Dry Bones Among Dry Bones

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“And He said unto me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, You know.’” Ezekiel 37:3

 
Dry bones. It makes me think of the scenes in the desert where there’s a totally parched and bleached cow skull. Those are dry bones. And here is Ezekiel seeing a whole valley full of these dry bones only they aren’t cow bones or dinosaur bones or any kind of animal bones. Here is a valley full of dry human bones. They’re parched like the ones imagined in the desert.

 
But I don’t think it’s about the state of the bones. When Scripture here uses the Hebrew word for dry, it’s yawbash, which means dried, dried up, or withered. These bones aren’t withered. They’re dry and parched but not withered. But something else that ought to be tied up with them is dried, dried up, and withered. The life that used to be attached to them has withered away.

 
It’s interesting how I just heard a message this Sunday and it brought up the same word, wither, only from a different Hebrew word. Listen to Psalm 1 for a little while. “Blessed is the man that doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.” I can’t help but think that God was stressing this same picture in Ezekiel’s head even more vehemently.

 
In one picture is a river which gives life to the tree. From that life giving river, the tree is able to live and bear fruit in appropriate times and do abundantly that which it was created to do. In the other picture we have these vehemently dry bones that are missing the life that animates them. Why? Did they not plug in to the source? Is the source for life in the bones the same as the source of life for the tree? If a tree is removed from the river it withers and dies. If the person is removed from the Source of life, will it wither and die?

 
In Genesis 2:7 “man became a living being.” He didn’t just become it on his own. God created him that way and set him there by the river of Himself. Man was endowed with will, emotions, mind, body, and spirit. This way that God created man, is the same way he shows up through His word to the prophets. Just like God made “personal life [happen in that lump of formed dirt]”, God makes life happen in dried out bones. And just like God made personal life happen in a lump of dirt and dried out bones, this personal life is made to happen through His word, because it’s actually through His word, that what comes or has come or will come is being spoken and emitted by His very own “lips”. He is all it takes to make life.   Do I understand the immensity and power that lies in the word of God? I need to meditate and think on this more. Wow! It’s just unparalleled.

 
What could this mean? Could this mean that every tree and every bone, meaning every person was created to be a vehicle for manifesting God in this world? Were these dry bones created for something more than being dry bones? Were we created and equipped to reveal God’s glory by revealing His life? What does it mean to be created in His image? Can we live out that image without drinking in His life giving water? Can we live out that image without His life daily transforming and empowering us through His living word?

 

Life isn’t some abstract idea or thing. It’s real and it’s only found in Him. Without Him we have limited life, but not full life. We’re like walking zombies just waiting for our flesh to fail and our bones to become dried out. That’s not the image of God. God is LIFE. If I’m not in Him, I have no life. I’m just a dry bone laying in a valley thinking I’m all that.
If I am alive, truly alive, than that means that I am living out and being what God intended for me. That means that I am living out my purpose in God.

 

Let me state that again. God is Life. It’s just like Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me.” Life isn’t what I define it to be. Life is what God defines. Life is God. That’s why God said, “‘I AM THAT I AM:’ and He said, ‘Thus shall you say unto the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent Me unto you.’” (Exodus 3:14) “I AM THAT I AM” is all about life and being the self-existent One. How do you start trusting God?  God tells us just like He does the children of Israel. “Start trusting the Self-Existent One, the One who is Life and gives life and takes life away by His mere presence or removing us from His presence. Start realizing who makes us be.

 
I love the way Ezekiel answers Your question, God. “O Lord God, you know.” That makes me think of Peter when Jesus kept asking if he loved him. Peter said, “You know, Lord.” And the truth is, You do know our hearts and lives and whether we are glorifying You from the inside to the outside. You know us so intimately that You form and impart to us everything we need for living. You know if we are living or walking around like dry bones.

 
So how do I walk in life? How do I glorify You? Maybe I have to listen with Ezekiel a little more. Maybe I too have to “Hear the word of the Lord.” “I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” How badly do I want life? How much am I willing to trust Your word, Lord? Is Your word a part of my life? Is it imparting life to me? Do I listen? Do I live it? Do I depend upon it for my nourishment and growth and to enable me to bear fruit? Do I allow You to create and establish my body, my person, my essence, my thoughts, my everything? Are You the One laying my sinews on me? Are You the One that I depend on to bring up the flesh on my bones and cover me with skin, and put not just any breath into me, not even my own, but Your breath into me? Because it’s not until I learn to be created fully by You and in You that I’ll ever learn to fully live. And it’s not until I learn to be created fully by You and in You that I’ll actually really know You like You know me.

 
If I want to live and not be a dry bone, then I have to enter into Life and it’s not a thing, it’s a person who has always been and always will be. John 17:3 tells us, “and this is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” Life isn’t about knowing about God. Life is about being in God through Jesus Christ who has made the way for us. But we must not be like those who erred, because they didn’t know the scriptures or the power of God. (Mark 12:24) And when Jesus said that, He was talking to people who should have known but they weren’t letting God impart His life to them His way.

