Week 47 – What have you discovered about God so far in our reading?

It’s time for transition.. from the Old to the New.. Jesus is the Centerpiece of God’s New Work of salvation!

DAY ONE – Nehemiah 11-13

If you can stretch your imagination for a moment, suppose that, after a chilling invasion from a foreign power, everybody who was anybody in Washington D.C. was exiled to foreign soil to live out their life. The president, his family; all congressmen and any living with them; cabinet members and their families, top military officials at the Pentagon; and the head of every government agency, along with high-ranking members of their staffs; and those who were movers and shakers in other disciplines–all were removed to their new foreign home to live in exile. The United States government would be effectively gutted and unable to function. Everything at the federal centers would shut down and throw our country into chaos and confusion. International relations between U.S. and other powers would be nonexistent. Our beloved nation would be ripe for picking by others who have waited for an opportunity. It won’t likely happen, but the scenario I created did happen in another time–to Israel, and to Judah and Jerusalem! Over seventy years later, Nehemiah came from exile to help rebuild the capital city of Jerusalem and reconstitute government as it originally existed. And if we understand that Israel–a nation really “under God” in the form of theocracy (God rules), nothing short of a religious revival would give these people a future. So Ezra the scribe and Nehemiah the temporary governor persisted in restoring all the religious festivals, the security of Jerusalem, and the replacement of the priests and Levites to their godly functions. When all was again in order, the people could breathe a huge sigh of relief and resume their place as the “holy people.” Priests and Levites were serving God in the temple, praise was being heard everyday by the singers, the festivals with the Sabbath were being regularly celebrated, and those in charge of supplies and rations were doing an excellent job. Jerusalem was repopulated by having good people move from their hometowns to the capital. It was a mammoth restoration!

Feeling he had done what he could, Nehemiah, after twelve years of involvement, returned to his place in the palace of King Artaxerxes to serve as before; but then, a few years later, he made another trip to Israel and Jerusalem to see how things were going. What he found was disconcerting, to say the least. The temple was profaned, supplies and rations had dwindled, forcing many to go back from God’s service to their fields; and the Sabbath was regularly violated with commerce and work. With great sincerity and effort he performed another restoration so that the recovery would not be forever lost. From this we understand that spiritual vigilance is absolutely necessary in every generation, and God’s leaders with God’s people must be ever persistent in our faith to pass spiritual legacy to the next generation. What can you personally do to restore righteousness in your sphere of influence? Psalm 126 (NLT)  When the Lord  (Yahweh) brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2 We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” 3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! 4 Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. 5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Earth will never be heaven. Although the Garden of Eden was like a heaven on earth, it was soon soiled and corrupted by the first couple, Adam and his wife Eve, when they rebelled against God and His word. Tomorrow we turn a page into  the New Testament  of the Bible, and with it we begin our foray into God’s unfolding plans for salvation, the restoration of a kind of heaven on earth, and the great struggle to gain our eternal home in the new heavens and earth, by learning to follow the Lord daily. But before we embark, I want to tell you about a book I just read, Imagine Heaven, by Pastor John Burke. I plan to read it again, because it reminds me of Psalm 126 we just read. It’s as if living here on earth is, in a sense, a kind of exile. Those of us who know the Lord in personal relationship somehow know inwardly that this place is not our real home, not our final dwelling. There is a heaven yet to gain. There is a hell to avoid. Imagine Heaven contains the accounts of near death experiences (NDE) of hundreds of people all over the globe, whose stories, having been recorded and studied by doctors, medical people, and others, for decades, reveal a fantastic and wonderful glimpse of the heaven God has prepared, a telescopic view into the eternities, and answers to some of our deepest questions about the future. It brings together Scripture with experience to help us long for heaven as the exiles longed for their city of Jerusalem. Read the little psalm again and imagine yourself just entering heaven with your Lord. It’s like a dream, but it is NOT a dream. It’s real. So stay with us; we are about to meet God’s Answer to everything–not a philosophy but a Person! We are about to meet Jesus. And He wants to not only give us experiences of heaven on earth, He wants to take us to heaven as our final home–finally!

DAY TWO – Psalm 106, John 1:4-14, Matthew 1, Luke 1:1-2:38

After one more brief review of Israel’s up and down history in relation to Yahweh God, we step into one of the most miraculous and wondrous seasons in which the Holy Spirit explodes into the human condition, to begin the reveal of God’s loving and enduring plan to save our world from destruction. John and Jesus–a Forerunner and a Fulfillment–are God’s answers to both our questions and our needs. John was born to a post-menopausal woman with no children, and Jesus was born to a virgin teenager, engaged but still innocent. God’s angel, who stands in His presence, was sent to each of these families to announce what was about to happen. It’s really interesting to note the genealogy of Jesus, for there were several unlikely persons in the mix–the first being Rahab, a prostitute who lived in Jericho at the time of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. She was not a Jew. The second is Ruth. She was not a Jew. And the third is Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah, whom King David murdered after his passion played out. God always has to make do with what He has, but He displays His glory by redeeming what we think is not acceptable or redeemable. None of us can ever boast about who we are or where we came from, for God Himself is the source of all that is good. So in a dream, Joseph was told by an angel that his soon-to-be wife’s pregnancy was the work of the Holy Spirit, and that the child to be born would fulfill a prophecy that He is “Emmanuel, God with us.” In the angel’s announcement of the same event to Mary, the angel said that they would call Him Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins.” The name Jesus, in English, is a contraction of God’s Name Yahweh and the word for savior; or “God saves.” Everything we are reading today is of a miraculous nature, for our God is naturally supernatural!

As the shepherds were amazed by the angelic presentation to them out in the fields with their sheep; and as they were more amazed when they went and actually saw the baby referred to, they dispersed and immediately began to share their good fortune with others, by telling the Glad News of the Savior Child. Do we have only history to talk about, or is there Good News that makes us glad also? What good news comes of the Lord’s grace in your life? What recent situation reassures you of God’s faithfulness and desire to bless your life? Tell someone about it, so others can rejoice with you!

DAY THREE – Matthew 2, Luke 2:39-52

Roger Federer, the great tennis player, had just won his match to advance at Wimbledon. As I watched him leaving the court, an enthusiastic fan held up her banner for all to see these words: “All hail King Roger!” This is the stuff of celebrity worship, and it goes on all the time in sports and entertainment. In our reading today, we meet three wise men, guided by a celestial wonder, who traveled for weeks to find the young Jesus. Matthew 2:2 (NKJV)  “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” This is the stuff of prophetic significance which changes outcomes in our world! Jesus turned out to be the greatest world changer who ever lived–His virgin birth, His supernatural life, His sacrificial death, and His unheard of resurrection. No one in history has even come close. But with all of this, He had a human beginning–born in a cattle stall in Bethlehem, fleeing to Egypt as an infant, returning to live in obscurity during His childhood in Nazareth. All of these fulfill statements spoken during the hundreds of years leading up to His entrance into our sphere. I suppose we humans are wired to worship someone, somewhere. Why waste worship on other human beings, no matter how star studded, when there is truly One who was born to be a king? Not just a king, but the King of Heaven. It didn’t look like that at first; when He was twelve, His parents frantically searched Jerusalem for Him for three days, finally discovering Him in the temple, where He was confounding the Jewish intellectuals with His spiritual wisdom.  Luke 2:49-52 (NKJV)  And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Who is this boy? We know so little about His childhood, but these glimpses of His family give us clues about what we are soon to discover.

It is likely that there are objects of worship within you. Are they worthy of that level of attention and admiration? Do they hold up to the “eternity” test, or are they merely creatures and things of temporal affection that will soon pass? If we have ever taken time to examine our interests and priorities in the light of what is yet to come, this would be a good time to evaluate where your road is taking you. Are you with Jesus?

