11/14/2017

Ezekiel 1-24 (Sep to Nov 2017)

  1. Ezekiel 1 (9/3/17) An Encounter with God (Ezekiel 1).
  2. Ezekiel 2 (9/10/17) A Spirit Driven Calling (Ezekiel 2-3a). Driven by a High Calling.
  3. Ezekiel 3 (9/17/17) The Crux of the Call (Ezekiel 3b). A Job Description with Strange Instructions and Restrictions.
  4. Ezekiel 4-7 (9/24/17) A Horrifying Message (Ezekiel 4-7).
  5. Ezekiel 8-9 (10/1/17) God's Glory Departs (Ezekiel 8-9).
  6. Ezekiel 10-11 (10/8/17) God's glory departs II (Ezekiel 10-11).
  7. Ezekiel 12-15 (10/15/17) False Bible Teachers and Idolators (Ezekiel 12-15).
  8. Ezekiel 16 (10/22/17) You Trusted in Your Beauty (Ezekiel 16).
  9. Ezekiel 16-19 (10/29/17) Face the Facts, Listen to the Truth (Ezekiel 15-19).
  10. Ezekiel 20-23 (11/5/17) Face the Facts about Your (His)Story (Ezekiel 20-23).
  11. Ezekiel 23-24 (11/12/17) The Whore, the Pit and the Wife Who Dies (Ezekiel 23-24, 16).

11/13/2017

Timeline of Israel and Judah (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel)

Ezekiel is easily the most bi_____ of all the prophets. He was struck d___ (Eze 3:26). He  a____ out his prophecies (ch. 4). He prophesied to the e_____. He insu____ and an_____ them with his ora____ and par_____ (ch. 16, 23). Ezekiel verses.

 

Isaiah prophesied around 740-700 BC, about 100 years before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, and 160 years before Cyrus, king of Media and Persia, conquered Jerusalem and Babylon in 539 BC.

Ezekiel prophesied around 590-570 BC. A contemporary of Daniel, Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC (eight years after Daniel).

  • 930 BC:   Israel divided into E______ (capital S______) and J____ (capital J_______).
  • 722 BC:   No______ Israel (E_____) defeated by Assyria (Isa 7:8-9; 2 Ki 18:9-12).
    • [740-400 BC: Isaiah's ministry]
  • 605 BC:   First siege. Those exiled include Daniel.
    • [626-586 BC: Jeremiah's ministry]
  • 597 BC:   Second siege. Those exiled include Ezekiel (Jer 52:28).
    • [590-570 BC: Ezekiel's ministry]
  • 593 BC:   Ezekiel's call; he saw visions of God (Eze 1:1-2). He was stuck dumb (3:26).
  • 592 BC:   Ezekiel transported to Jerusalem in a vision (Eze 8:1, 3).
  • 588 BC:   King of Babylon laid final siege to Jerusalem (Eze 24:1-2).
  • 586 BC:   Jerusalem/temple destroyed (Eze 33:21). Ezekiel's mouth opened (33:22).






11/07/2017

Ezekiel's Wife Dies (Ezekiel 24)

Losing your wife, the delight of your eyes

Explain Ezekiel's emotional state when he knows that God took his wife in her youth in order to be a sign to the people.


"Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure (the delight of your eyes). Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears.
 17 Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave…" (Ezekiel 24:16-17a, NLT).
Judgment (1-32): Oracles of doom
  • Jerusalem must fall (1-24)
  • Judah's enemies must fall (25-32)
Salvation (33-48): Oracles of good news
  • Jerusalem must be comforted. The gospel according to Ezekiel. The Messiah will come and save a remnant.
Face the Facts, Listen to the Truth (Ezekiel 15-19).
  • [Ezekiel 15 - A useless vineYou are useless.
  • [Ezekiel 16 - A nymphomaniac brideYou forgot God's grace and used your beauty for yourself/satisfaction (15).
  • [Ezekiel 17 - The eagle and the vineYou broke your oaths.
  • [Ezekiel 18 - Only the sinner needs to dieYou blame others and do not take responsibility.
  • [Ezekiel 19 - A lamentYour leadership sucks.
  • Ezeliel 20What you do. You make up your contrary to the facts and reality, to make yourself look good.
  • Ezeliel 21What God does. He sends Babylon as his sword of judgment.
  • Ezeliel 22Why God does it. They are corrupt beyond redemption.
  • Ezeliel 23Why it's fair. Their adulterous idolatrous hearts are insatiable and incurable.

