Ezekiel 41-42 B

“When the priests leave the sanctuary, they must not go directly to the outer courtyard. They must first take off the clothes they wore while ministering, because these clothes are holy. They must put on other clothes before entering the parts of the building complex open to the public.”

As a product of a non-denominational church that boomed on the heels of Keith Green’s Jesusfreak movement, I find myself on the more casual side of a relationship with the Lord.

Prayer can happen anywhere, church gatherings are casual and ministry can be just about anything you want it to be as long as you assure everyone you were “called” into it. I don’t think any of this is bad, it just is. But it’s also just one side of the coin.

Don’t forget that God is holy. The ground where we meet with him is holy ground. The clothes one wears in the sanctuary are holy clothes. Clothes matter.

What feels like a religious routine to you, but might hold significance to the Lord?

-Carly

Ezekiel 39-40 B

“Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer.” (39:28‬)

The LORD is fine about being known as a disciplinarian. He knows what is for our good and He brings truth to light in order for His name to not be de-famed by the people meant to express it.

With all the noise, clashes of opinions, war, conflicting ideologies, and oppression—brought to us daily through international news—it’s good to know the LORD’s goodness doesn’t depend on mankind.

He is Mighty to Save, able to build up and tear down anything. There is nothing too great for Him, no person too dead, no outcome too unlikely. He will be found true in this world.

While many people point to Ezekiel 38-39 as an upcoming prophecy about Russia and Iran attacking Israel, it really doesn’t matter. This 2,500+ year old prophecy has been true many times. The LORD has opposed the proud and given grace to the humble, time and time again. Empires have risen and fallen and He has remained the same. Such will continue to be true until the end.

There are many cycles of discipline, where we find ourselves being either scattered or gathered. What season do you feel you’re in now? Do you feel like you (or your community) are experiencing disciplinary judgement or compassionate healing?

-Bethany

Ezekiel 37-38 B

I was relieved to read in my Bible’s commentary today that most scholars scratch their heads at chapter 38 too. There are some theories, yes, but mostly the identity of Gog remains uncertain.

By the end of the chapter, it feels irrelevant.

“All living things-the fish in the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals of the field, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the people on earth- will quake in terror at my presence.

“…I will show my greatness and holiness, and I will make myself known to all the nations of the world. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” 38:23

Same story, different characters. However rebellious and defiant something/someone will be, God will have the final word. His presence will be known and he will be victorious.

He will be known. I love reading this sentence. It makes me feel like a comforted child, being soothed by a calming parent.

Is there someone in your life who challenges God’s authority in a way that really pushes your buttons? They deny God’s sovereignty and power and it bothers you. Or maybe it worries you because you know how wonderful it is to submit your life to him and you want that for them too.

It’s okay. He will he known. You don’t need to argue with people on Facebook about it. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is God! (Romans 14:14)

-Carly

Ezekiel 35-36 B

“I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.” (36:23‬)

The LORD goes on to detail His plan to cleanse His people: exchanging their hearts, and filling them with His Spirit. He plans to use the very people who made Him look bad in the first place?

This makes me think about the ways the LORD’s name is profaned in 2020.

What does it look like for His people, full of His Spirit, to reintroduce His true heart and nature to the world? How can we know if we have the right heart or His Spirit? How do we know when He is glorified in truth?

Stay in His word. Familiarize yourself with His voice and practice spotting His handiwork. It often looks like light and hope in dark places, healing in sickness, life from death, forgiveness and restoration. The fruit of His Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.

His glory is evident in creation, is it evident in you?

-Bethany

Ezekiel 33-34 B

So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it! But when all these terrible things happen to them—as they certainly will—then they will know a prophet has been among them.” 33:31-34

They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it. James talks about this too. He says reading the Bible without applying it to your own behavior is like looking in the mirror and forgetting your own reflection as soon as you walk away. (James 1:22-25)

At some point, I scrawled “following Christian culture vs. following Christ” under these verses from Ezekiel in my Bible.

Am I just simply entertained by the message of the gospel, or does it impact my life?

Do I consume spiritual things without obeying and submitting to the message?

Ezekiel warns the people that they won’t even know a prophet has been among them until it’s too late. They won’t even realize these were God’s holy words until terrible things start to happen!

Read the verses from today’s chapter again. Do you catch yourself behaving this way? Maintaining a superficial relationship with God?

Here are a couple ways I know I’m really in it with God:

It’s costing me something. A life with Christ will require sacrifice.

Joy despite circumstances. If I still have an insatiable appetite for contentment, I know I’m in an unhealthy spot.

Are you able to recognize what it looks like for you?

