Walking with God in the Details

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“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.

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The Details Matter

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“And the man said unto me, ‘Son of man, behold with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you; for to the intent that I might show them unto you are you brought here: declare all that you see to the house of Israel.’” (Ezekiel 40:4)

 
Here we have Ezekiel again. He’s in the middle of a vision from God. That would be something, wouldn’t it? And he sees this man whose appearance looked like brass and he was holding a line of flax in his hand like a measuring reed. He takes Ezekiel and walks him through the chambers of this future temple, giving the measurements of every room and even telling what the rooms are for and who will stay in them. Detail by detail God has the “brass man” walk Ezekiel through. It seems pretty exact to me. It’s one of those passages that maybe we want to speed through because it’s just “measurement details” over and over again. It’s kind of like the books about the priesthood and the sacrifices and all those other detail by detail things. You know, it’s the stuff we want to skip over to get to the “good stuff.”

 
But what if the good stuff lies in paying attention to these minute details? Wouldn’t it seem that those things which God takes the time to stop and give us the little details about just might be that important that He stopped to give us all the little details? Have I stopped to think about that?

 
As a Gentile, you know, a non-Jew, it’s not like I grew up with an understanding of the Jewish feasts and festivals or much of anything that was a part of Jewish life according to Scripture. But it’s in God’s word. Could it be there because He wants me to know about it and understand more about it? Could all these things that seem so foreign and trivial to me matter in my life now and in His future kingdom? Could they tell me something about Him that He really wants me to know? I think so.

 
I was reading a commentary about Ezekiel 40 and the future temple being described here. The commentator referred to this temple as a resurrected temple. I wonder where he got that idea from? It pretty much seems to me that this temple was not resurrected but started fresh. I’m thinking it’s got brand new walls and brand new everything, except for maybe the ground where it will stand.

 
Another commentator, John Parson’s shared his commentary in Hebrew for Christians. This new Temple is to be raised during the Messianic era, that time when Jesus returns and dwells on earth and the Jewish nation returns to God and He reigns. John shares how some of the Jewish sages have had trouble with understanding the book of Ezekiel and even holding it as objectionable. One reason is because of Temple service laws that are different in this vision than in the Torah. That doesn’t sound like a totally resurrected Temple, does it? Some rituals and rules have been changed from the earlier temple service to this one. But here the temple is, important again in it’s role. Would God make the temple important again in the millennial age? I suppose this raises some questions for Christian believers also. Why would God have temple sacrifices again? Hasn’t Jesus already been the ultimate sacrifice for all?

 
Well, yes, He has and He is and He always will be. But what if the temple and the festivals aren’t about pointless ritual or religious service? What if all this is about worship and understanding and knowing? What if we need to see and experience certain things that God has designed to help us to see and remember Him more? What if that is what the God ordained festivals are all about? What if that is what the Temple and it’s service is all about?

 
It’s interesting. In this new temple, not even the priesthood is the same. The priesthood will come from the line of Zadok. That means that not everyone from the line of Aaron will serve as priest. Zadok had remained faithful to David. He is believed to be the direct descendant of Phinehas who was promised “a covenant of priesthood for all time.” You can read about this later in Ezekiel 44. Remember Phinehas? He was the grandson of Aaron the high priest who saw his people worshipping Baalpeor and bringing Midionite women into camp. Moses called the judges of Israel to slay those that were doing such. When Phinehas saw it happen right in front of him, he immediately rose up and took a javelin in his hand and drove it through the perpetrators. Wow! That’s harsh! But flagrant defiant sin infects. If the disease is not eliminated, how many more will be lost forever in God’s judgement by their own choice? God is looking for individuals who know Him and will follow Him and will allow Him to hold their thinking and their lives.
Now don’t get me wrong. God isn’t expecting us to drive a javelin through a rebellious couple or anyone else. But God is expecting me to love and be so devoted to Him and to His ways that I would live in them as though my life depended upon it. I should be so influenced by His word and His Spirit in all the minute details of my life and living that it not only changes my life and makes me live like Him, but so that others around me are influenced by those changes He’s brought into my life. See, the little details matter. It shows that I understand that God doesn’t just mandate. He mandates because He cares and He knows what is best for me because He is the One who created me and knows what He created me for and all of my capabilities, both good and bad.

