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BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 28 REFLECTION (EZEKIEL 44 – HOSEA 14:9)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 28: AUGUST 19

EZEKIEL 44 – HOSEA 14:9

Over the next few days, we’ll be plowing through multiple prophets during our daily readings. The timeline of each prophet is important, as their prophecies directly concern what is going on with the Israelites at any given time. Some of the prophets start their prophecies by stating which king(s) they prophesied under, while other don’t. If you have time, it might be helpful to do some background reading to find out the dates (and the relevant kings) of the prophets who don’t mention a king. Note that some of them don’t mention a king because there wasn’t one (i.e., during the Babylonian exile).

We’ll be bouncing back and forth in the timeline over the next few days. Some of the upcoming prophets prophesied before the exile, some during, and some after, but they don’t appear in the Bible in chronological order. This is where knowing which king(s) the prophets prophesied under is important. It provides context and a sense of where you are, time-wise.

  • The final section of Ezekiel provides more details toward the building of the second temple. Remember that this is all still prophecy and many years must pass before the rebuilding begins. There are also details about the sacrifices that will be required and who is (and who isn’t) allowed access to certain parts of the temple, and why. Ezekiel also presents a vision of a river flowing out from the temple, with trees on either side that are always in bloom. The fruit of the trees is for food and the leaves are for medicine. We’ll see these trees again in the book of Revelation.
  • Along with instructions on what the temple should look like, what should be done there, and who is allowed to serve (and in what capacity), the final section of the book of Ezekiel sets forth instructions on the division of land when the Israelites return to the Promised Land. Again, this is all prophecy; the Israelites during the time of Ezekiel’s prophecies are still in exile with no apparent end in sight. I haven’t looked at the details of the land division, so I’m not sure how much they differ from the pre-exile division. If you have time, it might be helpful to do some background reading on this as well, since I’m guessing the land division in Ezekiel’s prophecy forms the blueprint for the expansion plans of the current geopolitical state of Israel. It’s always good to know what your enemy is up to.

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  • Daniel’s is another thunderous voice among God’s prophets. Like Joseph in Egypt, Daniel lived his adult life under the authority of heathen rulers and was given an important position in the governing of the foreign kingdom. Also like Joseph, Daniel continued to put God first in everything he did, even if it meant spending a night in a lion’s den.
  • Both Joseph and Daniel earned favor with their respective rulers through their God-given ability to interpret dreams. If you remember, Joseph’s interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dream concerned an upcoming seven-year famine. Heeding Joseph’s warning and following his advice made Pharaoh even richer after the famine than before it. Daniel’s talent initially enabled him to keep his head (literally), and then earned him progressively more important positions in the foreign kingdom. In some cases, Daniel declined to take any reward for his interpretations, but they were given to him, anyway.
  • Daniel’s end-times visions form the basis for our understanding of the tribulation under what Paul calls the “man of perdition”, or what is more popularly known as the anti-christ. In fact, many of Daniel’s prophecies appear again in the book of Revelation. Jesus also mentions them in the Gospels and Paul in his letters. There is nothing positive about the man of perdition or the times he is prophesied to rule over. Whenever he’s mentioned in prophecy, he is described as warring against God’s people and killing them. He is the ultimate ruler who “does that which is evil in the sight of the Lord”. Nonetheless, he, too, despite his seeming infinite power, gets what’s coming to him. As Daniel prophesies: “he shall come to his end, and none shall help him”.
  • It’s worth noting that the anti-christ kingdom in Daniel’s prophecy is also equated with the end of the world. Nothing good comes after it. There is no 1000-year golden rule with a benevolent ruler and everyone living in peace and harmony. There is only terror and destruction that marks the physical end of the planet. However, Daniel does mention an eternal kingdom that comes to fruition during and amidst the reigns of other kings preceding this one. This eternal kingdom is, of course, God’s Kingdom on Earth that we’re now living in, if we’re born-again. It’s the one established by Jesus and is briefly described in Daniel 2:44.
  • What happened to King Nebuchadnezzar is a very curious cautionary tale. Despite being warned by Daniel’s interpretation of his dream about what was going to happen to him, Nebuchadnezzar continues in his delusion that all his wealth and power came from his own efforts. Because of his pride, the former “servant of the Lord” is then brought down as low as he can go this side of death. The seven years of his insanity find him sleeping rough in open fields and eating grass like an animal. But at some point the penny drops for him that God is the one who gives people their wealth and power; these things do not come from the people’s own efforts. (Jesus says more or less the same to the authorities during his trial.) When he finally acknowledges God’s supremacy, Nebuchadnezzar is reinstated as king and receives his kingdom back. This story has a bit of the feel of Job about it, although Job wasn’t operating in pride, just assumption.

