Tag Archives: Ezekiel

Through the Bible, June 11

Reading: Ezekiel 37, 38

Summary: The imagery of the valley of dry bones provides a striking and memorable message to God’s people of God’s ability to restore His people no matter how far gone they may appear to be (chapter 37).

The message regarding Gog of Magog (chapter 38) finds life again near the end of the Bible (Rev. 20).

Devotional Thought:

Life’s Dry Bones

Is all hope gone?  Is there any way for the problem to be fixed? for the hurt to be healed? for the destroyed to be rebuilt? for scattered to be gathered? for the soiled to be cleaned?

What is wrong in your life and what can be done about it?

Don’t be too fast to answer.  God has something to say about this.

It’s one of Ezekiel’s most memorable prophecies, and with good reason.  The imagery is striking, but it’s the message that’s most important.

“Very many” bones, “very dry” bones, scattered over a valley (Ezek. 37:2).  God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?”  Ezekiel’s judicious answer is, “O Lord God, you know.” (v. 3).

Of course, they could, because God could cause them to do so.  And He did.

What are the dry bones of your life?  How many are there and how dry are they?   Can these bones live?

O Lord God, you know.

Through the Bible, June 10

Reading: Ezekiel 33, 34, 36

Summary: The last chapters of Ezekiel (33-48) follow the fall of Jerusalem and focus on the time of restoration and God’s eternal kingdom.  The prophet also addresses the critical issue of Israel’s failed leaders.  The discussion of the roles of watchmen and shepherd are insightful for leaders of all times.

Devotional Thought:

How Can We Be So Wrong?

It may not seem like a big deal, especially when compared with other concerns and issues, but there’s just something about failing to do things God’s way that is upsetting—maybe I’m reading the Bible too much.  What makes this really bothersome is it’s being done by otherwise sincere believers.  It’s not like it’s a bunch of rebellious ne’er-do-wells.

Let’s start with Ezekiel’s message from God, “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep” (Ezek. 34:12; NASB).  God has some real issues with shepherds of His people failing in their roles. He lays much of the responsibility for Israel’s deplorable spiritual condition on the “shepherds” (see Ezek. 34:1-6).

Fast forward to the New Testament.  Jesus, of course, is the good shepherd (John 10:14).  He’s the “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25).  But beyond that responsibility has been given to others to oversee and shepherd Gods’ people. This is quite explicitly stated, “I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight” (1 Pet. 5:1-2; see also Acts 20:17, 28).

So what’s the deal?  Here it is—most typically preachers are called pastors and expected to fill the role of shepherding.  The Bible doesn’t do that—we do that.  It’s not doing things that need to be done the way God wants them done.  That’s the deal.

Is it just me?  Or does God express great concern for shepherds?  Does God not make provisions and give instructions for shepherding?  Would we be best served to follow God’s lead and direction?

I’m just full of questions.

June Week 2 Bible Reading Introduction

Week 2: Captivity Ends and Restoration Begins

June 8-14

         From an historic vantage point, this week’s readings come from the time of the captivity in Babylon.  Both Daniel and Ezekiel are active in this time as God’s servants delivering His message.  Though God is punishing His people by this act of removal from the land He’d given to them, He is not disinterested or disengaged from them. His continues to speak to them through His prophets.

The saga of God’s people continues on two fronts following the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Great.  It is he who provides for the return of the Israelite people to their home country and many of them take advantage of this opportunity.  Ezra records the events of these early returns to Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, many of the Jews remain where they have now been for over 70 years.  Daniel is among them.  God remains active among His people in both locales.

Through the Bible, June 7

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Today is the regularly scheduled “Catch Up” day for the first week of June.  If needed use it to go back and cover some readings where you may have fallen behind—it happens.  Otherwise, below are some thoughts for your consideration from this week’s readings.

  1. Daniel and Ezekiel were contemporaries, and they knew one another. Ezekiel mentions Daniel by name (Ezek. 14:14, 20).  What is remarkable about this is that the prophet mentions Daniel along with Noah and Job as individuals of exceptional faith and righteousness.  That in itself does not surprise us but note that Daniel’s reputation was such while he was still alive, and apparently—if chapter 14 is written even before the siege is made on Jerusalem as many believe—still rather young.  What a great testament to this godly young man.
  2. Effective discipline extends beyond the application of negative consequences. There were times when we felt it necessary to spank our children.  But we never let the spanking be the end of it. After an appropriate time, we would sit down with the child and discuss why what had just happened.  Our interest was not inflicting pain, but teaching important lessons.

So God disciplined his people.  They were taken from their home and their lands and made captives in Babylon.  But God did not leave it there.  He continued to work with them and speak to them.  He wasn’t finished. Daniel and Ezekiel stand as testaments to that fact.

