Saturday, November 18, 2017

November 18

Ezekiel 37:1-38:23; James 1:19-2:17; Psalm 117:1-2; Proverbs 28:1

Ezekiel 37:1-10 is so interesting.  On a sheer literal level, what an event!  A valley full - full! - of bones, dry as only old bones left to themselves can be.  Abandoned, unloved, unburied.  A terrifying moment of noise as the bones rattle together, a fear-inducing rejoining of skeletons, then the covering with tendons and muscles and skin.  A great host of lifeless bodies, standing inert until life enters them with breath, and they live.

I mean, wow.  Really.  WOW.  This is more suited to a Halloween Haunted House or a Dia de los Muertos celebration!

A few comments on the literal level:
* For a good Jew, like Ezekiel, this scene would have been revolting.  Unburied bodies contaminated those nearby, causing ceremonial uncleanness (see Num. 19:11, for example).  A valley full of them would distress an observant Jew.
* Notice the emphasis on very dry bones.  These are ancient bones, picked clean by scavengers and left to bleach in the sun.
* The amount of bones is significant: it's not one or two skeletons, nor can we be sure the bones are even in skeleton-like heaps.  It's a scene of destruction and death and loss.  These are "the slain" (Ez. 37:9).

But then look at this on the spiritual level.

God asks Ezekiel if these bones can live.  Then, through his prophet, God acts to restore, to renew.  He makes a promise and then fulfills it.  God takes the dead and broken and brings new life and wholeness.  Despair and destruction make way for hope and a future.  Nothing is beyond our God.

A few comments on the spiritual level, and some application for our own lives:
* Ezekiel's faith - "you alone know" (Ez. 37:3).  I can hear my answer to that question, a resounding "no."  I've taken high school biology.  I know the stats on physical life after death.  But Ezekiel acknowledges that another option is possible with God.  I want to live my life in a manner that indicates the same trust and even hope.  "You alone know," Lord, whether my marriage is salvageable.  "You alone know," Lord, whether these medical treatments will heal me.  "You alone know," Lord, whether my loved one will turn toward you in repentance.
* Ezekiel acts as the Lord commands (vs. 7, 10).  His simple declaration of trust leads him to act in faith, and the result of his obedience is dramatic.  What an event he gets to be a part of because he obeys!  Even when confronted with a seemingly impossible situation, Ezekiel prophesies - and the Lord answers.  This, too, is an encouragement to me: God is capable of healing the fractured relationships in my life; God is eager to deliver me from the habitual sin that keeps me from Christ-likeness; God is able.  No matter how desperate the situation, it can be redeemed.  God can redeem.  But my obedience comes first.
* True life is the ultimate goal.  It's not enough to have a body without life, without vitality.  This "vast army" (vs. 10) is only truly animated by the breath of God.  I, too, am only really alive when filled with the activity and presence of the Holy Spirit.  We all know men and women who live a deadened life, joyless and monotonous.  That is "life," but yet is not.  God offers so much more.  "I will settle my Spirit in you and you will live" (vs. 14).  Hallelujah!

"Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him all you peoples.  For great is his love toward us and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever" (Ps. 117:1-2, emphasis mine).  Amen and amen.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, November 17, 2017

November 17

Ezekiel 35:1-36:38; James 1:1-18; Psalm 116:1-19; Proverbs 27:23-27

Isn’t it a great time of year? We’re getting closer to Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday; the weather is turning cooler; for some of you, the trees are changing color (palm trees are pretty much always green at the beach); and we’re getting incrementally closer to our goal of reading the Bible in a year. Way to go, us!

Today we get to start a new book – James. Written by Jesus’ brother, James, around 44-48 AD, this book gives us great practical applications for living a life centered around faith in Christ. James was the leader of the Jerusalem church. [As a side note, don’t you love that even though there are times in the New Testament when Jesus’ words make us wonder about his relationship with his family (Matt. 12:46-48), the fact that his brother leads this large and prominent church affirms that they did love and believe in him in the end?] We see in John 7:5 that James perhaps doubted, but 1 Corinthians 15:7 reveals that Jesus appeared directly to James and this compels his conversion and, most likely, is the impetus for his rise to leadership.

Pressing on. So James writes this letter about ten years after the death of Christ and ten years into the new life of the church. He writes it to all the believers who have been forced out of Jerusalem (he calls them the “Twelve Tribes”), in an effort to encourage them during their trials and to exhort them to wholeheartedly commit themselves to God, who requires absolute allegiance (Jam. 4:4-5). In essence, this is a letter of moral exhortation to struggling and tempted believers (Moo, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, 87-88). And exhort them (and us) he does!

There’s so much even in this first section from today’s reading, but I was particularly struck by verses 14 and 15: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Isn’t that just such a true picture of what happens? We are drawn into sin by our desire – by the things we want, that we perhaps feel we are entitled to. Satan doesn’t tempt us with things that hold no power over us; he goes for where we are vulnerable, for the places we’ve been letting little lies creep in. God isn’t good. There isn’t enough money. Her house is better than mine. The website isn’t really that bad. My wife doesn’t love me the way she should. We are enticed by our desire which gives birth to sin – but instead of bringing forth life the way a normal birth does, it brings forth death. The gossip we indulge in eventually becomes our world, the only way we know how to relate to others. The comparison we give into about other people’s houses or jobs or kids grows to make us dissatisfied with our whole lives. The thoughts we entertain about someone else’s spouse becomes the affair we feel we are justified in. Desire gives birth to sin, which grows into death: the death of our families, the death of our relationships, the death of our marriages, the death of our very souls.

Hooray for the psalm today, the gracious reminder we so need – “I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy” (Ps. 116:1). Have mercy on us, Jesus! We want to do the right thing, but we often fail. Thank you that you hear our call and save us, no matter how many times we fail. Have mercy on us!

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 16

Ezekiel 33:1-34:31; Hebrews 13:1-25; Psalm 115:1-18; Proverbs 27:21-22

If you live in California, and maybe even other parts of the United States, then you’ve probably heard about the devastating wildfires that have been ravaging northern California. So many lives and homes lost. Some of those with houses destroyed or lives lost had no idea that the fires were coming. The winds moved so quickly and forcefully that the flames were upon them without any warning.

