Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Giving to the Poor - Psalm 41


Psalm 41 says a man is blessed when he considers the poor. The Lord will bless him with deliverance from trouble, protection, life, health and a recognition from others that he is blessed.

Jesus said "give to everyone who begs from you" (Luke 6:30) and "…lend, expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:35) And, "give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:38)

Giving to the poor reflects God's merciful character, pleases him and results in blessings to ourselves.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

THE FINAL VISION -PART 1 - EZEKIEL 40




Background

Chapters 40-48 contain Ezekiel’s final vision. Here is where we are in this book.

God promised, through Ezekiel, to protect his holy name and to display his glory by destroying the city and temple of his people, who were profaning his name. He in fact destroyed it.

God promised to vindicate his holiness and display his glory by restoring Israel.

God promised to vindicate his holiness and display his glory by defeating the forces of the world represented by Gog. In this he showed his supremacy.

In 40 through 48, God promises to vindicate his holiness and display his glory among his own people, shown or symbolized in the building of a huge city with a temple. A temple is where God dwells with his people. This vision will show a renewed worship by God’s people.

40:1-4
The Vision Begins

Ezekiel specifically dated the time of this vision. It is 14 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, 25 years after the beginning of the exile. Remember there was a group taken into exile years before the city was destroyed and the survivors taken into exile. It is also about 12 years since the last vision.

The first vision of Ezekiel showed the heavenly king on his throne and that vision was dated from the exile of the earthly king. This vision of the heavenly city is dated from the destruction of the earthly city.

The date also seems to have a reference to the Jubilee. On the 10th day of the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement, every 50th year, the Jubilee was declared. Slaves were set free, land was returned to the original owners. (Leviticus 25) It was a restoration of land and freedom and heritage. The original audience of Ezekiel, the exiles, were landless and enslaved. The idea of looking forward to a Jubilee of sorts, that would restore them, was hopeful. At 25 years they would be halfway to restoration in the Jubilee calculation. This would be symbolic, since the captivity was to last 70 years according to Jeremiah. There are also several references to the number 25 and its multiples in the measurements of the Temple.

In this vision, Ezekiel is “taken” to Israel from Babylon. He is physically in Babylon but sees events in Israel in the future. He said the hand of Yahweh was on him and took him to the city. The city is never named.

God took Ezekiel to a very high mountain. There really are not any very high mountains in Israel. But you have a theological geography here. It is to make a point. The dry bones were lying in the valley in chapter 37, then were restored to life. The restored people are elevated from a dead valley to a mountain top where God dwells and is worshipped. It is a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Jesus described his followers this way in Matthew 5:14.

Mountains have often been the meeting place of God and man in the Bible. Moses met God and received the law on Mount Sinai. Ezekiel is now going to repeat that process, revealing the requirements for worship. Moses received the design of the tabernacle while on the mountain. Ezekiel receives the design for the new city or sanctuary on this mountain. Moses saw the promised land from Mount Nebo, but would not enter it. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52) Ezekiel would see a vision the new dwelling place of God’s people, but would not enter it during this lifetime. Satan tried to copy this by taking Jesus to a high mountain to convince Jesus to worship him. (Matthew 4:8)

There is also a reflection of Isaiah 2:2-3 here. Isaiah prophesied that the mountain of the Lord’s temple would be established as the chief among mountains. Which is similar to a vision of a very high mountain.

On this mountain, there was a structure that looked like a city on the south side. The temple appears like a city to Ezekiel or was within a city.

God also gave Ezekiel a tour guide. (3) He looked like a man, but his appearance was like bronze. He had a linen cord and a measuring reed in his hand. These are both measuring devices. The reed is usually for a short measurement and the cord for a longer one. It corresponds to a ruler we use for short measurements and a “tape” we use for long ones.

The guide gave Ezekiel 4 instructions:
look
hear
set your heart upon what you see
declare it to Israel. (4)

One thing we should notice here is that this vision is a counterpart to the vision in chapters 8 through 11. In that vision, Ezekiel also got a tour of the temple. The tour guide also looked like a man and had a sash around his waist, but of fire. He also looked like gleaming metal on his upper body. (8:2) In that vision, the man showed Ezekiel the abominations Israel was committing in the temple. In contrast, the vision of 40-48 will shows the splendor or glory of God.

