His Touch

Matthew 8:1-13 & Luke 7- Jesus heals a man with Leprosy

Before we get into today’s story, we need to understand the Old Testament law dealing with leprosy.  Leviticus 13:1-46 talks in great detail about leprosy.  There, we find that leprosy is a skin disease that is more than skin deep, it’s highly infectious, it defiles a person, anyone with leprosy must cover their mouth (this sounds like a mask), be separated from other people (social distance), live outside the town (this sounds like isolation), wear torn clothes, and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!”

In Matthew 8, we find the story of a man with leprosy.  Instead of staying away, we’re told, “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him [Jesus] and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  I believe this man had great faith.  He knew Jesus could heal him, he just didn’t know if Jesus would be willing to.  And he violated the law so he could get close enough to Jesus to find out.

Matthew 8:3 says, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  “I am willing,” he said, “Be clean!”  Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”  I find this very moving.  Jesus demonstrated how much he cared for this man by not just healing him – which was astounding enough.  Jesus also touched him.  By touching the man, Jesus would have become defiled – made unclean himself.  And remember, since no-one could touch a leaper, who knows how long it had been since this man had someone actually touch him.  I can’t imagine what that touch meant to the man.

Matthew 8:4 goes on to say that Jesus told the man, “See that you don’t tell anyone…”  We find this same story in Mark, and we’re told in Mark 1:45, “Instead, he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.  As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.  Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

In this story, I see that leprosy compares well with sin.  Sin runs more than skin deep, it is highly infectious, it defiles a person, and whether we admit it or not, it makes us unclean, and separates us from God.  When Jesus went to the cross, he took our sin on himself, causing him to be defiled.  But he demonstrated his obedience to God and his love for us by doing this anyway.  But Jesus’ sacrifice means nothing for us unless we each have faith in Jesus, come submit before him, and ask to be healed (forgiven).  Are you willing to get close enough to Jesus to find out what he can do for you?

Finally, at the end of the story, the man disobeyed Jesus’ direct command to him to tell no one.  Jesus commanded us to tell everyone.  How are you doing with that?

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 8:1-13, Luke 7

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 11.

Who are You Imitating?

Matthew 5-7

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 5-7.  You may know this as “The Sermon on the Mount”, and this may be among the most well known passages in the Bible.  The Jews Jesus was teaching knew the Old Testament laws really well.  Jesus took this opportunity to focus on what God really requires – he focused on matters of the heart, not just following the letter of the law.

For example, the old law said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  Jesus took it further and taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This is a difficult teaching, but wait – there’s more.  

Then, in Matt 5:42-45, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – This is even harder to follow.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us more of the reason behind his new rules.  God loves even those who hate him, and he does them good – in spite of their hatred for Him.  And we should imitate this characteristic of God.  Jesus takes this even further in verse 48, where he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  – Ok, now this isn’t possible to obey without some serious help from God.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Basically, this is asking God to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others.  Jesus then told us plainly in Matt 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  – This is a pretty good reason to forgive others! – But still not easy to do.

Then, Jesus tells us in Matt 7: 1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  – Did you catch that?  I will be judged in the same way I judge others.  This is a pretty good reason for me to not condemn others!  This goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

As I read these passages, a couple things jump out to me.  First, I need to imitate God as much as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing this, so I need to beg for His forgiveness.  Fortunately, He is loving and extends grace.  From His example, I recognize I need to be loving, and extend grace too.

Second, once I recognize I am a worthless sinner, saved only by the grace of God, it’s suddenly easier for me to be less eager to condemn others.  Then, if I can see them through God’s eyes – as other sinners in need of grace – that makes it even easier for me to extend grace to others.  And that grace may take the form of forgiving them, or of not judging them, or even turning the other cheek if they hit me.  On our own, this isn’t possible, but we can do these things with God’s help.  Ultimately, we can (again with God’s help) come to the point of loving or enemies, and blessing those who persecute us.

Jesus closes this section talking about the wise builder (who built on a rock) and the foolish builder (who built on sand).  The wise man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and put it into practice – building his life on the rock.  The foolish man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and didn’t put it into practice – building his life without a foundation.  In both instances, storms come.  But only the house built on the rock survived.  By analogy, only the life founded on Jesus’ teachings will not be destroyed.

So again, we find that today’s reading has implications for us today, and for eternity.  And just knowing these truths isn’t enough, we must put them into practice.  Please join me in taking this seriously.  Apply this to your life.  Ask God’s help living up to these requirements that are impossible to accomplish on our own.  Become an imitator of God.  The reward is eternal.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 5-7.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 7 as we continue on our Bible reading plan. SeekGrowLove.

All Night Long

Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3 & Luke 6

There were so many good topics from today’s reading, it was hard for me to pick just one for today’s devotion.  But I finally settled on discussing what Jesus did immediately before calling the 12 apostles.

