Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 16:42-17:24; Hebrews 8:1-13; Psalm 106:13-31; Proverbs 27:7-9
Jerusalem’s many sins earned them punishment from God. Yet His anger would not last forever (Ezekiel 16:42-43). God had made a covenant with Israel hundreds of years before and He would honor it (Ezekiel 16:60-62) despite the fact that Israel did not live up to their part. This is the character of God. He is true to Himself even when we are not true to Him. Not many people can say that about themselves. We are all too quick to break promises we make if the other party offends us or hurts us. But not God. He will always live up to His billing – faithful no matter what.
Sadly Jerusalem had gotten to the point where she was worse than even Samaria or Sodom making those two evil towns seem virtuous (Ezekiel 16:46-52). These towns were well known for their many sins and rejection of God’s truth. It was quite a feat for Jerusalem to become even worse than they.
In Ezekiel 17 God speaks a parable about the recent history of Jerusalem. He allowed a foreign king (Nebuchadnezzar) to carry part of Judah away into captivity where they were planted in Babylon. Notice that Nebuchadnezzar exiled the strongest and smartest people from Israel (Ezekiel 17:13). This was a common practice. Removing such people left those that remained in servitude to the conquerer and also enhanced the society of the conquering nation by adding talented people to it.
In doing this Nebuchadnezzar had made a treaty with Zedekiah, the conquered king of Israel. But Zedekiah broke the treaty and for this God was going to hold Israel accountable (Ezekiel 17:13-15). Here we see God expecting us to live up to His standards. He is our role model. Even though we mistreat Him, He will never go back on HIs promises to us. Likewise, Israel had made a promise (a treaty) with Babylon and God expected them to live up to it no matter what. But Israel broke their promise, which just added to their sin.
Keeping a promise is very important to God. His people – whether Israel back then or Christians today – should never break a vow because it reflects on Him. That is why God commands us not to make vows without thinking them through. We’ve read this numerous times in the Bible this year including Judges 11.
The author of Hebrews continues to make his case for the superiority of Jesus and the New Covenant (agreement; contract) over the way the Jews had been doing things for hundreds of years.
The Old Testament rituals were never meant to accomplish anything. They were meant to point to something even better. Otherwise, God would never have mentioned a new covenant (Hebrews 8:7). God has always planned on doing away with the Temple rituals. This would happen when the Messiah came to earth and completed His mission. The Old Testament is replete with mentions of this Messiah and also mentions the new covenant in Jeremiah 31 which the author of Hebrews quotes in this passage. If they knew their Bible a bit better it should have come as no surprise to the people reading this letter that things had changed.
This is a good reminder to all of us to read and study the Bible. God did not give us this book for it to sit on a shelf along with other great literary works. It is not an advertisement of our piety. It is a textbook – full of instructions. Life will go a lot better for all of us if we read and do what it says.
Notice that the new covenant exchanges the external law for an internal one (Hebrews 7:10). This comes in the form of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence inside a person at the moment of salvation. The Holy Spirit is God and is 100% equal to God the Father and God the Son.
The old covenant is now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13) but still today Jews adhere to it. There are even plans to rebuild the Temple in order to resume animal sacrifices. We know from Bible prophecy that the Temple will, in fact, be rebuilt in the last days just before Jesus arrives. We’ve read a bit about this prophecy already but will read much more of it soon.
So many problems in life could be avoided if we just sought and patiently waited for God’s advice. But we often just charge ahead through life getting what we get but what we get is so much less than what God wants us to have. God has demonstrated throughout history that He wants to bless us and give us the best of everything. But we forget that and settle for less (Psalms 106:13).
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