11/04/2017

Ezekiel 23-24


Both Ezekiel 16 and 23 are oracles dominated by the language of prostitution and lewdness, with ch. 23 intensifying the sex-related imagery of ch. 16. But the theme of both chapters highlight the passion of God in the face of Israel's unfaithfulness to his covenant, expressed in their insatiable lust after other lovers. Ezekiel simply reinforces in the mind of his audience that when God's judgment falls in 586 BC on Jerusalem, their beloved city, that judgment is as deserved as was the demise of her sister Samaria in 721 BC.
  1. The community of faith stands in constant danger of forgetting God's grace and expending its energies in the satisfaction of its own cravings. When this occurs the people of God, vulnerable to the seductive appeal of other allegiances, often sell their soulds in their misguided pursuits. But God considers devotion to any other person or object adultery, the violation of the church's marriage covenant with him.
  2. In God's eyes adultery is an abhorrent evil, not only because it perverts the sex act but especially because it violates the covenant bond of marriage. Apart from the marital covenantal commitment, all sexual activity is prostitution, and rather than offering lasting satisfaction, illicit intimacy yields contempt and disgust. The fate of Jerusalem serves as a warning for the corporate faith community as well as for individual members that marital infidelity is self-destructive, and brings upon one the wrath of God.
  3. Only by the grace of God is one able to shake the patterns of sinful behavior established in one's youth. Sin is deeply ingrained in the human race, and unless the community of faith and individuals within that community retain a vital relationship with their covenant Lord, the temptation to see one's soul to satisfy the lusts of the flesh poses an ever present danger. In the hour of crisis, those who abandon their Savior for other allegiances may find no security in their claims to covenant partnership with him. God's passion burns for his people, but if they trample underfoot his grace, the cup of his fury will be poured out on them. Accordingly, hope is to be found only in abandoning one's sinful ways and casting oneself on God's mercy.
The Boiling Cauldron (Ezekiel 24:1-14) [Jerusalem as a cooking pot]
  1. Preamble (1-3a).
  2. The popular saying (3b-5).
  3. The dispute (6-8).
  4. The counterthesis (9-13).
  5. Conclusion (14).

The implications of this oracle for the people of God of any age are sobering. There is no security in tradition or position in the kingdom of God if the claims of privilege are not matched by love for God and one's fellow human beings. Singing songs about the promises of God is no substitute for obedience to him. Indeed, the true kingdom is often found among those whom the spiritual elite have written off. The message of Ezekiel is that there is hope for the rejected, but for those who make empty claims of status before God the prospects of an encounter with him are frightening.


The End of an Era (Ezekiel 24:15-27) [Ezekiel's wife dies]


This is the last of the judgment oracles in the first part of Ezekiel (ch. 1-24).

