Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ezekiel 22

Ezekiel 22:26, 31 ESV

Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.

Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God."

God's name has been profaned by the actions of his own people. There are three basic issues addressed in this chapter. First, God's people have gone after idols. We often hear an idol defined as anything that we put above or before God. I prefer to think of an idol as anything we look to to provide us with that which only God can provide. Only God can provide Israel with true security, yet they are looking to idols, and listening to false prophets for their security. Idolatry is still an issue. We may not bow before images of wood and stone, but idolatry is a big deal today as well. We have bought into the idea that government, money and good credit will provide us with the security, significance and satisfaction we need, but only God can truly provide those things.

The second issue Israel fell into was sexual immorality. We fall for all sorts of lies in order to justify our immorality. We say that what we do in private is no one's business. We claim that we must be true to ourselves by pursuing the sexual passions and perversions that we feel? We claim that we aren't hurting anyone, or that we're only looking, or that ... Well, we've heard them all, and they are all lies designed to excuse sin and explain away God's standards of morality. Upon closer scrutiny they all fall apart. Sexual immorality as defined by God defiles those who practice it and profanes the name of the God we claim to serve.

The third issue Israel faced was that they were taking advantage of the poor and not caring for one another. Again, we have all sorts of excuses for this one as well. We don't have the time. We don't have the resources. They are someone else's responsibility. They don't care for themselves; why should I care for them? The excuses go on and on. Meanwhile the hurting go on hurting and the name of the God we call a God of love is profaned by our actions.

Father forgive us. Forgive me. Too often I find myself practicing the very same profane activities that Israel was guilty of. May my life honor you, glorify your name and reflect you to the world in which I live.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ezekiel 21

Ezekiel 21:12, 26 ESV

Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people. It is against all the princes of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with my people. Strike therefore upon your thigh.

thus says the Lord God: Remove the turban and take off the crown. Things shall not remain as they are. Exalt that which is low, and bring low that which is exalted.

This chapter is another pronouncement of coming judgment. That the judgment is coming is sure. That it is from God is sure. That it will come from the Babylonians is sure. But the thing that caught my eye is that it will surely affect every level of society.

America today is a land of elitism and celebrities. If you are a celebrity then you somehow have the ability to speak authoritatively to anything. They speak about Iraq and Afghanistan, gun control and climate change, world hunger and poverty as though they know what they are talking about, and because they are celebrities people believe them. A celebrity walks by and we all whisper. A celebrity signs their name to something and its value doubles. We even have people today that are famous for no other reason than that they are famous.

When God judges a people, elitism and celebrity privilege go out the window. In this passage God says that he will judge everyone. Prince and pauper alike will face his wrath. There will come a day when every person, small or great, will stand before God. When that day comes our bank accounts, our movie appearances, our brushes with greatness will all mean nothing. The only thing that will matter in that day is whether we know, and are known by, Christ.

It is time we worship the one who created this world. We have too long worshipped the creation itself. One day the Creator will become the destroyer because of what we have done to his creation, and because we have "worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator." (Romans 1:25)

Our greatest brush with greatness is not found when we are in the same room with a celebrity but when we kneel before the King of kings. Father, today may my life be one of true worship.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ezekiel 20

Ezekiel 20:25-26 ESV

Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life, and I defiled them through their very gifts in their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it that they might know that I am the Lord.

God's yearning desire is for people to know him. Because of our fallen nature it seems that the only way we will do that is when we first come to the end ourselves. That was the purpose of the Law. It was never to produce righteousness. External rules are impotent to do that. The rules were intended to expose sin, bring people to the end of themselves and move them to humble, brokenness leading to faith. That is the path to knowing God.

Creator God will do whatever it takes to bring us to that point for the sake of his own name. What he will not do is allow us to continue in hypocritical self-righteousness. That brings discredit to his name, and is destructive to those who practice it and to those who see them. The problem is that often those practicing the self-righteousness of legalism cannot see past their own imagined holiness. Thus God acts to bring them to the end of themselves. If the Law fails to reveal their own neediness then discipline will. Thus God rebukes and disciplines those he loves.

Father, thank you for your relentless, unfailing love. Today may those around me see Jesus in me.

By His grace,
Rick weinert

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ezekiel 19

Ezekiel 19:12, 14 ESV

But the vine was plucked up in fury,
cast down to the ground;
the east wind dried up its fruit;
they were stripped off and withered.
As for its strong stem,
fire consumed it.

And fire has gone out from the stem of its shoots,
has consumed its fruit,
so that there remains in it no strong stem,
no scepter for ruling.
This is a lamentation and has become a lamentation.

Ezekiel 19 is a lament over the fallen condition of God's people. I understand anger and judgment against those who claim to be God's people but live otherwise. It's easy to claim "righteous indignation" and rejoice over the fall of those we believe should be judged, especially if they show no remorse over their sin. It is another thing entirely to grieve over them. This is the heart of God, however. He takes no pleasure in the fall, pain and judgment of anyone. How would it change us if we grieved over the sin of others rather than claiming righteous indignation against those who ought to "get what's coming to them?"

