A Cheating Bride

Ezekiel 16-17

Ezekiel 16 8 15 NIV sgl

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

They Will Know

Ezekiel 5 – 8

Ezekiel 6 10a NIV sgl

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

 

Growing Sin

Zephaniah 1-3

Zephaniah 3 1 NIV sgl

The book of Zephaniah is quite short, but it is full of descriptive language. It recounts the vision given to Zephaniah in the time of King Josiah’s reign. This prophecy paints a colorful picture of the price that must be paid for sin.

Sin is not something that we can pretend has never happened. If we deliberately continue living a life filled with sin, it will eventually catch up with us. To maybe understand this a bit better, I was reminded of our physical wear and tear. For those that play sports or enjoy physical activity, you may know that these pastimes can result in injury. The injury may start out as a minor sprain or cut, but we keep going rather than caring for this injury. It is inconvenient to allow something that seems so minor to hold us back from doing what we want. So eventually this minor sprain gets worse or that unattended cut gets infected. Slowly something that was in our grasp to fix becomes a bigger problem.

Sin is also like this. At first, we may stray a bit as a mistake, but then we slowly get lured in. “What difference will it make if I do this one more time”, we may ask ourselves. But slowly the minor problem turns into something bigger as we continue to turn our backs on God. Slowly this sin, whatever it may be, will eat at us. We will have to face the consequences that sin has left in its wake.

Just like in Zephaniah, one day, the LORD will eradicate the sin of this world. It will be good to one day be in a world without sin or pain. And thankfully, God has given us the possibility to be reconciled to him. We do not have to allow sin to rule our life. We can turn to God and he will help us fight temptation. We just must trust in him. In chapter 2 of Zephaniah, God summoned Judah to repent. He did not want these people to be lost to their sin. He wanted them to turn to him, so that they could be sheltered. He gave them a chance as he has given us one. He wants us to take refuge in the shelter he has lovingly offered.

Just as a government wishes for its citizens to abide by the law, the LORD wishes for us to turn to him. However, when those citizens rebel against those guiding principles, they must face the consequences of their actions. We, however, must make the choice to live for him. We must enter that shelter that our heavenly Father provides.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=zephaniah+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin the book of Jeremiah (chapters 1-3) as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Price to Pay

Nahum 1-3

Nahum 1 3 NIV sgl

These three chapters make up the entire book of Nahum. At the beginning of this book we are told that it is the vision Nahum was given. This vision prophesied the downfall of the wicked city of Nineveh.  The language in this book is very vivid and paints a terrifying picture of the price that those in Nineveh were to pay.

God had been patient with Nineveh, but as Chapter 1 (v.3) reads, “The LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.” The people of Nineveh had for too long relished in the ways of the flesh. The LORD could no longer tolerate the filth that they spread.

If you may recall, this is not the first time that we are introduced to the people of Nineveh in the Old Testament. A previous book, Jonah, describes how the people of Nineveh had before turned against the LORD. Eventually Jonah made it to Nineveh and told them of what God planned to do because of their wickedness. The people of Nineveh repented of their ways and the LORD preserved them. However, in Nahum, we learn that the people of Nineveh had again turned from the LORD.

An interesting part of this event is how it would have been in the grasp of the people of Nineveh to avoid such a fate. Chapter 1 even talks of how we can look to the LORD in times of trouble. It tells of his goodness and his care for those that trust in him. If only the people of Nineveh had continued to turn to the LORD rather than to sin.

Sometimes, though, it can be easier to turn away from the LORD. When we turn toward him, there are many tempting things of the flesh that we have to turn away from. Taking part in these sinful acts is not usually difficult on our part. It is easy to sin. However, the consequences that follow that sin are usually never easy. Our sin creates many issues for us in life.

This can be paralleled to how we use our time on a daily basis. Watching another episode of our favorite show on Netflix may be easier than getting work done, but in the long run, which one counts? Watching tv may feel good in the moment, but as we look back on our day, we will feel less accomplished and possibly even stressed because we may feel behind on our work. If we had worked hard at the start, we would have avoided the stress and been left with a feeling of accomplishment.

So, if we initially put in the effort to turn to the Lord and trust in him, he will be our refuge. We will be able to avoid some of the heartache and discipline that would have followed us if we took the easy way out and fell into temptation. That does not mean, though, that if we follow the Lord, we will avoid all kinds of trouble. On the contrary, there will always be storms that we face in this life. If we turn to the Lord, though, we will have a rock to stand firm on during these storms. We will not be blown away by the heavy winds.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Nahum+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35 as we continue the story of God’s people in the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God is No Magic Genie

1st Chronicles 3-5

1 Chronicles 4 10 b NIV

When we began 1st Chronicles two days ago we likened the beginning of this book to a family reunion.  It was written for the people of God who were returning to the Holy Land after years of captivity and living amongst foreign people who did not worship God (which had been their punishment for forsaking God).  Now, they were returning and receiving a history lesson on what it means to be God’s people.  If we listen in, I believe we can also benefit greatly from this lesson.