However, most people were given a warning that the fires were coming. Alarms were sounded and mandatory evacuations issued.  Yet some people refused to leave their homes. Why? Why wouldn’t they heed the warnings and alarms given to them about a life-threatening situation?  That seems kind of crazy, right? I mean, run for your life, right?! The only conclusion I can come to, as to why they would refuse to go, is that they didn’t really believe they were in that much danger. They may have thought the warnings were overstated and everything was going to be fine. 

I think this must be the same syndrome the Israelites have in the book of Ezekiel. Over and over again Ezekiel is commissioned by the Lord on their behalf. “Son of Man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning for me” (Ez. 33:7).  But Israel doesn’t want to hear the warning of coming destruction. They don’t believe it’s really going to happen. They say, “Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession” (vs. 24). They think they are going to be fine, that things are going to be as they have always been.

God says to Ezekiel, “My people come to you and listen to your word, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain” (Ez. 33:31). Their sin keeps them from seeing, and practicing, the truth. Disaster IS coming, and they should take heed. But they continually disregard the words of the prophets; being wise in their own eyes, they continue on with their sin and arrogance.

It is easy for us to see their mistakes because history shows us that destruction and devastation did indeed come just as was predicted. But I wonder if we had lived in that time, and without the benefit of hindsight, would we have been any different?

How often are we justified and wise in our own eyes? Convinced that we see and know best? We don’t grasp the weightiness of sin saying, “Surely that isn’t what God’s Word says/means. That was for a different time period, things are different now.” Or we live our lives in comfort, oblivious to the signs of the times happening all around us, saying “Surely things aren't going to be all that bad. Let’s not get too radical here.” Do we listen to the words, but refuse to put them into practice? Do our mouths express devotion, but our hearts indicate otherwise?

These words are challenging to me. I would like to believe that everything is going to be fine. But here on this earth, we know we will face hardship and challenges and many difficult things in our lives. Do we heed the warnings when they come? Maybe that verse that convicts your heart, or that word from a dear friend or sister, or the sermon you heard on Sunday seems to speak just to you. Heed the warning, dear friends, and hear the alarms. Flee sin and anything that might keep you from seeing, hearing, and acting on the truths in God’s word. Let’s not get caught in the trap of thinking everything is going to be just fine, and go down in the fires and ashes.

We serve a good, good God. “We say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ (Heb. 13:6). He is so ready and willing to help us and be with us in our times of need. Let us turn to him daily, listening to his voice, and responding in obedience.

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November 15

Ezekiel 31:1-32:32; Hebrews 12:14-29; Psalm 113:1-114:8; Proverbs 27:18-20

Several disparate portions of our reading today caught my eye, a little out of each section.  They don't really have a cohesive theme, so I'll just write four little mini-posts.

In our Old Testament reading, the beauty of the tree (a metaphor for Assyria) is so, well, beautiful.  Strong and almost elegant in its description, nurturing and proud.  "Beautiful" or "beauty" are used four times in seven verses, and words such as "majestic" and "abundant" emphasize this beauty.  Also clear in the description is the unique place occupied by this tree.  It has no rival, no match for its beauty; it is "the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God" (Ez. 31:8-9).  I've been interested in God's awareness of and love for beauty for several years now, and this passage makes me want to study it more.

The initial verses in our Hebrews reading jumped out because of their call to a righteous life.  The writer exhorts us to "make every effort to live in peace with all men" (Heb. 12:14), a high and holy call if there is one, a call that is necessary because such harmony will make sure that "no one misses the grace of God" because of bitterness and trouble (see vs. 15).  To think that I could miss the grace of God because I continue to live in tension and resentment and bitterness toward others is awful and sad; to think that I could cause others to miss the grace of God is even worse.

I've mentioned before about the theme of reversal that we see throughout Scripture.  God delights in overthrowing the status quo, in upending the normal course of events.  We see this theme in Psalm 113.  Notice that the poor and needy are lifted up to the level of princes; notice that the barren woman's barrenness is overturned, making her the happy mother of children (see vs. 7-9).  I'm grateful for the reversal-making of our God; it constantly reminds me that change, redemption, HOPE are possible because God is in the business of turning ashes into beauty.

I was surprised that a "man's heart reflects the man" (Pr. 27:19).  It seems backward to me.  It seems more likely that the man would reflect the heart, that the inward motivations and desires would be demonstrated by the actions of the outward person. I agree that the heart is the most essential representation of the whole person, but I was more expecting the idea that "out of the overflow of the heart" (Lk. 6:45) comes action.  I'll need to think about this more.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November 14

Ezekiel 29:1-30:26; Hebrews 11:32-12:13; Psalm 112:1-10; Proverbs 27:17

I did my One Year Bible reading this morning, and I couldn’t wait to have some time to do my post. I have just been so excited about the people of faith we have been reading about in Hebrews. 

“Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets” (Heb. 11:32) are the headliners for our reading today on people of great faith. I love reading about all the amazing things they did in our Lord’s name, but the line that most caught my attention was the one describing them as those “whose weakness was turned to strength” (vs. 34).  We’ve already read about each of these people of faith in our OYB readings so far this year, so we know their story. But let’s look at our list again and how they could have been known.

Gideon: doubter; Barak: hider-behind-skirts; Samson: womanizer; Jephthah: daughter-sacrificer; David: adulterer; Samuel: well, there’s nothing really bad to say about him; and the prophets: at times, fearful, doubting, running from God, and more.

But those are not the words the writer of Hebrews uses to describe these people. No, they are praised for their faith (“being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” [Heb. 11:1]). So highly were they respected that the author finally exclaims – “the world was not worthy of them” (vs. 38)!

Isn’t that such good news? God took their weakness and turned it into strength. God wasn’t limited by them living mistake-free and without failings. God wasn’t dependent on them making every right decision and hitting everything right on the mark in order for him to use them for mighty, mighty things. I’ll admit, I would not have included some of those names on the list of people of great faith. But God was not disappointed in them. 

Since that can be true about those people who did some pretty crazy and bad stuff along with the good, maybe that can also be true for you and me. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2a).

Let’s do it! Let’s throw it off! Let’s run free in earnest pursuit in the kingdom of God. Let’s not wait to be made perfect, to be sinless, to have it all figured out. Let’s do it now. Jesus will take us and perfect our faith as we go along. He’s with us – the author and perfecter. We don’t do it on our own. We just need to have faith, the sureness that Jesus is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do. 

Hebrews 12:12: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Who’s ready to run!?!

