Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 31-32:32; Hebrews 12:14-29; Psalm 113-114:8; Proverbs 27:18-20
Less than two months after His previous prophecy against Egypt, God issues another which we read in Ezekiel 31 today.
God compares Egypt to Assyria and compares them both to cedar trees of Lebanon (Ezekiel 31:3). Lebanon is famous for its cedar trees which can grow 80 feet high. Both Egypt and Assyria became prosperous because of an abundance of fresh water – the Nile in the case of Egypt and the Tigris in the case of Assyria (Ezekiel 31:4). Both of these rivers were a gift from God (Ezekiel 31:7-9). Yet Egypt became proud and arrogant so God had to teach it a lesson (Ezekiel 31:10-11).
I can’t help read these passages and think of the United States. We were blessed with so many natural resources – so much fresh water, more deep water ports than all other nations combined, fertile soil, and so much more. Its not a stretch to say that we, too, have become arrogant and will have to be taken down a notch if we don’t humble ourselves first. God had blessed Egypt and Assyria abundantly and they were not beyond His discipline. It makes it all the more likely we are cruisin’ for a bruisin’ too. And since we are bigger and even more blessed, we are in for a harder fall.
The specifics of God’s plan are revealed in Ezekiel 32:11. He would send the mighty Babylonians, who had already conquered Assyria and Judah against Egypt. As we have seen repeatedly this year, God uses the evil of one nation to punish the evil of another nation. The sins of America will not go unpunished. Some nation (or nations) will rise up against us and bring us down. I have no doubt about that.
Egypt would fair no better than the once-mighty Assyria who God had previously humbled and who now (at the time Ezekiel wrote this) was in a metaphorical grave (Ezekiel 32:20-22). God says what He means and means what He says. God is extremely patient. He pleads with us as individuals and nations to turn to Him for protection and blessing. No nation can defy Him forever. At some point, as we read the other day, a nation renders itself hopeless. Then there is nothing God can do but destroy it.
For centuries people have sought peace. Peace around the world. Peace in their families. But, as we know, peace does not come easy. So many people wish for peace and even pray for peace. But the solution to achieving peace is hard work (Hebrews 12:14). Peace takes time and effort. So does living a holy life. The word “holy” means “separated” or “unique”. God is holy because He is not like us at all – He is separate from us in how He thinks and what He does. Christians (to whom this letter was written) are to be separated – holy – from the world. We are not to think or act like those around us who don’t know God.
The Jewish Christians to whom this letter was written were becoming discouraged in their faith and were considering going back to Old Testament legalism. But the author reminds them that the old ways of doing things are not nearly as good as the new. God’s new testament is better than the old. Whereas the old reminded people of their guilt the new offers complete forgiveness. Whereas the old was based on a bunch of rules, the new is based on God’s grace (Hebrews 12:18-24). Under the New Testament we don’t have to stay away from God as the Israelites did (Hebrews 12:20). We have full access to God and can come to Him anytime day or night (Hebrews 12:23).
God’s chosen people rebelled against Him in the desert and were kept out of the Promised Land when they refused to listen to Moses, God’s human mediator. Therefore, anyone who refuses to listen to Jesus, God’s heavenly mediator, can expect similar, yet more serious, consequences – being kept out of heaven (Hebrews 12:25). God is speaking to every human being alive though Jesus. He is calling each of us into an eternal relationship with Him. Ignoring Him is the worst thing anyone can do.
God is all about helping those who can’t help themselves. None of us can save ourselves from the penalty of our sin. So God came down from heaven and paid that penalty for us. He lifted us poor and needy creatures out of our circumstances and set us up as royalty – His own sons and daughters (Psalm 113:7-8).
People are never satisfied. We always want more (Proverbs 27:20). The problem is the things we want more of – money, sex, fame, power – can never satisfy. That is why they become addictions. Our mind thinks we can find fulfillment in them so we pursue them. But like the proverbial carrot on a stick we can never attain them. That is why when asked “How much money is enough?” millionaire John D. Rockefeller famously replied “Just a little bit more”.
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