Old Testament: Ezekiel 33:1-34:31
Ezekiel 33:1-34:31 Watch Out
Chapter 33 This is the last section of the book of Ezekiel (Eze. 33-48). The prophet was re-commissioned in this chapter as a watchman. Ezekiel was appointed a watchman over Israel (Ezek. 3:17). McGee imagines that the watchman was the person who was stationed on the wall of Jerusalem and called out every hour that “all was well.” The false prophets were telling everyone that “all was well” though everything was very bad. God was trying to get their attention. He told Ezekiel that if he warned the people that his life would be spared (v. 9b). If they listened, their lives would be spared. If not, their lives would be demanded (v. 9a). I always wondered how I could preach and no one seems to hear me. Here’s the answer! Verse 32, “Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them.”
Chapter 34 We live in an age of these guys. My wife says she doesn’t like preachers. I have to get her to exclude me. Verse 2 says, ““Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves!” Those were the words of Yahweh. A few years back I had a fellow pastor accuse me of being a “hireling” (cf. Jn 10: 12). Not long after that I had to file for bankruptcy in order to keep our house. I’m sure one of his cronies saw me at his superchurch’s food banks so our family would have food till my wife’s paycheck. I know that both were preaching a false gospel. I actually don’t know of any pastor that is preaching the Biblical gospel in our area. I wish I did but I don’t. All are watering down Scripture trying to grow their “flocks.” They think the only way to do that is be careful that they aren’t offensive. They are probably right. At the end of John 6, Jesus had been drawing large crowds after He started His own food bank of bread and fishes. So He told all His disciples to go out and get more people and tell them about the free food. OK, no, He didn’t. He gave them a hard saying on eating His body and drinking His blood that successfully dispersed most of the crowd (cf. Jn. 6:66). Most of the pastors out there today would feature women mud-wrestling if they thought it would up their attendance. Here is what Yahweh said back in the day, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep” (v. 10).
The chapter ends (vv. 11-31) with a statement of God’s care for Israel despite the failure of the shepherds. He will send One Shepherd that will feed them and care for them, a prophecy of the coming of Christ (v. 23). John 10 rings of this chapter in Ezekiel.
New Testament: Hebrews 13:1-25
Hebrews 13:1-25 Final Exhortations
The writer to the Hebrews tells the flock to continue to show love to each other but also to outsiders (v. 1a, cf. Gal. 6:7). Some who have done that might even had angels visiting them (v. 1b, cf. Gen. 18:1-8, e.g.)! Some had been imprisoned for their beliefs and shouldn’t be forgotten (v. 3).
Many modern-day movies seem to have taken their theme from verse 4, fornication and adultery. Now that’s entertainment!
We are to be free from making money an idol (cf. Matt. 6:24-33). We should be content with what we have, not buying everything in sight just because it’s on sale (v. 5a). Of course, there is nothing wrong with waiting on God for things we need and taking advantage of sales, discounts and coupons. God says He will never leave us in the lurch or abandon us (v. 5b, quoting Deut. 31:6). In verse 6, the writer quotes Psalm 118:6,7. The lesson here may take time to learn. We do not need to be afraid of any one or any thing. Mere men can not hurt us. We don’t need any thing that God doesn’t want for us.
The Hebrews were to remember their leaders some of whom may have died for their faith (v. 7). Jesus does not change (cf. Mal. 3:6) though their leaders may no longer be with them. He always lives to protect and provide for them.
The author warns the congregation not to be carried away by weird doctrine concerning foods (v. 9). It doesn’t bring any aid or comfort (cf. 1 Cor. 8:8). In this dispensation, we are privileged to eat at a spiritual altar, Christ (v. 10). In the Old Testament, Jews would offer the blood of animals in the Temple but the carcasses of those animals were burnt outside the city (v. 12). Jesus was also sacrificed outside the city (v. 13) but His blood was shed for everyone. The Hebrews should be willing to leave the comfortable confines of Old Testament worship to lay hold of Christ (v. 13). No one gives up anything of worth on earth in grasping anything Heavenly (v. 14).
We should praise the Lord as our sacrifice now of praise to God (v. 15). We should also sacrifice our earthly good to share with others. God is pleased with that kind of sacrifice (v. 16, cf. v. 1).
