Ezekiel 36 and Psalm 86

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 36 suggests to me a bit of a shift from judgment to hope. God tells Ezekiel to give a pronouncement to the Mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 36:1-15). It seems like an inverse of Ezekiel 35 and the pronouncement to the Mount Seir. This chapter feels full of hope for the restoration of Israel, especially since the judgment has been so severe, albeit deserving so. God also reiterates the history that led up to this point reminding Israel that it was her sins and her disobedience that caused all of the suffering.

I believe that God seeks restoration with His people, but because He is holy, His justice demands an accounting for sin. These are critical characteristics of God and we can not change Who He is, nor should we want to. The variable here is my own human heart. Am I willing to submit to God who alone can cover the darkness of my heart and allow Him to direct my path or will I stubbornly refuse and follow my flawed will into deeper darkness?


Psalms

We return to David as the author of today’s psalm, Psalm 86. There are several verses that I identified by highlighting them in my Bible. Psalm 86:5, Psalm 86:13, and Psalm 86:15 all reference the “steadfast love of God” I think one reason this phrase stands out to me is because it was a promise to me all of this summer that God had not forgotten me and He had not forsaken me. His love was “steadfast” and nothing would change that. David experienced a great deal of lonliness and at times, despair, yet he always held on to the “steadfast love of God” as an anchor in his life.

When I read the news or listen to others talk about current events or the culture of today at large, I often feel a very strong check in my spirit. It is in those moments and frankly all of the time, that I appreciate the realization that God’s love is steadfast and He is unchangeable. My love for the Word of God grows stronger all of the time because I need to know more about God.

Lord, I need You, Oh, I need You
  Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
  Oh God, how I need You1

1 Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, and Matt Maher. “Lord, I Need You.” Song Select (https://us.songselect.com/songs/5925687/lord-i-need-you : accessed 3 October 2014).

Ezekiel 33 and Psalms 81-82

Ezekiel

Today’s reading from Ezekiel 33 has some familiar verses in it. It is the story or metaphor of the watchman. It harkens back to chapter 3 of Ezekiel. I have heard many sermons using this text as a motivation for evangelism. Whether that application is strictly correct or not, it does serve as a reminder of how critically important it is for me to share the gospel message. I am a “watchman” against the rising wickedness of my culture and my message of warning is the message of the gospel. D. A. Carson introduces this changing section of Ezekiel,

Although the warnings and calls for repentance continue, one now hears a rising note of comfort. As long as the exiles found it difficult to believe that Jerusalem could fall, Ezekiel was full of warning. Once the fall has taken place, God in his mercy gives Ezekiel words that will comfort the exilic community, nurture their faith, and steel their minds and wills.

Before that turning point arrives, the first half of the chapter returns to a theme first introduced in Ezek. 3:16-21: Ezekiel the watchman.1


Psalms

The Old Testament Survey Series: The Wisdom Literature and Psalms outlines Psalm 81:

Ps. 81 is another Asaph psalm. Since it tells of the early history of Israel, Ps. 81 is classified as an historical psalm. The psalm has three main divisions: (1) a call for celebration (Ps.81:1-5); (2) a stimulus for recollection (Ps. 81:6-10); and (3) an expression of lamentation (Ps. 81:11-16).2

Ps. 81 reads like a history lesson recalling the goodness of God and the failure of His people to obey. I can only conclude that Israel, like us today, can not do good and please God from their own strength. If the Holy Spirit does not move us to do right and please God, we are helpless with our sin nature to do it on our own volition.

The same commentary does a good job outlining Psalm 82 as well,

The psalm develops three thoughts: (1) the indictment of the judges (Ps. 82:1-4); (2) the pronouncement against the judges (Ps. 82:5-7); and (3) the exaltation of the supreme judge (Ps. 82:8).3

1 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).

2 James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Ps 81.

3 Smith.

Ezekiel 5 and Psalms 42-43

In Ezekiel 5, Ezekiel is again commanded to provide a physical illustration to the exiles of what is going to happen to Jerusalem. Remembering back a few days, the exiles did not or would not believe in the judgment against Jerusalem. In this case, Ezekiel shaves off all of his hair and beard and uses portions of it to demonstrate the various aspects of the judgment against Jerusalem. Ezekiel 5:12 provides the summary of the judgment: one third will die within the city from the siege, a third will die by the sword in the final breakout, and a third will be scattered into Exile.

The pronoun “I” is repeated throughout Ezekiel 5:8-17 and emphasizes the unstoppable hand of God’s wrath. Ezekiel 5:13 says that His wrath will eventually subside and His anger will cease. God’s wrath is not fully resolved until the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. (Rom. 3:20-26).

Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 are songs for the downcast heart. The phrase, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God…” is repeated three times in Ps. 42:5, Ps. 42:11, and Ps. 43:5. It may sound simplistic, but the solution to a downcast heart or depression, is hope in God. He is the source of joy and the antidote to depression.

Another relevant phrase  in Psalms 43:3 is, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;” When confusion and fear step into my life, it is the truth and light of the Word of God that I need most in my life. Truth dispels darkness as light does. Fear grows in the absence of truth. Fear tells me God doesn’t care and I am all alone. Truth reminds me of His promises and gives hope for His presence and love.

I close with a beloved verse in Ps. 42:1, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Just as a deer needs fresh water so my soul needs the living water from the Word of God to sustain my spiritual life.

Matthew Henry explains this verse effectively:

When he (David) was debarred from his outward opportunities of waiting on God, when he was banished to the land of Jordan, a great way off from the courts of God’s house. Note, sometimes God teaches us effectually to know the worth of mercies by the want of them, and whets our appetite for the means of grace by cutting us short in those means. We are apt to loathe that manna, when we have plenty of it, which will be very precious to us if ever we come to know the scarcity of it. 1

1 Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994. Print.

Lamentations 4 and Psalm 35

Lamentations 4 provides some answers to why this great judgment on Israel and more specifically Jerusalem has happened. The chapter also ends with a glimmer of hope.

The first illustration is the comparison of gold that was once bright and valuable but has now been cheapened to “earthen vessels” or simple clay pots (Lamentations 4:1-2).

The second is the dire circumstance of starvation where mothers can no longer provide for their children; where even the jackals do a better job providing for their offspring (Lamentations 4:3-4).

Whereas the city of Sodom experience quick judgment of utter destruction (Lam. 4:6), for Jerusalem, the judgment is long and drawn out.

The reason for the judgment lies with the sins of Israel’s leadership. Everyone was culpable and each person faces judgment for their own sin, however the greatest condemnation is for the ones who should have led the people to truth (Lam. 4:13).

The small glimmer of hope for Israel lies in the promise of Lam. 4:22 that the judgment has been accomplished and there is hope for peace and rest.

God does not wink at sin or ignore the consequences of our actions. The hope for believers, however, lies with the effective sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. Our High Priest will lead us in the path of righteousness and He will cover our sins with His own blood. We can find forgiveness in repentance and prayer with Him (1 Jn.1:9).

Ps. 35 is David’s cry to the Lord for protection from those who were his enemies. He cries out to God to hold back the mockers and the scoffers. Ps. 35:3 acknowledges to God that He alone is the salvation of my soul. Ps. 35:28 repeats the truth that the one who praises the Lord the most is the one who recognizes the Lord’s deliverance.