Grace and Discipline

Psalm 117 & 118 and Ezekiel 23 & 24

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. 

Life eternal.

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. 

-Jake Ballard

(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:

  1. Ezekiel’s wife had given God her life
  2. God’s love, not his judgement or anger, defines his divine actions
  3. 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.)

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 23& 24 and Psalm 117 & 118

Standing in the Gap

Ezekiel 22-23

Ezekiel 22 30 NIV sgl

 

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

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

Leading to a Deeper Faith

Psalm 50, 53, 60, 75

Psalm 14 15 NIV

Some of my really good friends a few years ago started to hold a dinner on Sunday nights after church. This dinner was absolutely awesome back in the day. It was the highlight of my week. I know we are supposed to say church is always the highlight of our week but this was even better than church. Hopefully I am not blaspheming right there. Haha.

The reason why it was so awesome was all of my favorite people gathered under one roof, having a meal together, talking about God, life and just having an awesome time. The way the dinner worked was that everyone would simply bring something with them to the meal. Whether it was a side dish, a plate of cookies or some beverages. The host would normally provide the meat and everyone would chip in to make it an awesome meal.

In the beginning everyone would chip in to help out to clean up. We all sought to do our fair share of the work. Eventually, we started to invite more and more people. The problem that arose was some of these new people didn’t contribute their fair share to the meal. When it’s just one person this isn’t such a big deal but when it’s a larger group of people it is more of an issue. People also stopped contributing as much to clean up. This left the group that was contributing doing more work and for more people. People grew too complacent in not contributing to the meal.

In my life I tend to do the same thing. Humans just have a natural tendency to get complacent in things like our relationships or work. The people of Israel in Psalm 50 had become complacent. They were going through the motions making sacrifices but it had become an emotionless, passionless ritual that lacked the heart behind their actions. Now, dry seasons where you don’t feel God with you are just a part of life. I think these may have even been manufactured or designed to make us want him, commit and submit to him more. I think too many Christians are afraid to admit that they have or are in one of these times. We view these times as negatives and feel like we should never have these moments in our life.

There are natural rhythms to life and at times complacency happens. Sometimes we find that we have become complacent or sometimes its told to us (ugh hate/love that I have people in my life who will do this). I don’t think we need to get hung up on the guilt or shame though. God uses discipline to help his people (Ps. 94.12, Rev. 3.19). He even rebukes those who hate discipline (Ps. 50.17). Discipline is ultimately to our benefit. Discipline is not always suffering the consequences of your actions. Rather, discipline from God is always for your benefit. It is to help you grow. God doesn’t just punish you to hurt you. In the TOTC commentary for Psalm 50 it describes how truth being realized or spoken in our life should be received. “But the truth is meant to heal, not only to convict.” This a great concept. I believe it allows us to look at failures in our lives and cast our future in a positive growth mindset.

This morning in a weird coincidence I was reading about Moses and the people of Israel as they left Egypt and wandered into the desert. They went three whole days into the wilderness with no water. Now this left them empty and physically wanting. Their reaction is not great but I think this incident illustrates something to us. God led them out into the desert, God knew there was no water, God knew that they would need water, and God clearly ended up giving them water because the Bible doesn’t say that they all ran out of water and died. So, what was the point of the whole incident? I’m theorizing but maybe God wanted them to ask him for water. He might have been trying to make them more dependent upon him. Out of this incident in Exodus 17 the Israelites were able to see that God would provide for them. The hopeful reaction from the people was supposed to be trust and faith that God would provide for them. Their period of physical dehydration was supposed to lead them to deeper faith.

Knowing that the difficult or challenging things in our lives may be godly discipline or our complacency could allow for growth, healing or growing in faith and love for God as I wait for him gives me a good perspective for handling these things.

Hope everyone keeps their eyes focused on God and that we can walk with God through whatever circumstances we are going through.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+50%2C53%2C60%2C+75&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 10,  1Chronicles 19 and Psalm 20 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Remember His Goodness

Psalm 106 – 107

Psalm 107 8 NIV

Our God is great!  We just don’t deserve Him.  Praise Him and thank Him for His goodness and mercy.

