Thursday, January 29, 2015

3 questions concerning the future Temple

Read Ezekiel 40.

In a vision, on an exact date in 573 B.C., God gave Ezekiel a tour of the future Temple.  The prophet, led by an angel, moved door by door and room by room.  A rod was used by the angel to measure each space.

Many questions commonly arise as a result of reading the closing chapters of this book.
1. Is this referring to the Temple that was rebuilt when the exiles returned?  
The Babylonians tore down and burned Solomon's beautiful edifice.  This cannot be the rebuilt Temple because the construction instructions here were not followed as this prophecy describes.

2. Is this referring to a literal Temple or is it all symbolic?
Yes, the prophet has used analogies and comparisons to illustrate some of the messages.  However, every prophecy in Ezekiel has been literal.  Those that were fulfilled to date have all been literal, which leads even the casual reader to expect that this description will be as well.

3. When, then, will this Temple be built?
There are so many prophecies concerning Israel's future that have yet to become a reality.  Overriding them all is Paul's declaration that the Jews will turn to Jesus as the Messiah and "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26).  Jesus will rule and reign for a thousand years from David's throne in Jerusalem (Revelation 20:6).  These closing chapters tell that the priesthood will be reinstituted and this Temple will be built.  The location must be on the the very place where the Dome of the Rock stands today in Jerusalem.  That statement alone causes any thinking person to ask even more when and how questions.

Though we have many things written down for us in the Word of God, there are so many plans for His earth that we cannot see, nor fully comprehend.  Even more, how amazing will be the things we never thought of nor dreamed in the rest of the universe and heavens above.  Our faith is the One who created it all, who controls it all, and has chosen to invite us along on the journey.  We stand in awe of Him.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

3 questions that define the future and the Present

Read Ezekiel 39.

The Lord continued to deliver a prophetic message to Ezekiel concerning Gog and the allied armies.  In a repeat of what He stated in chapter 38, God will "drive" the battle to the mountains of Israel.  There He will intervene and to nullify the effectiveness of the attackers' weapons.  "I will strike your bow from your left hand and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand." (v.3)  Not only will theses armies be defeated, but their homelands will be destroyed.  "I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands..." (v.6)

Such a war has never taken place in history.  Therefore, this remains an unfulfilled prophecy.  Nor can it be spiritualized.  The exact nations are identified and God even provided the name of the future cemetery, "the Valley of Hamon-gog."  It will require seven months to locate and bury all the enemy dead.  Instead of Israel being annihilated, the Jews will confiscate and benefit from all that belonged to their invaders.

1. What will prompt God to take such judicial action against these nations?
"I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions." (v.24)  It was their sin against Him and their rejection of the LORD that stirred up His wrath.  This will be a time for Him to demonstrate to them and the world that "I am the LORD."

2. Why will God do this for Israel?
This is all part of His original and unconditional promise to Abraham (Genesis 12, 15, 17).  God will secure the land for Abraham's physical descendants.  He will gather the Jews from all over the world to bring them home (v.27a).  He will "restore the fortunes of Jacob" (v.25).  He will "pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel" (v.29).

3. What is God trying to communicate?
Four times in this chapter the LORD repeats His motive.
-"My holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore.  And the nations will know that I am the LORD, the Holy One of Israel." (v.7)
-"...that I may show my glory." (v.13)
-"And I will set my glory among the nations..." (v.21)
"...through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations." (v.27b)

The God of Heaven jealously protects His name, His holiness, and His glory.  His desire of us today should be obvious.  Our speech, our behaviors, even our thinking and plans are to be in alignment with what is holy and what will honor Him.  "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What is God's ultimate Purpose?

Read Ezekiel 38.

So far, the LORD has pronounced punitive actions against all the surrounding nations and encouraged Israel about its future as a nation.  Now, this is the first of two chapters describing God's future judgment against Gog.  It will take place "in the latter days" (v.16) at a time when Israel will be "dwelling securely" (v.11).

Much has been written about the identity of Gog.  What we are told here is that it will be a great military power from the far north to attack Israel.  It is easy to name Russia as this most powerful enemy.  In addition, allies in the region who will join in the battle are named in verse 5: Persia (Iran), Cush (Sudan and Ethiopia), Put (Libya), Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, Beth-togarmah (Turkey).  In other words, the attack will come full force from all sides.  God called it "an evil scheme" (v.10).

Do not miss how this will come about and why it will happen.

