Monday, August 26, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ezekiel 13-19

Readings for this week

Monday: Ezekiel 13
Tuesday: Ezekiel 14
Wednesday: Ezekiel 15
Thursday: Ezekiel 16
Friday: Ezekiel 17
Saturday: Ezekiel 18
Sunday: Ezekiel 19

Introduction to Ezekiel 13-19

Chapters 13-14 

In chapters 13-14, Ezekiel gives the people the sign of the whitewashed wall. Ezekiel compares false prophets to people who cover up a flimsy wall with whitewash and say everything’s going to be okay. He says, “Woe to the false prophets who make things up from their own imaginations! The people will confront them when the walls collapse!”

Ezekiel says that God refuses to answer Judah’s elders because they’ve “set up idols in their hearts,” and he tells the people that God said that He would send four judgments upon the land: sword, famine, wild beasts, plague. And he adds that “even if Noah, Daniel, and Job” were living in the land, “they could only save themselves,” and not the rest of the people from God’s coming judgment.

Chapter 15 

In chapter 15, Ezekiel tells the parable of the useless vine. Jerusalem is portrayed as a useless vine. He says that wood is used to make furniture… but what are vines used for other than kindling? He says that Jerusalem has been burned before and she will be burned again just like the useless vine that she is.

Chapter 16 

In chapter 16, Ezekiel tells the parable of the adulterous wife. God says through him:

Jerusalem, you were born in the land of the Canaanites. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. Nobody took care of you when you were born, but you were thrown out into a field and left to die. I passed by and saw you kicking in your blood and I gave life to you and made you grow.

You grew up and became a woman, but you were stark naked. When I saw that you were old enough for love I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness and we entered into a marriage covenant together. I bathed you and clothed you and covered you with jewelry. You were very beautiful and became a famous queen.

But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You made idols and had sex with them. You used the gifts I gave you as offerings to your idols. You slaughtered the children we had together and offered them to your idols. You forgot that I rescued you as a child wallowing in your own blood. You “degraded your beauty” and “spread your legs to anyone who passed by.” You enjoyed the “large genitals” of the Egyptians and “even the Philistines were shocked by your lewd conduct!” You weren’t even satisfied when you made love to the Assyrians and Babylonians. You were unlike any other prostitute because you refused to accept payment and instead paid others to sleep with you.

You have made me furious! Because you have betrayed me and killed my children, I am going to gather all your lovers together to watch as I strip you naked. Your lovers will then knock down all your idols and destroy everything you have built. Your lovers will steal all your jewelry and then stone you and hack you to pieces. Then will my rage subside.

You were just like your father and mother, the Amorites and Hittites, who despised you and threw you out to die. You were just like your older sister Samaria and your younger sister Sodom – but worse!

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen. Samaria did not commit half the sins you did.”

However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and Samaria and their daughters, and I will restore you and your daughters as well. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. And when I provide for you your salvation, you will cover your mouth in silence. 

Chapter 17 

In chapter 17, Ezekiel tells the parable of two eagles and a vine.

There once was a great and powerful eagle that came to Lebanon. He broke the topmost shoot off of a great cedar and carried it to a land of merchants where he planted it. A tree grew up and spread its branches towards the eagle of the sky. Another great and powerful eagle came along. The tree spread itself out towards that other eagle. Will the tree live? No! It will be scorched by the east wind.

What does this parable mean?

First eagle = Babylon
The cedar = Jerusalem
The top shoot = royal family of Jerusalem
Transplanted shoot = exiled royal family
Second eagle = Egypt
The scorching east wind = Babylon’s revenge

And he says, “All the trees of the forest will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.” 

Chapter 18

The people who had been exiled began to complain that the situation they were in was not their fault. They claimed that they were suffering for the sins of their ancestors. God told Ezekiel to tell the people that they would no longer quote the proverb, “The parents ate sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Ezekiel told them that God does not punish children for the sins of their parents or punish parents for the sins of their children. He also told them that God would forgive someone who started out bad but later repented, and that God would not forgive someone who started out good but later turned to evil. 

Chapter 19 

Chapter 19 is a lament over Judah’s kings. Ezekiel compared Judah to a lioness with two cubs. 

