Thursday, November 23, 2017

November 23: Ezekiel 45:13 – 46; Psalm 119:33-48; Proverbs 28:11; 1 Peter 1:13-2:10



Overview

            Ezekiel: he Lord explains to Ezekiel the offerings that are to be made in this new temple. These include measurements of wheat, barley, and oil and numbers of sheep. They are for burnt and peace offerings as well as to make atonement for the people. The people are to give the offerings to the prince. The prince is to provide the offerings including sin offerings for the various festivals.
            On the first day of the year the priest shall take the blood of a bull and put it on the doorpost of the temple and on the corners of the altar. The same on the seventh day for sins of error or ignorance. This makes atonement for the temple.
            On the 14th day they will celebrate the Passover. The number of animals and other elements of the offering is provided for each day. These are provided by the prince.
            The east gate of the inner court will only be opened on Sabbaths. The prince will enter and take his place by the gate. After the priest offer his burnt offering and worship, the prince will leave but the gate will not be shut till evening. The people will worship there at the entrance to the gate. The details of the prince’s offering is provided.
            The people will come in by the north or south gates but must leave by the opposite gate. The prince will enter and exit at the same time as the people.
            During the week, if the prince makes a freewill offering, they will open the east gate for him and close it immediately after he leaves.
            The daily offerings ae then described.
            If the prince gives any of his sons part of his inheritance, it will be theirs. If he makes a gift of his inheritance to a servant it will be his only until the year of liberty. The prince may not take any of the people’s inheritance from them. No one may be taken away from their inheritance.
            The Lord showed Ezekiel the holy chamber for the priests. At the far western end the Lord told him the place was where the offerings were boiled and where they bake the grain offerings. They do it there so that the people would not be made holy. He was brought to the outer court and in each corner there were kitchens where the people’s sacrifices were boiled.
            Psalm: The Psalmist asks the Lord to teach, give understanding, lead, change his heart, keep his eyes away from worthless things. He wants God’s promises confirmed. He fears God’s reproach.
            He asks for God’s steadfast love, answers for his enemies, and not to lose God’s truth. He will then keep God’s laws and even tell kings. His delight is in God’s commands. He loves them and meditates on them.
            Proverbs: A person with riches thinks he is wise but even poor people understand and can see whether or not the rich man is wise.
            1 Peter: Because of all that God has done for us in the first part of the chapter, we are called to use our minds to focus on God’s grace when Jesus comes back. We must live holy lives instead of the way we used to live before being saved. We are to be holy because God is holy. We call upon God as our Father while living in exile; we need to remember we were ransomed from out sinful lives we learned from our earthly fathers by the blood of Jesus. We were not ransomed by money but Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. That sacrifice was planned before the earth existed and occurred later so we could believe in God through Jesus. God raised Jesus from the dead so our faith and hope are in God.
            Our obedience shows we have purified ourselves and should therefore have a pure love for each other. We were born again not from human seed but by God’s word, which doesn’t perish and is living. We are like grass or flowers that wither and dies but God’s word is eternal and that is what was preached to us.
            With this in mind, we need to get rid of all ungodly actions and grow up in our salvation by longing for God’s word, that is, if we really are saved. We come to Jesus like a stone because we are living stones being built in to a spiritual temple. We are also the priests offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus. God laid the stone in Zion, a cornerstone for this spiritual temple. When we believe in him, we are not put to shame but are resting on the cornerstone. Others reject Jesus as the cornerstone when they don’t believe and therefore stumble over him. They stumble when they disobey just as they were destined to do.
            But we are chosen to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people who belong to God. Our purpose is to praise him who called us out of darkness into his light. Once we were lost and not his people but now we are his people and have received his mercy.

What Stood Out

            Ezekiel: “It shall be the prince's duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel” (Ezek 45:17).
            Psalm: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (Ps 119:36).
            Proverbs: “A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out” (Prov 28:11).
            1 Peter: “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (1 Peter 2:8).