God says concerning Gog, "I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out..." (v.4).  In the sovereignty of God, He will use this scheme of theirs to pull them into a situation that will inflict His wrath upon them.  This is God's opportunity to show the world exactly who He is.

1. His Omniscience.
This evil will be devised in secret.  But the LORD is all-knowing.  He knows what they are thinking before they do and He will use it against them.

2. His Omnipotence.
The LORD will display His power against these armies "that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes." (v.16)  He makes even the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10).

3. His Omnipresence.
God is personally involved, everywhere at the same time.  At this battle, He will let everyone know He is there.  A catastrophic earthquake will take place but not from natural means.  It will simply be the  result of His revealed presence (v.20).

God's ultimate purpose behind all His actions with nations and individuals like us is that same.  "So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations.  Then they will know that I am the LORD." (v.23)  It is His desire that everyone come to know Him.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sticks and Bones

Read Ezekiel 37.

After the death of King Solomon, the once proud kingdom divided into two.  In Ezekiel's day, the people of the northern kingdom of Israel had been scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire.  Then, the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom of Judah.  Many were killed, some taken captive in exile, and only a remnant of poor people were left in the land.  It would have been natural for the Jews at that time to think that this was the end of the nation.  "Our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off." (v.11b)

But God's promises to Abraham were stated as an everlasting and unconditional covenant (Genesis 15).  Moreover, several times in Jeremiah's prophecy the term of the exile was declared to be only for 70 years.  So, how did God see the nation of Israel?  Were His promises still good?  What was to become of the Jews?

To communicate hope for the future, the LORD gave Ezekiel a vision and a visual illustration for an object lesson.
1. The vision of the bones. (vv.1-14)
This passage of Scripture is famously familiar thanks to the old spiritual "Dem Bones."  It is often listed as a children's song.  God's intent was profoundly more meaningful than learning skeleton structure.  In the vision, the prophet is shown a valley of dry bones and asked a question about the future and God's power.  "Can these bones live?" (v.3)  God went on to give the interpretation of what Ezekiel saw.  "These bones are the whole house of Israel" (v.11).  The people were literally scattered and dried up spiritually.  However, God will cause the Jews to "hear the word of the LORD" and He will breath life back into the nation.  Further, He will give them His Spirit and return them to the land.  These words reemphasize the message of chapter 36.  This hope of this spiritual revival was meant in every way to encourage the exiles.

2. The visual of the sticks. (vv.15-28)
In order to stir the curiosity of the audience, God had Ezekiel take two sticks and bind them together.  According to verse 19, the sticks represent Israel and Judah.  Not only will the Jews have a vibrant future as a nation, but they would be reunited as a kingdom under God-"one in my hand" (v.19), "one nation in the land" (v.22a), "And one king shall be over them all" (v.22b).  Of necessity, this king who will shepherd this kingdom in the land will be a descendant of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

It should be obvious by reading the Biblical account of the return of the exiles and even a general knowledge of history that the fulfillment of these prophecies has yet to take place.  Indeed, such a descendant of David will rule and reign from Jerusalem one day.  As the angel Gabriel announced concerning Jesus: "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Luke 1:32-33)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why does God promise His blessings?

Read Ezekiel 36.

After punishing Israel by removing them from the promised land and pronouncing judgment upon the surrounding nations, God delivered a message of hope.  Israel has a future.  The restoration of the Jews to their land is undeniably clear and specific.  Here is what the LORD Himself promised.

1. God will bring them home.  (v.8)
The territorial rights to the land is God-given.  It is their home.  Scattered by war, taken into exile, and ruled over by empires and other forces, it was not until 1948 that there existed a nation of Israel on that land, under their own sovereign government.  To this day, they still are not in possession of all the boundaries of their homeland.

2. God will be with them and turn them back to Him. (v.9)
The word of the LORD looks forward to a complete spiritual repentance in Israel.  Their relationship with God, and the Messiah in particular, will be reconciled.  God will give them a new heart and a new spirit.  "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules." (vv.26-27)

3. God will bless them with abundance. (v.10-11)
This is not simply a restoration of the nation from exile.  He has promised to multiply them and "will do more good to you than ever before."  The land of Israel will be like the Garden of Eden (v.35).

4. God will give them peace. (vv.12-15)
Since the Exodus and return to the land under Joshua's leadership, Israel has fought with its neighbors.  Satan has always energized ungodly leaders in every generation in an attempt to eradicate the Jews.  This prophecy anticipates a time when Israel "shall no longer bear the disgrace" of other nations.