 

What kind of fruits am I bearing? Are they fruits recognizable to God because He made me able to bear them? Or are they my own dead fruits? Where is my faith today? Is it sucking it’s being from dry ground? Is it like a dry, parched bone devoid of real life? God knows. John 5:42 tells me that God knows me so intimately that He knows if I have the love of God in me or not. He’s not just talking about if I love God with this emotional feeling or the head knowledge. He’s talking about whether I love God and know Him and get my life from Him. Unless His life is flowing into me as my life source, I don’t have the love of God in me. It’s something that must enter me from God Himself. I don’t make it on my own.

 

Without Him, without His love and His life, I am just dry bones among dry bones in a lifeless valley. If God’s word has no place, no home, no resting and dwelling place in me, then I am lost and dry and lifeless. It’s not about knowing and memorizing God’s word and being a fact machine. It’s about knowing God and letting His words and ways and being have it’s place in me, in all of me. My life and your life were designed as dwelling places of God, as dwelling places for His word to live from. Lord God, there’s nothing I want more that than to let You have Your place in me forever. Set me free from the danger of the dry bones. Set me free in Your life.

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Chaphets”ing” in God

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Photo credit to delightinginthelord.com

 

“…and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord,’ says the Lord God, ‘when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.’” Ezekiel 36:23

I want to think about what God shared with Ezekiel in this chapter, chapter 36, while also thinking about David’s words in Psalm 1:2, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law does he meditate day and night.” I want to think about both of these because I think they are closely related.

Imagine God having somebody prophecy to mountains. Sounds crazy, huh? But that’s exactly what He tells Ezekiel to do here. “Prophecy to the mountains of Israel.” Why? Because the surrounding nations had been mocking them and inhabiting them as though there was nothing special about them. They didn’t realize that the land itself was tied to the people who were tied in to God. To mistreat the land or mock the land was a reflection on the people of Israel which was a reflection upon God Himself. So, how the heathen treated the land, or even how Israel treated the land represented how they saw and responded to God.

Now why would God care so much about particular mountains or a particular land area like that? Number one, because He can. It’s all His anyways. He made it and He is represented in it. It shows forth part of His glory. Number two, because He can and because He attached it to His people who are another representation of His glory. Well, at least the land and the people are supposed to be representations of His glory.

Let’s think about that. God created, you know, back in the beginnings of what we know. Why? Because it pleased Him. What in the world does that mean? Did God have a whim that He needed to satisfy? I don’t think that’s it. Isaiah 42:21 shares, “The Lord is well pleased [chaphets} for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” I don’t think that God runs around all day thinking, “This is good. Oh, yes, let’s do this. This is good. I really like this.” I don’t think that’s the idea. I think the truth is that God is pleasure and goodness and righteousness and justice. I believe that these things are joyful in God just by being a part of His nature. That this is His presence and this is His person and that all the things that we think of as being happy and joyful and pleasing and delightful begin their existence in God. I believe that He is Delight. Chaphets, the inclination toward pleasing, delight itself, originates in God. What if that’s true? What then?

David talks about the righteous man in Psalm 1:2 saying, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law he meditates day and night.” This thought of God being delight itself, means that this verse isn’t about memorizing and having a head knowledge of Scripture. This is about delighting in, chaphets”ing” in God Himself. It’s about entering into the presence of God and all that He loves and all that He does and all that He is. The law isn’t just about archaic Hebrew teachings. The Law is the word of God to mankind. The Law is God’s ways and the leading of His Holy Spirit. If I can’t delight and find joy and peace and hope in God in His word, then I am missing out on God. It ought to be a joy for me to spend time anywhere in God’s word. It ought to prick my heart, whether for encouragement or for reprimand to spend my time meditating in Him. It ought to draw me as though it was life itself drawing me to take my next breath, and my next, and my next. I won’t be drawn away by sin, or scoffing, or whatever. I will be drawn by that which is of God and which fills and encourages and empowers and imparts life and fullness.

Just as God never stops being God, our delight in Him should never cease. Day and night isn’t talking about just two times a day. All my day I should revel in who God is and that I am in Him and all night long that should guide my living and my sleeping. Psalm 37 shares, “But the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” To know Who I am in, Who is empowering me, Who is caring for me, Who is God of gods and Lord of lords, fills me with this abundance of peace. God is God and I am in Him.

 
It’s not about me working harder to please this God that I’m not sure how to please. It’s not about serving Him better and then He’ll give me the desires of my heart. The verse says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Why? Because the desires of my heart will become the desires of His heart. When I start to grasp His nature and live in Him and rely on Him and it overjoys my soul whether in abundance or lack, then I start to understand that it’s not about me. It’s all about Him, this God who is everything. And in being everything, He is everything that completes and fills me. He becomes truly all I need. He becomes shear delight. God is Delight.

