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Passage: Ezekiel 16-17

On Thursday, September 11, 2014, Yujin wrote,

Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord God declares (Ezekiel 16:62-63).

The result of God's new covenant with Israel is that (1) He will forgive all their sins and (2) they will know that He is the LORD. This is same new covenant that Jeremiah wrote about:

"This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more" (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

Jesus Christ is the mediator of this New Covenant (cf. Hebrews 12:24). It was inaugurated by His blood (cf. Luke 22:20), and we are the beneficiaries of it through faith in Him. 

Friends, the Old Covenant (i.e. the Mosaic Law) was weak because no one could keep it. Under the Old Covenant no one could be justified before God (cf. Romans 3:20). Therefore, the New Covenant was necessary for at least some to be saved. Now, while the benefits of the Old Covenant depended on man's faithfulness to keep his part of the deal, the New Covenant was independent of man's effort and depended solely on God's faithfulness. The Old Covenant simply demonstrated man's failure and depravity. The New Covenant revealed God's righteousness, grace and power to save. 

Friends, we are the beneficiaries of God's New Covenant promises. We have received these promises on the basis of grace, not our righteousness. We have entered into these benefits through the gift of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, we have a new motivation for living, namely, to praise Him, to please Him, and to enjoy Him above all else forever. 

Stop and reflect on this day, everything you have done, you are doing, or plan to do. Is He the reason for it? Is He the center of it? Is He glorified in it? Is He the chief delight in it?

Passage: Ezekiel 16-17

On Thursday, September 12, 2013 (Last Updated on 9/12/2019), Yujin wrote,

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

Consider the prophet's assessment of the sin of Sodom. It was not simply that they committed unbridled homosexal acts. They were arrogant in their prosperity and ease, flaunting their wealth with no consideration for the poor and needy among them. It was with such an attitude that they "committed abominations," of which the homosexual acts were certainly a part. 

Friends, Ezekiel's assessment of Sodom should cause us to take warning. Rather than simply dismissing the sinfulness of Sodom as something so far removed from our own situation, we should consider the conditions that led to it. I think we will find that we are not only susceptible to the same outcome but very near to it.

They became very prosperous and enjoyed the luxury of "abundant food" and a life of "careless ease". Without the presence of hardship and suffering and need, they became arrogant in their self-sufficiency. When they felt that they had no needs, what was there to keep them from taking everything they wanted? So they even broke the boundaries of moral restraint and allowed themselves to be carried away into deeper sin, even the very abominations for which they would come to be known.

Friends, are we in America much removed from this path of depravity? This is not simply an Old Testament phenomenon. When we get more prosperous and our lives get easier, moral complacency can set in. When our lives are not busy with laboring, giving, and serving, then we may find ourselves seeking diversions in self-gratification. Rather than producing goods for the benefit of all, we find ourselves increasingly concerned only with our own consumption. Our once charitable disposition turns into narcissism. And over time as we become more and more enamored and conditioned to fulfill our own needs and wants, while honoring God, serving others, and giving to the needy become increasingly awkward and difficult. 

Friends, I see this happening in my own life. I see this happening among my friends and fellow believers. I certainly see this happening in the world at large. Therefore, if we are aware of this, what should we do?

Let us first acknowledge and then repent of our growing narcissism. Even if it is only with baby steps, let us learn again how to serve and to give and to prioritize God's will and calling. Let us bear witness to the world that our lives are not about us but about Him, who lives in us:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).


Passage: Ezekiel 16-17

On Wednesday, September 12, 2012 (Last Updated on 9/12/2013), Yujin wrote,

At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, spreading your legs with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by. You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your neighbors with large genitals, and aroused my anger with your increasing promiscuity. (Ezekiel 16:25, 26 NIV)

Shocking! Although such graphic language is not unusual in contemporary ads and movies, at least in biblical lingo and certainly in Ezekiel's day, it would have been quite shocking. Safe to say, I've never heard a message preached on Ezekiel 16, and I imagine most children's Bibles would either skip or seriously whitewash the language here. 

But God gave these words to Ezekiel for the very shock factor that we need to understand how terribly Israel had sinned. From the metaphor of an abandoned child, who is graciously saved from death, to a deeply loved wife, who squanders her husband's wealth to prostitute herself with the nations (Assyria, Babylon, Egypt), to a daughter, whose sinful sisters (Samaria, Sodom) are more righteous than she is, Ezekiel depicts the history of Israel's deep depravity and God's unusual grace. 

