Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (Jn. 16:27) The Father loves us and allows us to come directly to him in prayer. Jesus said we do not ask him to pray for us, we pray to the Father. Certainly, if we do not pray to Jesus for him to pray to the Father for us, we do not pray to Jesus' mom, the disciples or other saints. What a privilege to be loved by the Creator as a father, to approach him and his throne of grace directly because of the work of Christ. What a shame to give it up by imposing intermediaries. And, what a profaning of God's name to imply he will not hear our prayers when his Word says he will.

Of course, if you never pray, you are stating that it is not a big deal. And it is a very big deal. Rejoice in your Father's love and approachability today. Celebrate it by praying.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


The Jewish exiles in Babylon held out hope that Jerusalem would survive. False prophets fed that hope with false messages. In this short passage, God dashes that hope. To do so, he used a metaphor concerning a grape vine.

The Jews were familiar with grape vines. They grew them, ate grapes, made raisins and made wine. Therefore, a metaphor about a grape vine would be understandable to them.

The Metaphor
Most translations of verse one contain a question about how does the wood of the grape vine surpass other woods. But, this does not fit the context. The passage does not compare different kinds of wood. Rather, it discusses the fate of the wood of the grape vine. Most translations have a foot note saying the Hebrew is difficult. But some translate it, or foot note is, as “what happens to the wood of the grape vine”? That fits the context of the passage. I am not a Hebrew scholar, but it seems to be the better translation.

The fact is that grapevine wood is not good for anything. It is twisted and gnarled and brittle. The inside is soft and shreds. The Lord, through Ezekiel, expresses this in two rhetorical questions. (A rhetorical question is a figure of speech. It is a question asked to make a point.) These both appear in verse 3. First, he asked, is it used to make anything? Second, he asked if you could make a peg of the wood from which you can hang a pot? This would be the simplest and most basic use of a piece of wood.

The answer to both questions is “no”. The wood is too brittle and twisted to make anything. It is even useless for a peg, for the weight of the pot would break the weak and brittle wood. The audience of Jewish exiles would no this. The only use of grape vine wood is to burn it. it really is not very good for burning, if you want heat from it, because it burns quickly and leaves no coals. And, as verse 5 says, it is even more useless after it is burned or charred. So far, so good, as we say in America.

The Application

Once the exiles acknowledged the uselessness of grape vine wood, the Lord went on to compare that wood to Jerusalem. God has given it up to be burned. it will of course be physically burned. But, burning is also often used as a symbol in the Bible. Sometimes burning is a symbol of purification through suffering. Sometimes it is the symbol of destruction.

For example, in Zechariah 13:9, the Lord says “and I will put this third into the fire and refine them as one refines silver”. Fire melts silver so that you can remove all the impurities. The end result is a more pure silver. God may use difficulties and trials to refine you into a more holy and obedient person.

As an example of fire as a symbol of destruction, Moses praised the Lord, saying “you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble”. (Exodus 15:7) Certainly the New Testament pictures of the fires of hell are not to refine, but destroy (in the sense of eternal punishment).

The inference here is also that the people living in Jerusalem are as worthless as grape vine wood. Because of their idolatry and violence, they are good for nothing but destruction. The Lord made it clear in verses 7, saying that fire would consume them wherever they went, for he had set his face agains them. They may have escaped the first siege and deportation, but they will not escape the second siege.
And when that happened, when Jerusalem suffered the wrath and judgment of God, the exiles would know that he is the LORD, that he is Yahweh.


As a final judgment, the Lord said he not only would consume the people in judgment, he would make the land desolate. The terms of the covenant included blessings for obedience. In Deuteronomy 28, Moses said the would have many children, many crops and many cattle. But, if they disobeyed, God would curse the ground and they would have none of these blessings. In the words of Ezekiel, the land would be desolate.

The exiles may not have yet heard the metaphor of the vine enough to have seen where the Lord was heading with this message. So, the meaning sort of “snuck up” on them and surprised them. It had more impact.