  1. The disturbing human propensity to transform legitimate religious symbols into idolatrous images. Ideally the city and its temple symbolized God's presence among his people. But instead of providing a place where they could come humbly for an encounter with him, it had become a source of cultural pride. Instead of the people finding their security in relationship with God, his residence had become the focus of their affections and the (false) basis of their hopes. The tragic events of 586 BC serve as a warning for all who are tempted to make the same mistake.
  2. Nothing, not even the temple, is more sacred to God than a sanctified people. For > 300 years Solomon's temple had stood as a magnificent symbol of God's glory and holiness. This was his earthly residence, the place he had chosen for his name to dwell. Through its service and ritual his sanctifying grace was dispensed to all who sought him in spirit and in truth. But formality had replaced authentic faith. The symbol had displaced the reality as the center of people's affections. Although the temple was as dear to God as Ezekiel's wife was to the prophet, not even the sanctuary was immune to his wrath. Not until the people had been sactified through the work of God's Spirit (36:16-38) could they expect him to resume his residence in their midst.
  3. The message of God is proclaimed most powerfully when it is incarnate in the life of the messenger. While few will be asked to go to the lengths of this remarkable prophet, the implications of this oracle for those who are called to be agents of God are staggering. The cost of bearing in their bodies the message they proclaim is often high. In an earlier age God had tested Abraham by demanding of his his son Isaac, but that story had a happy ending (Gen. 22). It will not always be that way. The call to divine service cost Ezekiel his wife, the delight of his eyes. Although the text is silent on the struggle that must have raged in the prophet's soul over God's absurd demand, this was no less a test of faith for him than the sacrifice of Isaac had been for the patriarch. He could have rebelled against this intrusion into his personal affairs, but he did not waver. In his reaction to his wife's death, he was a sign for his people. But in his response to the hand of God, he is a model for all who follow in his professional train.
The bitter experiences of life are not always signs of God's indignation toward the individual. Upon encountering a blind man, Jesus' disciples asked, "Who sinned..." to which Jesus replied, "Neither..." (Jn 9:1-4). Although it did not lessen Ezekiel's personal pain in walking through the valley of deepest darkness, the knowledge that God was not angry with him could offer some comfort. The prophet cold also take hope in knowing that his role as suffering servant would ultimately lead to the renewed knowledge of God among his people.

11/02/2017

History with an Attitude (Ezekiel 20; 20-24)

