This time of year can be a little dark-physically and spiritually. Days are getting shorter and common themes of shock, terror and death seem to ride in the wake of Halloween. But several years ago, our church decided we could push back and do something positive for our community. So we host a Fall Festival with all kinds of activities for families. This event is a source of excitement for children and a bright spot for a lot of our church family.
The message of Ezekiel 37 is a huge encouragement in the middle of a very dark time for God’s people. They felt depleted and described their situation as “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.”
But God is a giver of life! He tells them that He will open their graves and cause them to come up out of those graves. God says that they are His people and He will bring them to the land of Israel.God will put His Spirit within them and they will come to life.
This vision of the Valley of Dry Bones is God’s message of bringing life and hope. God gives us the ability to live in newness of life now, but we also have the promise of the coming resurrection. How exciting to know that there is a resurrection of the righteous someday. We will all have one shepherd and will walk in God’s ordinances and keep and observe His statutes (v. 24). We are so blessed to have the opportunity to have a loving relationship with God in Christ right now and we can also experience the ultimate joy of having God’s dwelling place with us on earth someday. So even when your circumstances may seem dark remember that God abides with His obedient children and lets us know that we are His by the Spirit (1 John 3:24).
What does it mean to you to have life because you have God’s Spirit? Do you have God’s Spirit?
Where do you find encouragement in the middle of a dark season? How can you share that encouragement with others?
This week we have covered pain and sorrow in our trials, our hope in Jesus, newness in the clay, God’s comfort for us in our battles, and our freewill to live for Christ.
Though these topics are all different, they all connect in how we reach others. Our job as Christians is to share the good news of God and his Son. Our prayer everyday should be to touch the life of someone in a positive way; and hopefully to bring people with us along the journey. But our job is also to be accountable for one another in our journey of faith. This doesn’t mean to be judgmental but understanding.
As we have gone through this week, we have seen how God comforts, but he also tests by letting us face sorrow, and we have seen how our faith is based on our freewill to follow Him. The same goes with accountability. We are to walk alongside each other in trials and in comfort and help each other walk closer in our faith in God and the hope we have in Jesus.
Ezekiel 33:7-9 says,
“As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, give them a warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘wicked one, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself.”
This scripture really hits home how important remaining faithful every day is. It is not enough to just go to church and give our offering. While those are important things, what really matters is bringing Jesus outside of church. Jesus continually went to people who were broken and lost, just as we are supposed to.
We are supposed to be the light for people who have no light. We are supposed to be there for the person at school who is always alone, talk to the coworker, who you know is going through a hard time, and spread the joy and hope that Jesus would spread.
A song written this year by Cain, called The Commission words it perfectly. “Go tell the world about me, I was dead but now I live. I’ve got to go now for a little while, but goodbye is not the end.” He will be back someday, and he wants to see everyone there. If we don’t spread his word who will?
I want to know that I did everything I could in my life to share Jesus with as many people as God gives me the opportunity.
My Grandpa used to say this quote by Stephen Covey, but it goes like this. “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”
How do you feel about the job of watchman?
Has anyone been a faithful watchman for you – warning you of the danger of continuing down a path away from God and his commands? What did they do well?
How can a watchman deliver God’s warning in a way that might be best heard and heeded?
As a child of God, it is your duty to understand how to bring praise and worship to the LORD as a sacrifice to him. Worshipping our God should not only give you joy but also bring joy to our incredible God and to our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The past two years have been a whirlwind for all of us. I don’t have to write it to remind you of the turmoil that our world has been in. In this historic time, its natural for us to become down–depressed even. It’s easy to think that hope is lost.
This week, I encourage you to remember that we have a never failing — never ending — hope. In this series, I remind you of who you are– who God has made you to be — a worshipper for him. Our King has never lost a battle. He never will. I remind you that this world is going to fail you–it’s not the Kingdom of God. But, I urge you to remember that his kingdom is coming. Let’s worship while we wait for our coming King.
We call out to Dry Bones – Come Alive…
Each day, I am going to relate this devotion to a song in worship that connects to the scriptures we are focusing on. Today our song is, “Come Alive” by Lauren Daigle. I hope this song fills your heart as much as it does mine.
“Come Alive” is taken from Ezekiel 37.
3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:3-6
God always has a way of showing up doesn’t he? Our God is never late. And he proves that over and over again. In Ezekiel 37, we see a picture of hopelessness. I envision these bones to be turning to dust. If I saw this, I would be drawn toward the idea of death—nothingness—pure loss. But, somehow Ezekiel sees these bones as an opportunity for God.