  1. One value of familiarity with Ezekiel and Daniel is a better chance of understanding Revelation. Both books heavily influence John’s apocalypse. Revelation extensively relies on the language, imagery, and vocabulary of the Old Testament in general and the prophets specifically.  Both of these prophets of the exile also contain portions of apocalyptic literature (a style of writing the relies heavily on symbolism) of which Revelation is the most prominent Bible example.

Devotional Thought:

If Only…

What is keeping you from doing your best? From reaching your goals and dreams?  From being a person of righteousness and faithfulness to God?

“Well, I’ve just got to do this or that, or fix this, or get past that, or when I get a little older, or a little smarter, or I’m in better circumstances or….”  There’s always something that could be better about us, our circumstances, and our lives.  We make a critical error when we believe that everything has to be just right before we do and be our best.  That’s just not true.

No better examples of this can be found than Daniel and Ezekiel.  Here are two men for whom the majority of their lives were lived under negative circumstances—they were both captives and exiles from their homeland and likely from their family and kin.  In no way did they think that the only way to do and be their best was to get back home and have their less-than-desirable circumstances be fixed.

As a matter of fact, it could be argued that their greatness is actually defined by who and what they were in the middle of those circumstances.

So, instead of waiting for things to be right so you can act, you may be missing the greatest opportunity you’ll ever have.

Through the Bible, June 5

Reading: Ezekiel 18, 20, 23

Summary: Some regard Ezekiel 18 as the most important passage in the entire book.  Certainly, every person is a part of larger groups; a family, a generation, etc., but each of us are individually responsible to God.

Chapter 20 is a sad but familiar scene, when leaders who have ignored God for so long, now wish to know His will.  But the opportunity has passed.  God has, for generations, gone above and beyond on behalf of His people; as undeserving as they were.  His faithfulness is unquestionable.  But now they have reached the limit.

An unflattering picture of the nations of Israel and Judah is found in their depiction in chapter 23 as two lewd sisters, Oholah and Oholibah.

Devotional Thought:

It All Starts With Attitude

Life rarely lines up to our liking; our ducks all in a row, the planets in perfect alignment, our t’s all crossed and i’s all dotted, fair and equitable treatment in all our associations and encounters.  Something is always amiss, out of kilter, or just messed up.  We feel irritated, provoked, and mistreated.  That is life.

Then why isn’t everyone beat down?  Why aren’t all people a toxic dump of negative emotions? Why isn’t everyone mean-spirited, defeated and in despair?

Because not everyone chooses to be a victim.  Not everyone looks at life and lives it in the negative.  Not everyone just takes what comes their way, but uses the bad and the good as building blocks for something better.

Life is also encouraging and hopeful.  Life has purpose and meaning far beyond the mere circumstances of the moment.  Life is good.  At least it can be if we’ll allow it and make it that way.

It all starts with attitude.  Attitude is nothing more than a state or frame of mind.  You can either take charge and take responsibility, or you can become a human punching bag and absorb the full force of every blow that life throws at you. You know, become a victim.

Ezekiel talks about attitude; specifically about responsibility and accountability.  Whether our life ends in life or death—spiritually, not physically—very much depends on me.  Am I a victim?  Am I blaming others for my plight?  You know, “the fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2).  No, the prophet says, we are each one accountable and responsible.  “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4).

And the one who lives?  That’s the one who “does what is just and right” and “walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God” (Ezek. 18:5, 9).  This is the who takes positive action—and there’s nothing more positive than God’s will—and doesn’t beyond themselves to assign blame and fault.

Personally responsibility or blame?  It’s about as simple as that.

Through the Bible, June 4

Reading: Ezekiel 4-5; 13

Summary: Many of Ezekiel’s prophecies were acted out instead of spoken.  These included a miniature model of Jerusalem and its impending siege as well as Ezekiel shaving his head and beard and weighing and dividing the hair.

Chapter 13 stands as one of the classic texts in all of the Old Testament on false prophets.

Devotional Thought:

Stop Listening to God

Ok, that’s a bit rash.  How about stop listening to every message that claims to be from God. That’s better, isn’t it?  And those claims are everywhere, aren’t they?

“I received this message from the Lord…”

“The Lord laid this on my heart…”

“The Lord wants me to tell you…”

Really?  Did He?

If I listen to the Bible—which I know comes from God—it warns me to be wary of claims like this; when someone says, “Declares the Lord” (Ezek. 13:6).  Many times, the prophet says, they are really prophesying “from their own hearts,” they “follow their own spirit,” or “prophesy out of their own mind” and say “declares the Lord when the Lord has not sent them” (Ezek. 13:2,3,17).

I’m quite interested in what God has declared.  I also know where His declaration is to be found.  Just how interested I am in what God has to say is going to be evidenced in how interested I am in His word, the Bible.

Have you, practically speaking, stopped listening to God?

Through the Bible, June 3

Reading: Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:1-3:27

Summary: Another important figure found apart from Jerusalem and located in the early captivity, prior to Jerusalem’s fall, is Ezekiel.  Jehoiachin— Jehoiakim’s son and successor to the throne when Jehoiakim was taken captive to Babylon—was himself removed from the throne in Jerusalem and taken to Babylon.  During his fifth year of captivity, God called the priest Ezekiel to prophesy.