Their sin against God was profanely awful (v.17) and deserving of the justice Israel received.  Even today, the world does not see the Jews worshiping the LORD as a nation.  So, why would God promise such blessings?  For one singular reason.  Three times He states, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name." (vv.22, 23, 32)

There is a principle here.  Life is not about us.  The reason behind God's blessings is to bring glory and honor to Him.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A warning to those who hate Israel

Read Ezekiel 35.

They were national brothers in their origin.  One descended from Esau and the other from Jacob.  But the Edomites hated Israel.  When they saw the collapse of Israel and Judah, Edom announced that this was their opportunity.  Instead, the LORD delivered a strong word of judgment upon them.  He would wipe them out and make their land desolate.

There were three stated reasons for God's punishment against Edom.
1. "Because you cherished perpetual enmity." (v.5)
These people loved being an enemy to the Jews.  From generation to generation, they behaved that way toward Israel.  They treated Moses as an enemy during the Exodus.  And now, a thousand years later, they continued their national sin.  So, God put a stop to it by becoming their enemy.

2. "Because you did not hate bloodshed." (v.6)
They loved playing the role of the enemy and they loved killing people.  God hates violence (Genesis 6:13).  So, God intervened by promising their blood would be shed.

3. "Because you said, 'These two nations and two countries shall be mine.'" (v.10)
In their arrogance, they thought God was through with Israel and Judah, therefore, they could assume ownership of the land.  The LORD punished the Jews for their sin but that in no way altered His eternal covenant with Abraham and his descendants.  Edom's words were not only an offense against the plans of God, but it was personal against Him.  "And you have magnified yourselves against me with your mouth and multiplied your words against me; I heard it." (v.13)

One of the basic elements of what we know of God's nature is that He does not change.  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)  Behaving as an enemy instead of seeking peace will cause God to take a punitive response.  Acting violently merely for the love of bloodshed will result in God's judgment to put an end to it.  Seizing property that belongs to another, especially when they are in a weakened position, will bring God's wrath and great loss.  God hears such boasting.

God said concerning the treat of Abraham's descendants, "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:3)

Friday, January 23, 2015

What the leaders Forgot

Read Ezekiel 34.

"Influence is the platform God gives you to help others succeed."-Dr. Johnny Hunt
God chose Abraham and his descendants to be His people.  He gave them a land for their own and promised to bless them.  After 1400 years, the rebellion and disobedience of the people resulted in the land being invaded and destroyed by two different empires.  The people had been scattered, killed, or taken captive.  What went wrong?

The message God gave to Ezekiel was that the leadership of the nation, both governmental and spiritual, failed to do their job.  Leadership is a stewardship.  The LORD compared it to that of a shepherd tending a flock of sheep.  What did they forget?

1. The responsibility of leadership. (vv.1-6)
They forgot the basic nature of their job description.
-Feed the hungry sheep.  Instead, the leaders took from the people enriching themselves. 
-Strengthen the weak sheep.  Instead, the leaders took advantage of those who needed empowerment and encouragement.
-Heal the sick sheep.  Instead, the leaders ignored those who had physical needs of help. 
- Care for the injured sheep.  Instead, the leaders had no compassion on those who had been hurt.
-Recover the stray sheep.  Instead, the leaders paid no attention to what happened to the people.
In each case, the leaders did the opposite of what they were supposed to be doing.  Their mind set was that the people were to serve them.  That thinking caused them to use force and harshness to get things done.
Jesus said, "You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant." (Matthew 20:26)

2. The accountability of leadership. (vv.7-10)
They forgot that the people and the nation did not belong to them.  The leaders only occupied a position of influence for a time.  In verse 10, the Owner has a word for them.  "I will require my sheep at their hand...I will rescue my sheep from their mouths."  These were God's people and these who had treated His people wrongfully would be judged by Him.

3. The authority of leadership. (vv.11-31)
The Apostle Paul wrote: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For their is no authority except from God." (Romans 13:1)  Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."  (Matthew 28:18)  Notice, then, how God personally intervenes when leaders fail.  At least, twenty-three times in these closing verses the LORD states, "I will..."  Leaders are to serve the people they influence as under the authority of God.  Their shepherding work is to reflect the Owner and Chief Shepherd.

The prince named here, and referred to again in chapter 46, is "the man after God's own heart," King David himself.  Ultimately, there is one servant- shepherd over God's people; a descendant of King David (vv.23-24)  
"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21) 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2 heartbreaking Questions

Read Ezekiel 33.

The issue of personal sin and what to do about it is universal.  It is not limited to any time or people on earth.  Romans 3 clearly reminds us that all have sinned.  Jesus taught that it is the Holy Spirit's ministry to bring conviction and accountability for the wrong we have done (John 16:8).  But what happens next is the difference between eternal judgment and eternal life.

Some decide to ignore the Holy Spirit's prompting, choosing to continue to go their own way.  The results are that they heap sin upon sin and consequences upon consequences.  Many endeavor to salve their consciences with a philosophy of life, religion, good works, or busyness in an attempt to avoid facing themselves before God.  The most stressing problem with all of those self-efforts is that there is no genuine hope.

God is faithful in sending His messengers to deliver His message so everyone knows how to experience eternal forgiveness and hope.  Ezekiel was sent by the LORD as a prophet and a "watchman" to warn Israel and the surrounding nations of the consequences of their sin.  Some would feel the guilt and brokenness.  They would ask the first key question.

1. How then can we live? (v.10)
The answer to them provides insights into the heart of God.
First, God takes no pleasure in meting out justice for sin.
Second, His desire is that all repent of their sin and turn to Him in faith.
Third, the results are reconciliation with God and true life, both now and for eternity.
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9-10)

With that wonderful message of good news available to everyone, it grieves the heart of God when He is rejected.  Since there is no alternative, God asks the second question.

2. Why will you die? (v.11)
It makes no sense to spurn the only hope there is beyond this life.  Why would a person deliberately, and some defiantly, not seize such an opportunity for life?
First, there is an adversary.  The devil is doomed already and it is his full-time occupation for now to thwart the purposes of God.  He is the father of lies and dupes many into believing they do not need to respond to God's loving offer.  He has even propagated the ideas that there is no place of eternal punishment, or that hell will not be too bad, or that one may earn their way out of it.
Second, human pride keeps people from admitting their brokenness and humbling themselves before their Creator and only Savior.
When one finally becomes tired of running from God and they reach the end of themselves, they discover that Jesus' offer still stands.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lessons from a Cemetery

Read Ezekiel 32.

The word of the LORD came to Ezekiel condemning Egypt, and particularly Pharaoh Hophra, for pride and false worship.  The prophecy came in seven messages that are found in these four chapters.  As the LORD concluded describing His judgment against them, the subject is death and the grave.

Pharaoh considered himself a god to his people and a lion among nations.  But God will not turn from such a challenge to His rightful place.  He promised to dethrone the king of Egypt and use the Babylonians to kill and destroy the land.  To make His point, the LORD re minds them of the demise of other once powerful nations.  They were all gone...dead...buried.

It does not matter how powerful, how wealthy, how famous a person is, death is an equalizer.  Job said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return." (Job 1:21a)  There are certain basic eternal truths concerning our temporary existence here on earth.

1. Everyone dies.
Physical death is the result of sin.  "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)

2. Everyone dies once.
The Bible is clear.  There are no second chances after death.  We only have this life in order to prepare for eternity.  "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)  Knowing this should motivate everyone to be prepared.

3. Some will die twice.
Sin not only brought corruption and physical death, but sin also separated us from God.  The Scriptures refer to this as spiritual death.  Jesus came that we may have spiritual life (John 10:10b), a reconciled relationship with God.  Indeed, His claim is "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6)  Without coming to Jesus for spiritual life, one will go into eternity separated from God, tormented by their sin against Him.

4. Some are born twice.
The new birth is explained by Jesus in John 3.  It is a spiritual birth that takes place when a person commits themselves to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin.  This results in a life-change now and a forever relationship with God.  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2 vital reminders for national Survival

Read Ezekiel 31.

"The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.  The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God." (Psalm 9:16-17)

Egypt is presented as a prime example of King David's warning.  This is the third of four chapters condemning Egypt.  Pharaoh Hophra and his military had an inflated self-perception.  Twice (vv.2 and 18), the LORD asked, "Whom are you like in your greatness?"  In this prophecy, God reminded them what happened to Assyria.

Assyria ruled the entire Mesopotamian world.  God compared them to a beautiful tree.  There was none like it.  It became the envy of all the nations.  Their downfall came because they forgot two vital elements of national survival.

