message of Christ with others I will not seek my own glory and allow myself to get discouraged when that message is rejected by those who choose to remain rebellious to God, but I will seek God’s glory and glorify Him by proclaiming the Good News of what God has done for me!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

8/30/17 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” (Daily Bible Reading: Lamentations 3-5)

“Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3:19-24).

Do you ever struggle with feeling God does not care about you or understand the heartaches you face? Being a follower of God doesn’t mean we never battle with such powerful, negative feelings. God doesn’t despise us when such thoughts come to our minds. Some of the greatest servants of God, like the prophet Jeremiah, combated with such feelings.

Notice the negative thoughts that came to Jeremiah’s mind as he observed first-hand the destruction of his beloved Jerusalem. Beholding the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah states, “All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. Fear and a snare have come upon us, desolation and destruction. My eyes overflow with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people” (Lamentations 3:46-48). Furthermore, Jeremiah struggles with understanding why God hasn’t intervened to help them: “You have covered Yourself with anger and pursued us; You have slain and not pitied. You have covered Yourself with a cloud, that prayer should not pass through. You have made us an offscouring and refuse in the midst of the peoples” (Lamentations 3:43-45).

In addition, as he further descends into despair, Jeremiah accuses God of not treating him fairly: “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely He has turned His hand against me time and time again throughout the day. He has aged my flesh and my skin, and broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and woe. He has set me in dark places like the dead of long ago. He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy. Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer” (Lamentations 3:1-8). By these words, we can clearly see Jeremiah is at a low point in his walk with God.

However, Jeremiah’s words to God do not end here. As the opening verses above indicate, after pouring out his soul to God, Jeremiah makes some wonderful statements indicating that, although he was greatly struggling with his faith in God, he was still maintaining faith in God. He remembers that because of God’s mercy and compassion Israel was not completely consumed. There was still a remnant that remained. He proclaims to God, “Great is Your faithfulness”. God would continue to be his portion and Jeremiah would continue to hope in Him (Lamentations 3:22-24).

I look forward to seeing Jeremiah in heaven. He is such an inspiration to me. He faithfully served God during some very dark days in Israel’s history. Although dealing with the heartache of seeing the destruction of God’s people because of their sins, coping with being imprisoned for proclaiming God’s message, and battling with his own negative feelings of depression, Jeremiah rises from the ashes and proclaims to God, “Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23). Today, I will rejoice at the great faithfulness of God to me when I struggle with my own sins, fears, and doubts. Like Jeremiah, I will remember God is my portion and I will hope in Him!

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23)

8/29/17 “Is There No One To Comfort Me?” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 52-Lamentations 2)

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces has become a slave! She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into captivity, under affliction and hard servitude; she dwells among the nations, she finds no rest; all her persecutors overtake her in dire straits” (Lamentations 1:1-3).

How many of us enjoy going to a funeral? While many of us may not look forward to going to a funeral, funerals serve very important purposes. Not only does a funeral serve to remember the deceased, but it also serves to comfort the bereaved.

The book of Lamentations describes the funeral of a city. As Jeremiah writes this book, Jerusalem has just been taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Jeremiah acknowledges that God was right to fulfill His promises to bring such judgment upon them: “The Lord has done what He purposed; He has fulfilled His word which He commanded in days of old. He has thrown down and has not pitied, and He has caused an enemy to rejoice over you; He has exalted the horn of your adversaries” (Lamentations 2:17). However, Jeremiah also tearfully describes his own emotions at seeing the death of his beloved city: “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled; my bile is poured on the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people…” (Lamentations 2:11).

At this painful moment, Jeremiah personifies the city of Jerusalem as one seeking comfort. But, as the opening verses describe, she is unable to find comfort from those she had trusted in the past. They have forsaken her and she is left comfortless by them (Lamentations 1:1-3). Desperately seeking comfort, she turns to the Lord, the only One who can comfort her. As she does so, she acknowledges her sins, “The Lord is righteous, for I rebelled against His commandment. Hear now, all peoples, and behold my sorrow; my virgins and my young men have gone into captivity. I called for my lovers, but they deceived me; my priests and my elders breathed their last in the city, while they sought food to restore their life. See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, for I have been very rebellious…” (Lamentations 2:18-20).