 
I can’t work to obtain peace. I must enter it. Paul speaks of that rest that some did not enter. It’s a rest that we begin entering while here on earth by entering into the delight of God Himself. It’s this rest for the people of God. You have to cease from your own works to enter it. Even God ceased from His works for that day during creation. It does take diligence though. Because entering into God’s delight and rest isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s the hardest road we must ever travel. But to choose anything else is to follow the road of unbelief, and that will never lead to rest or relationship in God.

Delight isn’t about making ourselves happy. It’s about experiencing God. It’s about “having a happy response” so to speak. Another blogger called it responding “to the surprising, amazing goodness of the Lord.” And it’s not like God hasn’t told and shown us how to walk in Him. He even sent Jesus so we would understand what we hadn’t understood so far. And Jesus payed the price to redeem us from sin’s shame so that we could be a glory to God again. Listen, “a glory to God again.” That means that whatever God does, whatever comes from God and flows from Him ought to be flowing from us and coming from us. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) This is our purpose. As I walk, God’s character should flow through me and God’s glory will be made known. This is delighting in the Lord. Responding to Him and in Him is delight. Dwelling and walking in Him is the evidence of my delight.

 
Do I love kindness? Walk in Him. Do I love mercy? Walk in Him. Do I love goodness and faithfulness and steadfastness and justice? Then walk in Him. Because if I walk in Him, and His character flows from me, I demonstrate to all of earth and all of heaven where my delight is. The measure of my delight is the measure of my life. How much do I look and live like the image of the Son of God who was the spitting image of the Father? He delighted fully in Him and wanted to know nothing outside of Him. What about me? What would the mountains say about me? What would God prophecy to the mountains about if He were talking about me? What would the nations say who see my life? Would I be a mockery or a sham? Or would I be a light, living out God’s glorious image, and drawing others to Him? God has shot the arrow. Actually, His is the arrow. Have I let Him hit His mark by submitting fully in Him with the greatest of all my desires and all of my being? Or am I shooting the arrow, only to have it fall to the ground because I can never hit the mark on my own?

Here’s the good news. God Himself, the Holy One who is Delight, desires to sanctify Himself in each of us, to return us to the glory in Him we were created for. There’s no better place I want to be. What about you? Will you enter his delight? It’s worth living for and it’s worth dying for. There is nothing else in life or eternity that is worth more. One day all the heathen will know that God is God and that He alone is delight. But how sad for that day to be a day to find out that delight is only accessible in Christ in God and not on our own. How sad to see delight and to know you can never attain it anymore because the time is past. Let’s listen to the prophecy that the mountains heard and let’s draw close to the Lord while there is yet time.

 

Sheepish Thinking

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Photo credit to http://www.beingwoven.org

 

“For thus says the Lord God; ‘Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.’” Ezekiel 34:11

Lord, I just want to see You for who You are and how You are. I mean, if I can’t look at You rightly, how can I respond to You rightly? If I think that my life is about pleasing You, doesn’t that skew my idea of me? Don’t I therefore try to make myself pleasing? And wouldn’t I think that I am more arrived at that then others around me? And then I think I would get an attitude like these shepherds who would trample on the people they should be leading because the pitiful sheep just don’t understand like I do. You know, I could judge people or just be angry with them for not getting it. It seems like that’s what would happen.

But what if my focus was on You and just all about knowing You. Would I judge less because I would realize I am under the scrutiny of the Greatest Judge? Maybe I would remember continually, “Judge not that you be not judged,” if I remembered who I was standing before. What if I was so concerned with remaining in Your presence and being accepted by You, it didn’t matter if anyone else accepted me or approved of me? Would that change my behavior? What if I was so intently focused and drawn by Your love that whether I was loved by others wouldn’t occupy my thoughts, rather, loving others regardless of their returned actions or feelings would be my response? What if being a sheep is all about knowing the shepherd? And what if I can’t be a sheep unless I am of the shepherd?

That’s a little weird, isn’t it? I mean sheep are sheep from the start, right? Well, physical sheep are.  But what about spiritual sheep? I don’t know. Maybe some sheep are really goats thinking that they’re sheep and acting like sheep and eating like sheep and hanging with the sheep but they’re not sheep at all. A sheep is a sheep. It has wool. Goats don’t have wool. The wool is shed to clothe others. Sorry, but sheep are needy and dumb. Goats aren’t. They’re pretty proud and tend to take care of themselves with finding their own food and getting around. They don’t fall on their backs and need to be turned over by a shepherd. They don’t need to be led to green pastures. Both are eaten, sometimes, but when the sheep goes to the slaughter, she goes without a sound. Somehow, I just don’t think we start out as sheep. I think, if we’re honest, we’re more like goats being goats or maybe goats acting like sheep when it suits.

But the truth is that I must know that You Lord, You alone are God. I have to get that as more than a concept in my head. I have to get that as a reality of my life, as a part of me that inhabits everything I do and think. Psalm 100:3 reminds me that You made us. You made everything, every last particle and ability that consists in my being. I didn’t do it. You created us to be Yours. That’s reality. But the lie is that we can be our own, that we can choose to be sheep or goats. But we weren’t made to be goats. We were made to be Your sheep, glorifying You by being the sheep of Your pasture.

