Old Testament: Ezekiel 35:1-36:38
Ezekiel 35:1-36:38 A Deja View
Chapter 35 If you think reading about judgment on Edom seems familiar then you’re right. We heard judgment pronounced on them in Isaiah (34; 63:1–6), Jeremiah (Jer.
49:7-22), and earlier in Ezekiel (Ezek. 25:12-14). Edom was Israel’s natural enemy going back to the conflict between Jacob and Esau. The descendants of Esau were the Edomites. They are still at war.
They will be judged finally in the end times. Edom took joy in torturing Israel (vv. 5, 10) and so will be punished (vv. 14-15, cf. Gen. 12:3).
Chapter 36 This chapter contains one of my favorite verses, verse 26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit”). Ezekiel has said essentially the same thing twice already (Eze. 11:19; 18:31). Yahweh is promising a New Covenant with Israel that will begin when Christ returns to the earth to set up His Millennial kingdom (cf. Rom. 11:26- 27, Rev. 20:6).
When Israel comes alive again they will possess their land (v. 28a), their relationship with God will be restored (v. 28b), they will admit their ancient sins (vv. 31-32) and the land will be productive (vv. 29-30).
New Testament: James 1:1-18
James 1:1-18 How To Be A Wise Guy
Despite whatever a famous news commentator on TV says, James was Jesus’ actual half-brother. His father was Joseph and his mother was Mary (cf. Matt. 13:55, Mark 6:3). Jesus’ Father was God. That makes them half-brothers. He likely was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9).
James may seem a little harsh but he certainly is straight-forward. He is very practical. This book is famous for the controversy over the place of works in the Christian life. We will cover that in chapter 2. There are many similarities in the book of James with the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).
As did Paul, James refers to himself as a slave to Christ (v. 1a). He was writing to the Jews who had been dispersed around the world (v. 1b).
Like the author to the Hebrews, James was trying to encourage the Jewish Christians to continue on in their Christian lives and not fall back into the old system of Judaism. The first thing he does is tell his readers that when trouble comes their way, they should be joyful because it will eventually result in endurance (vv. 2-3, cf. Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5:10-12). If they endure they will find themselves mature (nuanced meaning of “perfect”) and able to handle anything that God allows to come their way (cf. Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5:48).
James had the nickname “Camel Knees” because he prayed so much and so often that his knees were rough and wrinkled. In verse 5 he gives some of the most practical advice found in the entire Bible. He says that if we don’t know what do, we can ask God for wisdom which is practical knowledge. God will not balk in giving an answer. He will not leave us in the lurch. He will answer us (v. 5, cf. Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 7:7-12). The only provision is that we ask in faith with no doubting (v. 6). God won’t respect a person who wavers and like sea foam dancing on waves (v. 6). That kind of person won’t get an answer from God (v. 7) since he is unstable and can’t keep focused in anything he does (v. 8).
Poor people are much more important to God than they might think (v. 9). The rich person is like a pretty flower that dries up in the sun (vv. 10 -11) and blows away (cf. Isa. 40:6-7). He is not nearly as important as he might imagine he is (v. 10a) and should be humble in his relationship with the Lord.
The Jewish Christians that have been dispersed should persevere in the troubles they are experiencing (v. 12). If they do, they will receive the reward of a “crown of life” (v. 12c). McGee believes that the “crown of life” in Heaven is a bit of higher state of life than others might have achieved. I think he’s probably right (cf. the bema seat judgment, Rom. 14:10, 1 Cor. 3:10-15, 2 Cor. 5:10).
Next James gives us a crash course in how to handle temptation. He says that temptation does not come from God (v. 13) but that we are tempted when our lusts meet with something in the world that we want (v. 14). Then it blossoms into sin (v. 15a) before it turns into death (v. 15b). Remember the theme of the Bible? Rebellion against God leads to death. Relationship with God leads to life.
James doesn’t want anyone to be hoodwinked (v. 16). Everything that is good proceeds from God (v. 17). Our spiritual life comes under that category. He made us His children so that we would be the highest of His creatures (the “first fruits”). He did that through His Word, the Bible (v. 18).
Psalm 116:1-19 Immersed In The Lord A Psalm Of Thanksgiving By Anonymous
Proverbs 27:23-27 Flocking In
I remember riding around with a pastor-friend of mine years ago. He was telling me that he was amazed at another pastor he knew that prayed systematically for all the people in his congregation. I was wondering why he was amazed by that. Now I understand. I don’t know any pastors who really pray for those in their charge (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-3).
