Day 246: Ezekiel 24-26; Familiar Prophecies

Ezekiel is a book that is full of things that are unique to him in relation to all of the other prophets.  The visions and actions that Ezekiel sees and takes are very different from all of the other prophets and often times make him seem eccentric and perhaps even a bit weird.  Yet for all the craziness that comes with this “son of man,” the message that he brings is very familiar.  In fact, today’s reading brings with it some of the more familiar prophecies, similar to that of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  We also read again today of the siege of Jerusalem and its fall.  These are all very familiar happenings for us, so at the risk of being repetitive I am going to include links to the other places in which these are recorded and the posts concerning them.  After which we’ll take briefly about Ezekiel 24:15-27 where Ezekiel’s wife dies.

The Fall of Jerusalem

Babylon and Jerusalem Fall, God is Faithful
Jeremiah 52

Historic Interlude – The first invasion of Judah
Isaiah 36-39

Josiah Through Zedekiah and the Exile
2 Chronicles 35-36

Destruction and Exile of Judah
2 Kings 24-25

Prophecies Against the Nations

Messages Against the Nations (Part 1)
Messages Against the Nations (Part 2)
Messages Against the Nations (Part 3)
Jeremiah 46-50

Oracles Against the Nations (Part 1)
Oracles Against the Nations (Part 2)
Oracles Against the Nations (Part 3)
Isaiah 14-25

…and many more to come as well…

One thing that is rather unique to the the book of Ezekiel in today’s reading is the narrative of the death of Ezekiel’s wife.  Like many of the other actions that Ezekiel had taken in his life, like lying on his side to represent the time of punishment for Judah and Israel, this event in Ezekiel’s life as well as the actions he takes (or more appropriately stated: doesn’t take) are representative of the posture of the people of God when they hear of Jerusalem’s fall.  There are a couple of meanings that can be found in this short passage.  For one, we see clearly that it is the Lord who both knows of and is in control of the fall of Ezekiel’s wife and the fall of Jerusalem.  God is making sure that the people know that it is He who is doing this and not someone or something else that has more power than God.  Second, I think that God is showing the people of Israel what is happening to “the pride of [their] power, the delight of [their] eyes, and the yearning of [their] soul.”  The people of God had placed too much confidence in the Temple and in their city and land, boasting that as their strength instead of God only to see God Himself, who gave them these things, take it away.  It is a message to us as well  that, though we may value the blessings of our lives, we must value more and ultimately only worship God who gave us these things.



Day 231: Jeremiah 38-41; Fear and the Fall

Today, we come to it yet again, the fall of Jerusalem.  We have talked about it a couple of times already at the end of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  These two links will bring you back to these posts (over 100 days ago!).  Jeremiah‘s perspective on all that is happening is similar to what is recorded in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, but seen from a different point of view as he is still working desperately to save the city of Jerusalem and deliver the messages of the Lord of the Lord to King Zedekiah.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the fall of Jerusalem though.  It feels like we have covered this time and again through all of the prophesies and the accounts of its destruction.  There is another message for us today from the last conversation between Jeremiah and King Zedekiah.  The main theme of this?  Fear.

Jeremiah was punished for his unpopular message, imprisoned and thrown into a cistern because “he was going over to the Babylonians.”  I’m sure the public opinion poll of Jeremiah was pretty low at this point and the frustration level of all the Jews was super high.  This is a recipe for disaster for Jeremiah, one that winds up with him at the bottom of a cistern.  Clearly the people don’t want to hear what Jeremiah has to say… at least not until they are desperate, which is exactly what happens here.

The siege is almost over, the city has almost fallen, and King Zedekiah in a last ditch effort call for Jeremiah so he can hear from God one last time.  Jeremiah, knowing this game pretty well by now, doesn’t want to tell him anymore because he knows he’ll just get punished.  But after a promise, Jeremiah delivers one last message to him from the Lord, one that is, by prophetic standards, quite gracious.  I think that God recognizes that the King understands his folly and is seeking the Lord for repentance.  Yet even in that, Zedekiah is gripped with fear.  Jeremiah tells him to surrender… Zedekiah says he is afraid.  Ultimately, Zedekiah give into his fear and it costs him the entire royal court, his entire family, the whole city of Jerusalem, his eyesight, and his freedom.  All of this could have been avoided if Zedekiah had just listened to God.

Fear is a very powerful enemy, a gripping opponent, and a paralyzing emotion.  To often people in the world live (or rather don’t live) their lives because of fear.  I feel like there are times when I am even afraid to come before God because of the things that I have done.  I know my past and I know how God wants me to live and I see that these two things don’t match us.  In Zedekiah’s situation, the fear of what other people would think, say, and do if he followed God was what ultimately lead to his horrific capture and sentence.  Our culture pushes us to look and act a certain way so that people will like and appreciate us as well.  However, God calls us to live a certain way, a way in which He will indeed bless us, if we are faithful to Him.  Again, contrasting the Rechabites to Zedekiah, one will have a place serving God forever and the other will be completely cut off.  Sometimes faith and devotion to God may cost us a few worldly things, but those pale in comparison to the blessings we receive as faithful followers of God.