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, November 13, 2017

November 13

Ezekiel 27:1-28:26; Hebrews 11:17-31; Psalm 111:1-10; Proverbs 27:15-16

Eric and I are speaking this week at a local MOPS.  We were asked to talk about what we do to keep our marriage healthy and strong.  During a brainstorming time, I wrote down the idea of "how to fight well."  Generally speaking, we try to fight in and for the moment, keeping other days and hurts well out of it; we also try to concede as many points to the other as possible while still being genuine.  We never consider that the situation is unfixable.  We fail in this fair-fighting plenty, but the guidelines do keep us from being completely undone.

Yesterday, I was quilting a bed covering for our youngest son and listened to some TED talks while stitching.  One speaker mentioned the mathematics of conflict in marriage.  Turns out that the mandate "do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" (Eph. 4:26) is proven true by research.  The more conflict we address as it happens, the less volatile the relationship grows, and the longer the relationship will likely last.

And today I read that "a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day" (Pr. 27:15).  We live in an old house, and we've added on twice.  Until very recently, whenever it rained (which, in drought-ridden SoCal, is not often), we had to set a bowl out in one particular spot.  Plink.  Plink.  Plink.  Plink.  Not much, and not loud, but enough and continuous.  By the end of the day, when I settled down to enjoy the quiet of all five children done for the day, it was enough to drive me mad.  Plink.  Plink.  Plink.  Like the erosion caused by rivers to create canyons and gorges, so this drip-drip-drip was an erosion of my sanity.  Plink.  Plink.

We finally fixed the dripping.  Though it was such a small drip, it surprisingly took multiple efforts and a lot of failure before we were ultimately successful.  A roofer came and spent an afternoon on our roof.  Looking back, it seems like drastic measures for such a small irritation.

I think those same kind of drastic measures are necessary, though, to undo the constant irritation of a quarrelsome wife.  Quick fixes, like a bowl or a vow to "hold my tongue," aren't enough.  It takes an overhaul.  An expert has to go in, find the problem, and address it.  Simply imposing external forces on the situation, much like "restraining the wind" (vs. 16), won't work.  Trying harder, like "grasping oil with the hand" (vs. 16), won't work.  Submitting to a master - whose job it is to repair and restore - is the only solution.

Are you quarrelsome, whether as wife or husband or parent or child or friend or worker?  Are you gradually wearing down those around you with your criticism, sarcasm, cruelty?  Have you tried, without success, to will yourself into a different pattern?  Are you beginning to despair that it could ever be any different?

Perhaps today is the day to let the master carpenter, Jesus Christ, take his expertise and pound out the dripping holes in your life, re-covering you in his love and acceptance.  That love and acceptance can become a shelter and a haven for those around you, transforming you from "plink, plink" to one "brings good, not harm, all the days of [your] life" (Pr. 31:12).

Lord Jesus, let this become true in my life. Amen. 

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 12

Ezekiel 24:1-26:21; Hebrews 11:1-16; Psalm 110:1-7; Proverbs 27:14

A love story.

Tucked in the middle of Ezekiel’s prophecies about the future of Judah and her neighbors is a love story. Yes, a love story—a sad, but beautiful, picture of marriage.

Ezekiel has been faithfully proclaiming to Judah that certain judgment and exile await them. “I the Lord have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions” (Ez. 24:14). Then, unexpectedly, the Lord tells Ezekiel that this is going to be very personal very soon. His wife is going to die. She is going to die and it will happen with no warning.

And he is not to grieve.

Notice the love language with which the Lord describes Ezekiel’s wife—“the delight of your eyes” (Ez. 24:16). Very tender words are used to describe his wife. Not ‘ball and chain’ or even ‘better half,' but words expressing great affection and enjoyment. She who brings him comfort, joy and delight is going to die.

And so it happens. Mrs. Ezekiel dies during the night (Ez. 24:18).

Ezekiel shows no outward signs of mourning, as he has been instructed by the Lord. For the Lord is using Mrs. Ezekiel’s death and Ezekiel’s refusal to mourn to illustrate to his wayward and unbelieving people that when Jerusalem falls—that stronghold in which they take pride, that delight of their eyes, the object of their affection—they will not mourn nor observe the usual mourning rituals. They will not have the opportunity to grieve because their lives and choices will be taken from them by their conquerors.

Ezekiel remains faithful to God. His wife dies. He cannot even grieve her loss. And he faces a difficult future without the companionship of his dear wife. But he trusts God with that future.

I find hope in the fact that God embedded a love story in a tragedy. Even when war and famine are facing a nation, people still love each other.

And God still loves His people. As He disciplines them and sends them to exile, He loves them. And as He plans for their future and for their return to the land, He loves them.

Our loving God loves a love story.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November 11

Ezekiel 23:1-49; Hebrews 10:18-39; Psalm 109:1-31; Proverbs 27:13

A doozy of a day, huh?  Not only do we have the very uncomfortable calling-down-of-curses in Psalm 109, but we also have the all-out grossness of Ezekiel 23.  A couple of comments on each:

In Psalm 109, we see the persecuted psalmist calling out to the Lord for what looks like vengeance.  Note that the psalmist is not swearing revenge himself, but instead appeals to the Lord for an advocate, "an evil man to oppose him" (vs. 6).  Because of this wicked man's deeds, let judgment fall upon him to a complete and total degree.  "Make it so obvious, Lord," he pleads.  He wants this calamity to be far-reaching and long-lasting: children, wife, parents are all affected (see vs. 9-10, 12, 14-15); finances (vs. 11) and even physical health (vs. 18-19) may suffer.  This desired justice is dreadful.  We who say, "Jesus loves me, this I know" are on shaky ground here.

It's also perhaps familiar ground.  I can empathize with the psalmist who feels alone and unfairly accused and viciously attacked (vs. 2-5, 20), who feels weary and worn out (vs. 22-24).  But today I'm struck that the psalmist puts all this into the hands of a praiseworthy God.  The psalm begins and ends with an acknowledgement of praise - the writer knows who is in control and to whom he should turn.  God is trustworthy and faithful.  We can take comfort in that.

