Archive for April, 2011

It’s All His

The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world, and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.  The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.

Psalm 89:11-12

We all know that the Lord owns everything.  He “owns the cattle on a thousand hills.”  He created the Earth and everything in it.  These things we know and readily accept.  But have we really stopped to think about them?

I like the way this verse is just “matter of fact.”  “The heavens are thine…”  When we look up at the moon and stars, they are God’s moon and stars.  When we feel the warmth of the sun on our faces, we are basking in the glow of one of God’s many stars.  When clouds waft past overhead, they are God’s clouds.  The heavens are thine. 

Almost as a side note, “the earth also is thine” is thrown in.  The Earth belongs to God.  The mountains are His.  The oceans and seas are His.  The small piece of ground that I call my own – yep, it’s His too.

“…as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.”  God not only owns the heavens and the Earth, He owns everything in the Earth.  Thinking of it that way, the things that we take pride in really do seem insignificant.  Everything we see around us is ultimately His.

Verse 12 struck me when I read it.  Being an American (and a history teacher), when I see “north and south,” I think of the Civil War.  And it is true that the Lord created both the North and the South.  But then it occurred to me that any “north and south” application would be true.  He created the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere.  If you read this verse and you are from Finland, He created north Finland and He created south Finland.  There is no interpretation of “the north and the south, thou hast created them…” that is not true.  He created and owns all of the “norths” and all of the “souths.”  That blows my tiny little human mind.

Sometimes it’s good to just sit back and be in awe of the God that we serve.

Which Are You?

The diseased have ye not strengthened neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye hound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

Ezekiel 34:4

Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.  Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

Isaiah 35:3-4

There are two types of people contrasted in these verses.  Isaiah gives us the positive and Ezekiel gives us the negative.  The question for today is this: which are you?  Are one who “strengthens the weak, helps the feeble and encourages the fearful?”  Or are you one who has not done these things? 

These things are among the primary responsibilities of the Christian.  We have the greatest example of One who exemplified all of these ideals in the Lord Jesus Christ.  As the song says, “where He leads me, I will follow.” 

He wants us to strengthen the weak.  He wants us to encourage the fainthearted.  He wants us to help people.  Christians should be the most encouraging and helpful people in the world.  Jesus Christ came to “seek and to save that which was lost.”  He came to bind up the broken.  He came to help us.  We should take that help to others.

The contrast in these passages is very clear.  Either we are helping people or we are not.  We are encouraging people or we are putting them down.  Everyone needs something.  Some are weak and need strengthened.  Some are broken and need healing.  Some are discouraged or burdened and need encouraged.  Let us follow the example of our Lord in this matter.  Let’s live in Isaiah 35 and not in Ezekiel 34.

Hearing And Not Doing

And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.

Ezekiel 33:31

Have you ever been reading the Bible and had a verse just jump off the page and smack you in the face?  This verse hit me right between the eyes.  When I started thinking about it, I wanted to crawl under a rock.  This was a convicting verse to me. 

These people were going to come to God’s man, sit before God’s man, and listen to God’s man.  In fact, they were going to agree with God’s man.  They were going to show “much love” to the Lord with their mouths.  But “their heart goeth after their covetousness.”  They were doing everything right outwardly.  They were going to church.  They were even listening in church.  They were agreeing with what was said in church.  And then they went out and did whatever they wanted.

How often has that been me?  How often have I sat under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and, while “agreeing with everything said,” gone out unchanged?  How often have I “gone after my covetousness?”  I pray that it would not be thus, but I fear that this verse would be descriptive of me far too many times in my life. 

The good thing about getting hit between the eyes by a verse is that you know that the Lord is speaking to you.  And when the Lord shows you a problem, you get it taken care of and move forward for Him.  Let us not be like these people.  Let us come and hear the words; and DO them!

Interesting Names

And I will pour my fury upon Sin, the strength of Egypt; and I will cut off the multitude of No.  And I will set fire in Egypt: Sin shall have great pain, and No shall be rent asunder, and Noph shall have distresses daily.

