Week 43 – Ezekiel, a prophet in exile, speaks for the God he knows…

Can these bones live again? And what do you do when the music is gone?

DAY ONE – Ezekiel 29-32

There is an underworld, lower even than the grave, sometimes described as a pit. It is a place of living souls who once populated earth but died here in the midst of humankind’s struggle for life. The bodies of those who die lie on the ground or are laid away by their loved ones; but their souls go down into the pit. Depending on which version of the Bible one is reading, they may be referred to as ‘uncircumcised’ or ‘outcasts.’ It means simply that they lived apart from any connection to Almighty God, the Lord. How, where and when people disconnect from God and go their own way is another careful study, but the outcome is always the same–they descend into the pit to live with the life they have chosen. Notice, I say, to LIVE with the life they have chosen, for the soul of humans is immortal. This is a great mystery and should be considered with grave attention by the living. In choosing the life we live, we are likely choosing the eternity we will experience.

The main subject of today’s readings is Egypt, and Ezekiel received several messages in Babylon describing the fate of Egypt, already determined by Almighty God. As did Assyria and other nations further northward, Egypt flourished greatly and was described as a mighty, towering tree with branches that spread over other peoples around her. Until she chose other gods and began to cherish the illusion that she owned the Nile River, that her greatness was self-gotten, she was blessed by God. But her pride and arrogance, as it always does, brought her low in Yahweh God’s view, resulting in ominous predictions of unparalleled destruction. Egypt was to fall, disappear among the nations for forty years, then be regathered to her land; but never again to be significant among the nations. We remember that King David lamented over Saul and Jonathan, “How the mighty have fallen!” Is that not true of the nations in Ezekiel’s messages? Is it not true of Samaria and Jerusalem? Is it not true of former world leaders in our generations? Every soul is destined to die like mortals. Do we die as ‘uncircumcised,’ as outcasts; or do we die in the arms of our loving, Heavenly Father? Do we sink down to live in the pit, or are we gathered into God’s great family, to live in comfort and company with the saved of all the ages? The life we choose holds the answer to that question. Get connected… live connected… with God!

DAY TWO – Ezekiel 33-36

“Ha Shem” — The Name. Over and over God has been saying through Ezekiel, “Then they will know that I AM the Lord.” So who is the Lord? Remember now that all the nations worshiped their gods by their names and made appropriate sacrifices to them. Creator God is the Lord, but what is His Name? ‘Lord’ was a title applied to any master of those times, and the nations around Israel were no doubt surprised to see the Israelis adopt their gods by name and then sacrifice to them. The prophets vociferously challenged Israel repeatedly about adopting foreign gods while forsaking Yahweh, their God. There was and is only ONE Yahweh. He was revealed to the patriarchs as the ONE and ONLY true God of creation. All the other national gods were imposters–demoniacally inspired beings who sought to betray and destroy the human race as an affront to the True God. Every man-made religion today has its ‘divine being’ or beings–its gods. But they are not GOD. His Name is Yahweh, and He is Creator God, Israel’s God, and the Sovereign of the universe! No wonder He continued to message the nations, “Then they will know that I am Yahweh.” This Yahweh God is “the Lord of hosts”–that is, “Yahweh of heaven’s armies.” God has armies, unseen beings without number who serve His interests in the heavenly regions. So when God said, Ezekiel 33:2 (NLT)   “Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country…'”  Yes, when God brings an army against a country, they cannot be beaten, for the Lord has untold hosts of heavens at His disposal to enforce His will over the nations. In this manner, God’s will is accomplished on earth, until the day He is ready to remove all evil and judge the nations. One more note about “Ha Shem,” The Name–God has a Son whose name is Yeshua, a compounded form of Yahweh which means, “God saves.” Yeshua is Jesus, the One we know as Savior and Lord, as King of all kings and Lord of all lords. To Him, to this Son of God and God the Son, Yahweh has given ”all authority in heaven and earth” lasting into the ages. Israel blew it. They missed multiple opportunities to “love the Lord your God” with “all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength.” They failed to believe His word, therefore they were given over to the worship of imposter gods, leading to dismal failure. May we welcome Yahweh God and His Son, Yeshua. May we believe His Word, and may we find the path to life by following Him daily.

DAY THREE – Ezekiel 37-40

“Can these bones live again?” After all of this it appeared that Israel was finished. The exiles thought so, for they said among themselves, “All hope is gone; we’re finished.” Israel had been scattered throughout all the nations northward, and Judah was in captivity in Babylon. The homeland lay deserted and in ruins, its life and livelihood destroyed. Then God took hold of Ezekiel and transported him to a valley full of bones, in which he witnessed a creative miracle, the divine work of Almighty God, and prophetic of what would happen when the exile was over. Israel would live again; they would come home to their own land; they would flourish and become a source of wonder to all the nations around them. But that was only the beginning. The Lord spoke to Ezekiel about things in the far-off distant future, extending beyond the days in which we are living–things too wonderful and terrible to describe. The time is coming when God will summon His enemies to the mountains around Israel and visit unheard of judgment upon them, while delivering Israel from annihilation and establishing a secure kingdom with ‘David’ as its king. This declaration was made by the Lord over 2,500 years ago. We are watching some of those scenes pass before our very eyes as God guides history toward His eternal plans for the ages. And though we don’t see all the details clearly yet, the outline is in view. Once again Yahweh God repeated, “And then they will know that I am the Lord.”