In preparation to lead a Bible Study tomorrow on Ezekiel, I am reading an insightful application-oriented commentary by Ian DaGuid. I like the three applications he brings on this chapter. I'll share a bit of it here:

(1) Presenting sin's true ugliness. He critiques contemporary sermons as being "G" ("General Audiences") rated for the most part because there is nothing in them to offend anyone, young or old, seeker or convert alike. Most pastors, he says, are only eager to present people with "a delightful, thought-provoking hour." Yet, the presence of Ezekiel 16 in the pages of Scripture urges us, at least in some situations, to pull off the kid gloves and present sin in its full ugliness. Sin is ugly, offensive, and depraved, and people need to hear that side of the Christian message too. 

(2) The ugliness of the cross. Continuing on the theme of sin's ugliness, DaGuid asks, 'How else do you explain the obscenity of the cross?' An innocent man -- only truly innocent man who ever lived -- is convicted in a rigged trial, abused by his guards until he can scarcely walk, yet forced to carry his own cross on a back that has been flayed raw. Nails are forced through the living flesh of his hands and feet, and he is jerked upright to hang until, too tired to lift himself one more time, he suffocates. What good God could permist such a death? What loving God could permit his own beloved Son to undergo such agony? What awful thing could be so bad that only such an atonement could pay for it? The answer is sin. In the cross, we see sin revealed in its starkest, most abominable ugliness. There, if we sweep away for a second the prettification with which we sentimentalize that terrible moment, we see God's "R" rated answer to my sin.

(3) Remembering in our lives. DaGuid draws out the theme of remembrance from Ezekiel 16, for Israel failed to remember where she came from and what God did for her. He writes that the realization of the price of restoration should stir in our hearts remembrance and shame (Ezekiel 16:63). We should remember what we once were - and be ashamed. Perhaps, like the Corinthians, we were ourselves once sexually immoral or idolaters or prostitutes or homosexual offenders or thieves or greedy or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Perhaps we were none of the above and proud of it, as the Jerusalemites prided themselves on not being like the Sodomites and Samaritans (Ezekiel 15:56), and the Pharisee prided himself on being better than the tax collector (Luke 18:11). Perhaps we were convinced, like the rich young ruler, that we had fulfilled our obligation to our neighbors perfectly from our youth (Luke 18:21). Whatever our own estimation of our righteousness or lack of it, the Bible tells us that all are alike in this matter. Every mouth is silenced before God, for "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We were all, good and bad alike, by nature objects of God's wrath (Ephesians 2:3). This, he writes, we must remember. He cites Calvin:

If we desire, therefore, our sins to be blotted out before God, and to be buried in the depths of the sea... we must recall them often and constantly to our remembrance: for when they are kept before our eyes we then flee seriously to God for mercy, and are properly prepared by humility and fear.

He also cites John Newton, who instructed that the following be written as his epitaph:

John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.

Friends, let us therefore remember the depth of our sinfulness from which we were delivered by God's grace. If we have a proper view of things, we would recognize that there is no goodness within ourselves to which we can appeal, no obedience that can form the basis for confidence in the presence of the Lord. Our hope is only in the Lord.

Likewise, Israel could look back to the days of her youth, when she was naked, bare and left for dead, but God chose her to live, not on the basis of anything in herself but simply his own sovereign will. If He chose her once, could He not do so again? If he covenanted with her once, may he not do so once again, and this time forever? Were it not for the Lord's own words it would be too much to hope for. Second chances like that simply don't happen in real life. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Yet, that is precisely what the Lord affirms. 

And this too is our hope. By God's decree and through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we have entered into the everlasting covenant that God promised to His people Israel. 

Passage: Ezekiel 16-17

On Tuesday, September 13, 2011, Stephen wrote,

"All the trees of the forest will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish."

 God is the one who can give and take away things. He will give things that we need and won't give things that he knows will bring disaster on us. That's why we praise Him whether world around us is favorable or not. His steadfast love for us is more than sufficient! I rejoice in the Lord whose sovereignty governs my life just as entire history of human race depends on Him.