1. "I made it beautiful." (v.9)
As Creator and Owner of all things, the LORD raised up the Assyrians for a time to fulfill part of His plan in the world.  He allowed them to conquer and control that entire area.  But the Assyrians never gave God credit for what He had done.  They assumed it had all happened by their own power and might.  Their national "heart was proud" (v.10).

2. "I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations." (v.11)
When a nation comes to believe that their blessings are the result of their own doing, they rob God of His glory.  Eventually, the LORD will intervene to prove His ownership.  Indeed, God raised up the Babylonians to conquer the Assyrians.  And, in this prophecy, God will bring Nebuchadnezzar to kill Pharaoh and destroy Egypt.
Every nation should take heed and learn these lessons of history.  The culture of our nation continues its moral downward spiral.  At the root is the same pride-filled, independent spirit of ancient Assyrian and Egypt.  There is a sense that not only do we not need God, but the culture resents any mention of Him.  For decades the United States has sung Irving Berlin's masterful song, "God Bless America."  Even politicians who have never claimed to know the LORD will close their speeches with that phrase.  Instead, it is past time that America blesses God from Whom all blessing flow.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The high price of not worshiping God

Read Ezekiel 30.

Pharaoh claimed in chapter 29 that, as a god, he made the Nile River and owned it.  The LORD responded with a prophecy of Egypt's judgment.  Here, are some details of that prophecy in the form of a funeral song, or lament.  God's destruction will be all inclusive.  Notice the fourteen times God says, "I will."  This is His personal response to Pharaoh for robbing God of His glory.

1. The People (vv.1-8)
Egyptians will be killed by the sword of the Babylonians.  The surrounding nations that supported Egypt will experience the same fate.

2. The Wealth (vv.9-11)
In the previous chapter we are told that the Babylonians fought hard and long to destroy Tyre.  Yet, none of Tyre's wealth was found to pay the soldiers.  So, God promised the wealth of Egypt as Nebuchadnezzar's reward for meting out His justice (29:20).  This is referred to again in 30:10.  

3. The Land (v.12)
The real Owner of the Nile will dry it up for a time.  By reducing the main water supply to that region, the agriculture and food supply would dry up with it.

4. The Idols (v. 13)
All the multiplicity of false worship will be destroyed.  No man-made god is any match for the God of heaven.

5. The Cities (vv.14-19)
No stronghold will be able to stop the Babylonians.  Walls will be broken down and the buildings burned.

6. The Pharaoh's Power (vv.20-26)
His "arms" of strength to rule will be broken.  This is a reference to his personal authority and Egypt's armies.  Pharaoh Hophra and the nation will be unable to defend themselves.

The purpose behind God's judgment remains the same.  When a person rejects the authority and worship of the LORD, He will intervene in such a way that will be unmistakable.  "Then they will know that I am the LORD."  How much better is it to respond to His grace voluntarily!  "O, come!  Let us adore Him."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Giving credit where credit is Due

Read Ezekiel 29.

Egypt had historically been the southern powerhouse of nations.  During times of trouble, Judah looked to their Egyptian neighbor for an alliance of help.  God pronounced a series of prophecies concerning Egypt that requires four chapters to deliver.

1. The River Monster. (vv.1-5)
This Pharaoh would have been Hophra (589-570 B.C.)  Pharaohs were considered to be gods and the ultimate sin of Hophra was to claim that he made and owned the Nile River.  This was a direct affront to the real Creator and Owner of all things.  Comparing the Egyptian king to a large, ferocious monster in the river, God predicted his demise would be like hooking him and dragging him off in the desert to die.
2. The Reed. (vv.6-9a)
Judah allied with Egypt hoping to break free from the Babylonian oppression.  But when Judah leaned them for support, they proved to be untrustworthy.  Therefore, God would judge them.

3. The Repercussions. (vv.9b-16)
God's punishment included reducing Egypt's power to nothing and scattering the people for a period of forty years.  After that time, the LORD promised to restore Egypt's fortunes.  However, never again would Egypt rule over other nations as it once did.

4. The Reward for Babylon. (vv.17-21)
The Babylonians were used by God as His instruments to judge the nations for their sin.  When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Tyre, he expected to capture its great wealth.  But after all the hard work of the soldiers, they found nothing.  Evidently, in a protective move Tyre had shipped its wealth elsewhere.  The war had been costly without a pay-off.  God promised to give the wealth of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar as his reward.

