Deja Vu

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“And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow every tree for food, whose leaf shall not wither, neither shall the fruit thereof fail; it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because the waters thereof issue out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for food, and the leaf thereof for healing.” Ezekiel 47:12

 
Deja vu! I’ve heard this before. David’s words come alive here from Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law does he meditate 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.” (italics added) But I have to notice one word here. It’s the word “like.”

 
I was looking at part of a commentary on the words of Ezekiel 47:12 which remarked that “by these ‘trees’ are meant truly gracious souls, converted persons, real Christians, true believers in Christ; who like trees have a root, are rooted in the love of God, in the person and grace of Christ, and have the root of the matter in them, the grace of the blessed Spirit; and who also is their sap, of which they are full, and so grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ; grow up in him, and grow upwards and heavenwards in their affections and desires, and in the exercise of faith and hope: they are the trees of the Lord…” (John Gill) But I want to be very careful of not just “spiritualizing” things in Scripture when the way God has already made it is already spiritual His way.

 
God is describing to Ezekiel this new temple. He is very exact and precise with the measurements that His messenger is giving Ezekiel. Ezekiel is guided room by room, feature by feature, purpose by purpose to the minutest details and who will be in charge of the different responsibilities. This is clearly a vision of a physical representation of the future temple that will be serving a God-ordained purpose in the spiritual lives of God’s people, all of them whether naturally children of Israel or sojourners who have joined with the children of Israel in the worship of the one true God in the Messiah.

 
Therefore, there is this actual life-giving river that flows out from the temple. After all, the Messiah is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1, 2,3) And I could spiritualize the river here if I wanted to but that wouldn’t make it right and it wouldn’t make it true. Because this river is not “like” something. It is this way. This river flows out with healing and life. There are spiritual applications to us elsewhere, but here is a real river with real life flowing in it whose source is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, in God.

 
So, why must we spiritualize the trees? The people in this vision are actual people down to the details being ancestors of particular people, like ancestors of the sons of Zadok. We’re told who enters by which doors and what sacrifices are to be offered. And here we are told about this gloriously wonderful river that flows from under the East gate, that gate that only the Prince enters and exits from. And here on its banks are trees growing that will be for meat, for food. They are the real deal. They are not like something else. They are real trees, growing real food, soaking in the real life giving water. They are real trees whose leaves will never wither or fade because of that water. This fruit shall never fail. It will never stop producing. Every month it will bear new fruit. Why? Because of the waters. And the fruit shall be food and the leaves shall be for healing.

 
John was also privy to a vision from God. Here’s what he was shown. “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1,2) Now, I’m not sure if the tree of life is one tree that sprouts as many like the bamboo does from one shoot, or if John saw one tree in his vision, or just called the many trees “the tree of life” because that’s what each was, but I know that these two men were learning of the same future truth and same future hope and it’s not a spiritualization but an actual physical reality.  Actually it is a spiritual and physical reality, because both are wrapped up together in Christ.

 
The trees are not the servants of God. John continues by saying, “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads.” We, by this point, ought to be like those trees as David said. But those trees planted by the river, are trees for our benefit, and for the benefit of all those from all the nations. They are for our healing and for our nourishment for service.

 
I just don’t want to lessen the awe of God. It’s an awesome thing that God can plant us in His living waters and give us life where once there was nothing but death and warped purpose. It’s awesome that He can change and renew me from the inside out as I root myself in Him and rely on His life and power in me. Yes, that is awesome, how He can and does change our lives. But it is also awesome how He can create and be the source of a river that gives life wherever it flows, real physical life, not just spiritual life. And it’s awesome how God creates trees that bear fruit with just the right nourishment and with leaves that bring healing, and I don’t think we’re talking some healing here, I think this is total healing. This is God we are talking about here. This is God with us in all His fullness and majesty. He can do whatever He wants and all that He does is right and good and true. This is God and I don’t want to forget it or minimize it.

 
So, God, if you choose to show “me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” like You showed Ezekiel and John, I think I will just be amazed as they were. And I hope that like them, when I see and hear, that it will make me fall down and worship You more. I hope it doesn’t make me feel smarter or more knowledgeable but that the more I learn, the more awesome and powerful and loving and mighty and righteous I see You as. I pray that this never becomes information that I handle but that every word, every vision, every moment spent meditating on You becomes more and more of the truth and reality of who You are. May every jot and every tittle make more of You and less of me. And someday, when I stand in the future place with You, may I be so overwhelmed by the “deja vu” that I forever understand the greatness and eternity and reality of Your word and its manifestation in You.