In reading the book of Lamentations, it painfully reminds me that Hell is described as a place of no comfort. Jesus described the unending pain of it as He portrays Hell as the place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44). How painful it will be for those who end up in Hell to realize their own actions, like Jerusalem of old, have put them in such a terrible place (Romans 3:23; 6:23). However, this is a place which God wants us to avoid. He sent His own Son to die for our sins to spare us from such misery (John 3:16) as He desires to save us (1 Timothy 2:4).

On the other hand, God is always there to comfort us if we will turn to Him. To those of Isaiah’s day, God said, “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid…” (Isaiah 51:12). Not only does God comfort those who faithfully serve them today, but Heaven is described as a place where God continues to comfort His people and wipe away their tears (Revelation 21:4). Today, I rejoice that God seeks to comfort me and I will turn to Him for comfort in all my afflictions.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

8/28/17 "The Sinking of Babylon" (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 48-51)

“Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates. Then you shall say, 'Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary.' Thus far are the words of Jeremiah” (Jeremiah 51:63-64).
It is a great comfort to me to consider God’s Sovereignty. In His Sovereignty God watches over my physical needs and has sent His Son to redeem me from my sins (Galatians 4:4-5). In addition, as part of His reigning power, God rules over the nations. Job said, “He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them. He takes away the understanding of the chiefs of the people of the earth, and makes them wander in a pathless wilderness. They grope in the dark without light, and He makes them stagger like a drunken man” (Job 12:23-25).
Throughout the book of Jeremiah, there is a dark cloud as Jeremiah prophesies about the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem by the nation of Babylon because of the sin of God’s people. One can only imagine the anxiety which must have weighed on Jeremiah’s heart and on the hearts of the faithful remnant as they saw the growing power of Babylon and her threatening Israel’s borders. However, as the book closes, God comforts His people by reminding them of His Sovereignty and that He will be punishing the nation of Babylon. Over a hundred verses in the last few chapters of the book of Jeremiah are dedicated to Babylon’s looming destruction (Jeremiah 50:1-51:58).
It is interesting, but 7 years before the destruction of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:1-5), through the prophet Jeremiah, God speaks of the upcoming destruction of Babylon. Jeremiah tells Seraiah, who goes with King Zedekiah to Babylon, God’s message and notice what Jeremiah has Seraiah do: “The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And Seraiah was the quartermaster. So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that would come upon Babylon, all these words that are written against Babylon. And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, ‘When you arrive in Babylon and see it, and read all these words, then you shall say, “O Lord, You have spoken against this place to cut it off, so that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but it shall be desolate forever” ’ ” (Jeremiah 51:59-62). Then as the opening verses above indicate, Seraiah throws the book containing these words into the Euphrates River and says, 'Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary' (Jeremiah 51:63-64).
As we look at the news of today, there are lots of things in it that can create anxiety in our hearts today such as wars, violence, poverty, economic struggles, and the questionable decisions of many of our elected officials. It is comforting to be mindful that God still rules the nations and will ultimately execute His Sovereign judgment upon them: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). As Christians, we can rejoice that we are part of a greater kingdom. We are part of the Kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). Unlike Babylon of old or even the United States of America where I live today, Jesus’ Kingdom will never be sunk (Matthew 16:18-19). Today, I rejoice in being able to let go of my anxieties regarding the fate of earthly kingdoms and rejoice that my Heavenly Father in His Sovereignty has placed me in the Kingdom of His Son!
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
 

8/27/17 "What Will It Take to Humble Me?" (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 44-47)