 
God knows all the consequences of every choice I will make before I even make those choices. The problem is that if I’m not paying attention to God, if I’m not paying attention to His details, I won’t be prepared for the consequences and I won’t be able to avoid them because I will have stepped right into them just like the couple that invited the javelin into their lives. Oh, you may say, “How would they have known?” A Hebrew knew. They had been told. It was all laid out before them. But sometimes they, like us, didn’t care about God’s details, and wanted life their own way. Now, maybe the Midianite woman didn’t know, but I’m not so certain about that either. As I read it, the surrounding nations knew about the God peculiarities of the children of Israel. Their reputation spread like wildfire everywhere.

 
We have a choice. We can pay attention to God’s details and understand that they are for our good to grow in Him. Or we can ignore God’s details, flagrantly defy them, and even mock them. The choice is ours. But our choice will not negate the consequences. God has already established the consequences when He shared the details. What will I choose, the blessing or the curse, life or death?

 
Maybe we, like Ezekiel, have been brought before God today for a purpose. Maybe we, like Ezekiel need to stop and behold with our eyes what God is telling us and showing us. Maybe we, like Ezekiel, need to hear with our ears what You are telling us and set our hearts upon it all. God is very intentional here with Ezekiel and I’m pretty definite that God is very intentional throughout all of His word. May we have eyes to see and respond correctly. May we have ears to hear and respond in obedience. May we have hearts that follow and act and receive and live out Your ways and bind ourselves to You. There’s a reason I’m here today in Your word. There’s a reason You have brought me where You have brought me. The details matter. You are there in the midst of them. Let me not ignore them, but respond to them wholly.

Is God an Egotistical Tyrant?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When God is Against Me

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“Be prepared, and prepare yourself, you, and all your companies that are assembled unto you, and be a guard unto them.” Ezekiel 38:7

 
Being prepared is a good thing. Well, it can be a good thing depending on what you are preparing for. I mean, right now, lots of people around the world are preparing for Christmas. That’s a good thing. But there are some people preparing for death. And depending on how they are preparing for that, it might or might not be such a good thing to them. Maybe someone is preparing to tell someone else some bad news. Or someone might be preparing for a graduation. What the land of Magog is preparing for is not a good thing coming their way. The land of Magog is preparing for coming judgement.
Why is Magog preparing itself? Why are they preparing for God’s coming judgement? Because like so many others, they would not prepare for the presence of God in their every day lives. Their every day lives were absent of the One who created them and gives them purpose in this life. Their faces and their lives were “set against” God. And so You God have set Your face “against” them.

 
That’s an interesting expression. You tell Ezekiel, “Son of man, set your face against God, the land of Magog…and prophesy against him…” (Ezekiel 38:2) In verse 3 you tell Ezekiel to say, “Thus says the Lord God; ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog…” I think of that phrase used in the King James Version and I think of someone facing the other way, refusing to look at and acknowledge Magog, of someone who is working against them. But here’s the interesting thing. That’s not what it means. It really means that Ezekiel was told to set his face toward Magog. And it means that God, You were or are setting Your face toward Magog. It seems like Your back is no longer remaining turned and You are in a place of face to face confrontation. When this time comes, there will be no more ignoring You.
Since I’m trying to understand You and Your word better, I thought it would be good for me if I investigated what it means when You set Your face against someone, when You turn Your face to them. And why would You do that? What brings things to that point? So, into Your word I delve.

 
As I dig, I first come to Leviticus. In chapter 17, verse 10, I read, “And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eats any manner of blood; I will even set My face against that soul that eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.” This is God’s face, His paniym or countenance, being turned toward or near the one He is looking at or dealing with. That word paniym is the same word God used when He spoke of Cain’s countenance falling. And here, in Leviticus we have someone, who ought to know God and the things of God and what delights God and they just don’t do it. God says, “don’t eat blood.” Do I really need to know why? Does there always have to be a reason? Do I need to understand to trust God and obey? For whatever reason, this person who is a part of the people of Israel, which means they are a part of the family of God, eats blood anyways. So what? God sees. God knows. You look closely into that person’s heart and You have the ability to judge their devotion to You, their love, their intentions, their obedience, their everything. You see into every part of that person and know that by their choice, they don’t love and worship You. Why? They don’t honour and value Your commands and they lead others to dishonour Your commands. That’s dangerous, for ourselves and those around us. You won’t continue to ignore that. You will turn Your face to us and deal with us if we won’t deal with ourselves by preparing ourselves in You in the first place.

