Bitterness, when allowed to fester and build, will slowly destroy us. Bitterness forms when anger and resentment are not dealt with. Today’s Hebrews reading warns us of this. We must process and deal with these feelings because it ultimately harms us more than anyone we’re angry with.
- 1-18 – Egypt once grew to great prominence, particularly when Joseph was there and stored and sold grain during a 7-year famine. Because of its prominence, Egypt became prideful and turned from God. Because of this, Pharaoh was doomed to death.
- 1-15 – The lament over Egypt in yesterday’s reading had a similar conclusion, “then they will know that I am the Lord.”
- 15 – “Roots of bitterness” are formed when we allow anger and resentment to build up in our hearts. These are often formed when we feel someone else is getting away with sin and when we are punished for our own sins.
- 25-29 – Hebrews is warning us of the importance of listening for, obeying, and accepting God. God is described here as a consuming fire.
- Our God is worthy of praise and there are none beside him. Nothing else we could worship or revere compares to the greatness of God.
- 18 – The one who works at something, gains the reward.
In today’s Ezekiel reading Egypt is promised a punishment partially because they put themselves in place of God. It seems silly. They took credit for creating the Nile. But don’t we put ourselves in the place of God all the time? We try to control things that we should hand over to God. We make decisions without consulting God. We assume that our finances are our own instead of a blessing from God. Let’s read today’s Ezekiel passage closely today.
- 1-21 – This is a prophecy against Egypt. Notice that in verses 9 and 10, it is explained that Egypt’s punishment is partially because the people tried to put themselves in the place of God by saying they created the Nile.
- 1-26 – The explanation of Egypt’s punishment continues and the hearer is assured that by the end of what Egypt will face, they will have no doubt who God is.
- 32-38 – All these folks who lived by faith faced very difficult challenges and hardships. Following God does not make life easy or simple. It is the opposite. Life is often more difficult when we follow God, but the reward in the end is well worth it.
- 1-2 – The “cloud of witnesses” is all the people who have gone before us and shown us what faithful living looks like. Our ultimate example is Christ who was willing to sacrifice himself in order to obtain the joy of the Lord and a place next to God.
- 7-11 – Discipline is a form of love because it protects us and guides us to the version of us God intended.
- This psalm highlights many reasons why it is good and beneficial to fear and obey God. Too often we see it as a burden that squashes us.
- As believers, we are called to help hold one another accountable and to spur each other on towards faithfulness.
Proverbs has a lot of relationship advice – from friendship to marriages to parenting. Today’s tip on marriage is to pay attention to the signs someone gives you BEFORE you marry them! A wise man does not marry a woman who has proven herself hateful and quarrelsome. It just doesn’t make sense.
- 1-36 – Tyre was a wealthy city because it was located on a port. But their wealth was where they placed their pride, which ultimately led to destruction. This section is a lament over the rise and fall of Tyre.
- 1-10 – This is a prophecy against the prince of Tyre because he has placed himself above God. This is always going to be a bad idea.
- 11-19 – The King of Tyre had at one time been in God’s good graces, but had since turned to unfaithfulness and had become a laughing stock.
- 20-23 – The city of Sidon was also unfaithful and set to be destroyed. Tyre and Sidon, in the New Testament are often used as examples of what not to be, similar to Sodom and Gomorrah.
- 24-26 – God promises to bring Israel back together after Israel and return to it.
- 26 – This verse should stop us in our tracks! Because of their deep and abiding faith that God’s promises are true, all these people acted faithfully with the willingness to wait for their rewards. Are we willing to do the same?
- 1-3 – Let’s give thanks to the Lord for his great Word that we get to read in order to connect with him! Let’s do it even when it’s hard to find time to read!
- 15-16 – This is simply encouraging men to make wise choices about the women they choose. A combative nature would most likely be evident before marriage.
Acting on faith, by definition, means we take the step without knowing the result. Today’s section on Hebrews lists a number of people who acted on faith. They couldn’t be certain of the outcome but lived righteously, trusting God to take care of the rest. What are times when you’ve been asked to live righteously when you couldn’t know the outcome?
- 15-24 – God uses Ezekiel’s life, yet again, to serve as a mirror for the Israelites to see what is about to happen to them. Ezekiel’s wife dies and he is not allowed to mourn. The Israelites will also soon lose what is most valuable to them, the temple.
- 1-7 – This is a prophecy against the Ammonites. This, and the condemning prophecies to follow are reminiscent of Jeremiah’s oracles against the nations in chapters 46-51.
- Chapter 11 is often know as the “Hall of Faith”. It is a helpful list of many people in Scripture who acted faithfully because of their faith. We are often asked to take steps/leaps of faith. It is for our good and God’s glory that we are asked to take these steps. They’re scary, but worth it.
