A New Heart

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 11:1-14:11

My selection: Ezekiel 11:19-20

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, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

My reflections: The problem with the people of Israel was their hearts. They could go through the outward motions of sincere religion, but their hearts were hardened like stone. Their elders had taken their idols into their hearts yet still presumed to get guidance from the Lord through the prophet (Ezekiel 14:3). You could say their hearts were divided and hardened. Only God could give them a undivided heart and a new spirit. Only God could change their hearts from stone to flesh. That is precisely what He promised to do. The result would be that they would walk in His statutes and obediently keep His rules. They would be His people and He would be their God. God still makes this same change through His Holy Spirit when He regenerates unbelievers today (Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:1-8).

I am indebted to Pastor Fred Greco for keeping this great quote by JC Ryle before us on his email signature:

“The heart is the main thing in true religion…It is the hinge and turning-point in the condition of man’s soul. If the heart is alive to God and quickened by the Spirit, the man is a living Christian. If the heart is dead and has not the Spirit, the man is dead before God.”

My challenge: Beware of the condition of your heart. Pray that God may put within you and keep within you a heart that is tender and eager to obey Him.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ezekiel 14:12-16:63

Lessons from Dead Worshipers

Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 6:1-10:22

My selection: Ezekiel 6:13

13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when their slain lie among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing aroma to all their idols

My reflections: Israel had trusted in idols, rejecting the exclusive worship of the true God. In the end, they would lie dead among their idols in the places where they made offerings to the false gods. Idols had no power to protect their worshipers from the living God. Ezekiel would gain new and deeper knowledge of the Lord upon seeing the grotesque spectacle of dead idol worshipers scattered among their gods.

Today our idols in western society tend not to be the little wooden or stone images of yesteryear but other more subtle idols, all the things that take the place of the one true God. Our idols may be financial security, prestige, materialism, power, pleasure, etc. These will fail us.

My challenge: Learn from the foolish practices of those who worship false gods. Flee from idolatry. Worship the Triune God of Scripture revealed in Jesus Christ and give thanks to Him.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ezekiel 11:1-14:11

God of Great and Small Things

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 1:1-5:17

My selection: Ezekiel 1:3

3 the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.

My reflections: Ezekiel was exiled as part of the people of Israel, by God’s will. Ezekiel was sent visions in a foreign land, by God’s will. Ezekiel was commanded to proclaim those visions to God’s people, by God’s will. God, according to His will, works in the great events of history like the conquest of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia and in the small events of one individual man’s life, like Ezekiel.

God reveals Himself as powerful and glorious, a God to be feared and worshiped, not a dead idol.

My challenge: Never lose sight of the power of God in world history and in personal history. Never lose sight of His glory and power over all things and all people. Has He called you to His service? Serve Him with awe.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ezekiel 6:1-10:22

God’s Absolute Control

Today’s reading: Lamentations 3:1-5:22

My selection: Lamentations 3:37-39

37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,

unless the Lord has commanded it?

38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High

that good and bad come?

39 Why should a living man complain,

a man, about the punishment of his sins?

My reflections: God is sovereign, that is, He rules absolutely over all things and all events of human history and the cosmos. Nothing is out of His control, not one “rogue molecule,” as RC Sproul has said. People can say what they will but their promises and decisions are still in God’s hand.

Knowing this should free the believer from the fear that anything bad can come to him apart from God’s direction. It should relieve the Christian from anxiety that he can ask for something bad and get it, or fail to ask for something good and not get it. We do not control God like some genie in a bottle. God is completely free and acts according to His purposes and infinite wisdom.

My challenge: Believe God. Trust Him to send what is right into your life: punishment and correction, blessing and prosperity, trials and discipline. All are from His hand. All He sends is for good.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ezekiel 1:1-5:17

Learning from Fools

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 52:1-Lamentations 2:22

My selection: Jeremiah 52:7

Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled and went out from the city by night by the way of a gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, while the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Araba.

My reflections: Humor and pathos. I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. I find the phrase “…the men of war fled … by night…” as funny. An oxymoron. Were they men of war or did they flee? Don’t real men of war fight to the death? So I chuckle.

But the next paragraph wipes the smile off my face as I read of the sad specter of Zedekiah. The last thing he saw before having his eyes put out was the slaughter of his sons. So I weep. Well, OK, maybe I don’t literally weep, but I feel sad.

All of this was, of course, unnecessary. Jeremiah had spent his life crying out to the kingdom that God had sent Nebuchadnezzar against them to defeat them. There was a way out: surrender. But they would not submit to God’s discipline through Nebuchadnezzar anymore than they submitted to God’s law which would have brought them blessing and security in the land.

My challenge: It’s easier to see the grave failures of historic fools than to detect and avoid our own failures. Learn the lessons of those who refused to listen and obey. (See I Corinthians 10:6-13).

