Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lamentations and Hope


Lamentations is hard for me to read. After studying Jeremiah in depth recently, I know that he suffered greatly at the hands of his own people. He suffered because he obeyed God . He prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem as God instructed him. He preached God’s word faithfully. The sufferings he described in Lamentations three are mostly actual sufferings, not metaphor. The thing that hurt him most, though, was witnessing the destruction of this people at the hand of his God. He hurt as he watched them reject his calls for repentance, despising the Lord and his covenant. He hurt as he witnessed God’s relentless destruction of his own city, pouring out his wrath by the sword of the Babylonians. He hurt as he lived through the aftermath, remaining in the desolation and watching the survivors devour each other. He said “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me.” (19)

And yet, in the midst of grieving and sorrow, he remembered the one thing that gave him hope: God in love for his people would not consume them totally. He would be faithful to his word to restore them. (22) That is what Jeremiah 29 is actually about. Jeremiah heard it and believed it. He trusted God. Hope arose.

Jeremiah said “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (24) That, brothers, is the key. “Portion” is an important Old Testament word. It referred to that person’s allotted land in Israel, that remained in his family forever. It was what he counted on for his and his family’s survival. But for Jeremiah, his portion was the Lord. He counted on the Lord for everything: daily provisions, survival and deliverance. And because the Lord, not the land or the job, was his portion, he had hope. Because our Portion is faithful.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Grace

"To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect." - John Owen

Sunday, October 26, 2014

RIVER OF LIFE - EZEKIEL 47 part 1




From the Temple to the East Gate
47:1-2

Having completed the tour of the complex, the guide took Ezekiel back to the door of the sanctuary where God’s glory dwelt. Standing there before the door, he saw that water came out of the sanctuary and flowed east. East to west is the holy vector of the complex. Only the Prince is allowed to come into the east gate and it is purified in the offerings. The water, though, is flowing along this vector from the sanctuary on the western end toward the eastern gate, along this holy vector.

After the water flowed out of the threshold, it flowed south of the altar. In both the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple, there were basins for the priests to wash in, cleansing themselves. At Solomon’s temple, the basin was called a Sea. But, rather than the scary sea, this one is contained and used in service to God. The Israelites were Middle Eastern desert people. The sea was big and scary. We see that in the story of Jonah. We see the disciples scared of a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The meant chaos. But God could control it. Psalm 46:2-3 speaks of God being our refuge from the roaring, foaming sea.

In Ezekiel’s vision, we see, instead, a life giving river. Psalm 46:4 says “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God”. The Sea in Solomon’s temple was south of the altar, and the basin at the Tabernacle was south of the altar. They are replaced in Ezekiel’s vision with a river that runs south of the altar.

The guide took Ezekiel out north gate to see the river flow, for even in the vision, no one but the prince could enter the east gate.

Getting Deeper
47:3-6

The water got deeper as it flowed eastward. It started as a trickle. It became a big river. The guide measured the depth every thousand cubits. At one thousand it was ankle deep. (3) At two thousand it was knee deep. (4) At three thousand it was waist deep. (4) At four thousand it was a deep river you could swim in but could not walk through. (5) The guide asked Ezekiel if he saw this. I think he was asking if he understood this message.

So, what we have so far is water that flows from God’s presence out toward the east, getting deeper and deeper as it goes until it becomes a river.

Restoration of the earth and God’s people starts small and grows into a mighty thing. This is the message the guide wants Ezekiel to see. Jesus told a parable about this. A mustard seed grew into a huge bush or tree. (Matthew 13:31) God’s kingdom started small, with a handful of disciples, but continues to grow larger and larger.




Living Water
47:8-12

As Ezekiel sat on the bank, the guide showed Ezekiel all of the trees that lined both sides of the river. He also saw that the river ran through the Arabah, or Jordan Valley, all the way to the dead sea.

This river flows with living water. This is shown to Ezekiel in the form of many fish and other creatures living in it. It is like the waters of Genesis 1:20 with fish of many kinds. In addition, it turned the salt water of the Dead Sea to fresh water. The Dead Sea contains so much salt that nothing lives in it. But when the water issuing from the presence of God comes into contact with it, it comes to life. The dead water is healed. When the Lord healed the bitter water at Marah in the desert, he said they could experience Yahweh Rapa, the LORD who heals you. (Exodus 15:22-26)

Ezekiel is also shown a vision of God providing for all human needs. The marshes and swamps somehow stay salty so the people can have salt on their food. (11) The trees bear fruit every month, not just once per year. The reason is that this living water flows to them from the sanctuary. (12) The fruit provides food. Their leaves provide healing.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

EZEKIEL 45











Chapter 45 deals first with a new allotment of the land of Israel. Remember that Joshua, Eleazar the priest, along with the elders of the tribes of Israel originally divided the land among the tribes and gave each its allotment in Canaan. (Numbers 28 & 34; Joshua 13-21) It looked something like this:






Now, in Ezekiel’s vision, the LORD gives a new allotment, different from the one in Numbers. It will be described in more detail in chapters 47 and 48.

