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The Difference Is

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Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 7-9:11; Hebrews 5:1-14; Psalm 105:1-15; Proverbs 26:28

Old Testament

Three times in the prophecy recorded in Ezekiel 7 God says that He is bringing judgement upon the final remnants of Israel so that they “will know that” He is the Lord (Ezekiel 7:4, 9, 27). God’s purpose in all that He does is so that we will know Him. If we know Him then we can find truth and be saved. But if we stray from Him, even a little bit, we are at risk of turning our lives over to false gods who cannot save us. As difficult as it can be to understand at first, even God’s discipline is meant for our own good.

The destruction of Jerusalem is very similar to the end of a person’s life. No money can save us from death (Ezekiel 7:19) nor can any of our so-called “good deeds”. Everyone will die. And all that we worked for will be rendered meaningless. The only thing that lives on is us. Where we live – either heaven or hell – comes down to whether God was our god or not. If we lived for money, or fame, or people (even our families) then God was not our god.

That is why God becomes jealous when we do not pursue a relationship with Him (Ezekiel 8:5). He knows that being separated from Him in this life will be separation from Him in the next life (which is permanent). He desperately wants us to avoid that.

Every time we sin, either individually or collectively (as a nation, for example) we drive God a little bit further away (Ezekiel 8:6). That is why sin is so dangerous. People don’t understand how homosexuality and same-sex marriage are wrong when no one seems to get hurt. The problem is everyone gets hurt because sin pushes God away. But just like ancient Israel, people in the United States don’t care. They believe that if we remove God from our society then we can do whatever we want with no consequences (Ezekiel 8:12, 9:9). Guess again. God sees everything. And as a 100% lawful being, He will make sure that all infractions are punished. That is exactly what we expect from our own judicial system. Why would we expect anything less from God? The difference is that God has the backbone (not to mention the power) to carry out justice.

We all make mistakes. God is not unreasonable. As we’ve been reading for ten months, He is patient and understanding and is willing to forgive and help us correct our mistakes and become better. But if we continue to reject His assistance, or pretend that He doesn’t exist, there will come a point where even cries for mercy will not be heard (Ezekiel 8:18).

In a scene reminiscent of the first Passover and also of future judgement, Ezekiel watches as God orders 1 man (probably an angel) to walk through the streets of Jerusalem putting a mark on forehead of those who realize they are sinners (Ezekiel 9:4) while 5 men (angels) follow behind killing anyone without such a mark (Ezekiel 9:5-6). The Holy Spirit is the mark of a believer (Ephesians 1:13). At the moment a person is saved the Holy Spirit (who is God) takes up residence inside a person’s body. Anyone who dies without this “mark” will not enter heaven.


New Testament

In the Old Testament the people could not approach God directly because of sin.They had to approach God through a priest who would perform certain rituals to temporarily (and symbolically) cleanse himself and the people from sin (Hebrews 5:1). But once Jesus came on the scene and conquered sin once and for all, priests were no longer necessary. Jesus is now our “priest”, if you will. It is He who now intercedes for us with God.

Therefore, we are now to approach God directly. We are not to go through a priest. The concept, for example, of confessing our sins to a priest (as the Catholic church requires) to receive forgiveness, is nothing but sin.

Its very important to note that the Temple priests could deal with people because they knew exactly what it was like to be a sinful human being in need of forgiveness themselves (Hebrews 5:2). When God walked this earth in a human body (whom we know as Jesus) He “learned” what is like to be human. He went through all the same things we go through and therefore, just like the old Temple priests, He can intercede for us because He also knows how difficult it is to obey (Hebrews 5:7-8). None of us can claim that God, although He is in heaven, doesn’t know what it is like to live on this earth.


Proverbs

When we lie to another person we are displaying hate towards that person (Proverbs 26:28). That is a pretty strong statement. But that is how God looks at it. I’ve also heard it said that lying is stealing – when we lie we “steal” the truth from someone. No matter how you look at it lying, even little white lies, is a sin. It does more damage than we realize.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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