Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 1: Ezekiel 1 – 3:15; Psalm 104:1-18; Proverbs 26:24-26; Hebrews 3



Overview

            Ezekiel: Ezekiel is an exiled priest and had a vision of God by the Chebar canal in Babylon. It was the 5th year of Jehoiachin’s exile. The vision looked like a storm coming from the north. In the middle of it, he saw four living creatures. He provides a detailed description of these beings. A summary is that each had four faces, two sets of wings, glowed like torches, they darted about like lightning, and they had wheels beside them. The wheels were exotic, like a wheel inside a wheel able to go in different directions without turning. The spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. They followed the directions of the spirit. Above the living creatures there was something like a glass platform. When they moved, their wings roared and when they stopped the wings dropped down.
            A voice came from above the platform. A throne was on the platform and a being was seated on it. His upper half was like metal, gleaming like a fire and his lower half was bright like a fire but also like a rainbow on a rainy day. This is how the glory of the Lord appeared. Ezekiel fell on his face when he heard the voice.
            The Lord told Ezekiel to stand up and the Spirit entered him so he could. He told Ezekiel he was sending him to Israelites who have rebelled against the Lord. He is to speak to them in the name of the Lord and whether they listen or not, they will know Ezekiel is a prophet. Ezekiel is not to be afraid of them though they threaten him. Ezekiel needs to listen and not be rebellious. He is to eat a scroll the Lord gave him. The scroll had writing on the front and the back with words of lamentation and woe.
            What he eats he is to speak to Israel, so he ate it and it was sweet as honey. The Israelites are not foreigners, so they can understand what Ezekiel says. Foreigners would listen, but Israel will not listen because they won’t listen to the Lord. They are stubborn, so the Lord is making Ezekiel even more stubborn so he will not fear them and speak everything the Lord tells him.
            Ezekiel heard the Lord in the noise of the living creature’s wings, wheels, and an earthquake as he declared his glory in that place. The Spirit look him with power to the exiles at Tel-abib by the Chebar canal. He sat among them seven days overwhelmed by the vision.
            Psalm: The Psalmist praises the greatness of God by describing things in the heavenly realm, God’s own dwelling and the angels. He recounts God’s creation and control over nature describing Noah’s flood. He continues with a description of providing water for animals and the trees of the forest with birds singing in them. God causes grass to grow for livestock bringing food from the earth and wine to gladden men’s hearts. Even the high mountains are places for wild animals.
            Proverbs: A hateful person hides it by saying good things and smiles, but his heart is deceptive. Don’t believe what he says because his heart is filled with abominations. Though he tries to keep his hate hidden, it will be exposed to everyone.
            Hebrews: Everyone who is called by heaven needs to consider Jesus. He is the messenger and high priest of what we confess to believe. He is faithful to God just as Moses was, but Jesus receives more glory because Moses was a servant of God’s house while Jesus is over God’s house because he is God’s Son. We are God’s house as long as we keep our confidence and hope.
            We are not to harden our hearts like the Israelites who rebelled in the wilderness. They tested God even though they saw his miracles for 40 years. They didn’t enter God’s rest. We need to be careful not to have unbelieving hearts and fall away from God. Instead, we should encourage each other every day so that no one is hardened by sin. We are in Christ demonstrated by holding on to the end and not hardening our hearts like the rebels in the desert.
            The rebels who left Egypt with Moses heard God but still rebelled. Their disbelief resulted in disobedience and they died instead of entering God’s rest.

What Stood Out

            Ezekiel: “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you” (Ezek 2:8).
            Psalm: “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills” (Ps 104:10).
            Proverbs: “Though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly” (Prov 26:26).
            Hebrews: “For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Heb 3:14).

Insight

            Ezekiel: This vison of the Lord is magnificent and impressive. But it spends more time describing the four living creatures than it does describing the Lord. One of the reasons may be that the Lord is really indescribable. Ezekiel says it is “the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezek 1:28). He isn’t directly seeing the Lord or his glory but only the “likeness,”  for no one can see the Lord and live (Ex 33:20).
            I’ve heard people who are more fascinated with the living creatures than they are with the Lord. They pick apart this description of the creatures and get all sorts of ideas. In a way, this is exactly what the Lord doesn’t want. The central focus of this passage is on Ezekiel’s commission to be a prophet to the stubborn exiles who are now living in the land of Babylon. His instruction is quite clear, he is to hear and obey what the Lord tells him (Ezek 2:8). He is to be stubborn in his obedient to the Lord in direct contrast to the exiles’ stubbornness against the Lord.
            When we eat God’s word, as Ezekiel was commended, we shouldn’t take it lightly. It can be sweet to us or it can be full of woe. The choice is ours. When we are obedient and looking to know and serve the Lord, it is sweet. If we are stubbornly wanting to do our own thing instead of obeying, it will produce woe. Do we want more of God’s word because it gives us life, or do we not really want to hear it because it condemns us?
            Psalm: This is another theologically wondrous Psalm. If anyone doubts that God is in control of creation, he should read this and then go beyond man’s feeble cities to the mountains. There is nothing more humbling that to be able to view one of our “great” cities from a mountain top. The skyscrapers are puny compared to the grandeur of mountains.
            In Psalm 104:8 the Psalmist describes what happened during Noah’s flood. These great mountains that we think are so stable, were turned upside down. Some became valleys and other rose up. We can find whale fossils on high Andes Mountains. Have you ever stopped to think about how an artesian well is supplied? How does that water bubble up out of a rock? How does rain fall in and accumulate in underground spaces then suddenly come out forming a stream? If God hadn’t made things the way he did, we wouldn’t be able to survive. Who is so awesome to be able to do something like this and still preserve the human race? It is only the Lord God Almighty. Not only did he preserve the human race, he also provides for us everything we need every day like the streams.
            We don’t often think about everything that has to be in place to bring food to our tables. The descriptions of water flowing from the hills and the Lord making grass grow should make us sing with the Psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great” (Ps 104:1)!
            Proverbs: Whether it is hatred or other sins, we try to keep it hidden. We really don’t want others to know how sinful and ugly we are down inside. There are exceptions, of course, people who are just plain wicked. But, in general, people wants to appear to be good. The problem with this surface goodness is that it will wear out. Sooner or later, a crack appears in that glaze and the evil comes bubbling out. Turning over a new leaf is only a temporary fix. What is needed is repentance and a new heart that only God can give us through Jesus Christ.
            Hebrews: We’ve learned Jesus is God. He is greater than angels. He is fully human as well. In today’s reading we find that Jesus is greater than Moses. This is important for anyone of Jewish background to understand because Moses was revered as the one who brought the Law and salvation came through the Law, or so they thought.
            Today we see the example of the unfaithful Israelites who died during the 40 years in the desert. It is clear that they died not just because of their disobedience, but that disobedience was a direct result of their disbelief. If they had believed, they would have followed God’s direction through Moses to enter the Promised Land when told.
            Now, we have Jesus who is greater than Moses and we must listen to him if we want to be saved. We are told that our belief must result in obedience just as the rebels’ disbelief resulted in disobedience. While Jesus assures us that once we believe, we have eternal life (John 5:24), we don’t know what is going on in another person’s heart. We don’t know if they are saved or if they are like the hateful person in Proverbs, just putting on a good show. Therefore, when a person has professed faith and demonstrated a godly obedient life to the end, we can be fairly confident that person really was saved. We’ll see more about this tomorrow.

Application

             There are times when I must examine my own heart. While I know I am saved, I need to look at my actions to see if I’m being obedient. Do others see a faith that will last to the end? I pray they do and that I’m a good example and not one who will cause others to stumble when I am disobedient.

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