Ezekiel calls upon the LORD to make something out of what seems like nothing. The prophet believed so deeply in the giver of life that he had the courage to ask God to renew life in these bones!
As a modern-day believer, I become convicted when I open my Bible and get a taste of the spiritual confidence that the men and women of the scriptures had. They didn’t just see and hear— they ran forward in action!
After Ezekiel makes this act of faith, we see that these bones weren’t nothing! They belonged to the people of Israel. Before Ezekiel’s eyes, stood the men and women who sacrificed it all in order to achieve freedom. And, they did.
Okay, I get where your head is likely going… “Les, what dry bones do I have that need to come alive?”
For us, these scriptures are less about physical resurrection and more about being wholly rejuvenated in Spirit. How many people–this may include yourself–are giving the bare minimum for God? How many of you feel how hard it is to get up on Sunday morning? How many of you are simply…tired?
This feeling is what leads us to having spiritually dry bones.
We have to ask God to make us alive again in him. And we must pray for our spiritual brothers and sisters that they do the same.
“We call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive.”
My prayer for you this Sunday is that you become spiritually alive – totally revived. I pray for your churches this morning, and for your pastors. Let us ask God to fill us with the breath of life–in order to be renewed, and to be strong once again.
While we have been thinking about the importance and beauty of God’s word in Psalm 119, we have also been reading Ezekiel. I want to lead you on a speed run through Ezekiel 25-36.
For the most part, Ezekiel is given a message of judgement against the nations. These nations are those who have harmed the people of God. Many of the Minor prophets got similar messages which could be summed up in modern words as, “You have hurt and abused God’s people, and he will give you justice.” The nations that are judged in these chapters are Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon and Egypt. He spends quite some time on both Tyre and Egypt, and even speaks to their kings directly. The praise he gives in his lamentations over these nations is rather grand. Read Ezekiel 28:11-19. God had blessed the King of Tyre, given him so much, and yet look how far he fell! I hope you can see why a number of people have thought that God started talking about Satan here; an angelic powerful force from the beginning of the world falls to the pit because of pride. I don’t think the text is specifically talking about Satan, but that the King of Tyre represents the satanic spirit and lives his life parallel to the Satanic fall. In these laments, I don’t think God is necessarily mocking their fall. I don’t think he wants to bring the evil back on their head (see 36:11), but the nations and their rulers acted pridefully and never sought the good of his people. God does not allow that to go unpunished.
And so God sends in his man. So now we get to see the Israelite King or General or War Hero who vanquishes his foes and becomes King over the Kingdom…
No, God didn’t work that way. God instead says, “I will strengthen the arms of the King of Babylon and put my sword in his hands.” (30:24) God used Babylon. The same Babylon that would later take his people into captivity, the same Babylon that would later be used as the image of the proud nation, as the one who exiles the people of God. What is God doing using Babylon?!
He’s doing what God always does; His will.
God is smart enough, wise enough, powerful enough, good enough, loving enough, to take all the broken pieces and people in this world, with their free will and desires and urges and traumas and prejudices and hatreds and pains and hopes…
And God can use it for the good of his people
and the working of his plan.
Babylon acted in freedom, maybe even sin, and God can take that and make it work for him.
God can give true freedom to love him or reject him, to walk in righteousness or sin, and he can still work out his will in people.
You have this freedom. In Ezekiel 33:10-16, God tells his people, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Are you living a life of wickedness, separated from God? I stand, like Ezekiel, as a watchman(33:7), begging you to see the truth. To turn from that sin and live! If you choose to believe in the God of this prophecy, the God of the Torah, the God of all Scripture, who gave us these words and the Word, made flesh in Jesus Christ, If you choose to follow him, then the promise from Ezekiel 36 will happen in you. “ Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.” (25-28)
May you trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ.
May you turn from sin and judgment.
May you turn to righteousness, hope, and love.
May you have YHWH, the one true God, be your God today.
