Old Testament: Ezekiel 37:1-38:23
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Ezekiel 37:1-38:23 Dem Bones
Chapter 37 This chapter is the source of an old spiritual, “Dem Bones.” It is about Israel being brought back to life after the judgment of the last chapter. Ezekiel is told to speak to the dead, dry bones of Israel and tell them to come back to life again. He does and God gives them life like he did to Adam and Eve (cf. Gen. 2:7).
God will reunite the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel in the future. Ezekiel used two sticks to symbolize this reunion (vv. 15 -23).
Yahweh will show that He is God after Christ comes back and rules in the Millennium (vv. 24-28, cf. Rev. 20:6).
Chapter 38 For many years dispensational theologians have thought that this passage refers to Russia since Gog and Magog are geographically in the area we know as Russia (see McGee for detailed information on why Gog and Magog refer to Russia). When the Russian government weakened years ago it looked like the dispensationalists were wrong but now Russia is strengthening itself again. It definitely looks like it could be a player in an end times scenario.
Russia will come against Israel in the “latter days” (cf. v. 16). Israel has warm water entranceway to the rest of the world, oil and minerals from the Red Sea that Russia needs. Most dispensational commentators do not believe the battle described here is the same as the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation period (cf. Rev. 20:7-9). The enemies will consist of Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Libya (vv. 1-18, cf. Bible Knowledge Commentary). We will see in the next chapter that they will all be defeated by God Himself (Ezek. 37:6-7).
When this coalition comes against Israel, it will be Yahweh that will meet them. He will bring a devastating earthquake that will cause the enemy soldiers to turn against themselves (vv. 19, 21b). There will be a rain of hail, fire and brimstone (v. 22). God will vindicate Himself and His support of His nation (v. 23).
New Testament: James 1:19-27
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James 1:19-27 The Fonz
James is a book of exhortations. Weirsbe says there are over fifty commands in the little book of James. He says James did not “suggest,” “he commanded!” Here in chapter one he is already exhorting his flock to be active listeners and to hold their anger (v. 19). Fleshly anger does not advance the kingdom of God (v. 20). They are to internalize Scripture but also be productive Christians (vv. 21 – 22). If they just take in a lot of knowledge they were fooling themselves about their Christian lives (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1b, “‘Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up” RSV).
Someone who takes in a lot of Scripture but doesn’t put their knowledge into effect is like the Fonz, looking into a mirror and just walking away. Nothing changes. James expects believers to change themselves and change the world (vv. 23-25).
True Christians will put their faith to work (v. 27). They will visit orphans and watch over widows (v. 27a). They will be careful what they say (v. 26) and keep themselves pure (v. 27b).
James 2:1-17 Grace Works
Christians are not to favor some people over others (v. 1). All people that come into the congregation are to be treated alike (v. 2-7). People with money are not to be favored over the poor. The rich people were the ones causing trouble in the church by exploiting the poor in court (v. 6). In so doing, they are disgracing God (v. 7).
The entire second half of the Ten Commandments (actually # 5-10) could be summed up as, “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 8). That is how we show our love for God, by loving others. So showing partiality is breaking God’s law (v. 9). If anyone thinks he can enter Heaven by keeping the law, he is mistaken. Someone would have to be perfect to do that and keep all the law (vv. 10-11). So James draws the conclusion that if everyone is imperfect and must rely on grace, then they should show grace to others (vv. 12-13).
James wants to drive home in this letter that it is not enough to just have faith and to trust Christ. It must work itself out in works (Phil. 2:12-13). He is not saying that someone can not be saved by faith alone. He is saying that once someone is justified, then it is natural to grow in holiness and good deeds. Failure to understand James this way (Luther, for example, who didn’t recognize James as Scriptural!) has caused many to fall into the flesh and develop fleshly doctrines of works. As Paul said, ” Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). How did we receive Christ? We received Him through faith and grace. Then we are to live in faith and grace. And that kind of life produces works of grace through the power of the Holy Spirit. If we liken life to a board game like Monopoly, we won’t be able to get off of square one if we don’t start in grace. Then we need to live the same way, in grace.
James is exhorting his readers to act like Christians. What earthly value is faith with loving other people? The word “save” in verse 14 speaks of the aspect of salvation we call sanctification (cf. blog the three tenses of salvation: You Look Maavalous!). James is not in conflict with Paul. They are in complete agreement. James is just emphasizing the working out of our faith as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-13 and Romans 6-8. We could say, for clarification, “if someone says he has faith but he has no works . . . can that faith sanctify him?”
James goes on to give this illustration. If a fellow believer doesn’t have enough to eat or wear and you know it (v. 16, “one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled’) and don’t do anything about it, then you have a “dead,” useless faith. It is worthless. Your spiritual faith should be helping others with their physical needs (vv. 15-17).