Sunday, November 19, 2017

November 19: Ezekiel 39 – 40:27; Psalm 118:1-14; Proverbs 28:2; James 2:18 – 3



Overview

            Ezekiel: Ezekiel is told to continue to prophecy against Gog. The Lord will bring him from the far north to Israel. He will be stuck so that he will drop his bows and arrows. All his people will die on the mountains of Israel. The birds and beasts will devour the hordes he has brought. The lord will send fire on them.
            The Lord’s name will be made holy among his people. It will not be profaned anymore. The nations will know he is the Lord. It will happen; he will bring it.
            The people of Israel will take all the plunder from Gog and burn the weapons. They won’t need to gather wood for 7 years. The armies of Gog will be buried in Israel. It will take seven months to search the land and bury them all. There will be people dedicated to burying them. Some will mark the place of the bones and others will come and bury it.
            Ezekiel is to tell the birds and beast to assemble and fill themselves on the bodies, a sacrificial feast God is preparing for them. They will be filled with the bodies and blood of princes and mighty men along with their horses and herds.
            God will be glorified among the nations when they see God’s judgment. Israel will know it. The nations will know that Israel went into captivity for their sins that were so bad that he hid his face from them and punished them.
            The Lord will now restore Israel and will be jealous for his holy name. They will forget their shame and sins when they are secure in their land. No one will make them afraid. He will vindicate his holiness through them before the nations. He will not hide his face from them again but will pour out his Spirit on them.
            In the 25th year of their exile on the 10th of the first month, it was 14 years after Jerusalem’s destruction. The Lord gave Ezekiel a vision at the top of a very high mountain. There, a bronze appearing man with measuring equipment told him to look, hear, and focus on what he was about to be shown. The man began to measure the temple starting with the wall, east gate, rooms, doors, and other parts of the temple. He measured the inner and outer courts, the north and south gates.
            Psalm: We give thanks to the Lord because his steadfast love endures forever. In destress we can call to the Lord and be set free. We don’t need to fear others. When we trust the Lord, he is our refuge and not people. We can overcome nations surrounding us when we do it in the name of the Lord because the Lord is our strength.
            Proverbs: When a country is full of evil, it usually has many leaders. If a ruler has understanding and wisdom, he will keep the country stable.
            James: James makes sure that we don’t think belief or faith all by itself will save anyone. Demons believe in God, but they aren’t saved. Saving faith must result in works like Abraham’s obedience. That kind of faith was declared to justify him. The same goes for Rahab. Faith without works is dead.
            Not everyone should be a teacher because teachers are judged more strictly, and everyone stumbles. No one perfectly controls everything about himself.
            Small things like bits and rudders control much bigger things. Likewise, our tongues are small but has a huge effect on our lives for evil. They can be like a small fire that starts a forest fire. We tame animals but no one can tame his tongue. For example, with our tongue we praise the Father and curse the ones he has made in his image. We shouldn’t let blessings and curses come from the same mouth just like fresh and salt water can’t come from the same spring. One kind of tree can’t bear other kinds of fruit.
            If you are wise, you will demonstrate it by doing things that are from meekness and wisdom instead of bitterness, jealousy, selfishness and boasting that you don’t have these. These sins are evidence by disorder and evil practices. God’s wisdom brings peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, good works. It is always impartial and sincere. If you are peaceful, it will multiply I all around you.

What Stood Out

            Ezekiel: “Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord God. That is the day of which I have spoken” (Ezek 39:8).
            Psalm: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (Ps 118:8).
            Proverbs: “When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue” (Prov 28:2).
            James: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).

Insight

            Ezekiel: One of the problems with some of the Old Testament prophecies is not the content but the fact that many people don’t believe they will occur in the way the Lord has described them. Because so much time has passed since they were made, or because they have a theological bent that says they are all spiritually fulfilled in the church, they think we can’t say they will actually happen sometime in the future. However, if you read these prophecies, there isn’t anything in them that says they won’t happen or that they have already happened to the church. The prophecies about Gog and all the hoards from the north have never, ever, even closely occurred. While some of the prophecies in Daniel may have had a partial fulfilment in the past, I don’t know of anything in history that remotely describes the Gog prophecy. First, when has there ever been a war against a united-living-securely Israel where the land is covered with the enemy; they are all defeated and not by Israel; Israel burns the weapons for 7 years; they take 7 months to bury all the body parts scattered by wild animals and birds? It hasn’t happened in my history. Second, how in the world would anyone describe this as a spiritual occurrence for the church?
            The biggest problem as I see is what the Lord says about it. He says this will happen (Ezek 39:8). To try to make this something else is to tell the Lord that he didn’t know what he was talking about. That is a dangerous position to take.
            For the next few days, we will be reading about a new temple that will be built. Some say it is supposed to be the one that was built after the Babylonian captivity, but they must admit it doesn’t look anything like it. Some say it is part of the New Jerusalem that will come down from heaven. Others say it is the temple that will be built during the millennial reign of Christ. I believe the last is the most likely since it is prophecy and God said it will happen. As we see more aspects of the temple, the sacrifices, and the land around it, it will be more evident this is about the millennium.
            Psalm: Since God’s steadfast love endures forever, we can completely trust in him. When we trust in him, several things happen. The first is that our fears are removed. When we know that the God of this universe, who created things beyond our imagination, loves us in spite of our sins, and came to sacrifice himself on the cross for us, we should recognize that nothing can harm us without his knowledge and will. Why then, should we fear?
            Not only that, but we can take refuge in him instead of other people. Too many people put their trust in others, whether it is a spouse, pastor, or president. None of this can meet our greatest need for eternal protection. They are all fragile people just like us. They can and will sin. They can and will die without our permission. Our refuge and trust must only be in the one that lives forever and is omnipotent.
            Proverbs: In contrast to what I just said about trusting man, good leaders often direct a nation in a better path. Israel and Judah provided some good examples of how this proverb worked out in history. The nation of Israel sinned against the Lord with Baal worship. They had many kings that lasted only a very short time. Zimri lasted only seven days (1 Kings 16:15). On the other hand, some of the kings of Judah turned the country around from their moral decadence. However, at the end of Judah, both kings and people were far from God. Had they put their refuge in God, their end would not have been disastrous as a country or as individuals.
            James: James finishes the major point of telling us that faith without works is dead. He makes the very good argument that simply believing doesn’t save anyone. Everyone would agree that demons are not saved and cannot be saved since they have already been judged. They don’t get a second chance. They stood in God’s presence at some time in the past. They have absolute 100% faith that God is who he is and there is not one shred of doubt in them. But they shudder because they have been judged. Therefore, believing in God is not going to save them, and it didn’t save them in the past because their works were rebellion and not obedience. That could have been the end of the argument, but James continued to give examples, Abraham and Rahab.
            Once James got on a roll about works, he reminds us that anyone who becomes a teacher is going to be judged more strictly. That makes sense. A teacher should know what is right and wrong. If he teaches what is wrong, then he isn’t just messing over himself, but others also. He doesn’t have any excuses. What we say, especially as a teacher, can cause irreparable harm because no one is perfect. Our wisdom as a teacher, or anything else, should be godly and not the world’s wisdom. Worldly wisdom brings about ugly sinfulness but God’s wisdom brings about godly living and peace. Hmmm. It looks like this is still talking about the results of faith in our lives.

Application

             I certainly want to be a teacher who is telling the truth. I don’t want to lead anyone astray by making up whimsical theories to explain away things in the Bible like prophecies that are beyond our imagination or faith without works being able to save. I want to make sure my trust is in the Lord first and encourage others to do the same.

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