 
Then there’s the person who offers their child to idols like Molech. Oh, that means that they are worshipping an idol, another God. And You declare, “And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he has given of his seed unto Molech, to defile My sanctuary, and to profane My holy name.” (Leviticus 20:3) That’s pretty bad, isn’t it. Someone who calls themselves a believer in God, a child of Israel, who worships a foreign God? Yet they still continue as though everything is fine in Israel and in their home and in their life. But God sees and God knows. And this has nothing to do with life, but everything to do with death and emptiness. This has everything to do with tearing down and destroying God’s holiness and image before those surrounding this person. It has everything to do with dragging others into destruction with you as you continue with Molech. But God sees and God, You know. And You will not let it continue forever. You will step in, face to face, and confront the problem, and the truth about Who You Are will be made known. And the truth about who the twisted one is, will be made known to that twisted one. It’s good to make sure I’m not twisted. I would prepare myself well by making sure my heart is lined up rightly with the One who created it, before I wind up preparing to go face to face with God, because if He has to confront me in that way, I will lose.

 
Let’s not forget this one, “And the soul that turns after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.” (Leviticus 20:6) And here’s another to remember, “ And if you shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that you will not do all my commandments, but that you break my covenant… And I will set my face against you, and you shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and you shall flee when none pursues you.” (Leviticus 20:15,17) Oh, there’s more to think about: Jeremiah 21:8,10,  “Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death…For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, says the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire,” or Ezekiel 14:7,8 “For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separates himself from me, and sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and comes to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the lord will answer him by myself.  And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” And let me add Ezekiel 15:7 about the vine that is not meet for work when it is whole so it is just as useful burned. “And I will set my face against them:; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and you shall know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.” Why? They have committed a trespass. That’s what the next verse says. So is that the problem here? What in the world is a trespass and why such severe penalties or judgement?

 
A trespass is from the Hebrew word maal, meaning treachery, sin- falsehood. It’s not an accidental slip up. This is deliberate defiance. This is when I know that God has said, “Don’t eat blood,” but I do it anyway because I want to or I don’t care what He says. This is when God says that we are to have nothing to do with idols, or familiar spirits and I run to them anyways. This is when God tells me I should delight in His word and I don’t give a hoot instead or I despise it and treat it with disrespect, any part of it. This is trespassing. This is maal. This is treachery against God, and against others. This is falsehood. This is sin. This is serious. This is worthy of having to be cut off from Him and from His family.  Yes, He will confront this.  He will get right in Your face like a good Father.

 
That other expression about God cutting him off, really stands out to me. It’s in Numbers 15:30 also, “But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among the people.” Maybe more of us ought to be preparing ourselves to hear and understand all of this better. It’s a pretty serious and bad thing to prepare to be cut off. I’d rather not have to prepare for that.  I mean who likes to get caught in the wrong and then stand before your father and have to be confronted over it.  I mean, we know what’s coming when it’s our earthly father, right?  Why do we think our heavenly Father won’t stop us in our tracks?

 
But what exactly is the impact of being cut off. It’s from the Hebrew word karath. It has to do with cutting off, cutting down, and cutting asunder. But it’s a word that’s used in the cutting of sacrifices. Remember when Abram had to cut the animals into pieces and while he was put into a deep sleep, God passed in between the sacrifice? It was a part of covenantal agreements. It’s there in the covenant of circumcision. There’s cutting and blood involved in His covenants. Why? Maybe so we would understand the seriousness not only of the covenant or promise, but the seriousness of the consequences.

 
There is another kind of cutting. There is the cutting of excommunication; the cutting off of relationship. There is the cutting off from community which is vital to us. Imagine being in the wilderness and being cut off from the community of Israel. What would that mean in real terms? It would mean that you were removed from your protection, you would be without any interaction, you would have no provision, and you would be without God. Pretty much, it was your death sentence. Yep, it was death.

 
When You Lord,  set Your face against us, You are turning Yourself directly to us and confronting our treachery face on. You are holding us responsible for it and giving us the consequences. Excommunication from You and others in You is the consequence. Sometimes that’s our immediate death, but even if not so, it’s the beginning of our destruction and our exclusion. Maybe that makes us ask why excommunication? Why death? Because for deliberate sin, for these trespasses, for this wilfulness there was no sacrifice that could be offered for their forgiveness. The sacrifices were for unintentional sins and mistakes, not intentional, not deliberate and wilful disobedience. For that, there is only this being cut off.