Read Psalm 118, or read it again. What is this Psalm all about? What is the refrain? “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” God’s people look back on what has happened in their past and speak of God’s grace goodness and love. The Psalmist says that “he” (we don’t know the psalmist, but we will use he as the pronoun) speaks from his own perspective. The people from all nations were against him, but GOD is for him. In verse 6 he asks the great question, “What can humans do to me?” If God is for us, then who or what could ever stop us? God will save and send protection and salvation. The author says that this does not only hold true for him but it’s true for ALL of God’s people. The community asks God to save. “O LORD, do save, we ask you!” And when God answers, salvation, grace, and protection are for both the individual and the community. Upon his people he gives light (v.27) and to the individual he has become his strength, his song, and his salvation. (V. 14)
Now, compare that with Ezekiel 24:15-27 (go read it). All the words God has said in Psalm 118 don’t seem to make sense in light of Ezekiel 24. Ezekiel is God’s servant. He is a “good man” speaking to the “bad people” of Jerusalem. So what does God do?
God kills Ezekiel’s wife.
You may say “Jake, that’s extreme. God doesn’t kill people. He just allows her to die.” I could agree with you, maybe, if all we had was Ezekiel 24:18. Ezekiel reports the fact that his wife dies and he wasn’t allowed to mourn. But just two verses earlier, God explains that HE is taking Ezekiel’s desire with a blow. God killed her. An innocent wife of a good man, to teach bad and rebellious men.
Does Ezekiel say, “His love endures forever?”
Do we expect him to?
How do we reconcile this?
First, let me start with the fact that Ezekiel, his wife, and all the prophets recognized that their life was totally forfeit to the God who had power over life and death. I don’t think we should think of Ezekiel’s wife as an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire, no matter how much her story may suggest it. Ezekiel knew that everything he owned and everyone he loved was ultimately owned by God and loved by him more.
Second, YES love. The love of God is the most fundamental element of his being. “God is love.” “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son.” “What great love the father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God!”
“His love endures forever!”
So, the primary text is not Ezekiel but the Psalm. The Psalm prescribes who God is in love. And even there, we get our answer for Ezekiel.
“The Lord has disciplined me severely.”
Words alone weren’t cutting it with the people. They had heard the voice of the prophets again and again to return to the Lord. In Ezekiel 24, God is done telling them what they will experience, but will show them WHAT he will do. He was going to take his own sanctuary away from the sinning, unfaithful Israelites. He was going to discipline them. But they were not going to mourn even the presence of God being taken from them. Ezekiel showed them that they were going to lose the presence and be totally OK with it. They needed to see it, because it proved that God is the one in control.
Finally, we need to recognize that too often we are worried too much about this life. Ezekiel’s wife may not have wanted to die, but she trusted in the Lord, as did her husband. Psalm 118 itself reminds those of us who are faithful followers of Christ that this is not the end. The stone that the builders rejected that has become the chief cornerstone. That one is Jesus of Nazareth. This work of God is marvelous in our eyes. God has made our days, our night, our beginning, and our ending. But for the faithful, this life is NOT the end. God has promised that the one who came in the name of the Lord to the shouts of “Hosanna”, or “Save us”, that same Jesus will be the one who comes in power to raise the living and the dead and give the reward to those who love him.
Goodness for forever.
Since God’s love endures forever, he promises those he loves will endure forever.
So, give thanks to the Lord for he is good.
His love endures forever.
(P.S. Not part of the main devotional text, but for those who are going through or know someone going through pain, read on.
This post may have made you uncomfortable. Let me add the following thoughts.
Quick summary of my points:
Ezekiel’s wife had given God her life
God’s love, not his judgement or anger, defines his divine actions
We limited humans are too worried about the short time here when we have eternity of joy through faith
However, let me be clear : these are not the words you share with the hurting, nor will these be your first thoughts in pain. Death is an enemy that God will destroy. We are to weep with those who weep. Understanding Ezekiel in light of the Psalm 118 is our ideal, but it may take time. If you are not in a place of pain, do NOT tell the suffering to “just get over it”. Do NOT say that God took someone’s loved one away. If you are in pain, I am not saying God took your loved one or that their life did not matter.
Ezekiel’s wife’s situation is not the way scripture speaks about every death.
But God loves everyone, and God wishes that none perish; God is a God of life, wholeness, and health. One day, creation will again reflect the life, wholeness and health of it’s Creator, but it’s not there yet. But God may use even his enemies, death, brokenness, sickness, and pain, to bring about a greater goodness in spite of their wickedness. If you are suffering, in need of someone to hear your story, just be with you in your pain, I would encourage you to reach out to a pastor or trusted friend and ask them to listen. If you need someone to listen who doesn’t know you from Adam, but is willing to walk through your pain, please reach out to the author (Jake Ballard) via https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336. You can also find his contact information at TimberlandBibleChurch.org.
