I HATE to tell you this, but last year was the FIRST time I had ever read the book of Ezekiel completely through!! So…now you know <<<smile>>>!! Sure I had read scriptures or possibly even a chapter or two, but last year really opened my eyes to what this prophet had to say.
The author is The Prophet Ezekiel and it was most likely written between 593-565 B.C., during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. He was a contemporary of both Jeremiah (on the outside of the captivity) and Daniel (on the inside of the captivity.)
Ezekiel’s book can be divided into four sections:
Chapters 1-24: prophecies on the ruin of Jerusalem
Chapters 25-32: prophecies of God’s judgment on nearby nations
Chapter 33: a last call for repentance to Israel
Chapters 34-48: prophecies concerning the future restoration of Israel
Since we will be spending the next 2 weeks with Ezekiel, here is a little background on what Ezekiel was dealing with incase you are just now jumping in (and if you are WELCOME!!) We read about three attacks on Jerusalem that brought all of Judah under Babylonian control. There were 3 distinct moments where they were invaded and taken into captivity. We read about them from the perspective of Jeremiah, who was in Jerusalem to see all 3 events over the course of 40 years. Now we will read about Jerusalem/Judah’s captivity from the INSIDE, from a first person perspective.
King Josiah of Judah was was a good king of Judah. The Book of the Law was found in the temple, when he was having it restored. (I Know…the bells are beginning to go off in your head…”oh yeah..I remember him!!”) He read The Book of the Law and wept when he saw how far away from The Lord his country had grown. He began a reformation, and people began to walk in the ways of the Lord; celebrating Passover, worshipping in the Temple, following the Commandments. Nothing good lasts forever and Josiah was no different. He was killed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo. Four years later Neco was then defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, leaving Babylon as the world power.
Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years and had contemporaries ready to follow in his footsteps. Ezekiel was about 18 yrs old when Nebuchadnezzar took the first group of captives. Among that first group was a familiar name, Daniel. Daniel was exiled at the age of 15 (with his friends Hananuah, Mishael, and Azariah…..you’ll recognize the names that King Nebuchadnezzar gave these three when we get to that part!!), while his friend Ezekiel was left behind. During this time Jeremiah was bringing the message to the people to repent…but they did not.
Keep in mind that Ezekiel and Jeremiah were working with the same generation. That generation was not only exceedingly sinful but thoroughly hopeless (ummmm…guess you could say they were bad to bone!!) By means of his prophetic ministry he attempted to bring them to immediate repentance and to confidence in the distant future. For 10 years, life continued the same, Judah continued to sin. Then King Johoiakim, king of Judah, rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and he died. Jehoiachin became king and once again Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem this time taking 10,000 captive, and among them was Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a few years away from becoming a priest (age 30 eligibility). When he turned 30, Ezekiel had a vision! (nope nope nope…not gonna tell you what his vision was….can’t spoil the story <<<smile>>>>).
Ezekiel was uprooted from his homeland in the 2nd Babylon attack at age 25. He was marched off to Babylon and held in captivity. For five years he languished in despair. Then at age thirty a majestic vision of Yahweh’s glory captivated his being while in Babylon. The priest/prophet discovered God was not confined to the narrow structures of Ezekiel’s native land; but HE was/is a universal God who commands and controls persons and nations. In Babylon, God imparted to Ezekiel His Word for the people. This vision from God transformed Ezekiel. He became avidly devoted to God’s Word. He realized he had nothing personally to assist the captives in their bitter situation, but he was convinced God’s Word spoke to their condition and could give them victory in the midst of their circumstances. Ezekiel used various methods to convey God’s Word to his people — things such as art in drawing a depiction of Jerusalem, symbolic actions and unusual conduct to secure attention, and he cut his hair and beard as a demonstration.
In the time frame Ezekiel was written, we have three living prophets:
JEREMIAH — was in Jerusalem with the Jews during all three stages of the exile, prophesying, preaching, and warning them to repent.
EZEKIEL– lived with the exiles in Babylon, bringing them a message of hope.
DANEL–well…. God placed Daniel to live with the Rulers in the court.
During this time frame, other evil nations were wiped out by the Lord. Jerusalem, however was not, but most of the Judeans were in captivity. There is a HUGE difference between the two scenarios. The difference is significant, God disciplines those HE loves. His discipline/punishment (not always the same thing). By placing HIS people in captivity, through their punishment HIS desire was that they would come to know HIM. And they did.
A key verse is from this Book is Ezekiel 33:11, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'”
We will find in Ezekiel 34 that God denounces the leaders of Israel as FALSE shepherds because they were self centered and cared ONLY about themselves rather than taking good care of the people, HIS people (Ezekiel 34:1-3.) By contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep and who protects them from the wolves who would destroy the flock (John 10:11-12). In chapter 34 these leaders of Israel, Israel’s shepherds failed to see the importance of ministering to the weak, sick, injured, and lost. BUT the good news is that Jesus is our GREAT Physician who heals our spiritual wounds (Isaiah 53:5) by His death on the cross. He is the one who seeks and saves that which is lost (Luke 19:10).
Sharing HIS love,
Click here for today’s reading: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Lamentations%203:37-66;%20Lamentations%204-5&version=NIV
Another challenging read, but God has placed treasures within our reading today.
Chapter 3: 37-42 “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Why should the living complain when punished for their sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: “We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.”
Let us examine our ways and return to The Lord. Jeremiah was written at least 500 years before Jesus Christ came, and yet the message is the same today as it was then…..examine our ways and return to The Lord. YES there is a major difference on this side of the Cross in that we are under the NEW Covenant, the UNCONDITIONAL covenant, and under God’s GRACE and NOT the law. However, our part on this side of the Cross is that we still must respond to God and TURN BACK to HIM by making HIM our Lord and Savior. God DOES KNOCK. HE does pursue us. BUT…the CHOICE is STILL ours to TURN BACK To HIM. We, like Judah, also have the choice to “examine our ways and return to The Lord….” right????
