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Ezekiel 44-47

‘When the people of the land come before the LORD at the appointed feasts, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which he entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate. 10 The prince is to be among them, going in when they go in and going out when they go out.

13 ” ‘Every day you are to provide a year-old lamb without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD; morning by morning you shall provide it. 14 You are also to provide with it morning by morning a grain offering, consisting of a sixth of an ephah with a third of a hin of oil to moisten the flour. The presenting of this grain offering to the LORD is a lasting ordinance. 15 So the lamb and the grain offering and the oil shall be provided morning by morning for a regular burnt offering. Ezekiel 46:9-10, 13-15 (NIV)

Most of these 3 chapters are about Ezekiel being instructed on how to divide up the land for the 12 tribes of Israel, but I couldn’t help but be struck by these two simple verses and their symbolism. They have so much application if we look beyond their literal meaning.

The first set of verses just struck me in that this is something we should use today. No matter how we enter the house of the Lord (church) today, we should never come out the same as we went in. The Lord’s word and praising Him at church should change us, and we we should never leave the same way we came in. We should be changed. I really take the leaving by a different gate this way.

The second set of verses strike me in that every single day, we need to give God our very best, not our leftovers. Do we give God the unblemished lamb and our best grain? Or, do we give God just what we have left?  He gave us His best – Jesus Christ. How can we not give him our very best, whatever it is that he needs, every single day?

It is amazing to me how something can just jump off the page like this – even in an Old Testament verse like this one that has different original intentions. God can speak to us in so many different ways and have us apply a verse intended for another audience and purpose to our daily lives in the 21st century. He truly is amazing.

Lord God, please let me give you my best each and every day. Let every time that I approach you change me forever. Let me give you my very best, and not my leftovers. It is so easy to be distracted by this world and forget the sacrifice that your Son, Jesus, made for us. He atoned for all of our sins and shortcomings, and because of that, we need to give you our very best every single day. Let us never enter your house and not be changed either.

In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Jim (jtgavigan)

From the archives. Originally published September 14, 2009.

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Ezekiel 28:11-31:18

“Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 29:16, NIV)

These four chapters are filled with words of judgment against the enemies of Israel. Passage after passage unveils God’s wrath upon the kings who fought against Israel. But instead of anger, a picture of God’s sovereignty shone through. He was reminding them that HE IS GOD. Then right amongst the prophesies He stated it loud and clear in the verse listed above. I love the analogy. Egypt was a “source of confidence” but has now become “a reminder of their sin.” Why? So that they “will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.” Isn’t that what we experience repeatedly in our lives?

What is my “Egypt”…my source of confidence? Materialism? Relationships? Self? I tend to find my confidence in anything BUT God! And what does it end up becoming instead? “A reminder of my sin”!! I depend on wealth, others and myself to sustain me but all of that only ends in self-centeredness. So what happens if God chooses to strip those away? I am left with a Sovereign LORD. Complete. Provider. Loving. Sustainer. Trustworthy. I need no other source.

Sovereign God, I habitually look to everything but You for my every need. You are ALL I need yet I forget that so easily. I want to live this day hearing from Your Spirit at every turn. I want to depend on You like I need air and water. My desire for this day is to make YOU my source of confidence. Amen.

Jody (simplyspoken)

From the archives. Originally published September 9, 2009.

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Ezekiel 3-8

Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me. They will recognize how grieved I am by their unfaithful hearts and lustful eyes that long for other gods. Then at last they will hate themselves for all their wickedness. They will know that  I alone am the Lord and that I was serious when I predicted that all this would happen to them. Ezekiel 6:9-10 NLT

597 BC            Israel Won’t Own Up / God Goes Nonlinear

God told Israel what He expected. They refused to acknowledge him or their sin. He sent Jeremiah and Ezekiel to warn them of His coming wrath. Israel chose to disbelieve God’s word and to focus on their idols. God had enough. He unleashed his anger. The outcome was cruel hardship and exile for Israel.

Israel wanted idols, not the one true God. God must be the main focus, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Confirming my belief sometimes isolates my thinking, creating a confirmation bias that makes me seem insensitive, condescending, or irrelevant to non-believers. If I ignore God I am lost, but if I look down on the world I effectively close communication and put myself and the message I bear in exile. God sent Christ to redeem everyone’s hearts, not just mine. He alone is God and I am not.

Lord, You alone are righteous, holy, just and omniscient.  Lead and guide me in your ways. Keep me from molding my shaped idols. May I never stray so far from you, that you could use my life as a cautionary tale. I love you, Lord. May my actions be consistent with my belief and help me to overcome any unbelief. Thank you for sending your mercy and love through Jesus in whose name I pray. Amen.

yicareggie

From the archives. Originally published September 2, 2009.

