Wholly Devoted, Stepping Up

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“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Job 1:1

God is perfect. What man is perfect? Even Job said, “If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, ‘I am perfect,’ it shall also prove me perverse.”( Job 9:20) If Paul said he wasn’t even perfect, how do we be perfect as he tells us in Philippians 3:15, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…”? Why doesn’t the definition of “perfect” help me? In Greek, it’s “teleios”, complete, completeness (in labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.). How can I be completely complete? Unless you have a really lofty image of yourself, this ought to stop us in our tracks. I’m so incomplete. I’m so imperfect. I’m so not everything I was created to be. See, that’s the problem. And even if I go back to the Hebrew for perfect, “tam,” it’s the same idea. If we’re told to be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 19:2), how do I ever attain to that?

I can’t attain by what I do. Remember, to break even one law is to have broken all the law. Yet, that doesn’t exempt me from obeying the law. It just tells me that the law is not where I find completeness. So where is completeness found? Where did Job find it? And was it that he found it or that someone, a supreme Someone, gave it to him?

I want to look at Job. How did he get there. What does it mean that he “was perfect and upright”? “Hayah” is the Hebrew word translated as “was” here. It means existed, came about, accompanied, it happened. Isn’t it interesting that part of the definition has to do with accompanying with. It brings me to Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This Ever Existent One brings us into existence and into being in Him. What is faith but a relationship with and in Him? How can one please Him if one is not of Him? Nothing less would satisfy. That’s how Job could be perfect and upright. That’s how he could eschew evil because of how he related to and in God.

It’s not that Job was such a great guy in himself. What made him a great guy, a perfect guy in God’s eyes, a complete guy, was that he was wholly devoted to God. Skip Moen shares how another author, Matthew Wilson moves the meaning of holiness away from “set apart.” He directs the meaning to being “devoted.” “We are to be devoted to God in the same way that He is devoted to us, to Israel and to His creation. ‘Therefore you are to be devoted, as your heavenly Father is devoted.’ “ I can’t be perfect, but can I be devoted to God like that. I can. I can choose to respond in devotion to God through all my circumstances, no matter what happens. Whether I’m successful or I fail, whether I do well, or make a mistake, I can devote everything in me to Him. In being devoted, I can continually move toward Him, continually seek His presence, His way, His delight even in the hardest times of my life. Job, David, Elijah, Mary, Priscilla, they all were devoted to God, and they were all just people, like you and me.

Listen to this verse, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus can sympathize with us. He has that kind of relationship with us. He earned that. How did he earn it? He devoted himself wholly to God! Was this easier for him than it is for me? No! He didn’t draw on his divinity to keep from sin. In his humanity, he remained devoted to God first. He did this just as a man, just like you and me. He wasn’t without sin because of some divine power that kept him sin-free. He was without sin because he chose to remain devoted to His heavenly father. What about me? What’s my excuse? What is keeping me from being wholly devoted to You, Lord? What is barring me from having a complete relationship with You? Maybe it all boils down to me. Maybe it’s just a matter of my devotion, and I’m the only one who can control that. And I suppose, if Job could control his own devotion to You, so can I. So, what excuse do I have?

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My Everything Forever

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“It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, ’The LORD is there.’” Ezekiel 48:35

 
David shared about God’s glory in Psalm 19: 1-4, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them has He set a tabernacle for the sun…” So since the time of creation, God’s glory has been present. Paul reiterates this in Romans 1:20, “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” What were they without excuse about? How about not becoming personally involved with that eternal power and divine nature?  Could God’s demonstration through all of creation be more than just a demonstration? Could it be a demonstration for the purpose of invitation? Could it be a calling back into His presence, into the place where man and woman were created to live all along?

 
Beyond manifesting Himself through nature, God has chosen to manifest Himself directly to His people in many ways. In redeeming His people from Israel He was there as a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. The Shekinah glory cloud showed His “presence, provision, protection, and guidance” Also associated with the Shekinah cloud is the Angel of God. In Numbers 14:13,14 we see the pillar of cloud there to comfort Israel and to stand in the way of her enemies. The pillar, or presence of God moved with the people.

If we jump to Moses we have God manifesting His presence in the burning bush. Again He manifests His presence and provision in the giving of manna, the bread from heaven. And there He is again, with Moses, giving the Law at Sinai with His fingers in stone. And tell me that wasn’t for the benefit of His people to understand how much He is with them.  I mean, does God even really need fingers like we have to write with?  Yet, He chooses to manifest Himself in ways that we can understand even though He is beyond understanding. Imagine, there He was, on Mt. Sinai, manifesting Himself as a consuming fire and the fear the people felt did not drive them to awe but they turned shortly thereafter to a golden calf instead.

Solomon new that the temple was there as a place for God to meet His people and yet how could a temple hold His awesomeness? “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) That does not negate God’s presence but it makes us appreciate that He is present for us all the more.

God manifested Himself through and to Elijah, Elisha, David, Jacob, Abram. He manifested Himself to the children of Israel and to the Egyptians. He manifested Himself before other attacking nations.

Now, He manifests Himself through us as we let our “light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) We are living sacrifices according to Paul. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and we are no longer our own. Why? We have been bought with a price. The price of the sacrifice of Christ for us. So it is only right and makes sense that we should glorify God in our body with all that we are. After all, I owe my whole life to Him. Today, God is here in individual believers. And individual believers are members of the body of Christ which is the church. Are we living as though God is here in us? And are we living as though we are truly members dependent upon the other members of the body of Christ? Or do we, like the mixed multitude, see the glory of God and walk another direction and worship toward another?

The great news is that there is coming a day when the glory of God will be fully manifested. He will be there forever and ever. Because God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He will never break His covenant. Haggai 2:9 tells us “’The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” And what makes this time more glorious? The King of kings is returning to defeat His enemies and take His throne! The Lord will be there with His people forever! Revelation 3:21-22 promises, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Shekinah will return. The glory of God will be present with us. There will be rejoicing and shouts of joy. There will be encouragement for the exhausted, strength for the feeble, courage for the fearful, and salvation for the helpless.