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Walking with God in the Details

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Photo credit to http://www.shutterstock.com

 

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

 
Today I’m back in Ezekiel reading about the measurements and specifications of the future temple, the future house of God. Only here I am quoting Genesis. Why? As I was reading and thinking about all the specifics in Ezekiel and about how the details matter to You God and how Your details ought to matter to us, I couldn’t help thinking about Noah and how You equipped him to build the ark.

 
Here was the condition of the world and the condition of the hearts of the people of the world in Noah’s day: “And the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repents me that I have made them.” Why did it repent You or make You sorry You had made us? Because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And that grieved Your heart because man, people like me, had so twisted who we were, by twisting our thoughts and our actions, that we no longer resembled what we were created for. And why couldn’t we resemble our purpose any more? Because we threw away the details. We wouldn’t pay attention to the Master plan. And get this. The Master Plan was someone we could know and respond to, like Adam and Eve or Cain or Abel. But like Cain, we turned to our plans instead of Yours and our lives became twisted.

 
But then comes this beautiful verse. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Maybe I’m wrong, but I see that as saying when God looked at Noah and examined his heart and life, He found within Noah a spark of something beautiful to God. What was it? What was that beauty in Noah? That Noah still held on to the presence of God in his life. That He remembered the stories and clung to the God he knew.

 
In this corrupt world of Noah’s time, He was just and perfect. What? Noah was a perfect man? Not in the sense that we think of perfect. He was “entire.” He was full of integrity and truth. He was without spot and undefiled. He was whole. He was perfect in God’s eyes because His heart clung to God and followed Him. He walked with God. Come on now. Look back at Adam and Eve. Isn’t that what we were created to do? Aren’t we to be walking with God every day of our lives? Hasn’t He designed us to know how and to do it? If a man without a written instruction book can figure out how to do that and do it, then what’s our problem? What’s my problem?

 
So Noah walks with God. That means that he cares about and acts upon what is on God’s heart. And God includes Him in what He’s doing. And here come all these measurements as God instructs Noah on how to build this ark, this first of it’s kind, this giant boat in this place where there isn’t even water to float it. But Noah doesn’t stop to say, “Hey, God, why are You giving me all these details? What’s up? Do I really need this? Is this important?” I think for Noah that this is a no brainer. He already knows that God’s way is the right way and the only way. He already lives like every detail matters because it does. And because He’s already living in God’s will, God is already protecting him and preparing him from the coming judgement. Not only that, but God is making Noah a beacon to others, an opportunity for others to walk with God instead and rejoice in God’s plan and in His details.

 
This has nothing to do with Noah’s abilities. He was just a man who walked with God. Because he walked with God, God walked with him. God gave him everything he needed to be His representative on earth. That’s what we were created for, to be God’s vessels on earth, to shine forth the power and love of God. And God does that work in us. Noah couldn’t build the ark without God. God gave Noah everything he needed from the detailed measurements, to the physical provision, to the skill to do so. And it didn’t stop there. God was the One who sealed Noah and his family safely inside the ark.

 
Which takes me back to Ezekiel. Chapter 41 starts with, “Afterward he brought me to the temple…” Doesn’t that sound like people walking together again? It does to me. It sounds like God is walking Ezekiel through something special here, something worth thinking about and valuing. And like Noah, if Ezekiel hadn’t already been walking with God, he would have missed this. And it’s not like this is just any building that You are showing Ezekiel. This is the temple that will one day be where every believer can walk into Your presence in Jesus Christ. This is the reality of You come to earth.

 
God’s word and instructions are all about being invited into an intimate relationship with our Maker. He gives us the details so we can participate fully with Him. They matter. As we participate with Him, we get to come to see and know things about Him. Building the ark wasn’t some mundane task that Noah was expected to do. It was amazing participation with God and amazing protection and salvation and deliverance. But if Noah had not participated with God? If Noah had disregarded the importance of the directions?