40:5-16
The Wall & East Gate

This structure is very large. It has a wall around it. The wall has gates in it, one facing each direction. It has a court or plaza inside the wall. In the middle of the plaza is a temple structure. Each area is elevated as it moves toward the holiest place. You go up steps to each area. There are 3 elevations from the front to the holiest place. It starts wide at the gate and narrows as it approaches the holiest place. The whole structure faced east.

The guide began with the outside wall. He measured it. Ezekiel explained the measurements in terms of the length of the reed and the cubit. The reed is 6 cubits long. This is 10 feet. So, the wall is 10 feet high and 10 feet thick. It is perfectly symmetrical in that sense. And it is substantial. It is the barrier between sacred and profane. It is too thick to break too high to climb. It reminds me of Revelation 21:27: “…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written written in the Lamb’s book of life”

The east gate is the main gate, so the guide started there. He had to go up steps to enter the gate and its vestibule, so we see the first elevation. There were seven steps.

Ezekiel describes the main gate in great detail. The gate is elaborate and large. It is the gate of a fortress. It has a threshold that was 10 by 10. There were side rooms for guards. There was a barrier to protect them. (12)Gates with this design have been discovered in Hazor by archeologists. There were windows. The window jambs were carved with the images of palm trees. The overall size is about 45 feet wide and nine feet deep. (13, 15) It is very secure. It has a vestibule. The vestibule is not on the outside, but on the inside. (8)

There were gates facing north and south also. These gates are described in verses 20 through 27. They are built to the same plan as the East Gate, so they are not described in as great a detail.

There is no west gate, because the back of the temple faces west (the front to the east) and the holiest place is at the back of the temple and must be protected.

40:17-19
The Outer Court

The guide took Ezekiel up the steps and through the East Gate into the outer court. It was paved with stones. There were chambers inside the wall facing the court. These were probably for storage also. Ezekiel saw the north gate and south gate. Ezekiel does not spend much time describing the outer court.

40:20-27
The North & South Gates

These verses contain descriptions of the north and south gates. They are designed the same way as the east gate.

40:28-43
The Inner Court

From the south gate, the guide took Ezekiel into the inner court. (28)
Here the guide also showed Ezekiel the detail of the north gate. It had facilities for the sacrifices. There was a chamber to wash the offerings, tables on which the offerings were slaughtered, tables for the instruments of slaughter and tables on which the actual offerings were laid before being offered in sacrifice. There was one set of gates from the outside to the outer court, and one set of gates from the outer court to the inner court. There were eight steps up from the outer court to the inner court. (31)



40:44-46
Chambers for the Priests

One chamber was for priests that have charge of the temple. (45) These are guys who make sure that everything is where it is supposed to be and that everything is cleaned up. The other chamber is for the priests who have charge of the altar. (46) By that, he means they offer the sacrifices. All priests have to be sons of Levi descended from Aaron. But only those who came through the line of Zadok may offer sacrifices. (46)

God chose the Levites for his service because they stood with Moses and the Lord when the Israelites made the golden calf. This is recorded in Exodus 32. Moses said “Today you have been ordained for the service os the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and his brother so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.” (Exodus 32:29) Moses and Aaron were Levites. Levy was one of Jacob’s sons, and, therefore, his family or tribe was one of the 12 tribes of Israel, the Levites.

Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests in Leviticus 8. Each of the families within the Levite tribe were given specific responsibilities. These are described in Leviticus and Numbers.

Zadok was a priest descended from Aaron. He was loyal to David when Absalom executed a coup against David. He was loyal to Solomon when Adonijah tried to become king. David made Zakok and his sons the high priestly line and allowed only them to serve at the tent when he returned to power. So, Ezekiel shows them as the sole ministers at the altar as a sign of pure worship.

40:47
The Inner Court: Measurements & Altar

The inner court, the area immediately outside the temple building, was a prefect square. it was 100 cubits long and wide. In the court, in front of the temple, was the altar of sacrifice. This reflects its placement in both the Tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.

The inner court also contained the altar. It sat in front of the temple. This is a prominent place. Some believe it is in the geographic center of the inner court. Its prominence suggests the importance of sacrifice to atone for sins.



40:48-49
The Vestibule of the Temple

The man next shows Ezekiel the vestibule of the temple itself. He measured it also. A vestibule is like a lobby. It is the first area you come to after you pass through the door.

You had to walk up 10 steps to get to the vestibule. (49) So, the image here is a temple complex on a high mountain, separated by 7 steps from the ground and 8 steps to the outer court.

