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Finding Christ in Ezekiel

The Old Testament book of Ezekiel is truly an amazing book.  As a prophet of God during the exile, Ezekiel had a ministry among the captives of Judah who had been carried away to Babylon.  God used the Babylonian empire as an instrument of judgment against His people because of their idolatrous ways.  Even though they had been unfaithful to Him, God would never be unfaithful to them.  For the sake of His great name, His covenant faithfulness would remain.  He would still bring blessing into the world through the descendants of Abraham.  This is a major theme in the book of Ezekiel.

Yesterday at Green Street, I preached from Ezekiel 37 where we read about a vision that God gave the prophet Ezekiel, a vision in which he saw a valley that was full of dry bones.  After the experience of the vision, God gives Ezekiel an explanation of what he saw.  The bones were an illustration of His people.  It was an accurate depiction of the whole house of Israel.  Looking on their situation, they were under the impression that all hope was lost.  Jerusalem had been reduced to a pile of rubble.  The temple that once housed the glory of God was an ash heap, and its citizens were now captives in a strange land.  They were just like the lifeless skeletons in Ezekiel’s vision.  After all, can dry bones really live again?  Yet God shows the prophet Ezekiel how He Himself would bring His people up out of their graves!  By His mercy and grace, God would bring them back into their land after a period of time.  In the last several verses of chapter 37, He says:

“Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land.  And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.  And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms…My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd…My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” (Ezekiel 37:21-28)

What a remarkable promise!  Though their situation was bleak and hopeless, they had something to look forward to.  God wasn’t through with them.  He had not abandoned His covenant, even though His people had abandoned Him.  God would still bring blessing into the world in fulfillment of the promise He made to both Abraham and David.  The hope of God’s people would be ultimately found in a future King.  They would be one nation with one King and one Shepherd.  God would make His dwelling place with His people and His sanctuary would be in their midst forevermore.  Here, we find Christ in the message of Ezekiel.

By way of application, remember that no matter how desperate and hopeless you think your situation is in life, you can be confident in a sovereign King who is seated on an eternal throne.  This assures us as believers that our hope is always secure.  When stock markets crash, we still have hope.  When we are abandoned by those we thought were our friends, we still have hope.  When we face sickness and death, we still have hope because our hope is in our resurrected Savior King.  He passed through the valley of death in our place.  Now through faith in Him, we have been given His eternal life.  Jesus Christ is the hope to whom our faith is directed in the book of Ezekiel.

Judges: The Faithfulness of God

FullSizeRenderThe book of Judges records a dark period in the history of Old Testament Israel. It was a time where moral restraint had been cast off, a time in which people did what seemed right to them.  It was a time of moral relativism where people became their own judge of right and wrong.  Rather than building their lives upon the objective truth of God’s Word, they followed the desires of their own heart.  In fact, the last verse of the book helps us understand why things were in such a sad state of disarray:

Judges 21:25 – “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Once the Israelites became settled and comfortable in the land, they also became spiritually complacent, which inevitably led to spiritual compromise.  Joshua had faithfully led the people after the death of Moses.  After Joshua and his generation died, Judges 2:10 says, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that He had done for Israel.”  The book of Judges records how the people forgot God, turned from the truth, and even worshiped other gods.  There is a cycle that happens over and over again throughout the book of Judges.  First, the people become complacent and forgetful of all that the Lord had done on their behalf.  Then, they adopt the practices and customs of the surrounding nations, even worshiping their false gods.  Next, they fall into bondage by some oppressor.  Finally, moved to pity by their brokenness, the Lord who raises up a ‘judge’ who delivers them from their cruel oppressors.  Though the book of Judges records the tragic failures of Israel in the land, the overarching theme is the faithfulness of God.  In this way, the book of Judges presents us with the truth that we are sinful people who are helpless to save ourselves.  In short, we need a Savior to rescue us from ourselves.

