Thursday, June 23, 2011
So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD.’”
Ezekiel 16 is all about Israel's infidelity to their creator, redeemer, provider and protector. They were rescued, restored, refined and renowned by God and yet they played the harlot with foreign gods and foreign nations. Yet, when all is done, God does not respond as one would expect. His final judgment is not based on their infidelities but on His everlasting covenant (v. 60). The path that He takes to restoration is not through their offerings of atonement, but His. Catch that phrase in verse 63, "when I make atonement for you...." Even here in the Old Testament, in prophesies revealed long ago, God's plan was to make atonement for humanity through His Son Jesus Christ. This atonement sets Christianity apart from every other religion. In Christ along has God made atonement for sin. Human acts of atonement are incomplete and ineffective because they are offered through unclean hands and sinful people. Yet Christ in His divinity and perfect holiness was able to offer a complete and effective atonement for not only Israel, but also the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2). How great an atonement!!
God does not expect us to clean ourselves up and atone for our own sin. He has done every work of redemption and only asks us to receive it. What have you done with the lavish love of God that He would redeem you at His expense, that He would pay for your atonement?
Father - Thank you for your great love and atonement. I am so unworthy... yet I am so grateful. Amen.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
"Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives, therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination. I will save my people from your hands. And then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
The false prophets of Ezekiel's day reversed their role; encouraging the wicked and disheartening the righteous. Have I ever done this?
Have I ever valued my reputation or relationship with man so much that I glossed over sin and even encouraged the wicked in their wickedness? Have I ever oppressed the righteous because I lacked the fervor or zeal that they demonstrated? Have I ever given license to sin by my own sinfulness or discouraged obedience by my own disobedience? Have I ever chosen to remain silent so as not to rock the boat or spoken up so as to be accepted?
God guard your ministry from me. Save Your people from my hand if I ever stray or prevent anyone from knowing that You are the LORD. Amen
Friday, June 17, 2011
"Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, 'The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing'? Tell them therefore, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: I will put an end to this proverb, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.' But say to them, The days are near, and the fulfillment of every vision."
Israel took for granted the Lord's patience and grew dull to His warnings. The prophesies of Ezekiel and others were simply threats to them that they believed would never come to be. Consequently, the Lord's patience ran out and His warning became reality.
The people of the New Testament church had a similar problem while waiting for the return of Jesus. In 2 Peter 3:9 we are reminded, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
I find that many believers today also misinterpret the Lord's patience and mercy. Somehow they have lost sight of the gravity of sin, the urgency of the Gospel, the immanence of Christ's return and the certainty of His promises.
Have I failed to fully understand the weight and consequences of my sin? Have I ignored the great commission and passed up opportunities to share the Good News of God's love? Have I grown dull with the Truth of Christ's return, living my life for me rather than him? Have I failed to take advantage of His promises, to lean into His Truth, to be strengthened by His Word? Have I grown accustomed to God's Word, His presence and His ways?
Father - recapture my heart. Hold me closer to You that I might not grow accustomed to that which is so profound, so wonderful, so Holy and so perfectly applied to me. Amen.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.'
While visiting Israel I spent some time at the Western Wall of the Temple mount, also known as the Wailing Wall. This is the most sacred site for the Jews because at this time, it is the closest that they can get to where the presence of the Lord dwelt, where rests the fundamental stone upon which the Temple was built and the Holy of Holies sat. There at the Western Wall, religious Jews gathered for prayer and celebration believing that God's presence and blessing were tied to that geographical location.
As I walked through the courtyard watching the people weep and wail and pray, my heart broke for them. I recalled all of the passages and stories from the Old Testament where God demonstrated that His presence and His blessing were not tied to land or stone or city. He is the God who created all of this and He is not bound by boarders, walls or Temples.
Here in Ezekiel 11 He reminds them of the truth and reveals to them that though they go into captivity, He goes with them. He is their sanctuary, not a tent, Tabernacle or Temple.
This is significant because when God is our Sanctuary and we find our rest in Him, the result is far greater than what a physical Temple or sanctuary would provide. In verses 19-20 we read, "And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
Do I take for granted the sanctuary of God? Do I take lightly His presence? Is my heart soft and moldable or hard and brittle? Is my relationship with God tied to certain places and times or am I found always in Him, my Sanctuary?