Father, I confess that it is sometimes easier to pray for your judgment to come against someone than it is to pray for those being judged. Today may your heart and your love for sinners grip my soul.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ezekiel 18

Ezekiel 18:23 ESV

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

This chapter has three underlying principles. It is written in the context of the Mosaic Covenant that promised Israel blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. Because God has been slow to send judgment a parable has become popular: "The father eats grapes and the son's teach are set on edge." God has given the people time to repent. They have mistaken his mercy for slowness. Assuming that they would not have to pay for their own sin they have continued on in sin. They seem to care little that future generations will pay for their misconduct. But God has other plans.

God warns Ezekiel that from that point on each person will give account to God for their own sin. He will no longer hold off judgment. But the underlying principle goes further than that. The truth is that every person will one day stand before the judge to answer for their own sins. We can't blame others. We can't blame the system. We can't blame God. God takes no pleasure in our sin and he takes no pleasure in our judgment, but neither will he look the other way and ignore our sin. Each person will give answer to God for their own actions.

The good news is that each person has the option of turning from their sin. Avoiding judgment is not a matter of living a perfect life. We've all failed at that. No, it is a matter of turning from your sin to accept God's forgiveness. Anyone who turns from their sin, no matter how bad they have been, can find God's life. The offer is there, "should he not turn from his sin and live?"

Why would God offer forgiveness?  That doesn't sound fair. The truth is that if God were fair then we would all be judged, but God takes no pleasure in judging sin. "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" God takes pleasure in offering forgiveness, but he cannot deny his justice.

Three underlying principles in this chapter call us to faith in Christ. Each person will personally answer to God for their sin. Each person has the opportunity to turn from their sin. God offers forgiveness. It is through him that we are able to turn from our sin. It is because of him that God offers forgiveness. It is in him that we find life. Each of us will answer to God for what we have done with our lives. Will you turn to Christ today?

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ezekiel 17

Ezekiel 17:15 ESV

But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and a large army. Will he thrive? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?

God uses a parable in this chapter to express his disappointment with Israel. The point of the parable is that in his judgment against his people he was also using the Babylonians to preserve his people. Rather than recognizing the judgment as coming from God, they looked to Egypt to bail them out. God's assessment is that Egypt will not help them at all, but that God will ultimately preserve and restore Israel at some point in the future.

It makes me wonder how often I have sought to avoid God's discipline in my life only to dig a deeper hole for myself. How often do we look to the world for solutions to events God has orchestrated in our lives to get our attention and direct us back to him? Israel had clearly been told that judgment was coming through Babylon. They had been told not to resist, and not to look to Egypt for help. They preferred false prophecies and false hope over truth.

Father forgive me for the times I have chosen false hope over truth. Today may I listen carefully, follow closely and not look to the world for that which only you can offer.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ezekiel 16

Ezekiel 16:8, 43, 62 ESV

"When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.

Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, I have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord God. Have you not committed lewdness in addition to all your abominations?

I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord,

God uses a graphic vision to express his truth to his people. He likens them to a baby born and thrown out that he rescued and gave life to. Twice he emphatically says, "Live!" She lives, and when she grows up he marries her and clothes her with expensive clothes and beautiful jewelry. How does she respond? She actively pursues prostitution. In fact he says that, unlike other prostitutes, she doesn't take money for her services. She pays her customers to come to her. She becomes far more wicked than those around her who have already experienced God's judgment.

Here is an incredible truth. God says that he will reestablish his covenant with her despite her sin. First will come judgment, then will come blessing. But, why did she act like this in the first place? You would think that after all he had done for her she would have lived in gratitude rather than rebellion. Verse 43 contains the key: "Because you have not remembered the days of your youth," he says.

She had forgotten what God had done for her. That's why Jesus calls us to take the Lord's Supper "in remembrance" of him. That's why the Apostle Paul continually reminds the Romans and the Galatians, and every other group to whom he writes, that they are "in Christ." When we forget who we are we live like the world.

Father, thank you for your glorious grace and mercy. Today may I live in full remembrance of all you have done for me. May I never forget the cradle, the cross and the empty tomb.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ezekiel 15

Ezekiel 15:5, 8 ESV

Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything!

And I will make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly, declares the Lord God."

In this chapter God's People are compared to a useless vine. Elsewhere in Scripture they are compared to a strong, tall tree, but here they are a useless vine. The vine, he explains, is worthless. You can't even use it to make a good peg. You just cut it out of the forest and burn it. Israel became like that vine because of her sin. She forgot who she was.

It makes me wonder about my life, the lives of others, and about churches. How often do we allow ourselves to become worthless to the purposes of God because of sin, apathy or lack of faith? "They have acted faithlessly," God said of Israel. Too often that has been true of us as well. It is time we acted out of faith, not faithlessness.

Father, today let me see what you are doing around me. By faith may I step up and be a part of your mission and purpose. Forgive me for the times I have allowed sin, apathy and faithlessness to stand in the way.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ezekiel 14

Ezekiel 14:3, 21-22 ESV

"Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? "

For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! But behold, some survivors will be left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out; behold, when they come out to you, and you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, for all that I have brought upon it.