Taking credit for what God has done robs Him of His glory.  We must be careful to give the LORD the glory due Him.  Doing so will keep our pride in check, strengthen our awareness of His blessings, and cause us to speak of His goodness more often.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

God deals with pride and a Promise

Read Ezekiel 28.

As God continued to deliver prophecies concerning Tyre, He zeroed in on two individuals and has a word for two other nations.

1. To the prince of Tyre. (vv.1-10)
The ruler of Tyre at the time was Ethbaal III.  He reigned for a little less than twenty years.  Evidently, he possessed a very wise business acumen that made him and Tyre extremely wealthy.  Like the Egyptians and other pagan nations, their rulers were not only seen as having divine rights but divine themselves.  Ethbaal thought he was a god.  Sarcastically, the LORD asked, "Are you wiser than Daniel?  Do you know everything?"

Such pride will always bring a devastating response from the LORD, sooner or later.  To prove Ethbaal's mortality, God promised to bring foreigners (the Babylonians) to ruthlessly kill him and reduce Tyre to nothing.

2. To the king of Tyre. (vv.11-19)
This is referring to someone entirely different.  First, note the change in titles.  Ezekiel rarely used the term "king."  Second, the one described here was full of wisdom, beauty, and was present in the Garden of Eden (vv.2-3).  So, a mere man, as Ethbaal was (v.2) does not fit.  Further, this "king" had been created sinless and lived in the presence of God (v.14).  He was in fact twice mentioned as "a guardian cherub", a type of overseeing angel.  This can be none other than Satan himself, the evil power behind Ethbaal.

Like Ethbaal, this guardian cherub's downfall came due to his pride.  He thought he could replace the LORD.  He was cast out from his position and God's presence (v.16).  One day, God will ultimately and publicly deal with Satan in such a way that the nations will be "appalled" (v.19).

3. To Sidon. (vv.20-24)
The Sidonians are described as a thorn in the side of Israel.  But no more.  Through His judgment upon them, God will reveal His glory and His holiness.  The goal: "they will know that I am the LORD."

4. To Israel. (vv.25-26)
There remains a future hope for the Jews.  God promised that He would gather them and that they would live on their own land.  In that day, they will live in peace and abundance.

Tyre is gone.  Sidon is no more.  Satan's demise is written down for us in advance in the last chapters of the Bible.  And, true the nature and character of God, He has a hope-filled future for His own.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A word to the Wealthy

Ezekiel 27.

If not checked by strong spiritual and moral principles, wealth and prosperity can result in personal ruin, both now and in eternity.

Tyre brokered the seaport trade for the Middle East.  Nations from Africa and Arabia brought their wares for sale and shipping throughout the Mediterranean.  Twenty-three nations are mentioned in this chapter.  Tyre's fleet was the best, traveling all the way to Spain to deliver goods.  Being such a commercial hub made the merchants of Tyre incredibly wealthy.

Then, when they received word that Jerusalem had been destroyed, they saw it as opportunity for themselves.  Greed and selfishness became their final undoing.  The word of the LORD came to Ezekiel in the previous chapter condemning Tyre.  Next, He had the prophet write this dirge for the once famous city.

The poem depicts Tyre as a beautifully crafted ship that everyone admired.  But, the ship sank and everyone mourned.  Even the protection of an elite military proved useless when God brought His judgment upon them.

1. Wealth is a gift from God.
Solomon, the wealthiest man in the world, wrote: "Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil--this is a gift from God." (Ecclesiastes 5:19)  The amount and definition of wealth is relative.  That is why the Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians not to worry about what they did not have but to focus the use of what God had given them. (2 Corinthians 8:12)

2. Wealth brings accountability to God.
"You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth." (Deuteronomy 8:18).  Since our resources belong to God and are on loan to us only for a time in this life, we must one day give an account to the Owner for how we managed His property.  "So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12)

3. Wealth gives opportunity to impact the lives of others.
The instruction given to Pastor Timothy concerning wealthy church members was this: "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." (1 Timothy 6:17-19)  This, then, is a normal part of church discipleship.  It is the cure for greed.  The greater the resources the greater the influence for reaching others with the good news.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

When God makes a Promise

Read Ezekiel 26.