What’s the problem then. David hits upon it in Psalm 95:7,8. “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart…” Today, this very day, and every day, and every moment, I must listen and follow Your voice, the voice of the Shepherd with all of my being. That’s what sheep do, not goats.

Maybe we’re too busy wanting to be shepherds, but I’m thinking that a shepherd in God’s flock can’t be a shepherd if he isn’t a real sheep first. How can you lead sheep if you don’t know sheep? Ezekiel 34 is beautiful. It’s all about shepherds and sheep according to God’s view. Well, it’s about shepherds not being shepherds and about the Shepherd of shepherds who was to come and has come. But here we see shepherds who were shepherding for themselves and their gain and not shepherding in God. They were busy exploiting the sheep instead of feeding the sheep. There’s lots of ways to exploit the flock if your focus isn’t on the One who created the flock. If you start to think you are in charge of the flock, well, you tend to not care so much about the sick and weak or the broken or the lost or driven away. If you care more about your image, you won’t care so much about the sheep. And if you don’t care about the sheep, well frankly, you’re not a shepherd.

Here’s the beauty of Ezekiel 34 to me. God cares about every sheep. He is angry when those who ought to be shepherding them with His same care, don’t. He cares about His sheep. He loves them. They are His. He is a God who delivers His sheep. He searches for each and every one. He seeks them out. Listen, this is God we are talking about. When earthly shepherds fail, He does not! There is no where that a sheep can be, whether he has wandered or been driven away, that God cannot find him and gather him back to Himself! He can bring us back!

Where does He bring us back? Where is this pasture? Is it heaven? No! It is Him. Some day it will be a place with Him but now it is wherever we are with Him. You will feed us continually and never exploit us. You will give us peace so we can lie down. Hear these beautiful words again to Israel and to all lost sheep outside the fold, “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.” (Ezekiel 34:16)

This just hits home so much. I understand the way that God truly seeks us out when no one else is. I think of when I was just a new believer and entered college. I didn’t mean to stray, but I had no shepherd to help me stay in the flock. I was on my own. And I followed the goats in lots of ways. I didn’t even realize I was a being a goat. But I certainly wasn’t living like a sheep. In all my four years, hardly any shepherds approached me. But God did not let me go. In my fourth year I heard His still quiet voice remind me, “This isn’t who I created you to be.” That’s what it took. That’s all. My Shepherd, seeking me out, Imagine that. Here I was, this “saved” sheep wondering off. I should have known better but I didn’t. But my real Shepherd wasn’t judging me or forgetting me or writing me off. My real Shepherd wasn’t too busy to think about me. I was on His heart. In one sense, He didn’t ever have to come to me. He doesn’t have to do anything for me. But He does and He chooses to come. This God who chooses to be my Shepherd is above anything I can imagine.

But on the other hand, I have to remember, it’s not just about me and it’s about something bigger than me. It’s about Your glory, God. It glorifies You to redeem me and to bring me back into Your fold and to wash me white as snow so that I will shine forth Your glory in You. It’s not a me thing because this little sheep is so special. It’s a God thing because You are so overwhelmingly wonderful and full of grace and love and glory and righteousness and so much more than I can ever totally fathom. Just the wonder of You thinking and acting this way is worthy of awe.

What kind of god searches for lost sheep? My God. The true God. The only God. What kind of god would send a baby to become the savior of the world? My God. Jesus came to draw back the lost sheep of Israel first, but He also came to lead back the other sheep not of that fold so they would all be of one fold. He is a God who looks at the multitudes and is moved with compassion on them because they are scattered and have no real shepherd. (Matthew 9:3, Mark 6:34) He is the kind of God who would search out one, just that one sheep who needs to be found, like me, or like you wherever you are. And then He’s the kind of God who will rejoice over you.

But I have to respond. Am I listening to my Shepherd’s voice? Do I hear and follow and obey? Am I letting him lead me or am I choosing my own way like a goat? Am I dependent upon Him? Am I spending so much time in His presence that I know His voice? There may be great shepherds of the church around me, great mentors who love me, but are my ears and heart tuned in most closely to my lead Shepherd’s voice and will? After all, Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep… I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep…I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Whose voice am I listening to? Do I know Your voice above all the rest? Whose voice am I following? Am I following You? If I am following You, am I truly feeding Your sheep as You would feed Your sheep? How am I caring for them? Like You? I suppose, the extent to which I care for others will display the extent to which I understand Your shepherding of me. May I fully live in the power and care of Your shepherding presence so that I may extend that power and care to others. May Your fold grow and grow as we journey out together to those who have been scattered like I was. I want them to know that they are not alone and they are not forgotten. I want to share the heart of the Shepherd for them.  I want every sheep to know that if they’ve fallen on their back and can’t get up, Jesus is here to set them on their feet better than before.

The Watchman

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Photo credit to someone on internet.

 

“…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.