When I was a little girl and started hearing about Jesus, all I could do was think about Him. All I wanted more than anything was to be with Him. I thought to do that I would have to go back in time or God would have to let my mom give birth to Jesus again. Neither one of those was the way. And it wasn’t until I was about 15 years old that I learned that I could walk with Jesus in my life now by surrendering my life to Him and trusting Him as my Lord and as my Saviour. His presence is not just a literary fact that I hang on to. His presence is manifested in my life. There are times when you can strongly feel His presence. There is the touch of God on the person inside as He changes me. There are times He intervenes on my behalf. There are times He is silent and makes me learn to wait and trust and love Him more than my answer to prayer. But still, there is something even more special about this day in the future when Jehovah Shama becomes the name of His great city. In that day when we can say, “The Lord is here!” it will be like walking with Jesus here on earth again, only far more amazing because Jesus will be acknowledged as Lord. For a millennium we will see what life ought to be like in His presence here on earth. We, all people at that time, will get to live life in the midst of His peace and presence.

Do you know why? It’s because God is faithful even when we are not. God made a covenant of peace with His people, an everlasting covenant way back in what we call the Old Testament. His people have broken that covenant. But God is not a covenant breaker. He is and always will hold true to His promises. And He promised to place His people and multiply them, and set His sanctuary in their midst forever. And He has said that He will be with His people, and He will be their God, and they will be His people. And it doesn’t stop there! Even the nations, the Gentiles like most of us, will know that He is the Lord and that He sets us apart from the “profane” or ordinary and makes us holy. And when He is in our midst we will know the difference between ordinary and holy because it’s not just about a temple being in the middle of our society, it’s about God being in the midst of our hearts forever. This is the joy and promise of the Millennium; a time on earth of knowing God, of living in His presence.

 
This word in Ezekiel actually came at a time when the Lord was not there. His Shekinah, His presence had left Israel because of their continued rejection of Him. Judah would receive judgement and then the nations around them would receive judgement. This message was to give Israel hope that they could return to God and He would restore them to Him again. But here is the problem. Do we believe and trust God by acting in faith? Or do we reject His promises and search out our own restoration our own way?
I think of Jonah who didn’t want restoration for Ninevah God’s way. So he tried to run from it and from God. But where can you hide from God? Psalm 139:7-12 reminds us, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

When I was little, I thought that God was far away, but God tells Jeremiah, “‘Am I a God who is near,’ declares the Lord, ‘And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the Lord, ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.” Yes, He is a God who is near and far at the same time. He encompasses the whole universe and more and yet, He knows the intimacies of my heart. He knows not only that Adam and Eve have run to hide, but He knows their most intimate thoughts and reasonings.

One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel, meaning, God with us. This is not an afterthought or because there was an oops moment when God realized that maybe the tree of knowledge wasn’t a good idea because now man has sinned and we need another plan. This, God with us, has been God’s plan and way from the beginning. It’s the reason God gave Adam and Eve a choice. Think about it. God never had to choose to be with us. He created us. We could be puppets. Yet He chose to relate with us, to interact with us, to love us and to know us and to be known by us. Now it’s up to us, each of us, and all of us, to reciprocate that privilege. It’s up to me to know my Maker. But I must choose to know Him. God’s promise is that all the earth will be filled with His glory because His desire is that all would know Him.

It makes sense to know the One who created me and who loves me most. Paul reiterated that, that it makes sense “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are His children.’” (Acts 17:27-28) After all, He is the I AM THAT I AM, the Self-Existent One. There is no one else like God. Who else should we grasp on to?

 
There are lots of broken hearted people in the world today. Sin is like that. It breaks hearts and lives. But Jesus came to save and heal the brokenhearted. David reminded us in Psalm 34:18 that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Isaiah shared God’s heart in chapter 57 verse 15, “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” He is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)

 
You know, Moses was a smart man. He was smart because he wouldn’t take a step without knowing God was present with him. Listen to his own words, “Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favour in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’” (Exodus 33:15-16) Didn’t God honour that attitude with His presence? Didn’t God take Moses and the people through the waters and stay with them? Didn’t He keep the rivers from overflowing on them? Did He keep the flames from scorching and burning Shardrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Wasn’t He in their midst? Wasn’t He their warrior? Do You know that He rejoices over His people?
Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 14 about the reaction of someone coming under conviction of God’s Spirit. Now understand that you can’t come under conviction of God’s Spirit without His Spirit being present, right?

 

So what happens when we realizefaith the presence of God’s Spirit working in us? The secrets of our heart are disclosed, we fall on our face and worship God, knowing and declaring that He IS HERE among us. Jesus taught us to teach each other to follow and obey God’s commands and that He would be with us always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) It’s not a light thing that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us that as believers we are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. The temple was designed by God as a place where He would make His presence known with His people. That ought to effect my life, shouldn’t it? John 14:18 tells us that Jesus will not leave us as orphans but will come unto us. Paul in Ephesians 2:22 reminds us that we are being continually built together into a dwelling place of the Spirit of God. How closely present is that! Yes, Jesus wants to be present not just with us, but in us. John reminds us in 1 John 3:24, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” Yes, God’s presence is a reality. It’s a glorious reality!

But here’s the thing. I can choose to live in the glorious reality of His presence by following Him and following His ways and living in them. Or I can choose to deny this glorious reality of His presence by living my own way. My choice to deny His presence won’t change His glory but it will change my ability to show forth His glory in and by my life. And it will mean that instead of experiencing the presence of the Lord in my life, I will experience his absence, but that is not by His choice. His choice is that each one of us would know Him and live and walk in His presence. And some day, God knows when, there will be a day when all the people on the face of the earth will know and experience and walk in His presence. And you would think that everyone would think that the most awesome experience ever and that no one would want to turn back to our old ways or our own selfish ways. But you know, the millennium only lasts for that, a millennium. And when the end of the millennium comes, do you realize there will still be people, who even after living in a millennium of perfect peace in the presence of God Himself, they won’t be satisfied and they will rise up against God one more time? Well, I want to so enjoy and thrive on the presence of God even now, that nothing else, ever, would satisfy me or draw me away. I want to know You God for who You are, all of You, so that nothing else compares to You. I want to be so taken and overwhelmed by You that You are my everything forever. Guide me that closely in You, Lord, until You alone are my Everything even today until forever.

