To Ground God Goads Gog

Ezekiel 38-39

Whenever we learn a pastor is going to be reading from one of the Prophets it usually means we’re going to hear something about Jesus or how a prophecy may be fulfilled soon (read: in our lifetime). Now, neither of these is a bad reason to look at the words God spoke through these chosen messengers, but I think there are other reasons we should read them and a mindset we should have when we do that more aligns with why they were written. Our reading for today will be a case in point.

In Ezekiel 38-39, we hear about Gog, a military leader, and Magog, the home of said leader. This guy Gog is someone who wants to go to blows with the people of God. And God will let it (or make it) happen, not because He doesn’t care about His people, but the opposite. God is going to send Gog to destroy Israel, but the tough guy and all who join him will meet their doom instead. Yahweh is going to reveal Himself to the world so that they know He really is God and He really does defend His people and care for them. Though they may be weak and outnumbered, Israel has the God of Angel Armies on their side and He will not be denied victory. The nations will see what happens to Gog and know it was God who put an end to him and his allies.

What Bible teachers and preachers usually do when expositing from these two chapters in Ezekiel, is to try to identify what current world nations are represented by the names mentioned in the text (e.g. Gog) and when these events will take place. This is an acceptable goal when trying to dig into the meaning of this passage and trying to see how it relates to other prophecies, especially if we think it might be fulfilled in our own lifetime. But I think the first thing we need to do (generally) when reading the Bible is try to understand what the purpose of the message was in the first place and then to see what it means for us today. We should have our minds be in a state where we’re hearing as the original intended audience heard it, then bring it to our own context and see how it fits there. Most of the Bible was written for Jewish people in an ancient Jewish context. We have to appreciate that and respond accordingly. One caveat is that just because a speaker doesn’t mention how a passage was heard in its original context doesn’t mean they didn’t think about it, it could be they didn’t have time to bring it up in their lesson/message. That being said, we should seek to regularly look at the original audience/context whenever we do our own study of the Bible.

Ezekiel 38-39 was written down by a Jew in exile for the Jews in exile. People who had a covenant with Yahweh but had repeatedly broken it. They had a relationship with the One True God but continued to cheat on Him with other nations and their false gods. They were being punished for their idolatry through exile. Babylon had conquered the Promised Land and they no longer could claim it as their home. God had revealed previously that He would restore Jewish people back to their home. He does again in this passage and says they will be living securely, in peace when Gog makes his move and is roundly defeated by Israel’s defender and the world is shown that Yahweh is the Holy One is Israel. This undoubtedly would have caused joy to the Jews who heard it, trust from those who believed it, and hope to the ones who thought about the future.

Bringing it to our own context, we may not be exiled from our native land, but we are awaiting a country of our own (Hebrews 11:14). We may not have worshiped false gods like Baal and Asherah, but perhaps we have elevated things or people to a place only reserved for God. We may not be a part of the Old Covenant which brought God to the defense of His rebellious people, but we are a part of the New Covenant which brought Jesus to take on the sins of rebellious people. How much more joy, trust, and hope should we have in Yahweh because of the New Covenant?

– Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+38-39&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 40-41 as we continue on our

Dem Bones…Can They Live?

Ezekiel 35-37


It would probably be blasphemous to suggest God asks silly questions, so I won’t. But I would imply that the creator of the universe makes inquiries which His creatures wouldn’t. I don’t think most of us, upon seeing a valley full of human bones, dried out by years of the sun beating down on them, would think to ask: Can these bones live? No, I think the first question would be: “What on earth happened here?” Followed by: “What’s the quickest way out of this place?” But that is not what happens in chapter 37 of Ezekiel. No, Ezekiel doesn’t get to ask a question, instead, one is posed to him by God, “Can these bones live?” And he responds with either the biggest cop-out of an answer there is or the wisest: “Only God knows.” I would lean towards wisest. God’s not trying to learn something from Ezekiel; He is trying to reveal something to the prophet so Ezekiel can relay it to the people of Israel, which is why he doesn’t try to guess at an answer. Ezekiel doesn’t care to have his opinions heard by God; he wants to know what God has to say. We would do well to learn this trait from the prophet–you could say it would be quite profitable (sorry!).