Tomorrow’s reading: Lamentations 3:1-5:22

The False Confidence of Pagan Nations

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 50:1-51:64

My selection: Jeremiah 50:6-7

6 “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. 7 All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’

My reflections: God uses all the forces and powers of the earth for His purposes, even those nations who officially do not beleive in Him, like Babylonia in Jeremiah’s day. These unbelieving peoples had enough theological knowledge to understand that Israel had sinned against her God but not enough to realize that they too stood guilty before the Lord. Their day of judgment would come as today’s reading shows.

It is possible to know just enough truth to be dangerous or, in some cases, blissfully ignorant. God is a God to be feared. He will not be manipulated. We may not assume, as the enemies of Israel did, that our sin will not catch up with us.

My challenge: Walk before God in reverent fear and awe. Do not grow complacent or comfortable in your sin. Worship Him in humility and repentance. He rules all, including you and me.

Tomorrow’s reading: Jeremiah 52:1-Lamentations 2:22

Jesus Christ: the Judge and Savior of All Nations

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 49:1-39

My selection: Jeremiah 49:2

2 Therefore, behold, the days are coming,

declares the Lord,

when I will cause the battle cry to be heard

against Rabbah of the Ammonites;

it shall become a desolate mound,

and its villages shall be burned with fire;

then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him,

says the Lord.

My reflections: God’s rule is not limited to Israel and Judah. Here Jeremiah proclaims God’s judgment against the neighboring nations of Judah. No one escapes. At the same time, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the world (John 4:19-29), called his people to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

My challenge: Are you conscious of God’s purpose in all the world? Make world missions a priority in your prayer, giving, sending, and even going, if God wills, that all the world may hear that Christ is Lord and Savior of all who believe in Him.

Tomorrow’s reading: Jeremiah 50:1-51:64

A Warning to Slackers

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 46:1-48:47

My selection: Jeremiah 48:10

10 “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.

My reflections: In his prophecy against Moab, Jeremiah delivers this dire declaration. It is not enough merely to not commit evil. It is not enough to do the work of the Lord in a perfunctory manner. Slackness in doing the work of the Lord brings a curse. If we are called to do His work, we are called to do it with wholeheartedness. We may not simply go through the motions.

My challenge: What has God called you to do? Do you do it with all your might? Grandpa used to say “that’s good enough for government labor” and we all laughed.

But it is not good enough for the Lord’s work.

Do His work with excellence. Do not be a Moabite slacker.

Tomorrow’s reading: Jeremiah 49:1-39

Phony Commitment

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 41:16-45:5

My selection: Jeremiah 42:5-6

5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

My reflections: Johanan and his allies had taken action and driven out Ishmael, the evil assassin of Gedaliah who was the appointed governor of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar. So far so good. Now Johanan and associates come to Jeremiah and want God’s direction for the next step. They emphatically commit themselves to obey God’s word to them through Jeremiah. When Jeremiah delivers the word to them, they reject it out of hand.

It turns out, they already had their minds made up to go to Egypt in an attempt to avoid the dangers of further war and famine. They had made a phony commitment to obey God, and it became obvious, once the Lord gave them different instructions than they were seeking. They did what they wanted to and went to Egypt, but Jeremiah persisted in warning them of the judgment that would fall on them even there where they thought they would be safe.

My challenge: Jesus confronted some of his phony followers with this question: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).

Are you seeking direction from God with a truly willing heart? Do not pretend to be obedient while actually seeking God’s endorsement of your own plan. God’s way is perfect (Psalm 18:30). Trust Him to lead you to the best.

Tomorrow’s reading: Jeremiah 46:1-48:47

Diary of a Wimpy King

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 38:1-41:15

My selection: Jeremiah 38:5

King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.”

My reflections: Zedekiah is the poster boy for the weak leader, one who will not take a stand on principles as he tries to just get along with everyone. He would not defend Jeremiah from his enemies, but later he secretly consulted Jeremiah and tried to hide his sympathies from the public. In the end Zedekiah saved neither the kingdom nor himself (39:1 ff). He stands in stark contrast to Jeremiah who listened to the Lord and fearlessly proclaimed the truth.

Both Zedekiah and Jeremiah were given responsibilities. Both suffered as a result of the circumstances of their time. But Jeremiah suffered for doing what was right, boldly announcing what God had revealed and prescribing the best course of action. Zedekiah was wishy-washy, always trying to avoid problems, suffering, and confrontations. He failed to make hard decisions and he suffered greatly: bereavement, blindness, and captivity.

My challenge: Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”  Choose wisely and prayerfully the issues for which you take a stand. Then, be bold as a lion for what is right.

Tomorrow’s reading: Jeremiah 41:16-45:5