DAY FOUR – Matthew 3, Mark 1:1-11, Luke 3, John 1:15-34

It was time for transition. Israel had waited four hundred years for Messiah to come. Moses and the prophets had looked forward and had all spoken of Someone special who would arrive to lead Israel to God. And now there was a man named John who was traveling all over Judea, preaching about the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ So compelling was his message, so powerful was his preaching, and so eccentric was his personage, that multitudes came out to hear him and were confessing their sins. John’s answer was to baptize them in water and announce the arrival of One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. We are often already in transition before we realize it. Occasionally we have passed through transition into a new season and see it only as we look back. All of this was true as John lifted Messiah’s banner high for all to see, all the while claiming that he was not Messiah. According to John, Jesus was close behind, and when He appeared, the people were to follow Him, for He was the Son of God and had authority to baptize individuals with the Holy Spirit. Expectation, alarm, confusion, questioning,  followed John wherever he went. Disciples willingly followed him. Some thought he was a prophet, or Elijah, or even Messiah himself. But John said “No”. As prophesied by Isaiah some 700 years earlier, John correctly identified himself as a ‘forerunner’ or ‘crier’ who runs ahead of another preparing and clearing the way. As such then, his ministry lasted for only a few months, for Jesus was ready. After being baptized by John, Jesus went into the wilderness to meet the devil in a personal contest that lasted forty days. Then He walked into Galilee.

Are we again in transition? Perhaps our whole world is? When Jesus appeared publicly for his short season of ministry, many believed Him. Some scoffed and denounced Him. The world at that time was in transition, for religion was about to be replaced by relationship with a Person. A thousand years of the Jewish religion was giving way to God’s Son who would lead people to know the Heavenly Father. And now another two thousand years have come and gone. Is this the time we are all waiting for? Will Jesus return soon? The crowds who heard John looked for Messiah. Who is looking for Him today? I AM! I am as expectant, as believing, as hopeful as I can be. Are you? Do you realize the world is in transition, or will you awaken to the saddening awareness that it passed without you?

DAY FIVE – Matthew 4:1-22, Mark 1:12-20, Luke 4:1-15, 5:1-11, John 1:35-2:12, Matthew 13:54-58, Mark 6:1-6, Luke 4:16-30

Did you note in your reading that, after His baptism, Jesus went, or was driven, full of the Holy Spirit, into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil? After forty days of fasting and prayer with His Father in heaven, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit. He was ready. His FIRST message announced that the Kingdom of God had come, and it was time to repent of sins and believe the Gospel. His FIRST miracle was impressive: turn ordinary water into the best wine at the wedding! His FIRST visit to His home town of Nazareth was met by a very cool reception from those who thought they knew Him–this might explain how ordinary his early life appeared to be. No matter how you viewed Jesus, He would not be ignored. Some would leave everything and become his disciples. Others would reject Him outright. The crowds would clamor around Him because they wanted to hear Him teach or because they wanted some kind of miracle or concession from Him. But be aware, few ignored Jesus. Yes, He divided the crowd. Yes, He created a new level of spiritual excitement and expectation. And yes, He attracted attention every place He went. But what was it, really? The answer is, He was full of the Holy Spirit and worked in the power of the Spirit. When He called a disciple, the Holy Spirit was at work. When He performed a miracle, the Holy Spirit was at work. And when He taught and preached, the Holy Spirit was at work. When you couple that with the realization that He had no sin in His life, it is a powerful, transforming reality. Jesus was ready to bring heaven to earth, to fulfill God’s plan to save all who were willing, and to link earth back to heaven through His Holy Spirit connection!

May I suggest that, as we read through the New Testament books, you fix your eyes on Jesus? Relate everything you read back to Jesus–whether the author is Dr. Luke, Matthew, or any of the apostles, including Apostle Paul. Jesus is the key to every mystery, the interpretation of every belief, and the foundation stone of all of heaven’s Good News. He is Son of God and God the Son. He is calling you to follow Him for the rest of your life.

Week 46 – Getting to know God in His absolute love and salvation…

Look who is listening in… Ordinary men who did extraordinary things after they prayed and obeyed

DAY ONE – Malachi 1-4

Malachi’s prophecy is very unusual. In a one-sided conversation, Yahweh God brought the priests and people of Israel into dialogue to expose their destructive behavior and bring needed corrections. It’s interesting, for it demonstrates that in our daily lives, the Lord is listening in and absorbing conversations occurring in private homes, businesses, committees, government chambers, etc. After hearing their discussions over a period of time, God gave Malachi this brief message of confrontation. Reading through it, I picked up the almost sarcastic manner in which the Lord addressed the priests. It’s as if the priests and leaders had made a list for themselves giving permission for the way they were living. Using our imagination, let’s replicate their list…

  • It’s okay to bring God the worst of our flocks for sacrifice.
  • It’s okay to disrespect the Lord by the things we say and do.
  • It’s okay to break our promises in order to cheat God out of our best offerings.
  • It’s okay to leave God’s paths and tell the people whatever we want, causing them to stumble.
  • It’s okay to betray each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors.
  • It’s okay to divorce our wives and submit them and our children to a cruel future.
  • It’s okay to cheat God out of our tithes and offerings; after all, what we have is ours!

When we see the list, we object that no one actually made such a list; but a careless and self-serving lifestyle does eventually result in self-justification, especially if we think that God doesn’t care or notice how we live.

In our shadow world, the only reality we know, it is difficult to grasp the pure, powerful love God has for us. In the multi-dimensional world of light and love, our Lord presides over time and eternity carefully and determinedly in order to gather to Himself an ever growing family of ones He loves and who love Him in return. Every one of us in some way stumbles over love and wholeness as we try to cope with our realities. Through His unrelenting grace, God calls to us again and again to trust Him and be His faithful followers. His great promises cannot be broken or withdrawn, but we can certainly forfeit their blessings if we choose to ignore or reject the Great Creator who is loving and saving us. Malachi was the last prophet to speak to Israel for a period of four hundred years. This was God’s last recorded invitation in the Old Testament: Malachi 4:2 (NLT)  “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

DAY TWO – Ezra 7-10

We return now to Ezra. Many years passed since the remnant exiles returned to Judah and Jerusalem and began work on the replacement temple of God. Artaxerxes, present king of Babylon, was moved by God to encourage one of his nobles, Ezra, to return to his homeland and aid the building process. In order to understand this appointment, we need to know more about Ezra. Ezra 7:1-6 (NLT) He was the (16th generation) …son of Aaron the high priest. 6 This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him. While it doesn’t specifically say so, we can conclude that over the decades, men like Daniel, his three Hebrew friends, and other faithful Jews who served the Babylonian kings had great influence over them, for Artaxerxes made clear his fear of and preference for Israel’s God. Ezra 7:23-26 (NLT)  Be careful to provide whatever the God of heaven demands for his Temple, for why should we risk bringing God’s anger against the realm of the king and his sons? 24 I also decree that no priest, Levite, singer, gatekeeper, Temple servant, or other worker in this Temple of God will be required to pay tribute, customs, or tolls of any kind.’ 25 “And you, Ezra, are to use the wisdom your God has given you to appoint magistrates and judges who know your God’s laws to govern all the people in the province west of the Euphrates River. Teach the law to anyone who does not know it. 26 Anyone who refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king will be punished immediately, either by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.” And so, by the good hand of God, Ezra and his contingent arrived at Jerusalem to take stock of the current conditions. And what he found shocked him, so that he tore his clothes, pulled his hair and beard, and fell prostrate before the Lord with fasting and mourning. Before anything else could be done, the serious problem of intermarriage with the pagans in the land, accepting their idolatrous customs, had to be fixed! There was no easy way. It took months of serious negotiations and painful separations to restore God’s people to their intended place with the Lord. And that’s what transforming revival is about. Does anyone believe that spiritual transformation would be good for our land… in our day? May the good hand of the Lord our God be upon each of us to leave God’s print on our generation.