Allotment for the Holy District
45:1-5

This allotment focuses on the presence of God dwelling in the midst of his people. Accordingly, the first allotment is for a holy district. It is to be “set apart for the LORD” (ESV). That is the basic definition of holiness. The NIV says “you are to present to the LORD”. The LORD reiterated that the whole area of the district shall be holy.

The holy district is large: 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits wide. That is 37,500 feet long and 30,000 feet wide. There is a plot within it for the sanctuary, which is 500 cubits x 500 cubits. This corresponds to the measurements of the wall around the temple complex in 42:20. (45:2) It also has an open space around it of 50 cubits. Then there are areas set apart for the priests who minister in the sanctuary (4), the descendants of Zadok, and a third area set apart for the Levites (5). These areas are oriented east to west, as is the temple complex.



Allotment for the City
45:6

The next area set apart is for the city, and it is half as broad as the portions set aside for the priests.


The Allotment for the Prince
45:7-8a

The prince is allotted land on both sides of the holy district and the city. HIs land created a buffer on the east and west sides of the holy district. The land of the priests create a buffer around the temple. So, as with the temple complex, there are gradations or levels of holiness going from the least holy to the most holy, with the most holy being the temple in the center.



It might look something like this:





We will get to the tribal allotments later, but you see that the picture is of a holy God dwelling in the midst of his people. His holiness is the center piece of the life of his people. His sovereignty is shown by his complete control over the allotment of the land.

Justice Decreed
45:8b-12

The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel contain many condemnations of the lack of justice on the part of the leaders of Israel. Justice normally means honesty and fairness in dealings. Here God decrees justice must exist in the princes or leaders. They may not oppress the people. They shall not take away the land of the people. Remember the story of Ahab and Jezebel taking murdering Naboth in other to steal his land. (1 Kings 21) Their weights and measures must be honest. The restored nation must be ruled with justice and fairness for all.

Worship in the Visionary Temple
45:13-25

The offerings God requires in the visionary temple are described in this passage. Verse 16 tells us that all the people must give offerings. But, it is the duty of the prince to furnish the offerings for the special occasions. These include Sabbaths, New Moons and annual festivals. (45:17)

The prince, in this vision, has become a central figure in the sacrificial system. He provides many of the offerings for the people. But, in addition, the people bring their offerings to him to give to the priests. (16)

The festivals have also been changed. Their activities are reduced from the originals. The Passover is the only one mentioned by name. There is a ceremony on the first day of the year (18) to purify the sanctuary. (18-19) Blood is put on the doorposts of the temps, the posts of the gate of the inner court, and the corners of the altar. (19) One week later the ceremony is repeated for unintentional sins.

The Passover is the celebrated a week after the sacrifice for unintentional sins. (21) The number of sacrifices for Passover is increased from the original requirements of Numbers 28.

Finally, there is a festival in the seventh month. (25) The prince must provide the offerings for this festival also. The festival is not named, but the timing matches that of the Feast of Tabernacles (or booths). There is no Day of Atonement ceremony, though, as there is in Leviticus 16. This ceremony seems to be replaced by the purification ceremony that takes place on the first day of the year.

There is great emphasis by way of detail in the sacrifices. This tells us that atonement for sin is an important issue in this visionary temple.

This chapter shows us great emphasis on the holiness of God and the need to protect that. It shows God’s intent and desire to dwell among his people. And it shows the great necessity of atonement for sin.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sanctification

"Labor to know your own frame and temper; what spirit you are of; what associates in your heart Satan has; where corruption is strong, where grace is weak; what stronghold lust has in your natural constitution, and the like." - John Owen 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Grievous Sin & Repentance

R. C. Sproul, Jr. on sin & repentance.

http://highlandsministriesonline.org/blogs/ask-rc-jr/true-repentance-of-grievous-sin/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=textlink&utm_campaign=askrcjr-truerepentance

Perseverance


God challenged Jeremiah regarding faithfulness and perseverance. (12:5). Jeremiah questioned God about the prosperity of the wicked. God responded by challenging Jeremiah's faith. He does that to me, too. I complain, he says the problem is you, Larry. God says, if you cannot trust and persevere in easy times, how can you do it in hard times? It particularly struck me that he noted Jeremiah was having trouble trusting in a safe land. No one lives in a safer land that we do regarding the practice of our faith. Yet, many doubt or question God when a problem arises or the country itself is going in the wrong direction. Israel went terribly wrong. America is, in many ways, going wrong. But our job is to trust that the sovereign God knows what is best and will accomplish his will as pleases him. Then, based on that faith, persevere in the faith and do the work he sent us to do.