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Jeremiah 37:1-41:10

“So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkija, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard.  They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern: it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.”  Jeremiah 38:6 (NIV)

“‘Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you.  Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared.  But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: all the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon.  Those women will say to you: They misled you and overcame you – those trusted friends of yours. Your feet are sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you.’” Jeremiah 38:20-22 (NIV)

“Running from the Dog”

What a miserable wretch Jeremiah was.  His life was rife with drama and excitement, he was chosen to be “set apart…a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5), but he remained reluctant, insecure and hesitant about much of the work to which he’d been called.  His relationship with the Living God was marked by stinging quarrels and hot-tempered outbursts.  He went so far as to tell God he wished he were dead (Jer. 20:14-18).  Jeremiah was among civilization’s first recorded victims of depression. 

Centuries later, Winston Churchill would also suffer from depression, terming it his “black dog.”  As political conflicts ebbed, Churchill lost himself in his writing and painting to escape these debilitating bouts.  But it seems that for Jeremiah, there was no escaping the black dog.  Indeed, it chased him all the faster as, in this passage, we see him charged with treason and thrown into a well.  God offered no sympathy, but instead reminded the prophet of His promise to stand beside him (Jer. 15:20).  Despite it all, Jeremiah pressed on, and instead of running from the dog, learned in whatever way he could, to run alongside it.  From his own bleak history and days spent wallowing in mud, Jeremiah created a compelling picture for a vacillating King Zedekiah, pointing out that if disobedient, he too would know what it was like to have his feet “sunk in the mud.”

Wretched as he was, I cannot help but read Jeremiah’s book and love him all the more for his superlative example of perseverance.

The Bible has much to say about perseverance and the presentation of righteousness.  Take Romans 2:7 for example: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”  But here, in Jeremiah, the struggle is an internal one, and illuminates the challenge of obedience when the greatest impasse to doing what is right is not the public, or a king, or the circumstances, but the very mind itself.

I hear myself in Jeremiah’s wails.  When the strength to rise every morning feels beyond my capacity, the path of righteousness seems less straight-and-narrow, and more edge-of-cliff while blindfolded.  But I strive still for obedience, because I know my God requires it, no matter the dogs that pursue me.  For he may yet use their dark barking for His glory.   

Heavenly Father, obedience is hardest for me when I’ve convinced myself it’s impossible and the voice of doubt harangues me in the night.  But You’ve provided no caveat for compliance.  Your Word is as clear to me as it was to Jeremiah, and your promises of deliverance are older than the ages.  I can do it, Lord, but I need your help.  Because though the black dog is fast, You are faster still.  Amen.

Sarah

From the archives. Originally published August 25, 2009.

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Jeremiah 25-27

“Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.  Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way.  Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.” (26:2b-3)

Grace.  Mercy.  Those probably aren’t the first words that come to your mind when you think of the Hebrew prophets.  Reading about God’s wrath and impending judgment, it’s easy to see God as a heavy-handed judge who is eager to apply the full measure of the law.

But then you run across passages like this.  “Perhaps they will listen,” God says to Jeremiah, so face the angry crowd that wants to kill you, stand up to the false prophets, deliver my message to the people.  It just might be that those that hear you will repent and turn from evil and “then I will relent.”  God is waiting patiently, giving them every chance to repent, because he wants to be merciful, he wants to pour out his grace on his people and not give them the judgment they deserve.

I struggle with grace, particularly when it is applied to others.  God, why do you not punish those that do evil?   They’ve done some really terrible things – how can you overlook that?  I want to be the heavy-handed judge that gets to rain down fire from heaven.  Of course, I struggle less when the grace is applied to me.  I’m happy to receive God’s grace and forgiveness as I come to Him again, confessing a sin that’s plagued me over and over.

I was talking to a friend recently about ways to model God’s grace to our kids.  My friend took the hard line:  “they’ll see God’s grace in your love as you discipline them and teach them.”  Perhaps he’s right, but there’s this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I’d be in trouble if God took the same approach with me.  When God lavishes his grace on me, others that are watching might call it “permissive,” but I call it “amazing.”

Thank you, Father, for your amazing grace.  I am so undeserving of your love, yet you pour out your mercy and forgiveness on me, and you’ve given me a purpose and a hope that goes beyond anything in this world.  Help me to be a conduit of your grace to others; help me to reflect in my words and actions the grace that I have received, and help me to lavish that grace on others in a way that points them to you.

Steve (wordisalive)

From the archives. Originally published August 21, 2009.

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