DAY THREE – Nehemiah 1-4

Desperate times call for desperate actions. And one man, sensing the desperate conditions in his homeland, wrote this incredible story into his memoirs. Nehemiah was a palace resident in Susa, where King Artaxerxes reigned over Babylon. Hearing a report from persons just returned from Jerusalem, he was stunned and dejected. Thinking that surely progress was being made, now he now learned that the walls of Jerusalem lay broken, and rubble filled the city. If Jerusalem was to have any future, something must be done. Nehemiah first prayed and fasted before Yahweh God, humbling himself with repentance for himself, his family and the Jewish people. Months went by. One day as he was serving the king and queen, the king saw that Nehemiah was troubled. When allowed to explain, Nehemiah requested permission to leave the service for a time to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. This had staggering implications; it was surely a divine call to Nehemiah from God Himself. You’ve read the story, now let’s look deeper. This man, with letters from the king, showed up out of the blue in Jerusalem, secretly surveyed the city’s damaged condition by night, then revealed a plan to the leaders to rebuild the wall… and they BOUGHT IT!  What amazes me is the number of people who came from all over Judah, leaving their own homes and occupations to take up the work. When opposed by non-Jewish residents, they quietly continued about their task. And when openly threatened, they armed themselves and stood guard over their own sections of the walls and gates! Nothing was easy for the returning exiles. Not only did they struggle to rebuild their nation, they discovered to their chagrin that old idolatries had surfaced again and were being exposed by the prophets of God who called them to return to the Lord and the covenant given through Moses.

Having read several books dealing with the modern exodus of Jews from many lands back to Israel, beginning in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it is obvious that God is the architect of history and has been in control all this time. Rebuilding their land has been tedious and at times dangerous, but the Jews have persisted, and modern Israel, reborn in 1948, rivals the most technological, industrial and productive nations in the world! This is the hand of God! With God’s hand on your life, what can you do to make a difference?

DAY FOUR – Nehemiah 5-7

I was once asked to talk to a group about servant leadership. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that ‘servant leadership’ is an oxymoron. That is to say, in the natural world, the concepts of servant and leader tend to be at odds with each other. A servant by nature defers to others in his service; and a leader by nature steps forward to create a path for others to follow. Can the two truly meld into one? Nehemiah’s example suggests that they not only can but are powerful when they do. Evidently, as the king’s cup-bearer, Nehemiah had numerous duties within the household administration of King Artaxerxes, requiring him to develop leadership qualities as well as a servant’s character. His leave to return to Judah and the great task that lay before him challenged and taxed all of his resources. In the process of leading the effort to rebuild Jerusalem it became necessary to also rebuild the identity and character of the nation lost in the 70-year exile. Nehemiah would serve as governor for twelve years, but not before demonstrating sacrificial and self-giving leadership before the people. Again and again, shocked by the self-serving of the nobles and officials, Nehemiah brought forceful correction and exhorted them to take on the righteous character of Yahweh God as they reclaimed their true nature as God’s holy people. Little by little, as his influence and common sense caught on, the disjointed culture regrouped and displayed a social pattern that stood apart from the rest of the nations around them. The Jews, as God’s people, had to learn to walk again.

Jesus was the ultimate example of servant leadership, as Paul describes: Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT) You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Leader? Oh yes. Jesus took twelve men under his mentorship and laid the foundations of a movement that has changed the world. Servant? The ultimate, as already mentioned. He surrendered His will to God in order to bring salvation to the world. So our character Nehemiah, long before Christ appeared on the scene, stood forth among his people as a true ‘servant leader.’ In what ways are you inspired to serve or lead as needed?

DAY FIVE – Nehemiah 8-10

“…because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (8:11) This is always the beginning of a spiritual revival. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were godly men who realized what was wrong and had a sense of what needed to be done. And together they did it. It amounted to a reconstitution of the Covenant.

  • The walls of the city were rebuilt to define the locus of God’s Presence among them.
  • The Law was read publicly to arouse the conscience of the people.
  • God’s festivals were once again celebrated and kept as reminders of their identity.
  • The Sabbath was restored to honor Yahweh.
  • The Law was read again publicly, with explanations, after which open repentance commenced for several hours.
  • They lifted their voices in prayer to publicly review Israel’s history from Egypt to the present. Nothing was held back. Their memories were charged with God’s faithfulness!
  • Finally, the people made a promise to God and signed their names to it before returning to their homes. This was serious business, and it brought into harmony all the forces that had made Israel a great nation among nations. It also released God’s power and blessing upon these returned exiles.

Can there be a true revival of religion in America? How about in your town… or your family… or your own life? What can you personally do to encourage revival in the space you occupy? What can you do to encourage your friends and family to remember what it’s like when God is honored and served publicly? Where is our collective conscience, and what is tolerated across a wide spectrum that defines our present culture? Thankfully there are millions of the Lord’s followers who are praying over the current state of things. Large convocations periodically raise a voice in public, calling for repentance to God and restoration of godly attitudes and actions. Prior to the American Revolution, leading citizens, aware of a destiny that lay ahead for this nation, hammered out a Declaration of Independence, then pledged their lives, their fortunes and their honor to see it through. That’s what it took then, and that is what it would take now to see true spiritual revival in our land.

Week 45 – Reading thru the Bible, we see God’s imprint on EVERYTHING!

Jews return to their homeland… and the man who would kill the rest of the exiles in one day!

DAY ONE – Ezra 4-6

“I never promised you a rose garden.” So goes the line from a song a generation ago. And so was the experience of the exiles returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Yes, the Lord God turned the heart of a king to open the door and pave the way for them. And yes, he financed their expedition and early efforts. Did they expect the people living in the land to just welcome them with open arms and rejoice over their religious revival? It didn’t happen that way. Instead, there was firm resistance to the returning Jews to rebuild the temple. For that temple represented God’s sovereignty over whoever lived there. It bespoke an ancient identity which would necessarily isolate anyone else not genealogically connected. And it foreshadowed a new independence under God which threatened the form of government already in place. So the current residents started a campaign of harassment, fake news and legal action to stop the rebuilding process. And it worked… for a while, that is. Then God stepped in again, empowering Haggai and Zechariah, prophets with powerful messages, to encourage the builders. And when the current king, Darius, made a search, he discovered the edict of his predecessor Cyrus authorizing and ordering all that the residents were trying to stop. He further ordered the governor to pay for all building expenses out of the royal treasury! Talk about a turnaround! No, it wasn’t easy for the Jews, but it was right. It required all the courage and perseverance they could summon. And it forced them to rely upon Almighty God to finish what they had begun.

This story is not unlike the confrontations of ideals and values going on in our culture and government right now. When some folks cannot get their way in a matter, they resort to harassment, sometimes violence, legal actions and even blatant lies to reinforce their position. What will keep God’s people on course?

  1. Make sure your values represent God’s righteous kingdom in this earthly setting.
  2. Make sure your motive is to glorify the Lord and reveal His saving grace and impeccable character.
  3. Make sure your behavior is honest and above board.
  4. Be ready to suffer indignity and/or loss as you stand on your scruples. It won’t be easy.
  5. Be ready to go all the way in representing your spiritual convictions, leaving the outcome to the Lord.

No, it’s not a rose garden. It’s life… but the faithful ones will get to smell the roses in God’s time.

