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Saturday, November 29, 2014

David Offers Thanks to God




 

David Offers Thanks to God

Psalm 7

 

 

David spent many miserable years running and hiding from King Saul and his soldiers.  Every soldier in Israel had been ordered to search for David and kill him when they caught him.  For years poor David had to constantly be on guard since at any minute he could be found by one of the king’s men and murdered!  He had to hide outside of town like an outlaw while the king searched the countryside for him. 

 

 King Saul was jealous of David because in battle he was a much better fighter than King Saul was. David was good looking and well liked and King Saul worried that his countrymen might want to get rid of him as their king and crown David as their new king.

 

 One time when the ladies in Jerusalem seemed to like David even better than they liked their king, King Saul flew into a furious rage!  That was the time when King Saul ordered his men to kill David and get him out of the way.  What more could he do?  (1 Samuel 19-31)    

 

Psalm 7 is one of several Psalms or laments that David writes during those miserable years when he is running and hiding from King Saul and his men.  David sings this Psalm to God thanking Him for being a God of justice and asking for His protection from King Saul and his soldiers.  This Psalm along with the others made up the Old Testament hymnal, a collection of songs.  The Psalms were poems intended to be sung in praise to God.. 

 

 David doesn’t wait to praise God until he is out of danger and King Saul is no longer threatening his life.  David chooses to praise and thank God while he is frightened and on the run.  He offers praise during the times when he is lonely and hungry because God is a God of justice and mercy.  And he gives thanks when he is frightened and doesn’t know if he will live or die because he knows that eventually God will work everything out for good even if he doesn’t understand how.

 

Years pass and David still can’t sneak into town to take care of his family because the king’s soldiers will kill him if they find him.  Instead of feeling sorry for himself and angry about the unfairness of his situation, David focuses on God and the fact that God’s righteousness and holiness will eventually triumph over all evil and all evil doers.  And this includes his own problems.

 

 He writes: “My defense is in God who saves the upright in heart.” (Psalm 7:10)  God is a just judge.  David is focusing on God as a God of justice and judgment, perhaps because David is innocent of wrong doing and has been denied a human court in which to plead his case.  He is considered guilty and hunted down like a common criminal even though he has always been loyal to King Saul. David is never allowed to prove his innocence. 

 

Others down through the ages have also found themselves in similar situations and have cried out to God for justice when there has been no human justice.  Today many of the blacks in our country (U.S.A.) feel they have been denied their rights as human beings since their un-armed children are being presumed guilty and are being shot down in our streets without consequences.

 

 David knows that his God will be the final judge and justice will someday be served!  And others in this same situation will remember this truth also when they read this Psalm. 

 

David continues with his song: “And God is angry with the wicked every day.  If the evil one does not turn from his evil ways God will sharpen His sword:” (Psalm 7:11) But if the evil one does turn from his sin he will be pardoned.  Even though the threats of God’s punishment are here, they are introduced with a gracious implication of mercy.  God is slow to punish and longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9)  

 

David writes about evil doers: “”He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment.  He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.  The trouble he causes recoils onto himself:  his violence comes down on his own head.” (Psalm 7:14-16)  David knows that crime doesn’t pay in God’s world!  And he also knows that what a person sows he/she also reaps. (if they don’t repent) (Galatians 6:7)

 

David continues his song: “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”  (Psalm 7:17)  David knows that God is righteous and that He will deal with evil.  He has learned to thank and praise God in every situation.  Scripture says: “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God for you.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)  David has learned to trust God no matter what and he knows that God can take care of him no matter what happens. 

 

 David writes: “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you: save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.”  (Psalm 7:1-2)  David is confused about why King Saul hates him so much or why he is being hunted down for the kill like an animal.  He is exhausted from years of looking over his shoulder to see if the king’s soldiers are coming after him with their swords and spears.  And he is worn out and lonely from years of trying to stay alive in the rugged wilderness  

 

But David continues to give thanks and praise to God through all of these miserable times.  He trusts in God and puts himself in God’s hands.  He knows that even if he dies He will be in heaven and live to finally see evil put down.  He pours out these feelings and his love and trust in his God in his Psalms. 