Insight

            Ezekiel: The rules for the millennium temple are very similar to the rule given to Moses. However, there are some interesting differences. The prince is a very important part of the ceremonies. There was no prince when the Law was given to Moses. The prince appears to be the one who brings the offerings for festivals and one of them is the sin offering. The prince is supposed to be a descendant of David. In ways, he represents Jesus as he brings the sin offering. In other ways, it is obvious he is not Jesus because he has sons to whom he may give part of his inheritance.
            Another anomaly is making atonement for the temple. The priest puts the blood of a bull on the doorposts of the temple. This is done before the Passover and has no comparison in Moses’ Law. The people can only come in the north or south gate and exit by the other gate. There isn’t any reasonable explanation for this in human terms and the Lord doesn’t give any reason either. If they all had to come in the same gate, then it would be traffic control, but it says they can come in by either gate.
            You may point out that there is still sin offerings and mentions of atonement, which would presumably eliminate the idea that this is the millennium temple since Jesus is the last sin sacrifice. That is a good argument. My only response would be that these sin offerings are memorials, just as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of Jesus sacrifice for our sins.
            Rather than being adamant about this being the millennium temple, we should simply acknowledge that Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb for our sins. He died once for all sin, past, present, and future. So even the Old Testament sins were covered by Jesus and he has already covered the future ones also. We can celebrate this in the Lord’s Supper or perhaps in the millennium at the temple. Either way, the glory goes to Jesus.
            Psalm: As David continues to extol God’s word, he makes a couple of statements that we should note. One is that when we have our hearts fixed on God and his word, our selfishness and desires to get and use riches for ourselves should diminish. It doesn’t come about automatically. We have to turn to his word and we do that by asking him to draw us in that direction. We need God’s help to do that. We need to ask the Lord to help us turn for worthless things and look instead to his ways.
            Proverbs: Riches tend to make people think more of themselves than they ought. While some are very smart and have been able accumulate great riches, it doesn’t make them wise. In fact, poor people can look at them and see that they aren’t wise at all. They put their riches ahead of their concerns for other people and even worse, they often ignore God completely. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not the accumulation of riches.
            1 Peter: There is a lot more theology in these verses about election. One point of theology that is very disturbing to us is the concept that God has destined some people to disobey the Lord and not be saved. 1 Peter 2:8 makes it clear that those who disobey are the ones who were destined to do that. I point this out only to say that it isn’t something that we can explain but is something that the Lord has said. It doesn’t absolve us or anyone else from the consequences of disobedience because we are all sinners. It is simply that in God’s understanding, foreknowledge, and choosing, he has called some of us out of darkness of our sinful lives, given us grace, and saved us. He hasn’t done that for others. This doesn’t make God unjust because it is his decision to grant mercy to the ones he wants (Rom 9:14-16).
            However, we can focus so much on election or nonelection that we miss what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to live holy lives. We are supposed to proclaim the excellencies of God. We are to love each other in purity and get rid of the sins and ugliness that held us captive before Jesus ransomed us with his blood. We can do these things because we are being sanctified by Jesus and we are being built into a temple where we offer spiritual sacrifices to God as our lives are transformed from the ways of the world to God’s ways.

Application

             I want to be a person who proclaims God’s excellence to others. I want them to hear the eternal word of God and join us who have received mercy. I don’t have to worry if they are called or not as long as I’m doing what he wants. They will come according to God’s will.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

November 22: Ezekiel 44 – 45:12; Psalm 119:17-32; Proverbs 28:8-10; 1 Peter 1:1-12



