September 13, 2017 Bible Study — God’s Love Brings Life To Everything It Touches

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 46-48.

    I do not know what to make of today’s passage. It contains instructions concerning the rituals and laws to be observed when the new Temple is built, a few further dimensions of construction in the Temple compound, a different division of the land from that given in the Pentateuch, and a description of a river which will originate at the Temple. The river which Ezekiel describes in this passage is the part which I want to focus on. I am going to treat the river as a metaphor for God’s love. The river starts in the presence of God as a shallow stream. As it flows away from God it gets deeper and wider. As the river flowed its waters gave life to all around it, but not just life. The river nourished trees, which provided nourishment for people. The river flowed into the Dead Sea and made it live. As God’s love flows out from Him it encounters others, who are inspired by God’s love to love others. Love is one of those things which the more we express it, the more there is to express. When love pours into our lives it opens up wellsprings within us which flows out into the world around us. Eventually it pours into the nastiest, deadest place you can imagine and brings life even there. God’s Love transforms everything it touches. Let us drink from the stream of God’s love so that it can revive us and then burst forth from us as an even larger stream bringing life to all around us.

September 12, 2017 Bible Study — Choosing Godly People To Manage Our Ministries

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 44-45.

    Today’s passage contains a lot that I do not know what to do with, but I did come across a clear warning for us today, and instructions on how to avoid the issue. Ezekiel condemns the people of Israel for bringing uncircumcised people into the Temple. However, the key problem was not that they were uncircumcised, it was that they did not have any real interest in serving God at all. Further, the problem was not so much that they had brought such people into the Temple. The failing was that they had hired such people to manage the Temple. The way I read this, it is a warning against hiring people who do not share our trust and belief in Christ to manage our ministries. If we hope for the organizations we create and the ministries we enter into to serve God we must make sure that those we hire to manage and run them are also dedicated to serving God.

September 11, 2017 Bible Study — The Temple In the Restored Jerusalem

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 41-43.

    In today’s passage Ezekiel continues with giving a description, including detailed dimensions, of the Temple he saw in his vision. In his vision this was the Temple which would be built after God restored the people of Israel. Every time I read this passage I find myself wondering what the significance of these dimensions is. What does it matter how thick the walls are? Or how many rooms line the outside of the Temple? The most meaningful part of the passage for me is Ezekiel’s description of the glory of the Lord returning to the Temple. It is a sort of reverse of his earlier vision of the glory of the Lord leaving the Temple. God tells Ezekiel that when this Temple is built, the people of Israel will never again worship other gods but will faithfully keep God’s commands. That makes me wonder if this is purely metaphorical. However, the detailed description of the Temple suggests that it is not metaphorical. Perhaps one of these years the Holy Spirit will give me greater insight into this passage.

September 10, 2017 Bible Study — Gog, The Land of Magog, Meschech, and Tubal

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 38-40.

    Chapter 38 was part of the reading I did two days ago (it was supposed to be yesterday). However, I did not write about it because Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones took up my time. So, I am going to include it in today’s blog. The first thing I want to mention is that Ezekiel is prophesying this as something which will happen in the far future. Most of the other prophecies in the Old Testament were perceived by the prophet as being in the near future; happening inside the next hundred years. I am not sure that they were all fulfilled in that time frame, but the prophet who prophesied them expected most of them to be. Another thing I want to mention is the locations to which Ezekiel would have been referring. Meschech and Tubal were in what is now Turkey, while the location of the Land of Magog is less clear. The Land of Magog may also have been in Turkey, although that is less clear.