Ezekiel 30:15-16

I love the wording of these verses.  There are some things that just can’t possibly be coincidences.  And I think that the names of these places in Egypt are not coincidences.  I understand that “Sin” is actually Pelusium, in the northeast of Egypt.  I understand that “No” is actually Thebes, in the south of Egypt.  And the technical interpretation of the verse is that the Lord is going to destroy all of Egypt – from the top to the bottom, north to south, end to end.  That in itself is a good lesson.  But think of the word pictures these verses provide:

“And I will pour my fury upon Sin.”  How true is that?  God will pour out His fury on sin.  The greatest example of His fury being poured out on sin is the cross.  There Jesus became sin for us, and was forsaken by the Father.  That is the fury He pours out on sin.

“Sin shall have great pain.”  I have never experienced pain in my life like the pain that has been brought on by my own sin.  Sin may seem pleasurable, but in the end, it brings great pain.

“I will cut off the multitude of No.”  How many people have no to the Lord.  The children of Israel said no to Him over and over.  I would say that there is a multitude of people today who have said no to Him.  And He is going to cut off that multitude that has rejected Him.

I am fascinated by the double application of these verses.  You could just keep going with different applications and they would all probably be accurate.  Also interesting is that, in the Bible, Egypt is a type of the world.   

“Sin, the strength of Egypt…”  Sin is the strength of the world.  Sin is the allure of the world.  Any way you cut these verses, you come up with the fact that God is going to judge Sin severely.

Pride = Shame

When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.

Proverbs 11:2

Proverbs is a great book that full of contrasts and full of wisdom.  The Bible, especially the book of Proverbs, has a number of seeming contradictions.  But when you dig a little deeper, you begin to realize that it is our human nature that is the contradiction.  When our flesh contradicts the Bible, it is our flesh that always wrong.  Every single time.

This verse tells us that pride and shame go hand in hand.  Human wisdom might tell us that pride is the opposite of shame.  Human wisdom would tell us shame is the result of low self-esteem.  Human wisdom would tell us that pride is a good thing.  And human wisdom would be wrong.  Proverbs has much to say about pride, and none of it is good.  In fact, it tells us that pride leads to destruction.  Pride is the sin that destroyed Satan.  His famous words were “I will… I will… I will…”  Pride will destroy us.  It will bring shame.

On the other hand, human wisdom might tell us that the “lowly” are weak and insignificant.  Human wisdom would tell us that there is a problem with being “lowly.”  And, again, human wisdom would be wrong.  We will stick with what the Bible says.  “With the lowly is wisdom.” 

If there is wisdom with the lowly, I want to be counted among the lowly.  If pride brings shame, I would like to avoid pride.  I like the fact that Proverbs puts the cookies on the bottom shelf.  Here it is:

Pride = Shame
Lowliness = Wisdom

He Sought for a Man

And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.  Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 22:30-31

To me, this is one of the saddest passages in the Bible.  Many sermons have been preached on verse 30, but I don’t know that I’ve heard one preached on verse 31.  Verse 30 is a classic verse dealing with the fact that the Lord is looking for someone to do Him will.  Numbers chapter 16 tells us the story of the children of Israel provoking the Lord.  He sent a plague and Moses sent Aaron to stand before the Lord for the people.  “And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.”  That is what the Lord wants.

The sad part comes at the end of verse 30: “but I found none.”  The Lord didn’t want to destroy the land.  So He looked for someone to stand in the gap for the land.  But He found none.

Verse 31 then goes on to tell us that “…I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath…”  The Lord was forced to destroy the land because He could not find a man who cared enough to intercede for the land.  To make an application to our situation, how often have we “stood in the gap?”  How often have stood before the Lord for our land?  There is much sin and rebellion in our land today.  We need to pray for our country.  We need to stand in the gap.  If the Lord looked for a man (or woman) today, would He find one if He looked in your direction?

