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

God of Justice

Jeremiah 51-52

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Back to our story…

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Steve Mattison

 

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

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

The Problem with Pride

2 Chronicles 32-33

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There are many lessons that we can learn from reading these chapters in the Bible. One of these lessons is that a proud heart can cause much trouble. For both Hezekiah and Manasseh this was an issue. Hezekiah did not want to credit the LORD, while Manasseh disregarded the LORD.

It is easy for us too to fall into this. There are times where we pray for guidance. However, once we receive the guidance we asked for, we neglect to go back to God and we just continue with our lives. We do not take the time to acknowledge the LORD’s hand in what was done and we do not do so until we feel we are again in need of him. It is easy for us to forget what he has done. The reality too, is that sometimes we like to think that we found the answers on our own. However, we would not have been capable of finding such answers without God. This situation is similar to Hezekiah when he allowed his heart to be proud and did not credit God with the successes of Jerusalem. He wanted to receive the glory that was owed to the LORD.

Other times, though, we may be able to better relate to Manasseh. During these times, we may be in outright rebellion toward God as Manasseh was. We want to do what we want. We may feel as though we do not need to listen to God because we are proud and think that we know best. We may say, “I know what I am doing.” That is until we receive a wake-up call and realize that we were not so wise in our thoughts and actions. We come to understand that we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. What a humbling experience this can be for our proud hearts!

This actually reminds me of a time when I was packing for a several month stent of studying abroad in Ireland. I had limited space, so I was trying to pack as lightly as possible. Because of this, I disregarded my mother’s advice to pack a small towel. I thought I was being smart. I will just get a towel when I get over there. “I know what I am doing”, I thought. This disregard for guidance offered to me by someone older and wiser than me resulted in me having to use a t-shirt as a towel for several days. Turns out that securing a towel in an unfamiliar country is not always so easy.

While this example is small in comparison, I think it shows how easily we can turn to ourselves rather than to others, and more specifically God. Even though the downfall of both Hezekiah and Manasseh were great, God forgave them when they repented. Because of the love our God has for us and the sacrifice of his son on the cross, we have the ability to be reconciled to him. That truly is something to be thankful for.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+32-33&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Nahum 1-3 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Counterintuitive Wisdom

Proverbs 27-29

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The Proverbs are, in many cases, fairly self explanatory. Don’t be lazy, don’t be a wicked ruler, don’t be foolish but be wise, be a righteous ruler, be diligent in your work. Each Proverb has it’s own meaning but they go along those lines. But some are not so self explanatory. They are counterintuitive.
A short example is found in 28:27. If you want to be prosperous and blessed, to never be in want, then we give our money to the poor. The world, our own sinful heads, and many economists believe that the way to grow our wealth and not be in want is to hoard our money. But that’s not the way God works. It is only in generosity and giving that we will be blessed. This comes from the fact that God will bless and many times he blesses us through the care of others in our time of struggle and hardship.
Also, 27:5-6 doesn’t seem to be true in the moment. I don’t like to be rebuked. I don’t like it when a friend calls me out on the garbage way I am acting. But the Proverb teaches us that we should delight when a friend rebukes us because their correction comes form a place of love and they want our life to be one of wisdom and righteousness. This is especially true for  our brothers and sisters in our local church. Many times, we may feel judged by the people of our church, but more often than not, they are wanting the BEST for us. The “wounds” they give are better than any kisses of those who tell us we have nothing wrong with us. There could be people who act like a friend and hurt you in terrible ways, but here we mean TRUE friendship, TRUE companionship, TRUE love from a brother or sister in Christ. That true love is shown in forgiveness and compassion, especially in our moments of weakness and humility. Many times, when we are sinning and are fearing the rebuke of those people, we hide our sin away, like 28:13 says. But counterintuitively, by hiding our sins, we only hurt ourselves more when they are brought to light in some other way. We need to confess our sins and turn away from them. When we do, compassion and forgiveness are waiting for us from the people of God and from God himself.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs+27-29&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Ecclesiastes 1-6 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Forgive(n)

Jesus answered, _I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times-2

Matthew 18:21-35

If you’ve ever sat down and had a conversation with my dad, he’s probably told you about a restaurant he’s been to. He loves to research unique restaurants in every city we visit. When he falls in love with a new restaurant, whether it’s the hole-in-the-wall diner with the best burgers and apple pie or the breakfast place with cinnamon rolls bigger than your face, he wants to tell everyone about it. When you discover and experience something so special, you have to share it. Forgiveness is the same way.

Being forgiven has got to be the most joyous and freeing thing you have ever experienced. God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, freed you from your bondage, your sin, your shame, and your death. Now, it’s your job to give away that same forgiveness (warning: it’s not quite as easy as talking about giant cinnamon rolls)

Jesus tells a story about a master and his servants that resembles an episode of Downton Abbey, but lacks really good music. A servant owes his master 10,000 bags of gold, a debt he is not able to repay, so the master orders that he gives up everything, including his wife and children, to be sold. The servant begs for forgiveness, and the master cancelled the debt and let him go.

The story takes an unfortunate twist.  The servant encounters a fellow servant who owes him 100 silver coins. The newly freed servant violently chokes the other servant and demands that he pay back his debt. The indebted servant begs for forgiveness, but he was thrown in prison. Those who witnessed the hypocrisy were outraged and reported everything they saw to the master. The master calls the servant he forgave in and says, “You wicked servant, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” The master then handed the servant over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid back all that he owed.

We’re the first servant. We were forgiven by our master for a debt that we could never repay. We’re free, and now a choice is before us: will we forgive those who have done wrong to us? Tread carefully because the consequences of this situation are severe. If we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven. Jesus says that if we don’t forgive our brother or sister, we will be subject to the same treatment as the servant. Forgiveness is hard, but it’s our responsibility to share the joy and freedom that comes with forgiveness.

Think about someone who has hurt you. Maybe they haven’t even sought out forgiveness, but it’s up to you to make the first step. As you experience how hard forgiveness can be, thank God for forgiving you because it wasn’t easy for Him either—He watched His son die for you.

Forgive as you have been forgiven.

-Mackenzie McClain