    If the above understanding of the prophecy is correct, then it has not yet been fulfilled. Now I am going to do something I usually avoid because it tends to lead to bad theology, but I cannot help myself today. Looking at current world politics I could easily see something like what Ezekiel prophesied happening in the near future (there is currently one “glitch” in this which I will point out shortly). If this prophecy were to be fulfilled in my lifetime it would involve Turkey leading an alliance of themselves, Iran (Persia), Libya, and Ethiopia. This alliance might include some of the Muslim majority former Soviet Republics (Gomer and Beth-togarmah might be other parts of what is now Turkey, or they might be areas which are some of the southern former Soviet Republics). The only part of such an alliance which seems improbable in the current political landscape is Ethiopia. One can even see countries of the Arabian peninsula (Sheba and Dedan could easily be the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) demurring from the alliance and questioning its chances of success. All of that being said, if such an invasion takes place, it will be a total failure.

September 9, 2017 Bible Study — A Warning To Spiritual Leaders…And To The Rest Of Us As Well

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 34-36.

    OK, so yesterday I accidentally skipped this passage. The passage I did yesterday was supposed to be for today, and vice versa. However, I think I am in a better state of mind for this one today than I was yesterday. The passage starts out with a rebuke to the spiritual leaders of Ezekiel’s day; one which applies to many today. The passage starts out with condemnation of those who make their living as spiritual leaders who fail to care for those who supply their living. It is particularly aimed at those spiritual leaders who live well. In a way we should take the list of things they are condemned for not doing as a set of instructions. We should care for the weak, tend the sick, bind up the wounds of the injured, and seek the lost. The line which really struck my from this is “They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them.” That reads to me like a not so subtle hint for each and everyone of us. Have you looked for God’s lost sheep? Have you at least checked in your backyard?

    The beginning of this passage is addressed to spiritual leaders, particularly those who make their living that way. However, Ezekiel soon segues into addressing everyone. You may not be just one of the flock, but were you responsible for driving out into the wilderness one of those lost for whom God is searching? Even if we are not spiritual leaders we can give those whose faith is weaker than ours the impression that they are not good enough to be one of God’s sheep, that they are not good enough to graze in this pasture. Instead of pushing aside and out the spiritually sick and hungry, let us surround them and protect them from the predators waiting for them. Let us encourage them to eat the choice spiritual food while we take the attacks from the predators who wish to prey on them. God may not have given us the gifts to guide them to the pasture He has provided for them, but we can at least stand between them and those who wish them harm.

September 8, 2017 Bible Study — What The Valley Of Dry Bones Teaches Us

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 37-38.

    Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is a powerful message. As I read it I saw two important messages for us. First I want to set the stage. In his vision, Ezekiel is taken to a valley full of human bones which are scattered about. They are not arranged as skeletons and they are completely dried out. There is no flesh left on them at all, not even connective tissue. Then God asks him if these bones can once more become living people. And here is where we learn the first lesson. The obvious answer is “No”. That is even the answer which we would think God was expecting. However, Ezekiel does not give that answer. Instead, he replies that God alone knows the answer to that question. You could view this as avoiding the question, but that is not what Ezekiel was doing here. Ezekiel was open to the possibility of God bringing life to these bones. He recognized that if God wanted to bring these bones back to life He could and would do so. Would we have been open to the possibility of God bringing life to those dry bones? How often do we throw up our hands and walk away from the “dry bones”?

    This brings me to the second message I see in this passage: with God nothing is truly dead if He wants it to live. When God gave Ezekiel the message to preach to the dry bones, he did so. Ezekiel preached God’s message that He was going to bring these bones back to life and the bones from each skeleton came together from where they were scattered throughout the valley, muscle and flesh formed over the bones, and skin formed over the flesh. However, that was not enough. The bodies which had formed at the prophetic words spoken by Ezekiel still did not live. So, God gave him a second message to speak. It was only after the second message that the bodies formed from the dry bones came to life. And this leads to a follow up to the question I asked at the end of the first paragraph; Do we keep on preaching God’s word when the bodies form, but do not come to life? We need to be persistent in preaching God’s life giving message. And just now I saw another related mistake we sometimes make. What if Ezekiel had said, “Well, the bones formed into bodies. They may not be alive, but that’s an improvement. I’ll just leave well enough alone.” It is not enough for people to change away from the worst of their sinful behavior. We need to keep preaching to them until the Holy Spirit breathes Life into them.