This is the psalmist’s cry in Psalm 106 & 107.  Beautiful chapters of truth for today

Let’s start by looking at just some of the phrases describing the actions of man as recorded in these psalms.

 

MANKIND’s ACTIONS

Done wrong & acted wickedly (106:6)

Gave no thought to God’s miracles (106:7)

Did not remember your many kindnesses (106:7)

Rebelled by the sea (106:7)

Soon forgot what he had done (106:13)

Did not wait for His counsel (106:13)

Gave in to their cravings (106:14)

Put God to the test (106:14)

Grew envious (106:16)

Exchanged God’s glory for an image (106:20

Forgot the God who saved them (106:21)

Did not believe His promise (106:24)

Grumbled (106:25)

Did not obey the Lord (106:25)

Yoked themselves to the Baal (false god) (106:28)

Provoked the Lord to anger by their wicked deeds (106:29)

Angered the Lord (106:32)

Rebelled against the Spirit of God (106:33)

Mingled with the nations & adopted their customs (106:35)

Sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons (106:37)

Shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters (106:38)

Bent on rebellion (106:43)

Wasted away in their sin (106:43)

THEN THEY CALLED OUT TO THE LORD IN THEIR TROUBLE (107:6, 13, 19, 28)

Became fools through their rebellious ways (107:17)

Suffered affliction because of their iniquities (107:17)

 

It is easy for us to see and remember the foolish actions and attitudes of these generations long gone.  How easily they forgot the good deeds and commands of their God.  How quickly they rushed to selfish sins.  And we shake our heads in disbelief.  But, are we brave enough to look in the mirror to consider our own imperfections, mistakes, ignorance, selfishness and flat out sins?  Do we truthfully see when we have rebelled and turned from God’s perfect law?  Do we excuse the sins of society as modern and politically correct?  How would God’s psalmist describe us, our priorities, our actions, our waywardness, our selfishness?  Where do we turn when we are stuck?

What about God?  How are His actions recorded in these psalms?

 

GOD’s ACTIONS

Yet He saved them for his name’s sake (106:8)

He led them through the depths (106:9)

He saved them from the hand of the foe (106:10)

He gave them what they asked for (106:15)

But sent a wasting disease upon them (106:15)

He was angry with his people (106:40)

He handed them over to the nations and their foes ruled over them (106:41)

Many times He delivered them (106:43)

He took note of their distress (106:44)

He heard their cry (106:44)

He remembered his covenant (106:45)

He relented, out of His great love (106:45)

HE DELIVERED THEM FROM THEIR DISTRESS (107:6, 13, 19, 28)

He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom (107:14)

He sent forth His word and healed them (107:20)

He stilled the storm to a whisper (107:29)

He guided them to their desired haven (107:30)

 

What a contrast.  What a good God.

Yes, He does get angry with his wayward children.  And He does send punishment to turn them around.  That is what a good dad does.  He knows that through loving discipline His children must be taught that rebellion reaps no reward.  There are real consequences for forgetting God and going in your own direction.  And when that lesson is learned and His children return to Him, He hears their cry and picks them up.  That is also what a good dad does.  And sometimes, for stubborn children, it takes more than once or twice to learn this lesson.

Psalm 107 repeats four times the call of God’s people returning to Him – and God’s response:

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.”

(Psalm 107: 6, 13, 19, 28).

It also repeats four times how the people ought to reply to God’s goodness:

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”  (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31).

I urge you today, call out to Him.  Don’t forget God.  Learn from His lessons.  Remember His law.  Cry to Him and He will pick you up.  See His goodness.  And give thanks to the Lord.  He loves you and He has done great things.

 

No better way to close than with the psalmist’s final verse:

“Whoever is wise, let him heed these things

And consider the great love of the LORD.”  Psalm 107: 43

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+106-107&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2nd Samuel 5:11-6:23 and 1st Chronicles 13-16 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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