 

The Psalms are among the best loved, most read parts of the Bible because they express the whole range of human feelings and experiences.  Sometimes these same feelings expressed in the Psalms become timeless when others down through the ages have had similar experiences and feelings.  Other children of God have also wondered why they are hated and why they must run from all those who would persecute them.  They identify with David’s cries and find his sheer dogged faith and depth of love for God an inspiration for them to try to follow.        .   

 

 

 


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dealing with Depression




 

Dealing with Depression

 

 

Life is full of emotional ups and downs.  But when the “down” times are long lasting and interfere with a person’s ability to function, we call it “depression.”  In the United States approximately 19 million people - or one in ten adults - experience depression each year.   And nearly two thirds of these people do not receive any help.  Statistics show that women experience depression at about twice the rate as men do. 

 

Depression can be caused by many different things.  A person has a slightly greater risk for developing depression when there is a family history of the illness.  Also brain chemistry or biochemical disturbances can be a factor in developing depression.  Physical illness or exhaustion can cause depression as well as the loss of a loved one, low self esteem, lack of trust in our society and feeling cut off or alienated from others. It seems that more people today are alienated than people were in our parents or grandparents’ generation.  King David was depressed because he had unconfessed sin in his life.  (Psalm 51)  One has to discover the cause of the depression and treat that cause. 

 

Some of these low feelings are a part of the human experience. But we call these lows depression when these feelings last and overwhelm the person’s life.  Depression is a very treatable illness.  The most commonly used treatments are antidepressant medications and psychotherapy.  The medications can relieve the physical symptoms quickly and the psychotherapy helps the patient learn more effective ways of handling their problems.  Finding meaning and purpose in life and being surrounded by loved ones can go a long way to restoring a person to emotional health.

 

We have a friend I will call “Sue” who lives with depression.  Every day Sue takes  powerful medications that keep her from trying to commit suicide.  Years ago Sue’s mother and brother committed suicide and over the years when Sue would forget to take her medications, strong feelings of desperation and hopelessness would wash over her and she would try to commit suicide.  Each time this would happen someone would find Sue before it was too late and rush her to the emergency room where she would be saved..

 

 Sue lives in fear of someday actually killing herself.  Sue loves God and she visits the sick at her church and teaches Sunday school but some of her Christian friends tell her that if she had more faith in God she would not have these thoughts of suicide and depression.  Sue wonders if her friends are right – that maybe her on going depression is her own fault. 

 

Another friend I will call “Joe” also struggles with depression.  Sometimes his hands shake and you can see the anguish written all over his face as he tries to cope with life.  Joe’s father was a bishop in the Mormon Church and Joe idolized his father and tried all of his life to follow in his father’s footsteps.

 

Joe worked his way up and became an important leader in the Mormon Church and a successful businessman with an ambitious wife and three lovely children.  He had it all – reputation, power, money, status, the big house, the impressive car.   Everything was going so perfectly in Joe’s life – that is until his father messed up. 

 

Joe’s father became attracted to a younger woman and divorced Joe’s mother.  He then got into a fight with the husband of this new woman in his life and ended up murdering the woman’s husband.  Joe watched in horror as the perfect father he had patterned his life after was convicted of murder and sent away to prison.

 

It was all too much for Joe and he fell apart.  Joe’s beautiful wife was embarrassed with her husband for being upset and with all of the negative publicity and she divorced Joe taking the children and most of his money with her.  Joe stopped eating and lost interest in living.  Since he had been highly ambitions and had expected only success he now felt that his life was a failure and waves of hopelessness washed over him.  He lost fifty pounds and had to be hospitalized for awhile and put on heavy medications. 

 

By the time we met Joe years had passed since Joe had gone through his major depression.  Today Joe has left the Mormon Church and re-married and is teaching in a university.  A thoughtful intelligent man, trying to follow God and be a Christian in the Methodist Church.  But Joe still suffers from depression and is tortured by fears and worries.  He goes from one medication to the other trying to find one that will take away his pain.  But none of them can take it all away.  

 

Sue and Joe aren’t the only people we know who are dealing with depression.  We know others who are tormented by depression and you know them too.  People who are struggling with depression are all around us.  And we ourselves may be touched by depression sometimes as well.  What can we do about it? 

