The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 10

In this chapter, we are still continuing the vision Ezekiel receives in chapter 8. After all the death of the previous chapter, we see the scribe return to receive new orders from God. This chapter also behaves as a type of transition between the beginning of this vision, and the next part of it. This is where studying the prophets becomes difficult as we must be reading allegorically to see what is happening. We far too often desire to read Scripture literally, and as I pointed out last time, this may not always be helpful. This chapter still requires us to behave in this manner.

Continue reading “The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 10”
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Is Anyone Thirsty? (Isaiah 54-56)

Book of Isaiah

 

In their sin and disobedience, Jerusalem became shameful because it was not bearing fruit for God. They openly rejected His ways and teachings. So God, in His righteous anger, decided to punish His people for disobeying. However, in today’s reading, God promises that when they return to Him, He will gladly take them back. He will bless them with abundance they have never known. They will no longer have to suffer through the shame and disgrace brought on by their disobedience. “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” (54:4, NLT). He makes a promise to them that will last forever, just like He made with Noah. “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I  swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken.” (54:9-10, NLT). No enemy will ever overcome them, so long as they remain faithful to God’s way of life.

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or mink — it’s all free!”  (55:1, NLT). God offered the Israelites a gift that they would not have to pay for, they simply needed obedience. He tells them to feed off of Him. Physical food would only feed their bodies, but they need more that simply eating bread and meat. They need God’s word to live off of as well. He knows that unless they seek after Him, just like they will seek after food everyday, the Israelites will have problems keeping their end of the covenant God wishes to renew with them. He tells them that His word produces fruit, and it will prosper where ever He sends it. He wishes to give it to the Israelites so they can become fruitful again. He reminds them that they cannot understand His mind. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (55:9, NLT). Men cannot understand all that God knows and thinks. Our minds are small and feeble in comparison to His. There are times where God calls His people to do things they don’t understand. He reminds them that the  proper way to behave is in obedience to Him.

God shows His people how obedience to Him gives greater glory and blessing than following the will of man ever will. God picks two classes of people in Israel to speak directly about, eunuchs and Gentiles. He says that so long as they obey God, He will give them blessings beyond anything they could receive by man. “Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.'” (56:3, NLT). God is not going to allow people who truly seek after Him live with the shame that these people groups have to live with. “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me.” (56:4, NLT), “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.” (56:6, NLT).  “For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people of Israel (56:8, NLT).

Just like in the days of Isaiah’s writing, God cares for His people today. He wants to bless us, and see us prosper. He doesn’t want to see us harmed, or have to suffer. Yet we constantly choose to disobey Him and have to live with the consequences of that decision. In order for us to have better in our lives, we have to seek God first. Whether that means for you, the first thing you do in the morning is study the Bible, or you have to go find one of those WWJD bracelets for a constant reminder. The point is that God has to be our first priority. While Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, he became hungry. The devil tried to convince him to turn a rock into bread so that way he could eat and be filled. But Jesus knew better. He turned and quoted Deuteronomy to the devil, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB). We have to realize that we need God more and more. It is not enough to make sure our physical needs get met, and only give God whatever prayer we say before dinner time. We live because God allows it. His word sustains us. We can only grow and hunt whatever food we eat, because God allows that to live. We should seek after Him first. This is the way we align ourselves in a right manner. We cannot be distracted by other directions, because God is our primary objective. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB). We won’t have anything to worry about or anything else to need, if the very first thing we look for in our lives is God.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 112-114

 

Also in this Series

Remaining Faithful (Judges 10)

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Sorry for running late today. It’s been very busy here in my neck of the woods!

In today’s chapter, first we meet Tola. He became a judge, and lived and died. The came Jair. He became judge, and lived and died.Then Israel did the same thing they always do; they began to worship other gods. This time the Ammonites became their oppressors. Eventually (I’m assuming after several years) the Israelites turned back to God. They asked for salvation. His response was unexpected, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you. Yet you have abondoned me and sever other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!” (10:11-14, NLT). The Israelites still chose to plead with Him and seek after Him, but they had to meet their oppressors in battle.

It seems that the Israelites had finally found God’s breaking point. For around 250  years, His people were in a cycle of rebellion then submission. They would not keep His Commandments. The only reason they would stay loyal was because of the Judge that was living at the time. But as soon as the Judge died, the people turned away from Him to some false God.

Many people would say “Wait hold on a minute. God doesn’t leave His people or say that He won’t save them. What is going on here?” I would have to agree. We know that God will not “fail [us] or forsake [us]” (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8, NASB). But there is a verse that gives reason to what God is doing. “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, NLT).

Did you catch that? It’s a part that I think we all seem to forget at times, “those who love him and obey his commands”. You see? This faith of ours is just saying a prayer or filling our commitment by going to church every week (or less). I feel like many of us act that way, then blame God when He hasn’t “held up His end of the bargain”. The truth is that God did all He had to do upon the Cross. Yet we all wonder why God isn’t blessing me? Or why does He seem to have abandoned me? There should be a different question that we ask when we feel this way. Have I been faithful? Do I love God? Have I been keeping His Commandments? If we don’t want God to forsake us, we must remain faithful to Him, just as He is faithful to us.

