Jesus (formerly) of Nazareth

The Word for today:
Ezekiel 18, 19

mark this: Ezekiel 18:1-4
The Lord spoke to me and said, “What is this proverb people keep repeating in the land of Israel?–
‘The parents ate the sour grapes, But the children got the sour taste.’
“As surely as I am the living God,” says the Sovereign Lord, “you will not repeat this proverb in Israel any more.
The life of every person belongs to me, the life of the parent as well as that of the child. The person who sins is the one who will die.”

 

Ezekiel stressed his themes of sin, judgment, and restoration not only for the nation but also for the individual–a unique emphasis for his day.

When people complained that they were suffering because of their fathers’ sins, Ezekiel countered by stressing individual sin and judgment, individual righteousness and salvation.  This individual emphasis anticipates the New Testament, where each individual is responsible to make a personal decision for Christ.

Ezekiel taught that we are not held under the sway of precedent influences.  You are not required to follow your father into sin, your mother into a bloodless social religion, your girlfriend into sex, your roomate into moral indifference, or your culture into mind-numbing inanity. And you are not required to agree with your professor’s outlook on anything.

You owe them nothing. If you want to develop some spiritual muscle, begin today.  Pick an ungodly or antichrist influence and rebel against it.  Sever the ties you must. Kick your culture to the curb. Inform peers that you’re a peer no longer. And as you turn to leave, don’t thank them for the memories.

***

It might surprise you to know the names of the two greatest rebels in your Bible.

We romanticize Cain as the rebel when, in fact, he was the ultimate Mama’s boy. He tried to approach God on his own terms, just like Mommy Eve had done.

The only rebel in the family was Abel. He faced down everyone in his family in order to come to God in the way God prescribed.

Abel rebelled against everyone; while Cain–as acquiescent as Adam–took Mommy’s way, rebelling against no one. You tell me who the rebel was.

***

Some romanticize Satan as a rebel. He wasn’t a rebel at all. He was prisoner to his own pride.

Jesus Christ at a young age told his family that he must be about his Father’s business. He didn’t mean carpentry. Just before his Father indicated that it was time to make his way from Nazareth to Golgotha, he (like Abel before him) curtly cut the apron strings:
“Woman, what have you to do with me?”  (1)

If any of your associations or influences compromise your relationship with Christ, then take his advice:
Shake the dust off your feet; (2)
Let the dead bury their dead; (3)
and never look back, (4)
because he who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (5)

On the other hand, if your father, mother, church, or friend have shown you the way to God, then you are to honor them with your whole heart.

***

I’ve said many goodbyes in order to be about my Father’s business. I’ve cut many ties in order to navigate the way from my own Nazareth to the cross;  and then to show others the way out of Nazareths of their own.

There’s a lot of dust you’ll be leaving behind, and a lot of funerals you’ll be missing. Because, you see, you are one in Spirit now with the arch-rebel of all time.  Like him, in the long run, you will–you must–rebel against everything but God.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?  Yes, but first you have to get out.

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(1) John 2:4; (2) Matthew 10:14; (3) Luke 9:60; (4) Luke 9:62; (5) Matthew 10:37

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To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

The Word for today:
Ezekiel 17

God always had something up his sleeve.

At the end of Ezekiel chapter 16, God tells us that he will cleanse and restore his unfaithful wife (Jerusalem).

She had broken the marriage covenant (referring to the Ten Commandments, which Israel had agreed to obey) but God would make an everlasting covenant with her, one that could not be broken:
I will establish an everlasting covenant with you…when I make atonement for you for all you have done. (See Ezekiel 16:60-63.)

This is the new covenant, which we previously read about in Jeremiah 31:31-32:
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.

***

God, in the act of salvation, is pictured with his sleeve rolled up, ready to work and fight for our lives:
The LORD will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.
 (Isaiah 52:10)

What God had up his sleeve, ready to trump our failure and sin, was Jesus:
“This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20)

Jesus had always been God’s plan, but God waited until just the right time to roll up his sleeve and reveal his ‘Ace’–
He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (1 Peter 1:20)
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 
(Isaiah 53:1)

When the time arrived, the first person to whom the arm of the LORD was revealed was, of course, his mother:
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.”
 (1)

***

To whom, then, has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He was revealed as a Word to Isaiah, to Jeremiah, and to Ezekiel. That Word became flesh in Mary’s arms. His flesh, torn, yielded the blood of the new covenant:
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time,” says the Lord…
a new and living way opened through the curtain, that is, his body.
 (2)

Anyone who has turned to the cross of Jesus Christ has seen the salvation of the LORD.

But until you turn to the cross, you’ve hidden the arm of the LORD behind your back.

****************
(1) excerpted from Luke 1:46-53; (2) excerpted from Hebrews 10:16-20

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every word: how blunt truth turned an S.O.B. into a son of God

The Word for today:
Ezekiel 16

Shelley wondered the other day whether we should warn some of our young, impressionable readers about some very graphic anatomical descriptions which we will encounter in Ezekiel.

I replied with the standard line: “Nothing they haven’t heard on the school bus already.”

We don’t need to warn people about God’s Word, when God’s Word is the warning the people need! We have to expose our young readers to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (1).  No less an authority than Jesus Christ said so.