First cub = Josiah’s son Jehoahaz who reigned 3 months before being killed by Pharaoh 

Second cub = Josiah’s grandson Jehoiachin who was exiled by the Babylonians
And now we’re stuck with lousy Zedekiah…

Monday, August 19, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ezekiel 6-12

Readings for this week

Monday: Ezekiel 6
Tuesday: Ezekiel 7
Wednesday: Ezekiel 8
Thursday: Ezekiel 9
Friday: Ezekiel 10
Saturday: Ezekiel 11
Sunday: Ezekiel 12

Introduction to Ezekiel 6-12

Chapters 6-7 

Chapters 6-7 within Ezekiel’s oracles of judgement against Judah describe a coming “end to all abominations.” God says through Ezekiel:

“I will slay your people in front of your idols.”
“The end has come!”
“The end has come!
The end has come!
It has roused itself against you.
See, it comes!
Doom has come upon you,
upon you who dwell in the land.
The time has come! The day is near!
There is panic, not joy, on the mountains.
I am about to pour out my wrath on you
and spend my anger against you.
I will judge you according to your conduct
and repay you for all your detestable practices.” 

Chapters 8-11 

Chapters 8-11 describe the departure of God’s Glory from Jerusalem. First, Ezekiel tells us about the idolatry taking place in the Temple. And Ezekiel describes his vision, saying that a fiery man appeared to him, grabbed him by the hair, and transported him to Jerusalem. And they arrived at the Temple, and saw at the north entrance the place where the “Idol of jealousy” stood. He also saw women mourning over the god Tammuz. They then enter the inner court and see seventy elders offering incense to “crawling things,” unclean animals, and idols. And he sees twenty-five men worshiping the sun with their backs to God’s house. And God says to him, “Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.” And Judgment is declared on the idolaters.

And Ezekiel sees God’s seven angelic servants appear. Six of them had weapons in hand, and the seventh carried a pen in his hand. Ezekiel then sees “The Glory of the LORD” entering the threshold of the Temple, and he sees the seventh of God’s servants marking the foreheads of the faithful. The other six servants then destroy all who are without the mark. And Ezekiel then sees God’s Glory departing from the Temple. And God orders cherubim to scatter burning coals all over the city. And smoke fills the outer court as God moves out. Ezekiel sees “The Glory of The LORD” ascending from the Temple with the cherubim and the wheels beneath it as though they were transporting the throne of God. And Ezekiel realizes that God’s judgement us sure to come on Jerusalem

The Spirit then transports Ezekiel to a gathering of corrupt officials. And Ezekiel prophecies to them, and when he does one man drops dead. Ezekiel cries out, and asks God if he plans to kill every last person in Israel. But God offers him the promise of Israel’s return:

“Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.”

“I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.”

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.”

The Spirit then transports Ezekiel back to the exiles in Babylon. 

Chapter 12 

In chapter 12, Ezekiel gives the people the sign of the “hole in the wall.” God makes Ezekiel a sign of the exile. The people watch him pack his bags during the day, and in the evening, he digs a hole in the wall of his house and walks through with his bags. The people were like… “huh?” And Ezekiel predicts that the king of Jerusalem will try to sneak away from the siege through a hole in the wall only to be captured by the Babylonians outside.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ezekiel 1-5

Introduction to Ezekiel 1-5

Context of Ezekiel 

Ezekiel’s name means “God strengthens.” Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon along with 10,000 other high-ranking people in the second of three deportations that took place by the Babylonians against Judah. He lived in the land of Babylon near the Kebar River. He probably served in the Jerusalem Temple before being deported and may have been in line to be a priest. His vision of God’s portable throne in the land of Babylon is significant because it showed that God was not limited to His Temple in Jerusalem – God would continue to be with His people in captivity and would never leave them. 

Chapters 1-3 

The first three chapters describe Ezekiel’s call and commission. Ezekiel’s first vision came to him at age 30. He was by the Kebar River in Babylon at the time. And he saw four dazzling beings, resembling a lion, an eagle, a man, and an ox. They moved as the Spirit of God directed them. He also saw four dazzling wheels far up in the air that moved about like the beings. He heard a voice and saw a radiant being on a throne. And Ezekiel fell on his face in God’s presence. And God commissioned him to be a prophet. He was told he was being sent to “a stubborn and rebellious house.” At this point in the vision, Ezekiel eats a scroll which contains list of all the people’s sins, with writing on both sides. The scroll tastes “sweet as honey” to Ezekiel.