The the use of the grape vine as a metaphor for Israel came to be used several times. Psalm 80:8-16 is a plea for God to restore Israel. The Psalmist wrote that God brought a vine out of Egypt, a clear reference to God redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt. Jeremiah also used it, in 2:21. He asked how a vine of purse seed could become a wild vine. How did a nation redeemed by and given a covenant with God go on to idolatry? There are also several passages speaking of Israel as a vineyard to make the same points.

Jesus picked up the metaphor in John 15. But rather than say Israel is the vine, he said “I am the true vine”. This is the same as saying he is the true Israel. This would mean that ethnic Israel was the false Israel. They were false in that they continually disobeyed God. In the language of the metaphor, they did not produce fruit.

Jesus, on the other hand, produced the fruit of obedience and good works. And his followers will produce fruit also. We are empowered to do that by abiding in him and his abiding in us. He will prune us periodically. That is not punishment, but a tool to get us to produce more fruit. He may seek to increase your obedience or faithfulness, to get you to give up a sin or to rely on him more.

But there are those who hang with us for a while, but never bear fruit. They want to look like clean branches, but they are not. Those branches are cut out and thrown into the fire to be burned. Again we have the image of fire. It is not for refining, but for judgment and destruction.

It is important to be saved, to be in Christ. And it is important to know if you are in Christ or not. How do we do that?

First, note that the Old Testament Jews and New Testament Evangelicals both have their magic. The Jews believed that, if they were Jews, lived in Israel, especially Jerusalem, and observed the rituals whether they meant it or not, they would be saved. God said no. They had to love him with all their heart, with no other gods, and obey him.

Evangelicals, many of them, believe if you walk down an aisle, sign a card and repeat some magic words, you will be saved. When people doubt their salvation, ministers often question them diligently about what they said. Did they say the right words or not? You do not remember what you said? Uh oh.

But there is no magic. You must know the facts of the gospel and believe them. You must put your trust in Jesus.

How will you know that you are saved? You will know because you believe and because you bear fruit. Your fruit is a Godly life, good works and your witness for Christ. Jesus said it plainly and simply. Those who abide in him bear fruit. They are not perfect, but they bear fruit. Those who do not abide in Christ do not bear fruit. Paul broke it down for us further in Galatians 5:22. He said the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. There are more things that count as fruit, but that is a pretty good start.

Friday, May 23, 2014


One of the things I like about the gospel of John is his exposition of Jesus’s love. Here in John 13:1 he says “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love”. John does not refer to himself by name. He calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. (13:23) In other words, despite being one of the Twelve, he considered his very name to be unimportant. What was important was the Jesus loved him.

What is important is that Jesus loves you and me. The exalted Son, seated at the right hand of the Father’s throne, the one who has all authority on heaven and earth, the eternal second person of the Trinity, loves you. Everything else pales in significance.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


"now will the ruler of this world be cast out" Jesus said in John 12:31. Jesus defeated Satan on the cross. All authority on earth is given to Jesus. Matthew 28:18. Therefore, we can go to every dark corner of the world and challenge Satan's authority, claiming every inch of earth for Christ. Satan has power, but we, in Christ, can push back his darkness with the light of Christ. Pray for those who advance the kingdom in dark places. And share the gospel and stand for Christ in the dark corners of our city.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


While there was a lull in Babylon’s assault on Jerusalem, people began to prophesy, saying they had a word from the Lord. This is the time period between the two sieges. In the first siege, recorded in 2 Kings 24, Babylon conquered the city, took king Jehoiachin, his family and others as prisoners and looted the temple. Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoiachin’s uncle on the throne and changed his name to Zedekiah.

In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar attacked again, due to Zedekiah’s rebellion. This is recorded in 2 Kings 25.

In the period between attacks, the Lord sent word through Jeremiah that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians. (Jeremiah 1:3) Ezekiel prophesied during this time also, but from his captivity in Babylon.

But other men claimed to be prophets, speaking for God, and declaring that Jerusalem would not fall and would be at peace.