Christ the Lord is Risen Today (Hymn)

Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Charles Wesley

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Christ the Lord is Risen Today!  Alleluia!!  Happy Easter!  Today we celebrate our risen Saviour.  Today the celebrate the fact that separates Christianity from all other religions.  Today we celebrate the fact that our Saviour conquered death and the grave.  Enjoy the day and celebrate the Saviour!

No Pleasure for the Lord

For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Ezekiel 18:32

I like this verse because I think it dispells a common myth about the nature of God.  I have heard many people say things like “why would a loving God send people to Hell?”  I have seen some people blasphemously say that they would not serve a God Who would send people to Hell.  Some people think that God takes some pleasure in condemning people.  But this verse tells a different story.

God says here that “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth…”  God doesn’t take pleasure in death.  On the contrary, He says “wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”  He doesn’t want to condemn people; He wants people to turn from their wicked ways and turn to Him.  In this particular book of the Bible, God has sent His prophet, Ezekiel to a people that had rejected Him over and over again.  Yet still He called out to them, beckoning them to return to Him.  He took no pleasure in their death; in fact, He did all He could to prevent their death.  He wanted them to live and prosper.  He wants us to live and prosper!

This verse also tells us that, in the end, it is not the Lord who condemns us.  We condemn ourselves.  The reason that Lord destroyed the children of Israel was their repeated rebellion and their refusal to return to Him.  He says “turn yourselves…”  He sent prophets to warn them of what would happen to them if they did not turn.  But they didn’t turn.  They condemned themselves. 

“I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth…”  “Turn yourselves, and live…”  Amen.

Lying Prophets

Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life:

Ezekiel 13:22

In this passage, God is pronouncing judgment on the children of Israel through Ezekiel.  Specifically, this verse deals with the prophets that have lied and have not spoken the words of the Lord.  There are two aspects to their  deceit that are important lessons for us to learn so that we can both avoid falling for these deceits and perpetuating them. 

First, these lying prophets “have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad.”  They called the righteous “wicked.”  They made the righteous sad because it was them that they preached against.  It’s easy to get to feeling a little jealous when confronted with a good, Godly Christian if we are not ourselves living like good, Godly Christians.  There have been many good people torn down by gossip and jealousy.  Let’s make sure we are not among those who do the tearing.

Second, the lying prophets “strengthened the hands of the wicked…”  The Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:15 that “He that justifieth the wicked… (is) abomination to the LORD.”  While I don’t know that I overtly strengthen the hands of the wicked, I’m sure that I have done some things or said some things to “justify the wicked.”  If nothing else, surely we have tried to justify something to ourselves.  That strengthens our own hand to do more wickedness.  We have to be careful about that.

The saddest part of these verses to me is that, by justifying and strengthening the hand of the wicked, it destroys that person.  “…that he should not return from his wicked way…”  If we don’t speak out against wickedness when we see it, how will the wicked ever turn from his wicked way? 

Let us not be like the lying prophets of Ezekiel’s day.  These things should be the other way around: the wicked should be “made sad.”  And the righteous should have their hands strengthened.

The Promise

My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.  His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.  If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.  Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.  My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

Psalm 89:28-34

This wonderful Psalm is about the Lord Jesus Christ.  I enjoy reading these promises that the Father has made to the Son.  There is some rich material in this Psalm for us to meditate on.  I will just hit a few highlights – I’m sure you can find your own applications, as there are too many to even scratch the surface in this post.

“My mercy will I keep for him evermore.”  I am thankful for that everlasting mercy!  Without it, I would have been gone long, long ago.

“His seed also will I make to endure for ever…”  I am thankful that, not only is the Lord forever, but His salvation and His mercy is forever.

“If his children forsake my law… Then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes.”  If you wonder why this part of the Psalm is a blessing to me, read on… “Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him…”  As His child, He will chasten us and “visit us with the rod,” but He will not forsake us and His lovingkindness will He not take from us.  That is a huge comfort and a huge blessing to me!

“…nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.”  My faithfulness may falter and fail, and it has and does.  But His faithfulness does not falter and it does not fail. 

What great promises we can find in the Book!  Let us take comfort and encouragement from them.