Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 40:28-41:26; James 4:1-17; Psalm 118:19-29; Proverbs 28:3-5
The remainder of Ezekiel, starting in chapter 40, outlines what Jesus’ millennial kingdom will look like and how it will operate. Chapter 40 gives very detailed dimensions of what will be the next Temple complex. This is clearly a future structure as nothing like this has ever stood in Israel before.
One of the more interesting facts revealed in these passages is that animal sacrifices will take place in this Temple (Ezekiel 40:38-43). One has to wonder why this would be considering that Jesus was the ultimate “lamb of God”. But I think that the animal sacrifices will not be for the forgiveness of sins as they were in the Old Testament. They will be done as a remembrance of what Jesus did on the cross. Just like today Christians celebrate communion to remember Jesus’ death for us. We don’t believe that each time we eat the bread and drink the wine/juice that Jesus is dying again (although Catholics believe this). The communion ceremony is a remembrance and it seems that these future animal sacrifices will be too.
James provides more practical advice in our reading today, explaining the source of quarrels. Strife between people comes from the inherent sin that is within us – jealousy (James 4:1-3). We want what we don’t have but we’re too lazy or proud to obtain it the proper way. Human beings are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20). One of the reasons is we look at this life as all there is so we try to obtain as many tangible and intangible possessions as we can. But such things don’t satisfy.
The reason we are never satisfied is we don’t seek to have our needs met through God (James 4:3b). We ask God (if we ask at all) for what we want. But that is not the purpose of prayer. As we learned from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, prayer is not about convincing God to give us what we think will make us happy. The purpose of prayer is to align our will with God’s. Not having a will that is aligned with God’s is the cause of all envy and conflict between people.
Speaking here to Christians, James points out that coveting “things” is committing spiritual adultery (James 4:4). We should not want to be friends with the world or to be what the world says we should be. Christians should be set apart in our thoughts and behavior. We should not be chasing after worldly wealth. This does not mean that we should be living in poverty. It means that we should not be striving for such things. All we need is what we need. There is no point in obtaining more only to leave it behind when we move on to the next phase of life.
This is not easy, however. These desires exist inside each of us. The way to conquer them is through submitting to God and resisting Satan (James 4:7). Notice the promise: if we resist Satan’s temptations he will flee. Too often we live as if we are too weak to resist Satan so we give in to sin. But a born-again believer has the Holy Spirit living inside them. The Holy Spirit is fully God, who can overcome anyone or anything. As we draw nearer to God – through humility and by not being friends with the world – we will receive God’s blessing (James 4:8-10).
In the same way we should not be jealous of each other, we should not judge one another. Just like Jesus’ similar words on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), James is not talking about ignoring other people’s faults. We are to be concerned for other people when they sin because such behavior separates them from God (whether a believer or unbeliever) and affects society as a whole. But we are not to act as if God’s law does not apply to us or raise ourselves up to position of a judge. We are not judges. We are all sinners who will all be judged by God (James 4:12).
There is no middle ground when it comes to God. In reality, there is no such thing as atheists or agnosticism. A person is either on God’s side or against Him. A person who rejects God is siding – whether they realize is or not – with God’s enemies (Proverbs 28:4).
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