The counterfeit prophets were in Babylon, misleading the exiles and their leaders as to what would happen to their homeland. They also undermine Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry by contradicting his message.

In this chapter, God presents his charges against two groups of counterfeit prophets, followed by announcements of judgment.

Counterfeit Prophets

The Lord describes these men in several different ways:
They make stuff up (prophesy from their own hearts) (2);
They claim their words are the words of the Lord (2);
they are foolish (3);
“foolish” (nabal) in the Old Testament wisdom literature means one who is spiritually and morally dumb or obtuse.
Psalm 14:1 says the fool denies the existence of God.
they follow their own spirit, or impulse, rather than the Spirit of God (3);
they have seen nothing, as in no visions from God; (3);
they have no divine insight
they use their imaginations
they have seen false visions & lying divinations (6); and
they expect God to fulfill their word anyway (6).
But you cannot manipulate God by attaching his name to your thoughts. Neither can you command God to do something. (Is. 45:11)

God used two metaphors to describe these counterfeit prophets. First, he said they were “jackals among the ruins”. (4) A jackal will prowl through ruins to eat the left overs and attack the weak. These so called prophets are taking advantage of the people and the situation to their own benefit.

The second metaphor is a deteriorating wall. A wall might be built to protect a city or even a vineyard. Over time it disintegrates. So, you must either repair the wall or physically stand in the breach. The false prophets did neither. They did not protect the people. Rather they exposed them to harm.

Sadly, both of these metaphors show Jerusalem as a society in ruins.

In contrast to these men, Jeremiah and Ezekiel saw vision from the Lord and received the word of the Lord. We know that they were prophets because God did perform his word as he spoke it through them.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 sets out the law regarding a false prophet:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die...when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”

Their Punishment

Ezekiel returned to the metaphor of the wall, but this time the wall represents a message of peace. The people wanted to believe they would not be attacked again by Babylon. This is the wall they built: a false hope in peace despite God’s word that there would be war. The counterfeit prophets played upon and encouraged that belief: that is represented by the claim they white washed the wall. Despite this belief, God makes it clear again that there will not be peace. That is represented by his statement that he will break down the wall.

As a result of their misleading the people into thinking there would be peace, God said the false prophets would be removed from the rolls or census of the people of Israel. They are blotted out. This would have the effect of taking away their place in Israel. They are excommunicated. They will perish when the city is taken. Again in contrast, Jeremiah was actually rescued by the Babylonians when they took the city. God preserved him because he was God’s true prophet. You can read about that in Jeremiah 39:11-14.

Women Magicians

There are not many oracles against women in the Bible. I know of only two others: Amos 4:1-3 and Isaiah 3:16-4:1.

In this passage, God condemns women who prophesy falsely and practice magic. They made up prophecies as the men did. (17) But they also practiced magic. They made magic wrist bands, they created ceremonies to hunt souls. These were magic related ceremonies designed to make people think they had special powers. They did this for money (barley and bread). They also seemed to cause good people to be killed and bad people to live. (19) The encouraged the wicked not to repent and discouraged the righteous. (22)

God promised to end their magic and deliver his people from them.

Magic and evil ceremonies are a perversion of God’s use of prophets and his word. Balaam was paid to curse Israel, Saul consulted a witch who purported to raise Samuel. The satanic mass of today is a perversion of the Roman Catholic mass.

There are two things going on with the practitioners of magic. First, some of them are fakers who do what they do for money, fame and power. They do not believe they have power, but they work to fool others. Second, some actually seek power from the devil, or other forces they believe in. Those who will not bow the knee to the God of Heaven, seek power elsewhere.

The same two categories exist for false prophets. Some are fakers, some believe they have some form of power.

False prophets appeared in the early church. Paul warned against those who perverted the message of Jesus. Magicians also were active.

False prophets often tell people what they want to hear. In Ezekiel’s time, they told of peace that did not exist. Today, the speak of wealth and success.

False prophets tend to aggrandize themselves rather than God. They tell stories of their great successes. They live lavish lifestyles. They expect people to believe them, trust them and support them.

