EZEKIEL – LESSONS OF HOPE & TRUST

Ezekiel 6
Image Source: DrMichelleBengtson.com

 

Once upon a time, Germany was divided into two countries, East Germany and West Germany, separated by a concrete wall – the Berlin Wall. The wall was built in 1961 and marked for destruction in 1989 when the two Germany decided to unite. A small section of the wall still exist today for the historical lessons it teaches us.

The wall section still standing is not a history textbook; people visit it for many reasons, but it teaches us lessons, from the past, to help us today and plan for the future. Same with the Bible, it is not a history textbook; it is read for many reasons, but it teaches us lessons from the past, to help us today and tomorrow.

Two important lessons from Ezekiel are hope and trust. Ezekiel tells Israel and the surrounding countries like Egypt, Edom (Jordan), and Tyre (Lebanon), that God will discipline them for their arrogance, corruption, and injustice; BUT there is HOPE of restoration like we read in Ezekiel 29:12-13 (NIV)(shortened):

“I will make the land of Egypt desolate among devastated lands, and her cities will lie desolate forty years among ruined cities… At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered.”

There are many passages about discipline in Ezekiel, and there are also many passages of restoration and hope. Today, as we read Ezekiel and study history, we see that God promised Israel they will return back to their land, and it happened. We see that we can TRUST the message of Ezekiel and the Bible.

There are many promises God makes to us in the Old and New Testament sections of the Bible. These promises gives us hope for today and tomorrow. We can trust God to keep these promises. However, we need to know what these promises are, by calmly studying the Bible – there is no rush, its one small step at a time.

Lord, help us to hope and put our trust in you, Amen!  

 

EZEKIEL – GLOBAL RESTORATION AND HEALING

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Statue of Ezekiel at the Notre Dame Cathedral, France (Image source: thetorah.com

 

I am a “Trekkie” or some would say “Trekker” – that is a fan of the science fiction space adventure drama “Star Trek”. There was Captain Kirk the flirt, not my cup of tea; then there was brainy Captain Picard, totally my cup of tea. Growing up, I had watched a few episodes here and there of Star Trek and loved every minute.

As an adult, I wondered what was the logic and agenda behind Star Trek. To answer my curiosity, I had to watch every episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, the series led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Yes, I watched all 176 episodes – it took a number of years, I persevered, and I am now an expert in space travel, hahaha!

What has this got to do with the book of Ezekiel? Easy – to fully understand the logic and agenda in Ezekiel, you got to watch, sorry, you got to read the entire book. Best do this with different translations; it could take days, weeks, months, years. Why bother? Easy – Ezekiel is important at an individual and global level.

In Chapters 1 to 24, Ezekiel speaks of Israel’s wrong doing and God’s discipline. God would not be godly, if wrong doing is not judged. Chapters 24 to 33 is on the wrong doing and discipline of the other nations around Israel. Then Chapters 33 to 48 is about global restoration and healing, as stated in this exciting passage:

Ezekiel 47:1-12 (NIV) (shortened) – The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out… [it] flows toward the eastern region… where it enters the Dead Sea… There will be large numbers of fish, because… where the river flows everything will live… Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit… Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

This is too good to be true – only a powerful being can do this. O God in the heavens, we hope and pray this to be true, not science fiction, Amen! 

 

EZEKIEL – GOD IS MOBILE

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Statue of Ezekiel, Rome, Italy (Image source: LoriLewarski)

 

I confess that I have never read ‘Alice in Wonderland’, the hugely popular book for children written 150 years ago. I find it too phantasmagorical, meaning I find it too weird, magical and strange. I feel lost when I begin to read it; I often wish I had a guide, to explain to me, what all the symbols in the book means.

The book of Ezekiel has a phantasmagorical vision at the very beginning, which discourages many from reading it; Ezekiel 1:1-18 (NIV) (shortened) says:

In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God…

I looked, and I saw… four living creatures… their form was human, but each of them had four faces… the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle….

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces… Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel… Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

If you feel lost, stay calm, here is a short explanation; Judah had recently been captured by Babylon, their Temple where they worshiped God was destroyed. They felt abandoned – then all of a sudden Ezekiel sees this new vision of God.

In the vision, God is on a throne with wheels, God is not confined to the Temple, God is mobile, and is guarded by the toughest looking angels, tougher than Babylon soldiers, angels who see everything happening in any direction at once.

This was an exciting and powerful vision; they are in captivity, but God is there; the Temple is destroyed, but God is mobile. This is Emmanuel – God is with us, a definite help in times of trouble, Amen!   

WHY DID JESUS CRY?

 

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Jesus Wept – God feels our pain (hebrews4.org)

What makes a man cry? We are taught from a very early age to be tough and strong, and to keep it in. I went to a high school where caning of students for wrongdoing was part of the mix of disciplinary action. It was common for boys to hold back the tears as part of displaying courage and bravery. So what would make a man cry?

What would make Jesus cry? Why would the messiah of the world cry? Why would a man with firm and sound mind like Jesus cry like we are told he did in John 11: 32-35 (New Living Translation):

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.  “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept.