- 1 – This helps us define what faith is and what it isn’t. We often want proof in order to have faith, but proof is not required for faith. Faith must come before proof.
- 6 – It is interesting to think that faith is the root of pleasing God. We must have faith in order to please God.
- 13-16 – The folks mentioned in this chapter all died still living faithfully. Each was seeking God’s best for them, a heavenly home, realizing that this life wasn’t all God had in store.
- 4 – Melchizedek was mentioned heavily at the beginning of Hebrews comparing Jesus to Melchizedek.
- Everyone has had a noisy neighbor before. I think we can all agree it’s not a blessing.
We spend more time in Ezekiel and Hebrews this week.
Note that Ezekiel doles out a handful of warnings to various people groups, including the Israelites, of what is about to happen to them. Each of the punishments coming is due to that group’s sin, but regardless, it’s not going to be pretty.
Make a special note of a few things in Hebrews as well. In chapter 11, we encounter the “Hall of Faith” and then in chapter 12 we hear about a “cloud of witnesses”. Pay special attention to both of these. In the “Hall of Faith”, acts of faithfulness and trust are counted to people as righteousness. This isn’t a means of earning salvation, but is an opportunity to trust and know God more fully.
The cloud of witnesses is also something we should think about. Our cloud has not changed, only expanded. We can run faithfully towards Christ because so many have before us and because more and more people are living faithfully each day. Who is someone in your cloud?
If the Bible was a soap opera, it would win all the daytime Emmys. Even in today’s psalm, David talks to God about someone he was once very close to but now has been betrayed by. David is the same man who killed a giant, was hunted down by his predecessor, had an affair and had his mistresses husband killed, which eventually led to his firstborn dying. The list goes on and on.
- 1-21 – This message from God compares Jerusalem and Syria to two promiscuous sisters. These two people groups were first God’s, but then they offered themselves to many others and ultimately God turned away from them because of their unfaithfulness.
- 22-35 – Jerusalem’s consequences for unfaithfulness are spelled out.
- 19-25 – This passage explains how Christ broke down any barriers that separated people from God, giving them access to God directly. The author encourages believers to hold true to their hope in Christ and to spur others onto faithfulness and connection with God too.
- 26-31 – Here, the author confirms the need for believers to have a transformed lives. Those who know the truth and continue sinning will be punished.
- 1-20 – David is clearly angry at someone who he once felt close to but has since betrayed him. This psalm, because of the anger and hatred toward someone, is often avoided in church services and reading plans.
- 21-29 – David asks for God to care for him even though this enemy has persecuted him.
The grace we receive through Jesus’ sacrifice is a free gift we cannot earn. Hebrews tells us, however, we do have a role to play. Our job, after we’ve received salvation is to pursue sanctification – the process of becoming more like Christ by turning away from our sins. But once you’ve received such a wonderful gift, wouldn’t you want to become more like the giver?
- 1-17 – God has Ezekiel prophesy against Jerusalem letting them know that God has drawn his sword and will soon slay the wicked. This has to be terrifying to hear.
- 18-32 – God will use the Babylonians and Ammonites to wield his sword against Jerusalem.
- 6-12 – God reminds the leaders of Israel of their sins. It is known that the Babylonians and Ammonites, who God would use to destroy Jerusalem, also had great sins against God’s law, but since they were not God’s chosen people, they were not subject to God’s law.
- 18-19 – Dross of metals is the impurities that float to the top when purifying it. When you melt silver, impurities rise to the top and are scraped off to assure the purity of the precious metal. Israel has now become the throw away portion of what was once precious.
- 5-7 – Jesus did not offer sacrifices other than himself. Jesus says that God does not desire sacrifices and offerings because the Israelites were using them incorrectly. They weren’t allowing themselves to be changed by the sacrifices but were simply using them as a chance to continue sinning.
- 11-14 – Jesus’ sacrifice of himself offers us righteousness. It is our job though, to pursue the process of sanctification. This is the process of systematically turning away from sin and becoming more like Christ.
- 1-6 – So many of the psalms are simply talking about how God deserves our praise. Note that there are always reasons listed why he deserves it. This one uses some of the phrases some of the others use, “your steadfast love is great”, “your faithfulness reaches to the clouds”. Try not to allow yourself to read over these quickly because you’ve heard it before. Think about what those things actually mean, it may compel you to offer God a little more praise than normal.
- Humans are designed to walk away from danger, but without wisdom, we tend to ignore our natural urgings. Wisdom keeps us safe.