Is God an Egotistical Tyrant?

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“Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen…” (Ezekiel 39:28)

 
It must be really important to God that we know that He is the Lord. Is that because He is an egotistical tyrant? Absolutely not! All one has to do is look at what happens to those who deny Him. Cain waters the seeds of hate and kills his brother. People build towers to heaven and neglect the weightier things of life, like family and moving forward. Parents offer their children to the fires of Molech. Others exchange the natural for unnatural. Ecstasy outweighs love and commitment. Power and prestige are more important than compassion. People devalue other people. Why does this happen? Because people don’t KNOW God and won’t acknowledge Him as their Lord.

 
It happens to heathen nations, those nations and people who follow the masses instead of God. I guess that’s basically what a heathen is. It’s a Gentile. It’s someone outside of Abram’s seed who didn’t answer the call to follow God. It’s someone who was outside of the family of God, outside of the nation of Israel, outside of the children of God.

 
I wonder why there are so many heathen nations? Do you stop to think about that? Do you go back to Abram’s beginning as a child of God? He was living in a heathen nation. Actually, I think it would be accurate to say that all people had become heathen at that point. There were none who followed God. But something started moving in Abram’s heart and he realized something wasn’t right. Jewish oral tradition has Abram realizing the inability of idols. And then God speaks to Abram. And Abram listens and obeys and leaves his people and nation. And God begins forming from his obedience a new nation, a nation in God, His own children, from one man who chose to listen to Him. From one man who walked by faith.

 
Now, maybe there were some others scattered somewhere around the earth, but if we look at the story, there weren’t many. And maybe there weren’t others. But compare the numbers. It’s daunting, isn’t it?

 
So we see that there are many among the non-God followers or heathen that don’t know God at all. But it’s God’s desire that they know Him. Only, if they won’t turn to Him like Abram and follow Him, the knowing at long last isn’t going to be a pleasant thing. The proof is going to come in judgement and not reward.

 
But the problem isn’t just one for the non-believer. Israel was suffering judgement too. Do I get that?  Israel, the nation of God, who were supposed to be God-fearers and God-knowers, had forgotten God and walked away from His ways. That means that this problem of not knowing and acknowledging God isn’t just a heathen problem. It effects believers too. It could wind up being my problem if I’m not careful.

 
There is a time that God sets his face against us, when He looks at us and judges us. And there is a time when God will hide his face from us as He allows the judgement to fall. But then there is also a time, when judgement has taught its lesson and God turns His face back in compassion. Is it egotistical for God to want us to learn to love rightly, to know Him and to know how to love others? Is it egotistical for a parent to punish the child who beats his siblings? Is correction wrong? Isn’t there a chance in correction that the harmful behavior and character might be corrected and changed? Or should Cain be allowed to slay his brother?

 
Imagine the patience and long-suffering of God as He waits and watches the travesties of our hearts where we mistreat and tear apart the lives of our fellow man. This is not His end goal. This is not His desire. This exists because of our choice and not His. He allows it but for a time. This is not His will. His will is far better. His will is love personified through and in Himself. His will is to know Him, our Creator and Benefactor. His will is to know Him intimately, by knowing His Character and His delights. His will is to know Him so intimately that we become like Him, that we are wholly influenced by His Spirit. His will is for Himself, His life, His love, His power to be spread from person to person throughout our planet.

 
Was that the heathen’s desire or goal? Was that Israel’s goal at this point? No. Their goal was to promote their own desires and themselves. Their goal was what they wanted. So God redirected them through situations they could not control. So God redirected them through times where they were confronted with the smallness of themselves so that they could see the bigness of God. God redirected them so that they could remember Him, and come to see their need for Him, and learn to rely on Him.

 
There is a time for everything. God will place a time in our lives that will be designed to be able to come to know Him. What we do with that time is up to us. I can fight the One who is wooing me to Himself. I can detest the One who puts the hard times in my life, who knows the egotism of my own heart. I can reflect it back on Him. It doesn’t matter if I’m a heathen or a Jew, my egotism can be the heart of my lack of knowing Him. But if I respond to Him, I can know Him and I can surrender to Him as my Lord. Because surrendering to Him as my Lord is the only way I can know Him. If anything else is lord of my life, I might as well prepare for judgement.

 
One way or another, I will know that God is Lord and God is God. I will either know it in the day of full judgement against me, or I will know it by my full surrender into His compassionate arms. The choice is mine. Even the heathen and the Jews had that choice. Look at Abram. He chose to know God. He chose to follow Him and obey Him. He escaped judgement because He attached Himself by faith to the Judge. What will I do? Whose side will I choose? I choose to stick to You God and wait for Your Spirit. I choose You, even through the tough times. You’re all there is.

The Watchman

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“…But he that takes warning shall deliver his soul.” Ezekiel 33:5

 
I really don’t think much about the importance or value of a watchman or tsaphah, in Hebrew. Since we don’t have kings and fortified cities any more, we’re used to just living life our way, in our time, as we like it. We don’t even need to be close knit as a community any more because we don’t have to worry about danger and being overcome in the same way. Well, some tribal areas and some countries still worry, but not most of us.

 
Well, it would do well for me to learn to be more observant and patient and watchful. Being in the Philippines now helps me to be alert more. Not because I’m worried about warring factions invading the city, though the people God was speaking to should have been, but because there are people here who are snatchers or “pick-pockets” mixed in with the ordinary citizens. But God is using this earthly notion that the people understood, of a watchmen set upon the wall, to teach a more heavenly, a more personal God-truth.

 
In the reality of Bible times, a watchman would be chosen and set upon the city wall. He would look out and peer into the distance, observing and waiting and watching closely. I can see him leaning forward to discern carefully what he was seeing. Here’s an example of what it was like from 2 Samuel 18: 24-26, “And David sat between the two gates: and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold a man running alone.” So, we have this watchman looking intently and making out the image of this man running alone. Now look how carefully he watched and responded, “And the watchman cried, and told the king. And the king said, ‘If he is alone, there is news in his mouth.’ And he came and drew near. And the watchman saw another man running: and the watchman called unto the porter, and said, ‘Behold another man is running alone.’ And the king said, ‘He also brings news.’ And the watchman said, ‘I think the one running in the front is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.’” Wow! The watchman was so alert that he could tell by the way a man ran, who he was!

 
So the job of the watchman was to watch and be the voice and action of the beginning of protection for the city. He was like a really majorly important smoke alarm. He could prevent the people from dying in their “sleep” so to speak. If he saw something suspicious or the enemy approaching with sword, he would act and blow the trumpet and alert the people so they could be prepared to fight. It was the people’s responsibility after that to act according to the warning, to rise and fight. The watchman’s job had been accomplished. He had been faithful. If the people don’t respond to his warning and are taken away, it’s no longer his fault, it is by their own decision and not his.

 
But then God tells a different story. If there should be a watchman who `should see the enemy coming and not warn, and not blow the trumpet, then the guilt shall be upon the watchman for the blood of the people that is shed. So what does this have to do with me?
I can’t help but listen to the words of God to Ezekiel and hear Him speaking them to all His children in the areas where they live and serve. I mean, I don’t think that we have to be prophets to understand the importance and value of what God is teaching here through Ezekiel and I don’t think He wants Ezekiel to be the only watchman on a many sided walled city. Listen and watch carefully to His words, “ So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from My mouth, you shall give them warning from Me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.’” (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

 
Ezekiel was a prophet and was responsible for watching what the Lord was doing and saying and for watching what the people were doing. He was responsible before God for telling them the truth and warning them of the danger coming that was accompanied by their unGodly choices. Am I so naive as to think that as a believer, who has knowledge of the truth and the Good News of Jesus Christ in God that I am not likewise responsible as a watchman for those around me? Why was Ezekiel a watchman? Because by His position in God as one who was given God’s words, he was responsible for sharing it with those around him. What about me? Has God given me a position in Him where He has given me His word? That doesn’t make me a prophet, but I would certainly think it compels me to be a watchman. It’s more than a compelling. I believe that God has called us to be watchmen.

 
But I can’t be the right kind of watchman unless I understand what my heart needs to be as a watchman. Psalm 5:3 helps me think about that. “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” In the King James version instead of expectation, it uses “will look up” and in the ESV it uses “watch.” It’s a Hebrew idiom. So I want to understand it correctly. What did the people in David’s court understand about this that I might not now, when I read it? That expectation, or looking up, or watching, is a form of that word tsaphah. Remember how it is the “idea of being fully aware of circumstances in order to gain an advantage”? To “look up” was to expect a response, to expect an answer. Here’s how it related to the times.

 
To come before the king with a request one would bow their head, well, not only their head, they would bow low to the floor, with their face to the floor and present their request. Only if the king said, “Look at me,” only then would you raise those eyes to his face in anticipation of his answer to you. That’s what David was talking about. And that ought to be the response of the watchman.

 
A watchman has come before the king. He or she has humbled themselves fully before Him. He has taken their sin and accepted their lives in service and says, “Look at me.” We raise our eyes and our lives in anticipation of seeing Him and hearing and obeying HIs answers. He gives us His answer and He gives us our position in Him. I must continually come before Him to learn what to look for, always knowing that He will invite me to look up and know. In anticipation I wait and therefore I can watch with discernment those things in life around me and around others. I can share His words with them that I might snatch them from the fire toward which they are headed. I can warn by sharing the truth He has shared with me. I can warn by sharing the love He has shared with me. I can warn by giving as He has given for me.

 
Ezekiel’s not the only watchman on the wall. The question is, Believer, will you be the watchman that God has called you to be? God has given us each this glorious means in Himself to rescue the perishing, to prepare others from the attack of the enemy. Will I go down with blood on my hands? Or if others are lost, will it be of their own choice and not due to my lack of warning. God, make me a watchman who cares about those I watch as much as You care.

 
I thought of Jonah yesterday who was sent as a watchman to Nineveh. Maybe it’s easier to love your own people. Maybe not. But I just think of God’s heart when Jonah was upset by God’s forgiveness upon his warning, and how God cared about even the little ones who didn’t know right from left yet. Or maybe that isn’t even referring to little kids. Maybe that’s referring to all the people who would be destroyed due to the evil they were choosing because no one had shared the truth that they even had a choice. Hey, if I don’t even know I have a left and a right, how can I choose? But God is the Ultimate Watchman, and He cared enough to send Jonah. If only Jonah had understood and felt the same love that God did for these people, maybe he would have been like a Paul of the New Testament. Lord, I want to be a watchman after Your own heart, like You. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that You taught others to be watchmen over me. Now it’s my turn.

On Mixing and Mingling

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“…and all the mingled people…” (Ezekiel 30:5)

 
Well, I’m not focussing on a whole verse today but this phrase, “and all the mingled people.” It just jumps out at me. What’s the context? Egypt is about to be humbled by God in judgment but it’s not just effecting Egypt. It’s going to effect Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, all the mingled people, and Chub, and all the others who are in league with Egypt. And I wonder if the mingled people are just one specific group of people or if all these people aren’t mingled in a sense?

 
Ereb is the Hebrew word for mingled people here. It’s used for the web or transverse threads of cloth, or a mixture, or a mongrel race. I think Arabia is used as an example. That makes sense since during the Exodus, there was a “mixed multitude” that joined the Jews. Again, we hear in Nehemiah how the people of Israel read the book of Moses after so long neglect, and found that the Ammonite and Moabite were banned from the congregation of God for ever. When they heard the law, they separated the “mixed multitude” from themselves. Jeremiah talks of the “mingled people” having to drink from the cup of the Lord’s fury.

 
I wonder if this idea of being a mingler really matters? I’m thinking that if God mentions it, it does matter, and that it matters significantly. But I also think that this idea of mingled things is something that we brush off. If I jump back to Leviticus and Deuteronomy, I see that You introduced this concept to Your people. You thought it was significant enough to instruct them on. You introduced kilayim and shaatnez. And though they seem inconsequential to us, they aren’t for You.

 
First You say, “You shall not sow your vineyard with divers seeds [kilayim]: lest the fruit of your seed which you have sown, and the fruit of your vineyard, be defiled.” (Deuteronomy 22:9) Kilayim is a forbidden mixture. What makes it forbidden? God says so. Do the two seeds explode when planted together? No. Will poison gas be given off? No. Will I not understand something of God if I don’t take His words at face value? Yes. Does listening, and trusting, and obeying have to do with honoring the absolute dignity and divinity of God? Yes. Does it matter if I trust You unconditionally in the “little seeming” things I don’t understand? Yes. Because if I can’t understand in one little thing I don’t get , how will I understand in all the other things I don’t agree with or can’t see or don’t feel like? And when did I become the one who knew better? When did my honor and dignity become more valuable than Yours?  When did I become omniscient?

 
“There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:30) God, You set up for us prohibitions. And I’m pretty sure that they are there for our good and for our understanding. Proverbs 21:30 tells me and all of us that You alone know best. Nothing tops Your wisdom, or understanding, or counsel. You are such a good teacher that You get us to utilize all our senses for greater understanding. You give us this visual picture or representation, like in parables or real life. You give us things that touch our real lives. You warn us against disregarding but You allow us the freedom to experience the consequences. But the truth is, it’s not always about understanding why. Why can’t I? It really doesn’t matter. Because the real question that You are asking is, “When I tell you something, who am I to you? Because, Child, the way you treat my words shows me who I am in your heart.”

 
Some of these commands of our God truly defy “full comprehension.” And maybe so because it’s not a matter of our comprehending You, but a matter of our knowing You and honoring You for who You are. Let’s face it, some mixtures are just dangerous. I found that out one time when I mixed some water in to some dry chlorine. It sounded like gunshots and even out in the open air, the toxic fumes invaded my lungs to the point I had trouble breathing. What about nitro and glycerin? Or drinking and driving? Oh I get those. But what about if God says don’t mix milk and meat, or wool and linen? Does that not matter because it doesn’t make sense to me? What if it doesn’t have to make sense to me? What if God just wants to know if I’ll honor Him no matter the littleness or bigness of the request? Isn’t it interesting that it might be so much easier to leave for a foreign country than it would be to not eat milk and meat mixed together?
The image of a donkey and ox working together and how that isn’t best for both is easy to see. So we can agree with that one.

 

Maybe that’s why You introduced that one first, to show that this stuff isn’t really hard to honor. But it was never meant just for a physical understanding. Your way has spiritual implications too. That’s why Paul related this in a more personal way for us humans in 2 Corinthians 6. “Don’t be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he that believes with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

 
You mean that when I understand how to separate between my way and Your way and choose Your way, then I understand about choosing a relationship with You? Then I start experiencing Your presence as my heavenly Father? Then I get to experience You acting in my life, for my benefit? Weren’t You always? Oh, but I wouldn’t acknowledge it and you don’t experience what you won’t accept and acknowledge even when it’s right there for you.

 
So I can be like a donkey and an ox. I can choose disunity and dishonor by choosing my own way. You never really sit on the fence. That’s a farce. I’m either a donkey or an ox. Or an ox or a donkey. Depending on the moment. What are You asking me to be? That’s what I ought to be. And I ought to join in with others that are obeying the same goal You’ve given so as not to be distracted or hindered or distract or hinder others. Maybe if Cain was a little more pliable to Your way, his donkeyness wouldn’t have mattered more than Able’s oxenness, or maybe it was that his oxenness wouldn’t have mattered more than Able’s donkeyness. Maybe we can overate our own individuality, especially when it trumps God’s honor and uniqueness and rightness and sovereignty.  I mean, let me face reality here. Like I think my character is something to boast on? Neither Cain nor Able could boast on their own characters. We’re all flawed. We’re all a mix of good and bad. Therefore, we have to be aware. Therefore, we have to let God take care of our dangerous mixes because He alone is not flawed. He isn’t mixed. He alone can instruct on purity. He alone can unmix us.

 
But I digressed from those diverse seeds and the fruit that comes from them. What if God was saying, “Look, I’m going to use these examples in nature because I want You to first, and foremost understand the spiritual dimension between us. Don’t focus on just the physical. Get what I’m trying to show you.” God is pure. He is unmixed, undefiled. He is purely God. He purifies us and produces pure fruit in us. Somehow we are His fruits and we produce more fruit. But it only comes from His seed, not mixed seeds. It’s not some of me and some of Him. It’s all of Him. And of course, that’s something we’re all learning, to let God plant and produce all of His seed in us and to realize that ours just spoils the vineyard.

 
Jesus spoke on this. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:1-10)

 
I guess the truth is that I can’t really love God if I don’t honor Him. God is God, that’s all there is to it. I can treat You like You are God, or I can decide when I want to treat You like God, but that doesn’t change the fact that You are still God and You are still right no matter what I think or feel. It just means that I’ve decided to dishonor You and to demonstrate that I don’t love You as much as I say I do. If “the honor of God overrides all human concerns, even that of human dignity,” (Hershey H. Friedman) then when did my dignity come to outweigh God’s honor? Why would I think that God didn’t know what He was talking about? Why would I think that I could understand everything when God declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) And why aren’t our thoughts equal and of equal value? “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

 
Maybe it would do well for me to dwell on the predicament that Egypt and the nations and these mixed people had gotten themselves in. Maybe it would do well for me to be careful of mixing in my life those things that God tells me not to. And maybe it would be better if I learned to take Your word as Your word and not decide what I agreed with or didn’t agree with. Maybe it would be best if I acknowledge that You know far better than me every time and that You have my best interests in mind and understand them way better than me. Maybe I should just learn to trust and obey and stop trying to interject myself so much. Maybe it would be better If I let You interject Yourself into me instead, if I allowed myself to be wholly filled with You.   Then maybe I’d learn what it was to be a beacon of purity and light on the face of this darkened planet. Maybe then, I could rescue someone else from judgment. That would be much better than gaining honor for myself.

Ditching the Attitude

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“‘Son of man, because that Tyre has said against Jerusalem: ‘Aha, she is broken that was the gate of the peoples; she is turned unto me; I shall be filled with her that is laid waste…’” Ezekiel 26:2

 
Attitude matters. Promises are for real. Relationship counts. Integrity is more important than success. Loving our neighbors isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command.

 
Today, Ezekiel, that prophet of the Lord, brings up the strong city of Tyre. Tyre was a famous island city with a portion on the mainland. It’s king and his son covenanted with David and Solomon. That’s where the cedars of Lebanon came from. It was an important sea town and relied on Jerusalem for food. The men of Jerusalem and the men of Tyre ventured out together on sea trade. There was a relationship. It happened to be mutually beneficial.

 
Sometimes the king of Tyre acknowledged Jerusalem’s God. But they never left their own gods. As a matter of fact, at one point in history, the king switched over from temple worship of Baal and Asherah to Melqart who was more politically oriented and included the people more. They were very proud of their city and of their god and of their wealth. How hard was it to acknowledge another god if he helped them in their image? Only I guess they didn’t really realize who they were dealing with and that he wasn’t just some god, but God. And I guess they didn’t realize that there was more to life than self-exaltation, that our alliances are not just for our own benefit. Life is much bigger than us and our plans.

 
It’s so easy to be like Tyre and to think we’ve got it all together. It’s easy to be happy with other people when they help us obtain our desires, but it’s hard when they succeed more than us. It’s easy to become a friend, but it takes work and humility to stay a friend. It’s easy to lose sight of the real deal in the midst of it all and throw away the thing that was the real reason for our success.

 
The truth is that God has a purpose. It’s for You, God, to be glorified. You draw people to You to do that. Israel was Your very own people, born and raised for that purpose. And in that purpose, they would draw others to You, others like Tyre and Sidon, if they would come. I can’t help but think about that phrase in verse two that says of Jerusalem, the one that was “the gate of the peoples.” I can’t help but think that the phrase refers to more than a city of prosperity and trade but that Jerusalem was this source of light to others who came to her and got to know You, like the Queen of Sheba. I can’t help thinking about the magi that searched out the baby king of Jerusalem. This was a special city and a special people to God. This was Your own. This was Your chosen. Jerusalem was Your bride, Your light to the gentiles. And Tyre was more than a friend. Tyre was in covenant with Israel. That’s strong stuff. It’s supposed to be unbreakable.

 
Tyre’s life was wrapped up with Israel. By covenant they were bound together historically and as far as welfare goes. Understand that a covenant was an indissoluble commitment. Listen to what God’s word says in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, When He separated the children of men, He set bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel, for Jehovah’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” But does Tyre want to hear or remember that? Does any other nation want to hear that Israel is chosen of God? I mean, who really wants to be humble? Who doesn’t want to be noticed and commended and famous and strong and powerful and beautiful and the best?

 
I suppose it is painful to think that someone else is the center of our universe and that everything revolves around them. That’s how it is with Israel. But it wasn’t like Israel said, “Hey, God, pick me because I’m the best and the most worthy!” Remember how God chose Israel? There was this man name Abram who listened to God and just followed Him even though all the people around him didn’t. That’s the credit Israel gets for being God’s bride. That’s the credit any of us get. We listen and we obey and we follow and we cling to a real and living God. And this is God’s design. This is the picture and the way that You want us to follow. This is what You wanted Tyre to see and do.

 
But they didn’t like the attention that Jerusalem got. Maybe they didn’t like Israel’s attitude. That could be, because she might have gotten a little puffed up in herself. But she was still Your bride. She was still and still is today “the hub of the nations and all things revolve around this people of destiny.” (David Cooper) God chose Israel for a reason and purpose. Don’t forget to look back at how it first happened because that’s the example of where faith begins.

 
Bu the story of Tyre is about something other than faith. Tyre didn’t choose to follow their brother in faith. Tyre didn’t choose to follow God. Tyre chose jealousy of their brother in covenant. Tyre chose to gloat over the calamity that befell their covenantal partner. Being that their animosity was toward Israel, that makes it anti-Semitism. And the problem with that is that it’s going against God. It’s like telling God, “You’re wrong in Your choice. I don’t agree with You.”

 
So, this nation Tyre, who should have been on Israel’s side, rejoiced about their downfall. “Hey, this is great! Now our opportunities will open wide. More riches for us. I get what was coming to her now. Thank goodness she’s laid waste so I can get it all!” And if the thought wasn’t bad enough, I’m pretty sure there was rejoicing over her downfall that went with it. That sad thing is that hate can well up out of jealousy. We can feel stiffed or slighted because we aren’t doing as well as someone else, even as a friend, and we can become jealous and bitter and gloating just like Tyre. Isn’t it sad when we would wish ill on someone else just for the benefit of goodness for ourselves?

 
But God cares about how we treat His bride and how we treat His people because He loves them. And another truth is that He is such a sympathetic God that He invites others into that relationship with Him and His people. He had invited Tyre in to that relationship, but it wasn’t the relationship they wanted most. They gave up on their sympathy toward others, for wealth and fame. And in doing so they brought on their own downfall.

 
Attitude matters. Integrity matters. Compassion matters. Love matters. And most of all, God’s will matters above all. Why? Because there is a Judge who has set the standard. And it’s not about being strong or wealthy or noticed or significant or whatever. It’s about listening and hearing and obeying and following and belonging and being Yours. Israel is represented in Abram. That’s how any of us come to God, just like Him.
Jesus came because God knew we would have trouble getting it. Jesus came for the Jew first. Oh, now I’m jealous, just like Tyre. But so what if Jesus came for the Jew first? Wouldn’t you want to rescue your own child first? But first doesn’t mean only. He’s reaching out for anyone else who wants to listen and come and follow and be His. I’d rescue my own child but I’d also rescue as many other children as would let me. And then, once rescued they could become my own. That’s how adoption works. It makes me a whole child that belongs wholly. Why would I need to be jealous? We are brothers and sisters together. We have the same Father.

 
I don’t want to be guilty of anti-Semitism or jealousy or hatred against Israel. I love Israel. Israel is my heritage in the Lord. Jesus came out of Israel. Abram is a spiritual father to me and example. They were my first light. I owe so much to them. Why should I be jealous or angry? God called them so I could hear Him calling me.

 
And what about someone who might be prospering in some way around me? Am I going to resent them because of their prosperity and my lack of prosperity? I hope not. Maybe I can just keep loving them and being faithful to them and their prosperity will bless my life, not because I’m using their prosperity but because I care about them more. Being less can hurt, but judgment hurts way more. And learning how to be less and be content and make more of others is the beginning to knowing God. After all, Jesus became a man so He could make much of God and something of us so that by becoming less, we can make much of God and something of others. I pray that I learn from Tyre to ditch the attitude and cling to gratitude instead.

Losing the Delight of Your Eyes

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Photo credit to wikimedia.

 

“Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down.” (Ezekiel 24:16)

 

I’m wondering if when we sit down and read Ezekiel if we really understand what it was like for him? What was it like for the people? What was reality? I mean, I ‘m here in chapter 24 within a month or two of reading in the mornings and meditating. But what about Ezekiel? When was the last time I stopped to think about how long You were taking Ezekiel through these things with You? Maybe today was the first time. And just to get to this point of Chapter 1 up to what’s happening in chapter 24 is a span of a man’s life of about 5 years. Imagine that. How would I feel after 5 years of being a prophet and going through all this? But how would I respond to this day in Ezekiel’s life, to this day when Ezekiel becomes the most personal picture of God He could ever imagine?

 

Oh, let the word of God come unto me. Really? Have you counted the cost? Do you really understand what that could mean? Are you really ready to stand for God no matter what? Ezekiel was. Ezekiel was fully Yours, Lord, in such a way that so greatly inspires me and tests me today. You know, I’ve read Your word lots of times. But I don’t remember this. I don’t remember this ever being significant before and I don’t understand how I ever could have read this before and not been stopped by it. This is hard stuff. This is the stuff of real faith, of make it or break it faith. This is that moment of love tested and love proved. This is purging and testing and creating the man or woman we really are and not just who we want to be. This is the making of a servant of God. This is true worship, true devotion.

 

It’s one thing to declare Your words and judgment on a people who deserve it. It’s easy for us to get smug, and holier than thou, and detached, and emotionless. It’s easy to get like Jonah who cared less if the “nasty Ninevites” got what was coming to them. Or if the Jews who had prostituted themselves from their God and involved themselves in atrocities paid the price. But You, God, don’t become detached and emotionless in the midst of it. In the midst of judgment You stay off Your pain for them because You must, not because You feel no pain. After all, here are the ones You would have brooded over and hidden under Your wings like a mother hen but they won’t have it.
Now here’s the clincher today. Ezekiel is setting up another picture of the judgment of the people. Jerusalem is like this nasty pot filled with nasty stuff and being purged over a fire. Right away, that word purge conjures up negative thoughts for me. But it shouldn’t. The Hebrew word, taher, means to be bright, to be pure. Let’s look at that kind of purity a little closer. It means physically sound, clear, unadulterated; Levitically uncontaminated; morally innocent or holy; at least according to Strong’s Concordance. It’s about ritual cleanness which prepares us to enter the presence of God undefiled. That’s what David was asking for when he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) He understood that only God could prepare him for that. That’s still true for every one of us today.

 

It’s not a scary truth. Even Noah Webster defines purging as a positive thing. It’s “to cleanse or purify by separating and carrying off whatever is impure, heterogenous, foreign, or superfluous…to clear from guilt or moral defilement…to clear from accusation or the charge of a crime…to remove what is offensive; to sweep away impurities.” When did that become negative? Maybe when it became painful to do so because it means passing through the fire and passing the test.

 

Why would I think a prophet doesn’t have to pass through the fire to be purged? Why would only a renegade nation or person have to pass through? Don’t we all have to pass through because we all need to be purified by God His way? Who makes us holy? Who makes us pure? Who makes us sound? Does it just come easy and naturally? I think not. I think the Divine is not natural or easy at all. I think the Divine takes reliance on the Divine and not on me or my way or the prophet or his way or the will or strength of a nation and a people and their way. I think that purity, Divine purity, is a foreign affair that we have to learn the culture of and that even prophets like Ezekiel still had room to learn.

 

Here’s the clincher that hit me today. I was OK with judgment being foretold and the the image of the pot over the fire. But now You speak to Ezekiel these words: “Son of man, behold, I take away from you the desire of your eyes with a stroke: yet neither shall you mourn nor weep, neither shall your tears run down.” (Ezekiel 24:16) Do you know what that means. To paint a picture for Ezekiel and the people, God was going to take from Ezekiel the wife that he so loved. And Ezekiel was going to have to withhold his mourning for her. Imagine that. “My faithful servant, I’m going to take your wife now, the one you love so much. In the midst of all your other suffering and the suffering to come, I’m taking her suddenly today. And you can’t cry or do the normal funeral stuff.” What? This is a loving God? Really?!

 

Yes. This is. This is a loving God who must serve justice as well as grace. You can’t separate them from who You are. This is a God who understands the pain of those you love rejecting You. This is a God who understands what it is to sacrifice that which You love the most for the good of those who don’t get it or value the sacrifice. This is a God who understands love but because we don’t, He gives us experiences where we can come to understand what He feels and what He has done for us.

 

So Ezekiel and his wife became a picture of God’s love. There is this tremendous poem written a long time ago by Barbara Miller called Ezekiel. It’s too long to share here, but I would if I could. This story of Ezekiel effected her too and she wrote a poem about Ezekiel and his wife and what it must have been like. And she shares this through the eyes of Ezekiel’s wife:
“If God had willed,
I would have gladly stayed; but we are His,
And it is sweet to do a little thing
For Him who loves us so.  He needeth me
To be a sign for Him, –my death to stand
A figure to my people, of the things
Which He will do on them, except they turn
And seek His face.  And I am so content
To die for this!  I could not speak for God,
As thou hast done so well; but I can die
For God, and for my people,– and for thee–
To aid in thy great work.
“Forbid me not;
Deny me not to Him. A day shall come
When He shall give His Dearest to the death,
For thee and me!” The clouds had parted now,
The love of God was shed abroad, within
My broken heart. I could not say Him , Nay;
Or question Him. I laid my sacrifice
Upon His altar, not denying Him
Mine only one.”

 

I really don’t know that Ezekiel’s wife understood about how Jesus, God’s own Son, His own beloved, would be the sacrifice for our sins or not. Did Abraham fully understand when he was willing to offer up his only son? Did Ezekiel understand? Am I supposed to always understand You God, or am I called to trust You, to listen and hear and act upon that hearing showing that no matter what, whether sacrifice of pain or joy unspeakable, You are God and Your plans for Your kingdom, for me and for every person on this planet is a plan for welfare and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope? (Jeremiah 29:11) Is that future and hope, is that welfare worth being purified? What is my future and my hope? Is it You? Because You alone are that future and that hope and if my future and my hope is anything else, I am lost and filthy and defiled from my purpose.
Could I respond like Ezekiel’s wife? Could I respond like Ezekiel? Any other response is wrong and not just wrong. Any other response is sin because it places something else before God. The twenty-four elders worshipping before Your throne remind us continually, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) Paul tells us in Colossians that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation and that “by Him all things were created; in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

 

So what does that matter? Through Him the fullness of God dwells and through Him God is reconciling us to Him. Jesus is our purifier. God makes known to us His love not only through words but through His actions. Am I called to less? Am I only to love God in words and not my actions? Is there a limit to my love? A price it won’t go beyond to pay? Did God have a limit for me? No! He makes known His love. And in demonstrating and not just telling us about His love, He makes us able to reciprocate that love through our lives. He enables us, in Him, to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” He strengthens us with all the power and might and endurance and patience it takes to go through the fire with Him so that we shine just like Him.

 

It’s this kind of stuff that makes us or breaks us as believers. This is the stuff that causes those around us to stop and rethink the status quo. Responding to God when it goes contrary to the world, causes people around us to stop and ask, “Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting like this?” (Ezekiel 24:19) Does it seem senseless or pointless? It’s not. It means more than we could ever imagine and maybe more than we’ll ever know on this side of heaven. But how far am I willing to demonstrate my love? All the way or only as far as it doesn’t hurt?
So, I thought I was finished with this yesterday, but I can’t get it off of my mind. And then I heard Psalm 62. I can imagine Ezekiel saying these words, just as David did, and I’ve heard myself cry them out. “My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at ALL (emphasis my own) times; you people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Selah”. But then David doesn’t stop. He shares, “God has spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongs to God. Also unto You, O Lord, belongs mercy: for You render to every man according to his work.” What was Ezekiel’s work that it was worthy of the sacrifice of his beloved wife?

 

What if our work isn’t just about what we do or how we act? What if our work, our maaseh or maiseh is more about the story, the real story of who we are in God. That word, Maaseh Bereishit, is used when You God worked the creation of the universe. In Yiddish it’s the word for a story. Literally, it means an act or deed and ones from the word for making or doing. In Hebrew, stories are always synonymous with doing. In Greek I think of the word poeio which is the doing that flows out of being, like that of an artist or one who knows God. And I’m thinking that is the concept of work and doing and acting that David is talking about here.

 

Ezekiel knew God. He knew what it was to have God’s spirit flow through him. But he still had to trust in God. I am sure his heart told his soul to cry out to this God he trusted, to his rock and his salvation even in the midst of the loss of his wife, his beloved wife. Because maybe Ezekiel’s work was understanding and knowing and experiencing the heart of God. And when you finally start, I mean even start to understand and know and experience the heart of God, your actions and thoughts and hopes and dreams change. And your life can be turned upside down, and you can sacrifice your only son or beloved wife and give them back to the God who gave them to you in the first place, trusting, just trusting that God is God and You will still be God to those we love and those of us left behind. It’s what You do because it’s who You are. You render, You complete, You befriend and reciprocate and amend, and finish, and fulfill, and perfect and perform and prosper and restore and reward all that place themselves in You. It’s not just about prophets and kings. It’s about anyone trusting wholly in You so much that we place our whole being inside of You and accept You as You are. That’s when we receive You back as who You are. That’s the only deed, the only work that is acceptable in us, that let’s You do Your work, Your will, Your way in us, even if we must let go of our beloved. Because nothing should be more beloved than You.

 

So, Lord, what will I walk away with today? Will I remember this and will my life and thinking be changed by this? Where am I in You? Who is my most beloved? Is my heart so entwined with Yours that I know how You feel and that my actions flow from You? What story is my life displaying? Thank You, Lord, for the true story of love, commitment, and devotion that Ezekiel and You and even his wife display before us. May I love You that much, Lord. And may others be changed by the love that You have given me.