 

We should put ourselves under our doctor’s care if we find ourselves struggling with depression.  Medications and psychotherapy can help.  And we should reach out to others and find work and purpose in our lives.  Also God has given us His joy to fight depression.  If we are a believer in Christ, the joy of the Lord is inside of us.  Joy is one of the gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit when we believe in Christ . (Galatians 5:22-23) We can learn how to release this joy to help win over depression. 

 

Often depression starts with disappointment.  And disappointments are a part of living in this world so we can count on having them.  The apostle Paul says “But one thing I do, I forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.”  (Philippians 3:13)  Instead of brooding about past disappointments we need to let go and change our focus to a new vision for the future.  Scripture says that God’s mercies are new every day.  (Lamentations 3:22-23) 

 

Disappointment can grow into discouragement if we give it the chance.  We need to fight these bad feelings  The word “discourage’ means lack of courage.  And when things go bad one needs courage to keep moving forward.  God gives everyone who believes in Him courage.  We can ask God to give us courage when we feel discouraged and resist having a pity party.  And we can ask for joy when the disappointments come our way.   

 

Throughout Scripture God tells his children to rejoice and be filled with joy.  And joy is the opposite of depression.  Here in Philippians 4:4 it says: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice!”  And in Nehemiah 8:19 it says: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” 

 

You may be saying that it is hard for you to be joyful because you have so many troubles.  Instead of concentrating on our troubles we can focus on the promises and blessings that God is giving us.  God instructs us to give our troubles to Him.  We can start learning to rejoice by just letting go of our troubles and letting God take care of them.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t work to alleviate our problems.  But we do our best and trust God with the results.  

 

The Bible tells us that what we think about all the time becomes who we are.  Our negative thoughts as well as the people who are negative influences on us can drag us down.  We need to guard our thoughts and protect our minds so that we won’t become depressed.  Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17)  If we read the Word and fill our minds with God’s promises, our faith will be strengthened, and we will be too.  Depression cannot hang on as tightly when we are focusing on God’s love and goodness.

 

Scripture says: “Why are you cast down, O my inner self?  And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me?  Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.”  (Psalm 42:5)  We need to keep our hope and our faith in God alive!  Trusting in God is a strong medicine against depression. 

 

Joy is the opposite of depression!  Maybe that is why God instructs us to rejoice.  Rejoice in Him that is!  Even though we may feel depressed let’s not give in to it and sit around with a long face!  We can start out learning how to rejoice by simply smiling.  Joy is infectious so when we act happy soon we feel happier.  And others around us are strengthened and uplifted by our smile and our warmth.  Then we can try to lighten up more by laughing and enjoying ourselves.  And we might even work up to singing and dancing.  Let’s obey God when He calls us to rejoice.  Depression can not take over when we are rejoicing in the Lord..    

 

Scripture says: “Joy comes in the morning.”  (Psalm 30:5)  Releasing the spirit of joy when we first wake up may set the tone for the whole day.  And expressing joy can change our circumstances and drive away depression.   One of the ways we can express joy is through singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  (Ephesians 5:19)

 

Sometimes depression is caused because we feel guilty about something we have done.  Scripture says: “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)   The Lord offers us forgiveness.  He has forgiven our sins but we need to also forgive ourselves!  Romans 8:1 reads: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,…”  God does not want us to feel frustrated and condemned.  He wants to give us “beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a heavy burdened spirit.”  (Isaiah 6:1-3) 

 

Scripture says: “God will guard and keep us in perfect peace if we will keep our minds stayed on Him.”  (Isaiah 16:3)  I would like that perfect peace in my life wouldn’t you?  Our part of the bargain in this Scripture is to keep God in our minds and hearts and lean  and trust in Him.  I believe we need to keep our minds stayed on God because most of our problem with depression begins in our minds.       

 

  

Some of these Scriptures and ideas were taken from Straight Talk by Joyce Meyer.

  

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Rescue Remedy for Stress




A Rescue Remedy for Stress

 

 

 

Many of us are stressed out!  Stressed out because we have too much to do!  And stressed out because we are always hurrying to catch up.  Stressed that we can’t accomplish more.  And because some people don’t like us.  Stressed about our finances and our families and our jobs.  And of course stressed about politics and health.  The list goes on and on!  But it doesn’t have to be this way!