Overview

            Ezekiel: The Lord explains the rules of the temple to Ezekiel. The east gate will never be opened again because the glory of the Lord entered by it. The prince is the only one to sit in the gate and eat bread before the Lord.
            The Lord reiterates that Ezekiel must remember all the Lord is telling him about the rules and the entrance and exits of the sanctuary. He is to tell the rebellious Israelites to stop their abominations. They are to stop letting uncircumcised in heart and flesh foreigners in the sanctuary and profaning it. They broke his covenant and even have others do the work of caring for the sanctuary.
            Only the Levites who worshiped idols may enter the sanctuary and bear their punishment. They shall not come as priests but must do all the work of killing the offerings and guarding the temple. This will be their punishment and their shame.
            The Levitical priest who are descendants of Zadok are the only priest to come near the Lord because they kept the temple when Israel went astray. They are the only ones that are allowed to come to the Lord’s table and minister before him.
            The Lord then explained their clothing for ministering. Their conduct is also explained for ministry, marriage, keeping laws, and death of family members. They are to be the teachers and judges for the land. They will not have a possession in the land as the Lord will take care of them. Their provision will be their parts of the offerings, gifts, firstfruits, and other gifts.
            The Lord then described the amount of land that will be a holy district, 25,000 cubits (7.1 miles) by 20,000 cubits (5.7 miles) with the temple in the center. The priests will live in this area. Another area of 25,000 cubits by 10,000 cubits (2.8 miles) will be for the Levites who serve in the temple. The city will adjoin these areas and will be 25,000 cubits by 5,000 cubits (1.4 miles). The Prince will have the land on the east and west of the holy district and the city (25,000 cubits wide) and extend to the borders of Israel parallel to the tribal inheritances. The princes will no longer oppress the people.
            The Lord then condemns the current princes telling them to stop their violence and oppression. They are to stop cheating in commerce and defines the correct weights and measures to be used.
            Psalm: The Psalmist asks for help to keep God’s word as he delights in it. It keeps him going even when princes oppose him. He has sorrows but is knows God’s word is his source of strength. He has chosen the way of faithfulness as he clings to and mediates on God’s word.
            Proverbs: Getting rich by charging high interest rates on poor people will find their riches given to those who are generous to the poor. The prayers of anyone who is not obedient to the Law are abominations. People who drag innocent people into evil will die in their own evil ways. The ones who don’t work evil will have a good inheritance.
            1 Peter: Peter is writing to believers who have been dispersed and are living in various regions in modern Turkey. He calls them elected by God’s foreknowledge, sanctified by the Spirit, and for obedience to Jesus Christ. He pronounces grace and peace for them.
            He explains the blessings we have in God’s mercy to be born again and have a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection. We have an inheritance in heaven that will never diminish. We have faith that God is guarding us by his power until our salvation is revealed in the last days.
            We rejoice in this even though our faith is tested by trial so that it will be proved genuine. When Jesus comes back our tested faith will bring glory, praise, and honor to him.
            Even though we haven’t seen Jesus, we love him and believe in him, which produces joy that is beyond expression and salvation.
            By Jesus’ Spirit, the prophet told about this salvation by grace but didn’t really understand it when they predicted Jesus’ suffering and his glory. However, the Lord did let them know they were serving us and not themselves. The explanation has been told to us when the gospel is preached by the Holy Spirit. Even angel didn’t understand.

What Stood Out

            Ezekiel: “They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean” (Ezek 44:23).
            Psalm: “I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!” (Ps 119:19).
            Proverbs: “Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit” (Prov 28:10).
            1 Peter: “To those who are elect … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father … he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:1-2).

Insight

            Ezekiel: Some of the priest in Israel led the people astray by worshiping idols. Other, the descendants of Zadok apparently tried to keep the Law of Moses. The Lord imposes a punishment on the descendants of the priests who went astray. They were not allowed to go into the sanctuary to minister in the same way as the descendants of Zadok. Instead, they had to do all the heavy lifting of slaughtering the animals for the sacrifices and cutting them up for the offering. This continual differential between the two classes of priests was to condemn the current priests who were idolaters and to remind the future priests the consequences of sin. In addition to the restriction on their duties, the descendants of Zadok were allotted twice the amount of land as all the rest of the priests and Levites who worked in the temple services.
            If this temple were supposed to continue the Mosaic Law, then there is a very big piece of it missing. As I mentioned before, the Ark of the Covenant is missing. This isn’t just oversight. The Lord tells Ezekiel that the descendants of Zadok are the only ones that may approach the Lord’s table (Ezek 44:16). While they still offer fat and blood, there is no mention of bringing blood into the holy of holies. Neither now or when the Lord told Ezekiel to purify the altar with blood, it all took place outside of the holy of holies. This is significant. This is a good reason to believe that this is the millennium temple and not the one to be built after the Babylonian captivity or one that might be built before the millennium.
            In the millennium, there will not be a need for blood to be taken into the holy of holies. The reason is because Jesus took his blood into the holy of holies in heaven and has once for all offered the sacrifice for sins. There is no need for a mercy seat because Jesus gives us mercy and forgives our sins. There is only one Lord’s table and that is the sacrament of the Lord’s supper where we remember his sacrifice. Any offerings or sacrifices in the millennium will be memorials of Jesus’ sacrifice. We are blessed to be priests of God and can minister to him by proclaiming the gospel now.
            Psalm: Reading about the way the Psalmist yearns for God’s word is quite convicting. It doesn’t matter what is going on; everything from realizing that this life is just a sojourn, needing help in everyday problems, to princes plotting against him. He relates everything to God’s word. If we were one tenth as in awe of God’s word as he was, we would be much better Christians.
            Proverbs: Jesus said that those who cause people to sin by tempting them are going to be punished so severely that it would be better to by tied to a millstone and drowned (Luke 17:1-2). This proverb and what Jesus said isn’t just for the perverts who want to have people approve of their sins. It is for those who entice people to join them in their sins. However, when we understand what James said, that one sin is a bad as breaking them all, we must understand that most of our sins actually tempt others to sins as well. When we tell lies, we set a pattern for our kids to do the same. When we are selfish and think only of ourselves, we model that for other people. We may not consciously set a trap for others, but we will be caught up in our sins and have to face the consequences. We should be thankful that Jesus’ blood covers those sins and his grace teaches us how to overcome them and live godly lives (Titus 2:11-12).
            1 Peter: Peter tells us about our faith and that it is tested by trials to be proven genuine. But even before he does that, he sets the conditions of our faith so that we don’t think it comes from us. He tells us that we are elected according to what God the Father decided way before we were even born. We are elected to become holy and we are elected to become obedient to Jesus. Lest we still think we are responsible for our salvation, he lets us know that God has caused us to be born again.
            Where is our hope? Where is our faith? It isn’t in anything we brought to the table. It is all in Jesus and God. We also have the Holy Spirit working in the background to make us holy. Without the Trinity in our lives, we would be dead and lost forever. Instead we have heaven waiting for us. Do you think a trial could turn you away from God? No, it can’t, if or faith is genuine (God doesn’t give us fake things), then we are secure because God’s power is shielding us.
            Bottom line – we don’t save ourselves and we don’t keep ourselves saved. God does that. But we must not forget we have been called to obedience to Jesus. There is no free pass to do whatever we want.