My question is this: At what point do we go all in for God? At what point do we understand that He is Sovereign in His universe and that our current world is only temporary? And at what point do we take hope in our own life, giving thanks and praise to the Lord, KNOWING that it’s never over until He says it’s over? Nothing is finished until the Lord has finished His work, whether it’s Israel, or the United States, or my own life and family! Just because I don’t understand and cannot see into the future as God sees, doesn’t mean that I have nothing to look forward to. God gets the last word, and His word to us is this: Hebrews 13:5-6  (NLT) ...For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”  So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”  History is on our side–Israel is still here! It’s a living lesson for us to believe our God and trust Him with our whole life.

DAY FOUR – Ezekiel 41-44

With nothing left for Israel to look forward to, Ezekiel received another revelation from Sovereign God: the rebirth and revival of Israel’s religion. The covenant offered by God to Israel at Sinai over eight hundred years before seemed but a memory, so devastating was the punishment the Lord levied out to Samaria and Jerusalem. Now Ezekiel was taken by the Spirit back to Jerusalem to witness the measurements for a new temple to be built for the worship of Yahweh God when the exile was ended. Everything about this new center was specified by God Himself, to be carried out in time. As Ezekiel watched the spectacle unfolding, he witnessed for the third time the ‘glory’ of the Lord which he had described in minute detail early in the book. There were mysterious beings, and wheels within wheels, and eyes all about, and the ability to go every direction without turning. There was PRESENCE in the vision, and God Himself was in the ‘glory.’ Returning from the east–for that was where the glory had gone–His Presence in the vision entered and filled the temple once again. Then the Lord explained that prior to this, Israel was so defiled that only a single wall separated God’s space from that which was devoted to the worship of idols and images. But no more. God would plant His feet firmly in His temple and from there would create a place of holiness, set apart for Him alone.  God would fill the place which is His alone to fill. God would rule over all.

We speak of God’s dwelling place as heaven… but also human hearts. He no longer lives in temples made with human hands, yet He fills every life which is opened and set apart for His worship. Idols have no place among us. We are created for fellowship with the living God. Things we make and use can never fill the space in us created for God alone. Other relationships and acquired blessings cannot hold a candle to the fullness we experience when the Lord occupies first place in our life. If living in this world ever seems like a kind of exile, know that God has a plan for restoring relationship–a revival of worship and Presence–reserved for us. Ezekiel was instructed to show the plan for the new temple, to describe its details to the exiles, so that they would be ashamed of their former sins and wait for the Lord’s glory to return. They would once again live with expectation and desire. The day would come when, home again in Judah, their faithful priests would stand before the Lord and perform all the rituals they had been given in the days of Moses. Has your day come–the day for you to return to the Lord, to seek Him with all your heart, to experience His ‘glory,’ His wonderful Presence in your life? You alone can answer that.

DAY FIVE – Ezekiel 45-48

Were you ever in a crisis so deep that life ahead was just bleak? You couldn’t imagine any kind of future worth considering? This was Judah’s testimony: Psalm 137:1-4 (NLT)  Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. 2 We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of poplar trees. 3 For our captors demanded a song from us. Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!” 4 But how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a pagan land? The worst had come upon them; there was no way back. They were finished as a nation, as God’s people. Yet Ezekiel was already prophesying a return, a restoration, planned for them. As with Jeremiah and others of the prophets, the Lord’s messages were revealing a striking future that had not only near implications, but far as well. Ezekiel saw a rebuilt temple, restored lands and worship, and a thriving society. Looking out further into the future, beyond even our time–though he didn’t know that–he saw in his visions a river from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. There were trees, crops, healing leaves, and regeneration of fish in the Dead Sea! Where is all of this coming from? Can any of this really happen? We all know the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” And that brings us all to the real crisis that humankind faces…

Does the God of the Bible really exist? If He does, then He is the Creator of all there is; and He is Lord of all there is; and He is a Savior, Deliverer, and Sovereign of the universe. Then, if that is true, He has a loving interest in every person living or having lived on this planet. And if He loves us, we have to decide whether to return His love, whether to worship Him, whether to give our lives into His care. That’s the crisis! It can be ignored, we can “kick the can down the road” until another time, but eventually we will all run our course here, and then meet Him on other terms, no longer of our choosing. So many biblical predictions have already been fulfilled as stated, that we do well to discover for ourselves the wonderful future that our Father in heaven plans for us. As always, no one else can choose for us, and no one else can change the outcome except God Himself. The Lord Yahweh, God of Israel and our God, can get us through our crises to live in peace with Him.

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