“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 27: AUGUST 18
EZEKIEL 20 – 43:27
Our reading today features three main messages. The first one is the revenge that God will take against the enemies of Israel, particularly those who took part in the destruction of Jerusalem or who gloated over it afterwards. The second message is God telling the Israelites that they will not hear from him or be protected by him as long as they continue to live sinful lives (that is, as long as they do the same things as the heathen around them). And the third message involves more prophecies about Jesus, who is referred to either as David or a shepherd.
- Remember that Ezekiel is still living in exile from the Promised Land. Remember that God is still punishing most of his people, while comforting the penitent remnant with hope of an eventual return to their ancestral land and a rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. In fact, this reading includes God giving Ezekiel plans for the second temple to be built over the ruins of the first.
- The children of Israel had a lot of enemies. We see some of them here on God’s black list and read about what will be done to them, but these are just a few of them. There is seemingly no end to the list of their enemies. The children of Israel were even enemies with each other. Essentially, at that time, the whole world was against Israel. They had no friends. They couldn’t even count God as their friend. This is the ultimate reward for those who were once in God’s favour but fall away through sin and pride. References to the fallen cherub (Lucifer) are also mentioned here as a comparison to Israel’s fall. You know things are bad when you start being compared to Lucifer.
- The nation of Israel is also likened to a prostitute, in that it prostituted itself with the “uncircumcised” heathens around it by taking on the ways of the world, particularly with regard to belief systems and relationships. There’s an interesting line in today’s reading about God giving the rebellious children of Israel (during the time of Moses) “statutes that were not good and judgements whereby they should not live”. Basically, he gave them what they wanted, even though it wasn’t good for them. Jesus mentions this in his teachings about reasons for ending a marriage, namely that God gave Moses directives regarding bills of divorce. Jesus says that God gave the option for divorce to the Israelites not because it was right in God’s eyes, but because of the Israelite’s rebellion against God. “All things are possible, but not all things are good.” God shows us the right way forward, but he also permits us to go the wrong way, if that’s what we want. Unlike most of the world’s governments today, which have descended into de facto medical tyrannies, God is no tyrant.
- God is also not a pushover. Sinners who refuse to repent don’t get the privilege of hearing from God. Ezekiel also explains that sinners who repent and spend the rest of their days doing right will be rewarded with life, whereas those who start out doing right but end up in unrepentant sin will be punished with death. In other words, the reward of life is not based on a balance of good and evil. So if you do 10 measures of good and 5 measures of evil, you don’t automatically get rewarded with life for all the good that you did. You only get rewarded with life if you end your life on a righteous note. Same with doing evil – if your “balance sheet” shows you did more evil in your life than good, but you end your days in God’s grace, you will be rewarded with life. It’s not a numbers game with God. He’s a living God, not a computer. The relationship we have with him at our last breath determines whether or not we get to spend eternity with him. That makes sense to me as a born-again believer, and also gives me hope.
- As mentioned above, today’s reading also includes a few chapters about Jesus and the Kingdom. Always love reading those prophecies! One of the first things Jesus did after his resurrection was show his followers where he and his Kingdom are mentioned in scripture. These prophecies are important to us because they were important to Jesus and prove that he was in fact the prophesied Messiah and King, and that his Kingdom was up and running.
- I’m not going to go into in detail here, but it’s crucial for us to understand that God’s Kingdom on Earth was established by Jesus and that the prophesied Kingdom exists here and now as a spiritual realm. This understanding is crucial, because otherwise you’ll fall for the lie that the geopolitical state is the Israel prophesied in the OT. This is what the world believes and what is pushed in some Christian circles, but scripture doesn’t back it up. Zion is a spiritual realm made up of born-again followers of Jesus. The lineage goes from David through his descendants to Jesus and ends there. Since the time of Jesus, the genetic children of Israel are no longer David’s lineage, so the geopolitical state of Israel formed in the late 1940s is not the Israel mentioned in scripture. The lineage is spiritual and ends in Jesus, who is the prophesied eternal King over all of God’s creation, both seen and unseen.
- Lots of déjà vu in today’s reading. Ezekiel repeats numerous verses, which, as I mentioned in previous reflections, is an excellent teaching and learning tool. There are several ways that we’ve been hard-wired by God to learn best. One is to learn what appeals to us or attracts us, as we will learn willingly and eagerly. Another way is to learn via shock methods such as “baptism by fire” or “sink or swim”, where we have to learn something very quickly in order to survive whatever crisis we’re experiencing. And then, of course, there’s repetition, which we’ve seen a lot of in scripture so far, particularly with regard to the exodus story. God uses these and other methods to teach his children through his Spirit. He also teaches some of his children by private revelation; the closer we grow to God, the more he’ll reveal to us.
What jumped out at you in today’s reading? What do you think differs Ezekiel from Isaiah and Jeremiah? Do you feel a kinship with these men? Which one of the three would you most like to have a beer with? And which one will you be hanging out with in Heaven?
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is posted below.