God thought up so many different ways to share messages with us so we could, if at all willing, understand them. We have the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Within the Bible we see parables, prophecies, various statues of remembrance, etc. One of the really effective means of communication he used, we see in today’s Ezekiel reading. God would ask prophets to become a small embodiment of what he was about to do to/for a larger group. Read how Ezekiel helps share God’s message.
- 1-6 – It was not unusual for God to ask prophets to act as a microcosm of what was going to happen to Israel. Here God is showing the Israelites, through Ezekiel, that they would be exiled.
- 17-20 – They ate and drank with anxiety because at any time they could be taken over and sent into exile. That would be a very precarious feeling.
- 27-28 – The Israelites comforted themselves by saying that their punishment wouldn’t come for a while, but God corrects that and lets them know it’s coming soon.
- 8-16 – God condemns the false prophets for misleading the Israelites to believe that no punishment was coming. When God speaks of “whitewashing” the wall that is to say that they cover up the bad with a false sense of peace.
- 1-3 – Melchizedek was a special priest believed to have Christ-like qualities.
- 11-17 – Melchizedek and the Levites were both unable to offer salvation as Christ did because their laws were not sufficient to offer salvation to all people.
- 39-45 – The psalmist recalls the provisions of God for the Israelites in the desert in order to bring hope in his provisions in the future.
- It is hard to resist the provoking of a fool.
Do you remember learning, in elementary school, that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile? It is kind of surprising that we have to make special effort to frown. This is kind of like when we think about what Hebrews tells us today – it is easier to stray from God’s path than to remain faithful. Shouldn’t it be easier to remain faithful? Unfortunately, there are a lot of outside forces pulling us away from faithfulness. This is why we need to surround ourselves with other faithful folks to help bounce us back on the righteous path.
- 1-3 – This gives the context of Ezekiel’s visions from God, which he is now prophesying.
- 4-28 – This sets the scene of what Ezekiel sees as he receives his visions. The creatures, wheels, and dome, all play a part in showing God’s majesty as he speaks to Ezekiel.
- 2 – Ezekiel, more than any other prophet, makes the Spirit an emphasis.
- 2:8-3:3 – Ezekiel is twice instructed to eat a scroll. This is, in effect, asking him to fill himself with the word of God.
- 12-15 – God’s wind takes Ezekiel from the sweetness of ingesting God’s scrolls back to the stark contrast of the harsh reality of the exiles. Ezekiel becomes bitter.
- 1-6 – Moses, like David and Elijah, was highly revered for his acts of faithfulness by Jewish people. The author, here, is explaining that as great Moses was, Jesus is higher.
- 12-15 – It is harder to live faithfully than it is to fall away because temptation and complacency are constantly pulling us away from faithfulness. This encourages us to help each other stay faithful.
- 16-19 – The author encourages the believers to learn from the Israelites wandering in the desert’s mistakes.
- This psalm offers a series of the many ways God provides for his creation. Each is so thoughtful and intricate.
- 24-26 – Hate in our heart can be masked by kind sounding words, but will eventually shine through.
How long does God expect us to wait on him? The Israelites, during exile, were definitely wondering something along those lines. They thought he would rescue them but then decades passed. Many of us could ask the same question too. How long do I have to wait until God heals my marriage? Heals my disease? Gives me a job? Brings me a spouse? The answer to all of these questions is, we don’t know, but God is asking you to wait faithfully. He does come through – sometimes beyond the grave – but he does come through.
- 1-20 – This is all a lament based on the suffering endured in exile. The people have been scattered and feel completely forsaken.
- 21-22 – Zion represents the Israelites while Edom was the name given to Esau’s descendants.
- 1-22 – Though the author is aware that their sins have caused their suffering, he is desperate for God to rescue and restore them. After a while they begin to wonder if God will ever do so.
- 5-18 – Much of the reason Christ was able to initiate and offer us salvation is because he lowered himself to our level and made himself like us. He suffered through similar difficulties and experienced similar challenges.
- 1-14 – David’s relationship with God was so personal. This is clear from the way he speaks about God’s care for humanity. God is compassionate, caring, and forgiving – these are all worth mentioning.
- The glaze is used to make a simple pot look fancier and more appealing. Like this, speech pretending to have love also attempts to cover up the evil in one’s heart.
It’s ok to feel sorrow. It’s ok to ask questions. It’s ok to wonder where God is when you suffer. Lamentations proves it.
Having a rough day? You’re in good company. Lamentations is a book recounting the sorrow and difficulty the Israelites felt due to the exile. They felt rejected, lost, and abandoned. Some of us have felt that way before. Note that there is hope in Lamentations. One of the greatest hymns of all times, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” comes directly from Lamentations. No matter what, there is hope.
- Lamentations is believed to have been written by Jeremiah. He is known as the “weeping prophet”. This is written as a response to being exiled and being rejected by God.
- 1-22 – Here the prophet is lamenting or crying out in sorrow at the fate of Israel and Judah as they are exiled and rejected.
- 1-19 – This chapter focuses on the contrast between where the relationship between God and the Israelites was and where it is during the exile. Special aspects of their relationship such as the temple and being set apart are highlighted.
- This letter is from Paul to Philemon and Apphia. It is only one chapter long.
- 8-16 – Paul is writing to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus who, while Paul was imprisoned, formed a special relationship with Paul. Onesimus had been a servant but was now to become a fellow laborer for Christ with Philemon.
- David commits to living faithfully and commits to not tolerating anyone who doesn’t.
- We are all capable of adding fuel to the fire when we gossip and keep angry words flowing. If we choose to stop our words, we can squash arguments.