“Have you forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, the wickedness of the kings of Judah, the wickedness of their wives, your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? They have not been humbled, to this day, nor have they feared; they have not walked in My law or in My statutes that I set before you and your fathers” (Jeremiah 44:9-10).
The great boxer Muhammad Ali, once said, “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am”. Solomon wrote, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is a vice many of us struggle with, although, perhaps, some of us are too proud to admit it.
Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity of the land of Judah (Jeremiah 39:1-8), a group of God’s people led by Johanan the son of Kareah, one of the former army leaders, begin to leave the Promised Land and flee to Egypt (Jeremiah 43:5-7). Through the prophet Jeremiah, God had warned them not to do this and they would face certain destruction if they did (Jeremiah 42:15-19). However, they insist on going and force Jeremiah to go with them to Egypt.
While in Egypt, God speaks regarding those Israelites who chose to go down to Egypt. He reminds them of what He did in the past to those who refused to humble themselves before the Lord: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: 'You have seen all the calamity that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went to burn incense and to serve other gods whom they did not know, they nor you nor your fathers’” (Jeremiah 44:2-3). God had sent His prophets to them to warn them, but they refused to humble themselves before God. As a result, they faced God’s wrath. God states, “So My fury and My anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as it is this day” (Jeremiah 44:6). 
As the opening verses above indicate, those Israelites who fled to Egypt had seen what happens to those who refuse to humble themselves before God. Yet, by fleeing to Egypt, they were once again subjecting themselves to God’s wrath (Jeremiah 44:7-9). Regarding them, God says, “They have not been humbled, to this day, nor have they feared; they have not walked in My law or in My statutes that I set before you and your fathers” (Jeremiah 44:10). Even after all the consequences they had faced because of their own sin, they still refused to humble themselves before God. Following this warning by Jeremiah to them, notice their prideful response: “"As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you!” (Jeremiah 44:16).
Even though they had seen such great calamity like the terrible destruction of Jerusalem, they still refused to humble themselves before God. How many of us know people that we love who have suffered terrible consequences from their own sins, yet still refuse to humble themselves before God? More importantly, how often do we find ourselves being prideful and resisting following God’s Will in our lives when it comes submitting to such challenging commands as practicing forgiveness towards others (Matthew 6:14-15) or loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44)? What must God do to me in order to get me to walk humbly before Him? Today, I will strive to humble myself before the Lord!
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
 

8/26/17 "My Will Be Done?" (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 41-43)

“Now all the captains of the forces, Johanan the son of Kareah, Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people, from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, ‘Please, let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the Lord your God, for all this remnant (since we are left but a few of many, as you can see), that the Lord your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do” (Jeremiah 42:1-3).
When you pray to God, how do you want God to answer your prayer? Deep down inside, do you expect Him to answer your prayer according to your will or His? How do you react when His answer to your prayer is not what you wanted it to be?
As we continue reading through the book of Jeremiah, following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 39:1-8), we see Gedaliah becomes the puppet governor set up by the Babylonians to maintain law and order in the recently conquered territory (Jeremiah 40:5-6). Gedaliah encourages the people, including the former army commanders, to live at peace with the Babylonians (Jeremiah 40:7-12). However, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, one of the former army leaders, secretly kills Gedaliah the governor (Jeremiah 41:1-3). Later, Ishmael and the forces allied to him were defeated by another of the former army leaders, Johanan the son of Kareah (Jeremiah 41:11-12). Although Ishmael himself is able to escape and flee to the Ammonites following this battle, Johanan is able to recover many of the people taken captive by Ishmael (Jeremiah 41:13-15).
Following this civil war among the remnants remaining of the Israelites, Johanan considers leading those under his command down to Egypt for fear of Babylonian reprisals following these events. He comes to Jeremiah asking for God’s guidance as he says to Jeremiah, “that the Lord your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing which we should do” (Jeremiah 42:3). Jeremiah welcomes their petition request: “Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, ‘I have heard. Indeed, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your words, and it shall be, that whatever the Lord answers you, I will declare it to you. I will keep nothing back from you’" (Jeremiah 42:4). 
Johanan and those with him respond that they will respect whatever God’s answer is to them: “So they said to Jeremiah, ‘Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you. Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God’" (Jeremiah 42:5-6). Although they mouthed these words, they did not mean them in their hearts. When Jeremiah tells them God wants them not to go to Egypt, but to remain in the land, they become enraged, accuse Jeremiah of speaking falsely (Jeremiah 43:2), and leave for Egypt anyway forcing Jeremiah to go with them (Jeremiah 43:4-7).
How often do I act like Johanan and those who were with him with regard to my prayer life? Instead of waiting for and obeying God’s answers to my petitions, I expect God’s answer to my prayers to simply be a confirmation of my preconceived plans. Today, unlike Johanan, when I call upon God in prayer I will say like Jesus, “...nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).
 