September 7, 2017 Bible Study — Condemn Sin Out of Love for the Sinner

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 32-33.

    Ezekiel was called to be a watchman for the people of Israel. In the same way many of us are called to be watchmen today. In that role we are called to warn the wicked to turn from their wicked ways. If we are so called it is important to remember the important part of this passage. God takes no pleasure in the deaths of the wicked. Rather, He desires that they turn from their wicked ways and live. When we call out the wicked for their sins, our purpose is not to show that we are better than they, or to make the righteous feel good about themselves. Our purpose should be to convince the wicked to turn from their self destructive behavior and do what is in their own true interest. We need to remember that if the righteous turn to sin they will receive the same judgment as the wicked and if the wicked turn from their sin God will forgive them. I want to reiterate that the motivating factor in warning against sin should be love of the sinner, not a desire to see them punished. We do not show love for others by pretending that their self destructive behavior (sin often harms others, but it always harms the sinner) will not harm them.

September 6, 2017 Bible Study — Do Not Take Credit For the Gifts Which God Has Given You

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 29-31.

    The Pharaoh and the people of Egypt thought that they were gods, that they had made themselves great. Ancient Egypt’s power and wealth came from its position along the Nile. The people of Egypt had become so content in the position of power and wealth which resulted from their location that they believed that they had created it for themselves. They failed to acknowledge that their wealth and power were, in part, the result of things over which they had no control. They were guilty of the same hubris of which Ezekiel accused the King of Tyre; they thought they were gods. Reading this, it is easy to see how the people of the United States can fall into the same error. Egypt was a land with natural defenses and with resources to rise to power. The United States has similar advantages. In both cases, these natural features did not automatically make the nations powerful and wealthy. It required the people to make the most of the assets they were given. However, in both cases the temptation to take credit for the gifts which God gave them was/is great and many people have fallen into that temptation.

September 5, 2017 Bible Study — No Amount of Wealth, Power, Or Even Wisdom Will Allow You To Escape the Consequences of Sin

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 27-28.

    In today’s passage Ezekiel speaks of Tyre’s coming destruction. He speaks of how Tyre rose to great wealth through doing what was right. That wealth led to power, with people from all over the world coming to Tyre to make their fortune and to defend the nation. However, once Tyre became wealthy and powerful, the people of Tyre became enamored of splendor and luxuries. They thought they had risen above being held accountable for their actions and began to use their wealth and power to accumulate more wealth and power. They stopped relying on fair trades to gather wealth and began taking advantage of others. Other nations no longer felt like they got as good as they got in trade with Tyre. So, when Tyre was threatened they did not come to Tyre’s defense. Tyre paid the price for thinking they were smarter and wiser than everyone else (even than God). What happened to Tyre can happen to the United States. If the people of the United States oppress others they will eventually face the destruction which every other nation which has done that has experienced. No amount of wealth or power, or even wisdom and knowledge, will save them from that end.

September 4, 2017 Bible Study

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Ezekiel 24-26.

    When I read how God told Ezekiel that his wife was about to die and he was not allowed to mourn her death. It is hard for me to imagine being told that my wife was about to die, that I was not allowed to mourn for her, AND I was to use this as a message to people. But that is what happened to Ezekiel. God told Ezekiel to do this to communicate to the people of Jerusalem that when Jerusalem fell they would not time, energy, or ability to mourn for their loved ones who had died.

    The passage concludes with a warning to Judah’s neighbors against the epicaricacy (the English word I was told did not exist when I first heard the word “schadenfreude”) they were experiencing over the fall of Jerusalem. The destruction which came to Jerusalem was going to come upon them as well. As we see in the world today, chaos and war are not limited to a single nation. When people begin to make war it is rarely limited in scope. The chaos and violence tend to spread to surrounding countries, sometimes spreading to countries that are far distant to the ones first engulfed.

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