Confession: usually I read Ezekiel over lightly. It’s not my favorite book in the Bible, but today something caught my attention; I counted over 12 references to eyes, seeing and sight in Ezekiel 20 alone. And throughout this past week, there have been numerous times when the topic of eyes and seeing have come up.
It started last Saturday when I was visiting my Turkish friend’s home. Displayed about her apartment were beautiful blue glass “evil eyes.” When I asked her what they meant, she explained that in Turkish culture, how you look at someone as well as how you are seen is taken very seriously. The manner in which something or someone is looked upon holds a certain influence or power for both the one looking and the one seen. The purpose of the “evil eye” is to divert the vision and diminish its power if the intention is evil.
In the West, we tend to minimize the power of what we look at as well as how we are seen, but Ezekiel tells us that God sees this as a life and death matter. He is heartbroken when the Israelites turn their eyes from Him to gaze longingly at false gods. He holds back his wrath: “for the sake of my name, I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.” Ezekiel 20:22.
Ezekiel asks me to examine the object of my vision, my attention. My focus rests on what or whom I love. I am more likely to become like the object of my affection than that which I disregard. When I focus on the One who knows me, loves me and made me, “my Soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”Psalm 84:2.
Lord Jesus, this morning, I sing this prayer to you:
Old Testament reading of a nation’s beauty, nurtured and tended, turned prostitute. God says of sin:
4 For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die. Ezekiel 18:4, NLT.
The warnings whisper through time, woven in example after example. Sin kills.
30 “Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you!31 Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel?32 I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live! Ezekiel 18:30-32, NLT.
God speaks and HE is judge. It is not for me to sit back and tally offenses (help me, God, help me). He looks at it all, he is judge.
I was thinking on a New Testament story of a man who asked, “Who is my neighbor?” And then wondered to myself, “Who is my enemy?” God says to bless our enemies, to pray for those who persecute–and I read these verses and think of his heart: Turn back and live. Whether I or another falls into sin, it grieves his heart and he wants something better–will not forsake me and speaks over me: turn back and live.
Sin kills. It breaks apart families and friendships. It snares a heart and squeezes tightly. Lord, you came so that we could have life, and not just eternal life, but life TODAY.
Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
“Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” John 6:27b, NLT.
Where do I spend my energy? Is my time spent clinging to sin that strangles–ensnared in a trap? Lord, I seek and pursue you–you are my peace and my freedom.
32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven.33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”
35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me.37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:32-40, NLT.
Lord, give me that bread every day. This is me: seeking, reaching, grasping, praying–and there you are: looking at me and not past me, never rejecting or losing me; life giving, heart changing, bread of life.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Over that last several months our kids have been studying Jesus’ ministry and the times leading up to his crucifixion in their Sunday school class. No matter how many times I hear the scriptures, I am always learning something new or hearing something new that I haven’t heard before. One of the things that strikes me as so incredible about Jesus’ life and ministry is his dependency on the Father.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
Because I see him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords I often forget that he was also human with human weaknesses and sufferings. But though he was given all authority and was fully God he was also fully human and submitted that authority over to his Father in heaven. He was strong enough, yet humble enough to lay down his own will and eventually his own life to submit to the Father.
From the time in the wilderness being tempted by Satan to the last night in the garden at Gethsemane, Jesus shows us where strength comes from. Throughout the gospels I am reminded over and over of how Jesus turns to God the Father in his human weakness and cries out to him.
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
This is a great lesson for me to understand and share with my children. I am a very independent person. I like to do things on my own, work hard and be in control. I often rely on my own merits and take great pride in myself when I advance. I also find this rubbing off on my children. In some ways it is easier to stick to this method but in the end, it only leads to pride with success and self hatred and disappointment with failures. If I can instead follow Jesus’ lead and turn to my Father in each and every circumstance pride and self hatred become non existent. Instead, I abide in Him, do the will of my Father and can give Him all the glory. Of course, this is easier said then done. This has been an important realization and journey in my life and I am thankful it’s something the Lord revealed to me so that I can encourage my children early on to live their lives dependent on Him.
Jesus didn’t cry out for help or guidance just once but over and over. I must remember this is a process and is moment by moment, the big things and the small things.
Thank you Jesus for your incredible example of dependence on your heavenly Father. Please help me to trust in you and turn to you each and every moment and for each and every decision, not just the big ones.
