Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 16: Ezekiel 33 – 34; Psalm 115; Proverbs 27:21-22; Hebrews 13



Overview

            Ezekiel: The Lord told Ezekiel that if a person is warned by a watchman and doesn’t pay attention, he will perish because of his sins, otherwise he would have lived. If the watchman fails to provide warning, the person will still perish for his sins but he Lord will punish the watchman for his failure. The Lord has appointed Ezekiel a watchman over Israel to warn the wicked to repent.
            Israel has said that there is no hope for them because of their sins and they will rot away. But the Lod says he doesn’t get any pleasure from the death of the wicked. If they repent, they will live. If a person trusts in his righteousness to save him but sins anyway, he will die. If a wicked person turns from his wickedness and repents, he will live. But the people say this isn’t just, but the Lord will judge them according to his ways.
            On the 10th of the 5th month of the 12th year, a fugitive came to say that Jerusalem had been captured. That previous evening, the Lord opened Ezekiel’s mouth so he was no longer mute. The Lord told Ezekiel that they think they have possession of the land through Abraham’s promise. But the Lord says he will make the land desolate because of all their sins. Then they will know that he is the Lord.
            The people come to hear the word of the Lord from Ezekiel, but they don’t do it. They only treat what he says as great poetry or songs. When all the destruction happens, they will know that Ezekiel is a prophet among them.
            The Lord told Ezekiel to speak against the leaders of Israel. They are like shepherds that take the best from the flock but don’t care of the sheep. The sheep are the Lords and they have been scattered with none to look out for them. They are prey for wild beasts. The Lord is against the shepherds because of this. He will rescue the sheep from these bad shepherds.
            The Lord will search for the sheep and bring them from the place they have been scattered. He will bring them back to their own land. He will feed them with good things. He will find the lost and heal the injured and weak. He will destroy the fat and strong one with justice.
            The Lord says he will judge the sheep, the ones that trample the good pasture and muddy the clear water. He will judge the ones that butt the weak ones making them prey. He will set up David as his prince to feed them. The Lord will be their God.
            The Lord will make a covenant with them for peace. He will get rid of the wild beasts so they live securely. He will bless them with prosperity. They will know he is the Lord when he rescues them from slavery.
            Psalm: We are not to take any glory for ourselves, it belongs to God because of his love and faithfulness. Others don’t know about God who is in the heavens and does as he pleases. Their gods are all images that have features of men but no functionality. People who make them and trust them become like them.
            God is different. He helps those who trust and fear him. He remembers and blesses them. He is the maker of heaven and earth and gives increase to us. The heavens belong to him and he has given the earth to us. The dead don’t praise him, but we do, now and forever.
            Proverbs: Gold and silver are tested for in the fire, but men are tested by being praised. A fool undergoing trials, like grain being ground with mortar and pestle, will not remove his foolishness.
            Hebrews: We need to show brotherly love to one another, be hospitable to strangers, care for prisoners, and those who are mistreated. Marriage should be honored and sex in marriage should be pure. God will judge sexual immorality. We need to be content and not put money ahead of other things.
            We need to remember that the Lord is always with us and is our helper. Man can’t take that away.
            We need to pray for and take care of those who lead us with God’s word and imitate their lives. Jesus doesn’t change so don’t be distracted by weird teaching. Don’t think food restrictions will help you spiritually but grace will. Those who continue to offer sacrifices for sin can’t partake in the food of Jesus. He died outside of the sacrificial system and we need to go outside to be with him. We don’t have anything on earth that is permanent because the city we seek is in the future. So, we need to continue to offer sacrificial praise to God and acknowledge his name. We need to also do good and share with others.
            Our leaders are looking over our souls, so it makes sense to obey them. That way, their work is joyful. If it is a pain to look out for us, then that doesn’t help us either.
            The author asks for prayer and for those with him asking for a clear conscience and to be honorable in all things. He is looking for earnest prayer to be freed to come to the Hebrews.
            He provides a benediction to be able to accomplish God’s will and what is pleasing to the Lord. Doing this would be by the God of peace, who brought Jesus back from the dead, working in them.
            He says he has encouraged them briefly and to bear with it. Timothy has been released and he hopes to come with him. He asks they greet all the saints for him and the other in Italy.