Rewriting Sacred History (Ezekiel 20) [The pattern of history; Retelling history; History with an attitude; Know your history; History that screams, "You're a sinner"; Don't assume blessing; Don't assume security; The delusion of the exiles; Don't delude yourself]
  1. The call for Israel's arraignment (1-4).
  2. The indictment of Israel: The nations history of rebellion (5-31).
    1. Israel's rebellion in the distant past (5-26).
      • Phase I: Rebellion in Egypt (5-9).
      • Phase II: Rebellion in the desert (10-17).
      • Phase III: Rebellion in the desert: the second generation (18-26).
    2. Israel's rebellion in the recent past (27-31).
      • Phase IV: Rebellion in the land (27-29).
      • Phase V: Rebellion in exile (30-31).
  3. The future transformation of Israel (32-44).
      • Phase VI: Israel in the desert of the peoples (32-38).
    1. The transformation of Israel (39-40a).
    2. God's acceptance of Israel (40b-42).
    3. Israel's response to God's action (42-44).
The Avenging Sword of God (Ezekiel 21; 20:45-21:32) [Babylon as God's Sword of Judgment]
  1. The riddle of the sword (20:45-49; 21:1-7).
  2. The song of the sword (8-17).
  3. The agent of the sword (18-27).
  4. The taunt of the sword (28-32).
What is the theological significance in the quartet of oracles devoted to the sword of God?
  1. God becomes the enemy of those who claim to be his people but refuse to accept the responsibilities accompanying that privilege. The sword in Ezekiel 21 functions as a frightening instrument of providential fury unleashed against his own people -- the benefactors of his covenant. The notion or idea or utterance is divine wrath is reprehensible to many, that it should be directed at his own people in intolerable. But God's application of principle is not affected by human sentimentality. If "his people" spurn his grace, they cannot expect to be spared the fate of the wicked.
  2. The Lord is faithful to his word. This applies not only to his promises of presence and well-being, but also to his warnings of judgment for apostasy and infidelity (Lev 26; Deut 28). Parroting covenant promises is no substitute for obedience and offers no immunity from divine wrath. In the end the sword fell on the nation, precisely as Moses and Ezekiel had forewarned. Contra Ezekiel's contemporaries, this did not signify divine betrayal of covenant promises, but the rigorous fulfillment of its fine print.
  3. God can achieve his divine agenda through those who do not worship him. The achievement of the divine agenda is not bound by human definitions of propriety. In these oracles God's will was revealed through pagan divination and executed through pagan instruments. However, the end does not justify the means, nor does the commission offer immunity from divine scrutiny to the agent. Those charged with fulfilling God's commission must still account to him how they executed the charge.
Woe to the Bloody City (Ezekiel 22) [Judgment on Jerusalem's Sins]
  1. The indictment of Jerusalem - the bloody city (1-16).
    1. The call for Jerusalem's arraignment (1-2).
    2. The summons to Jerusalem (3).
    3. The announcement of the charges (4-5).
    4. The presentation of the evidence (6-12).
    5. The announcement of the sentence (13-16).
      1. A society that thrives on violence not only self-destructs but will also have to contend with God.
      2. Community leaders bear special responsibility for the maintenance of justice and the welfare of its citizenry.
      3. Knowledge of the will of God is no substitute for obedience to that will.
      4. Although humans may renege on their covenant commitments, God will not.
  2. The judgment of Jerusalem: In the smelter of God's wrath (17-22).
    • The nation may consider itself precious metal in God's sight, but this is a delusion. For the people to become what God wants them to be, they must be subjected again to the refiner's fire. This time, however, it is the fire of divine wrath, which is terrifying as painted in this oracle. Like the gardener who cuts off fruitless branches and casts it into the fire (Jn 15:1-11), it serves as a warning for all who claim security in divine election but refuse int heir lives to reflect the glory of the divine Elector. God's passion for a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special treasure, has not diminished (1 Pet 2:9).
  3. The rationale for the judgment of Jerusalem: The unmanned breach (23-31).
    1. The thesis statement (23-24).
    2. The crimes of Israel's leaders (25-29).
    3. God's response to the crimes of Israel's leaders (30-31).
      1. The call to leadership is primarily a call to responsibility, not privilege.But power has the baneful (deleterious, detrimental, harmful) tendency to transform noble lions and majestic wolves into cannibalistic beasts. The people of God are not immune from the temptation to exploit positions of power for personal advantage and thereby threaten the vitality of the community. Those who pervert "Thy kingdom come" to "My kingdom come" invite the wrath of God.
      2. Whatever responsibilities other leaders have, those called into divine service are charged with maintaining the sanctity of God. This is accomplished by the scrupulous personal observance of sacred-profane distinctions and the indoctrination of the people of God with the same sensitivity. The absence of such distinctions leads to theological and moral anarchy and, even more seriously, the desecration of the reputation of God.
      3. The survival of the church depends on the positive response of leaders to the call of God to stand in the breach. This call is not fulfilled by professional self-gratification or plastering decayed walls with reassuring pronouncements of peace. The breach is defended and the wrath of God averted with compelling appeals for repentance from sin and a new commitment to God.
O Oholah! O Oholibah! (Ezekiel 23) [Two adulterous sisters]
  • The opening formula (1).
  1. The introduction of the accused (2-4).
  2. The historical background of the case (5-35).
  3. The case against Oholah and Oholibah (36-49a).
  • The concluding formula (49b).
The Boiling Cauldron (Ezekiel 24:1-14) [Jerusalem as a cooking pot]
  1. Preamble (1-3a).
  2. The popular saying (3b-5).
  3. The dispute (6-8).
  4. The counterthesis (9-13).
  5. Conclusion (14).
The End of an Era (Ezekiel 24:15-27) [Ezekiel's wife dies]

11/01/2017

Don't Delude Yourself (Ezekiel 20)

Big Idea: If you think, you're basically OK, you're probably not.

