Making Faith Our Own

Ezekiel 18-19

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Ezekiel 18 describes three generations of men in a family, the first generation is righteous and follows God, the second generation is evil and does everything that God detests, and the third generation is Godly just like the grandpa.  According to the thinking of the Jews of that time each person inherits God’s blessings from their parents, so the evil man would be blessed by God and live a happy and fruitful life because of the righteousness of his father, while the son of the evil man will have a miserable and cursed life because of the evil of his father.  God is going to make it very clear to them that their thinking is fundamentally faulty, because obviously a person who goes around robbing the poor, sleeping with his friends’ wives, and worshiping false gods is going to have a miserable life.  He won’t have friends, and will never be trusted, no matter how great his father was.  How is that a blessed life?

The opposite is also true, if the evil man has a son and that man lives a Godly life and helps the poor, and gives money to the needy, and keeps all of God’s laws he will have a full and blessed life.  People might remember how horrible his father is, but his own actions will speak for themselves, and God will also see his actions and bless him.

This is summed up perfectly in Ezekiel 18:30-32.

“30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

 

This verse is a great blessing, but also a warning.  It is a blessing if you or your family has a past that is full of sin and brokenness and you want to break the cycle, repent and live!  It doesn’t matter what your parents did, good or bad, God will judge you for your own actions.  This makes it very important to make our faith our own, because even though my Mom had and Dad has faith that can move mountains, that does not make me a Christian by default, I still have to work hard at it and build my own faith up.  Just like how knowledge will never transfer from your textbook to your brain when you use the textbook as a pillow, righteousness will not transfer from your parents to you when you sit next to them at church, you have to open the book and read for yourself.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway, here – Ezekiel 18-19

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 20-21 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Cheating Bride

Ezekiel 16-17

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In Ezekiel 16 God is trying to explain his frustration with Israel to Ezekiel in a way they can understand.  He describes them as a bride that God had cared for and loved and showed mercy to.  A bride who then cheated on God with anybody around.

 

“14 Your fame soon spread throughout the world because of your beauty. I dressed you in my splendor and perfected your beauty, says the Sovereign Lord. 15 But you thought your fame and beauty were your own. So you gave yourself as a prostitute to every man who came along. Your beauty was theirs for the asking.”

 

Now in Israel a woman cheating on her husband was grounds for the death penalty, and everybody in Israel would take this very seriously.  While God is referring to the people of Israel intermarrying with other nations he is mostly angry about how the Israelites have given themselves over to the gods of the other nations and have offered sacrifices, even human sacrifices, and have strayed away from God’s teaching.  For this, his anger will burn against them, but there is hope…

 

59 “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant. 60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.

62 And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. 63 You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

Even while God is as angry as he can be at them and is ready to hand the Israelites over to be killed and exiled and humiliated in front of the whole world for their sins he is calmed by the thought of his plan for Jesus to come and for his people to be reunited with him.

 

There is great comfort in this knowledge that God can always forgive, even if we are deserving of, or even in the middle of experiencing his anger and frustration.  It also reminds us of how serious our sins are and how hurtful they are to God, and that there can be very real and painful consequences in life for those sins.  We will continue to see in Ezekiel though that even in the middle of the pain and suffering we must have hope in God’s everlasting covenant.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 16-17

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 18-19 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Carrot and A Stick – REPENT

Ezekiel 13 – 15

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In Ezekiel 14, we’re told that some of the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel.  God told Ezekiel in 14:3-6, “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?  Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any of the Israelites set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet, I the Lord will answer them myself in keeping with their great idolatry.  I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’

“Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!’”

 

I see two attributes of God at work here:  justice and mercy.  For those claiming to follow God, but not really following Him, there will be justice (i.e. punishment).  They will be made an example so others will see and turn to God.  This is a scary concept, and should cause us to repent and turn completely back to God so this doesn’t happen to us.

 

We see God’s mercy as he says to those not following him, “Repent!” and “Renounce all your detestable practices!”.  This too should cause us to repent and turn completely to God.

 

It doesn’t matter whether we respond better to a carrot or to a stick, since we’re given both.  The simple fact remains that we need to repent, renounce all our detestable practices, and turn completely to God.

 

And once that happens, we’re told in 14:11, “Then the people of Israel will no longer stray from me, nor will they defile themselves anymore with all their sins.  They will be my people, and I will be their God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

 

May this be said of us too.  But it is conditional upon repenting and turning completely to God.  The choice is yours.

Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 13-15

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Ezekiel 16-17 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Marked by God for Salvation

Because of their Grief over Evil

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Ezekiel 9 – 12

 

In addition to many similarities between the books of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, there are also many similarities between the books of Ezekiel and Revelation.

 

In Ezekiel 9:4, we see God commanded someone with a writing kit to “go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”  Then God commanded others in verses 5 and 6 to “follow him through the city and kill without showing pity or compassion.  Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.”

 

I’ll point out that this is similar to the 144,000 in Revelation 7 who have the seal of God on their forehead, and are protected, but that’s not what I want to comment on.

 

I want to focus on those in Ezekiel who were to be sealed.  Specifically, the only ones marked were, “those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things” that were going on in Jerusalem.

 

This makes me wonder what God thinks of people today who claim to be God’s people, including us.  Do we grieve and cry because of the sins of our nation?  If not, and if we had lived back then, we would have been targeted for slaughter.  That’s a sobering thought.  It isn’t enough to just try to live a righteous life, we should also be deeply distressed by the evil we see around us.

 

I’m reminded of 2 Peter 2:7-8, which says, “and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)”.  I reference this to point out that Lot was distressed and tormented by what he saw and heard in Sodom.

 

I’m also reminded of 2 Corinthians 6:17, which says, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

 

God is calling us to radically follow Him.  I don’t mean we should be radical like, say, Islamic jihadists, I mean we should radically live for God – so much so that we are tormented by the evil that surrounds us.  If we were, I dare say, we would much more enthusiastically share the gospel with the dying world around us.

 

I’ll close with the exhortation found  in Jude 1:22-23, “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to from BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 9-12

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Ezekiel 13-15 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

They Will Know

Ezekiel 5 – 8

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According to chapter 1, God called Ezekiel on July 31, 593 BC (using our calendar).   Jerusalem didn’t fall to Nebuchadnezzar until 586 BC.  This means that the first 7 years of Ezekiel’s prophesying in Babylon overlapped the last 7 years of Jeremiah’s prophesying in Jerusalem.

 

In addition to foretelling Jerusalem’s destruction for her sin, Ezekiel adds another recurring theme – “then they will know that I am the Lord.”  This phrase occurs 70 times in the book of Ezekiel, so it must be important.  Ezekiel 6: 9b-10 is an example, “They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices.  And they will know that I am the Lord; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them.”

 

7:3-4 says, “The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you.  I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.  I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will surely repay you for your conduct and the detestable practices among you.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

 

And God pointed out through Ezekiel that He wouldn’t listen to their prayers, because of their sin.  We see an example of this in 8:18, “Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them.  Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.”

 

As we read this, we may think, “They were sure idiots for not turning back to God.”  But I wonder what truths might apply to us today?

 

Some of their sins were: idolatry, greed, arrogance, and lack of mercy – and these infuriated God.  If we were compared with the ancient Israelites, how would we as a nation measure up?  How would I as an individual measure up?

 

You may want to ask yourself a few questions:

 

  1. Is God more important to me than anything and everything else?  (If the answer is no, that sounds like idolatry).  And to make sure we understand what it means to put God first, is He obvious in every area of life – including areas as diverse as finances, conversation, entertainment, and charity?

  2. Am I merciful?  If you answer yes, how are you demonstrating that?  For example, how are you helping resolve the racial tensions that seem to be tearing our nation apart right now?  How are you helping those less fortunate than yourself?

  3. Am I greedy?  If the answer is no, where and how are you giving your time and money to God’s work – and to others?

 

If I’m honest, I see that I may not be much more righteous than the ancient Israelites.  And we as a nation don’t measure up well at all.

 

Romans 15:4 reminds us, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

 

If these things were written to teach us, will we learn?  What will it take for us to know that God is the Lord?  Will we humble ourselves, confess our sins, repent, and turn to God wholeheartedly?

 

2 Corinthians 6:2 reminds us, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

 

Hebrews 3:15 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

 

What will you do?

Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to here Ezekiel 5-8

Tomorrow’s passage will be Ezekiel 9-12 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Are You An Accountable Watchman?

Ezekiel 1 – 4

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The prophet Ezekiel was among the Jewish exiles taken to Babylon.  While there, he had amazing visions of God, which are recorded numerous times throughout the book of Ezekiel.  In chapter 1, we read about his first vision.  He started by describing four cherubim inside a fire in great detail, including each of the four faces per cherub, and what their feet looked like (not what you might expect), he went on to describe in detail what their wheels looked like. And that was just the introduction.  He then went on to describe God’s throne, sitting on a platform above the cherubim, and then he went on to describe the glory of God that he saw sitting on the throne.  If you want the details, you’ll have to read Ezekiel chapter 1.