 

Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” and He calls us to stop stressing out about all these things and give them to Him.  And He offers us His peace.  Jesus tells us: “My peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (John 14:27)  And Scripture says: “Cast all your troubles on Him (Jesus) because He cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7) 

 

If we believe in Jesus we already have His peace, because He promised it.  It’s there!  But if we have been given this wonderful peace, then why is it that sometimes we can’t find it?  Does Scripture tell us what we can do to hold on to this peace that is ours?  Do we have a part to play in keeping this peace?

 

Yes, of course Scripture says that we have a part!  God always gets us involved and lets us be co-creators with Him!  First of all the most important part we have is to believe in Jesus Christ – believe that He is the Son of God and that He died for our sins!

 

  Heresies are all around that are smuggled into our churches as “Christian” and these lies can mess us up and cause us to question our precious faith.  We need to protect our physical bodies from germs and viruses that can sicken or kill us and we also need to protect our spiritual life from the diseases and infections of false doctrine that can sicken or kill our faith in Christ as Son of God and Savior.  

 

The Bible says our job is to believe – believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior and try to follow Him.  Once when Jesus’ followers asked Him what work they needed to do to satisfy God’s requirements, Jesus answered them: “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”  (John 6:29)  Of course the One God sent is Jesus.  And Paul wrote: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…”  (Acts 16:31)   “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrews 11:6)   

 

Jesus never said that we wouldn’t have to deal with troubles and disappointments.  “In the world you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration.”  (John 16:33)  But Jesus promises to deliver us out of all of our afflictions.  (Psalm 34:19)  He encourages us to be of good cheer because He has “overcome the world” and we will be overcomers with Him.  We need to remember that Jesus is with us everywhere we go.  When we remember these promises from Scripture we are strengthened in our spirits as well as our bodies!

 

Our lives can be transformed with joy and peace when we obey God.  Of course we humans fail but then our sins are forgiven through Jesus.  But we should try to obey even in the little things.  Scripture says: “In all your ways acknowledge Him (God) and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:6)

 

Joyce Meyer, a well known Bible teacher, says that the Lord spoke to her and told her that when she was exhausted if she began exalting Jesus she would not be exhausted anymore.  I think that what she says is true.  The Lord may give extra energy and super strength when needed in times of emergency.  There is power in Jesus’ Name! 

 

Once when I had been driving a long distance in heavy traffic and had become sleepy and exhausted, I worried that I might not have the strength to keep driving another few hours to my destination.  We started playing praise music – music that glorified Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior - and soon I could feel energy and strength coming back into my exhausted body and soul.  Singing praises brought joy and I finished the rest of the long drive with energy to spare!  We can exalt Jesus Christ by singing praise and we can exalt Him in our lives by living in obedience. .And joy always seems to light up the journey! 

 

The Lord does refresh us.  Scripture says:  “God gives power to the faint and weary, and to the person who has no might the Lord increases strength.”  (Isaiah 40:28-29.)  “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:30-31)  When we are very tired the Lord invites us to come to Him for rest.  “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28) 

 

Psalm 23 reads: “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.”  (Psalm 23:1)  And: “…I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10b.  We can enjoy God’s peace by believing and trusting in Him.

 

 God did not create our bodies and minds and spirits to work constantly seven days a week.  We need a break – a rest in the Lord.  One of the Ten Commandments is a commandment for God’s people to set aside one day a week as a Sabbath.  We are to rest and relax on that day and worship God and wait before Him and let Him restore us.

 

 This fourth commandment reads: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.  In it you shall do no work:…”  (Exodus 20:8-10).  We can keep the peace that God wants us to enjoy if we obey God and worship Him and rest and relax one day a week.

 

And we can enjoy the peace God has given us if we try to live in peace with those around us.  We are called to be “peace makers.”  God commands us to be kind and patient with others and courteous and gentle and willing to suffer wrong.  (2 Timothy 2:24-25)  You see we do have a part in keeping this abundant peace that Jesus has given us!