Ezekiel 23 has to be one of the most disgusting chapters in all of the Bible, not excluding the chapters in Leviticus about discharges and hairs in blemishes.  Even those exhaustive descriptions of icky physical situations can't touch the "ewww" I felt as I read.  Prostitution and promiscuity and lusting after beast-like lovers, lewdness and defilement and child sacrifice.  I, living in 21st century America, have seen my fair share of gross things.  My state recently legalized recreational marijuana, and our ballot also included a proposition requiring the porn industry to provide condoms for its employees.  I know women who have aborted their babies; there's a friend of a friend who is watching another woman grow with her own husband's child, while the child they bore together is hospitalized for serious medial concerns.  All awful and infuriating and just gross.

But that pales in comparison to the rampant depravity described in this chapter.  The prophet paints the most offensive picture possible as evidence of how God views the idolatry of his people.  "This is how bad what you're doing really is," God says.  "This is how repellent your actions are."  And this is why God finally must act to bring judgment.  God is disgusted; it is time to re-set the nation through exile.

On the one hand, this passage is somewhat comforting - "we're not as bad as that," I say (nervously) to myself.  On the other hand, this passage is terrifying - the scenario is so vile that it gives me a glimpse of how sin offends a holy God.  Idolatry brings consequences: even here, God is trustworthy and faithful.  Instead of comforting us, though, that truth should galvanize us (as it was meant to for God's nation) to repentance and obedience.

And, on an upbeat and unrelated note, we only have about 50 more days in our One Year Bible journey.  Congratulations for all the time and effort you've put in so far this year - be thinking now about your plans for 2018.  How will you invest in Scripture next year?  Some of us will be reading the OYB again, and we'd love to have company!

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

November 10

Ezekiel 21:1-22:31; Hebrews 10:1-17; Psalm 108:1-13; Proverbs 27:12

Today I want to deviate from my normal routine and just spend some time meditating on the very powerful words in Hebrews. Have you been noticing the nuggets of sheer beauty and truth and power? Let’s look at a few from today:

“And by that will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10, emphasis mine).

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (vs. 12-13).

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (vs. 14).

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (vs. 17).

Do you hear the language here? It’s all encompassing.  (See all [pun not intended] the references to all.) It’s thorough and complete and once, for everyone, for all time. Isn’t that amazing? What Christ did one time on the cross was enough, more than enough, to cover all sin, all lawless deeds, all wickedness for all time. By his one death, he defeated death a million times over. Through him, we are being made perfect.

Let’s sit in that today, overwhelmed with gratitude for what our Savior did.

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book’” (vs. 5-7).

Thank you, Lord. Amen.

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

November 9

Ezekiel 20:1-24; Hebrews 9:11-28; Psalm 107:1-43; Proverbs 27:11

I’m doing a Bible study on the book of Judges with some ladies at my church. It’s been a while since I’ve been in an official Bible study, and it’s been really fun to read and discuss God’s word. It’s also reminded me of the things we read earlier this year in our One Year Bible. Sarah mentioned this yesterday, how we’ve seen Israel forget and remember, but it struck me again today, I think because of the Judges study.

Ezekiel recounts, yet again, Israel’s history to the men who come seeking of the LORD from him: “On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on,…but they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me” (Ez. 20:1:6-8). In the Judges study, we are just at the beginning of this history, where Israel first begins to forget, fall captive, cry out to the LORD, be rescued by a judge/prophet, then have peace, then forget and rebel again. It’s a cycle that will haunt Israel their whole history, until the point of total destruction, which we just read about last month in Jeremiah and Lamentations. And as I’ve been reading in recent weeks in our One Year Bible and also in the Judges study, I’ve been mulling around this idea: the cycle gets worse and worse for Israel. They fail to remember what God did for them, they rebel, they are conquered, they cry out, God saves them and then the cycle continues. And each cycle seems more severe. But then we read in our New Testament about the gospel exploding – we just finished Paul’s letters not that long ago and we get a sense of a similar cycle, i.e. the church forgetting some of Paul’s teachings about the Gospel, but then they receive the correction and the Gospel goes forth and even explodes. So they have a similar cyclical pattern, but in the opposite direction; their cycle propels them closer to Christ, each rotation bringing further clarity and more light. Don’t you just love the things you can see about Scripture when you read it in big chunks, consistently over time?

I love the psalm for today, too – such rejoicing and celebrating! Here are just a smattering of my favorites:

                “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Ps. 107:1)
                “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!” (vs. 8)
                “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (vs. 9)
                “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (vs. 19)
                “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let him consider the steadfast love of the LORD.” (vs. 43)

Thank you, Lord, for your word, for its complexity and beauty and seamless connection. And thank you for passages like this psalm, which bring to our lips our praise and adoration. We love you. Amen.

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 8

Ezekiel 18:1-19:14; Hebrews 9:1-10; Psalm 106:32-48; Proverbs 27:10

"Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD.  Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" (Ez. 18:23).  And again God pleads, "Repent and live!" (vs. 32).

We see this same posture in our psalm today.  "Many times he delivered them....He took note of their distress;...he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented" (Ps. 106:43-45). 

This, too, is the heart of our God (to add to what Mary mentioned yesterday).

I hope you've seen this tender desire this year.  We're coming toward the end of our journey together through The One Year Bible, and we have read the history of the nation of Israel.  We've watched them remember and forget, while all the time God is faithful to his covenant of love toward them.  

We've walked with Jesus during his time on this earth, wooing sinners to himself with this same message of repent and believe.  We have watched his apostles work and preach and write in his name, and we've seen the birth of God's church, meant to continue sharing the message of "turn and live."

This message is for you today, and it is for me.  God calls us to repent and live; repent from our anger, our gossip, our envy, our pride, and turn toward the way of Jesus in gentleness, kindness, thankfulness, humility.  And God puts us to work, to set our shoulders to the call of repentance; we are meant to let others know the power of turning and believing.

Lord God, we are infinitely grateful that you called each of us to repentance and to life. May we pass this good news onto others, so that the world may know your heart of love for them.  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 7

Ezekiel 16:42-17:24; Hebrews 8:1-13; Psalm 106:13-31; Proverbs 27:7-9

One of the things I love about Scripture is that it is so full of hope. It may be a little harder to see that as we are reading through all this doom and gloom in the prophets, but the Lord is faithful to show us his true heart in every single passage of Scripture. And what is this heart? An eternal desire for redemption and restoration to right relationship with him. He just wants to be with his people. To be in a beautiful covenant relationship with those he loves. Isn’t that what we are all looking for to? Enduring, deep, covenant relationships?

