Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 8: Ezekiel 18 – 19; Psalm 106:32-48; Proverbs 27:10; Hebrews 9:1-10



Overview

            Ezekiel: The Lord explains to Ezekiel that Israel can no longer blame the sins of their fathers for their punishment but the person who has a godly life will live. A righteous person is defined by keeping both the prohibitions and directions of the Law. If his son does the opposite by violating the Law, he will die because he is guilty. If this man has a son who recognizes his father’s sins and is obedient to the Law living a godly life. This man will not die but his father will die because of his sins.
            But the people think the son who is godly should die for the father’s sins. God repeats that the godly son will not die but live. Neither will a godly father suffer for his wicked son.
            If a wicked person repents and live a godly life by the Law, he will live. His sins will not be remembered. God doesn’t delight in killing the wicked. He would rather they repent. If a righteous person turns and becomes wicked, he will die and his righteous deeds will not be remembered.
            The people think God’s ways are not just. But God says their ways are not just. He repeats that a person will live who repents and the one who turns to evil will die. He tells Israel this is the way he will judge them. So, they better repent and turn from their wickedness and make for themselves a new heart and spirit. Why should they die? The Lord does not delight in their death.
            Ezekiel is given a lament for the princes of Israel. Their mother was like a lioness who taught her cub to hunt and devour men. The nations captured him and took him to Egypt. She took another cub and did the same. This cub devoured men, oppressed widows and cities. The people were appalled. The nations captured him and took him to the king of Babylon and he was no longer heard.
            Their mother was a vine that became fruitful producing rulers. It was tall and strong. But it was uprooted in anger. The wind dried it out and its fruit withered. It was replanted in a dry land. Fire came out of it to devour the fruit and strong stems so that no rules come from it.
            Psalm: The Psalmist continues his indictment against Israel. They didn’t destroy the nations in the Promised Land. They mingled with them instead. They worshiped their gods and sacrificed their children to them. They killed innocent people and polluted the land with their evil. Many times, God gave them in subjection to other nations. Many times, he delivered them. God remembered his covenant and their captors had pity on them.
            The Psalmist calls on God to bring them back from their captivity so they can thank and praise him. He affirms that the Lord is to be praised forever and all people should agree.
            Proverbs: Keeping friends is very important, even your parent’s friends. When calamity hits, they will be more help than your brother who has moved away.
            Hebrews: The author explains that the first covenant had a lot of regulations about worship. It had a specific place, the tabernacle where the holy objects were placed with some in front of the curtain that separated the most holy place from the holy place. The Ark and its contents with the mercy seat and the cherubim overshadowing it were behind the curtain in the most holy place.
            With this tabernacle established, the priests enter the holy place regularly, but they entered he most holy place only once a year. In the most holy place, they took blood to offer for themselves and the unintentional sins of the people. The Holy Spirit tells us that in this present age, the way into the most holy place is not available to us while the tabernacle and the regulations are still being used. The gifts and offerings can’t cleanse a person’s conscience but are only regulations about food, drink, cleansings pertaining to the body until the covenant is reformed.

What Stood Out

            Ezekiel: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezek 18:23).
            Psalm: “Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry” (Ps 106:44).
            Proverbs: “Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (Prov 27:10).
            Hebrews: “By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age)” (Heb 9:8-9).

Insight

            Ezekiel: We must remember that the Lord is not talking about eternal salvation when he talks about whether a person will die or live based on his righteous life. He is expressing to Israel what will happen to them physically. Yes, there is a correspondence to eternal salvation and we can learn from this, but to do so, we must include more of the Bible.
            If I were to use these verses alone to talk of eternal salvation, then we would think that we are saved by our works at the time we died. If we live godly lives at the end of our lives, we will be saved. If we live wicked lives at the end, we will not be saved. That isn’t even what most religions teach. They consider the whole person’s life and work on the average or some higher percentage of good versus bad to determine if they are worthy of being saved.
            However, the Bible is clear that faith is the saving factor and that faith results in good works (Eph 2:8-10). The works don’t save, but are a reflection of the faith. Faith was declared to be the reason for salvation long before the Law was established and is still the reason after the Law (Gen 15:6, Rom 4:2). Using the context of Genesis through Revelation, we gain insight into how to apply these verses in Ezekiel to eternal salvation and not just physical salvation.
            The person who repents and lives a godly live would be a person who has true faith demonstrated by his good works. The person who appeared righteous but turned to evil would be a person who never had faith revealed by his turning to evil. Therefore, these verses can’t be used to prove that a person can lose his salvation because salvation is by faith. Their main purpose was to warn Israel to repent.
            Psalm: God’s grace is clearly seen in that he heard Israel’s cry for help. As we read through Ezekiel, we see that there was seldom any true repentance. Even this Psalm admits their sin but doesn’t express any remorse for their sins. It seems almost like they were simply sorry for getting caught. Yet God demonstrates his steadfast love by showing favor on them while they are in captivity. Do I only turn to God from sin when I’m caught and punished?
            After confessing the sins of Israel, the Psalmist ends with a request to be saved from captivity. There is a bit of bargaining going on. They will give him thanks and praise when they are returned. Do I do the same thing? Do I only praise God when things are going the way I think they should. Do I only thank him when my day went well? Why wait to until God delivers before giving him praise? Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always and he says this even before he tells us to come to the Lord with prayers and thanksgiving (Phil 4:4; 1 Thess 5:16). He also tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:18).
            Proverbs: In a Christian community, friends are often more helpful than relatives, especially if the relatives are not saved. Another problem is that relatives often move thousands of miles away and are not able to provide help. Now a Christian brother or sister who lives close by is an exception to this rule and with air travel, it is easier for relatives to be of more help than in biblical times. However, Christians friends are more important in my life than my brothers who are far away both physically and spiritually.
            Hebrews: We are still reading about the difference between the old and new covenants. Today, we get a glimpse of what was inside the tabernacle or temple. I mentioned previously that all these things are gone. They no longer exist and therefore, all the Jewish system of worship is null and void. But today, this is emphasized when the author explains that the way into the most holy place is not open while all these things are in place. However, it also brings up the question of the purpose of the sacrificial system between the time Jesus died and the time the temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.
            Was salvation still available to people who had faith that the temple rituals were the way to God until the temple was destroyed? That seems to be the conclusion of Hebrews 9:8-9. But we also know that when Jesus died, the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt 27:51). This certainly should signify that the way into the most holy place is through Jesus and will be confirmed in Hebrews 10. Jesus did say he is the only way. These would indicate that, no, salvation could not still be by faith in the old covenant.
            However, this question could be a smoke screen to keep us from recognizing that we are beyond AD 70 and the question is mute. It is like the question people ask about the natives in the jungle who have never heard about Jesus. Can they be saved? The answer to anyone who asks that question is, “I’m not talking to him, I’m talking to you. You have heard of Jesus. You know that it is by his blood we are saved. You know that you must surrender to Jesus, deny yourself and follow him if you want to be saved.” The questions about how people are saved in the past, whether it is before Christ, while Jesus was on the earth, the years until the temple was destroyed, or the person of today who hasn’t heard of Christ, don’t apply to you who have heard the gospel and it requires you to make a decision about Jesus and your own salvation.

Application

             I don’t want to try to make more out of some things than I should. Salvation is by faith in Jesus and no other way. Our salvation is secure and that means I don’t have to worry if I’m good enough or need to do more. That frees me to live the life God wants and not worry about things that distract me from doing his will.

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