Crocodile Tears

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Photo credit to doc_ | sxc.hu

 

“Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the king of Egypt and tell him I am saying, ‘You act like a lion roaming the earth; but you are nothing more than a crocodile in a river, churning up muddy water with your feet.’” (Ezekiel 32:2)

 
Crocodiles and uncircumcision, those are the words for today from Ezekiel chapter 32. What in the world do crocodiles and uncircumcision have to do with my spiritual walk today? They can have a lot to do with it. I’m not quite sure why the King James Version chooses to interpret the Hebrew word tanniyn here as whales, but I think that since it was interpreted as crocodiles back in chapter 29, it’s safe to assume that crocodile fits best here too. I mean, after all, crocodiles were a big part of life in Egypt. As a matter of fact, to Egypt, they were part of the divine. Let’s face it, they were worshipped as gods. It’s how Pharaoh saw himself. Of course, the crocodile wasn’t the only god. There were other gods, but this was the god that Pharaoh admired for it’s strength. This is how Pharaoh saw himself. This was the god Pharaoh modeled his heart after.

 
But the truth is that crocodiles aren’t gods. Cows aren’t gods. Cats and frogs and flies and fleas aren’t gods. And Pharaohs aren’t gods. Just because we choose to worship something, it doesn’t make it god. The truth is that only God is god no matter how we feel. And God alone has the power, the ability, the strength and might to prove Himself.
God will prove Himself, always and forever, but He also gives people time to see His proofs before they fall before them. I think it’s something how God takes that major god image, the crocodile, or Pharaoh, and how He uses the imagery here. I mean, here He is, going to catch this terrifying beast in a net. How authentic is that? I mean, is this really getting home to Pharaoh?

 
The Expositor’s Bible puts Pharaoh Hophra there at Ezekiel’s warning. And I was wondering how much this imagery of catching a crocodile in a net would be familiar then. So I did a little research on crocodiles and Egypt. I found that some Egyptians reverenced crocodiles and some Egyptians hated crocodiles. There is a writing, translated and shared by Richard B. Parkinson, where Pharaoh Amenemhat “boasts of having tamed a lion and taken a crocodile prisoner.” (Paul Sheridan) Isn’t that interesting that God compared the Pharaoh to one who was comparing himself to a lion among nations and a crocodile? Seems our Pharaoh wasn’t the only one who viewed himself this way.

 
But did they use nets. First I read of a story shared where a hook was baited with a live pig and the screaming of the pig would lure the crocodile who could then be captured or killed. But then, the Library of History by Diodorus, tells us that heavy nets or iron spears were used from boats. So it seems to me that God is turning back familiar imagery, familiar practices back upon Pharaoh. I guess God has always employed parables, using everyday life to help us understand heavenly truths, God’s view.

 

 

Now, this is pretty hard reading because there will be violence upon Egypt all for the purpose of Egypt and all men knowing that God is God and there is no other. And maybe you think, how can that be a God of love, to violently destroy people like that? But then I was reading how over and over again God says He is going to cast these people down to death where the “uncircumcised” before them lay, the land of the dead. He will cast them down with all those who thought themselves mighty but were slain in their own strength, every nation that so chose and so lived, no matter how strong. Every one uncircumcised and now laying with the other circumcised with those who die and die. But the truth is, it didn’t have to be so. Because there is a place that men can go with those who die and yet live. Whose path would I choose to follow? To die with those who die or to die with those who live?

 

 

Who in the world are the uncircumcised? What does that mean? Does that mean that everyone but Jews were forsaken by God? Or does it mean that all those who forsake God are the uncircumcised? I tend to lean toward that second choice. I mean, after all, not all the Jews entered into His rest. Why? Though circumcised physically, did they forsake God’s ways spiritually as they walked through life? Yes. That place of eternal death will be lined with Pagans and Jews alike who forsake God. Nationality doesn’t matter. There are those who desire to trust in their own strength and their own greatness and their own way. It could be me just as well as Pharaoh. It could be Paul of Tarsus before he understood God’s real thinking. But there really is only one Lion of lions and His name is the Lion of Judah. And there really is only one Crocodile of crocodiles. Well, He’s bigger than that because He’s over all the crocodiles and catches them with ease and controls all the frogs and flies and kings and mighty men everywhere of all time.

 

 

To think myself a lion of lions or a crocodile of crocodiles is to live like the uncircumcised. It’s to live Godlessly. Oh, I can have all the gods I want. But I won’t have God. I can think I am as powerful as I want and that I can decide my own life and my own ways, but in the long run, I don’t and I can’t because I’m not God. I can’t extend my life or shorten it without His permission. Have you seen people go to every extent to lengthen their lives just to have it end anyways? Or have you seen someone who has attempted suicide and yet could not die? I have.

 

 

That’s the sad thing here. All along God wanted the Egyptians to know Him. He had shown Himself before them. But they, like others before them, and others after them, wanted their power to be their own. And the truth of that reality is that it’s not our own. All power comes from God. He raises kingdoms for His purposes and He lays kingdoms down for His purposes. But His ultimate purpose always has been for men and women, boys and girls of all kingdoms to lay themselves at His feet under His power for His protection and love and guidance.