There is a tension that we find in Judges between what God has said He will do to bless His people and what He must do to punish their sin.  How can God be gracious to a disobedient people, while at the same time being just?  It seems as if He is in an impossible situation. He has sworn to bless His people, but also sworn to punish their sin.  It is this dilemma that keeps us in suspense throughout the book, as well as throughout the entire Old Testament.  The answer to this tension between God’s love for His people and His wrath upon their sin is only solved by Jesus at the cross.  There at the cross, my sin was laid upon Jesus, God’s own Son, so that His righteousness could be given to me.

All of the judges who are mentioned throughout the 21 chapters of Judges are imperfect saviors.  They cannot provide the ultimate salvation that the people are in such desperate need of.  These imperfect saviors point us to the one Perfect Savior who would one day come to our rescue–Jesus Christ.  As you read the book of Judges, be sure to pay attention to the sin pattern of Israel.  Think of how sin is so very subtle and deceptive, and how it leads one into bondage.  Be encouraged as you read the stories of various saviors that God raises up to save His people.  Thank God for how they ultimately point us to the only Savior given among men who can provide us with a perfect and final salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One in whom we must place our faith!  Our failures must drive us to His nail scarred feet, to the only place where mercy, grace, and forgiveness can be found.

For our Green Street family, be sure to pick up a copy of the Scarlet Thread Bible Reading Plan at the welcome desk in the lower lobby.  Or, you can also access it online.

Numbers: The Weakest Link

Unknown.jpegDo you remember playing the game, “Red Rover,” when you were a kid on the playground?  I used to love playing that game when I was in elementary school.  If you were deprived of this experience as a child, let me summarize.  Two teams are selected and stand opposite each other.  All of the team members join hands and form a line as long as their arms will extend.  The game begins as one team calls out to someone on the opposing team, telling them to run over and try to break through the line.  The team chants, “Red rover, red rover, send Johnny right over!”  Little Johnny takes off running as fast as he can, crashing into the arms of the other team while trying to break through the line.  If he is successful, he chooses someone from that team and takes them back to his side.  If he fails, he is forced to become part of the other team.  The whole point of “Red Rover” is to show the principle that your team is only as strong as its weakest link.

In many ways, this is a fitting illustration to use to describe the nation of Israel in the book of Numbers.  They are like two opposing teams standing in two lines facing each other.  The names of the teams are the Faithful and the Faithless.  The “faithful” describes those who were full of faith in God, who trusted in His character and believed His promises.  The “faithless” doubted God’s Word and relied upon their own wisdom.  We really see this displayed in Numbers 13 and the example of the twelve men who were sent to spy out the Promised Land.  They go in and explore the land for a period of forty days.  Upon their return, the spies give their report to Moses and Aaron as they stand before all the people.  They tell the congregation of Israel about the giants they saw in the land and all of the heavily fortified cities.  Such a report arouses great fear among the Israelites.  Two of the spies, however, saw things differently.  Their names were Joshua and Caleb.  What the majority saw as obstacles, Joshua and Caleb saw as opportunities for the Lord God to show Himself strong on behalf of His people.  Unfortunately, the other spies provoke the whole congregation to fear and disbelief, and they are even ready to stone Moses.  Because of their unbelief and lack of faith, they are forced to spend the next forty years wandering around in the wilderness.  Those who were faithless outnumber those who were faithful, and the consequences are heartbreaking.

There is a lesson here that runs throughout the whole book of Numbers.  A lack of faith will leave us in a spiritual wilderness.  In fact, the word ‘wilderness’ is used some 48 times in the book of Numbers.  Most of the events of the book are set in the wilderness of the Sinai peninsula where the people have to wander around until the unbelieving generation dies off.  God wants His people to walk by faith, not by sight.  The lesson from Numbers can be summed up in the question, “Will I trust the Lord, no matter what?”  Even when we face obstacles like giants and fortified cities, we trust God.  We live in a world that is filled with challenges, and life gets extremely difficult at times.  But the message of Numbers, as well as the message of the whole Bible, tells me to place my faith in Christ.  Fear and failure will dog our steps, but what we perceive as discouraging obstacles are merely opportunities for God to show Himself strong on our behalf, and it is all for His own glory.

(Adapted from Ken Baugh’s “Big Idea” in the introduction to Be Counted: Living a Life that Counts for God, by Warren W.  Wiersbe, 1999.)

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