 

During this encounter, God told Ezekiel that He was sending Ezekiel as a prophet to the people of Israel.  God told Ezekiel in 2:7, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”

 

Then, in 3:18-19, we read this, “17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.”

 

Wait a minute.  Does verse 18 really say that God will hold Ezekiel accountable for the blood of the wicked if he doesn’t warn them?  Yes it does.

 

God demands obedience.  And there is always punishment for disobedience.  That disobedience can range from eating forbidden fruit in a garden, to doing things He prohibited, to not doing things He requires.  In this case Ezekiel is commanded explicitly to warn Israel to return to the Lord, and he is warned that if he disobeys, there will be consequences.  As we read throughout the rest of the book, we will find that Ezekiel obeyed faithfully, but it cost him dearly.

 

We have been given some similar commands.  Jesus told his followers to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”  In 1 Peter 2:9, we find, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

 

Remember, as we’re told in 1 John 2:4, “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

 

Will you obey?

Steve Mattison

 

P.s.  If you want the recipe for Ezekiel bread, please read chapter 4.  And while you’re there, please pay special attention to Ezekiel’s dining conditions.

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Ezekiel 1-4

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 5-8 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Return to the Lord

Lamentations 3:37 – 5:22

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The second half of the book of Lamentations is even more depressing than the first half.  Jeremiah was overwhelmed with grief because he had seen horrible things.  Here are two vivid examples.  Lamentations 4:4 says, “Because of thirst the infant’s tongue sticks to the roof of its mouth; the children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them.”  And Lamentations 4:10 says, “With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed.”

 

These are disturbing images.  But Jeremiah reminds us why these troubles came on “God’s people”.  Lamentations 3:39-40 says, “Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins?  Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”

 

I’ve heard a quote that goes something like this, “You should learn from other’s mistakes, because you can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”  In this case, we should learn from Judah’s mistakes so we can live long enough to make other mistakes.

 

The Bible tells us repeatedly that we have a choice.  We can follow God and receive a blessing, or fight against God and receive a curse.  I love the way Moses put it in Deuteronomy 30:15-16, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”

 

When we read passages like those in Lamentations, we need to think about why they were included in scripture, and how they may apply to us today.  I think one reason these are there is to serve as a warning to those who follow – and in our case, for us.

 

God isn’t a vengeful God, just waiting for people to step out of line so he can slap them; He’s a loving God who wants a relationship with each of us.  But God can’t leave the guilty unpunished.

 

Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”

 

God warned his people, Israel, repeatedly to return to Him, but they ignored Him and paid the price.  He warns us today through His word – the Bible.  How will you respond?

 

Steve Mattison

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to here – Lamentations 3:37-5:22

Tomorrow we begin the book of Ezekiel (chapters 1-4) as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Good Grief before God

Lamentations 1:1 – 3:36

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The word lamentation is defined as “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.”  The book of Lamentations is appropriately named.  Jeremiah has witnessed profound calamity, and is overwhelmed with grief, which he is pouring out to God in the book of Lamentations.

 

Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet” for good reason. Here are a few examples of verses that portray his grief…

1:16, “This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears.  No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit.”

2:11, “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed.

3:19-20, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

 

Jeremiah is honest with his feelings, telling God how he feels – and he doesn’t mince words.

(I might mention here that I think this is an important part of the grieving process, not just for Jeremiah, but for us too.)

 

But even in the middle of his grieving, Jeremiah looked to God for comfort, too.  We see this in Lamentations 3:22-32…

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

31 For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.

32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.

 

I think Jeremiah gives us a good example to use when working through mourning and grief.  Honestly tell God how you’re feeling.  He already knows, so it’s not for His benefit.  Verbalizing our grief,  as well as literally crying out to God, actually helps us process our grief, and can help us work through it.

 

But even when overwhelmed with grief, it is also important to remember that God is compassionate and loving.  He will see us through.  Sometimes, it may feel like it’s hard to get through each new day, but the truth remains…

 

“Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.”

 

Despite this truth, we need to remember that the ultimate comfort will be in God’s kingdom, as we’re told in Revelation 21:3-4, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


–Steve Mattison
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to here – Lamentations 1:1-3:36
Tomorrow we will read the rest of Lamentations – 3:37-5:22 – as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

God of Justice

Jeremiah 51-52

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As we finish the book of Jeremiah, we are reminded again that God is a God of justice.