After prophesying judgment against the neighbors to the east and west, the next three chapters are devoted to Tyre in the north.  Like Ammon and Moab in chapter 25, Tyre celebrated the downfall Jerusalem.  They saw this an their opportunity to enrich themselves.  "Aha, the gate of the people is broken; it has swung open for me.  I shall be replenished now that she is laid waste." (v.2)

But God's response was the same to Tyre as it was to the others.  He promised to reduce this wealthy fishing and seaport trade area to nothing more than a place to dry fishing nets.  It would no longer be the prosperous and power-brokering city of the Mediterranean.

Tyre thought they were safe and that the Babylonians only wanted to put down the rebellion in Judah.  What they did not realize was that the same destructive fate awaited them.  To this day, the site of the city of Tyre lies in ruin, just as God predicted.

As Isaiah recorded the words of the LORD, "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)  "Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.  Your faithfulness to all generations..." (Psalm 119:89-90a)

When God makes a promise, He keeps it.  Know the promises of God.  Depend upon the promises of God.  He will be faithful.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How to respond to a hurting Enemy

Read Ezekiel 25.

Having delivered the prophecy concerning Jerusalem, God next turned His messages to the neighboring nations.  For nearly a thousand years, the four mentioned in this chapter had been enemies of Israel.  Every leader of Israel since the Exodus dealt with them militarily.  When Israel was strong, these four fell under its rule.  When Israel was weak, these same four rebelled and often sided with Israel's enemies.

The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, including the Temple.  God addressed each of these four neighbors according to their individual response to Jerusalem's demise.  But these were more than neighboring people groups.  Three had a family relationship with Israel.  Ammon and Moab were the sons of Lot, Abraham's nephew (Genesis 19).  The Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother (Genesis 25).  They fell into two categories.

1. Those who rejoiced while others wept. (vv.1-11)
The LORD executed judgment against Ammon and Moab because  they celebrated when they heard of the Temple's destruction.  "You have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul."  But Israel was God's people and the Temple was God's sanctuary.  Therefore, their celebration proved to be against God Himself.  He promise to have them overrun by an enemy and lose their national identities.

2. Those who took revenge while others suffered. (vv.12-17)
The Edomites lived to the south and east of Israel.  The Philistines occupied much of the west.  Instead of coming to the aid of Israel, or rejoicing over Israel's downfall, these two took an active role in helping the enemy.  They saw Israel's weakness as an opportunity for their own revenge.  For this God promised His own vengeance against them.

We must be careful how we respond those who are suffering, especially an enemy.  God has a word for believers concerning this very thing.  In the same chapter that urges us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,"  the Apostle Paul wrote: "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'  To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19-21)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

God's purpose in a time of great Loss

Read Ezekiel 24.

Ezekiel, Daniel and many others had already been taken captive.  Living in and around the city of Babylon, the exiled Jews were dependent upon messengers for news from Jerusalem.  Here, before the fugitive messenger arrived (v.26), God gave the prophet a parable and a sign to let the people know in advance what was taking place.

The date was January 15, 588 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem.  This day is so important it is mentioned in this chapter and three other times (2 Kings 25:1, Jeremiah 39:1 and 52:4).

The Parable of the Pot
To describe what was happening in Jerusalem, the LORD used a parable of cooking with a rusty pot.

Scene One. (vv.3-8)
Jerusalem was like a pot with rust and build up inside.  Choice meat had been placed in it for cooking.  When the heat was applied and the water boiled, all the impurities rose to the surface.   Predictably, the meal was ruined. Nothing could be done, except to dump it out.  God placed His best in that city, but their rebellion against Him corrupted all that was good.  The time had come for cleansing.  The LORD used the Babylonians to empty the city.

Scene Two. (vv.9-14)
Starting over with an empty pot, the hot fire of God's judgment will cleanse Jerusalem of all that corrupted it.  His judgment was a certainty.

The Sign of Sorrow (vv.15-27)
To prepare the people for this great loss, the LORD used a tragedy in Ezekiel's own life.  God gave the prophet his sobering message for the people, but that evening his wife died.  The impact and explanation of the sign proved true on multiple levels.
-For Ezekiel, his wife had been the delight of his eyes and now she was gone. (v.15)
-For the Jews, Jerusalem had been "the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul..." (v.21).  But now she was gone.
-For God, Jerusalem was His "sanctuary", His holy place.  Now, for a time, it will be destroyed.

In order to gain attention, Ezekiel was instructed not to grieve as would be normally and customarily expected.  When the people asked why, then he was to deliver the message.  The response that God desired was not for the people to mourn their loss but to realize that God is the Sovereign LORD and there is no other.  When the LORD is all you have, He is all you need.