May God bless show his love to you in the midst of whatever pain you experience.)
Ezekiel 8:6 – And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing – the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.”
For better or worse, I tend to be a bit territorial. I get sort of grumpy when someone else parks in the spot that I like to park in at work.
In high school my friends and I sat at the same spot in the cafeteria for practically four years. In my senior year, a group of underclassmen had the audacity to sit at our table. The gall! We made them get up and move.
As a teacher, I had colleagues play a prank on me. They had the custodian let them into my room after I had left for the day so that they could completely rearrange my tables, desks, and chairs. The next day, I had an early morning meeting and wasn’t able to open up my room until just a few minutes before the bell was to ring. When I opened the door, I found all of the furniture stacked up in a corner of the room. I was almost in tears, the situation stressed me out so much! Thankfully, my first hour class understood and helped me get the room put back together.
My experiences are the teeniest, tiniest speck of “problems” when compared to what is described in Ezekiel chapter eight. In verse six, God says that the action of the Israelites have driven Him far from His sanctuary. The glorious temple, the Holy of Holies, is where the Spirit of God resided. But because God cannot exist where evil exists, He was kicked out of His own house! Talk about audacious behavior!
Jump forward to the New Testament with me. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says,
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
My friends, are you living a righteous life? Are you choosing with your actions to be set aside for God’s purposes? Or are you living in rebellion?
I’m certainly not speaking of living a perfect life, but a life that honors God with your thoughts, words, and actions? If so, then God’s Spirit is residing in you. If not, God Spirit is not residing in you.
This is why Paul reminds us that we are not our own and we should behave accordingly, so that our bodies can remain the temple of the Holy Spirit.
No one likes being kicked out of what they’ve claimed as their rightful space, even God, especially God. He is your Creator and has claimed your heart as His Home. Live today in such a way that invites Him to stay.
Ezekiel 5:8 – Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations.
For homeowners in the Southwest, October is usually the month that winter lawn seed is spread. Since we don’t have snow to cover up our yards, we either let the grass die and go brown for a few months, or we make sure that the grass stays green by dedicating an afternoon to lawn care.
So just a few weeks ago, my brother and dad mowed the lawn three times to get the grass cut down as low as possible. That way, when they spread the lawn seed and fertilizer, the seed would have a better chance of taking root and growing into a luscious green carpet. If the lawn wasn’t cut down low, the winter lawn wouldn’t come up.
This reminds me a bit of the pruning that Jesus talks about in John 15. In order for the vine to grow healthy and produce fruit, it has to be cut back.
We read in Ezekiel chapter 5 God instructing the prophet to shave off all of his hair and his beard and to divide it into thirds. One third is to be burned, one third to be cut up, and one third to be tossed into the wind. A small amount was to be reserved and later that portion was to be divided with part of it to be burned and the remaining hairs kept.
These instructions are full of symbolism. The hair represents the Israelites. And because of their disobedience, God has to punish the nation. There would be a small remnant of people who would survive, symbolized by the tiny portion of hair not destroyed.
If God was to have a people unto His own, He needed to get rid of all the evil. He cannot coexist with unholiness. God had to do some major pruning of His people in order that good fruit (spiritually minded people) could grow and thrive.
I’ve experienced a season of pruning a few times in my life, maybe you have too. When God decides that it is time for you to grow, there is usually something in our lives that has to be cut back first. This is hard. But it is necessary in order to become who God has designed us to be.
I realize that we still have a good two months of 2021 left, and traditionally, self reflection takes place towards the end of the calendar year. But now is as good a time as any to examine different areas of your life to see if there is anything that God is telling you to get rid of or to cut back on.
We have read what God plans for those who are disobedient. Let’s experience God not through His wrath, but through His blessings.
Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk, reading an article for work, and I found myself nodding off. Which isn’t funny, unless you know that I sit on a physioball rather than a traditional office chair…which means I lost my balance when my body relaxed and I almost fell off…then it’s hilarious!
As I woke up and caught myself, I refocused on the article and realized that I hadn’t comprehended a word of the article. I had to reread it several times before I could understand the point the author was making.
Have you ever found your eyes moving across the page, but not reading? Have you sat through a lecture (or gasp, a sermon!) but not hearing?
As if Ezekiel’s vision of a four faced creature wasn’t extraordinary enough to hold his attention, God specifically says, “Listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you”.