Here’s how I saw that in our reading today. It took me until I got to Hebrews to start making some connections. Hebrews 8:7 says, “For if there had been nothing wrong with the first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” And then, in verses 8-12, the writer of Hebrews goes on to quote some verses we read for ourselves not too long ago in Jeremiah 31. “'The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah'” (Heb. 8:8). 

I think we can all agree that something wasn’t working quite right with the covenant between God and Israel in the Old Testament. We’ve been reading about their struggles for many months now, as Esther pointed out in her recent post, and it doesn’t seem like this pattern of rebellion is going to change. No matter how much truth they get preached at them by the prophets, the people don’t seem to change. They need some kind of complete overhaul. 

Again, today in Ezekiel, we read about this promised new covenant. “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….Then I will make atonement for you and for all you have done” (Ez. 16:60, 63).  Jesus is coming! 

Over and over we see Israel’s rebellion and turning away, yet over and over we see forgiveness and restoration from the Lord. And now, in Hebrews, we have seen how this new covenant through the blood of Jesus has made the first covenant through the blood of lambs obsolete. Jesus made a way for us to stay in right relationship with God. We don’t have to rebel and turn away and go through the same cycles they did. We are actually free from our sin. It doesn’t hold us.

Sometimes I think the people around us who seem to be bogged down by sin and shame and can’t ever quite break from those cycles don’t need more truth preached at them. They need a complete overhaul. They need to truly experience the life-changing power of the blood of Jesus in their lives. His death and resurrection change everything. Sin and death have been defeated. 

We all live under the blessings of this new covenant. Let us walk in the freedom and power found in true and right relationship with our God.

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, November 6, 2017

November 6

Ezekiel 14:12-16:41; Hebrews 7:18-28; Psalm 106:1-12; Proverbs 27:4-6

"He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Heb. 7:25).

What beautiful words. 

"Because Jesus lives forever" (Heb. 7:24), we are saved, fully and deeply.  We can now access God through him.  He constantly presents our case before the Father.  Not only the Spirit (who "intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" [Rom. 8:26]), but Jesus himself pleads for us, prays for us.  We are not alone!  We are not abandoned!  We have incredible allies who unceasingly forward our cause.  I hope this encourages you.  It does me, but then again I need all the allies I can rustle up!

"Such a high priest [Jesus] meets our need -- one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens" (Heb. 7:26).

What a description of our Jesus.  Only this man, with these qualities, could save us.  He is so completely other, so perfect and righteous.  And, yet, he "has been tempted in every way, just as we are" (Heb. 4:15).  He is also completely human, so real and understanding.  "He knows how we are formed; he remembers we are dust" (Ps. 103:14, see Mary's beautiful examination on 10/31) - we have no unrealistic standards to meet for Jesus knows us, was us as a human, but remained God to heal and to save us fully and eternally (see Heb. 7:27-28).

After reading these verses, I can only say, with the psalmist: "Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever (Ps. 106:1).


- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 5

Ezekiel 12:1-14:11; Hebrews 7:1-17; Psalm 105:37-45; Proverbs 27:3

The history of Israel in Psalm 105 tells the glorious story of how Israel came out of Egypt laden with silver and gold and how they fell heir to what others had toiled for—all so that they might keep the Lord God’s precepts and obey his laws.

But they didn’t.

They rebelled and refused to listen to God and follow His commands.

As we read in Ezekiel, the Israelites have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but they do not hear, for they are a rebellious people (Ez. 12:2). Ezekiel is told by God that he is to act out before the people a ‘drama’ in which each day he brings out his belongings packed for exile and each evening he digs through the wall of Jerusalem illustrating the way that Babylon will capture Jerusalem and take the Israel into exile (vs. 3-6).

Ezekiel also refers to false prophets who prophesy lies and he says they are like flimsy walls that are whitewashed to look as if they are strong (Ez. 13:10-12). The flimsy whitewashed wall cannot hold back anything yet people rely on it.  The purpose of a wall in the ancient world was protection. How could a flimsy wall provide protection?

I thought about the flimsy whitewashed walls that people rely on. I read of a famous politician who said she overcame the dismay and depression of her political defeat in part by yoga! This person was raised in a church and I read in a previous article that she has a Bible and reads it. Yet in crisis she turns to yoga. A flimsy wall. She had the opportunity to turn to the living God who provides real counsel and advice. We would be blessed as a nation if we had read that she turned to God and that He provided her with comfort and direction. I haven’t read her book, but apparently God doesn’t get the credit.

And do we do the same? What do you turn to in times of hurt and crisis? Do you turn to yoga, or food, or Netflix, or new clothes to dull the hurt and help you manage the day? Or do you run to the Lord with your hurt and ask Him for solace and healing? If you are like me, you probably do some of both.

“Lord, I pray that we would not rely on whitewashed walls for our protection and comfort. May we instead turn to you, the loving One, the holy God, the One who cares for us. Thank you that you are a solid wall, unable to be broken or to fall down. Thank you that we are learning that you are a Sovereign God who protects His people and who guides them in ways that are right.”

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

November 4

Ezekiel 10:1-11:25; Hebrews 6:1-20; Psalm 105:16-36; Proverbs 27:1-2

[Fair warning: Today's post is super-long and very much related to personal experiences.  I"m only sorta sorry!]

It's November.  I love November.  It gets dark early at night.  You can wear sweaters (at least in theory - SoCal has had some hot Novembers!) and slippers.  Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is at the end of it.  We do all our Christmas shopping this month, which is fun as we think about what our children and loved ones would like.  It has 30 days, which has always seemed like a nice, round number for a month.

Another reason I love November is our leaf tradition.  This year, like each of the last eight years, as we walk around the neighborhood, we collect fallen leaves.  Once home, I trace these leaves onto autumn-colored card stock and cut them out.  Each night at dinner, every member of our family (and any guests) chooses a paper leaf and puts his/her name on one side with the date.  On the other side, we write what we are grateful for on that particular day.  It's concrete and specific.  We then tape these leaves to our mantle.  It is a daily, on-going practice of gratitude for a month that ends with a great celebration of giving thanks.

Some of the entries are hilarious, as older children attribute responses to their younger, non-speaking siblings.  Cousins and grandparents are always mentioned; our dinner menu frequently makes the cut (I do have three sons); the library and Disneyland get nods each and every year.  It is a wonderful way for us to stop and taste/see the goodness of God.