Jesus had many disciples following him.  A disciple is a follower, an apprentice, someone who is learning.  From among these followers, Jesus was going to choose his apostles – his chosen messengers with a special commission. We’re told in Luke 6:12, that before choosing his 12 apostles, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer.  Did you catch that?  Jesus spent the whole night praying.

Why would Jesus need to spend the whole night praying? First, opposition to him was growing – immediately before this story, we’re told the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus.  He knew this would eventually end in his crucifixion.  I’m guessing he was praying for strength for the task that lay before him.  Second, this was a turning point in his ministry.  Until how, he had just been a one man show – a traveling preacher and healer.  Now he was picking the men who would be the foundation of the church after he was gone.  I’m guessing he was praying for discernment.  Finally, according to John 6:64, Jesus knew from the beginning who was going to betray him, and He was going to pick him as one of His apostles.  I’m guessing Jesus was struggling with emotions at that prospect; it was through prayer that He made this difficult choice.

We find many instances of Jesus devoting lots of time to prayer.  Whether it was getting up before dawn to pray, or sending the apostles away in a boat so he could pray, or … You get the idea.  But wait, Jesus was the Son of GOD!  In John 3:34, we’re told that Jesus was given the Holy Spirit without measure.  And He still spent a tremendous amount of time in prayer!

What should this mean for me?  

For starters, I suspect I need God’s help far more than Jesus did.  For one thing, I’m a wretched sinner, and Jesus was perfectly sinless.  Also, Jesus had the Holy Spirit without measure, me – not so much.  

From Jesus’ example, I see that I need to spend far more time in prayer, whether asking for strength, or for discernment, or struggling with emotions, or… for dealing with everything life throws at me.  And that’s just the requests for my needs.  Then, there are prayers for confessing and asking forgiveness.  Then, all the prayer requests for people I care about.  Then, there is honoring, praising, and magnifying God in prayer.  And the list goes on.  Bottom line – I need to spend more time in prayer.

What about you?  Will you join me in committing to spending more time in prayer?

This will not only benefit me and you, it may benefit the whole nation.  I’m reminded of one of my many favorite Bible verses, 2 Chronicles 7:14, “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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

And God knows our nation needs healing.

— Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3 and Luke 6

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 14, Mark 6 and Luke 9:1-17 as we continue on our Bible reading plan.

Incident at the Pool

John 5 – The Healing at Bethesda

In Jerusalem there was a pool, called Bethesda, where blind, lame, and paralyzed people would gather.  My Bible has a footnote that says John 5:4 isn’t in the most reliable manuscripts.  John 5:4 says “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters.  The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.”  If this verse isn’t legitimate, the rest of the story doesn’t make sense, so I’ll assume it is valid.

Anyway, there was a man there who had been an invalid for 38 years.  Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well.  This seems like a strange question to ask someone who was an invalid.  But who knows, maybe he was making a good income begging, and wanted to stay in his condition.  

Instead of saying, “Yes!”, the man started making excuses – he replied that he didn’t have anyone to help him into the pool when the water was stirred, so he never got into the water first.

Jesus then told him, “Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

This is a curious miracle.  The man didn’t ask Jesus to heal him.  The man didn’t have faith that Jesus could heal him – when asked, he didn’t even know who had healed him.  Also, there were many sick people there, and Jesus only healed this one man.  First, I do have to acknowledge this is a tremendous example of grace.  But I do have to wonder, why did Jesus heal this man?

If we keep reading the story, we find that instead of being happy for the man that had just been healed, the religious leaders criticized him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath.  He told them he was just doing what he was told by the man who had healed him.  When asked who that was, he didn’t know.

Later, Jesus found him again and told him to stop sinning or something worse would happen to him.  (We can assume Jesus meant the final judgement, but we’re not told.)  After this, the man went back to the religious leaders to tell them Jesus had healed him – on the Sabbath.

Now, I think we are finally at the point of understanding why Jesus healed this man.  I wonder if Jesus wanted to shake up the understanding of the religious leaders of his day, and this was a good way to get their attention.  He told them, “My father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”   Notice that Jesus said “My father” instead of “our father”.

The Jews recognized that Jesus was telling them that He is the son of God.  In this chapter, He also called himself the “Son of Man”, which they would have recognized as a messianic reference from Daniel 7:13l.  They were furious that not only was Jesus breaking the Sabbath, he was claiming that He was (is) the son of God.  And they made the mental leap to say that if Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, he was claiming to be equal with God.

They studied the scriptures regularly, and thought they would “earn” eternal life because of that.  Jesus pointed out, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” 

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day couldn’t accept what He was telling them.  Instead, they just wanted to kill Him.  What about you?  Do you acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God who will one day judge the living and the dead?  To paraphrase James 2:19, the demons acknowledge this too – and shudder.