DAY TWO – Haggai 1-2

So far as we can tell, Haggai received messages from Yahweh God for only four months–from August 29 to December 18 (our calendar)! That was in the 2nd year of King Darius, the successor to Cyrus, who opened the door for Jews to return from Babylon to Judah. The foundation of the new temple had lain idle and unbuilt for some twenty years after its inception. Meanwhile, the Jews had gone on with their life, rebuilding their homes and communities, planting/harvesting their crops, raising their children. The only problem was, things weren’t working out very well. Into that reality stepped Haggai, to give three separate messages from Yahweh, explaining their predicament and offering real help. In order for God to help them, the people would have to help God! Imagine that… and repeatedly, in His messages, the Lord referred to Himself as Yahweh of Heavens Armies–Yahweh Sabaoth. This God of heaven, this Creator, this God associated deeply with Israel’s history, was not off on some trip to somewhere in his universe, busy with celestial matters. No, this God of theirs was real and present and deeply involved with all that mattered–their lives, their prosperity, their future. He encountered them and responded to them. He chided them and plead with them. He turned their fortunes backward but promised to bless them, if only they would build His house and restore His worship in the land. It is obvious from what we now know about Israel and Judah that they have always represented the God of heaven on earth, and especially to the nations around them. God has NEVER let them be, never left them alone, even to this very day. And ALL of this is part of His plan to save the world from assured destruction until He has grown a ginormous family and gathered them to Himself!  So we see, everything matters to God.

Perhaps we think that, because we have accepted Christianity as our religious pursuit, none of this Israel connection matters to us. Think again. It matters deeply, because all that the Lord began in Israel He is working in us and through us. Yet He is not done with Israel either, not one bit. Israel is still the lynchpin of history and the crystal ball of the future. The saving of the world through Israel and the church is basically one and the same, only in two great movements that are forever interlinked. It is through Father Abraham and his faith, that righteousness was first reckoned to a man, and it is through God’s Son, Jesus (Yahshua), that righteousness was perfected and became a human reality. Lift up a prayer today for your world, and remember to thank God for Israel!

DAY THREE – Zechariah 1-7

A contemporary of Haggai, Zechariah received this series of short, intense messages aimed at calling those returned from Babylon to take careful note of their ways. First and foremost, they show that Yahweh God retained a vital interest in Jerusalem and the Temple, and that He was determined to have a people who would fulfill their divine destiny under His watchful eye. They had been scattered to the four winds, but now the call was going out to bring them back, for the Lord fully intended to crush the nations who had dealt with His people so cruelly and without compassion. In order to do that, Jerusalem and the Temple had to be rebuilt, the order of worship reestablished, and the Spirit of God restored to His rightful place. Their government having been destroyed when they were in exile, it was necessary to stand Jeshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor before God’s angel and deal with their identity. In a vision, Zechariah watched as the high priest received bright new clothes to replace his filthy ones and the governor heard God say, “‘It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit,’ says Yahweh of Heaven’s armies.” Zerubbabel would soon place the capstone on the new temple while shouting “Grace! Grace!” As readers of these historical events, our eyes may occasionally get glassy as we wonder at all the symbolism and its meaning. We mustn’t be put off by what isn’t familiar to us; rather we must see the big picture of God’s dealings concerning His own interests that began with the original couple in the Garden of Eden and will end in the new heavens and earth with His wonderfully begotten and burgeoning family taken from all the nations of the world!

Our modern world with its constantly changing conditions and shifting centers of power, driven by economic and political interests on a worldwide scale, can present confusing options. We know that God exists. We are not always sure whose side He is on. We hope we can make it to heaven somehow. And into this milieu God Himself speaks through His prophet:  Zechariah 7:8-10 (NLT) Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: 9 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other. Forget religion, which is primarily an attempt to make ourselves acceptable to God. Rather, embrace the Lord Himself by loving Him with all your heart, your soul, your strength. Receive Him with humble heart. Follow the instructions in the above verses. And leave the OUTCOMES to His sovereignty. He was able then, and He is able now.

DAY FOUR – Zechariah 8-14

These chapters read like a colorful travel brochure with invitation to visit Israel! The Israel God is describing is vibrant, compelling and not to be missed at any cost. But as we continue to read, it is like boarding a space shuttle and heading off into the distant future at warp speed! One may recognize several Messianic passages which reveal details of Jesus’ life, yet several hundreds of years in the future. And by the time we get to the end we are seeing details of Jerusalem in the end of time as we know it. One passage in the last chapter sounds like a description of nuclear fallout on God’s enemies. But let’s remember the context in which Zechariah is prophesying: the Temple of God. God’s house was started by the remnant exiles but still lies unfinished. Obstruction by non-Jews living in the land had brought the project to a standstill for twenty years. So Zechariah joined Haggai in delivering God’s words to the people, challenging them to a life of righteousness and industry. Finish the project; do what is right; treat each other with honesty and integrity. And it turned out that God’s plans were much bigger than they realized; more far-reaching than the imagination; more powerful than all the nations combined. God through this prophet was revealing His plans that stretch into an age that lies ahead of even us, though we can now see its approach fairly clearly. Living in the moment, Israel failed to understand their crucial role in resolving all of history in the centuries that lay ahead.

At this point in our reading we are very close to the end of the Old Testament history of Israel and Judah. And we are very close to the Revelation of God’s most powerful option, the eternal successor of King David, Jesus of Nazareth. We must focus on the power of God’s restoration of the Holy People for the purposes of completing His eternal plans regarding the nations. The whole world is now caught up in heaven’s drama, and not a single nation has risen that is able to deter or defeat God’s intentions that appeared in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The first couple embodied a kind of heaven on earth, and through the miracle workings of the Creator eventually found its way into Abraham’s descendants, and finally into our current reality. There is much to be said about this, and of course that truth lies in the New Testament. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We will finish our story of the return of the exiles, we will see the temple restored and life in Israel moving ahead, awaiting God’s next great triumph.

DAY FIVE – Esther 1-10

God is not mentioned, not even once. This story is entirely about the Jews and about a wicked plot to annihilate them on a single day. Who are the characters in this story? There is King Xerxes, who reigns in the fortress of Susa, over all of the Babylonian Empire. There is Queen Vashti, whose insolence causes her to be banished. Then Esther, a young Jewish woman, whose identity is kept hidden, becomes the new queen. There is Haman, a king’s official, who hates the Jews with a royal hatred. And finally there is Mordecai, Esther’s uncle and protector, who discovers the sinister plot to destroy the Jews. And though Yahweh, God of the Jewish people, is not named in this story, His sovereignty and intervention are plastered all over its pages.

We get keen insight into the nature of life in the empire and the power of kings through this story. Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. With nothing better to do, he threw a lavish celebration that lasted for six months, feting his nobles, officials and friends, with rivers of wine and sumptuous feasts. Later, two of his officials plotted to assassinate him, but Mordecai the Jew discovered the secret and revealed it to the king, whose life was spared. In the meantime, Haman’s star had been rising in the government of King Xerxes, and he received a high promotion that allowed him to shine before the public. Enamored with his own importance and achievements, Haman conceived a wicked scheme to annihilate the entire Jewish population scattered throughout the kingdom, all in one day. All of the empire wass thrown into confusion. In sackcloth and mourning, Mordecai the Jew, Esther’s uncle and protector, sent her a secret message, revealing the scheme hatched against her people. With no official standing, Esther wondered what she could do; but with Mordecai’s encouragement she decided to risk her life by appearing before the king unbidden. Now note this: it’s very important, for Esther sent word back to Mordecai to entreat all the Jews living in Susa to neither eat nor drink for the next three days, an expression of their mourning over their impending doom.

As we have said, God is not mentioned, not even once, in this historical account. But because we have been reading through the Bible for months now, we already know about the Lord’s sovereign relationship with the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We know how He delivered them from Egypt with an unprecedented display of power; how He established them at Sinai under Moses; how He brought them into Canaan, giving them their Promised Land. And we know how He scattered them to the nations after they incessantly persisted in idolatry and the evil practices of the nations around them. But we also know about His plans to save the world through the Jewish people.