 

 

Here’s the truth. There have always been God scoffers who would rather design their own gods for their own ways. Peter warned of them but they have always been there and still are today. The question is, am I a God scoffer? Am I, like Pharaoh following my own sinful desires instead of God Himself? Am I, like Pharaoh, deliberately overlooking “this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not over look this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:4-9)

 

Have I come to repent of denying God His goodness in my life and those around me? Have I come to repent of deliberately overlooking Him and deliberately refusing to acknowledge Him in my life? If not, now is my warning, before I die and join the Godless down below. I can trust in anything I want, but I must know that my gods can’t follow me and they won’t be there for me. But if I trust God, He already is there for me, He already has me, and He has got a place for me with Him that I can start abiding in now. When I die, I want to die and join God in the world of the living, and since He is the living God, that place is found in Him. No crocodile tears for me. I’m moving from one life into greater life in Him!

On the Cutting Edge

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Photo credit to Holme Christian Fellowship.

 

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

 
When you think of a sword, what do you think of? I think of a weapon used for more than self-defense. I think of a lethal weapon aimed at destruction of an enemy. I hold the sword in my hand and wield it against my opponent. Is this what You are talking about here, Lord? Is this about me fighting my enemy? Do I hold the word of God in my hand and wield it? Or is this talking about something totally different? Is this talking about how You wield Your word in my life and against those things in my life that stand against You? Oh! That thought stings!

 
Frankly, I am learning to rejoice that You value my life enough to allow me to feel the sting of Your sword, to feel the weight of Your words, directly and for real in my life. It proves or shows some things to me. Truly, the more I feel Your cutting words in my life, the more it brings a crisis of faith, the more I know that Your words are not just written symbols and good thoughts to memorize or pursue. I come to learn that Your word is alive.

 
This two-edged sword is more than a two-edged sword. It’s how You use these different events or crises in our lives to accomplish Your different purposes in our lives. But it’s more than that. But before we look at the “more than” part of the two-edged sword, let’s look at the “word of God” part.

 
Here, Paul, who was so familiar with the Old Testament, pulls this important phrase from the Old Testament. God said in Isaiah 55:11 of His word, “so shall my word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” I want to try to latch on to that concept. God’s word has a purpose and He will accomplish that.

 

Isaiah 49:2 talks of the Christ and says, “He made My mouth like a sharp sword.” How does God instruct and inform throughout the Old Testament? Isn’t it by “the word of the Lord”? I mean Paul was taking this concept from Scripture and applying what had come to life in Him in Christ. He knew that God spoke, really spoke to His people in different ways. He spoke through leaders, prophets, and through an audible voice. He spoke with authority and not just some authority, it was absolute authority. Today, I’ve diverted from the prophets again, but I’ve heard the promises and encouragement and heard the warnings and condemnation. I’ve seen the examples of those who clung to His authority and the examples of those who abhorred His authority.

 
God’s word works in wonderful and differing ways today. God has never changed. Abram didn’t have the written word. But He heard God. I know of people in countries where the written word of God is forbidden and yet people there have heard His voice just like Abram. I have met people who have received God’s written word in one of these countries, and as they read in secret, His word came alive, and they understood and heard the word of God speak to them. He is alive. Let’s face it, His word is so alive that it creates life, whether it is in the form of angels, trees, animals, or people. He’s not just the Way. He’s not just the Truth. He’s not just the Life. HE IS ALL. Yes, He is life in every aspect of real life. His word not only speaks life but creates life. Think about that.

 
See, this word for word is from the Hebrew root debar. It has to do with “speaking, declaring, commanding, promising, warning, threatening and conversing”. It’s not just about writing. But as I let the written word sink into my soul and into my mind and into my life, God speaks it into my life. I can lay in bed and hear His voice urging me to think about some words of His in Scripture and apply it in a deeper way to my life. I can’t explain His voice. But His word is urging me to get up and go to Him, get up and think with Him, get up and learn from Him, get up and follow Him, get up and obey Him, because there’s something I wasn’t quite understanding and obeying rightly.

 
When God speaks, how do I respond? It doesn’t matter if I’m in a jail cell, or hiding in my room from authorities, or in a classroom surrounded by people who don’t understand, or in my bed at 3 a.m., or sitting in my chair in a church service, how do I respond when I hear His still small voice tugging at me? Or how do I respond when it takes a life crisis to get me to hear and rethink my thinking?

 
God’s word has the power to do this in our lives, whether we want Him to or not, whether we respond rightly or not. His word is “living.” It’s alive. God’s word is living. It imparts life. It is the Creator of life. It is the breath of life. It is the sustainer of life. Paul shared with the Athenians, that God “gives to all life, and breath, and all things.” This is what the word of God does. This is it’s function. It gives us life and purpose and everything we need is found in God’s word. Why? Because it’s alive, it’s real, it’s actively creating. There is a Voice that commands and it happens. This is the voice of God by His word. Our life depends on His word. It cannot be ignored without consequence, without loss of life. God’s word has power.