 

King after king had done “evil in the eyes of the Lord” – and the people did too.  Finally, in Jeremiah 52:3, we’re told, “It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end, he thrust them from his presence.”  So Jerusalem was destroyed.  The temple was destroyed.  King Zedekiah was forced to watch as his sons were slaughtered before his eyes, then he was blinded.  Then, the king and 3,023 of the few remaining survivors were carried into exile to Babylon.  What a depressing end to Israel’s autonomy.

 

God had used Babylon to punish Judah for her sins.  To people of Judah, it hadn’t seemed right – that God would use a country even more wicked than Judah to punish Judah.  But the truth remained, Judah needed to be punished.

 

I’ll pause here and mention – as I read Jeremiah, I see many similarities between Judah back then, and our country today.  We too were founded on Godly principles.  We too have forsaken God as a nation.  We too are arrogant and proud.  And I believe that we too deserve God’s judgement.  This is a sobering thought.

 

Back to our story…

Because God is indeed a God of justice, we see in Jeremiah 51 that God is going to punish Babylon too.  In Jeremiah 51:49, we’re told, “Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.”  And later, in 51:56b, we read, “For the Lord is a God of retribution; he will repay in full.”

 

This might be a consolation to those few from Israel that survived, but it wasn’t a consolation for those who died.  This reminds me of Revelation 13:10, which says, “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.  This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.”  We still have this to anticipate.

 

We have to remember that this life is not our ultimate reward – it is just a proving ground to determine who will live forever with God, and who will be eternally destroyed.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” – 1 Corinthians 5:10.

 

God is still a God of justice.  Fortunately for us, He’s also a forgiving God.  I challenge you today to take advantage of His forgiveness, as we’re reminded in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

 

Steve Mattison

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 51-52

Tomorrow’s reading will be Lamentations 1:1-3:36 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Deceived by Pride

Jeremiah 49-50

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More sin, more judgment, more destruction, and a little more restoration – just like yesterday – only the names have been changed.  Yesterday we read about the judgment God was planning against Egypt, the Philistines, and Moab.  Today, we read what was in store for Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam and the big one – Babylon.  God saw their sins and would be bringing judgment and destruction to their lands.

There is one sin that is mentioned again and again.

“Why do you boast of your valleys, boast of your valleys so fruitful? O unfaithful daughter, you trust in your riches and say, ‘Who will attack me?'” (Jeremiah 49:4  NIV).

“The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you” (Jeremiah 49:16 NIV).

“See, I am against you, O arrogant one” (Jeremiah 50:31 NIV).

It may come by many names – boasting, pride, arrogance – but every time it is a sin worthy of judgment.

How could the pride of your heart be deceiving you?

A few weeks ago I was preparing a devotion for posting and I was looking for a background photograph for a verse referring to Hezekiah’s pride (2 Chronicles 32:25).  I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for – but figured I would know it when I saw it.  So I typed in that I wanted to see photos of pride and I started scrolling.  and scrolling.  and scrolling.  You of course are smarter than I and know what I ran across – over and over again.  I am pretty sure there were thousands upon thousands of options for gay pride – rainbows, couples, signs, and more rainbows, a lot of rainbows (when did they get to hijack the symbol of God’s promises?).  There was also the occasional national flag or beaming, proud parent pictured with her perfect child.  But, there was NOTHING there to indicate that pride is a sin, a deadly sin worthy of judgment.  Finally, I opted for the proud peacock as my photo background and shook my head at dismay over what we have become – a culture that celebrates and basks in pride.  Are we any different from the countries of Jeremiah’s day?  Arrogant, boastful, flaunting sin and deceived by pride.  Can we expect anything less than what Jeremiah foretold for these sinful nations?

What about on a personal level?  It can be overwhelmingly depressing to think about trying to fix all the evils of a nation – but what can I work at fixing about myself?  Where do I let pride puff me up so I no longer care for others or about what God says?  How is my use of social media contributing to the spiraling problem of pride?  How is pride connected to so many other sins?

It is time to see our pride and sin for what it is – and treat it as the deadly gangrene it is.  Don’t be led astray and deceived by pride.  Jump down from your high horse and humble yourself.  You aren’t as much as you think you are.  For God has promised judgment for the proud and arrogant.  He has also promised restoration and forgiveness for those who humble themselves  – “If  my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to here – Jeremiah 49-50

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Jeremiah with chapters 51-52 as we continue searching God’s Word in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan