Sunday, June 29, 2014



In Chapter 37, God gives Ezekiel a vision that demonstrates the truth of the prophesy in Chapter 36. Verses 1-11 are the vision. Verses 11-14 are the explanation.

Scripture quotes are in the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

The Dry Bones

The Lord took Ezekiel to a valley in a vision. He was brought there “in the Spirit of the Lord”. The valley is not named, but must have been known, for it is referred to as “the valley” rather than “a valley”. It is a stark contract to the end of chapter 36, where God said people would think of the new land as the Garden of Eden.

Ezekiel saw a valley full of bones. There were a great many bones. The bones were very dry. They were lifeless. The Lord made Ezekiel walk among them. He wanted to make sure Ezekiel knew there was no hint of life. The bones were dead and decaying. Ezekiel had earlier asked if God would completely destroy the remnant of Israel. (11:13) He must have thought the answer was yes. Here he was in the valley and everyone was dead. In verse 9, God referred to them as “the slain”. They would look like the bones of people killed in a great battle, their bodies left to decay in the open field rather than buried.

Exposure of dead bodies was part of the ultimate curse or punishment for violating the covenant. In Deuteronomy 28:25-26, God spoke of Israel’s defeat, where their body would become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. Jeremiah wrote of the same thing in Jeremiah 34:17-20. Ezekiel would likely think of these bones as those of people who were killed in Babylonia’s invasion of Jerusalem.

After taking Ezekiel on a tour of the lifeless bones, the Lord asked him “...can these bones live?”. Ezekiel answered “O Lord God, you know”. “Lord God” here translates “Adonay Yahweh”. The New International Version (NIV) says “Sovereign Lord”. Ezekiel knows the Lord can, but not if he will, so he leaves it up to the Lord.

The Prophesy

The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. He was to deliver the words of Yahweh (the LORD). Those words said the Lord would:
cause breath to come upon them;
cover them with skin;
cause them to (they shall) live
To make sure the understood it, he said it in verse 5 and repeated it in verse 6. He added, in verse 4, that he would put breath in them to make them live. And he added that, when the Lord gave them life, the “shall know that I am the LORD (Yahweh)”. (6)

In my terms, I would say he will bring them back to life and make them know him.

The Result

Ezekiel had obeyed and prophesied. As he did, the bones began to rattle, then attach themselves together. Full skeletons were formed. Then, the skeletons were covered with skin. (8) But they had no life, no breath, no spirit. They could not create life in themselves.

Genesis 2:7 told us that God made man from the dust of the ground. He made his body, but it had no life. However, when the Lord breathed into him the breath of life, he became a living being. So, God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath and tell it to come into the bodies.

Ezekiel obeyed and breath came into them. They lived and stood on their feet. (10) There were a great number of them. Ezekiel called them an army.

So, this is how they lived. The Lord made them listen to his word (Ezekiel’s prophesy) and cause the spirit or breath to enter them, making them know the Lord. It is a picture of regeneration. We hear the word, the Spirit spirit gives us life and we follow Christ as Lord. Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

Remember that twice before, Ezekiel has encountered God and fallen on the ground. Both times the Spirit entered him and raised him to his feet. (1:28-2:2; 3:23-24) And that is what happens here. The Spirit enters the bodies and they stood on their feet.

In Ezekiel 36:27-28, God said he would give the Israelites a new heart and a new Spirit that would allow them to obey his laws. That obedience would allow them to live in God’s land once again.

In this passage, God demonstrated this truth in a vision. He said he would re-create Israel through the prophetic word and the work of the Spirit. There is life in the Spirit through the power of God.

The Explanation

After the vision, the Lord explained the meaning to Ezekiel. The bones were the whole house of Israel. (11) I take that to mean all 12 tribes, both northern and southern kingdoms. (The Northern Kingdom had been conquered and exiled by the Assyrians 130 years before.)

The meaning of the dry bones is the feeling the Jews had in exile that all hope was lost. In fact, God quotes them as saying “Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.” (11) My grandmother used to say “I feel it in my bones”. For the Jews, it was an expression of great despair and sorrow. The Psalms speak of bones out of joint and wasting away. The also speak of being “dried up”. It is a sense of hopelessness. iThey were cut off from the land of Israel and, thus, also from the Lord. (11) Read Psalm 88:6-10 for a sense of being cut off from God by God.

In verse 12, God directs Ezekiel to prophesy to the exiles. They say all hope is lost, but God would give them new life, putting his Spirit within them to give them life. (14) Notice that God switched the imagery here from bodies exposed in an open field to bodies properly buried in graves. (12) God will treat them, not as those under the curse, but those for whom he has concern and care. To continue the symbolism, he said he would “raise you from your graves”. (12) The context here is not about resurrection of the body after death. Rather, this is symbolic language. He will bring them out of their state of being cut off from the land and from God. It is sort of like when God promised he would bring Israel up out of their affliction in Egypt. (Exodus 3:17) It is “exodus” kind of language, as seen by the next promise. God would return them to their own land. When this happened, the would know that he is the LORD. (14)

The Lord gave a sense of finality to the matter. He invoked himself for veracity. He said “I have spoken and I will do it”. God always keeps his word. If he said it, we can count on it.

It is tempting to focus on God’s promise to restore Israel to the land and limit this prophesy to the time Israel returned from exile. But the context makes us look more to the future. Beginning with the last chapter, this series of prophesies include a new heart and spirit, God putting his Spirit in them, and a new king or shepherd from the line of David. These are prophesies tied to the coming of Christ, who inaugurated the kingdom and sent the Holy Spirit who dwells within believers. Zechariah 3 also ties the forgiveness and prosperity of Israel to the coming of Christ, called “my servant the Branch”. (Zechariah 3:8) James, the head of the early church, in Acts 15, said that God’s promise of the restoration of Israel contained in Amos 9:11-15 was fulfilled in the coming of the Gentiles into the church.