 
God’s word is so powerful it is capable of results. It’s powerfully working His will out. And it is doing it effectively. He is actively operating out His will. And He is doing so more comprehensively, and more decisively by one fell stroke. In other words, His word impacts our life through significant situations that He introduces for the decisive purpose of directing us to obey and understand. His word is alive, so we must be confronted with it. We must get to the heart of it in real life and stand at a point of decision where we respond to it correctly, His way. He brings us to this crossroad by His sword, but not just by the thought of a sword.

 
See, this two-edged sword is able to get into the deepest and most hidden crevices of our lives and hearts. It’s like that surgeon’s knife that cuts precisely and with purpose between joints and marrow. The knife and the sword know what they are doing. They are removing what does not belong, what is harmful, what destroys life. Am I willing to submit to the sword? Am I willing to submit to the precision of the Surgeon’s knife?
But that word for sword is also the word for a double-mouthed river. Get it? A river has a mouth. Mouths imply speaking and words flowing forth, don’t they? God’s word is something that speaks into our lives. An amazing thing about it is how it can speak to one direction in my heart and in another direction in someone else’s heart through the same crisis or the same message. Yet, these are not conflicting words or messages we are hearing. God’s word is penetrating into our hearts and dealing with each of our hearts whether one needs to learn dependence on Him and another needs to learn independence from the world, whether one needs to learn the nuances to walking in faith more deeply, or the other needs to learn to take the first step of faith, whether one must learn to love by forsaking gossiping and another learn to love by sacrificing their life, whether one must learn to live, or one must learn to die.

 
The word of God is alive. I can therefore trust His word in my life to fill me with life as I respond in obedience. I can know that my life in Him has begun because life is in His word and from His word. I don’t have to wait for heaven. Life actually began the moment God created and especially the moment that He breathed life into man with His living word. But when we rebelled against His word through disobedience and distrust, we lost that life like Adam and Eve. We chose a cheap and temporary version instead. But by faith in Christ, through His sacrifice for us and His forgiveness, we are brought back into the life and power of the word that created us, we are brought back into unity, back into God’s purpose for us. What is His purpose for me? To be alive in Him. To display His life in this world. Heaven comes later. I was created for life here first. Yes, our purpose hasn’t changed from Genesis, “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” You know, the earth needs that life way more now than it did in the beginning, because now it’s like dead men walking. We’re here to give God’s gift of His word, His Life, His Power back to the world.

 
How will I respond to Your word today, Lord, or any day? What if You take everything from me? Will I listen and obey Your words to me in the midst of the crisis You bring into my life? When You throw my world upside down, will I stand on my head and do whatever it takes to hear and listen and understand what You are pointing out in my life, where I need to grow, what I need to turn from, how I need to obey? God, no matter what and no matter how strongly or deeply You must cut or speak, may I accept and listen and be healed as I respond in obedience. Teach me to obey that I do not suffer from choosing disobedience. Teach me to rejoice in the intervention of the cutting edge of Your word in my heart. Give me life and may I live in it.

To Untwisted Humility

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Photo credit to bibleplaces.com

 

“Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude: ‘Whom are you like in your greatness?’” Ezekiel 31:2

 
Maybe that’s a question we all ought to ask ourselves. “Who am I like in my ‘greatness’?” First of all, who am I comparing myself to? Am I really comparing myself to Greatness itself? Who am I lining myself up with? Do I think more of myself than I ought?
Maybe Pharaoh should have thought more about who he was comparing his greatness to. I mean, it wasn’t like he wasn’t great. Egypt had been a world power and then had been subjugated by Assyria but had made a comeback. Smaller nations looked to them as great again. The Expositor’s Bible says that verse 3, where it tells about the Assyrian, should be translated as “T’asshur,” which is the name of the sherbin tree, which was a cedar in Lebanon that was unrivaled among the other stately forest trees.

 
Egypt was like that great tree. But how did he get like that great tree? How did he get to be so great like this cedar in the garden of God that the others “could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his bough, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty”? Was he so great and beautiful for himself? If so, why is the picture of God’s garden? Was everything in God’s garden created for it’s own esoteric majesty? Or was it created from and for the majesty of something greater?

 
Who made Egypt great? Who made the greatness of the cedar? “I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.” Who said that? God. God had made him, Egypt, so great that others noticed and envied his greatness. God did it. God made Egypt great because all greatness comes from God. Without God there is no greatness.

 
What happened to Egypt. “Therefore thus says the Lord God; ‘Because you have lifted up yourself in height, and he has shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height; I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness.’” What was the wickedness? It was puffing up his own greatness and forgetting where all good things and therefore all great things come from.