It wasn’t until I started to delve deeper into understanding the context of many of the Bible’s stories that I started to have a better appreciation of the significance of what I was reading… and John 4 is at the top of the list. On the surface, the woman at the well was someone, different than most in some respects, who encountered Jesus while traveling, but very similar to most of us in her insatiable desire for fulfillment. She is advised by Jesus to change the course of her life after the woman demonstrated honor to Jesus for His kindness and love.
When I first read this story, I knew that this woman was a Samaritan… a group that Jews did not associate with. I later learned that the Samaritans professed to believe in the God of Israel, but they only accepted the first five books of the Law and rejected the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures. Whenever they found it necessary to justify their religion and their play of worship, they modified the Law. The result was a strained relationship between themselves and the Jews.
With this background, it is more understandable why Jesus, a Jew, interacting with a Samaritan woman, appeared to those observing the encounter, odd… strange, particularly to the Pharisees. Why the Pharisees? Because they had a very simple system for being holy… they kept their physical distance from sinners as they believed that sin was contagious and that one could ‘catch’ sin merely being close to sinners. This is one reason they were so distressed when they could see Jesus having such close contact with sinners.
In Luke 5:27-32, while Jesus was engaged with Levi, the tax collector, He is question by the Pharisees, being asked “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus replied “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
I must admit that after reading this passage, I have come to view the “woman at the well” differently than I once did… feeling more compassion toward her, just as Jesus did. In John 4 and again in chapter 8, with the woman caught in the act of adultery, we see that the Jews were inclined to look down upon these two women as “loose”, which they were. However, they were certainly no more guilty than the men with whom they committed sexual immorality with. But, the double standard during this time had the woman bearing more responsibility for such acts than men. Additionally, Jews were inclined to hold a very demeaning view of women. The disciples seem to embrace similar views, and consequently, could not fathom why Jesus would be wasting His time talking to a woman!
As the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman continued, it was hard not to see how the woman felt drawn to hearing about the living water that Jesus was offering. John 7:37 has Jesus speaking “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to Me and drink.” And just like the Samaritan woman, in order to quench spiritual thirst, we must desire God’s water… if anyone wants God, they can have it. If anyone wants spiritual living; spiritual water, they can obtain it. If anyone seeks God, they can find Him. Yet, notice that the foundational principle here is that we must be thirsty for God. Unfortunately, many are not thirsty for God… instead, they are thirsty for things of the world.
There is a beer commercial on television which ends with ‘the most interesting man of the world”, surrounded by a group of women, stating “stay thirsty my friends.” The unfortunately reality of this world is that Satan and much of the world understands that humans seek fulfillment, and they thirst! The question is where will we satisfy our deep thirst… the world or with God? Countless stories in the Bible reinforce that we will never have a close relationship with God until we thirst after Him. Matthew 5:6 has Jesus sharing the promise “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” In order to gain spiritual thirst, we must draw from the right well… God’s well! And in order to quench our deep spiritual thirst, we must not only desire it, but we must also come to Jesus to obtain it! And Jesus’ promise? “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.”
Feeling spiritually dry? Come to the well! There is only one requirement…
John 3:16&17, 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Psalm 51: 1&2, 1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin (ESV)!
According to John 3:16 & 17 salvation in Christ is a free gift given through belief in Jesus. It’s not going forward at a meeting. It’s not raising our hand. It’s simple belief. However it is not easy believism. That’s where passages like Psalm 51:1&2 come into play. Once we accept Jesus we realize what sinners we have been and our need for His salvation. Not that all of the Christian life is repentance and difficulties, but we do see our fair share come our way. If all we do is believe and get into heaven without doing much else, we’ll have eternal life through the love and blood of Jesus, but we won’t much be prepared for the world to come.
I wish that it could at times be as easy as it was in the beginning. I came to Christ as a young child. Those days were good and exciting. These days are too, but I am more in touch with how I can wander from God and need his transforming work done again and again in my life (not salvation, that’s once & for all). I look forward to the day when there will be no more sin or disappointment or struggle. When the promise of John 3:16 & 17 is total reality.
Father God I’m sorry for the wrong I do each day. Some of it is volitional sin, some is by inaction, but I sin and need Your forgiveness. Thank You that Your salvation comes by belief in what Jesus has done for me. In Jesus Name, Amen!
From the archives. Originally published May 13, 2012
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