The Hebrews should have respected their pastors and not given them an unnecessarily hard time (v. 17). The pastors themselves will have to give an account of their actions to God (v. 17a). The people should try to relieve the burden of their pastors, not add to it. If they do, they will lose rewards at the bema judgment (v. 17b, cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15).
The Hebrews should pray for the writer of the letter. He has a clear conscience (cf. Acts 24:16) but desires to continue to be honorable in all he does (v. 18). He also asks for prayer to be able to visit them again soon (v. 19).
The writer closes with a benediction asking that Jesus, the Shepherd, through the New Covenant provide everything they need to do His will (vv. 20-21). He asks that glory be given to Christ (v. 21b).
He says that he hopes they will take his words to heart and that he hopes to visit them soon with his friend, Timothy, who had recently been released from jail (vv. 22-23).
The author and all in Italy say “hi” to all the leaders and congregants with the Hebrews (v. 24).
Characteristically of a letter of Paul’s, he closes with a reminder of God’s “unmerited favor, ” grace (v. 25).
Psalm 115:1-18 Just Sayin’ Nuthin’ A Liturgical Hymn By Anonymous
Proverbs 27:21-22 Getting A Shiner
I hate to bring you this bad news. Maybe you already know. Someone told me a short while after I really committed myself to Christ. I was sailing on Cloud 9. He told me things would change. I could hear my balloon burst. It was shocking. I didn’t believe it. But it turned out to be astonishingly true.
I noticed that every time I committed myself to get closer to the Lord, things would get worse. After I decided to go into the ministry, the roof fell on me. I lost my job. My wife lost her job. We had to sell both our cars. Any thought of “prosperity” perished. But the price was worth it. We had traded material things for spiritual things.
A.W. Tozer said that he doubted that God would use a person greatly unless He hurts him deeply.* Hebrews says that God will only discipline those whom He loves (cf. Heb. 12:6). I remember a seminary professor who once said saying to Luther, “if God treats His friends this way, how would He treat those who hate Him?”**
I thought my professor was a bit pessimistic but that was a few decades ago. Now I see the wisdom in what he told us. Both his young girls had serious illnesses at the time but they’ve recovered since then.
God allows us to endure suffering to understand Him and His Word better. That’s how He scares the stupidity out of us (v. 22). Then we shall shine like silver and gold. Others will know that we belong to Him (v. 21). And then we will shine at the Bema seat judgment (cf. Rom. 14:10, 1 Cor. 3:10-15, 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Cor. 3:18).
* The exact quote was precisely, ““It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
** I can’t find this quote attributed this to Luther. Another similar quote is also not found in the writings of the author, Teresa of Ávila, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.”
Choose Life: Scripture: Hebrews 13:5 NASB “On Welfare”
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU . . .'” Hebrews 13:5
Most of us were born in the good ole US of A. Our Declaration of Independence says that we broke away from England so we could have “the pursuit of happiness.” Anything is possible for us in this country if we work hard and are willing to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
I’m not sure the writer of Hebrews would have understood all this. I think the concepts would have been foreign to all the apostles. Their goal was to spread the good news that Jesus had died for mankind so that we could have our sin blotted out and have an eternal relationship with God. They didn’t care who was ruling any of the countries. They totally relied on God for everything they needed. And they didn’t desire more than what was needed. I’m sure that their motto would have been similar to Andrew Murray’s,”God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.”
This is not to say that God has not led some to make money. But whatever talent God has given us should be used for the kingdom.
We should make it our goal to totally depend on God. We should never be afraid that we won’t have enough. God will never leave us or abandon us (Deut. 31:6).
In our lives, we should be continually learning to depend on God.
If we do, we will find that we are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Take an inventory of your life (how many times have I recommend that?) to check whether you are depending more on God or depending on your bank account for your security in life. If you are depending more on your bank account, you have a problem. That is not to say you shouldn’t make money or even save it, but if you’re security is in your finances, you are not really living the Christian life. That is where people in history who have been persecuted or poor might have an advantage over us today. Trusting their bank accounts wasn’t an option. It wasn’t an option for the apostles. They had nothing but God when they went out far from their homeland to preach the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead for their salvation.
What resources do you have you can use to further the gospel? Are you willing to give them up for God to further His work?
Do you truly believe that God will “not desert you or forsake you?”
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: Watch Out