 
Let me think about that. “His heart is lifted up in his height.” His heart. That’s not just about his emotions. That’s about his mind, will, and emotions. It’s the part that drives the way I think and the actions I take. It’s the me of me. Only here it’s the me not as I was created to be, but the me that I desire to make myself to be. It’s the me that I lift up, that I raise. It’s when I exalt myself, my ways, my will, my emotions above God’s. It’s a haughtiness and pride. It’s presumptuousness and pride. It’s setting myself up. Actually, Strong’s Concordance says the word ruym even means to breed worms. Yep, I think when this is my philosophy of life, as it was for Pharaoh, it’s truly creating a can of worms. And when you think about it, being a worm isn’t something to be proud of.

 
When David cries out, in words that expressed his heart and humbleness before God, in words that also spoke prophetically from the heart of the Messiah, we hear, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Here’s David, king of Israel, a worm? It’s a different word than ruym. It’s tola, and a more of a maggoty type of worm used to dye clothes scarlet. Think about that. Did David see himself as something great in himself? Obviously not at this moment. Shortly after this in Psalm 22:8 he continues, “He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him: let Him deliver him, seeing He delighted in him.” God was his establisher and rescuer. And what of Jesus? I mean, come on, Jesus was the Son of God. You can’t get much higher than that? How did Jesus’ heart handle that knowledge? How did He handle that pat on the back, that commendation?

 
Let’s look at that question. How can I look at how Jesus, the Son of God, the Top Dog of top dogs, handled His authority and His power? How can I be put into a proper perspective of my own life from His? Paul thought about this. He shared his thinking with others. He lived by this thinking, this understanding and fellowship with Christ in God. As a matter of fact, he calls it encouragement in Christ. He calls it encouragement in Christ that gives comfort from love and that is all about participation with the Holy Spirit, affection and sympathy, completeness of joy, unity of mind and love. It’s devoid of selfish ambition or conceit. Wow, that’s just the opposite of Pharaoh’s problem, isn’t it? It counts others as worth more than myself and lifts their significance above mine, which must mean that I’m thinking about God’s significance more than mine.

 
It’s not like I don’t have concerns for myself. I still need food and shelter and love and other things. But it’s not just about me when I look through God’s perspective. I’m not alone. There’s this world with others in it affected just like me, with needs just like me, and maybe even greater. It’s bigger than me and better than me and interrelated with others. But it’s not just about us either. This whole encouragement is that it’s all wrapped up in God. And I can’t get the true gist of life without understanding how to look at it and understand it through the mind of Jesus Christ. If I don’t think like Him about it, my whole view of myself and others and the world and God will be distorted. So how did Jesus think about it?

 
Jesus, who was God, didn’t stop to think about whom He was like in greatness. Jesus kept His eyes on the greatness of God. His whole desire was to make much of God. And that is so fascinating. Why? Because He was God!  Here He was in the form of God, only He didn’t cling like glue to that as His claim to fame. His equality wasn’t what floated His boat. You know what He valued? God. He humbled Himself and emptied Himself. He lowered Himself to take on the form of a servant, of a man. Imagine that!  Jesus, God in human form, lowered Himself to come through the birth canal of a woman! That’s pretty inglorious and undignified if you ask me, I mean for the God of the universe? It’s an amazing process for us, after all, we’re worms, but God?

 
So here Jesus was, with us humans looking on, and counting Him, you know, God, as one of us. And we didn’t even realize the wonder of it all, the majesty of who was walking with us. But instead of being angry at us, instead of retaliating in His pride, He humbled Himself and became obedient to God the Father unto death, even that terrible death on the cross. Where was His pride? Where was His authority? Where was His heart? Obviously, not lifted up in Himself but lifted up in His Heavenly Father and lifting us up to Him.

 
So what does God, the Heavenly Father do? He highly exalts Him. He lifts Jesus up and makes Him the Height of heights. He makes Jesus the tallest tree, to which all else bows, whether of earth or of heaven. This is the attitude of the Lord. This is the attitude of the true King. This is the heart that God exalts, one who understands and lives in the humility of knowing Who we really belong to and Who is really sovereign.

 
I don’t work in me to make myself anything of eternal value. Oh, I could raise myself in the status of this world, but it won’t give me status in God’s eyes. Only God can do that and I can only get there through submission and humility to Him. And if I am truly learning to be humble before my God, then my life will demonstrate humility before others. Pharaoh should have worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling, meditating on the God who delivered the Israelites in such a powerful way. But he, like many of us, ignored the truth, and was too busy working things out his own way, in his own strength.

 

We still live in a crooked and twisted generation, but today is the day that we can untwist and get back to what we were created for. Today is the day that I can be a light shining in a twisted world to show it how to untwist. Today is the day that I can uncorrupt my thinking and my living and humble myself before my Maker and follow Christ into the heart of God. And I can be a part of leading others to His heart and out of corruption. Why? Because it’s not about me. “For it is God which works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) I’m God’s workmanship, not my own. I’ve got nothing to boast in outside of Him. I wouldn’t even be here without Him. My prayer is that my heart- my mind, my will, and my emotions- would be conformed to Your heart. May You be exalted in my life and may my life boast of You before the world. May Your greatness be my glory.