The power of  prayer with fasting is written into the warp and woof of Esther’s story.  Deep mourning, despair, the sense of hopelessness, lay behind this desperate action of Mordecai and the Jews of Susa. But we mustn’t forget the power of love and beauty that rose to challenge the dark, vengeful behavior of one man. Haman wonderfully succeeded in creating the decree that would allow the annihilation of all the Jews who remained in the empire during the post exile years. Now, with victory over his enemies assured, he congratulated himself to his wife and noble friends as his star reached its zenith. Exultant that he alone had been invited to celebrate with the king and his beautiful Queen Esther, not just today but again tomorrow, his joy was unbounded. He would kill Mordecai and wait for the rest of the extermination on its scheduled day.

But King Xerxes couldn’t sleep. He reviewed the books and was reminded how he was saved from assassination by Mordecai. What should be done? Mordecai should be exalted. So the next morning, the day Haman would kill Mordecai, he had to instead put a royal robe on this man, set him on the king’s horse, and parade him through the city proclaiming his honor! And at the Queen’s banquet that same day, he was exposed as the evil schemer! Condemned, he was impaled on the pole he designed and erected for Mordecai’s execution! At Esther’s request, an edict was issued granting the Jews to defend themselves on the day of their annihilation, and fear of these Jews fell over the empire. Who can go against them? Who can succeed in destroying them? No one, not as long as Yahweh God is watching over them and keeping them.

Even today, the Festival of Purim is still celebrated in Israel, commemorating the salvation of the Jews when their enemies were set to wipe them out. God isn’t mentioned, but was He there? Did He cause a young Jewish beauty to capture a king’s heart? Did He promote Mordecai? Did He expose wicked Haman? Did He save the Jews from annihilation, even though they chose to live where they were instead of going back to Judah and Jerusalem? History suggests that yes, we can see God’s imprint all over this incredible unfolding of events. The characters, the timing of events, the fasting with prayer, the triumph of good over evil, and the continuing celebration of victory among the Jews today–God is clearly seen behind it all.  Give thanks today; the Lord is watching over us!


Week 44 – the FUTURE is about to break wide open for the people of God!

It could be time for God’s amazing grace to break out in blessing for you…see what He did for Israel!

DAY ONE – Daniel 1-3

The book of Daniel is a bridge. Across this bridge we journey directly from Jerusalem to Babylon. Jerusalem was no more, and the Jews of captivity were learning to live life in a foreign country. Among them were four young men–Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah–taken from their homeland of Judah in 605 BC as part of the first invasion by Nebuchadnezzar. Because of their excellent quality, the four teenagers were chosen and groomed for three years to be presented to the King of Babylon. They were then taken into the royal service of the king. Soon after, Nebuchadnezzar had his famous dream for which he MUST have an interpretation… if only he could remember what he dreamed! Then the impossible happened, and it saved the lives of all the wise men of the kingdom. As Daniel tells it: Daniel 2:20-23 (NLT) “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. 21 He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. 22 He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.” Nebuchadnezzar then placed Daniel over all his kingdom and gave his three friends important positions in the royal service. Next comes the furnace of fire, blazing seven times hotter than ever, to consume these three young men who are refusing to bow to the king’s great statue erected in his honor. However, instead of being burned alive, they walk alive out of the fire to stand before an amazed king Nebuchadnezzar, who makes an official announcement: Daniel 3:28-29 (NLT)  “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”

As we cross this bridge from Judah to Babylon, it is clear that God is God wherever His people are. And it is clear that God was making Himself known in no uncertain terms to the great king of the great superpower known as Babylon. Daniel would distinguish himself in royal service to at least four kings over a period of 60-70 years, and God would reveal things to him that span the ages. This book of Daniel is the great connector from the ancient past to the future yet to come. I praise you, Great and Almighty God, for you are our eternal Creator and Keeper for all time.

DAY TWO – Daniel 4-6

History has no previous record, so far as we know, of a man such as King Nebuchadnezzar, who lost his mind and lived as a beast in the field for seven years, taking on the visage of an animal. Against all odds, this man who held the lives of others in his hand, was driven from his kingdom by decree of the holy watchers of heaven, only to be restored at the end of that period.  Daniel 4:34-35 (NLT)  “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. 35 All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ Successive kings of Babylon, including Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius the Mede, who took over the kingdom, learned similar lessons concerning the eternal kingdom of Yahweh God. Though he knew his grandfather’s history, Belshazzar proudly defied God and was destroyed the same night. His successor discovered Yahweh God by Divine Intervention, after having Daniel thrown into a den of lions to be destroyed. Daniel was, of course, delivered; and his tormentors met their death by their own craft. Daniel 6:25-28 (NLT) Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 27 He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

For hundreds of years Yahweh’s activities were centered within Israel and housed in Jerusalem. The other nations went on their way, creating and worshiping gods of their own making. But as soon as God’s people were exiled from their land, God showed up in a new way in Babylon and made His Presence and power felt in real ways. At the center of all this were people like Ezekiel and Daniel. Their integrity and godliness gave the Lord the point of contact to reveal Himself and lift up His eternal kingdom before all men. Yes, God is sovereign and does as He wills; but His will is to find godly people through whom to establish and demonstrate His eternal kingdom in a most public way. May the spirit of these godly ones dwell in us as well; may His everlasting kingdom be central to our life and work, HERE AND NOW.

DAY THREE – Daniel 7-9

Curiosity is a permanent characteristic of humankind. But nothing intrigues us more than understanding the future. People who read the Bible always want to know what comes next, and how events will unfold in the ‘last days.’ Christendom has divided itself over competing explanations of the end times, though we should be comforting one another with the knowledge that our wonderful Lord, the Creator and Sovereign of all things, is in everlasting control of earth and humankind. The KEY in Daniel’s first vision lies in this: Daniel 7:2-3 (NLT)  In my vision that night, I, Daniel, saw a great storm churning the surface of a great sea, with strong winds blowing from every direction. The ‘great sea’ in scripture usually represents the ‘sea’ of people populating the earth. This ‘great storm’ that Daniel saw surely describes the recurring conflicts and wars that go on around the world–this world, by the way, to which we have almost instant access through massive technology. This vision and the ones that follow in our chapters give a general description lasting from the time of Daniel until the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD.  Daniel 9:26-27 (NLT) “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end.  For over two thousand years the ‘great storm’ has engulfed first one part of the world, then another. Greater and lesser kingdoms arise from time to time, only to give way to the next superpower to come on the scene. However, there is an end–a final end. As we have said before, we must always keep our eyes on Israel, for God’s manner of dealing with the nations focuses on the middle east, with its unceasing turbulence and intrigue.

Reading Jeremiah’s prophecies, Daniel realized that Judah’s exile would end within 70 years. So he replaced his fine clothes with sackcloth and sprinkles of ashes, then set himself to fasting and prayer for the exiles who were scattered all over the world, from both Israel and Judah. For days he afflicted himself, crying out to God for repentance and restoration for a people ruined by their own sin and rebellion. Not attempting to deflect blame, Daniel openly acknowledged responsibility for all the disaster that had come upon them, then pleaded for forgiveness and mercy from Yahweh God. This is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible from a man who honored God with his whole life. Is it time to FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE?