 
Wow! Where does that leave me or you? Don’t tell me you have never deliberately and willfully disobeyed. Is forgiveness not available for me? Thank God for something greater than the Jewish sacrificial system. Thank God for Your compassion that offered the sacrifice of Jesus Your Son who payed the price as our sacrifice able to forgive our deliberate sin. Thank God that Jesus bears all our sins away.

 
I need to get this. I need to be preparing in You and not waiting for You to tell me to prepare to meet the consequences of my sin. Trusting Jesus is willfully obeying, it’s determining that Your desires are best no matter how I feel. It’s learning to love Your ways above my own and follow them regardless where they lead here because they always lead to You. It’s about turning my face and my whole life to You When now in preparation so that when You look at me, it’s not in judgment, but to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It’s not some trivial thing we’re reading about today. It’s a matter of life and death, which You proposed to us already way back in the Old Testament. It’s not old and archaic. It’s a timeless truth. It’s life eternal. Sin will destroy me. It will destroy you. It will destroy us. Today should make me stop and think. I should think about the precarious and dangerous situation I am in if I am not right with God in Christ. He is here desiring to rescue and not excommunicate. But I can choose life or death. What will I choose? Lord, I want to choose Your fellowship and the fellowship of Your word. May I learn to delight in everything that is of You.

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.

Our Perpetual God

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Photo credit to Pearls of the Torah, Ahavat Ammi

“Because you have had a perpetual hatred…” Ezekiel 35:5a

 
Can you imagine having a perpetual hatred for someone? This is a pretty strong hatred. God uses the Hebrew word olam. Strong’s Concordance likens it as being unto the vanishing point or time out of mind. Sometimes it’s used for eternity or without end. The Pulpit series called this feeling that Seir or Edom had for Israel a “hatred of old, or eternal enmity.” Now remember who Edom is. Edom represents Esau and his descendants. Esau is long gone. Yet here his people are, generations later, still carrying deep enmity against Israel. The story of Esau and Jacob perpetually lives on, never changing, never being resolved, never being reconciled. Can you imagine life like that?

 
It doesn’t just make me think about the effects of hatred, but it makes me want to look at that word perpetual, or olam, because I’ve heard it used before in Scripture. And it makes me think that there are some things that God wants us to “perpetualize” in our lives. What might that be?

 
When I look back to Genesis 9, I see God establishing the rainbow. It was established for perpetual generations and as an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature on earth. How many generations is that? Who knows? I mean, where is the vanishing point? Maybe there is no vanishing point and that’s the point. How long will this covenant last? To that same vanishing point, where ever and how far away in God it is. And I’m wondering if the vanishing point isn’t less of a time or place than it is a position in God? After all, He’s the one who established this covenant. It’s all on him. It really doesn’t matter what we do or how we respond. He’s not going to break His word and destroy the whole earth by a flood again. Out of love and faithfulness and His glory, He made this perpetual promise to be perpetually displayed before us.

 
Then there’s the land of Israel. In Genesis 13, God tells of a land that will be given to Abram’s seed for ever. It’s that same word olam. Now, Noah Webster says of the word perpetual that it is “literally true with respect to the decrees of the Supreme Being.” It’s never ceasing, continuing without intermission, permanent, and endless. Outside of God, what is? Maybe this olam is all dependent upon being in God. Face it, Seir and others are still fighting against Israel today, but there it still exists. Yet, does it exist as fully as God has decreed it would? Or will that existence solidify upon God being fully known and glorified in Israel? Yet try as you might to fight against God’s will, it’s a losing battle. God is this perpetual God and His will is perpetual and it will be as He declares. It really doesn’t matter how perpetual your hatred is. God’s glorious, loving, and righteous perpetualness is immensely more powerful and more real.

 
I could go on and on. Through Isaac, God established a perpetual covenant with his seed and those after. Get it, these perpetual covenants so far haven’t required action on man’s part. This is God’s doing, because He can and because His is faithful. In Exodus when God is telling Moses what to say to the children of Israel, He answers, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me unto you: this is My name for ever [olam], and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Are we just talking about God having the same name forever? Or are we talking that He is always the same God whose every decree and every word is true and worthy of respect and is and was and will be exactly as He decrees?

 
As we progress through Exodus, we see God establishing the priests and giving them their office as a perpetual statute. It’s not just that God appoints who shall be priest. It’s that the priest must be so in Him as well. Their honouring His statutes isn’t legalism, it’s part of understanding the perpetual life-giving nature of God and His presence and power over our lives. Or what of the perpetual incense that Aaron was to burn? Is Aaron able to do something perpetually outside of God and the generations of priests that God would equip? Is the incense the point or is it the understanding and living in the perpetuallness of God?

