Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 29-30:26; Hebrews 11:32-12:13; Psalm 112:1-10; Proverbs 27:17
After delivering a pronouncement of judgement and destruction upon Tyre in yesterday’s reading, God turns His attention to Egypt today. Pharaoh had become so conceited that he actually took credit for creating the Nile River (Ezekiel 29:3). This is not completely surprising as Pharaohs (and later Caesars) were considered by the people and themselves to be gods. This, of course, is nonsense. But beliefs like this one are sin and God must deal with them. In response God declares Himself to be Pharaoh’s enemy (Ezekiel 29:10). It is not a good thing to have God as your enemy. When God becomes your enemy you can be 100% certain of defeat.
God predicted that Egypt would be conquered and its people will be taken captive (Ezekiel 29:4). This happened just as predicted when Babylon conquered Egypt in 567 BC, not long after they conquered Jerusalem. Notice that God’s purpose in allowing this to happen: He wanted Egypt to know that He, and He alone, was God and Pharaoh was not (Ezekiel 29:6). We’ve seen this many times before in other prophecies against nations.
God’s goal is for us to be humbled. We think we are better, smarter, and stronger than we are so we don’t think we need God. But thinking like this only separates from Him and ruins our lives. God doesn’t want that. He wants the absolute best for us. But before we can have the absolute best, we have to realize that He is God and we are not – we have to be humbled.
God promised Egypt that they would only be gone from the land for 40 years (Ezekiel 29:13). After that time they would return. This, too, happened just as predicted after the Persians conquered Babylon. It was the policy of the Persians to allow captive people to return to their homeland. Just like the Jews were allowed to return home, so too were the Egyptians.
Notice another benefit of destroying Egypt… Israel would learn not to rely on her again (Ezekiel 29:16). Rather than turning to God when confronted by Babylon, Israel turned to other human beings for help. Those human beings failed. By destroying Egypt God was also teaching Israel a lesson. Two birds with one stone. This is still a good lesson for us today. Only God can provide the healing and protection we need in life. Our first instinct should be to turn to Him in times of trouble. Putting our trust in other people is sin.
God, of course, will likely work through other people by sending others to provide help and comfort. But if we turn to them without first turning to God it indicates that we are looking to others to help us solve problems. We should first turn to God and let Him work in our lives.
In Hebrews 11:32-40 God lists other people of faith. Notice that none of these people had perfect faith. Gideon had many doubts, as did Barak who only went into battle after Deborah confronted him about his timidity. Samson was used by God to do many things but had a tremendous weakness when it came to women. But they made it into this verse because of their faith. Their faith may not have been strong at times. But that is okay. Weak faith is better than unbelief. God is not looking for perfect people because there aren’t any. He is looking for those with even a tiny bit of faith. Those are the people He can use.
Many people in the Old Testament persevered by faith to accomplish great things (Hebrews 11:33) while some persevered through faith under the most dire conditions (Hebrews 11:35-36). All these people persevered because they believed in a Messiah they would never see (Hebrews 10:39). That is faith.
The lives of these faithful people should be of great encouragement to us living today as we run the race of life (Hebrews 12:1). We know what awaits us at the finish line and that should motivate us, just like Jesus was focused on the glory that awaited Him and not pain and humiliation of the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus’ glory is permanent. The cross was temporary. Too often we refuse to go through temporary pain to achieve long lasting success. That is certainly true when it comes to salvation. The path to heaven is not easy but the rewards are tremendous. Sadly, as Jesus told us, a very small percentage of people – probably in the single digits – will choose this route ( (Matthew 7:13-14).
A parent corrects her child because she loves that child and does not want to see him make mistakes. The same is true with God (Hebrews 12:6-8). God corrects not because He is mean but because He loves. Love cares. If God didn’t love you He would ignore you.
The one thing that makes God-haters angry the most is the lives Christians live. They hate to see God’s children successful or wealthy (Psalm 112:3). They hate to see God’s children acting generously or compassionately (Psalm 112:4). They hate to see us living confident, fearless lives (Psalm 112:8). The sad part is that they can live this way too. But they choose not to.
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