Ezekiel 47-48

“There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows.” 47:9

This gentle, deep and safe water correlates with the river mentioned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10). It symbolizes life as it metaphorically conquers death.

The Dead Sea is named appropriately; nothing in this body of water can survive. Sea life, including plants near the shore, can’t survive the high salt content in it’s waters. But when this river runs through it, life flourishes. Plants thrive. Animals populate.

” And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The Lord Is There.’ “ 48:35b

Ezekiel’s message to Israel ends with a bright picture of hope and restoration. God’s presence will return to his people and the new Temple. The city will get a new name, tethered by God’s presence.

Here are some ways to reflect on the book of Ezekiel:

  1. Israel’s idolatry drove God away. Ask yourself what persistent sin in your life might be preventing a deep relationship with him.
  2. Israel repeatedly puts their trust into the wrong hands. Where do you find your stability? In your country? In your fleeting identity? In your financial state?
  3. If you follow Jesus, the River of Life flows through you. Is this evident? What ‘death’ still lingers in your waters? Where does he need to get to?

 

Tomorrow we start our LAST book, the book of Revelation!

 

-Carly

 

Ezekiel 45-46

“Thus says the LORD God: The gate of the inner court that faces east shall be shut on the six working days, but on the Sabbath day it shall be opened, and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened. The prince shall enter by the vestibule of the gate from outside, and shall take his stand by the post of the gate. The priests shall offer his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate. Then he shall go out, but the gate shall not be shut until evening.” (46:1-2‬)

If all this talk about the east gate sounds familiar, it should, we read about it yesterday:

“Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut. And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut.” (44:1-2‬)

Coming and going from the east is for the Prince and the LORD.

To the east of Jerusalem is the Kidron valley (or the valley of the shadow of death), and beyond that, the Mount of Olives.

As mentioned above, the glory of the LORD went east when it departed the temple (10:19; 11:23).

Going back a couple hundred years, Solomon was hailed King of Israel as he paraded into Jerusalem (on a mule), from the east, in 1 Kings 1:32-37.

Have you ever wondered how Israel knew this was it when Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday?

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”” (Matthew‬ ‭21:1-3‬)

Jesus came into Jerusalem from the east, riding a donkey, and everyone flipped out. Some, by waking palm branches and shouting praises, others by asking each other, “who is this guy?”

Something like 353 Old Testament prophesies we’re fulfilled by Jesus, and symbolism like this is everywhere. He is our King and our LORD.

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew‬ ‭21:9‬)

As we approach Palm Sunday this weekend, consider with me what it means for Jesus to be hailed as King. It’s easy to get casual comfortable with Jesus and forget how much honor and respect is due Him (all of it: see Daniel 7:14 and Philippians 2:9-10).

It is beautiful and right to praise Him! The embodied glory of the LORD returning to His people, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

-Bethany

Ezekiel 43-44

“The priests…will teach my people the difference between what is holy and what is common, what is ceremonially clean and unclean. They will serve as judges to resolve any disagreements among my people. Their decisions must be based on my regulations. And the priests themselves must obey my instructions and decrees at all the sacred festivals, and see to it that the Sabbaths are set apart as holy days.” 44:23-24

The priests are given tall orders and a hefty job description; this calling is no joke. Resolving arguments among people based on God’s expectations? That requires knowing God’s expectations and exercising a lot of wisdom. And patience. Lots and lots of patience. Teaching people the difference between what is holy and what is unholy? Clean and unclean? This is serious work. That’s why God calls them to be sober, level-headed people, wearing light clothing so they don’t break a sweat. (Seems like a weird rule, but these people were regularly working around altar fires. Not only were they more comfortable in lighter clothing, but a sweaty, dirty face doesn’t exactly resemble cleanliness.)

We hold a similar calling. Although the dividing curtain in the Temple is torn and we all have equal access to God’s presence (Matthew 27:51), followers of Jesus are still part of a priesthood.

“…for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Did you catch the part where Levitical priests have to change out of their clothes before entering the outer courtyard (44:19)? Because the holiness of God, lingering on their clothing like the smell of a magnificent campfire, might endanger the outsiders? I get goosebumps realizing how much I downplay God’s holiness. We too, have a hefty job description and tall orders to follow. We are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. 

Are you equipping yourself to point God’s people toward him? To help sort through conflicts and handle them well? Are you obeying the Sabbath?

Or rather, are you trusting God and stepping back, remembering who you serve and admiring his holiness? Skipping the Sabbath isn’t doing anyone any favors. No one’s impressed with how busy you are or how many plates you’re spinning. Running on empty is disrespectful to God’s design of an abundant life. Resting in his presence is showing others his goodness! 

I’m humbled by my limited understanding of God’s holiness. And thankful for his son, Jesus, who intercedes so that we can have full access to such a holy God!