 

Keeping and observing the sabbath throughout their generation was a perpetual covenant. Not eating fat or blood was another perpetual statute. Why? Because God was showing us something about Himself in all these things to help us grasp His perpetualness so that we could live in Him from day to day and not just some day in some far away future in some far away place. Maybe you disagree and that’s o.k. But I can’t help hear it again in Jeremiah 5:22 as God says, “‘Don’t you fear me?’ says the Lord: ‘won’t you tremble at My presence, who has placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it can’t pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet they can’t prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?’” It’s not just that God set these boundaries in motion for the waves. It’s perpetual. He’s always there controlling it. He’s never left. He’s not just in Heaven. He’s here, still, just as present and just as strong. All these things that mattered to Him still matter today. He’s never changed. We just missed out on what it means to fear Him. We forgot who and what He is. We forgot what it was to tremble at His presence because we live as though He’s not here.

 
It was Esau’s problem way back when. He didn’t get the perpetualness of God with Him and around Him. He forsook that birthright, that place in God and then despised his brother for treasuring it. God asks another good question in Jeremiah 8:5, “Why then is this people of Jerusalem slid back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.” And isn’t that Seir’s problem and our problem too often too? Instead of holding on to that which is truly perpetual, to God’s truth in Him and to His presence, we hold on to lies and deceit and hold on so tightly our lives our bound up in them. It could be hatred, or self-gratification, or pride, or whatever, but we ditch perpetual reality in God for perpetual falsehood because we like it better and figure the outcome is more to our immediate liking.

 

There are things that are perpetual in God that lead to blessing in Him and knowing Him and safety in Him and a future and a hope in Him. And there are perpetual things outside of Him that lead to perpetual sleep, perpetual desolation, and perpetual shame. This word olam or “perpetual” and it’s other forms is used at least 438 times in Scripture. Maybe it’s a truth God would like us to understand and live in.

 
Here’s a tidbit of Judaism. “Judaism advances the daring idea that man and God are partners in the work of creation. Faith is a call to human responsibility.” (Jonathan Sacks) It’s not that we can do it on our own. We must first partner with God in order for Him to partner with us. God created us for this purpose. Look back into the garden. God’s purpose, His perpetualness, was already in existence and already acting. Then He brought us into it, in Him and invited us to partner with Him in this work of spreading His perpetualness.

 

The problem with Seir is that they were not involved in any kind of intimate relationship with God. Life is all about embracing Him and all He does and thinks. Imagine having this kind of partnership with the One who created you! But Seir wanted none of it. Seir acted against it. We’re supposed to be intimately involved with Him managing His creation and being busy with restoration. We’re to be perpetually involved in what the Perpetual One is involved in. Eternal life doesn’t start in Heaven. It starts when we enter into the Perpetual One. Eternal Life has always been in Him. Eternal life is exhibited everyday and into forever.

 

Paul understood. That’s why he urged us, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1) It’s not just our spiritual service, it’s our perpetual service, and our perpetual position of being present in Him. This is life from now until eternity. This ought to change my every perspective.

 

Therefore, I’m still blessed in Him if people hate me and treat me poorly. Therefore I can love my enemies and do good to those who hate me. Why? Because I live in the One who perpetually loves and forgives. I live in the One who perpetually takes care of the hated and the forgotten. I live in the One who perpetually judges rightly and whose word and ways and decrees are true. I don’t just know about Him. I am intimately connected with Him through Jesus Christ. And because of this, I can enjoy Him now and look forward to an anticipation of something more to come in Him.

 

“In the Mishnah, one rabbi says, ‘This world is like a lobby before the Olam Ha-Ba. Prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall.’ Similarly, the Talmud says, ‘This world is like the eve of Shabbat, and the Olam Ha-Ba is like Shabbat. He who prepares on the eve of Shabbat will have food to eat on Shabbat.’” (Jewfaq.org) I can choose to live life in and according to the perpetual nature of God, or I can choose to live according to my own nature, whether that be through hate, or whatever. One will leave me walking into God’s future for me with Him, prepared in Him. The other will leave me living outside of the presence of God, unprepared for a future with Him, devoid of His presence. What will my perpetual choice be? It doesn’t only matter for later. It matters each and every day of my life. What do I really want my perpetual story to look like? Maybe today is a good day to decide, before God must choose for me.

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.