Before we came to Christ, we were like the dry bones. We were spiritually dead. Ephesians 2:1 makes this plain. It says “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins”. That is state of every person who has not received Christ as Savior. They truly are the Walking Dead. But, when we receive Christ, the Spirit makes us alive. Colossians 2:13 says “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him (Christ), having forgiven us all our trespasses.” What God promised, what Ezekiel saw in a vision, has now become a reality.

The dry bones, transformed into living beings, became a great army. And the church is an army, dressed up in the armor of God, standing against the devil, marching forward to spread Christ’s kingdom over the earth.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

YOKED WITH UNBELIEVERS - Jehoram Loses Edom (2 Kings 8)

Jehoshaphat followed the Lord, but was not wise. He did business with the kings of Israel. He joined them in battle. He thought of them a brothers. This opened the door to trouble. The house of David began to intermarry with the house of Ahab. In 2 Kings 8:16 Jehoram became king of Judah and married one of Ahab's daughters. Jehoram became an evil king. He should have know better, as Solomon followed the same path with terrible consequences.

So, God took away another piece of the kingdom from Judah. Edom successfully rebelled against Judah. Edom had been subject to Judah since David conquered them and set up garrisons in their country. (2 Samuel 8) Jehoram violated the covenant by marrying a foreign woman. She led him into evil. God continued to impose the penalties for breaking the covenant. (Leviticus 26)

The same principle is carried over into the N.T. 2 Cor. 6:14 says "Do not be yoked together wit unbelievers."It goes on through verse 18 giving examples. It applies to marriage and business relationships, any relationship where the parties are bound (yoked) together. I know many Christian women who married non-believing men because they were handsome, popular or good at sports. Then, the spent a life time of struggling to practice their faith and raise their children in the faith.

We should live this principle and teach it to our kids. Jehoshaphat did not. The whole nation suffered for it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Verse 16 starts a new word from God, a new message. We know this because it starts with “the word of the Lord came to me”. The point of this message is God’ vindication of of God’s reputation. His reputation is symbolized by his name, his holy name.

This passage has two parts. First, God describes how Israel profaned his name. Second, He says what he will do to vindicate his name or reputation.

The structure of the passage is a little difficult, because the subject matter of the sentences switches back and forth. But with careful reading, we can sort it out.

God’s concern for his name is shown by the first 3 commandments of Exodus 20:
- no other gods before\beside me
- no idols
- no taking the name of the LORD in vain

First, then, God describes how Israel profaned the land with their sins. Verses 17 and 18 rehearse Israel’s sins in shocking terms. The Lord said that, while Israel occupied the land of Canaan, before the exile, they defiled the land by their ways and their deeds.

Remember that God considers Canaan his. In Leviticus 25:23, God said: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.” So, the land is sacred.

Because it is his, whoever lives there must live on the land according to God’s principles. They must treat it as sacred. The Lord gave Canaan to Israel, and destroyed the Amorites who lived there, because of their sin. Israel had to wait over 400 years from God’s promise to Abraham before they began to take possession of Canaan. They had to wait for the sin of the Amorites to be complete. (Genesis 15:16)

The Lord said the nations in Canaan were unclean and had made the land unclean. (Leviticus 18:24-25) They were, therefore ejected from Canaan. (Deuteronomy 9:4-5) God warned Israel not to adopt their practices and also become unclean. (Lev. 18:30) But Israel did become unclean, so God drove them from the land. Remember the example of Eden. When Adam sinned, he was expelled from the Garden and the presence of God. It is also, as I have previously mentioned, the ultimate curse for disobedience of the covenant. (Deuteronomy 29:22-28)

In verse 18, God complained about their violence, shedding blood, and their worship of idols, which defiled the land. God emphasized this uncleanness in a jarring way, saying they were like a “woman in her menstrual impurity”. (Ez. 36:17) A woman was considered ceremonially unclean during her period. Leviticus 18:19 forbid sexual relations during that time. Leviticus 15:19-24 spells out the rules for this. Actually, any bodily discharge made a person ceremonially unclean. You cannot offer sacrifices or participate in any congregational worship if you are ceremonially unclean. So, God drew upon this concept and said the people were ceremonially unclean and had to be driven from God’s land.

In verses 18 and 19, God restated what he did about Israel’s uncleanness. He “poured out his wrath” on them. (18) He scattered them among the nations. (19) He judged them. (19)

Everything in the life of the Old Covenant revolved around the concepts of clean and unclean, of sacred and profane. There were clean and unclean animals. An unclean animal could not be eaten or sacrificed to God. The Israelites were clean, or sacred, and the other nations were profane. When Israel acted like the profane nations, God sent them to live among them.

Verse 20 tells us that when they went to other nations in exile, they profaned God’s holy name there. To “profane” is to treat something sacred with contempt, irreverence or abuse. For example, Leviticus 21:6 says that priests must be holy because they offer sacrifices to God, who is holy. If they are not holy, they profane the name of God. Hebrews 12:1 says that Esau was a profane man for he had no regard for his God given birthright. While living in the land, Israel profaned God’s name by identifying themselves as God’s people, but not living according to God’s law. Living outside of the land, but as God’s people, also brought God’s name into disrepute. It said that God either did not have the power to keep his people in their land and obedient to him. It questioned his sovereignty. Therefore, God decided to act.

God said Israel profanes my name, but “I had concern for my holy name”. (Ez. 36:21) We are not to seek our own glory, but God can seek his glory and can protect his holy name and still be holy. We are to seek to glorify his name also. Jesus said the very first thing we should pray is “hallowed by your name”. (Matthew 6:9)

So, in verse 22, God said he was going to act for the sake of his holy name. Israel would benefit from it, but he was not doing it for their sake. He was doing it for the sake of his name. His actions would be merciful to Israel, but his intent was to restore the holiness of his name. And he said, in verse 23, that the nations will know that he is Yahweh, the LORD God, when they see what he will do. if the only concern of God was punishment of Israel’s sin, he could leave them in exile forever and he would be justly imposing the curses of the covenant.

The idea here is that there is a sort of three way relationship between God, the Israelites and the land. He brought them to the land and established them there as his people. Now, however, they were not there. The nations would, therefore, think that his power was insufficient to accomplish his promise to put them in the land. Therefore, his name was profaned among those nations. The very fact that they were in exile, regardless of how they acted, profaned God’s name.

So, what is he going to do? First, he said he would gather the Israelites from all the places to which they had been scattered and return them to their own land. (Ez. 36:24) That would show that he indeed had the power to accomplish his promise.

Not only would he bring them home, he would make them prosper. Look down to verse 29. He promised to make grain abundant and remove famine. He would make fruit trees produce. (36:30) He will cause cities to be inhabited and desolate places rebuilt. (36:33) We know from Scripture that God did return Israel from exile. The Book of Ezra records the Lord acting on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia (Persia conquered Babylonia during the Israelite exile) to send the Israelites home and to fund the building of the temple. (Ezra 1) There was a revival and recommitment to obey the covenant. The Book of Nehemiah records his rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem He also worked with Ezra to restore proper worship and commitment to the covenant.

But these things would not be done for their sake. (36:32) They would be done so that the nations around them would know that he is the LORD. Israel would know this and be ashamed. (36:32)

There is still a line drawn between sacred and profane in the New Covenant. But the line has moved. It is no longer between Israelites and Gentiles, but between believers and non-believers, regardless of race. God taught that lesson to Peter. In Acts 10, Peter saw a vision or dream of animals and was told to kill and eat. But Peter refused, saying he had never eaten anything unclean. (Acts 10:14) Interestingly, this statement echoes the statement of Ezekiel in chapter 4 of his book. There, God commanded Ezekiel to cook his food over a fire of human dung. Ezekiel responded by saying he had never eaten anything unclean. God relented and let him do it differently. But when Peter said it, God said “What God has made clean, do not call common (or profane).” He did this three times to make sure Peter got the point. Then, Peter was directed to go and preach to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, who received the Holy Spirit, just as Peter and other Jews had. The line between sacred and profane was no longer a line between races, but between believers and non-believers. Peter then had to go to Jerusalem and defend his association with Gentiles. (Acts 11) After he did, they marveled that God had done this, and they gave glory to God for doing it. Which is a proper response to the sacred.

Second, he will clean them. (36:25) He used the language of ritual cleansing, saying he would sprinkle clean water on them and clean them from all their uncleanness. He specifically mentioned idol worship. This again involves ceremonial cleanness. As their uncleanness was ceremonial, meaning they could not participate in worship or community, this is a restoration of ceremonial cleanness, giving them the ability to again worship God and participate in the community of God’s people.

Leviticus 17 tells us that a person who eats meat with the blood in it is unclean. He is cut off from the community and from worship. He must wash his clothes and bathe in water before he is clean. If he does not, he must bear his iniquity. (Lev. 17:13-16) There are other examples where a person must wash himself to be clean.

Again, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah show the people confessing sin and obeying the law of the covenant.

We can see, then, that the Lord fulfilled the first two statements during the return from exile. But, the third item does not come to fruition until the New Testament time of the church, when the Holy Spirit came.

Third, he would give them a new heart and a new spirit. (26) Their hearts were formerly “hearts of stone”. He used the example of stone as hard and impervious to God’s influence. Even today, we call a person “hard hearted” who does not respond to the normal influences that move the rest of us to sympathy or conviction. We call people who do not respond positively to good advice “hard headed”.

In place of the heart of stone, God will give his people a heart of flesh. (36:26) Here the use of the word “flesh” does not refer to the sin nature, as it often does in the New Testament. Rather, it refers to being soft and pliable. A person with a heart of flesh is open to God and responsive to him.

The new spirit that God will give his people is his Spirit. He will put his Spirit within his people. In the future, God will work on the inward person through this Spirit. So, we have a promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will enable them to walk in God’s statues and obey his rules. Israel abundantly demonstrated that men and women in their own strength cannot obey God’s moral law. They sin. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned. And you know it is true. The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)

But, upon conversion through faith, we receive the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit directs us to God’s standards and helps us obey them, and want to obey them. Paul wrote “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17)

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Sinful Child - 1 Kings 22

1 Kings 22 shows us that, although Ahab repented (21:27), his son followed Ahab's formerly wicked ways. Ahaziah did evil.

Every child is born into sin and will sin. David wrote "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Ps. 51:5)

But the parent must stand as God's representative before the child, teaching and modeling God's moral law, correcting when the child sins. Then the parent can, at the appropriate time, show the child that his or her sin is only atoned in Christ, and the child's sinful nature, inherited from Adam, can only be changed by regeneration given by Christ.

It really is the heart of the lesson of 1st and 2nd Kings also. The people could not observe the law faithfully without a faithful leader. But none of Israel's kings could be perfectly faithful. Israel, and all humanity, needed a perfect king who would lead in perfect righteousness.

God graciously provided that king, but Israel again rebelled against God by rejecting that king. But, thanks be to God, he used a remnant of converted Jews to extend God's message of salvation to the Gentiles. Now Jew and Gentile believers together form a kingdom with a perfect king who leads us to greater sanctification day by day until that great day when we are transformed to be like him.

What a great day, when the tug of sin is no more. What a great day when the earth no longer lives with the consequences of sin: corruption, killing, poverty, sickness and wickedness.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


1 kings 19 is such an interesting chapter and so unexpected. Elijah was part of God's great demonstration of power, he slew the false prophets, and he out ran the king's horse to Jezreel. He must have expected further victory, the submission of the king and queen to God and the end of the quest to kill him. Instead, Jezebel threatened to kill him. In shock and fear, he ran away.

In response, God was both merciful and purposeful. He was merciful to care for his physical needs, food and rest. Sometimes we are most vulnerable after a great spiritual experience, for we are physically and emotionally exhausted. God was also merciful in taking Elijah to the very spot in which he spoke to Moses, and spoke to him. What an honor that was. God was also merciful in answering Elijah's cry that he was the only one left to worship God. He gave him Elisha.

But, God was also purposeful. He set Elijah back on the path of work he had for him. For God decides when his prophet is finished, not the prophet.

I have experienced both of these in my life. (I am not claiming to be a prophet.) God has been merciful to restore me when I have fallen or when I have wanted to give up. But he has also put me back to work, even when I did not feel ready.

I am thankful for both.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

YAHWEH V. BAAL, ROUND 2 (1 KIngs 18)

In round 2 of the battle between Yahweh and Baal, God proved his existence and power (and Baal's non-existence). The demonstration ground continued to be rain and storm, since Baal was billed as the storm god. First Elijah said rain would fall again. Then God sent fire from heaven to consume the offering. Baal did nothing. And then the rain came, as God's prophet said it would.

God showed his existence and power. He also showed his mercy. Rather than judge his people, he took the initiative to show himself to them. 1 Kings 18:38 says God turned their hearts back. God is the one who initiates relationship between himself and man.

God, in mercy, sent his son to earth to turn our hearts to him forever. (John 3:16) He draws us to himself (John 6:44) as he brought Israel to himself at Sinai (Exodus 19:4).

I thank God today that he drew me to himself through Christ and keeps me forever.

YAHWEH V. BAAL, ROUND 2 (1 Kings 18)

In round 2 of the battle between Yahweh and Baal, God proved his existence and power (and Baal's non-existence). The demonstration ground continued to be rain and storm, since Baal was billed as the storm god. First Elijah said rain would fall again. Then God sent fire from heaven to consume the offering. Baal did nothing. And then the rain came, as God's prophet said it would.

God showed his existence and power. He also showed his mercy. Rather than judge his people, he took the initiative to show himself to them. 1 Kings 18:38 says God turned their hearts back. God is the one who initiates relationship between himself and man.

God, in mercy, sent his son to earth to turn our hearts to him forever. (John 3:16) He draws us to himself (John 6:44) as he brought Israel to himself at Sinai (Exodus 19:4).

I thank God today that he drew me to himself through Christ and keeps me forever.

Monday, June 16, 2014

YAHWEH VS. BAAL, ROUND 1 (1 Kings 16:29 et seq)

The reign of Ahab as king of Israel, as begins in 1 Kings 16:28, begins a further decline in the religion of the northern tribes. Israel had already struggled with the institutionalized worship of the golden calves. But Ahab married a Phoenician woman from Sidon who worshipped Baal, the storm god. Ahab converted to her religion and institutionalized it in Israel, building a temple and altar and worshipping Baal. He also built monuments to Asherah, the goddess of fertility. These were both part of the pantheon of gods worshipped in various Semitic countries around Israel.

So God (Yahweh) went on the attack through the prophet Elijah. First, he withheld rain from Israel until Elijah decreed it. He therefore said, Yahweh, not Baal, is in control of the weather. Second, he sent Elijah into enemy territory, Sidon, to live with the widow. There, he produced food with no rain or crops, showing that he was God not only of Israel but of all the earth, even Sidon. Third, he restored life to a child, showing his power over human life itself. And, he made a convert on enemy soil.

This is only round one of the battle between Yahweh and Baal. But this round went to the LORD.

"The earth is the LORD'S and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him." Psalm 24:1

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Chapter 35 contains God’s judgment against the nation of Edom. It is called Mount Seir in this chapter because that mountain is the most famous landmark of the country. Edom was a nation to the southeast of Judah.

It may seem a little odd at this point to interject a judgment against Edom, especially since there was a small passage in 25:12-14 condemning Edom, but the chapters 35 and 36 to together as a contrast of blessing and curse. At the present time in the Biblical narrative, Israel is cursed by God and made desolate. Edom seems to be thriving. But, in the future, Israel with be restored to thrive and Edom will be cursed and made desolate for its actions against Israel.

The language also indicates that the two passages are part of one message. Both begin with instructions for the son of man, Ezekiel, to prophesy and say. Both are addressed to mountains. Both speak of desolation. In 35, God says he is against Mount Seir; in 36, God is for the mountains of Israel. Both speak of God’s zeal to act.

Jacob and Esau were twins, but Esau was born first. (Genesis 25:24-26) He was, therefore, entitled to the blessings of the first born. But Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for some red stew. (Genesis 25:29-33) Jacob later tricked his father Isaac and received the blessing of the firstborn from him. (Genesis 27) Esau was angry and held a grudge against Jacob. (Genesis 27:41) He passed that grudge down to his descendants. The nation of Edom remained an adversary of Israel for centuries. This is why Ezekiel 35:5 refers to an “ancient hostility”.

Edom means red in Hebrew. It is a name given to Esau. Esau was know as Edom, or red, because of the red stew. (Genesis 36:1)He moved to the hill country of Seir and conquered it to live in. (Genesis 36:8) He drove out the Horites. (Genesis 14:6) In fact, God granted Seir to Esau as he granted specific land to Israel, Moab and Ammon. (Deuteronomy 2:1-7) But the Edomites felt that they should also be entitled to Canaan because Jacob cheated Esau out of it. Thus, verse 10 recognizes their desire to take over both countries. Evidently, the Edomites threw in with the Babylonians as Jerusalem fell, and then took over part of Judah while the Jews went into captivity. They sought to reclaim the stolen birthright.

However, God did not allot Canaan to the Edomites, or direct them to inflict harm on Israel. He will, therefore, punish them for their actions against Israel.

