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 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 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

Ezekiel 19-20 B

Chapter twenty is yet another re-telling of Israel’s identity story, punctuated with many assertions that their tendency toward idolatry is preposterous.

It’s frustrating how this chapter starts with Israel’s elders coming to Ezekiel for the Word from the LORD (20:1), and when He clearly spells it out they say, “Oh, he’s just speaking parables.” (20:49) NO! Not parables, ya ding dongs!

Does this make it funny, then, that Jesus shows up like, “You want parables? I’ll give you parables.” Maybe that’s not the connection I should be making.

More often, I see the people of God side-eyeing the Old Testament like an outdated, irrelevant story, full of parables and cautionary tales for another audience. But as Carly pointed out last time, their literally obedience would have meant life. Our obedience now still brings life.

We have to take any and all idolatry seriously.

“When you offer your gifts, when you cause you sons to pass through the fire, you are defiling yourselves with all you idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of be you, O house of Israel? As I live,” declares the LORD God, “I will not be inquired of by you. What comes to your mind will not come about, when you say: ‘We will be like the nations like the tribes of the land, serving wood and stone.'” (20:31-32)

When it seems fine to idolize things/people like your neighbors do, just keep in mind that it will massively hinder your prayer life. We cannot combine or replace Him with anything or anyone. He doesn’t share His glory, He doesn’t neatly fit our molds. He is the LORD God and there is no other.

We can’t keep schluffing off His word like it’s an Aesop Fable. What’s something you tend to minimize about the LORD in order to justify disobedience? Yikes. This is a big question we all need to get real about from time to time. He is, of course, merciful, forgiving and restoring–so it’s not the end of the world (yet)–but why hinder our prayer lives and relationship with Him? Ask Him about this today.

-Bethany

Ezekiel 15-16 B

Chapter sixteen is poetically and thoroughly appalling. It both needs no added commentary and could also be the subject of extensive study. There is no room to guess the LORD’s intent or meaning; He is devastatingly clear.

While this is a poetic, historical recounting of events, I will hone in on a few points that could be applicable to us still.

She repurposed all the gifts from the LORD for her own glory and exploitation. Her beauty was because of His splendor (16:14), and she defiled it. This along with all wealth, jewelry, clothes and food were turned around to either promote herself of chase after another lover.

How do we steward our gifts from the LORD? Do we spend them on ourselves, fueling our own egos? Do we use them to bribe others to love us?

Her atrocities out-performed Samaria and Sodom. (16:51) While both those places seem worse, due to their lack of redeemable moments, they are considered better, because of the sheer volume of blessing Judah turned into horror.

It’s my observed opinion that we are not graded on a curve, but more held accountable for what we do with what we know and have. How are we taking seriously our positions of blessing? Does this make us more casual with the LORD, or more reverent?

This line is gut wrenching:

“Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire.” (16:20-21)

The LORD had loved enough to have His heart broken. He doesn’t hold back and somehow He continues to fight for redemption and restoration, which brings us to the conclusion.

He remembers and remains faithful to His covenant promises. (16:60) I’ve always been struck by the mental picture I have of the LORD redeeming His bride: Her covering her mouth as He says, “we’re not going to mention this again”.

The banner of her will be love, not the horrific saga of her shame. This should evoke some serious awe-inspired worship. I’m left with an undebatable, yet nuanced, understanding of what it means to fear the LORD, and why it’s the beginning of wisdom.

What emotions does this chapter drudge up for you today? Which part struck you most? What do you need to repent of, and leave behind, today?

-Bethany

Ezekiel 11-12 B

“Son of man, what is this proverb you people have concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days are long and every vision fails’? Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “I will make this proverb cease so that they will no longer use it as a proverb in Israel.” But tell them, “The days draw near as well as the fulfillment of every vision.” (12:22-23)

It’s easy to fall into the comfortable complacencies about being immune to things as if nothing has an end. Even though, history tells us: everything ends.

Some have started to wonder how much longer the hay day the United States will last. Every empire falls. Maybe we don’t have the same saying about long days and failing visions, but we do like to sing: “O say does that star spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

When that happens, what will remain for you? Israel felt indestructible, because they thought the LORD’s favor was unconditional. While the fall of Jerusalem wasn’t the end of the LORD’s covenant, it did demonstrate His discipline, and underline what was permanent and what was dependent on them.

He has always been with His people. He has always been clear. Deuteronomy told them this would happen if they chose disobedience. He never abandons, but He does discipline and allow us to feel our consequences.

Do you confuse these two? Do you feel like the presence of the LORD in your life gives you license to live carelessly? Spend some time today remembering what truly is unconditional and what is conditional. Is there some thing in your walk that needs adjusting?

-Bethany

Ezekiel 7-8 B

“Thus they will know that I am the LORD.” (7:27)

This is my summary statement for chapter seven, and this would be my summary of chapter eight:

“Yet you will see still greater abominations.” (8:6)

It’s pure madness that the LORD would repeatedly make Himself abundantly clear, then His people would turn away from Him to worship something lessor of purely from their own imaginations. Yet this is the classic tale of human history.

More than half the current population of the world is either Christian or Muslim. These two religions are based on the notion that the God of Abraham is the One True God and He is for all peoples, not just the Jews. (Granted, much of this is national/cultural identity and there’s a very unfortunate history of war we’re all painfully aware of).

Beyond these major world religions are still more that recognize a Creator God. This brings to mind Romans 1:20.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

On some level, at some point in everyone’s lives, the idea of a Creator has probably crossed every human mind. While other things have tried to claim to be that, the LORD has made Himself known.

That first phrase, summarizing chapter seven, appears in some form all throughout Scripture. He has been trying to teach us about Himself from the beginning.

But then the summary of eight: There’s no end to our habitual worship of other things; the abomination of putting something or someone else in His Place.

We are all guilty of idolatry, whether we come from an Abrahamic religion or not. Our perpetual draw towards worshiping lessor things has nothing to do with logic. He continues to make Himself known.

It’s a good practice to regularly evaluate idolatrous tendencies. What do our actions reveal about our root beliefs? I must maintain a humility about my ability to idolize false things, just like everyone who has ever lived.

Collective human history is a mixture of creative achievement and devastating atrocity. There’s much to celebrate, but still more to be sober-minded and humble about.

Take time to humbly ask the LORD about your idolatrous tendencies. His relentless pursuit of our sanctification is proof that He is Who He says He is, and He is worthy of all our praise.

-Bethany