Eating His Words

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“Moreover he said unto me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.’” Ezekiel 3:1

 
So here is Ezekiel still listening and being instructed and being equipped by the Lord. These words being given are not just any angel’s words. These are words of truth and judgment from God. And Ezekiel isn’t just supposed to hear them. He’s to hear and do, to hear and follow through, to hear and heed, to hear and be changed. And I thought I was going to talk about that hearing in verse 10, but I can’t get past a word in this first verse. It has just stopped me in my tracks. And that’s ok, Lord, because isn’t that part of hearing and listening, that I defer from my plan and pay attention to yours? And if one little word says, “Listen to me and don’t pass me by,” shouldn’t I obey?

 
Ezekiel can’t eat Your words until he “finds” them, can he? And eating Your words is important because they are our life sustain-ers. We have to imbibe them so that they become a part of us from the inside out. They have to become our sustenance to show that You are our very Sustenance.

 
Now, if I just look at Strong’s Concordance, I think of this word “find” or “matsa” in Hebrew maybe as something I just happen upon, that maybe exists upon my way or comes forth to be. Is there much significance to me if I just happen to attain something? Is there a difference between me finding or acquiring and my taking hold on something? Maybe it would behoove me to try to understand this finding better.

 
Remember that our problem here is a rebellious, hard-hearted people who should have known and loved and obeyed their heavenly Father. But they were rejecting Him and Ezekiel was to be their messenger to give them the opportunity to turn back to God. And it wasn’t like they didn’t have all the information that they needed to already find You, God, and love and serve You. It wasn’t like Ezekiel was being sent to a lost tribe who didn’t even know about You.
Let’s go all the way back to 1 Chronicles 28:9 to try to understand this finding, this word matsa. “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” This isn’t new stuff here, but it certainly is serious stuff.
If you read and listened closely enough so that you really heard the words, you see that idea or reality of seeking God and finding Him. It’s attainable. It’s doable. But it’s not something we can do all on our own. We have to take part in that action, but You actually let Yourself be found by us!

 
Matsa’ is a word about finding. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for someone, some place, or some thing, matsa’ is that word that you use when you discover what you have been looking for. In this verse in 1 Chronicles it’s not used any differently than that. But we learn more by understanding the form of the word. The form here “tells us that the action is [a] continuous, present tense, passive event…instead of me finding God, He actually finds me—but He lets me think I’m doing the work because He wants me to be encouraged for my effort.” (Skip Moen) It’s the same thing You’re telling Ezekiel. “You eat, Ezekiel. You find My words and take them in, and then follow through on them.” But did Ezekiel make up the words? Did he find without God showing him? Absolutely not. God, You prepare the table for Ezekiel and You prepare the table for each of us.

 
So here is this table, this table of abundance, filled with more than satisfaction, and it’s all right here before us. Just like in Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” The problem is, we handle it wrongly. We whine, “‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.” (Isaiah 58:3) Here, the people find their desire. It’s still that word matsa. Remember how it means “to find” and also “to come upon, reach, attain”? It’s that same word as in Deuteronomy 4:29, “ But if from thence you shall seek the LORD your God, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This kind of finding comes from seeking. But in Isaiah, they were fasting not to seek God, but to seek being noticed, or to seek the reward of the blessing. The sad thing is that we can seek the delights from God without ever seeking the delight of God Himself.

 
How can someone seek delight from You without seeking You? I can seek an emotional satisfaction from knowing I’ve done a good job. My practicing of my “religion” can give me a good feeling about myself. I can delight in that feeling. I can delight in how people view me. I can delight in my own goodness. I can delight in the monetary blessing or position of being valued and listened to. I can delight in a ministry. I can delight in my own works. I can delight in my own image or my own ideas.

 
Whether I eat from Your table or refrain from it in order to fast, my goal is not all about the table. My eyes and heart ought to be set on the One who provides the table. My goal ought to be righteousness and restitution and repentance, not feeling better about myself. My goal ought to be knowing You more and worshipping You with all I am and delighting in Who You Are and how You even arrange things in my life so that I CAN find You. It ought to be all about GIANT YOU even finding tiny little me, and REVELLING IN THE TRUTH AND JOY OF IT SO THAT I MUST JUMP UP AND DOWN AND DO HANDSTANDS UNCONTROLLABLY AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH IN TOTAL OBEDIENT LOVE! (Oh, did I get a little excited there? ) The proof of the pudding is in whether my actions change my expectations or demands on myself and on others. Has my heart been transformed? Or am I just looking for a good feeling? What have I really found? Anything, or just some pretend idea? You want us to really find You.