So, what you have is a battle for the possession of the promised land. God promised the land to Abram and his descendants. (Genesis 12:7; 15:18; 17:8) God’s covenant with the nation of Israel, however, was conditional regarding the land. If they obeyed the covenant, they kept the land. If they broke the covenant, God would drive them from the land. (Deuteronomy 28)

But possession of Canaan was not a matter of national power. Canaan was God’s land. He chose who occupied it. He chose Israel to occupy it. He might run them out, but he could bring them back. It was God’s right to decide. It was a matter of election. Israel was God’s elect at the time. he land was their inheritance. (Ezekiel 35:15)

The judgment is this: since Edom helped make Judah desolate, God would make them desolate. (35:3-4, 5, 7, 9) Again, God said that when he did this, “you will know that I am the LORD”. (35:4)

In contrast to the judgment against Edom in chapter 35, chapter 36 records God’s decree of future blessings for Israel. The contrast appears in the first verse. Whereas chapter 34 was an oracle directed at Mount Seir, chapter 35 is an oracle directed at the mountains of Israel. The writer was emphasizing the contrast.

The first 8 verses of chapter 36 reiterate God’s decree that the nations around Israel, that rejoiced in Israel’s destruction, will suffer God’s wrath. The remainder of the chapter sets forth the future blessings to Israel.

Although God declared he would make Edom and other surrounding nations desolate, he declared, in contrast, that he would make Israel inhabitable once again. In verse 8, he said the mountains would again produce branches and fruit. He will cause the land to be plowed and sown. That is, instead of desolation, Israel would again be fruitful in agriculture. In addition he promised to multiply the people to inhabit the land. (10) God would also protect them from surrounding nations, taking away the scorn. (15) All of these express the blessings of obedience to the covenant set forth in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

In a way, Edom is a representative of all who oppose God’s plan. God planned from eternity to bring salvation to a sinful world. He chose, or elected, Israel to be the family and nation that would produce the savior. The fortunes of Israel rose and fell with their obedience, but God preserved the line of David and the tribe of Judah down to a carpenter and a young wife who were given a child who was God incarnate, God with us, Jesus our Lord and Savior. All who oppose him will be destroyed as Edom was.

This struggle between the elect of God, Israel, and the non-elect, Esau, began before the boys were born. Genesis 25:22 says the babies jostled each other in the womb. It is as if they were struggling for position even before they were born. Before they were born, God chose Jacob to be over Esau. He told this to their mother, Rebekah. In Genesis 25:23, the Lord told Rebekah:
Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.

Romans 9:10-15 declares this as a theological truth:
Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls-she was told “the older will serve the younger”. Just as it is written: Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Malachi 1:2-3) What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not al all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion”. (Exodus 33:19)

The struggled continued when Esau lost his birthright. He planned to murder Jacob. (Genesis 27:41) When Israel came of of Egypt, it sought permission to pass through Edom, offering to pay for the privilege. Edom refused and even sent an army after them. (Numbers 20:14-21) Israel conquered Edom under David and kept them under control until Edom successfully rebelled against Jehoram. (2 Kings 8:20) When Babylon conquered Jerusalem, Edom cheered. Psalm 137:7 says:
Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down” they cried,
tear it down to its foundations”.

The battle continued in the time of Jesus. Jesus was, of course, the Messiah, the one anointed to bring salvation. He was a son of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David. At the very beginning of his life, a powerful man tried to kill him. That man was Herod, the king over the land of Judah by the appointment of Rome. Herod was born in Idumea. Idumea is the Latin word for Edom. Herod failed, as God told Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt to hide until Herod died.

When Isaiah wrote of the final judgment, he wrote of the devastation of Edom (Isaiah 34:2-10) and even hell (Isaiah 34:9-10) Malachi 1:4 calls them the people “always under the wrath of the Lord”.

So we see that Edom was an enemy of Israel, but also representative of those who oppose God and his son in bringing redemption to men and women, freeing them from bondage to Satan and sin.

Those who have been saved by Jesus are now God’s children and citizens of his kingdom. As Israel was opposed, as Jesus was opposed, the church is now opposed. Jesus told his disciples that would happen. (John 15:18) Esau hated Jacob because God chose Jacob. The world hates the church because God loves the church, and each believer, and seeks to please God rather than the world.

Friday, June 13, 2014


God told the Israelites to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your should and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5) But in 1 Kings 11, we see that Solomon, despite all the blessings God gave him, always loved other things. He loved wealth. We saw that he spent more time building is house than God's house. He used the most lavish materials, even those used in the Holy Place of the temple. He collected many horses, though God had forbidden Israel's kings from doing so. Solomon loved power and status. His first marriage was to Pharaoh's daughter, despite the Lord's command not to marry foreign women. It gave him political peace as a treaty marriage, but status also in that he was important enough to get this trophy wife.

Solomon also loved women. He may have loved women most of all. He ended up with 1000 of them. In a way, he was like a porn addict. He had women of every type to look at and have sex with, and he loved that. He was addicted to them to the degree that he began to worship their gods. And by doing so, he set in motion the loss of the kingdom.

Jesus reiterated the command to love God totally, and called it the most important commandment. All three synoptic gospel writers recorded the statement. They saw how important it was.

The seeds of Solomon's lack of devotion and his dabbling in sin bore fruit in his older age. He became a worshipper of many gods, an idolater. It is a great warning to us. Not only can we not love anything more than the Lord, we cannot love anything enough to compete with our love for God. If we do, that other love will grow until it leads us to sin, to shame, and possibly to destruction. One of God's principles is that we reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7) If we sow to please our sinful nature, from that nature we will reap destruction. (Galatians 6:8)

Let us examine ourselves constantly. Do we love our career too much, or our money, or our status? If so, we must repent and put things in order, keeping our devotion to the Lord complete and pure. The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


When Solomon finished building the temple, he prayed for God's blessing on the temple and on Israel. Solomon prayed that, if God sent Israel into exile, but they confessed their sin and repented, that God would hear their prayer and forgive them and cause their conquerors to show them mercy. (I Ki. 8:46-51) Israel sinned and went into captivity. (2 Ki. 25) Daniel, in captivity, prayed confessing and repenting on behalf of Israel. (Dan. 9) Cyrus, king of Persia, had mercy on the Israelites, and sent them home, led by Ezra. Cyrus gave back the articles Nebuchadnezzar, and instructed them to re-build the temple. (Ezra 1; 2 Chron. 36:22)

God moves Solomon to pray for something he would not answer for centuries. God answered the prayer completely.