 

Jesus gives each of us an invitation!  He invites us personally to take His yoke upon ourselves – to get to know Him on a deeper level.  I think taking on His yoke means that we share His life, we let the Holy Spirit guide us and listen for His voice as we live our lives.  Here is Jesus’ invitation to us:  “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  My yoke is wholesome and my burden is light and easy to be borne.”  (Matthew 11:29-30)  Are we going to respond to his invitation?

 

The Lord’s burden is light and easy to carry.  He is gentle and humble in heart, and we will find rest for our souls by letting Him into our lives and obeying His voice.  Instead of stressing out about every little problem we can let Him lead and there will be joy and light heartedness along the way.  How much better can it get?     

 

 

Many of the Scriptures and ideas were taken from the book Straight Talk, pages 9-48 by Joyce Meyer.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Be Strong in the Lord



Be Strong in the Lord

 

Scripture tells us to “Fight the good fight of the faith.”  (1Timothy 6:12)  To “Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation.”  (Matthew 26:41a)  To “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)  And to “Refute every argument and reason and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5a)  In other words we are called to be an “all the way” Christian, not a “half-way” Christian.

 

The Bible tells us that we are in a heavy duty spiritual battle and we will have to be aggressive in the fight for the faith if we want to stay out of the valley of despair.  The Lord will give us the victory over the devil, but we have a part to play.  We will need to take action and get involved.  No sitting on the sidelines.  God will answer our prayers but our part is to actively work and watch and believe and pray.

 

We read in the Bible that this battle we are fighting isn’t against other people but against spiritual powers.  Ephesians 6:12 says: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (people) but against principalities and against powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.”  And  it is a violent battle, this battle between good and evil.  Matthew 11:12 reads: “From the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured an aggressive assault and violent men seize it by force.”

 

Because we are in an aggressive spiritual battle we will need to stay alert and be ready for action.  The minute we feel angry or hurt or whenever we are tempted to do wrong we need to stop and quickly call upon our Father in heaven for help.  We are not to react to situations by the way we feel, but by what God’s Word says.  Scripture says: “…Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5b)     

 

A young pastor in our church told us about the first time she preached a sermon to the congregation.  Afterwards she was feeling good about the experience and believing that the message had blessed the people.  But these warm feelings didn’t last for long.

 

 Soon after the service was over a church member came to her and told her that she had scratched her hip while she was preaching and that it didn’t look good and many in the congregation were laughing and making fun of her for doing that. The critical person pretended to go through exaggerated motions of scratching his hip to show her how bad it had looked. And that one little criticism took away all of her enthusiasm and devastated this young woman. 

 

She had been so excited about her ministry for Christ but now she wanted to run away and hide.  For a day or so she let the critical remark bother her.  She replayed it over and over again in her mind.  Maybe this man thought he was better than her?  Maybe she didn’t like this person because he had picked on her.  Maybe everyone in the congregation didn’t like her?  Maybe she shouldn’t be a pastor after all!  This new pastor sat around passively for awhile worrying about what people were thinking of her and feeling defeated and angry.  And the devil had her just where he wanted her.  The longer she thought about this remark the worse she felt.  And after a few days the problem seemed to have grown bigger and she had lost her joy and peace!. 

 

We need to be aggressive when we are tempted and we need to pray immediately before there is time for disappointment to grow into despair and temptation to grow into sin.  Our young minister forgot that and spent miserable days feeling defeated before she brought her anger to God.

 

 Scripture says that when we are angry at someone or something that we should not let the sun go down on our anger.  (Ephesians 4:31-32)  I think that means that we should immediately bring the situation that makes us angry to God and not let a day go by trying to deal with it by ourselves.  Scripture says: “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16)  God is a very present help in time of trouble. 

 

The Bible instructs us to give all of our problems to God and then not worry about them. Do we do that?  Scripture says: “Be anxious in nothing but in everything make your requests known to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6) We are promised peace in this verse but how many of us miss out on that peace because we miss out on bringing all of our worries to God.