Since we have God’s word in written form, we have a good weapon against a counterfeit prophet. If a prophet purports to have a message from God that contradicts God’s word, we know the prophet is false. This includes books. We cannot assume that, because a book claims to be Christian or is sold in a Christian book store, its message is from God. We must weight the message of the book against scripture.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

God Departs But Promises A Future - Ezekiel 11

Chapter 11 winds up this vision of Ezekiel and talks about what comes afterward.

The Leading Men

The Spirit now moves Ezekiel from the inner court ((8:16) to the east gate of the temple. The temple faced east and this was the gate leading out of the temple grounds. So, it was a sort of front door to the temple grounds. There at the gate were 25 men who were leaders. Ezekiel even names some of them, giving great detail to the vision. These men sat at the gate because they were important.

The Spirit told Ezekiel that the men “devised iniquity” and gave “wicked counsel”. Micah 2:1, written a century or more before Ezekiel, said “Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds”. They seem to be afraid for themselves in the attack to come. But they think they are special. They say the city is the cauldron and they are the meat. This means they think the Babylonians are coming for them because they are the best of the city.

God’s Message to the Leading Men

The Sprit gave Ezekiel a message for these men. He accused them of violence, including murder, inside the city of Jerusalem. (6) As a result, he said, they would not die in the city, but would be driven from the city and given into the hands of foreigners. They would be captured and taken away from Jerusalem. In their captivity, God would execute judgments on them, including death. (9-10)

2 Kings 25:1-7 records the fall of Jerusalem. Some of the fighting men made a whole in the city wall and fled by night. They were captured, however, and either slaughtered or taken to Babylon in chains. This is a historical account. Ezekiel 11:9-10 is the theological perspective, or God’s perspective. He brought them out of the city to be captured or killed.

When this event happened, God wanted them to remember this prophesy so they would know that he is the Lord (literally that he is Yahweh).

In verse 12, God reiterated the reason for his wrath: they did not live according to the covenant, which was to separate them from the nations that surrounded them. Instead, they lived as those nations did. God specifically forbad them from doing this. (Deuteronomy 12:28-31)He also told them the consequence of such a life. Deuteronomy 8:19-20 says: “And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.”

A Promise of Better Things

For the first time in Ezekiel, God reveals what will happen after the exile. First, the Lord said he would gather them from the places to which he had scattered them. He would again give them the land of Israel. (11:17)

Second, God said that, upon their return, the Jews would remove all detestable things and abominations. (11:18) I believe he refers to pagan idols and places of worship. That seems to have occurred. Even centuries later, Jesus confronted Israel with their many failings, but idolatry was not one of them.

Finally, in verse 19, God said he would give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them. This new heart and spirit would allow them to live according to his statutes. This echoes the same promise contained in 36:26-27.

But not all would share this new heart and new spirit, for he would judge those whose heart still went after the abominations. (21)

The Glory of God Departs

At the end of God’s message, Ezekiel saw the cherubim begin to depart by lifting their wings. The glory of God was over them. The presence, or glory, of God had gone up onto the glorious chariot of the cherubim. The chariot left the temple grounds and left he city for the mountain of the east side of the city. That would be the Mount of Olives.

The temple was now and empty building and the city was no longer the prized possession of God.

Then the Spirit took Ezekiel home. He told the exiles all the Lord has shown him in the vision. Don’t you know there was great grief, shame and fear felt by the exiles.

It is not just the Old Testament Jews that can lose what they have in God’s judgment, if they are not faithful. In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus told the church at Ephesus they had lost their first love for him. If they did not repent, he said, he would come and take their church (lampstand) away.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


Ruth asked Boaz to spread his wings over her, symbolized by spreading his cloak over her. (Ruth 3:9) She asked that he marry her as the kinsman redeemer. It is a symbol of coming under his protection and possession.

God often spoke of Israel as his bride in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 16:8-10, God said e spread the corner of his garment over Israel, entered into a covenant with her and made her beautiful. Yet, Israel was unfaithful and trusted in her success. So, God brought destruction on her.