If you do acknowledge Jesus, what are you going to do about it?  I would encourage you to take a cue from the man who was cured, and obey what Jesus said.   No, don’t pick up your bed and walk – instead read your Bible to understand all Jesus taught about, and obey all of that.  Finally, we should all take to heart Jesus’ warning to the man, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Because, as we’re reminded in John 5:28-29, “… for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 5

Tomorrow we read Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3, and Luke 6 as we continue in our Bible reading plan.

Bring Your Friends to Jesus

Mark 2 – Jesus Heals a Paralytic

In Mark 2, we find the story of Jesus healing a paralized man.  Jesus was becoming more well known, and more popular.  He was inside a house, and some men brought their friend to Jesus so Jesus could heal him.  But because such a big crowd had gathered, there wasn’t room to bring him to Jesus, not even outside the door.  So the friends took the man onto the roof, dug through the roof, and let him down in front of Jesus.

I have to admire these friends.  They were very concerned about their friend, and wanted to see him healed.  They believed Jesus could and would heal him, if they could just get him to Jesus.  They didn’t just “pray about it”, they stepped out on faith and did something about it.  They dug through the roof, and let their friend get close to Jesus – and Jesus rewarded their efforts.

Mark 2:5 tells us, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus obviously saw that the man was crippled, but Jesus saw what wouldn’t have been nearly as obvious to us.  The man’s biggest problem was his sin – so Jesus healed him of that first.  This is the greatest miracle Jesus performed (and still performs).  

The teachers of the law said that Jesus was blaspheming, believing only God can forgive sin.  I’m guessing they were thinking, “it’s easy to tell someone their sins are forgiven, since you can’t prove they are really forgiven.”  Jesus then told them, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”  He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take up your mat, and go home.”  So the man got up, took his mat, and walked out.

I love this story, not only because I love reading about all Jesus’ miracles, but specifically because this is the only story I can think of where someone is healed because of the faith of his friends.  We’re not told, maybe the paralized man asked to be taken to Jesus.  But any way about it, Jesus saw the faith of the friends, forgave the man’s sins, and ultimately healed him.

This story puts me to shame.  I invite you to ask yourself some questions…

Am I this concerned about my friends?  

Am I willing to be uncomfortable – maybe even make a scene – to bring someone to Jesus?  

Am I willing to not just “pray for” someone, but actually “do something” for someone?  

Would Jesus see my faith and forgive and even heal someone I care deeply about?

Finally, do I need Jesus’ ultimate miracle for myself – to have him forgive me of my sins?  This miracle meets the greatest need.  It costs the most.  It brings the greatest blessing.  It has the longest lasting results.  And Jesus is still doing it daily.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Mark 2

Tomorrow we read John 5 as we continue on our 2020 Bible reading plan.

Jesus Talks with a Samaritan Woman

John 2-4

You may be familiar with the story of the “Good Samaritan”.  But do you know the story of the “Bad Samaritan”?  You might know this better as the story of the woman at the well.

In Jesus’ day, Jews thought very little of Samaritans.  It may not be an overstatement to say the Jews hated the Samaritans.  The origin of this animosity dated back to the Assyrian invasion of Israel around 721 BC.  The Samaritans were of mixed race, partially Jewish, and partially who-knows-what.  They weren’t welcome in the Temple in Jerusalem, so they worshiped in their own temple in Samaria.  And, as Jesus pointed out, they worshiped what they didn’t even understand.

In John 4, we find Jesus arriving at a well near Sychar around noon.  Jesus waited at the well, while his disciples went into town to buy some food.  As Jesus waited, a woman came up to draw water.  I’ve heard this would have been a very unusual time to draw water – and she probably came then to avoid having to interact with others – because even the people in town would have looked down on her.

Anyway, Jesus started up a conversation with the woman, asking her for water.  In doing this, Jesus cut across all the social norms of his day.  First, Jesus was a Jew, and the woman was an “inferior” Samaritan.  Second, as I understand it, men of the day felt superior to women, and again, wouldn’t typically strike up a conversation.  Finally, Jesus was holy and the Samaritan woman wasn’t.  And religious leaders of his day felt superior to common sinners, and wouldn’t associate with them.  Jesus cut through all of those norms to interact with this woman.  The obvious reason given was because Jesus was thirsty, and the woman could draw water from the well.  I believe the ulterior motive was to share salvation with this woman and ultimately with the whole city.

Right from the beginning of the conversation, the woman was surprised that Jesus would even talk with her, since he was a Jew.  Jesus pointed out that if she understood who it was she was talking with, He could offer her something amazing – water welling up to eternal life.  Jesus told her to get her husband, to which she replied, “I don’t have a husband.”  When Jesus told her that she had had 5 husbands and that she wasn’t married to the man she was living with then – she recognized Jesus was a prophet. She said, “I know that Messiah is coming.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  Jesus told her directly, “I who speak to you am he.”  The woman left her water jug and immediately went into town to tell everyone that she had found the Messiah.  The whole town came out and ultimately believed – first, because of the testimony of the woman, then eventually because of their experience with Jesus.

