Archive for December, 2011


God Doesn’t Change

As I close the book on the first year of this blog, it is timely that God reveals another meaningful analogy in the book of Ezekiel.  So far, this year has been spent entirely in the Old Testament.  But this collection of books is not meant to simply be a history or a bunch of meaningless tales and children’s stories.  Rather, the Old Testament reveals to us the very nature of God and how He reacts to His chosen people – and we should realize that His nature has not changed one bit since then.  The story of the people of Israel in the Old Testament is meant to parallel God’s care for His newly chosen people in the New Testament – and that includes those of us today who are Christians.

“Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.  Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.  I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.  I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.

“I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety.  I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill.  I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.  The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.  They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid.  I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations.  Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD.  You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.”Ezekiel 34:20-31

These words were meant for Israel…and for us.  No judges or kings will ever need to rule over God’s people, but instead they will be governed by Jesus Christ, of the house of David.  God foretold this event in the book of Ezekiel, and we are living under this scenario today.  Praise God for His abundant grace and mercy, and for loving us as His own children!


Finish The Race

There are two points to make when studying today’s passage:

“Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’  If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.  And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right— if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die.  None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.

“Yet your countrymen say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But it is their way that is not just.  If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it.  And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so.  Yet, O house of Israel, you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But I will judge each of you according to his own ways.”Ezekiel 33:12-20

First, it seems that it is important how you FINISH.  In both illustrations, God tells Ezekiel that the former life lived by a man – whether righteous or evil – does not matter in light of how that man finishes his race.  Again, put very simply, God wants His children to finish their lives in love with Him and seeking His ways – just as an earthly father would do.  By the way, this principle seems to be consistent with the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20 – the reward will be the same, for those who finish out the workday, regardless of when they started.

Second, it doesn’t matter if the world thinks that God’s judgment is unfair or unloving.  It’s going to happen just like He said.  How many Christians have encountered the argument that “God is not fair”?  Okay, a person may feel feel that way, but guess what?  God’s decision is His decision – and He actually does remain perfectly true to the principles He has laid out – if only people would study them.


Is the Lord Happy…or Is He Just?

When confronted with the premise that “a loving God would never send a person to an everlasting hell”, we should be aware of the fallacy in the argument.  That is, that God always gets to do what He wants.  He doesn’t, as we see in this verse.

“Son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’  Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’”  — Ezekiel 33:10-11

While God may indeed be a loving God, it is clear that He has to do things that do not please Him.  Said a different way, a completely happy God would not send people to hell…but a loving and just God must do so.  Beware the fallacy that says that God’s omnipotence means that He also is pleased with everything that happens.  For like a loving father, he sometimes must discipline His children, and He experiences pain over rejection by His own children.


This Is A Hard Teaching To Follow

To reiterate yesterday’s point, Ezekiel again reminds us of the importance of looking after our responsibility to warn others about their sin.

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.”  — Ezekiel 33:7-9

Put plainly, if we understand this to be analogous to our own duty to warn others, when we are confronted with a person who is flagrantly disobedient to God’s laws, we are obligated to say something.  Even more plainly, when confronted with a situation where we are talking to a person who is openly homosexual, it seems to me that we have a duty to tell that person how God feels about such a lifestyle.  This is a hard lesson, especially in today’s atmosphere of political correctness.  But, wouldn’t Christ have been this bold, rather than just walking away in an effort not to offend the other person?


Accountable…No Matter What

Whenever I see a news story about a frivolous lawsuit (such as the popular story of the woman who sued McDonalds because her coffee was too hot), I am amazed at the unwillingness of people to be responsible for their own actions.  But God warns us, in Ezekiel, that we WILL be made to stand for our own sins.

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head.  Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself.  But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.'”Ezekiel 33:1-6

Note how the person is held accountable and will suffer the consequences in BOTH cases – whether he received the warning from the watchman or not.  This may seem unfair at first glance, but when seen in the context of salvation or destruction, Romans 1:20 gives some explanation.  This verse tells us that God’s invisible attributes are evident, even in the absence of a specific “warning” from another person. Each person will be accountable for their sin, because it is obvious that there is a God behind everything.

And just as importantly, the verse tells us that the watchman has a duty to tell others what he knows, or be held accountable for the failure to tell.  In the same way, the Christian has an obligation to tell others about the Good News.


Never Again

During the time of Moses, Egypt was a mighty kingdom, with hardly a rival in the world. Great monuments were built and accomplishments were made under the Pharaohs.  So, where is Egypt today in the list of powerful nations?

“Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered.  I will bring them back from captivity and return them to Upper Egypt, the land of their ancestry. There they will be a lowly kingdom.  It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it will never again rule over the nations.  Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.”Ezekiel 29:13-16

Just as God said through the prophet, once Egypt was brought down, she would never rise to greatness again.  Today, Egypt is thought of as an average country, on the poorest of continents in the world – certainly nothing like the country was looked upon in the time of Moses.

And, according to the Word, it will never rise again.  Believe it.


The New Chosen Ones

As the book of Ezekiel begins to wind down, there are multiple chapters devoted to prophecy against all of the non-chosen nations – Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, and Egypt.  It seems that God is very engaged against those who oppose His chosen people.  Here is a typical example:

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘Because Edom took revenge on the house of Judah and became very guilty by doing so, therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will stretch out my hand against Edom and kill its men and their animals. I will lay it waste, and from Teman to Dedan they will fall by the sword.  I will take vengeance on Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they will deal with Edom in accordance with my anger and my wrath; they will know my vengeance, declares the Sovereign LORD.’”Ezekiel 25:12-14

I don’t have the full explanation in hand to detail how God went from choosing a nation as His special calling to choosing a group of believers, as He is doing in New Testament times (and beyond).  But it is fortunate for us “Gentiles” that He did.  Under the new covenant, the promise extends to those who believe and obey, rather than those who were born under the flag of a certain nation.

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