He does not tell us why, but God has chosen in his good pleasure to work in answer to prayer, even to the point of putting the prayer in our hearts. So, not only is prayer a great privilege, but it is the manner in which God works. If God leads you to pray for something, do not refuse or neglect. Even if you have to stop doing something else at the time. God is working.

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective". (Jas. 5:16)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


When an O.T. writer inserts a paragraph that does not fit the narrative, it is to draw your attention to something. 1 Kings 7:1-12 is one of these. In the midst of the narrative of the construction of the temple, the writer inserts a paragraph about Solomon's house or palace. The "however" in verse one is elegant, pointing out Solomon took more time to build his house than God's house. Then, in describing the expensive materials used, he says "as was the inner courtyard of the temple of the Lord with its portico". (12) The writer is foreshadowing, noting that Solomon is building a great temple to the Lord, but maybe even a greater temple to himself. Trouble is coming.

We can appear devoted to the Lord. But closer examination may show we are more devoted to ourselves. May God help us to have perspective.

Sunday, June 08, 2014


Looking back to verses 20-24, we saw that God promised to take care of the sheep, his people, through David. David in this case means the Messiah, Jesus, who came from the line of David.
Verse 25 then tells us that when God (Yahweh) appoints the Davidic shepherd, he will make a covenant of peace with Israel. This recalls Ezekiel 16:60 where God said he would make an eternal covenant with them. This eternal covenant of peace means the end of God's wrath upon his people. It is similar to Isaiah 54:7-10, also promising a covenant of peace.
We have seen that God's wrath is terrible in the historical account of the destruction of Jerusalem. We studied God's own horrific descriptions of his wrath here in Ezekiel. He certainly demonstrated it in the flood of Genesis 9. But after each of these horrible events, God renewed his relationship with man. And so it is with the book of Ezekiel. God promised terrible judgment as an expression of his wrath, then promised a new covenant of peace.
Notice that this covenant is unilateral. That means it is one way. God says he will do it. He put no conditions on Israel for this new covenant of peace like he did the old covenant at Sinai. There they had to obey his law in order to experience his blessings. But not here. So, God then goes on to describe the benefits of this covenant of peace. He describes what this peace will look like.
He will banish wild animals from their land so they can live without fear of attack. (25)
He will make the people and the place a blessing to others. (26)
There will be rain and it will rain at the right time. (26)
crops, orchards and vineyards shall increase. (27)
He will break their yoke; deliver them from captivity. (27)
Nations will not devour them. (28)
They will not suffer reproach from other nations. (29)

The end result of all of this is that they will know that Yahweh is their God and they are his people. In other words, they will be in covenant with him. They are his sheep, of his pasture. He is their God. (31) Isaiah 11:1-9 describes a similar situation where Jesus restores creation to the state of Eden, where animals were not killers and all lived together in harmony, man and beast. There is also a close correlation with Hosea 2:20-25. There God said he would make them faithful and he would be their God. This would come about via his mercy. There is even a correlation to the blessings set out in Job 5:23. It is as if famine and attacks from animals are symbolic of all the tragedies that could befall a disobedient nation. It is interesting to me that the City of Detroit, Michigan, has fallen apart so much that there are wild dogs roaming the city and a break down of law enforcement in many parts of the city.
You can also notice that the benefits of this peace reflect the benefits or blessings of the covenant in Lev. 26:4-13. God promised security and prosperity. This is fitting, since God has been outing out the curses of the covenant on his people. Covenant is the way God relates to his people.
Another thing that jumps out at us is that it is the destruction of the old that allows for the new. After God destroyed the earth by water, he was able to proceed anew with Noah, making a covenant with him. In Ezekiel, after destroying Jerusalem, God is able to proceed with this new covenant.
In this new covenant God reverses the curse of the old covenant. Where God made them vulnerable to their enemies before, God now makes them secure. Where God made the land desolate under the curse, he now will make it productive under the new covenant. And these blessings are tied to the coming of the Messiah, the Davidic prince.
The glaring difference, though, is the lack of conditions. God initiates Israel's restoration for his own purposes, just as he did in redeeming Israel from Egypt. There he said "I have brought you to myself".
But over all of these blessings is God’s main intent and purpose: they shall know that he is God. (30) Interestingly, Jesus said eternal life is knowing the Father.
This was a very encouraging word to the Israelite exiles. It meant God had not abandoned them completely. He would bring them back to Israel. He would be there God. But some of this encouraging word would be fulfilled in the Messianic age. There was a promise of a future covenant. There was a reassurance that David’s line would again be on the throne, but his would happen with the Messiah. It meant God himself would be their shepherd, again fulfilled in the Messiah. So, when Jesus came and, in John 10, said he was the good shepherd but the Jewish leaders were thieves and robbers, you can understand why the leaders were upset. They understood that Jesus accused them of being the bad shepherds of Ezekiel who would face his judgment, while Jesus claimed to be the good shepherd who was God himself in their midst. Although some people maintain that the Jewish leaders misunderstood Jesus, I do not think they did. I believe the understood his Old Testament references perfectly and that is why they were mad at him. They rejected his claims and did not want to give up their leadership to him. So, they killed him.
Shepherds have to remember they are under-shepherds. The flock is God’s and he tends it. The under-shepherd just serves to let God shepherd through him. When he sees the flock as his, or believes he has special privileges over the flock, God will often intervene.
The concept of peace with God is important to us. Peace with God is brought to us by Jesus. This passage in Ezekiel looked forward to that. The angels declared it at the birth of Jesus. We once were subject to God’s wrath. Ephesians 2:3 says we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. God’s wrath brings destruction, as we have seen. Romans 9:22 refers to vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.
James Montgomery Boice said “The worldly mind does not take God’s wrath seriously because it does not take sin seriously. Yet if sin is as bad as the Bible declares it to be, nothing is more just or reasonable than that the wrath of a holy God should rise against it. In the Old Testament there are more than twenty words used to express God’s wrath. More than 600 passages deal with it….” As much as I tired, as a young person, of hearing sermons on God’s wrath, I realize now how necessary it is. We have to understand the horror of sin and the fullness of God’s wrath toward it to appreciate the gift of salvation. And we have to convey this knowledge to others as we witness to them. C. S. Lewis said “We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.” Francis Schaeffer said “If I had one hour with every man, I would spend the first 45 minutes talking to them about God’s law, and the last 15 minutes talking about His great salvation.”
Jesus presented the gospel this way to Nicodemus in John 3. He said God sent his son to give eternal life to all who believe in him. (John 3:16) But, he said those who do not believe are “condemned already”. (John 3:17) They are condemned already because they are objects of God’s wrath. What a horrible thing to be.
Now we are at peace with him. Romans 5:9 says “...much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” And back to Romans 9, Paul said that, in contrast to the vessels of wrath, there are vessels of mercy, those who have received salvation through God’s grace. He has made know to us the “riches of his glory”. (Romans 9:23) He has revealed to us his marvelous grace that has delivered us from his wrath.
As we go to worship today, let’s fall at the feet of the one who gave us mercy and marvel at it and at him. Let us thank Jesus who bore God’s wrath and turned it away from us. And then let us go and tell others that we might help deliver them from God’s wrath into his mercy.