Application

             I want to continue to have an awe for God’s word. That will help me be obedient to Jesus and to persevere through trials. I want to be able to welcome trials because I know they will test my faith and prove it genuine. I can do that because that’s what God’s word says.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November 21: Ezekiel 42 – 43; Psalm 119:1-16; Proverbs 28:6-7; James 5



Overview

            Ezekiel: Ezekiel continues to describe the measurement of the temple and the surrounding building. The adjoining buildings had three levels with the upper level rooms being narrower than the lower. The man explained that these rooms facing the temple courts were the priests’ rooms where they eat the holy offerings. They also store grain and other offerings in them. This is also where they change their garments so that they don’t wear the holy ones outside of the holy temple area. He then measured the outside of the whole temple area and it was 500 cubits square (750 feet).
            The man took Ezekiel to the east gate and he saw the glory of the Lord coming from the east. His glory lighted up the land. The vision was the same as previous visions. The Spirit took him to the inner court and the glory filled the temple. He heard a voice from the temple. The Lord told him he would dwell here forever. Israel will never defile his name again in any of their evil practices. They did it before and that is why he burned them in his anger. They need to get rid of all their evil and he will be with them forever.
            The Lord told Ezekiel to describe the temple so Israel would be ashamed of their sins. When they hear it and if they are ashamed, then he is to tell them all the details including the laws of the temple so they can do them. The land on the top of the mountain will be holy.
            The Lord then gave Ezekiel the measurements of the altar. He told Ezekiel that he was to provide a bull to the family of Zadok to consecrate the altar on the first day. Ezekiel will perform the purification ritual with blood. On the second day he will do the same with a goat. Afterward, he will offer a bull and a ram. The priests will offer them up as burnt offerings. For seven days he will provide a male goat for a sin offering, a bull and a ram also. On the 8th day forward, the priest will make the offerings and peace offerings for the people. The Lord will then accept him.
            Psalm: Those who follow the Law of the Lord are blessed. They do what is right. The Psalmist wants to do that and avoid shame. He will be upright in heart and ask not to be forsaken.
            He can keep his ways pure by living by God’s word, seeking God with his whole heart, and memorizing God’s word. He asks for the Lord to teach him as he speaks of God’s word, delights in it, meditates on it, and fixes his eyes on it.
            Proverbs: It is better to be poor and honest than rich and a crook. A good son keeps the law and understands why, but the son who is a glutton brings same to his father.
            James: Rich people should mourn because they will lose it all. Riches rot and corrode their lives. They use them to defraud the people who work for them and these things will be their judge before the Lord. Living for self like this just adds fat to the fire of judgment guaranteeing conviction of murdering the righteous people who don’t resist.
            We need to be patient and wait for the Lord to come back. Farmers are patient and have to wait for the rains. We must not give up because the Lord’s coming is close. We shouldn’t grumble against each other because we will be judged for it. The Judge is near. The prophets were patient in waiting and suffering. The ones that were steadfast we consider blessed, like Job. We see that the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
            We should not make oaths by heaven earth or anything else. When we say “yes” or “no,” that should be enough. Doing more will bring condemnation.
            If anyone is having problems, they should pray and if all is going well, then they should praise. If someone is sick, they should have the elders pray for them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. A faithful pray will result in healing and forgiveness of sins. Therefore, we should confess our sins and pray for each other. When a righteous person prays, miracles happen. Elijah was a righteous prayer warrior praying for both rain to stop for three years and for it to start again.
            We should make every effort to bring back a someone from wandering from the truth. It will save his should and cover all his sins.