The unique feature of Ezekiel’s prophecy is that that it is from the perspective of captivity in Babylon.  He begins before Jerusalem falls and continues his prophetic work throughout the captivity.

A good portion of the book of Ezekiel contains prophecy from prior to Babylon’s siege and destruction of Jerusalem

Devotional Thought:

Does God Disappear If I Hide My Eyes?

Have you ever played peek-a-boo with a toddler?  They seem to think that if they cannot see you, you cannot see them.  Consequently, all there is to hiding from you is to hide their own eyes.  The naiveté and innocence makes that very cute.

In adults it’s far from cute, it’s tragic.  It’s also far too common.

The way it is most often manifested is by acting as if God and His word are not there, as though He does not exist.

So, God told Ezekiel to speak His words to His people “whether they listen or not” (Ezek. 2:7; 3:11; NASB).  And what God knew about them was that they were rebellious and would not listen.  Still, Ezekiel was to say, “‘Thus says the Lord God.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse” (Ezek. 3:27).

Our response does not establish the reality of God and His word.  He is there and His word is true whether we listen or not.  Maybe Ezekiel’s words are what is behind Jesus’ encouragement, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15, 13:9, 43).

Listen or refuse; it doesn’t change the reality that is God’s word, and that word does effect—eternally—my reality.

June Week 1 Bible Reading Introduciton

Week 1: The Final Fall of Jerusalem and Judah from Captivity’s Perspective

June 1-7

         God’s people have been taken into captivity.  Previously, Israel had fallen to Assyria and now it was Judah’s turn to be deported to Babylon.  Judah’s departure was actually a process rather than a singular event.  It was consummated when Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian armies in a lengthy siege of Jerusalem and finally broke through to destroy the city and the temple.   It all began during the reign of Jehoiachin when he, along with the many nobles and princes, were taken captive (c. 609 B.C.).  A second group was taken into captivity in about 596 and finally, the city fell in 586.

Last month we traced this history of the kings and prophets of this time from the perspective of Judah and Jerusalem.  There is another side to this story and that is from the vantage point of some of those early captives in Babylon who witnessed the final days and fall of Jerusalem from afar and were then finally joined by their kinsmen in captivity.

Both Daniel and Ezekiel’s lives and prophetic careers bridge the gap from the before the fall of Jerusalem and through the captivity and even into the time of restoration following Babylon’s fall to the Medo-Persian empire.  What is unique about them is that they are writing while in captivity.

In addition to that, Jeremiah, the prophet in Jerusalem trough those final days, also wrote Lamentations in response to the destruction of the beloved city.

This week’s reading will take from these sources their accounts leading up to and including Jerusalem’s fall.

June Bible Reading Introduction

June Bible Reading Introduction

Old Testament History Ends

Captivity and Restoration

Books: Daniel, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Old Testament history concludes with God’s people being restored to their homeland and rebuild their nation. It is of great interest to note that when given the opportunity, the majority of the Jewish nation did not return but remained in the lands where they had settled. But, many did return. And as the deportation of htejs3ws from Jerusalem and Judah had taken place in stages, so also would the return occur in stages.

Great emphasis is given in both the historical accounts and the prophetic messages of this time to the future glories of the Messianic kingdom.  It is of no small significance, that the highly symbolic New Testament book of Revelation relies heavily on the language and imagery portrayed in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah (as well as many other Old Testament books) to convey the message of hope in the eternal kingdom of God.

This closing phase of the Old Testament’s record really does set the stage for much of what we encounter with the Jewish people in the New Testament. We find that more of them live outside of Palestine than in it. Also, there’s a greatly heightened sense of expectation for God’s work among them in sending a Messiah. Further, there’s a decidedly different attitude toward the Law and the gods of the nations, both of which had contributed so directly to their downfall and captivity.

My Delight is the Lord, May 16

It’s Me Lord

May 16, Monday: God is…

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-9

It’s the classic dodge. My troubles and problems are not my fault. My woes are because of what someone else has done or is doing or some forces above me and beyond my control; it’s the system, it’s my environment, it’s a genetic predisposition (you know, “I was just born this way.”), it’s fate. You can slice this thing at least a dozen different ways. This particular version of it was, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (v. 1). God deals with this the same way He wants us to deal with it–own and embrace the reality of individual responsibility and accountability. He begins, “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right…” (v. 5). Notice the individual (singular as opposed to plural) personal pronouns that follow; “he” shows up three times and “him” four times in the next four verses. God doesn’t buy into our arguments and rationalizing. It’s me, Lord, plain and simple.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What application was Israel making of this proverb? (v. 2)
  • What, generally speaking, does God require of man? (v. 5)
  • What happens to the man who sins? (v. 4)
  • What happens to the righteous? (v. 9)