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 and sisters, 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


"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


From the Temple to the East Gate

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


"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.


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.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

God's word in you

“In John 15:7, Jesus makes it clear that our living by faith is intimately connected to the Word of God in our lives. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The word remain means to live in or to continuously dwell. Jesus is giving us a vivid picture of faith—to let the Word of God dwell deeply in us”

Excerpt From: Kraft, Alan. “Good News for Those Trying Harder.” David C Cook, 2011. iBooks. 
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store:

The Word of God

The readings for today emphasize the priority the word of God must have in the life of a believer. No other book should supplant it, not devotionals, commentaries or topical books. The Word makes a man wise, for or conveys the wisdom of God to us. I added a passage from 1st Corinthians for your consideration. 

Jeremiah 8:9
The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them? 

1Cor. 1:18
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Col. 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Rules for the Temple - Ezekiel 44

The Gate for the Prince

This chapter deals with access to the holy places. That is the significance of noting the entrances and exits. Who can enter the inner court?

In the Old Testament, God restricted access to his presence. When God gave the covenant to Israel, he did not allow the people to come up on the mountain or even to touch it. (Exodus 19:12) When the covenant was confirmed, the Lord instructed Moses to bring Aaron and his sons along with 70 elders up onto the mountain. (Exodus 24:9) They beheld an image of God and ate a communal meal in his presence. (Exodus 23:11) But only Moses went up into the cloud of God’s glory. (Exodus 24:18)

The tabernacle and the temple both had strict rules about who could enter the holy places. Here in Ezekiel’s temple, the rules are more strict. They are based on past faithfulness or unfaithfulness.

Psalm 24:3-4 dealt with this problem. It says:

Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in is holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift us his should to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.

First, in our passage, there is an absolute prohibition of entrance via the eastern gate. Ezekiel’s guide took him Ezekiel’s guide took him from the inner court back out to the eastern gate. (44:1)

Ezekiel had seen the glory of the LORD enter via this gate. (43:5)

This time the gate was shut. (44:1) The LORD spoke then and told Ezekiel the gate shall remain shut and no one shall enter by it. Why? Because the LORD entered by it. By this he means that the gate, having been used by the LORD, is sacred and cannot be used by anyone common. It is similar to the vessels made for the tabernacle. They were holy, set aside for the worship of God, and could not be used for common things. For example, a priest could not take the lamp stand from the tabernacle and use it to light his home at night.

Yet, there is one who can enter the gate. The LORD told Ezekiel that only the prince may sit in the gate. Who is the prince? This passage does not explain, but we have seen other references to a prince. Ezekiel 34:24 says “And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them.” in 37:25, the LORD said “David my prince shall be their prince forever”. Of course, David had been dead a long time when this was spoken. So, we take it to mean a descendant of David. Specifically, we take it to mean the messiah. Matthew 1:1 begins by stating that Jesus Christ is the son of David. He did this to show Jesus was the Messiah.

Even the prince does not use the gate for access to the inner parts of the complex. He only sits in the gate to eat bread before the LORD. (44:3)

Condemnation of Israel for Covenant Breaches

Ezekiel again saw the glory of the LORD filling the temple. Ezekiel again fell on his face in the presence of God. This is a proper response to God’s holiness.

God then instructs Ezekiel to note the laws of the temple and to note the entrances and exits. The continued presence of the Lord is conditioned on the proper control of access to the holy areas, so the Lord’s name and presence is not profaned.

In contrast to God’s holiness,the LORD pointed out the lack of holiness in Israel and called on them to stop it. They had allowed uncircumcised foreigners into the temple. They had consigned the care of the sanctuary into the hands of foreigners. Only the Levitical priests were to handle the sacred objects and tend to the temple. Evidently, they had subcontracted this out to foreigners, nonbelievers, and profaned the temple. The Carites, who helped guard the temple, were one such group. This allowed all of the abominations to occur which we studied earlier. God’s presence left the temple because his holiness was not protected.

Rules for the sanctuary

In this passage, the Lord reiterated the rules of the temple, or sanctuary. No foreigners who were uncircumcised were to enter the sanctuary. Circumcision was the sign of the LORD’s covenant with Abraham. (Genesis 17:9-14)Those who were not part of the covenant were not to enter the temple complex.

Herod’s temple had a court of the Gentiles. They were only allowed in that court and could proceed no further. There was even a sign telling them this. The penalty was death. The Jews of the first century took the LORD’s instruction in this matter seriously. Paul was accused of violating this law in Acts 21. He was almost killed. A Roman commander rescued him. (Acts 21:27-32)

In verse 10, the LORD reminded Israel that only the Levites were to minister in the sanctuary or to guard it. The people could not assign that job to non-Jews or even non-Levites. Even though the Levites had abandoned God and their duties to pursue idols, he kept them in their jobs. (11-12) They would not be allowed in God’s presence as punishment for their sins, but would still be responsible of the care of the temple. (14)

The Levites were ordained to serve the LORD because they supported Moses in destroying the golden calf and restoring order to Israel when they broke out against the Lord while Moses was on the mountain. (Exodus 32:29) In Numbers 1:47-54, the LORD set out the duties of the Levites toward the tabernacle. Then Numbers 3-4 specifies their duties by their claims, the Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarites. No one else was authorized to care for the tabernacle.

Because of their sin, they could not enter the inner court. But, because of the sin of the people, they could not slaughter their own animal for sacrifice. Instead the Levites would do it. (11)

The Sons of Zadok

Since Zadok and his sons remained faithful to the LORD, they were given the high priesthood. They were commissioned to present the offerings. They were allowed in the inner court and holy place. (16) They offered the sacrifices on the altar. (15-16) But even they are not allowed in the most holy place

Since they were holy, they were required to maintain the symbols of holiness. They were only allowed to wear linen, because it did not make them sweat. (17-18) They had to change their holy garments when they went among he people. (19) They had extra rules to follow, above those of the common people and even above those of the Levites. because they were holy to the Lord and charged with ministering in the holy places.

Just as the walls protected the holiness of God, these rules protected his holiness as well.

The Inheritance of Zadok’s Descendants

These priests would have no land, for the Lord was their inheritance. He provided their food through the offerings. They did not feed themselves from their labor on the land as the common people did.

The New Testament tells us that the church is now a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9) The Lord is our inheritance. He does not give us an inheritance in land on this earth. Rather, we have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for us. (1 Peter 1:4) Ultimately, we will inherit the new earth, as the book of Revelation 21 shows us.

This chapter shows us that the holiness of God is to be protected and the presence of God valued and enjoyed.

As New Covenant believers, we have no physical walls to protect God’s holiness. We protect it by living holy lives. 1 Peter 1:15 says “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”. Peter called us a “holy nation”. (1 Peter 2:9) We reflect God’s holy nature. When we live unholy lives, we profane his holiness.

Also, as New Covenant believers, we enjoy the presence of God. The book of Hebrews taught us that, in Christ, we have access to the Father. This is a great blessing. We value it and do not take it lightly. But we enjoy it, for in his presence is great joy.

Psalm 16:11 says:
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

We not only have joy in God’s presence, we have “fullness” of joy. We have all the joy we can ever need or want.