 
So why was Ezekiel able to find You when what seemed like the rest of Israel couldn’t? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Nope, it wasn’t new stuff here. It wasn’t like they didn’t know what to do. I think it’s the same for most of us today. It’s not new stuff. And it’s not like we don’t know what we ought to do and what we need to do.

 
We’re all running around asking, “What is the meaning of life?” Well, the answer has always been right in front of us. “The answers to life are found in seeking God.” (Skip Moen) God promised that those who seek Him would find Him. When Jesus shared, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” (Luke 11:9) He wasn’t coming up with some new idea. He was restating what should have already been known. From day one of creation, it’s what our lives were designed to be. We were created to seek the kingdom of God above and before everything else, and to seek His righteousness, and the rest of what we were designed for flows from that to us. And you can’t seek the kingdom and God’s righteousness without seeking Him.

 
Jeremiah uses this other word for seeking. It’s about diligently searching for knowledge. And that’s what causes a problem for many of us. Because we start thinking knowledge is about what we do, like religious activity, instead about who we know, like You God. We start replacing You with good works and ritual and rules and books about You and people’s testimonies. That’s why we burn out and feel empty.

 
Mary, in the middle of a busy day, found God in His temple. How? In her house, in all the business, she sat down at the feet of Jesus. She chose the place of a disciple, the place of closeness and intimacy, of quietness and learning, of being filled and restored. Martha was choosing service and doing the proper thing, the good thing. But Jesus said that Mary chose what was better? Was Mary lazy? No. But she was willing to drop everything to enter the kingdom of God and sit in His presence. She was seeking His kingdom first. She was soaking up His righteousness. And from that, she would be able to take those things to those around her.

 
Unless we eat of Your flesh and drink of Your blood, unless we are that intimate with You that You are changing us from the inside out, how will You or anyone else recognize us as Yours? Here’s the thing, we get to choose to seek You or not. “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:28) It’s not unusual to lose things and find them. It’s a very common occurrence in life. So it’s easily understood. But there’s a problem when we think we can seek God’s kingdom and wisdom but we choose to reject His rule. It doesn’t work that way. We become blinded. We grope and won’t find even when the answer is right within our grasp. We could put our hand right on it and not recognize it. The answer becomes invisible to us. The sad thing is that it was right there for us, it was ours, but by our own foolish decision we lost the gift that should have been ours all along.

 
I want to find what You place before me. I want to see You and know You and revel in knowing You and following You and walking in Your ways. I want to know how You feel about me by experiencing You. I want to know the power of Your resurrection and the power of Your love and the power of everything that is You. I want to know the beautiful wonder of You. And with that wonder comes hard things for me, just like for Ezekiel. Imbibing You, dwelling in You, means I can’t dwell in the world the way it is the same way. Knowing You and finding You means knowing and finding the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your sufferings. But if I am really Yours, if I want to really find You and know You, then I must let myself be found and found fully. I must let You have all Your power over me. Because Your desire is to make us a nation of priests after Your own heart, influencing the world around us in You. Your eyes run to and fro, back and forth, over the whole earth waiting to show Yourself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are complete in You. Why would I want to ruin such a good thing?

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Teaching, More Than Words

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“And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying…”  Matthew 5:2

Now Jesus has called Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  And they leave everything behind and follow Him.   So, as they are following Him, what is the first thing He does?  “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”  (Matthew 4:23)

I need to understand the way You, Jesus, teach.  Because I think that the very fact that You set the example of opening Your mouth and teaching is, in itself, a model for your expectation for Your followers.  And, first things first, unless I understand Your teaching first, well, how could I ever be Your follower?

Your teaching is important; it’s pivotal.  Here, it’s the Greek word “edidasken.”  The form that’s specifically used implies that this teaching is an on-going action.  It’s not that You taught and were done with it.  You opened Your mouth and teaching ensued and has not been completed because Your teaching continues.  Your teaching continues over the course of time and over as long as it takes to be fully taught.  So we can be confident of this very thing, that He which has a begun a good work in us will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ!  (Philippians 1:6)

Now this idea of teaching isn’t just like going to Bible School and that kind of on-going action.  It’s better seen in the Hebrew idea of teaching, through the word “lamad”.  Now teaching isn’t just an on-going action; it’s all about change.  Jesus taught with one goal in mind, the same general goal the rabbis had- “to bring about a change in life, a difference in behavior, a new perspective that results in observable adjustment.”  (Skip Moen)  So what was the goal?  Making a difference in my living.  Specifically setting me apart from the world and setting me apart unto God.