 

Finally several days later our young pastor remembered to pray!  And finally she gave her anger and confusion and her reputation over to God.  It seemed as she prayed that the Lord reminded her of a Scripture verse: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)  She prayed for this man and for the people who he said had laughed at her and she asked the Lord to love them through her.  She took her mind off of her problem and set the focus of her heart and mind onto God. And only then did her joy and peace in the Lord return! Scripture instructs us to be strong in the Lord and take control of our thought life (by prayer and reading the Word) and to think about positive things.  (Philippians 4:8)

 

We will have disappointments and set backs in this life.  That is just the way it is in a sinful world.  Scripture says: “People are born to trouble as the sparks of a fire fly upward.” (Job 5:7)  We know that when we are outside standing around a bonfire we can count on the sparks from the fire rising upwards.  So let’s not be surprised when troubles come. 

 

 Some of us put too much confidence in other people when we know that all humans make mistakes and may disappoint us.  The only One who will never let us down is Jesus.  He is our Rock. (Psalm 18:2)  So let’s hold onto our Rock.  Scripture says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13)  We can be strong in Him.  And we can also remember that the Lord loves us all the way so let’s love Him back all the way. 

 

We don’t have to be a strong and joyful all by ourselves.  God through his Spirit gives us gifts (of joy and faith and hope and gentleness, etc)   And we also have many precious promises in Scripture to hold onto.  One of my favorite Scripture promises is: “Now to Him (Jesus) who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. To Him (Jesus) be glory in his followers (us) by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”  (Ephesians 3:10-21)   When we meditate on these promises in Scripture and not on our disappointments we can’t help but be strong in the Lord.   

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

More Powerful Visions from Ezekiel




More Powerful Visions from Ezekiel

Ezekiel 37 and 47

 

 

God often tried to speak to his people through visions.  But the people did not always understand God’s visions or what He was trying to show them.  Ezekiel did his best to describe his visions to the people, and tell them everything that God was showing him. But being human, most of the people could only relate to earthly things.  And in God’s visions the earthly curtain would be pulled back to reveal another realm - scenes of the after life and views of spiritual powers at work in the world.  Time would get mixed up with eternity and as the camera would roll you would see visions of yesterday blending in with visions of heaven and victory.  These powerful visions in Ezekiel and Revelations left many of God’s people confused and overwhelmed.    

 

Ezekiel’s wild vision of the valley of dry bones was one such vision.  This vision was given to Ezekiel around 595 B.C. at a time when the Jewish people had been captured and taken from their home in Jerusalem to Babylon.  And now they were hearing that Jerusalem had been destroyed along with their temple where the Spirit of God had been. 

 

Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel had already been captured and carried off into captivity by the Assyrians two hundred years earlier.  That was the end of those ten tribes wasn’t it?  And now the remaining Jewish people were slaves in Babylon and their home had been destroyed.  And all because the Jews had worshipped idols and rebelled against God’s good laws.  Was God going to let the nation of Israel fall never to rise again?  Was this the end of the Jewish people?

 

Perhaps God gave Ezekiel the vision of the dry bones to give the despondent Jews a message of hope!  In this vision Ezekiel tells that “The Spirit of the Lord set me down in the middle of a valley that was full of bones.”  (Ezekiel 37; 1b)  Ezekiel walks around and sees that there are a great many bones scattered everywhere and indeed they are very dry.  They have been dead for a very long time!

 

Then God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  (Ezekiel 37:3)  And  Ezekiel answers that he has no idea!  And then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones and tell them to hear God’s word.  God says that He will cause breath to enter into the bones and put muscles and nerves and flesh upon the bones and He will cover them with skin and they will live and know that the Lord is God.  (Ezekiel 37:4-6) 

 

So Ezekiel prophesies over the dry bones scattered around the valley as God has commanded.  And immediately there is a loud rattling noise in the valley among the bones as the bones all come together, bone to bone!  Knee bone connecting to the thigh bone, thigh bone connecting to the hip bone, etc.  And then flesh begins to appear on the bones!  Ezekiel watches in stunned silence!  There all around him lifeless human bodies come together and are scattered all around over the ground – thousands of bodies instead of dry bones!  But these bodies are not breathing!  

 

So God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the lifeless bodies and say that the Lord calls out breath to come into these bodies that they may live.  So Ezekiel obeys and prophesies again and immediately the lifeless bodies all over the valley start breathing and opening their eyes and stretching.  Ezekiel watches as thousands of men and women seem to wake up from a deep sleep and look around at each other.  And then one by one each person gets up until everyone is up and walking around and talking and laughing and crying and joyfully embracing.  And Ezekiel sees thousands and thousands of people moving around the valley now when a short time ago there had been only dry bones! 