8/25/17 “Showing Kindness in the Midst of Calamity” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 38-40)

“So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there old clothes and old rags, and let them down by ropes into the dungeon to Jeremiah. Then Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, ‘Please put these old clothes and rags under your armpits, under the ropes.’ And Jeremiah did so. So they pulled Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the dungeon. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison” (Jeremiah 38:11-13)

The actor Tommy Lee Jones said, “Kindness and politeness are not overrated at all. They’re underused”. Many of us would say we show acts of kindness towards others. However, how apt are we to show kindness to others when we ourselves are going through a great trial of affliction?

As the opening verses above show, the prophet Jeremiah experienced an act of great kindness from an Ethiopian man named Ebed-Melech (Jeremiah 38:11-13). During the last days of the nation of Judah as the Babylonian army was about to capture the capital city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was falsely accused of trying to defect to the Babylonians (Jeremiah 37:11-13). As a result he was arrested and imprisoned (Jeremiah 37:14-16, 21). Later, Jeremiah is put into a dungeon where there is no water. He begins to sink in the mire of this dungeon and his death is imminent (Jeremiah 38:6).

At this time, not only was Jeremiah’s life in grave danger, but everyone in Jerusalem had their lives threatened. The Babylonian army was literally right outside the door of the city. Jeremiah had prophesied that they were going to not only burn the city with fire, but also destroy the inhabitants as well (Jeremiah 37:6-10; 38:1-3). Yet, in spite of this looming threat, the Ethiopian Ebed-Melech goes to King Zedekiah and requests that the king allow him to rescue Jeremiah from this terrible dungeon (Jeremiah 38:7-10). The king grants his request of kindness and Ebed-Melech rescues Jeremiah from the dungeon. Jeremiah is then allowed to remain in the court of the prison (Jeremiah 38:11-13).

What strikes me about this event is Ebed-Melech was not so wrapped up in his own adversity (i.e. the looming destruction of Jerusalem) that he failed to see the need to show kindness to others who were also facing their own great trials as Jeremiah did. God would reward Ebed-Melech for his act of kindness. While Jeremiah is still in the court of the prison, God’s Word comes to him, “Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. But I will deliver you in that day,” says the Lord, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the Lord’ " (Jeremiah 39:15-18). In the midst of the great storm of affliction that was happening to Jerusalem, God noticed, appreciated, and would reward Ebed-Melech’s kindness to God’s servant Jeremiah.

All of us face our own trials. As of the moment of this writing, some of us are facing greater trials than others. However, let us strive to follow the example of Ebed-Melech and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who in spite of the affliction which they faced, still showed kindness to others (cf. John 13:1-17; 34-35). Today, I will strive to show others the kindness of God through me!

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me'” (Matthew 25:34-36).

8/24/17 “A Vain Attempt to Destroy God’s Word” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 35-37)

“Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning on the hearth before him. And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe's knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jeremiah 36:22-23).

The “Jefferson Bible”, or “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” as it is formally titled, was a book constructed by Thomas Jefferson in the latter years of his life by cutting and pasting (literally with a razor and glue) numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson's condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels which contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages indicating Jesus was divine. Jefferson was not the only national leader who cut away portions of God’s Word with which he disagreed.

During the days of King Jehoiakim’s reign, God had a task for Jeremiah to perform. “Now it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day’” (Jeremiah 36:1-2). Because he was confined, Jeremiah sends his servant Baruch to read it to the people who come to the Lord’s house (Jeremiah 36:4-7).

