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

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 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