Ezekiel 45-46 B

“ ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Enough, you princes of Israel! Stop your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Quit robbing and cheating my people out of their land. Stop expelling them from their homes, says the Sovereign Lord.‘” 45:9

Did you notice God’s instructions here are in favor of the people, and not the princes? It’s not about how the royals should be treated, but about how they should serve the people well.

We are all serving somebody. Maybe you’re in a position of leadership in ministry, or maybe you’re like me, being bossed around by preschoolers all day. How are you leading your people?

When I read the verses above, I’m reminded of what it looks like to display power in a godly way. It’s not about flattering your own ego and gaining control. It’s fighting for the powerless, exemplifying integrity and doing what is right.

Dang. Sometimes it’s just doing what is right. Even a simple small thing.

I know this is a SMALL scale example, but the other day I was at the store and something I hadn’t purchased was added to my bag. I didn’t notice until I pulled it out at home. I checked my receipt and it was under $2. Did that make it any more mine? No. Would this big box store notice one single item missing from their inventory that would cost them literally nothing? I doubt it.

I took it back to the store anyway. It felt like a moment to practice integrity. Admittedly, this wasn’t a very costly way to make the right choice. There’s been other decisions in my life where I did what was right and it turned my life upside down. But you have to take the little opportunities too.

Take the chances you have to do what is just and right.

-Carly

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 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 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 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 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 21-22 B

Within a chapter heavy with debauchery, we still get glimpses of God mourning the loss of relationship he has with Israel. Is he sickened by the blatant evil acts Israel is committing? Rightfully so. But I love that he also laments that Israel never even thinks of Him. (22:12)

Woven in verses about murder, rape and idolatry, he also accuses Israel of forgetting the Sabbath. I don’t know why I find this so remarkable; it’s just such a unique quality about the LORD compared to other gods. Or even leaders! He wants our hearts, not just mindless obedient robots.

Have you been under the leadership of someone who prioritizes the relational side as much as the logistical side? It’s such a gift, and as we can see in Scripture, this holistic approach is God’s approach too.

Do you think of him? Consider him when making decisions? Honor the sabbath? Align with his values of favoring the marginalized?

How do you approach your relationship with God?

-Carly

Ezekiel 17-18 B

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take a branch from the top of a tall cedar, and I will plant it on the top of Israel’s highest mountain. It will become a majestic cedar, sending forth its branches and producing seed. Birds of every sort will nest in it, finding shelter in the shade of its branches. And all the trees will know that it is I, the Lord, who cuts the tall tree down and makes the short tree grow tall. It is I who makes the green tree wither and gives the dead tree new life. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said!” 17:22-24

God has room for all of us. Birds of every sort.

This is one of my favorite ways the Old Testament alludes to the coming of Jesus. A tree that provides shade and shelter to birds of every sort. It won’t just be for Israel anymore, everyone will be able to build a nest and be safe within this tree. Maybe it’s because I’m a northwest girl, but I love the idea of a cedar tree being an analogy for the Lord!

It is I who makes the green tree wither and gives the dead tree new life.

How is God illustrating his sovereignty to you this week?

How are you responding to it?

-Carly

Ezekiel 13-14 B

I was drawn to similar parts of these chapters as Bethany was last time. It’s important and deserves a revisit!

We feel passionate about people reading the Bible themselves, because we need to let God tell us who he is. Not just your pastor. Not an author of a Bible study. These resources can be so helpful when you’re seeking to understand the Bible and stay accountable to continue studying it. I’m still so thankful for the pastor I had in college who taught the Bible verse by verse and always eagerly urged us to sift everything he was saying through God’s word and the Holy Spirit. He, very wisely, never claimed to have all the answers or be the End All of knowledge on the text he was teaching.

Who are the ‘false prophets’ in your life?

Maybe it’s a podcast, an author or a good friend. Are you relying on them to make massive decisions about God for you?

Have you ever posed as a false prophet to someone else? Maybe you spoke into a situation and used spiritual language to manipulate the situation. You weighed in when you shouldn’t have, and you put your pride above the Spirit.

A good question to stop and ask yourself is what’s motivating me when I say this information or give this advice to someone? Your ego? Or the Holy Spirit?

-Carly

Ezekiel 9-10 B

“He said to him, ‘Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.’ ” 9:4

It’s hard to navigate between loving where you live and not aligning with the sin nature of culture.

Think about where you live now. Does the city break your heart? Do you see a lot of needs needing to be met?

Or do you call it home and it’s easy to love. Maybe you often find yourself slipping into the culture around you, normalizing behavior you once abhorred.

I remember when I first lived outside of my home state. The culture kind of shocked me. Everything was fast-paced and it seemed difficult to develop intentional relationships with people. It wasn’t long before I realized how quickly I imitated the culture around me. The things they bought, the way they spent their time. The size of their TVs. I laughed about this with friends, but a sinking feeling grew in my stomach. I needed to get out of this place before I mimicked anymore of the culture I originally disliked.

How do you find the balance between living intentionally in your city, yet being horrified at the things that horrify the Lord?

-Carly