God’s purpose in having Jeremiah do this was His desire that His people would repent and turn back to Him: “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the adversities which I purpose to bring upon them, that everyone may turn from his evil way, that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3). As Baruch reads God’s Word to the people in the Lord’s house, some of the princes hear news of it and invite Baruch to come to the King’s House to read it to them (Jeremiah 36:8-15). As the princes listen, they are filled with fear as they hear these words (Jeremiah 36:16).

As the opening verses above indicate, the princes encourage the king to hear God’s message. However, Jehoiakim callously takes the scroll containing God’s Word, cuts it up with a scribe’s knife, and casts it into the fire (Jeremiah 36:23). However, the message of God’s Word cannot be avoided so easily. In fact, God instructs Jeremiah, “And you shall say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, 'Thus says the Lord: "You have burned this scroll, saying, 'Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and cause man and beast to cease from here?' " Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: "He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. I will punish him, his family, and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah all the doom that I have pronounced against them; but they did not heed." ' " (Jeremiah 36:29-31). For Jehoiakim there was no avoiding God’s judgment!

There is no doubt there are many in our world, who like King Jehoiakim of old, try their best to disregard God’s Word. Whether I agree or disagree with what God states in the Scriptures, God’s Word will endure. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Today, I will show respect to God’s Word by fearing the Lord and submitting to His message for me as I strive to live within the boundaries He has set for my life!

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

8/23/17“The Field of Dreams” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 32-34)

“And Jeremiah said, ‘The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, ‘Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.’” Then Hanamel my uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord’” (Jeremiah 32:6-8).

Many of us remember the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” in which Kevin Costner starred as a farmer who decides to build a baseball field on his farm. One of the familiar lines in the movie is “If you build it he will come.” He builds the baseball field, not only do a number of former baseball players appear, but also the farmer’s father appears to him as a young man in his earlier years.

As the opening verses above describe, God tells Jeremiah to buy his “field of dreams”. Jeremiah’s cousin comes to Jeremiah encouraging him to buy Jeremiah’s uncle’s field. According to the rights of inheritance, Jeremiah was given the opportunity to purchase it (Jeremiah 32:6-7).

However, on the surface, one would question if it made any sense for Jeremiah to do so. At the time when Jeremiah learns of this right of his to inherit and redeem this field, Jeremiah has been locked up in prison by king Zedekiah for speaking God’s Word regarding the upcoming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem (Jeremiah 32:1-5). Why should Jeremiah buy a field when he did not even know if he would ever be released from prison to enjoy it? Furthermore, as Jeremiah looked outside his prison window he could see the siege mounds the Babylonians were building in order to conquer the city of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 32:24). Why should Jeremiah buy a field in the land of Israel, when the Babylonians were about to conquer all the land? Under such circumstances it would appear if Jeremiah purchased this land, there would be no way he would ever enjoy its fruits? Although Jeremiah buys the land as God has instructed him and stores the deed in safe keeping, (Jeremiah 32:9-15), he struggles with doubts as to why God has told him to do all of this (Jeremiah 32:16-25).

However, God assures Jeremiah that, even though everything at the moment seems hopeless as the Babylonians are about to conquer the land, following 70 years of captivity God will bring His people back to the land and there will be great rejoicing: “For thus says the Lord: 'Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them. And fields will be bought in this land of which you say, “It is desolate, without man or beast; it has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.” Men will buy fields for money, sign deeds and seal them, and take witnesses, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South; for I will cause their captives to return,' says the Lord” (Jeremiah 32:42-44).

As I read this great chapter in the book of Jeremiah, I am greatly comforted as I see how God assures Jeremiah of the hope Jeremiah has placed in Him. In faith, Jeremiah obeys God even though many would think he was foolish to do so as the Babylonians are about to conquer the land and Jeremiah himself is locked up in prison. Today, I will strive to live by faith in God as I look forward to enjoying my “field of dreams”, my heavenly home with God!

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).