 

God tells Ezekiel: “These dry bones are the whole house of Israel.  The Jewish people cry out: ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ But prophesy to them and tell them that God says that He will open their graves and cause them to come up from their graves, and bring them into the land of Israel.  And they shall know that God is the Lord.  And God says that all twelve tribes will be brought back from the nations where they had been living after they were scattered and they will become a nation of their own. And God will be in their midst forever.

 

The book of Ezekiel ends with another apocalyptic vision – a vision of God returning in glory to a new temple – God in the midst of his people once again, never to depart. (Ezekiel 47)  This vision is similar to the vision that John had in Revelation 22.  It would seem that perhaps the Jewish people build their temple again and have their laws and sacrifices and then God changes them and makes them sinless.

 

 In chapter 47 we are given something gloriously new.  Out of God’s temple flows a great life-giving river bordered by trees whose fruit is for food and whose leaves are for healing.  Bible scholars believe that this great River of Life may be the Holy Spirit pouring out to all a continual supply of divine grace. This vision is similar to John’s vision described in Revelation 22:1-2) And at the very end the city is named.  It is not named “Jerusalem”, but it is named “The Lord is there”.  (compare Revelation 21:22) 

 

This vision is confusing to some Bible scholars since there are visions of this new temple with sacrifices for sin and sinful people obeying the law. And death still is in the picture. (Chapter 40:38)  And then we are told that God returns in glory to his new temple to a sinless people (chap 42)  Do the Jewish people bring sacrifices for their sins in the beginning and then God comes to the temple in glory and the people recognized Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for their sins?  Or is this temple with the River of Life coming out from it and the sinless people of God a picture of life in the new heaven and the new earth?  There seems to be the subtle blending and telescoping of the near and the distant future in this vision which is common in many of the prophesies and visions that God gave to the prophets. 

 

We humans have always lived in a time frame and we are used to seeing pictures of events happening at a certain time.  But often God’s pictures or visions of things that are happening seem to be a work in progress -a  changing picture of an event that is happening now then blurring on into the future and blending back with the past and moving past the end times and into timeless eternal glory!.  These visions of actions that move outside of time and into eternity confuse us since we have always been time bound.

 

Ezekiel had more prophetic visions, but these two: the vision of the valley of dry bones and the end time vision of God returning to his new temple with the River of living water coming out from it are both visions and promises that may seem to be made just to Israel!  What about the rest of us who aren’t Jewish?  Are we left out?

 

 Ezekiel clearly states that the people who have circumcised hearts (people who repent of their sins and want to follow God) are the same as Israel .and are Israel(chap 43) He even goes as far as to say that the Jewish person who does not have a circumcised heart will not be among the Israel that will be receiving his promises.  The spiritual mysteries exposed in the book of Ezekiel are impossible to understand with the rational mind.  . 

 

  Scripture also says that because of Christ and his sacrifice for our sin that things are now different.  “For there is now no distinction between Jew and Gentile, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.”  (Romans 10:12)  We are all one in Christ.  The wall of separation between Jew and Gentile has been broken down through Christ.  (Ephesians 2:14)  And the Jewish nation has been pictured in Scripture as an olive tree that has been cared for and we Gentiles are pictured as a wild olive tree.  Scripture goes on to say that the Gentiles who are believers are said to be “grafted into the cared for olive tree” (Romans 11:24) 

 

The promises of Ezekiel’s two visions here are for all of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior.  God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones first before He brought them back to life.  And God tells us to pray in faith over our problems and then He will answer.  Our prayers and our faith are important to God and He has chosen to use them in His work. 

 

We each have our own personal valley of dry bones!  Problems that have been around so long that we’ve given up.  Dreams that are dried up and scattered and hopes that died long ago.  But God has promised to breathe new life into the dry bones and valleys of our lives even if we have to wait until we are standing by that River of Life on the other side!

 

Scripture says: “Know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  For the trumpet shall sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.  And death will be swallowed up in victory!”  (1 Corinthians 15:58b,52b, and 55)  It doesn’t get any better than that!