What Stood Out

            Ezekiel: “And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out” (Ezek 43:11).
            Psalm: “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” (Ps 119:10).
            Proverbs: “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways” (Prov 28:6).
            James: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you” (James 5:1).

Insight

            Ezekiel: The Lord told Ezekiel that if the people are ashamed, then he should tell them everything about the temple including the laws. In a way, we come to Christ in the same way. When we hear about our sins and that Jesus died to bring us to God and we see that we need to repent, we are saved. We don’t know everything about living a Christian life. We are like the Israelites who were supposed to see the big picture without the detail. That is sufficient to convict them sin. The message of the cross is sufficient to convicted us of our sins. What comes next is sanctification. The Israelites were then supposed to be informed about all the regulations of the temple. After we are saved, we are then informed about how to live godly lives. We find out about trials that mature us. We find out about our own response in putting off our old life and putting on Christ. We find out about the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to resist temptations. While they had laws, we have the Spirit. The purpose for each is to live holy lives.
            Regarding the timing of this temple, I noticed something very interesting. Ezekiel is the one who is to lead the way in purifying the altar for the sacrifices. When the tabernacle was constructed in the desert, Moses had to do the same thing. The fact that the Lord tells Ezekiel to perform this ritual is significant. The reason is that there is no record of Ezekiel returning to Jerusalem and even if he did, he would have been long dead before the temple was reconstructed. The temple after the return from Babylon was nothing like this one. This is a strong indication that this temple must be in our future and exist during the millennium if Ezekiel is the one to purify it. He would have to do this as a resurrected saint.
            Psalm: Halfhearted obedience to God or halfhearted desire to see and follow Jesus just isn’t what the Lord wants from us. James told us that a double-minded person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1:7-8). Jesus said that anyone who calls him Lord should do what he says (Luke 6:46). The only way we can live pure lives that are pleasing to God is with a whole heart. Otherwise, we are playing footsie with the world and that makes us enemies with God. We need to do as David said if we want to be wholehearted. We should be memorizing God’s word (Ps 119:11), using that to guard our hearts (Ps 119:9), learning God’s will for us (Ps 119:12), sharing the truth with others (Ps 119:13), delighting in God and his word more than anything else (Ps 119:14, keeping him focused in our minds (Ps 119:15), and not forgetting (Ps 119:16).
            Proverbs: In our world that judges a person’s success on how well they do financially, this proverb turns it all upside down. It isn’t only riches that make people walk in crooked ways. It is also power and prestige. Even poor people judge their success by what their peers think of them. When we are not living our lives for the Lord, we will put all those things ahead of simply being honest. The sad truth for people who don’t know Jesus is that real honesty and integrity can’t happen without Jesus in their hearts.
            James: James comes to the conclusion that rich people are in deep trouble spiritually. His warning ties is with Proverbs 28:6. This is not a universal truth that James proclaims, but it probably fits more people than it doesn’t. For unbelievers it is absolutely true, even if the person isn’t fantastically wealthy. The recent #MeToo news that keeps popping up daily emphasizes that men who are rich and in a position of power and influence think they can do just about anything and get away with it. While this covers only sexual perversion, James covers all kinds of sins that come from people who are rich in this world but are paupers spiritually. The sad part is that some of these people are probably professing Christian who have not made a commitment to holy living.
            What should we do? James tells us at the end of his letter. When we see someone who is wandering from the truth, we need to go to them and encourage them to repent and come back. I’ve seen people who were wandering, but they didn’t realize how far the were from living a godly life. They weren’t evil, but the riches of his world had distracted them to the point where they were no longer reading the Bible. They weren’t praying. They went to church on Sunday morning and the rest of the week belonged to them. I’ve seen these people warned and they appreciated the warning. They took steps to get back on the right path. It’s never too late to follow what David told us in Psalm 119:9-16.

Application

             I need to keep my eyes on the Lord just like everyone else. The routines of the world and the things we have to do to live in it can easily drag me away if I don’t. Writing a blog about what I’ve written is a tremendous help.