Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

The Promised Land September 17, 2010

Filed under: Ezekiel,Uncategorized — womenembracingfaith @ 12:37 pm

I love living where I do.  Sunsets, water, breezes, green year round….. warm…fish…And I love America.  “In God We Trust”…..  “Liberty”… “Fraternity”….  “Equality”…It is a wonderful place to be.

Ezekiel loved his homeland too.  He grew up in Jerusalem and thought of it as the city of God and the city of David–with all the blessings that promised. Especially, the wonderful promise of the atoning Savior and King to come. It was the promised land, after all. 

In Ezekiel 22-24, the prophet predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed.  Their lewdness, idoltry, disobedience, corruption, immorality, and hardheadedness would finally catch up with them.  Their destruction would be a fair act on God’s part.  “I the Lord have spoken it;  It shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not hold back,…” (24:14). 

Ezekiel had already left Jerusalem.  He and his wife, along with people like Daniel and his friends, were living in Iraq.  He was preaching to the exiles.  They had lived there now about eleven years when she suddenly died (587 BC).  God told him not to cry or mourn in front of others.  In fact, he lost his voice and was told he would get it back when a messenger arrived telling him how Babylon’s army had wiped Jerusalem off the map (24:15-27).

And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on thefifth day of the month, that one who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “the city has been captured!”

Now the hand of the LORD had been upon me the evening before the man came who had escaped.  And He had opened my mouth; so when he came to me in the morning, my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute” (Ezekiel 33:21-22).

The point of all of this was to call attention to the truth of Ezekiel’s words as a prophet. These events were programed so that the people in exile, and those who would later read this book, would bow their knees and know that the LORD is God. Isn’t it remarkable that his experience and his prophecy have been preserved all these 2,600 years? 

Of course, Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC.  The exile lasted seventy more years before a group returned to rebuild the city and its temple. Ezekiel didn’t make it back to the city he loved.   But, he did keep on believing and preaching and calling others to turn from their selfish ways to love and trust the one true God.  That way he was living in the “promised land,” even while in exile, by loving God and doing what He commanded whether anyone really “heard” him or not.

LESSON TO THE CHURCH

Jesus is our representative–our righteousness. We are still called to love God and do what He commands.  The destruction of Jerusalem was a tragic event.  It really occurred.  Ezekiel tells us why.  They were stiff-necked, proud people who refused to listen and took their privileges as God’s people for granted.  They refused to clean up their act.  It is a lesson for us.  We Christians cannot take our position in Christ Jesus for granted.  We must live like people to whom God has shown many mercies, bow before Him as our Lord, as well as Savior, and clean up our lives.  What do you need to sweep away? 

 Some always listen; a remnant will return to living in the “promised land” of personal relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus alone.  It is a wonderful place to be.

 

“We Just Need Rehab.” August 25, 2010

Filed under: Ezekiel,Uncategorized — womenembracingfaith @ 3:28 pm
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Every generation has proverbs generally accepted by most people.  Sometimes spoken or written; sometimes not.  My mother’s generation lived by: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  I get to buy a few Lilly dresses now because of  that proverb! It is not such a bad saying…

A proverb of today in the U.S. might be: “We haven’t sinned; we just need rehab.”  Whether it’s a celebrity or public official or just a husband using the internet for dirty pictures, there’s seldom visible sorrow for the action itself that has caused such devastating consequences.  Anger management or sexual addiction counseling are “in.” 

Ezekiel saw the same kind of thinking going on among his exiled friends.  They had lost their country, been forced to move from Jerusalem to Iraq.  He kept preaching about true heart repentance–sorrow, sadness, deep grief resulting in seeking a renewed relationship with God that included right living.  They kept saying, “We’re suffering because of the sins of our fathers. We haven’t done anything to deserve this.”  Instead of repentance and mourning, they shirked their responsibility and blamed their parents and said God was not fair.

In Ezekiel 18,we have his sermon refuting this proverb. I hope you have the time to read it.  ’As I live,’  says the Lord GOD, ‘you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.'”  He goes on to list the right living of the first generation (18:5-9), and the violent greed, idoltry, and sexual impurity of the second generation, then the right living of the third generation (v.14-18).  Ezekiel defends personal responsibilty and the fairness of God:

“He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!

As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, robbbed his brother by violence, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity. … The soul who sins shall die” (Ez. 18:17-20).

“‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?'” 

 Should we be using our proverb today to excuse ourselves?  Is getting rehabilatation and counseling (or traveling the world for a year or so) the only thing we need to do?  What about cleaning up our act? 

Teaching Tip

Train your children (or those you teach or influence in any way) to accept responsibility for their attitudes and actions.  In preschool and early elementary years, I focused on getting my daughters to “honor” me. I tried not to have many “rules” but  when they didn’t show respect, they “got” it! It was their fault, even if I was wrong or short-tempered.  Of course, I often messed up myself, and this same principle of responsibility applied to me, but, nevertheless, my being in the wrong did not excuse them. It isn’t always the teacher’s or the parent’s fault.

 For upper elementary and high school, help them to see how false the cultural proverbs can be. You need to talk WITH them a lot (not to them as much). Take them daily to the real Proverbs as a contrast to what they are hearing “out there.”   Keep the focus on personal accountability and turning from wrong behavior and attitudes–in their relationship with you and with the Lord Jesus. 

Of course, in delivering this sermon on accountability, Ezekiel is in no way ignoring the hope of the Promised One who would be an atonement for sin.  He didn’t know all the details yet; it was 590 or so years before Jesus’ death. As an educated priest,  Ezekiel was very familar with all of Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah’s coming.  But, this sermon’s main point is that each of us is accountable to God and that does not make God unfair.  “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin” (Ez. 18:30).

 

A Shepherd and a Dove August 23, 2010

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Being a shepherd is hard work….Keeping on top of 2-4 year olds wears one out…Sometimes a good shepherd has had enough.  Jake just wore himself out keeping tabs on kids all summer.

God  had had enough with the people of Judah’s idoltry, careless morality, their hard hearts.  He was the Good Shepherd, and they were His sheep, but enough was enough.  Ezekiel had to tell it to them straight:

 ”The end has come…Doom has come to you, you who dwell in the land;…I will judge you according to your ways, And I will repay you for all your abominations” (Ezekiel 7:6-9).

This disaster caused them to finally see their sin They mourned for what they had done and been.  They were weak and shakey with sorrow.

…like doves of the valleys   All of them mourning, Each for his iniquity.  Every hand will be feeble   And every knee will be as weak as water  (Ezekiel 7:16-17).

The historical record is clear.  God left Solomon’s temple, and this city which believed they were untouchable because of His presence, found out the consequences of their refusal to turn and follow God.  They did not listen to Isaiah; they did not heed Habakkuk’s warning; they did not believe Ezekiel.  Until, finally, doom and destruction came.  Babylon  destroyed everything.  Then it all made sense, and those left alive realized how wrong they had been.

Application

We should learn from this history lesson.  We can’t push our Good Shepherd too far.  We need to shake with reverence and mourn our sins before it is too late. 

“Therefore, strengthen the hands which hand down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.  …let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:12-13; 28-29).

Jesus said,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3-4).

Read Ezekiel 7 and think about ways you have failed to be godly.  Daniel and Ezekiel remembered their sins.  God kept on being their Good Shepherd during their exile in Babylon (Iraq).

A Lesson For Children

Listen to the song of the doves with your kids.  Except for the hottest summer days, I have two doves in my yard most of the time; I’ll bet you do too.  Let their singing be a reminder for the kids (and you) of how we are to feel about our sins:  sad…. sorry… real grief…an offence to our Creator.  Mourn like doves.

“like doves of the valley” (Ezekiel 7:16).

 

 

From Priest To Prophet August 6, 2010

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Ezekiel was 26, married, and serving as a Priest in the temple at Jerusalem when the Babylonian raids began.  His service in the temple facilatated the offering of sacrifices of sheep, bulls, goats, pigeons.  It was bloody work.  The ashes from the altar had to be swept, the fire maintained, the animals slaughtered, the basins cleaned and refilled, the priests’ portions of the meat cut-up and distributed.  It was his service so that people could be right with God again in spite of their sin individually and corporately.  The whole process prefigured the promised Savior’s death as a payment for the sins of God’s people.  Ezekiel had been instructed in, and might have had access to, the scrolls containing Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, some of  Psalms and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah.  His work as a Priest was a respected position.  Unfortunately, many of the Priests strayed far from what the written Word of God actually said. Their lives did not measure up to the moral precepts nor did they warn the people of the consequences of ignoring the sovereignty and holiness of God.