Hebrews has a steady message throughout it (as does this throwback song from my early youth group days) – Jesus is the answer. Before Jesus, God offered a variety of ways for people to be connected to him. The temple, the commandments, the law, covenants, sacrifices, and the list goes on…but then Jesus came. Jesus fulfilled the law. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus tore the temple curtain that created separation. Jesus is now all we need to be fully connected with God.
- 8-13 – This section mentions “profaning the Sabbath” as a way of dishonoring God. This is what the religious leaders in Jesus’ day thought he was doing when he healed on the Sabbath. But there’s a big difference. Jesus’ “work” on the Sabbath was to love and care for God’s people. “Profaning the Sabbath” is for one’s own gain.
- 15-17 – God did punish the Israelites by not allowing them into the Promised Land, but he could have, with justification, wiped them out right then. Instead, he simply made them wait to enter the Promised Land. The next generation was allowed in.
- 30-31 – The reason God says he won’t answer the Israelites’ inquiries is because they have spent their time crying out to every other god at every opportunity.
- 40-44 – The Israelites will have to endure punishment but the Lord promises to bring them back to himself and restore them.
- 11-14 – The Holy of Holies, which was once separated and humans couldn’t enter except the high priest once a year, was now permanently available through Christ. His blood was far more sufficient than animals’.
- 23-28 – It’s interesting that the word “copies” is used. This is helpful when we think that the law and the temple and sacrifices weren’t bad things. They were very helpful, but they were merely copies of the real deal – Jesus. Now we have the real deal and don’t have to rely on the copies anymore.
- 33-42 – It is a theme throughout the Bible that God brings the proud to humility and lifts the humble up. It is common for things that are commonly understood to be flipped on their head. This is clear through this passage and made most clear through Jesus’ ministry.
Not everything we deal with or face is directly mentioned in the Bible. Gun violence is not mentioned…because there were no guns at the time. Today’s Ezekiel reading gives us a solid, though not exhaustive list of sins. Though we can’t get yes and no answers on every one of our questions on sin through this list, it does give us a good set of guidelines to start from.
- 5-9 – There are many more laws listed in other parts of the Old Testament, but this list is meant to be general guidelines. If you’ve done these things, God will look with favor upon you.
- 10-13 – Though not an exhaustive list of sins, definitely avoid these things.
- 14-20 – This is good news! There had been instances of people being punished for their parents’ sins.
- 26-29 – This reminds us that God is just and forgiving. Israel was the wicked one with every opportunity to turn away from sin. God would have forgiven them.
- This section explains the significance and practices associated with the Israelites’ temple. Jesus referred to himself as the temple when talking about being resurrected in three days. The past few days of Hebrews reading has explained how Jesus is a new edition of God’s plan to be connected with his people. This is a continuation of that.
- 32-43 – These are a continuation of the examples of Israel’s unfaithfulness.
- 44-48 – But there’s always hope in the end! God still offers forgiveness and opportunities for restoration.
- To have a friend you have to be a friend. And place a lot of value on those who are close and actually helpful rather than those who should be on paper, but actually aren’t.
Both our New and Old Testament readings talk about covenants today. As we’ve discussed, covenants are agreements between two parties (God is always one of them in the Bible) where both sides have something to uphold. Our Old Testament reading shows God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Israel despite their total lack of regard for their end of the bargain. Then in the New Testament reading we see God’s new covenant through Christ. This is the covenant we’re under. Our part of the bargain is to receive Christ’s salvation and live accordingly. Let’s make a renewed commitment to our portion of the covenant today.
- 44-58 – The Israelites looked down on places like Sodom and Samaria for their sins and because they did not have the special bond with God that the Israelites had. Here God puts the Israelites in their place by placing them lower than those nations.
- 59-63 – As poorly as the Israelites have held to their covenant with God, God reiterates his commitment to the covenant.
- 11-21 – These verses explain the parable found earlier in the chapter. The parable tells of Jerusalem/Judah’s unfaithfulness. They trusted in the power of other nations instead of that of God. Judah’s fate for unfaithfulness is destruction.
- 22-24 – Yes! We’re talking about Jesus here. All kinds of people will find rest with Christ and social statuses will flip flop.
- This section describes the new covenant that was established through Christ.
- 8-12 – Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted here.
- 13 – This is to say that the original covenant is now replaced by the new. Christ’s covenant is what we live under. God’s first covenant wasn’t bad, this one is kind of like a new edition that we should adhere to from now on.
- This psalm is another example of God’s faithfulness repaid by Israel’s lack of faith and unfaithfulness.
- 30-31 – Often acts of faithfulness are “counted as righteousness” to the person who is faithful.
- 7 – This is very true of our culture. We are not “hungry” for anything because all our needs are met so we tend to be ungrateful for what we have. Those in need are often grateful for anything and everything made available to them.