 

-Carly

 

 

Ezekiel 41-42

I’ve got to be honest, this temple confuses me. I know it’s about symbolism, but I’m not sure what all the symbols mean. I don’t know why some stories get wider as they get taller (41:7). I’m not sure what to do with these dimensions and when I do a google image search, it makes even less sense.

Most plans come together like this. They can only been seen through hindsight. One day we will all say, “Oh! This is Ezekiel’s temple!” Until then, we know the LORD and His perfect track record of design.

Right now, my life feels like a collection of beautiful pieces to a puzzle I’m about to put together upside down. Maybe the edges are taking shape, but the middle is still piles and the picture is faced away from me. The LORD reveals connections and bit by bit, two pieces lock together, but there’s still a long way to go.

Ezekiel is writing down the dimensions of this temple, most likely thinking it will be built in his lifetime or his children’s lifetime. After all, that’s how the tabernacle was built when Moses got the plans. But no, this physical temple has yet to be built, 2,500+ years later.

The question is always about trust. Faith. Do I have faith in God’s plans? Do I have faith in His timeline? Do I have the faith to do it His way?

Open our eyes, LORD, to see what you are unveiling in perfect time. Open our hearts to trust and obey.

Thank you for always creating a space for us to worship You. It is the key to our health and sanity.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’” (John‬ ‭4:21-24‬)

-Bethany

Ezekiel 39-40

I really leaned in to the Bible Project’s explanation of these chapters. They described Gog as an “archetype of human rebellion”; which made chapter 39 come together a lot more clearly for me.

It’s tempting to skim over chapter 40, which I have to admit I did at first. But seemingly boring parts of Scripture are often where God has sneaked in beautiful details; things he planned out and anticipated before we even existed. It’s an exercise of discipline to stay engaged with parts of the text that don’t immediately interest you.

I noticed a few interesting things about the new temple (I read this as a symbol for the messianic kingdom to come, others read this as a literal plan for a building):

The aesthetics are painfully detailed. I love the mention of the palm tree decorations on the columns. Palm trees pop up quite a few times in the Bible. They are referenced in Leviticus during the instructions of the Festival of Booths:

“On the first day gather branches from magnificent trees—palm fronds, boughs from leafy trees, and willows that grow by the streams. Then celebrate with joy before the Lord your God for seven days.” Leviticus 23:40

Later, people imitated this ritual when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, throwing down palm branches as he rode in on a donkey. (Matthew 21:8-9, John 12:12-13) So, what’s up with the palm tree thing? I don’t know, but it definitely interests me and gives me something to research in the future. Researching leads to a deeper understanding of the text, which leads to a deeper understanding of God, which is time well-spent! The details are valuable.

I also noticed the mention of maintenance in the new temple.  And the man said to me, ‘The room beside the north inner gate is for the priests who supervise the Temple maintenance.’ ” 40:45

Having a purpose and work to do has been part of the plan since day one. Adam was breaking a sweat in the Garden of Eden tending to his responsibilities, why do I often assume it’ll be any different for me, here on earth? Working hard for the Lord is good and holy. It’s kingdom-like. 

What are the responsibilities God has given you?

How do you approach them?

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:24

 

-Carly

 

 

Ezekiel 37-38

“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.” (37:13‬)

The LORD brings to life, to that which was dead.

Israel was in a hopeless state. But God, Creator God, is not intimidated by death, for He is the breather of life. He knows no hopeless state.

He can take dry bones, things long dead, and bring them to life. Every enemy or evil empire in the world could coordinate an attack and still lose.

It’s so easy to be near-sighted and anxious with our provincial point of view, but He is telling His people, “something far worse than your imagined ‘worst case scenario’ could happen and I’d still be able to handle it with ease.” In fact, He will conquer death and all enemies. He will raise to life all who have died. He will establish His people and place Christ on the throne of the earth.

“I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (37:26-27‬)

His promises are sure.

Bring to the LORD your impossible situations today. Pray! Write it down! See how He answers you. You will know Him by His ability to fulfill all that He says, and by remembering how many times He’s already done that.

-Bethany

Ezekiel 35-36

“Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations.” 36:22

Smack dab in the middle of these beautiful chapters of Israel’s redemption is a crucial reminder: they do not deserve to be redeemed. God is revealing his holiness to the other nations by gathering up Israel and bringing them back to their land.

Pause and think about your own rescue story. Are you deserving of God’s mercy in your life? I don’t say that to make you feel ashamed. But to feel freed! It’s so easy to slip into performing for God. Earning our place with him. But he tells us plainly that no, we don’t earn a thing. We never could! It’d be hopeless.

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8

“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” Ephesians 2:4-5

Do you find yourself spiritually performing? I catch myself doing this when I read my Bible because I think it puts me in a better position with him, not because I’m drawn to spend time with him.

Do you feel unloveable? You are deeply and unconditionally loved, and there is nothing you can do about it.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

What motivates you to be in relationship with God?

 

-Carly