It has also, unexpectedly, become a record for our family.  Unintentionally, these leaves are now more than an expression of that day's thanksgiving.  They are a history of God's activity in our lives, both in significant and small ways.  

11/15 - by Sarah: "b4." While our fertility was always easy (a great blessing), I learned I was pregnant (with a baby we called "b4," revealed later as Levi) while Eric was in Vietnam, our house was uninhabitable due to serious plumbing issues, and our only car broke down on the freeway.  All the difficulty paled in comparison to this wonderful gift.  
11/18 - by Caleb, then six: "God is our friend."  True, profound, insightful, encouraging. Our son knew God loves him - what more could we ask?

11/3 - by a friend who ate dinner with us: "A solidly intact marriage after some big trials."  Praise God, their marriage is still strong years later.
11/8 - by Noah, then almost six: "My stomach is better."  A celebration of the great gift of good health that comes through the way God made our bodies.

11/14 - by Hannah, then three: "YOU, Daddy!  Daddy, I love you!"  Such a free gift of enthusiastic love from daughter to father, followed by hugs and kisses.
11/26 - by my brother-in-law, Ian: "My wife, Esther, and our baby!"  After a year of trying (and not succeeding) to conceive, my sister and her husband rejoiced at being 8+ months pregnant.

2012: (seems to have gone temporarily missing, but I know we were thankful, among other things, for "Q" - our daughter Naomi Mae who was born in early December)

11/1 - by Caleb, then ten: "A mom that loves me enough to have half-hour conversations with me about issues."  A much-needed affirmation in my mothering, as I fumble around with the needs of these young lives.  
11/5 - by my mom: "The 700 people gathered at Grace as MOSAIX [a multi-ethnic church conference that Eric convened]."  How cool is that?  All these people from all these churches all over Southern California, meeting to talk about how to do church better!

11/20 - by Noah, then almost ten: "Knowing Mom and Dad are not going to get divorced." This sturdiness, this certainty, is a generational gift for our children (and us), as we have intact marriages back to my great-grandparents.
11/23 - by Caleb, then eleven: "Parkcrest."  Changing churches after 18 years for Eric's job was difficult and painful.  Caleb grieved the hardest.  To see that a year later, he would be prompted to thank God for the new church was a great blessing.  (He actually mentioned it more than once that year.)
all month - by Naomi, then almost two: "Gahd.  Cheesus."  Sunday school answers that she blurted before we even asked for her response, but still true for her and for all of us.

11/3 - by Levi, then five: "I have a lot of brothers."  Amen and amen.  Their siblings are the greatest gifts we have given to our children, and we see how much they enjoy each other.  Every year, different kids write down specific brother/sister names.  
11/25 - by Sarah: "[Name of therapist] - in my past and in Eric's present."  This woman, grounded in the Lord and wise beyond measure, gave herself years ago to growth and intimacy in my marriage and, more recently, to bringing wholeness to hurt experienced by Eric from a friend/mentor.

11/2 - by Caleb, then thirteen: "My science teacher still being at school, allowing me to get my History book."  Panic-stricken about not being able to do his homework, he made a quick trip back to school, coming home to announce, "Now I know that God loves me."
11/9 - by Levi, then six: "Precious Life."  This is a crisis pregnancy shelter where we have prepared, served, and eaten a meal a month for the last almost-decade.  For Levi to enjoy this place and these women and the giving-of-self is beautiful to me.

There are bittersweet and difficult moments recorded, too.  In 2009, my then sister-in-law gave thanks for a house she insisted on selling only five years later as part of the disintegration of her marriage to my brother.  "On a day when I needed it - the free (though expensive) and generous FORGIVENESS of God (and my family)" - my entry for 11/9/10.  Eric's and my 2011 entries were full of oblique references to the church split that we were undergoing.  In 2013, on Thanksgiving Day, a dear friend lost a baby at 22 weeks gestation. November 17, 2014 saw me giving thanks for my mother who "listens to the prompting of Scripture and the Holy Spirit - and acts" by having a very difficult, rebuking, and ultimately unsuccessful conversation with a woman pursuing sin.  2015 celebrated "conversations that lead to reconciliation," a reminder of all the reconciliation that our family has had to do in the daily-ness of living with each other.  In 2016, we were grateful (on multiple occasions) for the health, dental and vision insurance that we unfortunately needed to use.

I couldn't help but think of these leaves as I read our The One Year Bible today.  Did you see the history lesson of our psalm?  And the references to the past in Hebrews?  The psalmist reminds Israel of God's provision through Joseph (Ps. 105:17-22), of God's action through Moses and the plagues (vs. 26-36), and of God's rescue in the exodus and the wilderness (tomorrow's reading, vs. 37-41).  The writer of Hebrews goes even further back in Israel's history to reference the covenant the Lord made with Abraham (Heb. 6:13-15).  Over and over, the biblical writers rehearse their past, both good and ugly.  (We'll see this even more next week in our Psalms readings.)  All of this remembering isn't a longing for "the glory days," the good ol' days gone by.  No.  It is a recounting of God's faithful activity in the past as a spur to believe in God's continued attention and goodness in the present.  Like our leaves, these portions of Scripture recall us to the truth of God's actions in history (our own personal story, but also all of history) so that we can trust faithfully now.

I encourage you to take a moment, today and throughout this month that leads to Thanksgiving, to rehearse the lessons of God's faithfulness in your history.  Where has he met you?  Where has he helped and provided for you in times of trouble?  Where have you needed and found his grace and mercy?  Where have you stumbled and experienced correction that led to repentance and restoration?  Where have you rejoiced in the extravagant blessings of a generous God?  And as you remember these moments, share them.  Tell others of how God has been faithful to you.  Tell your children and grandchildren, your neighbors and friends, your spouses and roommates.

"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so..." (Ps. 107:2, KJV).

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November 3

Ezekiel 7:1-9:11; Hebrews 5:1-14; Psalm 105:1-15; Proverbs 26:28

These were the words that greeted me as I sat down to read: “Now the end is upon you, and I will send my anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations. And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst” (Ez. 7:3-4). Whew! What a way to start the reading. I happened to be reading this in the same room as my husband and I said to him, with no small amount of weariness in my tone, “Sheesh! I’m getting a little tired of the prophets. I feel like we’ve been reading them for months!” Maybe you feel that way, too. (In truth, we started with Isaiah on September 8, so we have been working our way through for a while.) I think today all the doom and gloom of the prophets was starting to get to me. Like the Israelites, I felt like saying to them, “Say something positive! I’m tired of all your nay-saying!”