The graphic anatomy encountered in Ezekiel is nothing compared to the scathing denunciations we hear:
Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite (Ezekiel 16:3).
I’ve never been called a son of an Amorite or Hittite, but on numerous occasions I’ve been called a son of something else. Same difference.

Should such language be in the Bible? I refer you to that well-known authority, Jesus Christ, who once informed the people that their father wasn’t God at all but the murdering and lying Satan:
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

I think I’d rather be called a son of an Amorite than a son of that.

Your Bible has some harsh things to say, things that you’ll never hear in church, among the ‘proper’ people there. Because many a smiling preacher, more concerned for his popularity than the truth, hasn’t got the backbone to look sin in the eye and call it exactly what it is.

The greatest indictment of the biblical false prophet is this oft-repeated line:
They will say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace (2).

I grew up with the secular “Peace, peace” crowd. They had no explanation for the world as I knew it to be. They told me I was OK, and that they were OK. But we were not OK.

After dumping the “Peace, peace” crowd, I spent some time with the religious “Lord, Lord” crowd. They were as clueless and insipid as their secular counterparts. They didn’t know Jesus, ’cause he didn’t know them:
“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you.’ ” 
(Matthew 7:22-23)

I never met anybody who truly knew what was going on in my heart and in this world until I read the book of Matthew. I remember my eyes growing wide with wonder, shock and awe as I read this point-blank assessment of me and my vaunted generation:
From within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. (Mark 7:21-22)
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I bear with you?” (Matthew 17:17)

I–son of an Amorite, son of Satan, and (so I’ve been told) son of your dog Lulu–had finally met someone who knew. Not only that, but he cared enough to speak harsh words of truth.

We live by his every word. Never withhold even one of them. Even if the bus driver objects.

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(1) Matthew 4:4; (2) Jeremiah 6:14; Ezekiel 13:10

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Then you shall know that I am the LORD.

The Word for today:
Ezekiel 14-15

mark this: Ezekiel 14:8b
“Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”

Want to live life as it was meant to be lived? If you do, then here’s how to do it: Stand in the Rain every day.

“Stand in the Rain,” an image borrowed from Isaiah 55:10-11, means to let the Word of God fulfill its purpose in your life.

So what is the purpose of the Bible? The purpose of the Bible is to know God. Not only is that the purpose of the Bible, it’s the purpose of existence! Being the purpose of the Bible and the purpose of existence, it’s not surprising that knowing God is also the theme of Ezekiel.

The expression “Then they will know that I am the LORD” (and variations of it) occurs 70 times in the book of Ezekiel (which is near the middle of your Bible).

Near the beginning of your Bible is the book of Exodus. Typing Ezekiel’s thematic phrase into my electronic concordance, I found out that “Then they will know that I am the LORD” appears in Exodus 6:7; 7:5, 17; 8:10,22; 10:2; 14:4,18; 16:6, 8, 12; 29:46; 31:13.

The gospels are near the end of the Bible. John 20:31 tells us that the gospels (and by inference the entire Bible) were written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

“That you may have life” might just as well be written “that you may know God”–because they mean the same thing. The Bible defines life itself as a relationship with God. (Conversely, “death” in scripture doesn’t mean you stop breathing. It means you are separated from God.)

So Bible reading (getting to know God) is nothing short of life itself.

If you really want to be alive, don’t miss a day in the “rain.”

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What are you doing?

(written by Vickie)

The Word for today: Ezekiel 12 & 13

mark this verse: Ezekiel 12:2
“…They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear for they are a rebellious people.”

The witnesses could not give an account of the story that unfolded before their eyes. They were unable to hear over the dialogue in their own ears, they were unable to see because of the illusions that played out in their mind’s eye. Being vaguely aware that something wasn’t quite right, that something didn’t sync in their perceptions, they chose to turn all the more vehemently toward the illusion and familiar voices.

Ezekiel spoke the vision the LORD had given for His remnant but they could not understand. Israel didn’t have a sensory deficiency, they had a heart problem.

Again, Israel doesn’t get it. God calls them, once again, a “rebellious people.” I love the persistent father love of the LORD. He never gives up in extending Himself to restore the broken relationship with His children.

So, God invites them all to a theatrical presentation.

Ezekiel, in a solo performance, executed a drama according to God’s specific instructions. He played his role perfectly while Israel watched. All day, before a reluctant audience he acted out his part, revealing God’s message. A day long performance while Israel looked on, questioning, “What are you doing?”

I know that question too. Many times I have looked up to the heavens and asked, “What are you doing God?” Like Israel I’ve not always liked God’s answer and I’ve had my own bouts of “rebellious heart” disease. But in those times of questioning, I have experienced the gift of clarity, a chance to readjust my perceptions. Even the direction of my questioning giving testimony to what my created self knows–that only God can make sense of our lives.

God delivers truth and adds grace to the mix. He invites us to receive His salvation. For the day we first received Jesus Christ as our Saviour and and all the days after, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)

Israel got some hard prophesy that day from Ezekiel. Unfortunately, a day of theater did not turn into a a day of repentance. At the end of the chapter, Israel discounts the urgency of Ezekiel’s message. They missed out on the salvation that God was holding out to them for that day.

This is a hard lesson for us too. God doesn’t always offer salvation from our consequences or life’s trouble, but He is holding out His saving power to you today. This same power that brought Jesus Christ out of the grave gives us the ability to rise above all of our trouble and to live in safety, free to come into His presence!

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