Ezekiel continues to hammer away at the delusions that plagued his exilic audience. In the process he offers a corrective for many false perceptions held in our own time.
  1. God often interprets history quite differently from humans. This is especially true of one's own story, whether it be personal, congregational, denominational, or ecclesiastical. Those who claim to be the people of God have often idealized their past and been blinded by pride in their own election to deny or ignore the darker sides of their story. We may gloat over the cultural achievements of the Western church, but overlook the role that Christians played in violent crusades against "infidels," genocidal pogroms (massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group) against Jews, and dehumanizing enslavement of non-Europeans. At the denominational and congregational level we may hold high our orthodoxy, liturgy, evangelistic energy, and creativity, but avoid the weightier matters of covenant relationship: integrity, humility, honesty, compassion, self-sacrifice, and love. Ezekiel affirms again that one's subjective perceptions may be totally divorced from reality. In the end it will not matter how we have told our story, but only how God sees it.
  2. God desires that the world knows who he is; this is the primary motivation behind divine revelation (Eze 20:20, 26, 44, 7, 12). In our individualistic and hedonistic world it is difficult to understand, let alone accept, that the universe does not revolve around oneself. God, the source and sustainer of all things, is also the goal of all things (Col 1:16). When he intervenes in earthly affairs he does indeed respond to human needs, but the nature of his response is set by his own character. His reactions are never arbitrary or capricious (sudden mood changes), but driven by his internal consistency. We must never forget to be grateful that grace is a significant element in that character, and that in his struggle over human rebellion his justice is tempered by mercy. But even when he acts with compassion, his concern is the manifestation of his holiness.
  3. His divine reputation depends on the fate and welfare of his people. All of God's dealings with Israel were public -- before the eyes of the nations. Israel was to be the agent through whom the nations would come to know that he is God. Nothing has changed. Jesus reminded his disciples that their prayers should be different from the self-seeking petitions of the Gentiles (Mt 6:5-15). Concern for the sanctity of his name and the glory of his kingdom remains the mark of God's people (Eze 20:9, 14, 20).
  4. The experience of divine mercy drives true covenant people to their knees. Those with an overly optimistic view of the human condition tend to dismiss this text (esp. Eze 20:43-44) as a theological archaism (old-fashion), damaging to one's mental well-being. This only perpetuates our delusional optimism, like Ezekiel's audience. The good news of the gospel is not "there must be something truly wonderful about us since God can love us and accept us so readily." Rather the gospel is that there must be something truly wonderful about God! Yes, all human beings do have intrinsic dignity by virtue of our status as images of God, but notions of self-worth must be distinguished from ideas of worthiness. Our status as God's image provides the basis for his unique interest in us, but our fallen condition disqualifies us from claiming that status as a natural right. God did not express his love in Jesus in response to our worthiness, but to redeem us from our unworthiness. The fundamental problem with most of us is not deficient self-esteem but an inadequate divine-esteem. Ultimately God operates for his own name's sake (Eze 20:9, 14, 20). His investment in us relates to agendas far greater than ourselves. As we submit ourselves to God, we will treasure the grace with which he reaches out to us. Within this framework, the fundamental human pathology is not self-loathing but pride, an unhealthy and unrealistic self-esteem. It is from this arrogance that we, especially in the US, need deliverance.

References:

  1. Block, Daniel I. The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24, NICOT (New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1997.
  2. Wright, Christopher J.H. The Message of Ezekiel, BST (Bible Speaks Today). IVP, Downers Grove, IL, 2001.

10/31/2017

A Happy Marriage Requires Fighting (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Ephesians 6:10-20
  1. Strength for the conflict. In the Lord (Eph 6:10-11).
  2. Source of the conflict. Not flesh and blood (Eph 6:12).
  3. Strategy for the conquest. Full armor of God (Eph 6:13-20).
    • Truth (Eph 6:14a)
    • Righteousness (Eph 6:14b)
    • Gospel of peace (Eph 6:15)
    • Faith (Eph 6:16)
    • Salvation (Eph 6:17a)
    • Word of God (Eph 6:17b): Read the Bible together. Pray together.
Absolute truths regarding marriage
  1. God brought you together (Mt 19:6; Mk 10:9; Gen 2:24).
  2. Marriage is forever.
  3. God intends for you to be gentle and humble in heart (Mt 11:29; Rom 8:29).
"Conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom 8:29) is what God intends for you through marriage (and all of life).

What a happy marriage always needs (Rom 8:32)
  1. Love that is unconditional
  2. Forgiveness that is endless
  3. Grace that is ever present
Marriage is meant to mirror our relationship with God (between Christ and the church -- us)
  1. For richer or poorer
  2. In sickness or in health
  3. For better or worse
  4. (Whether cuter or less cute, more handsome or more ugly, fatter or thinner!)
  5. ...till death do us part.

"...be content [satisfied] with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake [abandon] you'" (Heb 13:5; Dt 31:6).