Jeremiah’s prophesies and expressions of lament due to the situation his nation was in were of course intended for Jerusalem who had now fallen into captivity and exile. However, read closely because his words are also intended for us TODAY…look around you at our nation and world economy, natural disasters happening in record numbers back to back with little to no recovery time, the global threat of war, the fastest growing religion is Islam (turning away from the one true GOD,), terrorism, Syria, Iran, Kenya, the state of health care in our country, starvation, young women being sold into slavery (all ages, all races, all sizes, all shapes), and the list could go on for pages. However, I’ll just stop here and say….listen to your local news, the national news, and the global news…..is our world now showing the birth pangs of a woman in labor (as the Bible talks about in the end times) preparing us for the second coming of The Lord? There really is no doubt that The Lord is speaking to us today.
I don’t say this to cause fear. God tells us MANY times in HIS Word…. “Fear NOT” and “Be anxious for NOTHING.” I share it because it is HIS Word and we all must do our part to be ready for the 2nd coming of the Messiah. Sometimes our part may be returning to The Lord. Sometimes it may be asking HIM to be Your Comforter, Savior, Redeemer, Lord, Refuge, Shepherd, and MORE….for the first time in your life. Sometimes our part may be to pray for REVIVAL in our nation, for our leaders, or be one of God’s prayer warriors for those who can’t find the words to pray for themselves….or for those who don’t know HIM yet. But as we live here in 2013…. we have a great responsibility to PRAY to HIM for everything HE places on our hearts. God LOVES to hear from HIS children.
As I read about Jeremiah remembering his people trying to kill him and throwing him in the cistern where he could have died. His world had caved in on him. He was sinking in the mud and could have drowned. Boy…have I felt the same way he described!! And, I bet you have felt that way as well. And just as Jeremiah called out to The Lord to save HIM….we can do the same.
In all the devastation,Jeremiah STILL turned to The Lord….. we end today’s reading with: “YOU, Lord, reign forever; your throne ENDURES from generation to generation…. RESTORE us to yourself Lord, that we may return; RENEW our days of old…”
On this side of the Cross….we have been restored and renewed because of Jesus Christ but we each must guard our hearts, read the Word, pray to our Abba Father, and enjoy a close relationship with HIM….every day….every moment. I praise God that because of Jesus Christ…. I am a new creation!! CLING to HIM and the treasures in HIS Word….I know I am.
Today we complete another Book of the Bible!!! AWWWWEEEESSSOMMMEEE!!!!!
Sharing HIS love,
Click here for today’s reading http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Lamentations%201-3:36&version=NIV;NLT
This is some tough reading. Jerusalem is spoken of as a woman and in the first portion “she” is like a widow….alone….no one to help her….unable to feed her children….poor….hurting….devastated. An entire nation that had once been strong, powerful, wealthy, no lack of food or shelter…..and now….now “she” is destroyed. She could have TURNED BACK to The Lord but she CHOSE NOT to. In 2:3 we read: ” In fierce anger he has cut off every horn of Israel. HE HAS WITHDRAWN HIS RIGHT HAND AT THE APPROACH OF THE ENEMY. He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire that consumes everything around it.” God REMOVED HIS PROTECTION from HIS CHOSEN people because they REFUSED to LISTEN and OBEY. Jeremiah saw most if not all the prophecies come to pass that he had spoken on behalf of The Lord. No one listened….no one wanted to hear…..they only wanted to hear the good things the false prophets had to say. OH MY!! Jeremiah not only saw the destruction, captivity, and exile…he saw what it was like in Babylon and what it was like to return to his homeland fully devastated. I would have been crying with him….not just for what I saw but for the people I loved who were gone. Jeremiah had experienced the prophesies coming through him, and THEN he saw them happen and YET……….he remained so loyal and devoted to The Lord.
Look at what he said in 3:22-24: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his COMPASSIONS (mercies) NEVER FAIL. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” After ALL Jeremiah has seen and been through, there is STILL HOPE….HOPE that God’s mercies are new every morning…..HOPE in his DECISION….his personal CHOICE to WAIT for HIM!!
Today I was driving home from the doctor and started thinking about Jeremiah. Jeremiah spent 40 years prophesying…40 years….he CHOSE to return to Jerusalem to STILL continue prophesying for The Lord, living among the poor, and the people who hated him. I was wondering where he may have slept….maybe a cave…maybe just out in the open air….no pillow…no new clothes to change into….no new shoes….and no guarantee that he would have food to eat due to the devastation. YET….he says what comes out in verses 22-24. WOW!! It certainly put things into perspective in my day!! HOW ABOUT YOU??
I pray for each of you reading today that you are aware of at least two things—first— that HIS people brought all of this on themselves….ALL of it. Second—I pray you are equally aware of God’s faithfulness, HIS compassion, HIS mercies, HIS love. Our OWN disobedience, always has consequences. As believers, we have a most gracious God who desires to forgive us when we acknowledge our sin, ask forgiveness, and repent. However,forgiveness does not cancel out the consequences. When we step outside of God’s perfect plan for us…we grieve HIM. Judah/Jerusalem’s refusal to TURN BACK to HIM grieved HIM. HE was also grieved as they were taken captive. Discipling those HE loves is what any good parent would do but I believe HE does it with tears in HIS eyes and heart.
If this reading was as hard for you as it was for me….remember that HIS mercies are NEW every morning…HE NEVER fails…He is full of love…..The Lord is my portion.. I WILL wait for HIM.
Sharing HIS love,