Thursday, June 05, 2014


I have always found 2 Samuel 24 complicated. Evidently, Israel had fallen into sin after all of David’s victories and the resulting prosperity. God was angry at Israel (24:1). The parallel account in 1 Chronicles 21 says Satan incited David to take a census. I think the Lord allowed Satan to tempt David. Since the act of counting the people is not a sin, the sin had to have been David’s motive. He was proud of his army. He was not trusting the Lord.

Joab tried to talk him out of it, so Joab knew it was sin. He questioned David’s motives by asking why David wanted to do it. (3) This was the promised way of escape God provided. (1 Cor. 10:13)

The census was taken, but the people did not pay the ransom required in Exodus 30:12. The ransom is required to remind the people that they are God’s, not their own and not the king’s. The penalty for failure to pay the ransom is plague.

David realized his sin and confessed. (10) He asked forgiveness. He knew he and God were separated by sin. But, he did not offer any of the sacrifices that were decreed to resolve guilt and separation.

God imposed the consequence of sin. When God imposed the consequence, he imposed the consequence he decreed in Exodus: plague broke out. God was true to his word.

With urging from God’s prophet, David finally made things right. His purchase of Araunah’s property involved payment of many shekels, a sort of restitution for the failure of the people to pay the ransom. He made a burnt offering, the most expensive offering, to show his repentance and to petition God to stop the punishment for sin. David would have laid his had on the bull to symbolize the transfer of sin, then killed the animal to make atonement for his sin. Then he offered a peace offering, symbolic of a communion meal, to be reconciled to the Lord and restored to fellowship. The Lord accepted the offerings and the plague stopped.

God is always angry about sin. Sin offends him. Atonement can be made for sin. In God’s mercy he provided a way. He foreshadowed it in the old covenant sacrifices. He brought it to fruition when he sent his son to die for us on the cross. When we receive the benefit of his sacrifice of atonement, we no longer suffer the ultimate consequence of sin. The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life. (Rom. 6:23)

Even in this disaster, God acted to further his plan of redemption. David’s purchase secured the site for the future temple, where God’s presence would dwell for many centuries and where sacrifices for sin would be made until they were fulfilled in Christ.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


I have had people tell me there is no proof of Jesus' resurrection. But Luke, in his two books, records many proofs.

In Acts 1, Jesus spent 40 days with them giving many proofs he was alive, meaning alive in the body and not just a spirit. Then the 11 saw him ascend into heaven. I never had 11 eyewitnesses at a trial as a prosecutor, but got convictions.

You can proclaim the resurrection. There is no evidence for the other theories, just speculation.

And while they were looking up in wonder as Jesus ascended to heaven, God thoughtfully sent an angel to remind them of the best part: he will return.

Monday, June 02, 2014


Jesus, the good shepherd (John 10:11), the God shepherd (Ezekiel 34), gave Peter the under-shepherd only two instructions: (1) follow me (Jn. 21:9) and (2) take care of, or shepherd, my sheep (Jn. 21:16).

Good instructions for every under-shepherd, pastor, teacher, mentor.

Sunday, June 01, 2014


After many chapters of judgment, Ezekiel begins to speak about restoration. After much proclamation of despair, he now begins to offer some hope. This has both judgment and salvation.

The Bad Shepherds & A Good Shepherd

The metaphor of sheep and shepherd is a common one in the Bible. God’s people are the sheep. The flock, the gathering of sheep, is Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament.

The shepherds are the leaders. You may be more familiar with the New Testament. There, shepherds are usually the pastors of the church. But, in the Old Testament, the shepherds are often the kings. For example, the Lord told David “You will shepherd my people Israel and you will become their ruler. (2 Samuel 5:2)

Because the Old Testament people of God had a country and a government, the king, as leader of the government, was responsible for keeping the people on the right path of obedience to God.

God was their original shepherd. And he was the real shepherd. But the people rejected the Lord as their shepherd and demanded a king. (1 Samuel 10:19) Moses prophesied this in Deuteronomy 17. He also gave the requirements for the king. The king was to copy the law in a book and read it all the days of his life. (Dt. 17:18) He was to keep the law. His doing so would be an example for the people.