-Carly

Ezekiel 31-32 B

Assyria was like a very magnificent tree, one that could make even the trees of Eden jealous. Egypt was like a vicious sea monster. Both were brought down and became places for birds and animals to sit. (31:13 & 32:4)

There’s a lot of slaying, death, graves, and going down to the pit. Everyone from the Pharaoh and lofty kings, to the insignificant nobodies face this death. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

The LORD is the Only sure foundation in this world. Even the largest, most secure establishment imaginable can be brought down and turned into mulch under the feet of animals. All of these pronouncements of judgement are followed with “Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

This line is everywhere. Why is it so easy to forget who is God and who is not? Why is it so common to turn our affection away from the Creator toward the created? We can be so easily dazzled.

In some cases, rightly so. Our Creator is a true master of making beautiful things, but these are meant to turn our attention toward Him. The beauty is an arrow, pointing to His glory.

Likewise, we are His workmanship. Mankind is considered creation’s crowning achievement. Do you and I act as arrows, pointing toward the glory of the LORD, or do we like to point to ourselves?

I’m very thankful for the many times in my life I became enamored with something besides the LORD and He knocked it out of my hand in a way only He could. Then, I could know that He was the LORD. I could remember what’s what.

Is there something or someone stealing that place of affection in your heart reserved for the LORD? Ask Him about it today. Maybe you can surrender it to Him before it becomes a massive heap of rubble. Remember, this isn’t to ruin our lives or spoil our fun. It is for the health and well-being of mankind to remain properly positioned before the LORD.

-Bethany

Ezekiel 29-30 B

“And the day will come when I will cause the ancient glory of Israel to revive, and then, Ezekiel, your words will be respected. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” 29:21

This verse reminded me of something important: we do not work for the approval of people, but for the glory of God.

Ezekiel is point-blank told that his messages are not going to get through to people for a long time. And this happens to a lot of the prophets! They’re told, hey no ones going to listen to you, but say it anyway.

I’m a direct result of an instant-gratification culture. But this is not gospel culture. There are very few stories with instant results. Instead, there’s stories about 40 year camping trips and poor, sweet Jacob working, what, 14 years? To earn the right to marry the love of his life?

Jesus speaks in parables about gardening. Mature plants that stabilize over time and seasons. Seasons of hard work and labor or seasons that are cold and bare.

God’s culture is slow-paced, steadfast and requires longevity of your faith. For example, Ezekiel could not have possibly hung in there if he was hoping for quick results or fast friends. Sometimes (really, I feel confident saying most of the time), being God’s messenger is lonely and without any reward, initially. There are several circumstances where I feel confident I did the right thing, or spoke the truth I needed to speak, and never got to see/receive the fruit from that.

Or maybe, you’re reaping fruit someone else sowed. I feel like that with my husband a lot. I look at him, admiring what a godly, intentional and hard-working man he is and just delight in how lucky my kids and I are to have him. But it was his family, teachers and mentors who put in the work, and honestly not very many of them get to see the type of man he is today.

Who are you working for? I love the perspective Galatians 1:10 gives us.

Who has put in the work on you in the past? Take a minute and thank God (and them, if you can!) for the people he’s put in your path.

-Carly

Ezekiel 27-28 B

After all the judgement pronounced on Israel, we are in the thick of judgement against neighboring cities. Today’s chapters are about the port cities of Sidon and Tyre and it’s leader.

What is so fascinating to me, is how chapter twenty-eight’s judgement, specifically against Tyre’s leader, seems to go back and forth between describing a king who thinks too highly of himself (28:2), and a description that most Christian Theology books use to define Satan (28:12-19). In fact, this is the “Satan fell from heaven” (v. 16) back story we learn as kids, then have trouble finding later.

The other city mentioned in twenty-eight, is Sidon. I found it interesting, it is very much personified as a female, counting seven feminine pronouns. This prompted a glance at Wikipedia to learn more about these ancient city’s histories.

SIDON was the firstborn of Canaan, the son of Ham, the son of Noah. We are talking ancient cities. In 1855, the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar II was discovered and placed to have been created around 500 BC (within a century of the time of Ezekiel). His mother was called a priestess of Astarte, who was the goddess of the city. Perhaps this is why the LORD calls the city a she? Astarte was a goddess of fertility, sex, love and war. She is thought to have been an adaptation of the goddess Anat, the sister/lover of Baal. Today, Sidon is the third most populous city in Lebanon.

TYRE was claimed to have been founded by extension of Sidon. The famous Queen Jezebel (wife of Israel’s King Ahab) was from Tyre, and brought with her the worship of it’s god, Baal (also known as Melqart). To me, this explains why the leader of the city could be semi-fluid with Satan. Today, Tyre is the fifth most populous city in Lebanon.

PHEW. I find these studies into understanding the spiritual undercurrent of Canaan both interesting and disturbing. I feel like I need to shake that all off with a reminder of how completely and easily the LORD says He will handle these “people/cities/beings”.