Day 230: Jeremiah 35-37; Rechabites and Obedience

The obedience of this clan of the tribe of Judah, those who were likely somehow connected to service in the house of the Lord is incredible admirable!  So much so that it warranted special attention in Jeremiah‘s book, even in the midst of the crisis that is going on during this time.  These folks had taken something like the Nazarite vow, like Sampson and others before him, to live a life wholly devoted to God and abstain from certain worldly things.  For Sampson, if you remember, it involved not cutting his hair, drinking wine, or eating leavened bread.  In this case, it meant simply abstaining from wine.  The vow, however, isn’t nearly as important as those that were (or weren’t) keeping it.  For roughly 200 years this family had kept this vow to the Lord throughout the times when the people of Israel were consistently and continually breaking the covenant.

The Rechabites Refuse Wine Photo Credit: http://nccg.org/lev20120728.html

The Rechabites Refuse Wine
Photo Credit: http://nccg.org/lev20120728.html

In the midst of all that is going on, this seems like a rather interesting side story.  However, Jeremiah is actually making a point here.  If you remember yesterday, we read about King Zedekiah releasing the slaves as a way of trying to appease the Lord by “following” the covenant.  He was trying to show some measure of faithfulness to God through his actions but had entirely missed the point.  It was a change of heart that God was looking for in His people and He hadn’t found it anywhere… except here.  In start contrast with the King of Israel and the people of Israel, the Rechabites had kept to the promise they had made to God for a long time.  This promise wasn’t to appease God, but was an outward sign of inward faith and commitment to the covenant.  In many ways, they were an example for the people of Israel, one that they could have learned a lot from.  God’s emphasis on them here, following the sad attempt by King Zedekiah, is His way of saying “this is what I want from you… devotion.”

You know, it seems as though it might be a good message for us today as well.  I don’t necessarily think that we need to be taking a Nazarite vow like these people, but they certainly are a good example as to how we should be living, not outwardly, but inwardly.  They demonstrated full devotion to the Lord and the covenant, the outward sign of which was their abstinence from alcohol.  Sometimes I wonder if the Church, especially in North America, might be heading in the same direction of the people of Judah, living however they want and thinking they can appease God when they need to.  It seems that more  and more, the Church is allowing people to do what they want, say what they want, live how they want, and then landing it under the umbrella of being saved by grace.  While that is entirely true, and thank God for that, I think we might be missing the point a little bit.  Paul speaks to this in his letter to the Romans, chapter 6:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

The example set for us by the Rechabites is one of total life transformation, one that starts with the inward commitment and is lived out in action.  We too need to walk in the newness of life, remembering that we once dead in our sins, but have been made live in Christ Jesus.



Day 229: Jeremiah 32-34; Prophecies Fulfilled

Unlike the book of Isaiah, the book of Jeremiah continues through the actual event of the judgment against Jerusalem by the hand of king Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army.  This is somewhat unique to the books of the prophets as most of them contain predictions, but few actually witness it, and only one truly chronicles it.  What is to come for the next couple of chapters is the interweaving of prophesies being made and prophecy being fulfilled, all from Jeremiah’s perspective.  The warnings have gone out, the people have been given their chance, but as the beginning verses of chapter 34 show us, the time has come for the judgment to be carried out.

There is a lot of mix between prophecy and historical events that are taking place here, but I think there are two main narratives that jump out of these three chapters.  The first is the account of Jeremiah purchasing the field.  The setting of this small account is that Jerusalem has been under siege for a year already and the land that Jeremiah buys is more than likely destroyed or occupied by soldiers.  On top of this, Jeremiah is a prisoner in the palace, likely because of all the negative prophesies that he has spoken against the king.  By all accounts, this is a bad investment.  All accounts that is, except those in the economy of the Lord.  Jeremiah is living into his faith that God would indeed fulfill His promise to bring the people back from exile.  Even in Jeremiah’s great faith though he struggles with doubts, which we see come out in his prayer to God.  After the prayer, God does not strike Jeremiah down for doubting, nor does He get angry, God simply answers Jeremiah’s doubts with honest and true answers, putting Jeremiah’s mind at ease.  We too are invited into this kind of a relationship with God in which our questions, doubts, and struggles are welcomed and given honest answers from our God whom nothing is to hard for.

The other short narrative that jumps out at me in the reading for today is that of king Zedekiah‘s actions to release the slaves in an effort to appease the Lord.  This account comes a bit later in the siege of Jerusalem, when the city is about to fall.  It seems as though Zedekiah finally realizes what he has done and tries to do some sort of a quick fix in order to win favor with God and avert the crisis that is looming.  However, it seems as though they weren’t to keen on this idea because they changed their minds almost instantly.  I kind of wonder if they were hoping that it would all instantly go away and when it didn’t they just took it back.

How much is this like us though as well.  We find ourselves in some sort of trouble and we try to make a quick fix in our lives so that God will be happy with us again.  Yet we know in our hearts that it is not the one or two things that we have done wrong in our lives that is the problem, our issue lies much deeper… its a heart issue.  King Zedekiah needed to change his heart before God, to come to repentance, not appeasement. There is nothing he could do to stay the judgment that God had brought on him.  I think the response of God is interesting here as well.  We so often fight for our own freedom, wanting the right to do whatever we want, but we don’t like the freedom of the consequences that come from our actions.  Yet this is exactly what God allows for Zedekiah.    In some ways, this idea just turns my stomach as I look at culture today and the push towards more and more ‘freedom’ to do whatever… I wonder when the ‘freedom’ of the consequences of culture’s actions will come rushing in.

Fortunately, our hope is in something much higher than culture and even sin… our hope is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  Nothing is too hard for Him.