Unfortunately, Israel had more evil kings than good kings. And, indeed, the evil kings led the people to do evil. So, in Ezekiel 34, God directs Ezekiel to voice his complaints against those kings and leaders. Here is the list of his complaints:
they fed off the sheep rather than feed them;
they did not strengthen the weak;
they did not heal the sick;
the did not care for the injured;
they did not lead them;
they did not seek the lost;
the ruled harshly; and
they caused the sheep to scatter.

All of these show that the leaders of Israel profited from the people rather than lead, protect and guide the people.

The word for “harshly” or brutally in verse 4 is the same word used to describe the way the Egyptians treated their Hebrew slaves. It is also used in Leviticus 25:43 which forbids one Jew from treating another Jew this way. God is saying, Israel’s rulers treated them as badly as the Egyptians and broke God’s law in doing so.

Ironically, some preachers today refer to themselves as God’s anointed, as the Israelite kings were labeled. Remember, David did not kill Saul when he had the chance, citing the rule that you may not strike God’s anointed. The irony is, having claimed this mantle, they also prey on the sheep, living lavishly on their offerings, teaching false doctrine and leading the sheep astray.

So, God said he would put a stop to it. He would “...put a stop to their feeding the sheep”. (10) He would rescue the sheep. And he would require an accounting of the shepherds.

God The Seeking Shepherd

God said he would be a seeker. He will seek the sheep wherever they are scattered. He will rescue them. He will feed them with good pasture. Look at how this passage is similar to Psalm 23. David declared the Lord to be his shepherd, who would make him lie down in green pastures, protect him, comfort him and feed him.

Included in God’s shepherding is a return to Israel from exile. (34:13) He will gather them and bring them home. We know from later books in the Old Testament that God did bring Israel home. And we know there were no more kings of Israel after that time. Israel remained under the domination of foreign kings.

God Will Judge the Bad Sheep

Even with God as the shepherd, there will be bad sheep. There will be those who take advantage of others. They want all the blessings and they want to spoil them for others. There are “fat sheep”, who live off of the lean sheep. I was shocked, when I returned to my home church after college, how many people wanted to make money off of me. I received many business cards. One fellow was know to go through the line welcoming new members, hand them a card, and promise to call on them for business. I still get some approaches from sales persons in church.

Church is not a business opportunity. We do not come here to find customers. We come to worship and minister.

So God promised to judge between the sheep and to rescue the weak ones. He will bring justice.

The Coming Prince\Messiah

This all sounds like God promising to return Israel to its homeland and give it good kings and leaders. But, then, God drops a big bombshell. He will be the shepherd and their God, and he will provide a prince for them. He calls this prince David, although David is long dead. So, we take this to mean the prince will come from David’s line. Yes, this is a promise and prophesy of the Messiah.

One of the things I have realized is that we often miss meanings in the New Testament because we do not know the Old Testament. Jesus often used the metaphor of the sheep, the flock and the shepherd. Growing up, I often heard this was because the people of his day were very familiar with sheep and would understand his meaning. That, however, is only part of the truth. The fact is, Jesus used these metaphors to reflect on these passages in the Old Testament that told of his coming. By using the language of these texts regarding shepherd and sheep, he was saying “I am this shepherd of the Old Testament text”. Or, “I am God the good shepherd”. In addition, in the flesh, I am “David the prince”.

Here are some examples.

John 10 has a long discussion of sheep and shepherds. In doing so, he alluded to Ezekiel 34.

In John 10:9, Jesus said anyone who enters the sheepfold (flock) through him would find pasture. This is a reference to Ezekiel 34:14 where God said he will “feed them with good pasture”. Jesus is saying, I am the one who will do what God promised to do in Ezekiel 34. I am God the Shepherd.

Another example is found in Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus speaks of the final judgment. He said he would judge between the sheep and the goats, similar to God’s statement in Ezekiel 34 that he would judge between the sheep. Jesus said the good sheep were the ones who fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, welcomed strangers, visited the sick and those in prison. Those will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.

In contrast, the goats did not do these things. They were like the bad sheep of Ezekiel 34 who took for themselves and spoiled the remainder so no one else could have some. They took advantage. God judged them as he promised in Ezekiel 34, and sent them into eternal punishment.

The third example is John 10 again, this time verses 11-18. There Jesus portrayed himself as the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep. He distinguished himself from the hired hands that fled when trouble came. Here he is David the Prince. He is from among the sheep as a man, being a Jew. He is of David’s line, entitled to lead as a king or prince, and he does so by laying down is human life in sacrifice for the sheep. He is both God and man, both God the good shepherd and David the prince.

The fourth example is Luke 15:4-6, where Jesus is the shepherd who seeks and finds the one lost sheep and rejoices over it. In Ezekiel 34:11, God said “I myself will search for my sheep”.

In addition to these direct references, not that Jesus rules now through the leaders of the church. They are “undershepherds”. (1 Peter 5:2-4) They serve, but they also have authority. They are not to lord it over the sheep, but to oversee. They protect and care for the sheep.

A Covenant of Peace

Not only will God provide a new shepherd, he will make a new covenant. This appears to mean not the new covenant of Jesus, but a new experience of the old covenant in which the blessings, rather than the curses, are experienced. It will be a covenant of peace. God’s people will be safe, they will receive many blessings, they will not be slaves.

One purpose of the judgments was to show the people that Yahweh is God. That phrase appears repeatedly in Ezekiel. But, when God makes this new covenant of peace, they will know by the blessings that Yahweh is God.

Ultimately, Jesus is the fulfillment of Ezekiel 34. He fulfilled all of the Old Testament covenants. He is the Davidic king. At the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the crowds rightly shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David”. (Matthew 21:9) He fulfilled the law, obeying it completely. He brings us permanent peace with God. He brings us peace with each other.

We see the partial fulfillment of this today. But, upon Christ’s return, all will be fulfilled. He will gather a flock of believers from all nations. There will be no more suffering for these sheep. He will be the shepherd among his people. Revelation 7:17 says “For the Lam at the center of the throne will be their shepherd”.