 
And what about Ezekiel. He didn’t get to build the temple but He paid close attention and then He declared what He was asked to declare so that this would be words of future encouragement. One day God is going to bring every one of those details to pass. Just like Noah had to wait for that appointed time before the ark was complete, so Ezekiel knew that the appointed time would come. So we can know also. What does this temple tell me? That God is coming, here to earth, to be with us. Jesus is coming back. Jesus will reign in His full capacity and I can look forward to that.

 
And since Jesus is coming back, we ought to be busy letting people know so that they can be ready for that appointed time. How do we get ready? We respond to God’s word by participating with Him in what He says. We pay attention to the details. Sometimes we hold onto it and ponder it in our hearts like Mary did until it was time for it to make sense. But all along, we obey. Listening isn’t listening unless the appropriate action to the listening follows. If I want God to be close then I ought to be close enough to His word to know how to be close to Him. And the only way to be close to Him is to participate with Him.

 
That’s why Jesus came. He redeemed us so that God’s glory could shine in us again. He redeemed us so that we could be reunited with God and participate with Him again in the way we were created to. Grace is there, always. But we won’t find it unless we find the One who offers it. Noah found grace because He walked with God. He found where grace flowed from and clung to Him. Ezekiel found grace because He walked with God and clung to where grace flowed from. What about me? May I cling to the One that grace flows from and walk with You in obedience and in intimate relationship by loving all Your words and allowing them to have their way in my life.

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.

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.

How is Your Heart Set?

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Photo credit to Fine Art America.

 

“…Because your heart is lifted up, and you have said,’I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas;’ yet you are a man, and not God, though you set your heart as the heart of God.” (Ezekiel 28:1)

 
I wonder how it felt for Peter that day that Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance for me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man”? (Matthew 16:23) Not long before that, Peter had been commended on how God had revealed to him that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But now, “Get behind me, Satan!”? Ouch, that stings. It probably stings more for Peter who really cared about You God than maybe it stung for the king of Tyre. But if I were to put myself in the place of either, whether Peter or the king of Tyre, I would say that the king’s blow was even more of a sting in reality. I mean, Peter was thinking like Satan when he thought like every man thinks instead of thinking like the Spirit. But the king was not only thinking momentarily like Satan. He had taken Satan’s stand and taken God’s glory and claimed it as his own, and claimed God’s seat of authority, and made himself god in his own heart. Pride does that in a person.

 
Let’s face the facts here. The king of Tyre was one wise guy. You tell us that Yourself, Lord, “you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth…” But let’s stop to think for a second. Where does wisdom and understanding really come from in the first place?
Here’s a scriptural hint about where wisdom and understanding come from. “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore…” (1 Kings 4:29) Even before that, Moses was speaking of God’s statutes and rules and doing them and said, “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and our understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”

 

Why would following statutes and rules of God show wisdom and understanding? Because, in Moses’ words, it would show that God was that near to them “whenever we call upon Him.” God is the one, after all, who forms every man, woman, and child.
Genesis 2:7 uses the Hebrew verb form yatsar for formed. The words of the verse say, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Later in time, You tell Jeremiah about his origins as the person he is. “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) God uses this verb, yatsar or formed, to not only describe how He forms the details of a person’s life but of how He fashions Israel itself. According to Otzen, “this verb connects human craftsmanship with divine activity.” Part of the problem is that we forget where and who our abilities came from in the first place. After all, had I not been formed first, I wouldn’t be forming these words on these pages right now. And neither would the king of Tyre have been orchestrating all his wonderful plans if he hadn’t been wonderfully planned first.

 
But maybe yatsar isn’t just about independent being or just being made and formed into something. Maybe yatsar is more specific and more relational than that. Skip Moen calls it a verb of partnership with God. I love his thoughts on this so let me share them here. Remember, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” On this Skip shares, “The clay isn’t inert. It responds to the potter. For Man to be Man, there must be a response to the divine action. For Israel to be Israel, there must be a response to the electing God. Yatsar is a relationship verb. When God “forms” the dust, He doesn’t just pile up whatever can be gathered with the sweep of a hand. He establishes a relationship with this “stuff,” and it is the relationship that identifies the uniqueness of this creative act. Yatsar is the God-human verb of the story.”