Those consequences began with the Babylonian raids upon Judah starting in 597 BC.  Ezekiel and his wife soon were living in exile near a canal flowing into the Euphrates River in Southern Iraq.  (This was what God had told Habbakak would happen.years.) It was at this point that Ezekiel’s job description changed dramatically.  God appeared to him, showed him a glimpse of His glory and holiness, and called him to become a Prophet.  He was to listen to what God said ”expressly” to him and tell it to the people whether they listened or not. (1:3;3:7). It is quite a story.  Read it in Ezekiel 1-3.

Protestant Reformers defined a prophet as one who heard God’s word directly from God, and then spoke them to the people.  A priest officiated in the temple worship, but a prophet actually added to the revelation from God.  It was an awesome experience for Ezekiel and a big jump in his responsibility.  What a task he had before him now. 

Since a prophet added to God’s revelation of Himself and His plans for providing a Savior and a final judgment, the Reformers stressed that Revelation completed the revelation of God. After all, the Lord Jesus Christ had come, died, and risen just as was promised all through the Bible.  So the Reformers believed that there was no vision or experience after John’s that would add to the completed revelation of who God is and His plans for salvation and justice.  This is important as we look at the claims made by the Mormons, Moslems, or even some Evangelicals whose vision or experience is used to add to what we know about God.

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book,….” (Revelation 22:18).

 Application

Who are you listening to?  Is it someone who claims to have “special revelation?”  Or someone who follows someone who makes that claim?  Know what your teachers believe.

I hope this helps you as you read Ezekiel these final days of summer.

You can always ask me questions on Facebook (Carol Cook Brandt).  Just send me a message.  I try to keep this blog focused on the Scriptures, but questions and comments are welcomed on Facebook.

 

Reading Ezekiel July 18, 2010

Filed under: Ezekiel — womenembracingfaith @ 3:47 pm
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This summer I’m reading Ezekiel.  Won’t you join me?  I  want to encourage you to read the Bible yourself, and  read it to your children or grandchildren. 

 Drop everything and read…..

 ”In the Scripture, God’s severe correction of his sons has even come during times when there lived saints with outstanding measures of grace. Yet he did not use their gifts to revive. As Habakkuk spoke of his dread of Babylon’s crushing blows to Judah, still to come, he was speaking of times in which not only he, but also Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel lived. Yet their prayers and their faithful ministries were not employed in quickly accomplishing a revival that prevented severe chastisement.” (Habbakkuk by Walter Chantry, p. 42). 

It is important to keep this idea in mind during these days of moral decline in America.  God could send us revival—or He may not.  But, we have Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel to read.  Join me.  I’ll explain the history.  And also give you some examples of ways you can apply this to your life and heart today.

A  LITTLE HISTORY

Ezekial was trained as a Priest.  Around 598 BC , he was hauled off by the Babylonians to live in today’s Iraq.  There he had several visions revealing future events, some aspect of God’s character, or parables or sermons he was to preach to God’s people.  He made several prophecies which have come true —showing us the truthfulness of the Bible.  Since the Bible is essentially one book centered around one theme—man’s need of an atoning sacrifice for his sins, look for this theme as you read.   

 Since I use the Reformed Christian faith as my lens thru which I see all of scripture, I always consider the Hebrews as a historical example of the church.  When it is reasonable to do so, I equate the two–especially as I apply it to my life, both in everyday situations  and spiritually. For instance, in Ezekiel 34, the prophet rebukes the elders of Israel for their lies and harsh leadership.  I am reminded of the many pastors and church leaders today who rule with cult-like techniques or fail to warn of sin and the wrath to come.  And are such poor leaders as to omit the hope found in the atonement of Christ Jesus.

“For thus says the Lord  God, Behold, I, I myself will search fo my sheep and will seek them out” (Ezekiel 34:11). 

A lITTLE APPLICATION

 This reminds me of  the parable Jesus told of the lost sheep (Luke 15), and I picture myself upon His shoulders, sought out, saved, cared for.  I should love Him more and seek to let others know of Him and think highly of Him. What better way to do this than to seek to be gentle, show mercy, love the truth……

As Pastor Chantry says, perhaps we’ll have a revival in America; maybe we won’t.  But, we can keep on reading, changing, and watching for the Holy Spirit to work in our own life.