While Ezekiel doesn’t provide a yes or no answer to the question, God does: yes, these bones will live again. These bones, representing the house of Israel, who have been cut off from their land, and whose hope is gone, will live again. God’s people who, time after time, have rebelled against Yahweh and received mercy only to rebel further, will once again experience the grace of God and return to the Promised Land. This vision, like all those received by the prophets, is first for the Jews. It concerns God’s People and it is for God’s People, but there is much for us, as Christians, to learn from the words of the prophets today.

A few things we should recognize from this particular revelation and meditate on are (1) God’s relentless love for His people, despite their blunders, foolishness, and obstinate ways (to put it mildly). (2) That God can (and does) redeem those who have been abused, discarded, and forgotten. (3) We can (and should) have hope and trust in Yahweh, despite any and every problematic, perilous, or pernicious situation we may be in. The God we serve does not cower at death, does not withhold second chances, and does not fail to love the unlovable. Neither should we. 

– Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – ht

tps://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+35-37&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 38-39 as we continue on our

The evil people will not gloat

Ezekiel 24-27

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In Ezekiel 24-27 things start to get rough for Israel and then God starts handing out judgements for the enemies of Israel right away.

 

“In the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day, the word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day.”  (Ezekiel 24:1-2)

 

This occurred around 588 BC, when the siege of Jerusalem began.  This siege lasted between 18-30 months, and was horrific for those involved.  So that Ezekiel can understand how this feels for God to have his people destroyed completely, God allows Ezekiel’s wife to die.  This is very rough, but many people were dying in Jerusalem at this time.  While Ezekiel and God are going through some very rough times in the middle of this God starts to deal out judgments to the nations around Israel that were enemies and took advantage of Israel’s plight, and were happy to see Israel brought low.  Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, and Tyre are all mentioned as part of the curses in chapters 25 and 26.  These nearby nations would have known about the God of the Jews and would now be mocking him, since it did not appear that he could protect his own people.  For the sake of his name God will bring down harsh judgement on them so that they will not forget to fear him.

 

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet, rejoicing with all the malice of your heart against the land of Israel,  therefore I will stretch out my hand against you and give you as plunder to the nations. I will wipe you out from among the nations and exterminate you from the countries. I will destroy you, and you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 25:6,7)

 

This is a low point for Israel, and for the surrounding nations, and we will see that the bad times will only continue for some of these nations.

Chris & Katie-Beth Mattison

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 24-27

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 28-31 as we continue with Ezekiel and our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Standing in the Gap

Ezekiel 22-23

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Within chapter 22 of Ezekiel we see different messages that God is trying to send to us through His prophet that are about Judah and Jerusalem.  We see all the ways that they sinned and that God is going to punish them because of their sins.

 

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols,  you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made.” (Ezekiel 22:3,4)

 

In many ways our society does these same things.  The violence against minorities and the bloodshed in our streets in recent times has gotten to the point where many cannot take it any longer, and it is starting to rip our society apart.  The continued war against the unborn has cooled down compared to decades past, but continues to claim hundreds of thousands of innocent lives per year.

 

Our society also excels at creating new idols and finding things to worship besides God.  We have gotten so good at it that we dedicate whole tv shows to it.  Covid has helped to highlight some of the idols in our lives.  If the loss of a season of football or the delay of a tv show has you devastated, then that might be an idol for you.

 

In the day of Ezekiel God looked through the land for a person who could intercede for Israel before him, like Moses did when God saw the Israelites making the calf to worship and wanted to wipe them out.  Sadly this time God did not find such a person, Ezekiel was only there to record God’s word and pass it on to the people, so God’s judgement was poured out on the people when the Babylonians invaded.

 

 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31)

 

All of the Israelites welcomed sin into their lives and did not try to fight it, and in many ways our society today welcomes sin and chases after it.  If we follow their example and do not fight against sin then we will end up on the wrong side of things when God again pours out his wrath on the earth because of the overwhelming sin and corruption on earth. This is a call to action for us to stand firm on the battlements, even if we are alone, and fight against idolatry and evil, so that when Jesus returns he will find some righteous people left.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

 

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at the Biblegateway site by clicking here – Ezekiel 22-23

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 24-27 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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