But then I kept reading and came across this verse: “And he brought me into the inner courts of the house of the LORD. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the LORD…were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east” (Ez. 8:16).  Did you catch that? Their backs are toward God’s temple and they are worshipping the sun. God says to Ezekiel, rhetorically, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations they commit here…”(vs. 17). This has me greatly convicted. Here I am, complaining about the doom and gloom and wishing God could let up a little, but the truth is, I’m minimizing their sin and almost accusing God of unjustly disciplining them. The truth is, Israel had lots of chances but they made LOTS of bad choices. They turned their backs on God and worshiped a false god instead. God takes sin very seriously and he cannot overlook their abominations. It is no small thing, what they have done.

It got me thinking about us today. In what ways do we turn our backs on God in favor of facing the sun? Perhaps we don’t even know it – we just want to feel the sunshine – and we don’t realize that our actions are putting us in direct opposition to God.

What I’m about to say next may not be popular, but I feel it should be said. There are lots of ways in which we, even as Christians, turn our backs on God in pursuit of something else. The first thing that came to my mind was pornography. We may feel like we’re not harming anyone, that it’s just this one time, that we just want a little bit of the “sunshine,” but the truth is, we are putting ourselves in direct defiance to God’s plan and desire for us. We are turning our backs and worshiping something else.

This happens in less obvious ways as well. For example, maybe we fudge the truth at work. Our boss asks why the contract with the new client hasn’t come across his desk yet and we answer that the client is slow in responding but perhaps the real truth is that we forgot to email it over. We face the sun, while our back is to God’s temple. Or perhaps we get together with friends and during conversation, it comes up that another friend, not present, is struggling financially. We judge him and accuse him of making foolish decisions, while not actually knowing the whole story. Maybe we even spread this news to others as we go about our week, feeling smug about our own smart investments and hard work. Our backs are to God and his ways, while we worship the sun.

Let us not require the chastising words of Ezekiel in our own lives; may God have mercy on us as we strive to face him fully and turn our backs on sin and idolatry.

- Esther McCurry 

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

November 2

Ezekiel 3:16-6:14; Hebrews 4:1-16; Psalm 104:24-35; Proverbs 26:27

What’s your motive?

Why do you and I serve others? Why do we use our spiritual gifts to honor God? And how do we even discern our own motives? Sometime we think we are serving in our church from a desire to help others or teach others so that they may grow in their Christian walk with God only to discover that deep in our heart is a desire to be noticed and admired. I’ve often wondered if I have any truly pure motivations to serve the Lord!

I remember saying to a friend in AZ many years ago, “I might just as well give up having a devotional time every day because on the days when I don’t read my Bible and pray, I’m full of guilt and the days when I do, I’m filled with pride!” I was frustrated with how to proceed. Eventually I figured out that it would be best to keep having a devotional time (do you think?), though maybe not every day while the kids were young, and that I should not focus on either guilt or pride, but instead focus on my goal: getting to know Jesus better and letting Him change me.

Our reading in Hebrews 4:12 sheds light on this. Here’s a helpful comment from The Bible Knowledge Commentary:

“The inner life of a Christian is often a strange mixture of motivations both genuinely spiritual and completely human. It takes a supernaturally discerning agent such as the Word of God to sort these out and to expose what is of the flesh.”

In Ezekiel, there are convicting words that also penetrate us to the core.

“When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood" (Ez. 3:18).

Strong words that remind us: we are to speak the truth of God to our generation, like Ezekiel did, and we are accountable to God for our handling of God’s truth in our generation.

In Ezekiel, we see the word of the Lord coming to Ezekiel and he must obey. He does some very strange things at God’s command: he sets up a model of Jerusalem and lays on his side by it for over a year to illustrate that the Nation is going to be conquered and taken into captivity because of their refusal to follow the Lord. This is Ezekiel’s version of Twitter—a way to communicate. As people noticed his odd behavior they would report it to others and so word would spread of what he was doing and why.

God explains to Ezekiel why the Nation will be judged and sent into exile: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees” (Ez. 4:5-6, emphasis mine).

God’s Word is indeed living and active. We do well to heed it instead of rebelling against it as Israel did, even if our motives are sometimes mixed. Let God sort out the motives in our hearts while we keep on serving Him.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 1

Ezekiel 1:1-3:5; Hebrews 3:1-19; Psalm 104:1-23; Proverbs 26:24-26

Hooray!  I so rarely get to be the one to begin a new book.  And Esther has given us such lovely introductions to others, I'm inspired to give some background information on the book of Ezekiel.  (We may need some extra encouragement, too, as we begin another long book of prophecy.)

Ezekiel is a priest (see Ez. 1:3), which puts him in a small sub-group of prophets.  (Of the sixteen books of prophecy, only three [Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah] are written by priests from the line of Aaron.)  He writes during the exile (vs. 1), when Judah is in captivity in Babylon.  His book is organized chronologically, so the vision he receives by the Kebar River is the beginning of his prophetic ministry.  It's interesting that the exiles are by the river.  As we saw in Paul's missionary journeys, he frequently found groups of God-followers by the rivers outside the city.  When there was no synagogue, no temple, no formal place of worship, Jews would meet outside the city walls near a river or other body of water that could be used for ceremonial washing.  Perhaps this tradition was already in place by the time of the exile, explaining the location of their homes (see 3:15).  (In fact, one of the captivity psalms, Psalm 137, mentions meeting by the rivers of Babylon.)  The community of exiles meets here to worship, to lament, and - now - to hear the visions of Ezekiel.

And Exekiel's visions are striking.  Living creatures with four wings and four faces; a man's figure, glowing as with fire or molten metal; a scroll, full of lament but sweet as honey.  That's just the first three chapters!  

We'll see that the first half of Ezekiel will prophesy about the eventual destruction of the city of Jerusalem.  We'll see that, after this complete and terrible judgment comes to pass, Ezekiel's prophecies will change, speaking first about God's accounting of the nations surrounding Israel and then about the future restoration and hope for the exiled nation.  Throughout, Ezekiel will consider the glory of God (as in Ez. 3:12).