DAY FOUR -Daniel 10-12

In contemplation of these final chapters of Daniel, take note that it contains a supernatural vision with a supernatural being who came to Daniel following three weeks of fasting and prayer. Daniel was an old man, still in royal service, now serving the Persian King Cyrus, fourth in a series of kings. The vision is about what would happen in the times of the end of human government. Take note that we are on the other side of this period of history, and it appears that our times are related to these prophetic revelations that ended with instructions for Daniel to keep it a secret, to lock up the contents of the book, to be revealed at a very much later time. The entire period has seen wars, buildup of international strength, and alliances intended to increase that strength, along with riches. The general descriptions are of kings of the north and kings of the south, who continue to pursue their intentions, willing to sacrifice the lives of their peoples to accomplish their ends. This international see-saw of power and rule continues until the time of the end, when power from the western coastlands is introduced, and the entire world is caught in the conflict. Can we identify in this revelation continents such as Europe, Africa, Asia, North America? Perhaps. International and world relationships are at an all time high, and the tensions among them are no less. Into this we bring our questions that Daniel had and struggle to understand whether those ‘end time’ conditions are visible in our time. Again, perhaps. Actually, most likely. Yes, there are still unanswered questions and low visibility as we contemplate some of the details. But we should most certainly be alerted to the serious challenge of seeking and following the Lord at all costs as events and conditions shift perpetually around us.

Daniel 12:1-4 (NLT)  “At that time Michael, the archangel who stands guard over your nation, will arise. Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued. 2 Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. 3 Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. 4 But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” If Michael the archangel has indeed stood up over Israel in this time, then it is futile to try to preserve human government as we know it; rather is seems prudent to humble ourselves before Almighty God and His Anointed One, Jesus Christ. It would seem critical to me to seek Him with all our heart and soul, and to assure ourselves that we follow Him toward His eternal kingdom, which will surely rise soon.

DAY FIVE – Ezra 1-3

Has the Spirit of God ever prompted you to do something? Has He ever turned on the lights for you as you pondered a problem or question? Some two hundred years before King Cyrus of Persia was even born, Yahweh God named him and called him to carry out God’s will concerning Israel (Isaiah 45:1-7). Then, the first year that he was king, around 538 BC, the Spirit of God prompted him to issue an edict in writing, inviting any and all Jews who wished to return to Judah and Jerusalem, to step forward. It was in the king’s heart to encourage them to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem, and to give them the needed resources to make the trip, resettle the land, and commence construction. And oh, yes, it just happened to be seventy years of Israel’s exile! God’s prophecy through Jeremiah was being fulfilled as it had been spoken. Coincidence? Hardly, for a man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9). We are beginning to see a pattern as we make our way through scripture–someone is in control. We would love to believe that we are in control, but the evidence says otherwise. Over time it becomes apparent that those who follow the instructions of Proverbs 3:5-8 will become aware of God’s interventions and blessings. As generations came and went under the watchful eye of the Lord, prophetic words materialized into fulfilled predictions. They were so unlikely at times that the hand of Almighty God was undeniable. This story is one of them! A pagan king who thought Yahweh lived in Jerusalem was moved by that same God in Babylon, to organize and facilitate the return of Jews to their homeland. Forty-two thousand, including priests and Levites to carry out the Lord’s service, answered the call and made the trip.

Is the Lord prompting you now? Have you recently, or can you remember feeling or thinking inside that there is something you ought to do? Did you listen; are you listening, or do you write it off as something you ate? Pause a minute; God is real, and He has a real love for humankind; so He initiates thoughts, actions, events that may indeed be working in your favor, to draw you toward Him, or to reveal a pathway that has purpose and meaning. There are many forces applying pressure on us at any given time. Some of them would nudge us away from God, but His Spirit will always draw us toward Him, so that He can help us find our true identity and achieve our created purpose. Some inner thoughts or voices would lie to us about God so that we believe He doesn’t care, or that He is responsible for something we consider bad in our life. But His Spirit is working in your behalf, to reveal His loving nature and lead you to higher ground. Are you ready to trust Him, to be led toward His eternal kingdom?

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.

Week 42 – God has no grandchildren! Read His word with us this week…

“…then they will know that I am the Lord.” Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as He wants to be known?

DAY ONE – Ezekiel 9-12

Public executions have become few and far between. Those we may have witnessed in the media are very solemn and sobering events–quiet meditation, soft movements, last visits and personal wishes, and always the hope of a last-minute legal stay granting a bit more time. But the end does come, and the records are closed. In Ezekiel’s vision, as it unfolded in Jerusalem, and thereafter, when he was back in Babylon, two major shifts were  taking place. In the first, as Ezekiel watched, God’s ‘glory,’ that is His demonstrable Presence in the temple, lifted from His resting place and hovered over the court of the Lord while judgment commenced in the city. Some throughout the city were given a mark of immunity, saving them. The rest faced various death threats. Once the judgment was carried out, the glory of the Lord removed from the temple, hovered over the mountain to the east, and then was gone. Judah was now desolate. Then, back in Babylon, the early captives were scoffing at Ezekiel’s pronouncements, believing that his prophecies need only a bit of ‘cooling’ time, after which they would be meaningless. Everything would return to some order, and things would work out. They even had a proverb for that. But then God said that He was giving a new proverb: “The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled!” Mercy had been shown; patience had worn thin; the Glory was gone, and the siege was at hand. To a people who had believed Jerusalem to be impregnable a new light dawned–their protection was removed, and they were now at the mercies of their tormentors.

Is there any good news? There is always good news, because Yahweh God is the Creator of Good News. Amid the prophecies of justice and judgment comes this news:  Ezekiel 11:16-21 (NLT) 16 “Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. 17 I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.’ 18 “When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. 19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20 so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. This very pronouncement has in it the miraculous character of God’s hand. Only the Lord can take the worst situations and turn them into something with positive outcomes. Romans 8:28 (NLT)  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

DAY TWO – Ezekiel 13-16

When our first daughter was born, it was at a time when not even the husband was allowed in delivery, so I had to wait for the announcement and first viewing through the glass. That was Friday. After doing Sunday services I arrived Monday morning to bring my wife and baby home. As we got out of the car I picked up this beautiful little girl and laid her on my arm with her head in my hand. This was the first time I held her! Some months later I was out late at night reminiscing and ruminating on fatherhood. Joyfully I accepted my responsibility to bring her up, educate her, provide for her and be her father. All I asked of this infant girl was that she be my daughter; she would have to worry about nothing else. I would see that she made it to adulthood. I LOVED her. I still do. This is the Father heart of God. He loves His people. He loves the world. He said to Israel, “I will be your God, you will be my people–my sons and daughters.” And through Ezekiel the Lord told the story of finding baby Israel still unwashed, thrown out like a piece of trash by the mother, lying in a field. He picked her up, washed her, cared for her and watched her grow to adulthood. Then He took her as a bride, offering His covenant to only her. But the story goes downhill from there until Israel has completed cycles of prostitution with everyone passing by, offering herself to the gods of the nations while forgetting her ‘husband’–the Lord God. As a husband and father I can understand the Lord’s passion if a wife or daughter forsakes love and home to try to find something to satisfy her desires, family ties broken and ruined. In those circumstances would I want supposed friends to come along and whisper lies to me that this is all going to stop, that everything is going to be okay? And would I want supposed friends, claiming prophetic gifts, to visit my wife or daughter with lies that they are okay, that they are immune to rejection and destruction? Should I stand by and make no sound, no protest, no claim to that which at one time was exclusive to me? Should I be inclined to congratulate my wife’s lovers and wish them well and tell them I love them? And should I finally say that we are all just one big, happy family and the world is well? NOT!

As a father and lover, I value the relationships of family enough to humble myself and do all in my power to make whole those who are the objects of my love. Not being God, my humanity will leave room for the unknown and the unexpected outcome, whether good or bad. But even I, created in the image of God, am capable of continuing to love and give myself in favor of those whose love I crave. And in that sense, I understand the messages Ezekiel is giving to the nation of Judah, now divided between their homeland and Babylon. GOD CARES, GOD RESTORES.

