~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Ezekiel 1:1-3:15 ~ Hebrews 3:1-19
Psalm 104:1-23 ~ Proverbs 26:24-26
Old Testament - Today we begin the book of the prophet Ezekiel! Ezekiel is a prophet whose name means "God strengthens" - which is clearly a good thing for those in the prophet business. We've recently wrapped up the book of Jeremiah and are well aware of the challenges facing a prophet. The interesting thing to note is that Jeremiah was prophesying in Judah, whereas Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon to the exiles from Judah. These two were doing their work at about the same time, but in different geographies. Ezekiel gets his call to be a prophet in probably his 30th year of life - the age when most of the priestly line were called to be priests. Instead, Ezekiel was called to be a prophet - which, is probably a good thing because he is living in exile in Babylon - so wouldn't have been able to perform the priestly duties at the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel's call comes in 593 B.C., which is 7 years prior to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. Ezekiel's ministry goes until 571 B.C., at the age of 52. (which is 2 years beyond what most priests would have served - from ages 30 to 50). Below is a portrait of Ezekiel by artist Guy Rowe:
~ Ezekiel ~
Date: Sixth century B.C.
Content: Ezekiel, who grew up as a priest, was carried off to Babylon with the Jewish exiles deported in 597 B.C., and there he became a prophet of God. His message was one of coming judgment for those remaining in Jerusalem, but his preaching was not well received by the Jews who were with him in captivity. When his dire predictions came true in 586 B.C. with the destruction of Jerusalem, the people listened then on with great earnestness. His message changed at this point from being one of unbending judgment to one of comfort and hope for the future. The worst had come; it was now time to make plans for beginning again. Ezekiel saw himself as a shepherd and watchman over Israel. As a shepherd, he was to protect the people, but as a watchman, he was to warn of danger ahead.
Theme: The message of Ezekiel is based upon the unchangeable holiness of God. This is both a promise and a warning. It is a warning because God has promised to remain faithful to his people and this will not change. The book of Ezekiel shows God’s unbreakable promise fulfilled in both respects: the city fell according to promise because of Judah’s sin, and the city would be restored according to promise because of God’s faithfulness. The lives of God’s people determined how God would treat them. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” p. 14) A wonderful commentary on the book of Ezekiel by Bob Deffinbaugh is at this link. Below is a sculpture of Ezekiel by German sculptor Johann Josef Christian (1706 - 1777):
In today's readings, chapter 1 is an incredible vision and call that Ezekiel receives! Surely the flying creatures with 4 faces and wings are a highlight of this vision. What is up with these you ask? Good question. They are called "cherubim" later in the book of Ezekiel (chapter 10) and are also thought to be the creatures in Isaiah called seraphs - and they show up again in the book of Revelation. If you get a vision, and you see these creatures, you know something big is going on... :) Interesting thing about these creatures - their four faces representing a human, lion, ox and an eagle have many interpretations - basically relating to the nature of God. One of the coolest interpretations I read was that these 4 represent the 4 Gospels - Matthew being the lion, Mark being the ox, Luke being the human and John being the eagle. You'll have to pick up a commentary to read more on why these analogies have been made.... (just trying to get everyone to dive into books beyond this blog... :) Below is the artist Rafaelo's oil painting of "The Vision of Ezekiel" from the year 1518 (Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence)-
Ezekiel Chapter 2 is God's Call and Commission of Ezekiel. Don't we all wish that God could be this clear with us about the purpose of our lives sometimes? :)
Ezekiel Chapter 3 has the great telling of Ezekiel eating the scroll of God. And it tasting like honey - even though it had words of doom upon it. In Ezekiel 3:3 we read: “Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” Can we eat of the Word of God? Does the Word nourish us? How does the Word nourish us? Is the Word nourishing you today? Is it as sweet as honey? Is the Word literally spiritual food? Will you eat of God’s Holy Word, the Bible, today – and every day of your life?
Then, in Ezekiel 3 verse 15 ends with a very appropriate line I believe- "I sat there among them for seven days, overwhelmed." Think you'd be overwhelmed if you experienced chapters 1 & 2?? Whew. I am looking forward to us starting the book of Ezekiel! Thanks for joining me on this journey! Below is one final image of Ezekiel from the artist Michelangelo. This one's in the Sistine Chapel in Rome -
New Testament - Hebrews chapter 3 today is a great look at the lives of Moses and Jesus. The text today doesn't really dive into this point, but something I heard recently that is worth remembering - Moses introduced to Israel the Old Covenant (testament) via the Ten Commandments and laws. Whereas, Jesus ushers in the New Covenant to Israel and all of the world. So, this chapter goes into why Jesus is greater than Moses. Probably this Old Cov v. New Cov point alone would prove this to be true - but, obviously Jesus is also God in the flesh. Moses was simply a man. (albeit a great man in many ways!)
Today in Hebrews 3:13 we read: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” When was the last time you encouraged someone in their walk of faith? Will you encourage someone today? How does encouragement help us avoid sin’s deceitfulness? Do you realize that sin is indeed deceitful? (sin sells you nothing but lies) Do you realize that sin can harden your heart? Do you realize that one of the best ways to be free of the bondage of sin and a hardened heart is through encouragement of others in your church community? Sin is too strong for us to battle on our own. We need Jesus. We need each other. We need to be actively involved in a church community each week. Don’t attempt to make a go of this life alone. . . it’s far too risky.
Verse 15 is repeated twice in today's readings, so it probably is something important for us to remember - "But never forget the warning: "Today you must listen to his voice. Don't harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled."" Are you listening to God's voice? How is the soil of your heart toward God? Will you let him plant new life within you? Will you let him pull the weeds that need to be pulled?
Psalms - Psalm 104 is a beautiful hymn to the Creator! I like all of the verses - verse 19 stands out to me because I can find some cool images related to this verse on the web! :) "You made the moon to mark the seasons and the sun that knows when to set."
Proverbs - Proverbs 26:24-26 is another good reminder to look beyond simply the "kind words" that we may hear... get to know the underlying motives... "People with hate in their hearts may sound pleasant enough, but don't believe them. Though they pretend to be kind, their hearts are full of all kinds of evil. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, it will finally come to light for all to see." Someone could end up being two-faced if we're not careful. Let us also make sure that we ourselves are never two-faced toward others!
Comments from you - What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!