Notice, too, that God calls Ezekiel, over and over again, by the name "son of man" (see Ez. 2:1, 3, 6, 8 and 3:1, 3, 4, 10, and many, many other places throughout the book). This appellation emphasizes Ezekiel's humanity, and will be an epithet used for Jesus himself (see Mt. 16:13), thus stressing Christ's identification with mankind.

So while this book was written at a specific time and for a certain group of people, it has been preserved for our benefit today.  We are reminded of God's holiness, his other-ness, his perfection and awesomeness.  We see again how seriously God takes sin.  We remember God's interest in man, his creation, and we hope anew with the exiles, as exiles ourselves, for the restoration to come. 

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October 31

Lamentations 4:1-5:22; Hebrews 2:1-18; Psalm 103:1-22; Proverbs 26:23

Psalm 103 is a familiar psalm to many of us. There have been many times it has ministered to me throughout my life.

In a particularly hard season of my life, the words I needed to hear were that our God was the One "who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion" (Ps. 103:3-4). In so many ways, I felt stuck in a pit. It's so nice to be validated in Scripture, to know that life truly is hard and we are not alone in feeling stuck deep down in a huge pit. But God doesn't leave us there; he promises a redemption and a lifting. Those words are so key, especially when we've been in that pit for so long.

When I conceived and bore my first child, I could more relate with the truth that God is the One who "satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles" (Ps. 103:5). I was so overjoyed and elated that I truly felt like I could soar through the air with the birds. 

And there have been so many times I see that God "does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities" (Ps. 103:10).  Are we not so glad? Who could stand if he did? God lets us off easy. He does not go tit-for-tat with us. 

About two years ago, I remember when the Lord used that same verse to convict me that I needed to forgive someone who was very close to me. I realized I wanted to treat this person as I perceived their sins deserved. I wanted them to feel the full weight of their iniquities and choices. When I read these verses it was almost like the Lord spoke to me and said, "Do you want me to then treat you as your sins deserve to be treated?" If he doesn't do that with us, we should not do that with each other. God knows "how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14). We should have that same remembrance and extend that same grace when it comes to forgiving those who have truly wronged us.

And currently, I am comforted by the fact that "the Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all" (Ps. 103:19). When the political powers in our country and world seem to be untrustworthy and in upheaval, I need not fear. My God is King and Ruler over all. His authority will never be overthrown.

"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name" (Ps. 103:1).

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 30, 2017

October 30

Lamentations 3:1-66; Hebrews 1:1-14; Psalm 102:1-28; Proverbs 26:21-22

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness....The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him" (Lam. 3:22-23, 25).

How can Jeremiah say this?  How can this be the man who, only verses earlier, demands of God, "Should women eat their offspring?  Should priest and prophet be killed? Young and old lie together in the dust,...slain in the day of your anger.  You have slaughtered them without pity" (from Lam. 2:20-21).  This is the man who can claim, with truthfulness, "[God] has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long" (Lam. 3:2-3).  Jeremiah describes his relationship with God as captivity (vs. 7-8), mauled prey (vs. 10-12), as "affliction and wandering, the bitterness and the gall" (vs. 19).  Serious and seriously unhappy stuff.

How does Jeremiah get from point A (immediately above) to point B (his praises from the top of the page)?  It's incredible that the same man could have written these very disparate words.  Bear in mind, too, that Jeremiah is likely overlooking the destruction of Jerusalem as he composes his lament; the devastation and depression must have been overwhelmingly before him.  How is this possible?

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope" (Lam. 3:21).  Beautiful as those familiar verses from the beginning of this post are, I think these words are more remarkable.  These show us how Jeremiah moved from despair to faith.  To put it simply, he chose to do so.  He tells himself truth - "I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion" (vs. 24) - and decides to live into that statement.  "Therefore I will wait for him."  Because God is his and he is God's, he can wait in confidence.  Grief and loss and pain, yes, but certainty and trust, too.

"It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord" (vs. 26), Jeremiah repeats.  He reminds himself of his position as a created being.  He is not God.  Nor am I.  Who am I to demand answers of God?  Who am I to expect him to act according to my timeline, in line with my desires?  Who am I to tell God what to do and what not to do?  If God brought heartbreak to this man, Jeremiah, who lived faithfully before him, why not to me?  So many times, I ask, "Why me?" when perhaps, "Why not me?" is an equally valid question.  Instead of filling the empty space of prayer with the noise of my applications and expectations, what about waiting quietly for the salvation of the Lord?  Choosing to acknowledge my inability.  Remembering the great and total salvation from sin.  Proclaiming to myself and others that God is making all things new, in his time.

"The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him."  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

October 29

Lamentations 1:1-2:19; Philemon 1:1-25; Psalm 101:1-8; Proverbs 26:20

Today we begin Lamentations, considered by most scholars and Jewish tradition to be written by Jeremiah. Lamentations is a series of five laments on the fate of Jerusalem, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary. The first four chapters, or laments, are arranged in acrostic order in Hebrew, so we can’t see it, of course. But the acrostic influenced how the author set up the laments and then helped him remember it.

We can only imagine the sorrow of Jeremiah as he watched the destruction of Jerusalem. His friends, if he had any left, his family and his home, the holy city of Jerusalem, have been demolished or taken into captivity. He writes with deep aching sorrow, yet he writes with hope. We don’t see the hope in today’s reading, but watch for it tomorrow in chapter 3.

Jeremiah cares profoundly that Jerusalem has fallen. He has seen the Babylonians desecrate the most holy place. To a devout Jew, that was the worst possible sight. “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city” (Lam. 2:11).

Yet he admonishes the people to turn toward God—to spend the night in prayer to Him for the lives of their children who are faint with hunger (Lam. 2:19). “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.  Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children who faint from hunger at the head of every street.” This verse is the theme verse for the mothers’ prayer group, Moms in Prayer International. I hope they know the desperate situation during which that verse was written!

Maybe, when I stop and think about it, though we are not in any kind of physical destruction in our country, we are in a kind of moral destruction. Ethics have eroded: standards of decent behavior which held for centuries, like marriage before sex and marriage before children, are now almost obsolete.

So it looks like Moms in Prayer International chose a good verse after all. I was part of this group in our neighborhood while our daughters were in junior high and high school in Texas. I loved the time we moms spent praying for our children. I left that prayer time each week knowing that we had done some good work!

May the good work of prayer continue as we pour out our hearts like water in the presence of the Lord.

- Nell Sunukjian

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