Father - let me know Your presence and find my rest always in You. Let my heart be always soft and moldable. You are my God and I am Yours. Amen.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Then the glory of the LORD went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the LORD, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.
The Glory of the Lord dwelt in the Holy of Holies within the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem. From there God would speak to His people, protect them, provide for them, preserve them and forgive them. Yet the people continued in sin and rebellion against the Lord and His presence, His Glory could no longer dwell with them. As the Lord's Glory left the Temple, so did his provision, protection, forgiveness and instruction. While they would always be His people, they would not always enjoy His presence. And as His Glory left, slowly, in steps, pausing along the way God gave the people every chance to repent and be forgiven. He did not leave in a whirlwind or a flash, but slowly and visibly so as to provide every chance for reconciliation.
The same holds true in our life. God's Glory cannot be found in the life of a sinful and rebellious believer. His presence, provision, protection and preservation along with His Glory don't just disappear, they slowly fade, calling the sinner to repentance through graduated experiences of absence. First we lose our peace. Understanding and wisdom follow peace. Blessings and provision erode into resentment and doubt. Doubt gives way to despair and desperation. All along this path, God is calling the wayward believer to repentance, longing to return to His Temple.
Have I noticed God's Glory slowly eroding from my life? Have I lacked peace or understanding lately? This is the first sign that I am caught in willful, habitual sin. This should drive me to repentance and call me back to the presence of God.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit."
Amen. - (Psa. 51:10-12)
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist. 4And the LORD said to him, "Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it." 5And to the others he said in my hearing, "Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the house. 7Then he said to them, "Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out." So they went out and struck in the city.
The Spirit of the Lord sought for those who's hearts broke over sin, for those who had deep sorrow for their city and people trapped in rebellion. Psalm 51:17 says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." These individuals were spared God's wrath, not because of their perfection, but because of their brokenness. They demonstrated the heart of God through their sorrow.
Would I be worthy of such a mark? Do I demonstrate the heart of God through a brokenness over sin? Am I grieved by rebellion, disobedience, hard-heartednes?
Lord - break my heart for what breaks Your's. Amen.
Monday, June 6, 2011
"Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the LORD—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them."
This is not a list of God's more favorable attributes but it does remind us that God is both moral and just. His demand for obedience and holiness does not come from anything outside of Himself. There is no cosmic law for Him to satisfy or a universal moral balance to keep. According to Ezekiel 5:13, the only moral authority to satisfy is Himself. He is the Law, He is the Truth, He is Holy, He answers to no one and nothing. God alone defines our world. His character, His nature, His attributes are displayed in us and to us. When we sin, we are not simply breaking a law but denying the very nature of God, offending our very Creator and Sustainer, defiling His nature in which we were created. To God, our sin is a personal offense as well as a moral offense.
I cannot dilute this truth by considering my sin as anything less than rebellion against God.
Father - forgive me for my rebellion. Remind me that my sin is personal as well as moral offense. Create in me a desire for purity and holiness and let my life honor You. Amen.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Ezekiel 3:18-19 (ESV)
"If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul."
Ezekiel was given a charge to relay God's Word and warning to Israel. He was both responsible and accountable to God to deliver His message. For the most part, I feel responsible to relay God's message, the Gospel, to people who have not yet received it. However, I rarely consider that I will also be held accountable for each time that I refused to pass on the saving knowledge that I have been entrusted with.
Matthew 12:36 says, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak." I discipline myself to avoid careless words; words that wound, words that mislead, words that offend. Yet, do I also discipline myself to speak careful words; words that heal, words of Truth, words that encourage, words that save?
I would be wise to remind myself regularly of this word from God to Ezekiel, that I am both responsible and accountable to speak His Word.
Lord - fill me with courage to speak, the words to speak and wisdom to speak Your Word in love. Sharpen my sight that I may see those who are seeking. Sharpen my hearing that I may recognize opportunities. Fill me to overflowing with Your Holy Spirit that Your Truth flows from everything I say and do. I want to stand before you fully spent for the sake of the Gospel. Amen.