In today’s reading our list of genealogies is broken up in chapter 4 with a passage about Jabez.  In two short verses we learn: “he was more honorable than his brothers”, “his mother had named him” – PAIN (in Hebrew Jabez sounds like pain), he prayed to be blessed, “and God granted his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:9,10).  Makes you wonder why we don’t have any babies today named Epidural?

Seriously though, I hurt for this man Jabez.  It doesn’t seem very nice of his momma to pass along the brief pain she felt at childbirth (I know, in the midst of it, it doesn’t feel brief) to her son to bear the name PAIN the rest of his life.   Can you imagine the jokes he heard from the neighborhood boys?  We also know it can be very painful growing up with less than honorable brothers.

It could have been a rough life for poor PAIN/Jabez.  BUT – it wasn’t.  Even though he had a few strikes against him in his early years, he knew to cry out to God.  And, perhaps because of Jabez’s honor, and I am guessing his heart was in the right place, God was ready, willing and able to fulfill his request.

Just what was his request?  “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!  Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from PAIN.”  It is a touching prayer knowing his background.  Other versions have slightly different interpretations – I especially love the NKJV, “Keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” It sounds so much more noble.  But, either way, he cried out to God and God “granted his request”.

Does anyone else get a vision of a genie, or is it just me?  Jabez cried out (with a list of 4-5 wishes) and his wishes were granted.  Poof.  Who wouldn’t take a God like that!  I can fill a whole book with my wishes and cry out to God and all my wishes will be met.  Never mind what God requires of His children.  Never mind the timeline and big picture that God is working with in His infinite wisdom.  Never mind the growth, compassion and character that develops in the midst of trials.  I want no pain.  I want it now.  Give it to me, God.

I would love to read the rest of Jabez’ story – the daily details, his life’s timeline.  I highly doubt that he never felt ANY more pain – never stubbed his toe, never lost a friend or family member, never needed to cry out to God again.  But, we know that God was faithful.  He blessed Jabez and He answered his prayer.

God wanted the returning Israelites to know the story of Jabez.  He wanted them to know of God’s faithfulness and the good gifts that He brings to His children who are honorable and cry out to Him.  Likewise, God wants you and me and the world today to know the story of Jabez.  God takes us in our pain and gives us blessings.  God is good.  God is powerful.  God is love.  God is faithful.

BUT don’t be fooled.  God is no magic genie.   In fact, He is so much more.

Our history lesson continues.  Keep reading, in chapter 5 (verses 23-26) we meet the half-tribe of Manasseh.  They were God’s people. God had already fought their battles and given them land.  They had prospered and become numerous.  Their leaders were “brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families” (1 Chronicles 5:24).  It sounds so good.  It looks like they were leading a charmed life.  God’s goodness and power have provided for these people.  We see God’s blessings – but do they?  NO!  “But they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land” (1 Chronicles 5:25).  In their pampered state they turn from the One who has blessed them.  They leave their Provider and Protector to run after false gods.  They chase what the ungodly society calls good – rather than clinging to their Creator, the God of their fathers.

And, their foolishness comes with consequences.  They don’t get more wishes granted.  What they have is taken away.  God uses the Assyrians to remove them – to place them into exile in a foreign land.  They have earned themselves a Big Time-Out which will last several years, until God prepares the way for the exiles to return.

God wanted the returning Israelites to know the story of the half-tribe of Manasseh.  He wanted them to know of the serious consequences that He puts into action when His children flaunt their waywardness.  Likewise, God wants you and me and the world today to know the story of the half-tribe of Manasseh.  God has given blessings, how will we respond?  God is just.  God is powerful.  God is faithful.  His loving kindness requires our faithfulness, too.

Marcia Railton

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+3-5&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Psalm 73, & 77-78 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Do You Have a King?

Judges 19-21

Judges 21 25 NIV

If Judges 19-21 were made into a movie, I would not go and see it. It’s too gruesome. It’s too graphic.