The importance of the temple itself is shown by the 10 steps from the inner court to the to the vestibule. The temple building is elevated above all else. It is elevated to show its importance. Its holiness is shown by its restricted access through gates to the proper areas and the perfectly square design of the court. Chapter 41 will give us a description of the design of the temple building.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Trust & Contentment


Psalm 37 is a wisdom song. Its message is: trust in the Lord to take care of things and be content. The writer acknowledges that evildoers success on earth. But we are not to fret over them. We are to trust God to dispense justice in his own time. We are to trust him. We reflect our trust in our trusting actions. We are to do good, be faithful, delight in the Lord, commit our way to him, be still before him, wait patiently for him, refrain from anger, and again, do not fret. In other words, let God take care of the bad folks and trust him to be just while you reflect God's gracious character in the way you treat people and in your attitude toward life.

The promise in Psalms is that the meek, those who live in trusting obedience to God, will inherit the land. For Jews that meant living in peace in the allotment they were given in Israel. Note, though, that Jesus expanded the promise. He said "the meek will inherit the earth". (Matthew 5:6) Those who trust in God through faith in Jesus will inherit the whole earth. Revelation completes the picture for us, showing us a restored earth with a beautiful new city where the redeemed will live in the presence of the Lord forever.

Don't worry. Trust. Live graciously.

Monday, August 18, 2014

THE LORD'S SUPPER


Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper on the night he was betrayed. Three of the gospel accounts record this. (Matthew 26:2629; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20) According to Mathew, while Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, he took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples. H said "take eat, this is my body".

Then he took his cup of wine, gave thanks, and gave it to them also. He said "Drink from it, al of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant which is see for many for the remission of sins".

Paul instructed the Corinthians in the matter in 1 Corinthians 11. After reciting the words of Jesus, Paul added "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till he comes."

When we participate in the Lord's Supper, we acknowledge and give thanks for the atoning death of Jesus. He gave his body and his blood on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. That work is finished. We believe he did it, we thank him for it and we proclaim that he did it through our participation.

The church will celebrate the Lord's Supper until the Lord returns. While we in the present acknowledge his death for us in the past, our continuing participation is a witness to our believe that he will return.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

RESTORATION OF ISRAEL - Ezekiel 39:22-29


39:23-29
Restoration of Israel

The Lord explained the exile of Israel in covenant terms in verses 23-24. The Lord sent them away because they dealt treacherously with him. Their iniquity was great. so, the Lord hid his face from Israel. When Israel kept the covenant, the Lord’s face was toward them. He looked favorably on them. Consider the blessing the Lord told Aaron to give to Israel:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift us his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

One of the facets of life in the New Earth is that the throne of the Father and the throne of the Son will be there and we will see the Lord’s face. (Revelation 22:4)

But, when Israel broke the covenant, the Lord did the opposite: he turned his face away or hid his face from them. Deuteronomy 31:16-18 is a good example. As Moses was about to die, the Lord told him Israel would break the covenant and go after other gods. The Lord’s reaction would be to become angry, to forsake them and hide his face from them. The people in Ezekiel’s time acknowledged this when they said “the Lord does not see us”. (Ezekiel 8:12)

When the Lord hid his face from Israel, they were conquered by their enemies. This was a punishment the Lord set out in the covenant. Leviticus 26:14-21 sets this out, along with the remainder of the chapter.

The story of the Old Testament is the story of Israel’s breaking the covenant repeatedly, being conquered by enemies, then being restored by God. The Babylonian exile was the ultimate defeat. God restored Israel afterward, but here looks forward to a permanent restoration in the future.

At the end of this oracle, the Lord turns back to Israel and says he will restore it. Jacob is a synonym for Israel. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with the Lord in Genesis 32. Verse 25 tells us the Lord will do this out of mercy, for Israel does not deserve it.

This restoration after punishment is also part of the covenant. Leviticus 26:44-45 records the Lord saying he would not destroy Israel completely. He would remember the covenant that he might be their God. Deuteronomy 4:25-30 speaks of Israel returning to the Lord in the “latter days” because the Lord is merciful. It would have been a great word of encouragement to the exiles of Ezekiel’s day.

In addition to mercy, though, the Lord acts because he is jealous for his holy name. (25) He does not want people to think he has no power to protect his people and his land, or that he does not keep his covenant. In verse 27 he speaks of vindicating his holinesss by restoring his people.