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  • The book of Hosea begins the parade of what are referred to in the literature as “minor prophets”, though I personally don’t like that designation. The books of these prophets are shorter than those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, but it doesn’t mean that their prophecies are minor. All prophecies from God carry the same weight, as they’re all God’s Word.
  • Hosea’s prophecies were more or less concurrent with those of Isaiah. As we saw in Isaiah, things were going from bad to worse for the children of Israel at that time, but there was still some hope that they could avert the full disaster of losing their kingdom. Hosea prophesied against the ongoing backslidings of the Israelites, even going so far as to marry, upon God’s advice, a non-Jew as a symbol of the “whorings” of the children of Israel, in giving their devotion to demon gods and the people who serve them. These whorings are later given a twist, when God himself promises through the prophet: “I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” So God shows that he isn’t against non-Jews per se; he’s against those who choose sin, as reflected in their desire to serve demon gods.
  • Most of Hosea is a litany of all the things that Israel does to defy God, along with God’s urgings to turn back to him. This is a recurrent theme throughout the books of the prophets in the OT. The role of prophets was/is to advise the ruling class as well as people in general, but few people took/take their advice. We all see some mention in Hosea of the eternal Kingdom, such as “ye are the sons of the living God” / “I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely, and I will betroth thee unto me forever” / “and [they] shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days”. He also makes a prophecy about Jesus: “after two days he will revive us: in the third day he will raise us up.”

This BIBLE READ-THROUGH is intended for people to get as much of God’s Word into them as they can for what lies ahead. How much time you spend each day on the readings is up to you; obviously, the more time you spend, the more you’ll get out of it. But even a quick read-through will benefit you. God will show you what’s important to you and what you need to focus on in the increasingly despotic weeks and months to come.

All of the upcoming readings are incredibly rich. We’re now nearly three-quarters of the way through the Bible, which means the home stretch will be starting just around the bend. It would be good for you to spend as much time as you can on the rest of the readings, especially the Gospels. They are definitely not “fly-over scripture”. None of what’s coming is. But again, how much time you choose to invest in God’s Word is up to you. Even the fact that you’ve been reading the Bible every day already separates you from most Christians. That you’re reading it from cover to cover puts you in a very tiny minority.

God blesses and protects those who take the time to read and study his Word not for gain or credit or out of personal or professional obligation, but because they want to read it and it’s the right thing to do.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below:

William Blake’s “Nebuchadnezzar”

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 27 REFLECTION (EZEKIEL 20 – 43:27)

“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?

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is posted below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 26 REFLECTION (JEREMIAH 50 – EZEKIEL 19:14)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 26: AUGUST 17

JEREMIAH 50 – EZEKIEL 19:14

Today we say goodbye to Jeremiah and hello to Ezekiel. Theirs are thunderous voices. Both prophets lived during a time when God’s mercy came to an end and his judgement began. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, God is patient, but when time is up, it’s up. There’s no wiggle-room after that. God’s judgement is without mercy. We will not be standing before him on Judgement Day expecting mercy, because there will be none. The time for mercy will be over, just as it was for the children of Israel during the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

  • The final chapters of Jeremiah talk about the prophecy against Babylon. Remember that Jeremiah had earlier prophesied that the Israelites should surrender to the Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and live in Babylon as captives. Now we see the prophet foretelling the punishment that God will mete out to Babylon for destroying his people. God used the resources of Babylon to punish his people but also to care for them during their 70 years of exile; but that doesn’t mean that Babylon gets off the hook and is free to loot, sack and slaughter with impunity. Nor does it mean that Babylon can sin with impunity. All are punished according to the measure of their sins, even the people God uses to punish others.
  • So when God tells you to flee to Babylon, however morally repugnant it is to you, flee there. But when he tells you to get out of Babylon or get caught up in the punishment due it, get out. We’ll read more about Babylon in the books of Daniel and Revelation. For us born-agains living in the Kingdom, Babylon is the earthly realm of sin and plenty that sadly also includes churches. God will support us and sustain us with Babylon’s plenty for a time, but he expects us to keep ourselves separate from its sin and to flee before he finally destroys it.
  • The book of Lamentations was written during Jeremiah’s exile from the Promised Land. Remember that Jeremiah, too, was in exile. The whole remnant was in exile. Even so, God fed them and provided for them physically and spiritually, giving them hope of returning to their home if they turned back to him with their whole heart.