Only 8 weeks to go to complete our Year of the Bible! Pretty incredible, eh?
This week, we have a bit of a cornucopia of readings. We’ll spend time in Philemon, Hebrews, Lamentations, and Ezekiel, as well as the usual suspects Proverbs and Psalms.
Something you might want to note this week is the connection and resolution between the Old and New Testaments. Both Lamentations and the prophet Ezekiel are longing for redemption and connection with God. They’re experiencing destruction and separation due to sin. But then we read Hebrews, and other portions of the New Testament and we see that the redemption those in the Old Testament longed for has been realized through Jesus.
Sometimes it is hard to read the prophets and other portions of the Old Testament because the people are being punished and are crying out. But the blessing of reading both the Old and New Testaments at the same time is we immediately get to see God’s answer. We have Christ.
Just kidding! Do you ever tease someone with something a little bit mean and then cover it up by saying “just kidding”? The thing you said was still mean. And let’s be honest, you at least kind of meant it. Ellen Degeneres says, “if you’re joking, we should both be laughing.” Check out what Proverbs says about it today.
- 54-58 – The Lord declares the total destruction of Babylon.
- 1-11 – This account of Jerusalem’s destruction is actually a recap of the destruction before the exile. This is not another destruction.
- 12-23 – This recounts the destruction of the temple just before exile. This was the most devastating act.
- 24-30 – This is a recap of the people being taken into exile.
- 31-34 – This ending is the same way 2 Kings ended when we see a slight glimmer that there’s hope even in the face of devastating exile.
- 3-7 – A powerful testimony of the transformation brought on by God’s powerful grace.
- 8-11 – Clearly there were people struggling with all these things Titus is being warned against. Genealogies may have been bad because people were relying on their heritage for salvation instead of relying on Christ.
- A beautiful, easy to memorize psalm. This psalm is encouraging and reminds us how much God cares for us and that he is worthy of praise.
- A word of warning to all those who use the guise of joking to say hateful things to others.
We are still hanging out in Jeremiah but will finish it up at the end of this week. Jeremiah is, in some ways, similar to Isaiah. Jeremiah was a prophet who initially fought his calling. He was called to preach destruction and eventual restoration to the Israelites. And he faced opposition as he pursued faithfulness.
One thing to pay close attention to as we read through the prophets is: there is nothing God can’t restore us from. We can so easily get caught up in our pasts and focus on how unworthy we are of God’s grace and redemption. I’ve even heard people say, and mean, that they would get struck by lightening upon entering a church.
The prophets make it abundantly clear, and open the door for Jesus to make it even clearer, that no one is irredeemable.
This week, as you read Jeremiah, hear God’s voice calling you as he explains how he will draw the Israelites out of exile and back to himself.
Humility in a leader is a great quality. Paul, in today’s 1 Timothy reading, offers up genuine humility explaining his own need for grace. Paul describes himself as the worst sinner so others can admit their own faults and then receive God’s grace.
- 1-4 – Hananiah, a prophet, prophesied that God would break Babylon. Because of their military dominance, Babylon was seen as fairly unbreakable.
- 5-17 – Hananiah was a false prophet and though Jeremiah hoped God would do what Hananiah prophesied, Hananiah was speaking out of turn and not honoring God and would die for it.
- 1-9 – Jeremiah offered a true prophesy letting the people know they should return to Jerusalem and flourish.
- 10-14 – Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most beloved and quoted verses in Scripture. We often forget that it is written to the Israelites as a promise to bring them out of exile, a painful experience of feeling lost and forgotten. God offers us promises of restoration in our most painful times.
- 15-23 – God did not take kindly to false prophets.
1 Timothy 1:1-20:
- 1-2 – This is a letter from Paul to Timothy, one of his most prominent protégés. Timothy was a young man who Paul would often send to churches in his place.
- 3-7 – Paul writes Timothy addressing some folks who seemingly had good intentions but have gotten off track.
- 12-17 – Paul admits his own need for grace, claiming to have been the worst sinner of all. He can understand the sins of others because of his own experiences.
- David bookends a series of praises to God with requests of God to hear him and to care for him.
- Don’t wear out your welcome.
Today, in both Jeremiah and 2 Thessalonians, we see the need to differentiate between God’s messages and false prophecies. These days, this is still a struggle. False prophecies, messages that will lead us astray, are sneaky and sound helpful, but ultimately they lead us away from God instead of towards him. It is important for us to rely on the Holy Spirit to hear God’s true messages.
- 23-24 – God explains that he is near and sees the actions of people. He is not far away or oblivious to peoples’ actions.
- 28-32 – God makes a clear delineation between the prophets he has given a message to and those who he has not. He does not support the messages of those he has not.
- 33-40 – Asking for a “burden” of the Lord is asking for a prophecy, but this is a play on words so that God flips it around and makes the person the burden.
- 1-10 – The good figs are those who were faithful throughout exile and the bad figs were those who did not repent in exile.
- 1-14 – Jeremiah’s prophecy maps out the details of Judah’s exile and why they’re happening.
- 27 – The prophecy encourages the people to drink of destruction. They’re intended to endure the destruction of their own doing until they can take no more and then God will end it.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-17:
- 1-12 – This warns the Thessalonians not to be deceived by those trying to lead them off course, but to be prepared for the return of Christ.
- 1-4 – This section encompasses the joy and comfort found in the presence of God. All are cared for there, even the seemingly insignificant sparrow.
- 10-12 – There is nothing greater in life than spending time in God’s presence.
- Instead of trying to win battles with power, often we need to use kindness.