DAY THREE – Ezekiel 17-20

God has no grandchildren! Yahweh God, whom we love and serve, is timeless. He lives in eternity, a dimension unknown to us except in theory. When I turned ten, my beloved grandmother passed to the Lord, and hers was the last funeral I attended until I was an adult. That was over sixty-five years ago. I still hold blessed memories of her. Nine years ago I laid my father to rest. Two generations of living beings have preceded me into the eternity in which I believe; and one day I will follow. So generations come and go–grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and on and on. Memories are made and lost. Now we talk about DNA to reveal to us where our ancestors came from. However, I am much more interested in where we are going! Repeatedly the Lord sent His prophets with His messages to Abraham’s descendants–the children of Israel (Jacob)–to reveal His unique relationship and covenant with them. Sometimes using stories, sometimes speaking plainly, God recounted their history from the days of Egypt and before, all the way down the centuries to the present exile in Babylon. The Jews from Judah could trace their ancestry by genealogy back over one thousand years to their patriarch Abraham! And yet God has no grandchildren, since He has no genealogy. Every human since creation has opportunity to be in direct relationship with the Everlasting, Mighty God the Creator! And for every one of us who enter His covenant by faith and obedience, we are first generation sons and daughters! In every generation through all time, God has continually revealed Himself as ‘I AM,’ meaning He is universal and eternal. As we read these ancient messages through the prophet of the exile, as Ezekiel was, we are reading as if it is today and we are the ones to whom the message is coming. God’s words still ring true, and His messages are still relevant, because as King Solomon, the wise man, once said, “There is nothing new under the sun!”

From today’s chapters then, we remind ourselves that God always sees, always cares, and always acts in a just and righteous manner. Every benevolence He can bestow, He bestows. Every measure He can take, He takes. And every person He can receive under His covenant, He receives. He spelled it out clearly. He looks for humility and repentance, not perfection. He looks for response and obedience, not rebellion. And He looks for a good and willing heart in His people. Why would we want to pervert the truth of God into a lie which misrepresents Him and turns people away? Why would we ever want to ignore Him or refuse Him His proper place in our life? From a thankful heart of gratitude then, I turn my face to my God and seek His guidance for my life today.

DAY FOUR – Ezekiel 21-24

“You will know that I am the Lord.”  “…then they will know that I am the Lord.” Over and over again Ezekiel’s prophecy ends with these words. As his messages take on more somber and savage tones, the predictions of terrible destruction and atrocities increase with intensity. As I read through these chapters my mind flashed back upon God the Creator, the Sovereign Lord over all that is made. Can we imagine that the heavens and earth were created in pristine glory… so much so that when God saw it He declared it good, and the “morning stars sang together for joy”? It was into this glorious Eden that our Lord placed earth’s first couple, created in His own image. For months we have been reading the history of humankind from God’s point of view, the Bible, which is His revealed Word to us. And now we have finally witnessed the total corruption of His image in redeemed humans, for the First Nation of Israel utterly failed God in their elevated status as the people of God. The Lord’s Name and Honor were shamed and insulted by their rampant idolatry and perversion, the shedding of innocent blood in sacrificing their children to the fire gods, and filling the land with corruption of all that is good. It was so beyond the pale that Ezekiel emphasized his messages with a slashing sword! The unthinkable happened, and Jerusalem, destitute Jerusalem, was about to lose its pride and joy, its last vestige of God’s glorious Presence, the Temple. First the Assyrians, and now the Babylonians, were unleashed against the holy people, and the handwriting was on the wall. Soon all came crashing down, and the corrupted people, having lost their last hopes of respect, finally humbled themselves and rejected their sins of idolatry. “Then they will know that I AM the Lord.”

From Moses, the man of God, come these words — Psalm 90:10-12 (WEB)  The days of our years are seventy, Or even by reason of strength eighty years; Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow, For it passes quickly, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of your anger, Your wrath according to the fear that is due to you? 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. What is a heart of wisdom? It is the heart that has been disciplined to the revelation of Almighty God and His sovereign grace and mercy. It is the heart that is trained to humble itself before God and seek His glory in life. And it is the heart that has learned how temporary everything is. In the final analysis, life must begin and end with the Lord. Then we can know true wisdom and have understanding of all that is important. What does it take for us to welcome the Lord in every aspect of life and seek His divine will in everything we do? Each of us has to answer that question. “Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

DAY FIVE – Ezekiel 25-28

We are observing a divine phenomenon in the 20th and 21st centuries that was predicted by the ancient prophets, including Ezekiel. Carrying forward the theme “Then they will know that I am the Lord,” Yahweh God predicted judgment on all the nations who either afflicted Israel and Judah or rejoiced over their downfall. And in each case, as He described what would happen to those nations and how some of them would never be rebuilt or rise again, He reaffirmed “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” Tyre, the island city built on a rock off the north coast of Israel, was especially singled out by the Lord, and her king was described in cosmic-like terms. Take time to reread the passage in Ezekiel 28:11-19. Who is this king of Tyre? From what we know of cosmic origins in early biblical history, this ‘person’ sounds very much like other descriptions of Lucifer, known to us as the devil. Ezekiel 28:16-17 (NLT)  Your rich commerce led you to violence, and you sinned. So I banished you in disgrace from the mountain of God. I expelled you, O mighty guardian, from your place among the stones of fire. 7 Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. Your wisdom was corrupted by your love of splendor. So I threw you to the ground and exposed you to the curious gaze of kings. Consider the following choice words–rich commerce, violence, pride, wisdom, corrupted, love of splendor. We witness these things every day in the affairs of nations, of all humankind! Is it possible that this king of Tyre is a human example of those things in temporal life that God hates, that He exposes for all to see, that He eventually throws to the ground? Is it conceivable that this king of Tyre is a type of devil who embodied such evil motives and actions that God’s judgment on him is a warning to all? And can we believe that there actually is a cosmic war ongoing in another dimension that affects life here on earth? If the original creation was pristine, what happened? Where does all the violence and disruption come from? Why is there so much fighting going on all the time around the world? When will it all end? If we don’t know the answer to all these questions, here is what we DO KNOW– 1) Yahweh God is the Sovereign of the universe, and His word and will govern affairs among humankind. 2) Predictions made in history by the biblical prophets have been fulfilled with uncanny accuracy. 3) Israel was regathered from the nations and is now the world’s focal point for all international relations. 4) What was once the domain of Almighty God is STILL the domain of Almighty God, so we must remember these words: “Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

Week 41 – Making good progress as we read thru God’s Word, the Bible..

Prophets spoke for God in their times, but their messages from God are timeless and relevant today.

DAY ONE – Jeremiah 51, Psalm 137

We have now reached the end of Jeremiah’s prophecies. This last message was written while Jerusalem and the temple were still standing. Yet God warned His people that soon (within 70 years) Babylon would be overrun and destroyed. He encouraged them to remember Jerusalem and yearn for their homeland, and by all means, to escape when Babylon’s judgment began. It reminds me of the growing specter in Europe as the Second World War was amassing. The madman Hitler was determined to conquer the world and create a master race of Aryan peoples. Large congregations of Jews had migrated and settled all over Europe, in Russia and even the United States. Palestine (Israel) had been the protectorate of England in those days but eventually the British  withdrew from the middle east. While the political situation was developing, Lord Balfour persuaded the British Parliament in 1917 to pass a resolution encouraging Jews in all British protectorates to escape Europe and return to their homeland of Israel (Palestine). Thousands of Jews did, and Zionism–the repatriation of Israel–which had been born in the late 1800’s, gained momentum throughout the world. Those Jews who felt the calling of their homeland and left Europe, fled with only the basic necessities, having to carve out a life of survival when they arrived in Israel. Meanwhile, millions of their own people who chose to remain in Europe where they had lived for generations, perished in the greatest catastrophe of ethnic cleansing the world had seen to date–the Holocaust.