And yet, it’s recorded within the Word of God.
Why did all these terrible and awful things happen? We’re told at the beginning of Judges 19 and it’s stated again at the end of Judges 21, as well as recorded multiple times throughout the book of Judges: “In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
When societies and individuals do nothing to invest in a relationship with God, our moral compasses become messed up, our values and priorities get out of alignment, our behavior goes out of control.
Let’s not sugar coat this – this passage of Scripture certainly doesn’t – our actions have consequences. What may seem like something small and innocent can end up wrecking havoc on not just your life, but the lives of others.
Twenty years ago I was rear-ended by a drunk driver. I was stopped at a red light and I heard screeching tires behind me and suddenly my car lurched forward hitting the car in front of me. I had a cassette tape (Google it) sitting half-way in the tape deck. Thanks to Newton’s First Law of Inertia, it ended up in my back seat. And I ended up with whiplash. My neck and back have never quite been the same.
I’m sure that the driver had no intention of getting into a car wreck as he consumed his alcohol and then decided to get behind the wheel, but it happened. I certainly had no realization that when I got in my car to head home from a friend’s house, that my life would change due to someone else’s reckless choices, but it happened.
Whether it’s drinking and driving, or telling a “small lie”, or cheating on a test, or being unfaithful in a relationship these behaviors have consequences. When we start to do our own thing rather than submit to God, life gets messed up and people get hurt.
Thankfully, God sees fit to forgive and redeem. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” How awesome is it that God longs to still want to have a relationship with messed up people?!?! This includes you and me.
We have a King – will you acknowledge Him? Instead of letting your passions and desires rule your heart, will you humble yourself and submit to Him? Let the love of God cover you today.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=judges+19-21&version=NIV
Tomorrow we will be reading the book of Ruth as we continue (or begin) our Bible reading plan.  Print your own copy here 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and mark off each day’s reading.  What is God wanting to tell you in your waiting – open His book and find out!  

Graphic Material

Ezekiel 5-9

ezekiel 5 14

Monday, March 20

This portion of Ezekiel is, admittedly, difficult to read.  It’s a pretty graphic account of God impending judgment against the city of Jerusalem and his people, Israel.  God tells Ezekiel to shave his head and beard.  This would have been an act of mourning for most people, but it was double disturbing for Ezekiel, since he was a priest and normally forbidden from shaving his head or beard.  Ezekiel was told to burn, take a sword to, and scatter his cut hair.  This was to symbolize what was to happen to Israel.  A few hairs were kept back, symbolic of the remnant who would not be destroyed.

God accuses his people, Israel, the chosen nation, of being worse than the other nations.  They broke the law more than the nations that did not have the law.  God was bringing his judgment against His own people.  The description of the siege almost defies comprehension, including cannibalism of both parents and children.  This was to serve as a warning to the other nations: if this is how God treats his own people for their idolatry, beware of what he will do to you.

In Ezekiel six God makes it clear that their judgement is upon them because of their idolatry. However, there is a remnant that will be spared and live in captivity and will come to repentance.

In Ezekiel seven, a special emphasis is made regarding their idolatrous attachment to gold and silver.  This wealth that they turned to and fashioned into idols will be unable to save them from the coming judgment.  All the money in the world can’t save you from judgment.

In Chapter eight Ezekiel has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem.  This includes the “Idol of jealousy” which we discover is the pagan god Tammuz.  Tammuz was the Sumerian god of food and vegetation.  At the summer solstice there was a period of mourning as the people saw the shortening of days and the approaching drought.  Sacrifices were made to Tammuz at the door of the Jerusalem Temple.  This was an absolute abomination to Israel’s God, YHWH as He made it clear that He alone was to be worshipped as God (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

In Chapter Nine an angel is sent out to put a mark on all of the people of the city who did not commit idolatry and worship Tammuz.  They would be spared.  But then all those who did not receive a mark would be destroyed.  This is reminiscent of the story of Exodus, when the doorposts of the Israelites were to be marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, and those with the mark were spared their firstborn sons dying when the Angel of Death passed over their houses.  It also points to the future (See Revelation 13) when the beast will cause people to have a mark on their forehead or they would not be able to buy or sell.  This is contrasted with those in Revelation 14 who have the name of God and of the lamb on their foreheads.

God is a God of love and mercy.  God has provided a means for us to be rescued from the consequences of sin.  There is a way for each of us to be spared the final judgment of God that is coming.  Jesus Christ, the lamb of God is the only means by which we can escape judgment.  Along with God’s mercy is His holiness.  God will not allow sin and rebellion to continue on earth forever.  A day of judgment is coming for all the earth just as it did for the nation of Israel.  God tolerated their sin for only so long, and then came the time for judgment.  Mercifully, God spared those who repented by placing His mark upon them.  God has been tolerating sinful rebellion on earth, but a day is coming when He will destroy sin and sinners who have not repented and turned away from their sins and turned to him through Jesus Christ.  Ezekiel’s harsh imagery should remind us that we must not forget that God’s wrath is coming from which we all need to escape, and we need to warn others.  This won’t make us popular, but doing God’s will is seldom popular among the rebellious.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/)