God of Mercy. God of Justice.

Ezekiel 17-19

ezekiel

Thursday, March 23

God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel.  He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented.  But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall.  So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt.   This led to a revolt against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt.   Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.  Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed.  Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.

In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.

In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad.  Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.

There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18.  God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die.  God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil.  God wants everyone to repent.  If an evil person repents, God will not punish them.  If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior.  God is a God of both mercy and justice.  He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil.  This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses:  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!

 

In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David.  Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel.  But that has been brought to an end.  There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel.  Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We live on this side of the New Testament.  After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus.  One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth.  In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment.  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation.  We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.

-Jeff Fletcher

GOOD News!

Isaiah 26-28

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Sunday, February 12

 

Amidst the talk of incense altars and Ashera Poles (what even are those?), there is good advice and great news to be gleaned from today’s reading! I know it can be kind of hard to get through these prophecies that are written in a different time for a different people, but the cool thing about our God is that he can fulfill the same prophecies over and over again, throughout the ages.

 

The first advice that we see is in 26:13. It would do you well to keep this verse close to your heart. We all have different lords ruling over us in these days: our president, money, school and maybe even friends. This is okay! A problem only rises when you start to honor these other lords in your life. God alone is worthy of your honor.

“O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,

but your name alone do we honor.”

Isaiah 26:13

Second, be careful how you view rules in your life. Do you believe that by following the rules that you’ll be saved? In 28:13, it says “a rule for this, a rule for that… so that as they go they will fall backward.” All rules can do for you is make you fall. You will only ever be able to break rules if that is what you hold as your moral reference point. Jesus is our moral role model and we should be looking to him to see what is right and what is wrong, not the rulebook.

 

Now let’s finish off with some good news: the dead will live, they will wake up and shout for joy! The Lord’s dead, those we have loved and lost, will rise! (26:19)

“But  your dead will live;

their bodies will rise.

You who dwell in the dust,

wake up and shout for joy.

Your dew is like the dew of the morning;

the earth will give birth to her dead.”

Isaiah 26:19

 

-Nathaniel Johnson

The Intercession of a Friend

Job 39 – 42

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Friday, December 23

In today’s reading we have the conclusion of God’s rebuttal to Job.  He enumerates the detail of creation, throwing multiple examples at Job about its forethought, workings, and power.  Then, the mic is dropped.


“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.  “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;  I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:3b-6

 

God gives Job a sobering reminder of who God is.  Through this God does not simply restore Job, but he also uses him to intercede for his friends.  When our prayer lives are focused on others, especially those who have wronged us, we are drawing closer to God.  We love like Him.  We forgive like Him.  We are faithful like Him.  Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had to offer their own sacrifice, they had to pray for themselves, they had to change their ways, they had to make their own decision, but the devotion of a faithful friend saved them from their deserved punishment.

 

You too, have a friend who is interceding for you (Rom 8:34).  Jesus Christ is pleading your case before God.  You deserve not only death, but destruction, but God has listened to our Savior’s appeal.  You still have great responsibility, but he is making it easier (Matt 11:30).

My challenge for you is to find your own three friends (like Job) to pray for.  When we pray for our friends (and our enemies), acting like Job and Jesus, how much lighter can it make their burden?  What consequence might we save them from?  What healing or saving opportunity will God present them? (James 5:14-16).  Conversely, if we do not, what are we condemning them to?

-Aaron Winner

(photo credit: https://dailybiblememe.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/job-422/)

The King is Coming (II Samuel 4-7)

Wednesday, October 19th

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Nathaniel Johnson

What is going on? Why was a man struck down for trying to keep the ark from falling? It may seem odd to us that the God of Mercy gave Uzzah only one chance here. I’m sure he had the best of intentions but we know that God’s judgement is just (1 Thessalonians 1:5). I think there’s good reason that’s about to be revealed in chapter 7. Even though Uzzah died, we need to remember that we serve a God who has power over death and that death is not the end. One chapter after Uzzah was struck down, God makes an interesting promise to David. He promises that David’s offspring will be the son of God, he will be punished by the rod of men and that his kingdom will endure forever. Does that sound like any one we know? God is telling David about the coming of Jesus. The same man who came and broke the power of death. He died and lived again. Just as Jesus did, so will we and Uzzah because all will stand before the Judge (2 Corinthians 5:10). David sums this all up perfectly in verse 28: “O Sovereign Lord, You are God! Your words are trustworthy.” Rejoice, for God’s words are trustworthy! Jesus came once and he will come again!

Gross – and Great – in 3 Chapters (Leviticus 15-17)

Thursday, August 25
shedding of blood
When my kids go off to school, I have a home daycare and preschoolers invade the house.  Recently I was babysitting four preschoolers – three of whom were potty-training at the same time.  So, I do have some experience with bodily discharges (the topic of Chapter 15).   I found myself saying all sorts of things I never imagined I would need to say about not touching this or that or sitting here or there.  It was for very good reason that we removed the bathroom rug for several months.   And, there was no limit to the amount of times I made them wash their cute little hands – hands which didn’t even look dirty to them.  As naïve children, my preschoolers failed to see the dangers of unclean habits and the reasons and ways for cleaning themselves.   The Israelites had similar issues.  And, might we, too – at least when it comes to spiritual cleanliness?

Perhaps it is said best in Leviticus 15:31: “You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.”  Our God is STILL a holy, CLEAN God who dwells among us and requires us to be clean to come into His presence.  Strive for purity (In your thoughts, words, attitudes, motives and actions).  When you “mess yourself” – realize the danger and harm of your sin.  Instead of making excuses – take the needed steps for cleansing.  Jesus Christ offers the best spiritual sanitizer possible.

Chapter 16 gives detailed directions for the yearly Day of Atonement – when “atonement (reconciliation) is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” (16:34).  This will be the sacred time when the High Priest enters the Most Holy Place, and in addition to sin offerings and burnt offerings (which were also done regularly throughout the year) – a scapegoat will be released into the desert.  Wikipedia defines scapegoating as, “the practice of singling out any party for unmerited negative treatment or blame”.  Sure sounds just like what would be awaiting the Son of God so many years later.

In Chapter 17 – where the eating of blood is forbidden – we see yet another foreshadowing of Jesus’ purpose (atonement) and means to the end (death).  Verse 11 says, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the alter; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

We are dirty, sinful people – just as God’s people have been all through history.  Realize the danger of your unclean habits (sins).  Be sanitized.  Thank God He has made a way for us to be purified and reconciled to Him.   Thank you, Jesus, for being the scapegoat and the perfect sacrifice so we can come before The Almighty!

Marcia Railton