Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 33-34:31; Hebrews 13:1-25; Psalm 115:1-18; Proverbs 27:21-22
After spending the previous 32 chapters predicting Jerusalem’s defeat, God now begins to tell them of future blessing in the next several chapters. This section includes the promise of Israel’s restoration as a nation (which came true in 1948) as well as a future time (not too distant I don’t think) when the antichrist rules the world. These eschatological passages are some of my favorite passages in the entire Bible.
It is the responsibility of every believer to tell the non-believers they know about God and His coming judgement (Ezekiel 33:2-9). Everyone is responsible for their own sins and will be judged accordingly. But those who know the truth have a responsibility to share it.
God does not enjoy bringing punishment on people (Ezekiel 33:11). This is not the first time God has told us this in the Bible. God is not out to get us. He is out to restore us. Just like any parent who sees their child making mistakes, God will speak softly at first hoping we respond simply out of respect for Him and His knowledge and authority. But we are like a stubborn little child who pays no attention so God’s requests will get a bit “louder” all with the intent of turning us from the destructive path we are on.
Each of us will be judged according to our own decisions (Ezekiel 33:20). We are all the victims of other people’s bad decisions. We’ve all been hurt, disappointed, and abused. Admittedly, some more than others. But none of that is an excuse. No matter how we are treated we have the ability to choose how we will react and behave. When standing before God no one will be able to say “So-and-so made me do it”. Our judicial system may allow us to cast blame. But our judicial system is made up of flawed people. God holds us to a higher standard than the standard set by human beings.
The poor leadership of Israel was the reason why the people became scattered all over the world (Ezekiel 34:1-5). Instead of keeping the people focused on God the leaders abandoned them for the sake of their own material comfort (Ezekiel 34:8). This lead to sin and defeat. The main responsibility of leaders – spiritual and government – is to lead people to God. The whole notion of separation of church and state is not biblical and is the reason our country (and others) is so far off course. God wants everyone to come into a relationship with Him and it is the job of our leaders to “shepherd” people in that direction.
Notice that God Himself promises to come to Israel’s rescue. He promised to regather His people into their land (Ezekiel 34:11-16). Clearly, this prophecy has happened and continues to happen. Jews began returning to what is now Israel in the late 1800s and in 1948 Israel was officially born-again as a nation. Jews continue to emigrate to Israel today.
Finally, God promised to make a new covenant that was based on peace (Ezekiel 34:25). This era was ushered in when Jesus died on the cross and the permanent forgiveness of sins was made possible. However, this entire prophecy has not yet come true as Israel is not yet living in peace and safety (Ezekiel 34:27-28). It is not until the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah that this will happen. And this will not happen until Jesus returns to earth, kills their enemy (the antichrist) and set up an earthly kingdom to last 1,000 years. The future will be pretty exciting, won’t it?
The author of Hebrews concludes his letter with some general advice. We (Christians) are to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Its one thing to be hospitable to friends and family. But God always commands us to go the extra mile and do what is difficult. Being welcoming to someone we don’t know is a risk that God wants us to take.
We should also be satisfied with what we have because God is enough (Hebrews 13:5-6). Its not that money or other things are inherently bad. But when we put our security and trust in them they become idols, replacing the place in our lives that God, and God alone, should occupy.
Jesus’ message will not change because it is the message we need (Hebrews 13:8-9). People are all too willing to seek and accept whatever is new, especially when it comes to spiritual beliefs. This has been true for centuries. It is the reason why Joseph Smith invented Mormonism. It is why people today turn to new-age thinking.
While the world is chasing after their alleged new-and-improved spirituality, those of us who cling to the solid truth of Jesus will become outcasts (Hebrews 13:12-13). So be it. We are only sojourners here anyway. There is nothing – not even family – that is as important as knowing Jesus.
Being praised by others is a test of our character (Proverbs 27:21). Its easy to let such comments and opinions go to our heads. It okay to realize that you’ve done a good job, or have a certain skill. That is self-confidence and appreciation for the skills God has given you. But its not okay to think too highly of ourselves or forget where our talent came from.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.