Often, when we read a story like this, we associate with Jesus.  We may think, “I should follow Jesus’ example, break social norms, and associate with those who are “inferior” to me.”  

While this may be true, I’d like to focus on the woman, and see what we can learn from her.  Although presumably “unworthy”, and probably a social outcast, Jesus revealed Himself to her – little by little.  She first recognized he was a Jew, then a prophet, and finally the messiah.  Once she recognized that Jesus was the messiah, the savior, she immediately dropped what she was doing to go tell everyone about her experience with Jesus. Then she literally led the people of the town to meet Jesus.  Think of how little theology she knew – how few spiritual truths.  But she had found the Lord, and she wanted to tell everyone. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to tell others of her experience with the Lord puts us to shame. 

When you were introduced to Jesus, what was your reaction?  Did you tell everyone you knew about Jesus, and what he had done for you?  Did you do everything you could to bring as many people as possible to encounter Jesus?

Jesus pointed out to his disciples, “Open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.”  He wasn’t talking about agriculture, he was talking about a crop for eternal life – people needing to come into a saving relationship with the Lord.

I challenge you to first, truly develop a relationship with Jesus.  And once you do, tell everyone you know about the good news, so they can be saved too.  The consequences are literally life and death – for eternity.  What are you waiting for?

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 2-4

Tomorrow we will read Mark 2 as we continue Seeking God, Growing our Faith, and Increasing our Love on our 2020 Bible reading plan.

Jesus’ Early Ministry

Matthew 4, Luke 4-5, and John 1:15-51

In Luke 5, we find the story of Jesus calling his first disciples. Jesus was at the Lake of Gennesaret (better known as the Sea of Galilee) teaching large crowds.  Peter had been fishing all night, without catching anything, and was washing his nets while Jesus was teaching.  In order to help the crowds hear better, Jesus got into Peter’s boat and asked Peter to push out from shore.  After Jesus finished teaching, he asked Peter to go into deeper water and let down his net.

Let’s think of this from Peter’s perspective. He was a professional fisherman and knew how to fish – fish at night in shallow water.  What did this stranger know about fishing?  And Peter had fished all night, and hadn’t caught anything.  If I had been Peter, I think I might have pointed out these facts and then might have dropped this uninvited guest at the shore.  Fortunately for Peter, and ultimately for us, Peter didn’t argue (much), he just obeyed – and caught so many fish the nets began to break.  After Peter called his partners in another boat, they loaded all the fish into both boats – but there were so many fish, both boats began to sink.

Peter finally recognized he was in the presence of a great prophet of God, and ashamed by his own sinfulness, asked Jesus to leave. Instead of leaving Peter, Jesus invited Peter to follow Him.  So Peter did something else irrational.  He pulled his boat up to shore, left everything, and followed Jesus.

You might be thinking, “This is an interesting story, but how could this apply to me?”  I’m glad you asked.  

First, we see that Peter obeyed Jesus in a very little thing – taking Jesus out a little from shore.  If Peter hadn’t obeyed this tiny command, he never would have witnessed a spectacular miracle.  Later, when Jesus asked Peter to do something that totally defied reason, Peter also obeyed.  I love the reason he gave in Luke 5:5, “but because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  Peter was willing to submit to authority, even though he didn’t understand the rationale – and remember, there may still have been a crowd watching from shore.  Because of his obedience, Peter was then able to witness an incredible miracle.  Finally, when Peter acknowledged he wasn’t worthy, Jesus invited Peter to join Him.  So, Peter left everything and followed Jesus.

I have found that God often builds our faith little by little.  It’s important to obey God in even the smallest of things.  God will then build on those experiences and obedience for the future.  Sometimes, this may take the form of trials.  1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

I believe no one starts as a giant in the faith.  We obey little by little.  We face trials little by little.  And at some point, you can look back on your life and realize, “Wow, God and I have come a long way together.”

So I challenge you to get into God’s word.  As you do, God will prick your conscience and guide your thoughts.  Follow God’s direction, even in the little things.  At some point, you will recognize, like Peter – “I’m not worthy.”  But the good news is, Jesus is still calling people to leave their former life behind and completely follow Him.  This includes me.  This includes you.

— Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 4, Luke 4-5, and John 1:15-51

Tomorrow we will read John 2-4 as we continue to SeekGrowLove on our 2020 reading plan.

A Carrot and A Stick – REPENT

Ezekiel 13 – 15

Ezekiel 14 3 NIV SGL

 

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

Ezekiel 9 4 NIV sgl

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

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