What Stood Out

            Ezekiel: “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek 33:11).
            Psalm: “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield” (Ps 115:11).
            Proverbs: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise” (Prov 27:21).
            Hebrews: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb 13:17).

Insight

            Ezekiel: Some people just don’t get the picture of who God is and what he wants from us. They decide to read the Bible to find out and they get hung up on all the killing and slaughters in the Old Testament. They conclude, without finishing the Bible, that God is only a mean old man who wants to punish people when they make a little mistake.
            However, the Lord is not that way at all. He clearly states that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 33:11). He doesn’t arbitrarily let people who are close to him die either (Ps 116:15). His desire for all people is that they will repent from their sins and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).
            The problem with those who think God is some kind of monster is that they think just the way the Israelites were thinking. They say that God isn’t just for punishing them for their sins (Ezek 33:17). They are so caught up in their reasoning of what is good and bad that they judge God by their human standards. But the Lord is clear that he will judge by his standards and those standards are much better than ours. If these people who judge God as a monster saw the atrocities committed by the ones the Lord punished, they would do the same. If they were in a position to see the injustices of the “shepherds,” they would be outraged. But they were not there, and they don’t understand the evils that caused the Lord to unleash his judgment. To understand this, they would have to read the whole Bible and they would also have to be open to the Holy Spirit to enlighten them. We should all be careful not to judge the Lord or we can miss what he is saying to us.
            Psalm: The biggest problem for people who think God is a monster is that it keeps them from trusting him. The Psalm says that the Lord will bless those who fear him (Ps 115:13). They have the wrong kind of fear. They are in terror of the Lord because they know that their wickedness will be judged. They don’t fear him in a way that brings trust and confidence. Realizing that God is 100% sovereign and100% omnipotent should make us afraid of him. But knowing Jesus is 100% for us and has paid for 100% of our sins should make us awestruck that God would do this for us. We should be grateful and let him know that. It should make us want to worship him instead of the idols of the world or the idols of our hearts. We should recognize our blessings and praise the Lord (Ps 115:18)
            Proverbs: When we are praised for something, it is easy to let it go to our heads and become proud. When we come proud, we will often think we are better than others. When think we are better than others, we will treat them with contempt. When we treat them with contempt, we are likely to take advantage of them and even insult them. If we are truly humble, this doesn’t happen, not even the first step, and we will be proved faithful servants of the Lord.
            Hebrews: As the author finishes the letter to the Hebrews, he throws out a lot of practical instructions about living holy lives, in much the way Paul does in his letters. Though, he does have to add that Jesus had to die outside gate and we must go to him there. The inference is that the Hebrew believers needed to make a break from the sacrificial system. He reminds them that the priest that are still working within the temple and the sacrifices don’t have the right to participate in Christ’s sacrifice the way we do. We can celebrate the Lord’s supper knowing our sins are forgiven once for all. When they continue to offer the sacrifices for sin, they are denying the atonement through Jesus Christ. They think they still need to have their sins covered over and over. They are like everyone else who thinks that some form of ritual or good works will save them.
            Now that we saved and in a community of believers, we have some obligations to that community. One is to remember the leaders and imitate their way of life. Even if our leaders aren’t the best, we know that they are attempting to imitate Christ and we should be doing the same.
            We should also obey our church leaders. They are in place through God’s working in them and us. In context, we are talking about matters of faith and godly living. There is no implication here that we need to obey them like robots or the way some cults want to control the lives of their members. If we are imitating their godly lifestyle, this should be no problem. However, I’ve heard many Christians object to obedience in one particular area. That is in the area of church membership. They complain that this is just a man-made rule because they claim that Bible doesn’t mention church membership. Of course, they ignore the fact that Acts speaks about people joining with the disciples and people being added to the church. They may not have had a formal church membership application form, but it is evident that they were known by the leaders. If your church has a formal process and you want to make it easier for your leaders to watch over you, then you should be obedient (Heb 13:17). If you don’t you will be spiritually poorer because of your disobedience.

Application

             I want to live a godly life. Therefore, I am a member of my church. I am fortunate to have godly leaders and it isn’t a problem to try to imitate them as they work at imitating Christ. I am accountable to them to follow Jesus just as they are accountable to make sure they are doing the best to watch over the church and not be like the shepherds the Lord accused in Ezekiel. Leaders are always more accountable than the flock. I want to make it easier for them by not rebelling against their authority.

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