Ezekiel then visited and “walked among” the exiles at Tel Abib, and God warns him he will face many troubles. “Tel Abib” means “heap of ruins.” 

Chapters 4-5 

Chapters 4-24 are made up of Ezekiel’s oracles of judgment against Judah. He accompanies the oracles of chapters 4-5 with symbolic actions.

First, Ezekiel lays on his side and stares at a brick for 430 days, and he draws a picture of the city of Jerusalem on the brick, and he builds little model ramparts and battering rams around it to symbolize the lengthy siege of Jerusalem. God tells him to cook his food over human excrement during this time, but Ezekiel requests cow dung instead and God consents. After Ezekiel’s 430 day object lesson with a brick, God told him to shave off his hair and to divide it into thirds. He burns one-third of the hair inside the model city. He stabs at one-third of the hair outside of the model city. And he throws one-third to the wind. God told him to save a tiny bit of hair that was left over. The different hairs represent the different people yet to be affected by the total destruction of Jerusalem.

Monday, August 12, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Job 41-42

Readings for this week

Monday: Job 41
Tuesday: Job 42
Wednesday: Ezekiel 1
Ezekiel 2
Ezekiel 3
Ezekiel 4
Ezekiel 5

Introduction to Job 41-42

Chapter 41

The LORD said to Job, "Can you catch Leviathan (mythical chaos monster of the sea) with a hook? Everything under heaven is mine. His breath sets coals ablaze. He is king over all the proud." 

Chaos monsters represent the chaos of an incomplete universe. They are not necessarily evil, but they do need to be tamed… and God is their tamer. He shapes their wildness and randomness into harmony with his purposes for Creation.

Chapter 42 

Job’s New Perspective 

The Lord said to Job: 

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.” 

Our Perspective? 

“We want answers… We want explanations. We want to know why we suffer like we do…

And there are times when the only honest, healthy, human thing to possibly do is to shout your questions and shake your fist and rage against the heavens and demand an explanation…

But true wisdom, the kind we find here with Job, the kind that endures, the kind that sustains a person through suffering, that kind of wisdom knows when to speak and when to be silent…

Because your story is not over. The last word has not been spoken. And there may be way more going on here than any of us realize…

So may you be released from always having to know why everything happens the way that it does. May this freedom open you up to all sorts of new perspectives…

And may you have the wisdom to know when to say, ‘I spoke once, but now I will say no more.’” 

The Epilogue 

After the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed and the people were exiled to Babylon, an epilogue was added to the end of this book. We learn that The LORD said to Eliphaz, "You have not spoken rightly of me, as Job has." And God restored Job's fortunes and gave him a new life. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Job 34-40

Readings for this week

Monday: Job 34
Tuesday: Job 35
Wednesday: Job 36
Thursday: Job 37
Friday: Job 38
Saturday: Job 39
Sunday: Job 40

Introduction to Job 34-40

Chapters 34-37 

Job’s friends all have their own opinions about why Job is suffering the way he is. They continue to take turns trying to come up with explanations. 

Elihu’s Perspective (The Voice of the Wisdom Tradition) 

Elihu was angry with Job and his three friends. He said, "It is unthinkable that God would do wrong. Can one who hates justice govern? God shows no partiality. Job speaks like the wicked! Even if you are righteous, what do you give to God? He does not answer because of the pride of evil men. You must wait for him! I have more to say on God's behalf. He is mighty but does not despise any. Who is a teacher like him? Remember to extol his work! God thunders with his voice. By the breath of God, ice is made. Do you know his wondrous works? He is great in power and justice!" 

Chapters 38-39 

God’s Perspective 

In the end, when everybody has had their chance to speak, God speaks. God speaks out of a whirlwind. When God speaks, we find out that God has questions for Job. 

Chapter 40

Job said, "I have no answer."

The LORD said, "Will you condemn me? Behold now, Behemoth (mythical chaos monster of the land), which I made. Can anyone pierce his nose?"

Chaos monsters represent the chaos of an incomplete universe. They are not necessarily evil, but they do need to be tamed… and God is their tamer. He shapes their wildness and randomness into harmony with his purposes for Creation.