The New Testament continues the image. The church is the bride of Christ. He gave us new life, made a covenant with us and wants the church to be holy as a beautiful bride. We should respond, not as Israel did, but with gratitude and joy. We want our lives, as individuals and as the church to reflect the beauty and holiness of the bridegroom, Jesus our Redeemer and Lord.

Sunday, May 04, 2014


There are two things that happen in this chapter: Jerusalem is burned in judgment and God departs the temple. You can see the division in the passage as verse 1 begins with “then I looked and behold” (NIV = I looked and I saw), and that is repeated in verse 9.

The Fire

Chapter 10 continues the vision of judgment on Jerusalem. Having first executed judgment with the sword, the Lord now does it with fire. The man who was first charged with marking any who worshipped God now is charged with executing judgment. He was told to gather coals from the cherubim and throw them over the city. In chapter 1, verse 13, the creatures are described as appearing like burning coals of fire. But, in chapter 1, their function was not explained. Here in chapter 10 we see this chariot and these creatures as the executors of judgment.

The one who told him to do this is the man representing God, he is over the heads of the cherubim on the glorious chariot that Ezekiel saw before. Notice that Ezekiel called them “living creatures” in chapter 1. With a year to reflect, he has now figured out they are cherubim.

Verse 3 says the man went in and a cloud filled the inner court. I believe this is the glory of God, the Shekinah glory. God’s presence then went up to the threshold. There is a sense here of God’s glory moving through the temple, getting ready to leave it altogether.

I think chapter 9 and chapter 10 describe parts of the same event, just from a different perspective. Both chapters speak of the glory of God moving from the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the temple.

The man in linen took fire from the Cherub. He went out to spread it on the city as God commanded him to do.

Fire is often a Biblical symbol of judgment against sin. Deuteronomy 4:24 describes God as a “consuming fire”. The fire comes from the cherubim who guard the presence of God, so it is holy and clean. It is thrown onto a sinful city to burn it up. 2 Kings 25:9 records the actually burning of the city: “And he burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down”.

Jesus also referred to fire as the final judgment. All who rejected him would be thrown into the fire like unproductive branches. 1 Peter 3:7 says “By the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly”. Revelation 20:14-15 states that the lake of fire is the final abode of the wicked.

Abandoning the Temple

The second part of this vision shows the presence and glory of God moving toward its leaving the temple. The living creatures, or cherubim, that Ezekiel saw in the first chapter rose up from the earth. The glory of the Lord left the temple and joined the cherubim. They are bearing his chariot, as described in chapter 1. The Presence of the Lord moved from the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the temple in chapter 9. Here it moves further, to the east gate. This is likely the gate to the outer court.

Chapter 11 will show that God would, in fact, depart from the temple and the city and leave Jerusalem, once his holy city, to the ravages of the Babylonians. The Jews had abandoned the God of Israel. He would now abandon them.

This vision shows us that worship in Israel was totally corrupted. The people worshipped idols on the mountains and in the forests. Even when they gathered in the temple of the Lord, they did not worship him, but every possible alternative god. And God was offended. He left his house. He terminated his relationship with Israel because they breached the covenant repeatedly.

Pretty much every alternative is worshipped in America today. People worship the earth, the cosmos, the devil, ancient pagan gods and themselves. One of the biggest idolatries is the redefined God. People claim to worship God, but redefine him to fit their needs and desires, particularly the desire to sin. He is the God who does not care that much about holiness, who is ok with sin as long as we do not hurt anyone, especially animals. But, he is not the God of the Bible.

Even when the church gathers, there are times when God is not worshipped. We must be very careful to worship God only. We worship the Father through the Spirit because we believe in the Son. God seeks true worshippers.

Jesus explained this to the Samaritan woman at the well. He said “...the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24).

So, let us all come to worship in the spirit, thankful for our salvation. Let us come in wonder that the righteous God who executes judgment was so compassionate he sacrificed his son to bear the penalty of our sin.