You might think verse 23 was just about ministers. But think about it. Are you responsible for other people in your life? Do you have family members you are supposed to take care of? Friends? Enemies that need prayer? All of those people are your “flock.”
Another reason to look out for others (cf. Phil. 2:3-4) is because sometime you might need others to help you. My former MD once told me that he went to a large church and tried to turn the key in his car after the service. It didn’t start. So he got out and looked for someone going out to their car who he thought might give him a jump. He couldn’t find anyone he knew. That is a reason to get to know people in the church you go to or you could just attend a church with a smaller congregation.
Riches don’t always serve you (v. 24). If you cultivate your network of people, you will have plenty of friends. Some of them will be willing to help you when you in are need. I have a neighbor across the street who actually mowed our lawn a couple times when my wife had a broken foot, I had a stroke, and my daughter was working two jobs and was going to college. We didn’t ask him to do it. He just showed up a couple times during that time and actually cut our grass. Can you believe it? I couldn’t.
Also, if you continue to work, if you aren’t independently wealthy, you will have enough to cover your bills (vv. 25-27). Usually.
I remember when my first son was on his way. I was concerned how I would be able to provide for my family. A lady at the seminary where I lived told me that somehow God will provide (vv. 24-27; cf. Matt. 6:25-34). She was speaking from experience. She was well into her 70’s and told me she had had several kids. Things might have been tight but God had provided through all her life.
We always need to trust the Lord but we also are responsible to work (cf. Prov. 28:26; 2 Thess. 3:10).
If you do, He will provide for you, too (cf. Phil. 4:19).
Are you thinking ahead (see Secondhand Smoke)?
Most of all, trust the Lord (cf. Prov. 3:5-6)!
Choose Life: Scripture: James 1:2 NASB “Joy’n The Club”
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials . . .” James 1:2
Has anyone told you how bad things were going in their lives? Did you ever respond with, “Hey, join the club”?
Is James crazy? He says that when things go awry in our lives, we should consider it something to be happy about. Is he nuts? What does he mean?
I think the concept James is promoting is centered in verse 1 where he refers to himself as a “bond-slave” (NASB). The concept of “bond-slave” goes back to the Old Testament. Someone could sell himself into slavery due to debt or poverty. In essence, a person became an indentured servant. After six years a slave had to be set free (cf. Exod. 21:2). However, if a slave loved the family that he served so much that he wanted to stay with them for life, that person could have an awl driven through their ear to signify that they had become a slave for life (Exod. 21:6; Deut. 15:17). It signified that they were giving “awl” of themselves to their Master.
If you consider yourself a bond-slave, then you will want to do whatever God wants you to do. God allows us to undergo trials because He knows it’s good for us. It leads to endurance and maturity (James 1:3-4). Ultimately, it leads to joy. When we look back at what we’ve been through and when we realize that God has been with us through it, we can rejoice in our maturity. That is pure joy!
Have you ever seen a young bird struggling to hatch themselves out of an egg? Have you ever tried to help them out of the shell? I hope not. Do you know what happens to a baby bird if you try to help it out into the world? It dies. God has engineered the whole process so that the struggle strengthens the bird so it can fly, find food and live.
God also allows us to endure trials in life so that we will become stronger and mature. A bond-slave will persevere.
If you persevere, you will find joy in life.
So hang tough, persevere and endure.
Joy’n the club!
When you do, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Are you struggling in some area of your spiritual life today? Did you realize that when you signed up to be a disciple that you are really a soldier under God’s command (cf. 2 Tim. 2:3-4)? Soldiers follow commands. They don’t always get to choose where or how they will serve. Sometimes they suffer (cf. 2 Tim. 2:3, “Suffer hardship with [me], as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, see also Phil. 1:29).
How much do you love the Lord? Are you willing to suffer for Him today? Paul said that if we suffer with Him we will also sometime be glorified with Him (cf. Rom. 8:17). That’s pretty cool, wouldn’t you say?
So remember Paul’s motto, ” . . . be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
The purpose of Choose Life is to pick a positive help out of the One Year Bible (OYB) reading plan for the day. There is always something positive in the Word of God to cheer us and give us strength. For more on today’s reading, check out my One Year Bible blog: How To Be A Wise Guy