This restoration will include:
forgetting their shame (26);
dwelling securely in their land;
knowledge that Yahweh is their God;
restored access to God through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

This restoration will be permanent. Verse 29 says “I will not hide my face anymore from them when I pour out my Spirit upon them”. The Lord’s victory over Gog and his forces demonstrates this truth. Instead of pouring out his wrath on Israel, he will pour out his Spirit. It is a complete reversal of fortunes. The pouring out of the Spirit is a sign or mark of ownership. The Lord owns his people. He will never abandon them.


So, when does this great battle, victory of the Lord and restoration occur? The Lord said it would be in the “latter years” in Ezekiel 38:8. John appears to explain it as happening at the end of this age in in the defeat of the Beast in Revelation 19. In verse 11, heaven is opened and John saw Jesus. The Lord Jesus appeared on a white horse, wearing a crown. We know it is Jesus because he is called “the Word of God”. (14) John called Jesus this very thing in the first chapter of his gospel. He said “in the beginning was the Word”. (John 1:1) This Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

But, in Revelation 19, Jesus is not the suffering savior of his first coming, but the conquering Lord. He judges in righteousness and he makes war upon the enemies of God. His robe is dipped in their blood. This is his second coming and he comes this time to judge his enemies and defeat them.

He strikes down the nations with a sword that comes from his mouth. (11) He pours out the wrath of the Father on his enemies. (15) An angel then invites the birds to feast on the dead bodies as Ezekiel did in Ezekiel 39. Then the beast is captured and thrown into the Lake of Fire that burns with sulfur. Gog is not mentioned by name, but the beast represents him (or they both represent the same figure). Sulfur was used in the judgment of Gog in Ezekiel 38:22. (Revelation 19:20) The remainder of the enemies are slain by the sword, again reflecting the story in Ezekiel 39. This time, however, the sword comes from the mouth of Jesus. (21)

John then retells the story as the defeat of Satan in Revelation 20:7-10. There he specifically mentions Gog and Magog coming out for battle against the camp of the saints and the beloved city. But fire comes down from heaven and consumes them. (Revelation 20:9) Satan is thrown into the lake of fire. (10) Premillenialists see this battle as separate from the battle of chapter 19.

Remember that Ezekiel placed this event in the “latter days”. John places the event at the very end of days, the end of this age. It is the ultimate event of this age. It shows that our God is the lord of human history. It shows him as sovereign over men, no matter how powerful the men are. He is also sovereign over Satan and his forces. He defeats them all and casts them into Hell.

Once the Lord’s enemies are defeated, he reveals the restored or new heavens and earth in Revelation 21 and 22. It is occupied by the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven. In our Ezekiel study, we will see that the remaining chapters are devoted to a vision of a new temple and city where the Lord dwells.

It shows him keeping covenant. Not only will the Lord ultimately win, he will deliver his people into his victory. He will ultimately restore his people to perfection, where sin no longer pollutes the land or the people.

Finally, it shows that God is not only a God of judgment, but a God of mercy. He sends the gospel over the whole earth so that rebellious men and women can be saved. He saves believers from this terrible battle and judgment. It is his mercy to which we cling in faith, believing he will save us as he promised. And because it is a function of his mercy, not our worth or righteousness, we are humble and grateful in this presence.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Attributes of God

Nehemiah 9 is a prayer, but it describes many of God's attributes in the form of praise. Of course, praise is the acknowledgement of God's wonderful attributes. Here is a list:


1. The only God (6)

2. Creator

3. Life giver & sustainer

4. Exalted of his name (10)

5. Just (13)

6. Right

7. Good

8. Makes himself known (14)

9. Provider (15)

10. Forgiving (17)

11. Gracious

12. Compassionate

13. Slow to anger

14. Abounding in love

15. Giver of the Holy Spirit (20)

16. Merciful (31)

17. Covenant keeping (32)

18. Great

19. Mighty

20. Awesome

21. Faithful (33)


That should keep us busy praying for a while! 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

UNDIVIDED DEVOTION


In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul again makes clear that we should order our lives so that "we may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord". (1 Corinthians 7:35)

Things of this earth, position, money or even marital status are not to divide our devotion. Paul pursued Christ single-mindedly. He believed the "world in its present form was passing away" (31), so he lived for the world to come.

I do poorly in comparison. I had a very frustrating day yesterday, exacerbated by lack of sleep. But, sadly, all of my frustrations were related to the world in its present form which is passing away.

Time to repent.