What would make Jesus weep? There could be plenty of explanations; the more obvious would be love, compassion, and empathy from seeing the family and friends of the dead man weeping and wailing; powerful evidence from the gospel that God does feel our pain. The God of the Bible is not emotionally distant from us.

When I am hurt, when you are in pain, and we weep and wail, and call upon God, an emotional connection is established, God feels our pain. It does not end there – when we take our pain to God, there is divine movement to work out relief for us.

So lets not be like the young men at my high school, who bottle it up, when the cane hits the backside. Let it all out before God, weep and wail when you need to – our God hears, our God feels, our God empathizes, our God will bring comfort!

Thank you Lord for crying with me, thank you Lord for relief, Amen!

JESUS – Hero or Fraud?

Experience Jesus
(Image source: KeithMcGivern)

‘How do you solve a problem like Maria’ is one of the unforgettable songs in that great movie Sound of Music. Maria was in a convent being trained to be a nun, however her powerful adventurous personality was beyond anything the elderly nuns had ever seen. The more they tried to control Maria, the more they failed.

In a similar way, many in the world today have a Jesus problem. Many powerful people have asked ‘how do you solve a problem like belief in Jesus?’ How could he walk on water, give sight to a man born blind, heal desperately sick people, feed thousands with five loaves, and self-resurrect? These acts are impossible!

Not unless you are Jesus, and your followers testify boldly that – “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him” (John 1:1-3 New Living Translation).

Why did men and women willingly risk their lives proclaiming Jesus to be God? These early followers of Jesus came from single, married, divorced, poor, rich, educated, uneducated, politically influential and non-influential social class. Many of them lost their lives, wealth, and political power, but not their belief in Jesus.

As we celebrate Easter 2019, make a decision to learn more about Jesus, in the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Yes, the stories are incredible and impossible – unless of course if you are Jesus, and you indeed created everything!

Lord God, help every seeker, to experience Jesus for themselves, Amen!  

THE TOUGHEST BIBLE PASSAGE…

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Genesis, the foundation to the Bible (Image source: NewHopeChurch)

 

I was 8 years old the first time I picked up a Bible to read for myself. I found the narrative stories in Genesis and other Old Testament books deeply interesting. The lives of the characters; the drama they acted out; the love and the wrath of God; all of these were parts of a great Hollywood movie to my childish eyes.

In my teenage years, I questioned the value of the Bible. Why would a good God allow for pain and suffering? Why should there be a “Devil” with demons to command? The Bible was no longer interesting in a movie kind of way, it was now a puzzle that challenged, and a book that was sometimes uncomfortable to read.

As I have matured over the years, I have found great wisdom in the Bible, yet there are passages that are still tough to deal with, the most difficult for me being Genesis 1:1 (KJV) – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Why is Genesis 1:1 the toughest Bible passage for me? It is partly the finality, the matter of fact nature of the statement. It just says “God created” without any effort to explain the origin of God, the home of God, and the source of power with which “God created”. It is either I accept the passage as fact or I reject it.

The evidence in support of Genesis 1:1 is Jesus. All the Bible Prophets, including Moses who wrote Genesis, predicted that Jesus will come, and all the Bible Apostles testify that he came as predicted. If I accept that Moses correctly predicts the coming of Jesus, I have to accept that Moses is correct in writing that God created the world.

Dear God, give us light to understand the Bible better each day, Amen!

LIFE GUIDE NO. 3 – CHOOSE JOY!

Joy
Today, I Choose Joy – Joy Cafe Kuwait (Image source: foursquare.com

 

I never understood for a long time, why song and dance were important to life. In 2 Samuel Chapter 6, King David danced with so much energy, his wife thought he had gone mad. I woke up one morning and realized that the problem was I did not understand joy and happiness. I thought joy and happiness meant I have no troubles.

My thinking was set right by Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 8:15 (GOD’S WORD® Translation) – “So I recommend the enjoyment [of life]. People have nothing better to do under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy themselves. This joy will stay with them while they work hard during their brief lives which God has given them…”

Joy does not mean we have no troubles; it is an intentional celebration of the pleasure we get from the good things around us. When I eat spicy well roasted meat at home, I do so with pleasure, happiness, and joy. Like Solomon says above, I carry this joy with me when I return to the office ready to face the challenges that come my way.

Joy gives us strength to keep going despite the storms. Moments of joy are all around us – a touch, a hug, a kiss, from a loved one; the taste from a bite of our favorite fruit; sweet smell from the kitchen when mum, wife, friend, chef has worked their magic.  We express joy with a smile, with noisy laughter, with song-music-dance.

Look out for the many moments of joy around you, celebrate them with a smile, noisy laughter, song and dance, the happier-healthier you become; the stronger your spirit to keep marching on. Stop waiting for a trouble free life, see the many joyful moments around you, celebrate them with singing and dancing.

Lord, give us smiles, noisy laughter, merry songs, and energy to dance like David, as we see and celebrate moments of joy in our lives, Amen!