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  • Ezekiel picks up where Jeremiah leaves off. He is also in exile. But unlike Jeremiah, he is not embedded within the powers-that-be in Jerusalem, because the powers-that-be have all been slaughtered and Jerusalem has been all but destroyed. Instead, Ezekiel prophesizes through visions.
  • Ezekiel heard first-hand the horrors that were inflicted on the unrepentant Israelites, particularly during the siege of Jerusalem. Out of starvation, fathers ate their sons, sons ate their fathers, and mothers cooked their own babies. How far from God would you have to be to do those things? THESE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE GOD’S PEOPLE, and yet they were indistinguishable from the demon-worshipers around them; in fact, they did worse than them. When those who are genuinely God’s people are hungry, God provides for them, as he did for Jeremiah and Elijah and David. God always finds workarounds and resources for those who are genuinely his people. The rest are left to take matters into their own hands, and what we get are fathers eating their sons, sons eating their fathers, and mothers cooking their own babies.
  • How indistinguishable are Christians today from the demon-worshipers around them? All those who worship anything but God and follow anyone but Jesus are demon-worshipers. This is the world. How indistinguishable are most Christians today from the world? It’s hard not to see, in the description of the lead-up to the destruction of those who definitively turned from God, exactly what is happening in former Christian nations today: “Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease; and their holy places shall be defiled. Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none” (Ezekiel 7:24-25).
  • I met a man the other day who introduced himself as a born-again Christian. He then went on to say that God had asked him to preach but he had said no, and that he hadn’t read the Bible in years – HE’D DEFIED GOD AND HADN’T READ THE BIBLE IN YEARS, AND YET HAD NO PROBLEM INTRODUCING HIMSELF AS A BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN! This is the absolute state of where we are as a people – Christians today are no different than the Israelites just before the destruction of Jerusalem. They are indistinguishable from the heathens around them.
  • As Ezekiel repeats several times: “Neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have pity.” God’s judgement is without mercy and perfect. During the time of mercy, God’s judgement is mitigated. That means he doesn’t give us the full measure of what we have coming; he softens it, taking into consideration all the factors that made us do what we did or say what we said. But at some point, time is up. And when time is up, mercy is removed from judgement; all that remains is an eye for an eye. May you never experience God’s judgement without mercy, because if you do, you are condemned. There is no longer any hope for you. There is no Paradise. There is only the hell of your own making, forever.
  • God doesn’t want us to end up in Hell. He wants us to go to Heaven. He takes no pleasure in punishing us or in our condemnation. In Ezekiel 18:32, God says: “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth… wherefore turn, and live ye.” Until time is up, God is constantly extending his invitation to turn back to him and live. A few chapters earlier, God describes through the prophet how he will bring the dead back to life: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statutes and keep mine ordinances, and do them; and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
  • I don’t know about you, but every time I read the words “and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God”, I hear such longing in God’s voice as well as a promise and a statement of fact. He wants to give us everything, if we would only do those things that are right in his eyes. He’s longing for us to do those things. He’s saying: Here, I have everything waiting for you. Everything that you’ve ever wanted. It’s all right here. All you have to do is say “yes” to me and then keep your promise, and I will keep my promise to you.

One of the early chapters in Ezekiel describes a mark that is given to those who are horrified by the rampant sin they see around them. The mark identifies them as God’s people. All those who don’t have the mark are later slaughtered without pity.

Do you think you have that mark? Do you think that God identifies you as one of his, or is the identification only coming from you? Do you claim to be a Christian but live indistinguishable from the world? Do you claim the blood of Jesus as your justification, even while you continue to do what you know isn’t right in God’s eyes? There are many such Christians, even self-professed born-again Christians, just as there were many such Israelites who considered themselves God’s people simply because they were Israelites.

A label is just a label. You can call yourself whatever you want. But a mark is a mark. Better pray that you have God’s.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.