 
Genesis is the explanation of origins. It’s the origins of man. Skip continues, “God’s relationship—His choice, purpose and selection— is the essential factor in formation. Without the relationship, nothing exists…God’s fashioning activity and His infusion of the breath of life is the reason human beings are what they are. Removing the relationship inherent in the forming or withdrawing the infusion of the breath of life means that Man returns to what he was before these actions occurred. He returns to the dust. He ceases to be. In other words, there is no inherent quality, no spark of the divine, no ontological substance residing in Man so that he lives independently of the action of yatsar and the infusion of the breath of life. Man exists in relationship with His creation, always. His breath and his body are entirely dependent on God. Perhaps Paul captures this Genesis thought when he wrote, ‘in Him we live and move and have our being.’…you do not exist without dependence on God. If you think or act in ways that deny this dependence, you are simply deluded— and a fool.”

 
Pride deludes. The king’s heart was lifted up because of his riches. He totally forgot or ignored who formed him to be this way, Who gave Him the wisdom and understanding in the first place. He was so deluded that he thought of himself as god. A man or an angel can say and believe all they want that they are God, but it doesn’t make it so. I don’t know what angels came from before You made them, God, but I know that man came from dust and goes back to dust outside of You. But in You, what is formed and responds to You remains in You.

 
I’m still thinking about Peter that day Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” But there wasn’t a long story shared to go along with that. I wander though, if just saying that would have brought people back to Ezekiel’s words and the longer back story pronounced over the king of Tyre? And I wonder how Satan, or rather, Lucifer at the time, could forget where he came from and who formed him? I mean, at one point Lucifer wasn’t until God made him. It’s the same for me. It’s worth lamenting over the foolishness of forgetting this, over being deluded like that. Imagine the most beautiful, wise angel thinking he could be more beautiful or wise than God, the one who anointed him with that beauty and wisdom in the first place for a specific purpose!

 
And now I come to thinking about David after he sinned with Bathsheba and Nathan comes to him. See, David had been anointed, just like Lucifer, for a special purpose in God’s creation, just like each of us in whatever way God has decided for us. And Nathan says to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and It is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul.’” (2 Samuel 22:7) We’re each called to holiness, not its evasion. Each of us has a purpose formed into our individual beings that only we can fulfill and only we will be responsible for avoiding.
Lucifer was that angel. The king of Tyre was that king. Peter was that man. David was that man for that time. I’m that woman for now. Sometimes I’m just like Satan too, just like Peter was and David and the king of Tyre. Sometimes I think I deserve what’s not mine to take. It might be a rest from leading because I deserve a break. It might be love, where I would walk into something I know I shouldn’t. I can rationalize with the best of them and decide to let my brightness shine brighter than it really is.

 
Yep. I’m the one that will need forgiveness. I’m the one who will suffer because of my pride and my delusional thinking to give more credit to myself than I deserve, or rather to just be busy taking the glory from You, Lord. That happens when I think more about me and my hurts and pains than I think about Your glory and Your brightness and Your wisdom and my dependence upon You to understand any of it. And that makes me the one who will harm those around me by my lack of participation with You in my God ordained purpose.

In Man of Fire Denzel Washington asked, “Do you think God will forgive us for the things we’ve done?” Well, I know the answer is yes. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Don’t forget though, that the innocent pay a price for the guilty who are forgiven. Jesus paid the price for us. Probably 1/3 of the angels paid the price for Lucifer’s sin. I’d say that guy who had his ear sliced off by Peter payed a price, even though Jesus was gracious enough to put it back. And what about the others who ran away because they had thought like Peter that they could control things, but it wasn’t really theirs to control, was it? And how many people payed the price for David’s delusion? Or for my delusions when I follow them?

 
I was just thinking, that Jesus’ words aren’t so mean after all. He was just reminding Peter to get in his proper place. Before we sin, we need to get behind Jesus instead of in front of Him. I need to be under You, God, and in You, and behind You and just let You be God and remember that I’m not. So Lord, don’t leave off reminding me, even if it sounds like an insult. Let me remember that when You tell me, “Get behind me, Satan,” it’s for my good and it’s the place I was created to flourish in. If only Satan listened and could get behind You again. May I never forget to respond to Your relationship with me and acknowledge You as God and me as Your beloved creation formed by You for Your purposes and not my own. And may I joy in my position in You and joy in You being God and not me.