Sidon: “I will send pestilence to her and blood to her streets, and the wounded will fall in her midst by the sword upon her on every side; then they will know that I am the LORD.” (28:23)

Tyre: “All the inhabitants of the coast-lands are appalled at you, and their kings are horribly afraid; they are troubled in countenance. The merchants among the people hiss at you; you have become terrified and you will cease to be forever.” (27:35-36) “You will die the death of those who are slain in the heart of the seas. Will you still say, ‘I am a god,’ in the presence of your slayer, though you are a man and not God, in the hands of those who wound you?” (28:8-9) “I have brought fire from the midst of you; it has consumed you, and I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the eyes of all who see you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have become terrified and you will cease to be forever.” (28:18b-19)

HE IS THE LORD! He proves Himself as King of Kings and LORD of Lords over all these petty deities of the land. The warfare He waged against Canaan was very spiritual, more spiritual than we westerners can easily wrap our minds around. We get hung up on the war and worrying if righteous were swept away with the unrighteous. The LORD goes out of His way to let us know that He knows how to save righteous people and, trust Him, they were a minority.

This brings to mind the story in Matthew 15:21-28 when a Canaanite woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon came after Jesus, begging for mercy on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter. This is the lady Jesus indirectly calls a dog, and who responds with a desperate point about eating table scraps. He then praises her, saying, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” (v. 28) What a powerfully redemptive moment, so easily missed!

It’s so exciting to discover new depths to the wondrous things Jesus redeemed throughout His life. It says, “her daughter was healed at once.” Those scary Satan/demon-controlled cities were judged by the LORD, and that scary demon possessing that little girl was cast from her at once. He is the One with the power, and He is Mighty to save. He aint afraid of no cherub that got too big for his britches.

“I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.” (28:16)

Spend time worshiping the LORD, today, for His power over all spiritual forces.

-Bethany

Ezekiel 25-26 B

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because the people of Moab have said that Judah is just like all the other nations, I will open up their eastern flank and wipe out their glorious frontier towns…” 25:8-9

God doesn’t want Judah to be just like all the other nations. Judah should’ve been notably set apart and measurably different than the other nations. They should’ve been marked by fearing and knowing the LORD.

Arguably, I’m sure Judah provided Moab with plenty of material for that accusation. But also, I imagine they were happy to denounce God’s power and were gravely underestimating the holiness of the LORD.

How would someone size up your faith? Your church? Your representation of Christ?

Would you be just like everyone else? My friend Luke once said (and I believe he was quoting his pastor), if you want to know what people think of you as a Christian, ask your neighbors. It’s stuck with me for years!

I imagine this literally. My exact physical neighbors. They see me come and go, they overhear conversations. They know my family and close friends by name. They watch me parent, regularly. They stop by unannounced and know exactly what type of housekeeper I am and what’s in my fridge. Am I just like any other person to them? Is my lifestyle marked by knowing, loving and serving God?

What about yours?

-Carly

Ezekiel 23-24 B

The story of Oholah and Oholibah was never covered Sunday School. It is so graphic! As if chapter sixteen wasn’t clear enough, the LORD gives Ezekiel a further allegorical story of the sisterhood between Samaria and Jerusalem, chiefly concerning their wildly adulterous idolatry.

The anger of the LORD is palpable in this book. Ezekiel isn’t talked about much, and maybe for these reasons. The LORD is very upset. I’m reminded of chapter 4 when the LORD tells Ezekiel to cook over human excrement and he’s like, Please God, no! That was the pace being set, right there.

Ezekiel takes place during the various deportations. He is among the first deportees, and it is in Babylon that he sees the glory of the LORD. This glory, is supposed to be in Jerusalem, but, as you can remember, He tells Ezekiel why He had to leave, and show’s him the exit in chapter 10. Ezekiel’s word to his fellow man isn’t that Jerusalem will endure, but that it will fall. This is eventually announced in Ezekiel 33.

I felt it important, today, to re-orientate myself with the timeline. For whatever reason, the poetic has always been a bit much for me, and I’m always looking for somewhere to anchor myself. Thankfully, chapter 24 begins with a huge indicator:

“Son of man, write the name of the day, this very day. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day.” (24:2)

It is repeatedly mentioned in other exile-time prophets, like Jeremiah, that the people going into exile were the ones (like Ezekiel, Daniel, etc.) who still had a shred of righteousness in tact. These are among the ones Ezekiel is performing  the signs and telling the allegories. Their hope, and pride and joy is still anchored in Jerusalem and it’s temple, but it’s about to be taken from them, and they are not to mourn.

Ezekiel has seen the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD and it has arrived to them in exile. It is no longer in the place they cherished it. This would be a hard thing to understand and accept. I think of Daniel, during the time of Darius the Mede, who still prayed facing Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10) long after it’s fall. That was what Solomon had instructed them to do during the temple’s dedication.

What is something you cherish because it is so tightly associated to the LORD in your mind? What would happen if you lost that thing? I don’t think this kind of affection is bad (as long as it’s not outright idolatry, of course). It’s important to always remember where exactly to plant our feet, and where to place our hope. What is your ‘Jerusalem?’

-Bethany