At the end of this story we see that the Israelites faith helps them. It says, “Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery.” (10:16, NLT). Despite God telling them that He would not save them, when they turned their hearts to Him, He had to act. The same goes for us. We are never to far gone to receive God’s love. All we have to do is turn our hearts to Him and remain faithful.

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 59-60

We Don’t Need More (Judges 7)

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In today’s chapter, Gideon defeats the Midianite army. Gideon amasses a large army of 32,000 men, from the areas of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Nephtali. God calls Gideon to send away several of the men so that God’s glory and power can come through the victory over the Midianites. By the time it was over, Gideon was left with 300 members for his army. Then, in the middle of the night, Gideon surrounded the Midianite camp and they all blew their horns. The Midianites were thrown into a frenzy and began attacking each other so they could escape. Gideon and his men became victorious and chased down the rest of their enemy’s army.

The thing that astonished me about this chapter was God’s call to make Gideon’s army smaller. He had originally brought together 32,000 men to join in his fight against the Midianites. God told him to send some home, and Gideon lost 2/3 of his entire military (he was left with 10,000). Yet, God still wanted him to sacrifice more. So God sent away all but 300 of Gideon’s army. God left Gideon with less than 1% of his original army! Still, Gideon was able to overcome the Midianite army. Why? It’s because he trusted God to go before them in battle and over come the enemy.

What does this mean for us today? The world often tells us that we need more, more, more! I know I feel this in music ministry. Sometimes I feel, “If only I can get more musicians” or “If only we had a better sound system” or “If only we had more money to increase production value” and so on. But God doesn’t want us to increase. He often causes us to decrease, so that His glory can be shown even better. Jesus told his disciples, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2, NASB). God likes to make us smaller, so that when we overcome great obstacles, the only possible reason we succeed is Him. If you are in a time of “pruning”, I ask you to remain in Him. He isn’t trying to punish you. He is trying to help you be able to glorify Him even better.

 

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 56

What Does Snow Remind You Of?

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This morning I woke up to a blanket of white over everything! I really surprised me since I had no idea it was supposed to snow and my entire family was running late for work! I was thinking about all the snow when a Scripture came to mind. “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get you sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. ‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord have spoken'” (Isaiah 1:16-20, NLT).

The thing I love most about this passage is that it sounds like a message from Jesus, but it was written several years before his birth by the prophet Isaiah! But the message is great all the same. God knows that we are made unclean by sin. There’s a section in the book The Resolution for Men were the authors talk about living with sin. At the end of the man’s life, he was sick and dying and surround by garbage and filth. The imagery, to me, is one of a man living in a garbage dump who is so sick he cannot continue to live. That’s what sin does to us. It hurts us, makes us sick, and makes us dirty. But God wants to make out lives “as white as snow”. He wants us to be clear from it, to be free and not be sick and dying.

The choice to follow Christ is definitely a hard one. It may not be hard at the onset, but it most certainly gets more difficult as life goes on. Christ is counter-cultural. He stands in contrast to the world, because He knows what God truly wants from us. That’s why the religious leaders of his time wanted to kill him. Christ told them they were wrong. God doesn’t care about meaningless sacrifices (read the first part of Isaiah 1 if you don’t believe me). What he wants is our obedience to him. He promises us that if we follow Him, He will provide for us. So we must stand firm in our faith, and trust the Lord’s provision for us, and that He knows what He is doing.

So looking at the snow this morning, I was reminded. Not only about what Christ has done for me through the Cross. But also that I should put my trust in the Lord, because He is faithful and will provide.

His Name is Immanuel

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Before I even get started with today’s post, I would like to say that today is a special day for The Heart Man. Today is the 100th blog post!!!!!!!!!!! Woot Woot!!!!!!!!!!!!

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In this time of year, lots of people talk about Jesus’ birth, and pretty much read Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2:20. Instead I thought I would go a little farther back, about 700 years before the birth of Christ!

Judah is under the threat of war. Both kings from Ephraim (Israel) and Aram are rising up against King Ahaz and Judah. The prophet Isaiah came to the king and told him not to worry. God did not want the these other nations to succeed. He even mentions that Ephraim only has 65 years left. So God told Ahaz to ask for a sign of God’s promise, but he did not wish to do so. The Isaiah said to Ahaz, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NASB).

I remember the first time I read that verse. I grabbed the closest writing utensil next to me, a red pencil, and drew an arrow and wrote “JESUS!” in my Bible (at this point I would refuse to write in my Bible, so yea, I got pretty excited).

But there is something here that is not so easy to see. God told Ahaz to pick anything. It could be as extravagant as he wanted. He could have requested that the stars be realigned to say “God will protect you!” and God would have done it. When Ahaz refused to pick a sign, God offers a child born of a virgin. That alone is pretty miraculous! However, God took it one step farther. The child’s name is Immanuel (or Emmanuel if you prefer). But do you know what his name means? Immanuel means “God with us”.

Essentially God told Ahaz, “If you won’t pick a sign, then I am coming to you in human form.” Jesus is just that. He is God among man. God shed Himself of His glory and humbled Himself to become man. He did this to defeat the enemies (sin) that rise up against us. Our God is a god that fulfills His promises. Even if that means He has to become a man in order to complete them.

Take a moment today, and all throughout the season of Advent to revel in the fact that God was with us, in a little baby called Immanuel.