This chapter is an expression of mercy in the midst of judgment. The men coming to inquire of the Lord have no right to approach him. They have no right to be heard by him nor to expect any answer from him. "They have taken their idols into their hearts." God has no obligation to respond to their inquiry, yet he will.

He goes on to explain that their sin is such that even the presence of Noah, Daniel and Job would not keep God's judgment from falling. They would be able to save no one but themselves. That is particularly significant when we remember that God promised Abraham that he would even spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were only ten righteous people in there. Sodom was not a part of the covenant people of God and yet they would be spared by the presence of any ten righteous individuals. Here we have the covenant people of God and they are told that they would not be spared even by the presence of these three great men of God.

Noah's righteousness spared seven other people when God sent judgment against the world, but because of the sin of God's people his presence this time would save only himself.  Yet, here we find a most incredible expression of God's mercy. Though the presence of these great men would not protect anyone but themselves in the face of God's judgment, God will actually spare people out of mercy.

God's discipline is never simply an expression of anger, or a desire to destroy. It is so that we might actually recognise who he is. His discipline is for our good. God's discipline is an expression of his love. The fact that God would hear the prayers of those who do not deserve to be heard, the fact that God would spare those who do not deserve to be spared is an amazing expression of his mercy and grace.

Father thank you for dealing with me according to your grace and because of your Son rather than giving me what I deserve.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ezekiel 13

Ezekiel 13:3, 6, 18 ESV

Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!

They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, 'Declares the Lord,' when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.

and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive?

There appear to be two groups of false teachers influencing the people of God in this chapter. God is opposed to them both. The first group are those who claim to speak for God. They have been seeing visions, or at least claim that they have. They have been proclaiming these false visions as the word of the Lord. They believe their own lies, fully expecting God to do what they claim he has said. The other group are women apparently practicing occultism and magic. This is clearly forbidden by the law, yet here they are. 

Both groups are dangerous. Both groups are opposed by God. Both groups have embraced certain lies. It is not clear whether there is any collusion between these two groups. Because of the differences between them it is likely that they have no connection. But, therein lies the problem. Just because two liars disagree does not mean that one of them is right. Spiritually it is just as dangerous listening to a false prophet as it is listening to a false religion.

How can we tell if someone is a false prophet? Some lies are more difficult to discern than others. The Old Testament gave several tests for a prophet. Two significant tests were these: Do their prophecies come true? Is what they are teaching consistent with God's previous revelation. That second one is particularly significant. The Apostle Paul commended the Bereans for testing his teaching against the Word of God. That is what we need to be doing.

When a teacher or preacher expounds his teachings the question is not whether he has authority to teach. The question ultimately is whether his teachings are consistent with the Word of God. That is where any teaching authority comes from. Authority does not come from a degree or a positional title. It comes from the Word of God.

Father as I teach, may I always remain true to your Word. As I listen to others, may I not have a critical spirit, yet may I be careful to test everything against your Word. Keep me from the lies that so easily infiltrate, divide and destroy.

By His grace,
Rick weinert

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ezekiel 12

Ezekiel 12:3, 6 ESV

As for you, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile's baggage, and go into exile by day in their sight. You shall go like an exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house.

In their sight you shall lift the baggage upon your shoulder and carry it out at dusk. You shall cover your face that you may not see the land, for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel."

In this chapter God calls Ezekiel to use drama to convey the Lord's message to his people. Ezekiel's life becomes the message. When the people of God can't, or won't hear God's word as it is preached, another form of communication is used.

God has a message of judgment for his people. It's not a popular message. It's not a feel good message. It's not a message they want to hear. But, when they see Ezekiel acting out this strange drama, they have to ask. When they ask what it means, Ezekiel is ready with the message.

Perhaps that's what the scripture means when it instructs us to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us (1Peter 3:15). Perhaps that's why Jesus said that the world would be convinced that we are his disciples when they see that we have love for one another. In a sense, our lives, not our preaching and teaching, are our real message to the world. That raises the question: What do they actually see?

Father, today my my life reflect Jesus to my wife, my friends and my world.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ezekiel 11

Ezekiel 11:15, 19 ESV

"Son of man, your brothers, even your brothers, your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, 'Go far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession.'

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

In this chapter we find leaders, "princes of the people," involved in false worship. In response God promises two things. First, he promises that his people will be judged for their wickedness. Second, he promises that he has not abandoned his people, but will restore them and give them a new heart and a new spirit. This tells us something about the character of God. He is just, but he is also merciful. He will not allow us to get away with sin, but he also offers the solution to our sin. That is the essence of the gospel. In Romans we are told that he is both just and justifier.

For me, as I read this chapter, the question that haunts me is: What kind of leader have I been? We are all leaders in some context. Whether we are leading a ministry, leading a Sunday School class, leading our family, or just being an influence in the life of a friend, acquaintance, or child. We are all leaders in some role, and we will answer to God for how our lives have influenced those we have been given the privilege of leading.

Father, that's scary business. I don't want to be like the leaders in Ezekiel 11 that are involved in that which dishonours you. I want my life always to point people toward you, not away from you. Today may that be true of me.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...