Setting me apart from the world and setting me apart unto God is a continual process that takes learning and acting upon that learning over a long course of time.  Let’s go back in time.  Let’s go back to Moses in the wilderness.  “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”  (Deuteronomy 4:1)  The Hebrew idea of listening was always accompanied by doing.  And here Moses was instructing the people to follow God, follow His teachings, follow His words, continually.  Listen.  Do.  And with the listening combined by doing would come life.

Now that word life is the same Hebrew word, “chayah”, that is used when God put His Spirit, His breath, into man and he became a being filled with “life”.  It’s the same way that God’s word “becomes” in the prophets.  God becomes in man and when He does, only then is man alive.  Do you know something special about God’s personal name, expressed by the tetragram YHWH?  That same verb chayah lies at it’s core.   “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  He “makes tangible what He is.”  Listen to this from John 1:14  “The Word became flesh.”  God’s life is, was, and always will be continually represented in Jesus.  I can see Jesus and know what and who Life looks like and acts like and is.  And when I wrap this all up together in my little mind, I see that He equips me in the same way as Adam and the prophets to be a vehicle for revealing the glory and wonder and reality of His life, His chayah.  This is what God has been teaching from the beginning of creation.  This is what Jesus was teaching and continues to teach.  This is being alive.  This is God’s intended purpose for me.  And when I learn this, I am to teach it to others.

I must teach it to others because just as the Father sent Jesus, so He is sending me.  Jesus calls me to Him just like He did Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  He says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  I can only learn as I continually follow in His footsteps, as I continually stay learning and listening and doing.  There has to be a transformation in my behavior or I have learned nothing.  Head knowledge is not enough.  Classroom instruction alone doesn’t cut it.  I’m called to attach myself to Jesus’ way of life, to Your way of life, Lord, and live it out.  What goes in must be lived out.  Only then does it move beyond theory or theology and become life.

It’s not about what I know, but all about how I live out what I know.  Is my way of living changed to be Your way of living?  Is my way of living distinctively different from me and from the world I live in?  Is it distinctively different like You?  Am I teaching the ways of the nations or the ways of God?  Do people and the world look at me and think I’m radical like You?  Is Your teaching my life?

So You, Lord, open Your mouth and teach us by preaching the Gospel.  You open up the Divine Truth to each of us and show us what it looks like and how we can live in it and how it can live through us.  You teach and preach by example.  You model everything before us.  Yes, You are God.  But You experienced fully being fully man at the same time.  I can’t explain it, but the truth is You were.  And I don’t have to understand something for it to be true.  But because You became man, You showed me what Divine living looked like and You called me to it.  And the beautiful thing is that You didn’t leave me on my own to do it in my human strength because I would be a total failure.

But so that I could be continually learning under Your living instruction, You sent the Comforter to me.  “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”  (John 14:26)  What will the Holy Spirit teach me?  The will of God through the words of God.  That’s Who Jesus was and is and will be and that’s Who He will always point us to.  He set the example for knowing and living out God’s words.  And I do this in the community of believers.  And if I have to, I do this even when the community of believers has been stripped from me.  But oh the blessing of a community of believers, to learn together continually with, to be taught by and to teach, to discuss, to debate, to grow, and to be strengthened continually.  Oh to live in Your instructions, God!  “As it is written” becomes the words of life and the action of my life.  Jesus, You showed how every word of God is apllicable and life-necessary.  You illuminated life for us.  You illuminated God’s standards.  They are worth everything to live in.  I can apply them to my continual everyday life.

My prayer is that I am teachable, and that there is never a day when I become unteachable.  But I want to be taught by You, from You.  I want to know Your teaching and truly follow.  I don’t care how difficult it is.  If you have to bring me through “debate, revelation, insight, memorization, life-changing commitment”, troubles, persecution, experience, whatever, then I want to follow You there.  If learning is a life-long process, well, “take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”    When I open my mouth, may I teach not only by the words of God but by the life-giving power that You have placed in me.  And may I never stop being continually overwhelmed by You.