It is always wise to study the Bible and try to learn what is coming upon the world as history unfolds. While we may see only shadows of some events we know are prophesied, we know enough to take deliberate action to find our home, our protection and our provision in the Lord Himself. Given the unstable conditions we face in our own culture and political arenas, it is possible to become comfortable or even complacent and careless in our lifestyle, in respect to God’s calling, so that judgment and calamity seem to belong in some other place and time. We all pray something will happen to turn our nation back to God and provoke another revival of faith in the Lord. Whether it happens or not, the world as we know it, according to Scripture, is temporary, is passing away in favor of a world of God’s creation in which evil no longer exists. We all want that, but we may find that road difficult to walk without Divine help. Remember, heaven is our real home, and God’s will is our real desire. He has prepared the Way for us, but we must choose that Way, then live it.

DAY TWO – Lamentations 1:1-3:36

Imagine walking through your home town. It’s quiet, the streets deserted, no one moving about. Houses are burned out, bodies still lie about, silent in death. Horror stalks your mind as you remember the gaunt, starving people whose faces bespoke their fear in the last days of the siege, before the town was overrun by their enemies intent on destroying everything in their path. You mutely shake your head, looking for words that won’t come, waiting even for tears, but you can’t cry anymore. Your home town no longer exists. The devastation is overwhelming and complete. You would ask God one more time, “Why?” but you already know the answer. You were the person who labored year after year, for over two decades, pleading with your neighbors and friends to listen to the Lord’s Words and messages, to turn from the wickedness that was destroying them, the idolatry that had rendered them senseless before God. You rose each morning hoping that today would be the day they would turn back in humility; but instead they laughed at you and at God, spurning the warnings and continuing their life of self-indulgence. They even tried to kill you, more than once. But you are still here, and you must now consider the possibility that future generations, should humankind continue, will have to face the same sad outcomes that you are now witnessing. It sounds so hopeless, but is it? These are the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet who stayed faithful to the Lord all the days of his life.

If we speak of hope, shall we link hope to a better future brought about by our best efforts to improve our way of life or create a stronger, more powerful government? Do we have historical evidence of any nation or people who ever preserved their life more than a few hundred years? Let’s be clear about this: our hope does NOT lie with humankind. Lamentations 3:21-29 (NLT)  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: 22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope IN HIM!” 25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. 26 So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. 27 And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: 28 Let them sit alone in silence beneath the Lord’s demands. 29 Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last.

DAY THREE – Lamentations 3:37-5:22

A sad story with a sadder ending–these are the lamentations of a faithful prophet. In the aftermath of the siege slaves have become masters by their own shrewdness, selling water and firewood needed for survival. Seizing the opportunity amid the ruins, foreigners have rushed in and mingled with the rabble, so that no place is safe and people can’t openly walk the streets. This is not a movie made for TV, and the plot will not be resolved within the hour. We cannot get up from our viewing and go back to our relatively comfortable activities–time for bed because tomorrow we start over. There is no starting over for Judah. Their nightmare is ongoing; their captivity is scheduled to last seventy years. Only then will there be a returning and rebuilding; and only then will the nations enter another season as Yahweh prepares the next scene for the Advent of His Anointed One, who will be a World-changer. Lamentations 3:31-33 (NLT)  For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. 33 For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.

No amount of theory or philosophy prepares us for, or explains, the depth of evil and horror we see in humankind. The VOID created when God no longer fills the thoughts and actions of a people and their leaders cannot be filled with anything other THAN faith in our Creator and our Savior. Freeing us from our folly is a job for ‘Super-God,’ after we have exhausted every human solution we can contrive. The more we resist the Lord and insist on our own way, the more we hurt ourselves and the deeper into ruin our society descends. Jeremiah the prophet survived only because he called out in severe distress to his God. Yahweh God helped him and sustained him through his fatal circumstances. This prophet, whose hands were clean and whose heart was wasted under human sorrow, lived to see the results and to proclaim a time of healing and restoration. No matter what we experience or see with our eyes; no matter how difficult it is to watch the devastation slowly taking over our culture, let us be strengthened and warned concerning our faith: Hebrews 12:25-29 (NLT) Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.  28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.

DAY FOUR – Ezekiel 1-4

How did Old Testament prophets become prophets? Ezekiel tells us his story in his own words. He was from Judah and had been taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in the first captivity around 597 BC. At age 30, he saw visions of God’s glory one day which can be described only as exceptional, maybe even perplexing. The physical descriptions of four beings encountered in his visions bring everything we know about physics into question. They were obviously from another sphere of existence, something outside of our purview. Four beings, each with four faces and four wings, wheels under each of them, a wheel within a wheel, so that they could travel in four directions without turning, captured Ezekiel’s attention. Is there significance to these strange and unexplainable creatures? Our emerging prophet referred to them as the ‘glory’ of God. They moved by the Spirit of God. This vision was all about God appearing to the prophet in physical form. Then God spoke to Ezekiel out of the ‘glory.’ The Spirit of God took hold of the young man to complete the revelation and seal the call that would be his life occupation. He was being sent to a hard-hearted, rebellious people who had been rebelling against God’s instructions since the days of Moses, several hundreds of years. Now in captivity in Babylon, they were still in a state of rebellion. Ezekiel was to bring them messages from God, and now a new dimension was added–living, dramatic demonstrations of those messages that could not be misunderstood. The first of them indicated the coming siege against Jerusalem and its total destruction. If these exiles thought they were going soon back to their homeland, they would have to think again–there would be nothing left to return to. That was the beginning.

How much does Yahweh God, our Creator and Savior, love us? Are we to believe lies and slander that describe Him as either non-existent or non-caring? Are we to question His integrity and character only because He doesn’t do everything we ask Him? Are we to blame Him for the evil that is rampant in our world because He hasn’t stopped it yet? Or are we to let Him speak for Himself; and let Him, in His own words, explain who He is and what He is like? Are we to believe what He has done to save us, to create relationship with us, to bring us to share His eternal glory? Or are we, like ancient Israel and Judah, to go our own way into oblivion and then wonder where God is? He certainly does not live in oblivion, and He certainly has not abandoned us. The Spirit of God took hold of Ezekiel and certified his call as a prophet/spokesman for the Lord. Open your heart to the Spirit of God and welcome Him to take hold of you, too. Let God’s ‘glory’ come into your spirit and bring light and life. He will reveal to you personally how much He loves you. You will KNOW who He is, and that there is NO OTHER like Him.

DAY FIVE – Ezekiel 5-8

As I began my reading this morning I thought, “Lord, Ezekiel’s messages sound so much like those of Jeremiah and some of the other prophets–message after message denouncing the idolatry, wickedness and rebellion of the holy people Israel and Judah. Warning after warning of the calamity and destruction descending upon them without remedy. So few will be left after your anger is spent and your punishment is meted out. What shall I write?” Because I shudder when I realize the downward spiral of godlessness that is so much a part of our daily life in the western hemisphere. Just in my lifetime our culture has been turned on its head and filled with insolence and arrogance toward God. Then it hit me: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 (NLT)  I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. 2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. 3 All of them ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. 9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

Do we live at the end of the age? Are these the ‘last days’? Who can say for sure? Once again I remind you to keep your eyes on the middle east and Israel. God’s dealings with the nations began there, and they will culminate there. The covenant the Lord made with our Father of Faith, Abraham is not yet finally fulfilled. But God is faithful and will keep ALL His words to His people. So let’s make sure we are the people of God, full of faith and the Holy Spirit; and living in the Book of Books–the Bible. Let’s face these days with courage and perseverance, determined to follow our Lord at all costs. Let’s do so with praise and thanksgiving by letting this world go and embracing the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we will have confidence at His coming. “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”