This is pretty much the same thing that happens when adults are speaking to children and when we want to be assured of their attention we say, “Look at me when I am talking to you.”
The message that God was giving to Ezekiel was that important. The task that Ezekiel had to obey was literally the difference between life and death. God wanted to make sure that he had Ezekiel’s full attention.
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, Scripture tells us to “listen carefully”. Obeying God’s Word is a matter of life and death. Whenever we open up our Bibles, we need to read, not just with our eyes, but with our hearts. When we do so, that is when our lives are transformed into Christlikeness.
Let’s be extra attentive today as we read the Word of God.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 3-4 and 1 Peter 3
When I think about responding to God’s direction to “go and make disciples of all nations”, the last place I want to go is into a hostile community.
And yet this is exactly what God commands Ezekiel to do.
Israel is described as being rebellious. They know what God requires of them, but they flat out refuse. Instead, they partake in all sorts of immoral acts that God detests.
But God sees Ezekiel as one whom he can trust to deliver a message. And God tells Ezekiel to not be afraid; that whether or not Israel listens, Ezekiel needs to be bold and speak.
Have you ever had to deliver a difficult message to an individual or a group? You know what you have to say won’t be received well, but you still have to say something? Maybe it’s to a friend at school or work. Maybe you’re a supervisor and you have to correct your employee. Maybe it’s a family member who isn’t doing what they should be doing.
Holding others accountable for their actions can be very challenging, especially, when the others haven’t asked for you to do so. It’s even more stressful if you’re seen as the enemy.
So how do we go about entering a hostile environment to deliver a difficult message?
The first thing you can do is to pray. Confirm that it is indeed a message that God wants you to give. Pray that you’re given the words that God needs you to say. Pray that the recipient of the message will be soft-hearted.
Second, remember to be compassionate. This isn’t the same as “giving in”, but you do want to remind the recipient that you are there to help and support them.
Third, keep the message brief, to the point and honest.
The recipient will most likely not react well, so you will also want to acknowledge their frustrations, while helping them see a way forward.
Finally, remind the individual of God’s love for them. They can have forgiveness if they are willing to repent. If they are open to it, offer to pray with them.
There will undoubtedly be times when God asks us to have difficult conversations with others. Do not be afraid to speak the truth in love.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 1-2 and 1 Peter 2
“‘But the Levitical priests, who are descendants of Zadok and who guarded my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign Lord. They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and serve me as guards. Ezekiel 44:15-16 (NIV)
Yesterday we discussed God’s holiness and how it must be separated from the common. Today we will continue along those lines but in terms of ministering in the presence of such holiness. The temple was the place where God’s presence was located on earth and was considered the holiest place on the planet; it was a sacred space. Not just anyone could visit the temple; Israel was ripped by God for allowing uncircumcised (of heart and body) non-Jews to go into the temple (Ez. 44:7). After laying out the dimensions for a new holy temple in the last few chapters, God turns Ezekiel’s attention to who gets to minister there and in what capacity.
Israel had not taken seriously the holiness of God, even in the temple, where the Holy of Holies was found. The Levitical priests, despite being chosen to act as ministers in the temple, couldn’t fulfill their duties without corruption. They allowed the unworthy to come into the temple and served as priests to idols. These priests may not have been, but Yahweh certainly was serious about keeping His temple holy and having the right people ministering there. So, in this new temple, those who hadn’t appreciated the importance of the job would miss out. Those who remained firm, those who did not go with the crowd, those who did appreciate the holiness of the temple, the Zadokites (descendants of Zadok), would be lifted up as an example and given the jobs the less than faithful had forfeited.
Today there isn’t a grand temple complex where we must minister before God. We don’t have to make animal sacrifices, wear special clothes, or worry about remaining ceremonially clean. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t just as serious today about those who represent Him as ministers. The sacrifices of today are spiritual in nature and offered by those who have chosen to follow Christ as their High Priest. We are to act as royal priests who, following the example of our High Priest, surrender ourselves completely to the will of God and do the ministry He calls us to. Just like the Zadokites, who were lauded for their faithfulness despite Israel’s disobedience, we need to make sure we stay true to who we are as disciples of Christ and God’s representatives on earth, regardless of how others act–Christian or not. Our God still cares about holiness and has put His spirit within us, let us guard the new temple with the same (or greater) fervor and faithfulness as (than) the Zadokites did.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Biblegateway here –Ezekiel 44-45
Tomorrow we will finish the book of Ezekiel (chapters 46-48) as we continue on our