"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 5, 2017
I have been reading from Ezekiel, off and on, here lately. Recently I was reading from chapter 20 and there were several verses that really stood out to me. I would like to share some of those scriptures with you, because I believe there are some things that we can learn from them.
In this particular chapter, some of the leaders of Israel went to visit Ezekiel, requesting a message from the Lord. They sat down in front of Ezekiel to wait for the Lord's reply.
This message came to Ezekiel from the Lord, "Tell the leaders of Israel that this is what the Sovereign Lord says: 'How dare you come to ask me for a message? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I will tell you nothing!'" Then God proceeded to tell Ezekiel what to say to these leaders.
Honestly, the prophet, Ezekiel, had to have been a man who was very confident in knowing that he was hearing from God and then have the courage to speak boldly, because this wasn't a message that would be easy for most of us to give; especially to men who were leaders of Israel. God told him to bring charges against them and condemn them; make them realize how detestable the sins of their ancestors really were. I'm sure the leaders were wanting and expecting words of advice and possible encouragement as to what to expect for Israel's future, and weren't expecting God to say, "Uh... no!"
Imagine if you were a prophet and President Trump and Vice President Pence and the members of Congress came to your house and sat down in front of you and said, "We want a message from the Lord; and we're going to sit here with you until you give us God's reply." Then the message that God gave to you for these important leaders was one of rebuke and condemnation. That's the position that Ezekiel found himself in.
The Lord tells them this (verses 5-6), "When I chose Israel, I took a solemn oath that I, the Lord, would be their God. I took a solemn oath that day that I would bring them out of Egypt to a land I had discovered and explored for them -- a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the best of all lands anywhere."
There were a couple things that caught my attention. The first thing was when the Lord said, "....I would bring them out of Egypt to a land I had discovered and explored for them." The second thing was when God said that it was, "the best of all lands anywhere."
I find that pretty amazing!! God didn't just bring the Israelites out of Egypt in order to deliver them from slavery. It wasn't only to get them out from under Pharaoh's control. But He wanted to take them to a place that HE had discovered and explored for them! God hand-picked the land that He wanted to give to His people; and it wasn't just any land, but it was the very best of all lands anywhere.
Here's what happened: Verse 8 says, "But they rebelled against Me and would not listen. They did not get rid of the vile images they were obsessed with, or forsake the idols of Egypt."
Instead of having a grateful heart for God's deliverance and determining to turn their hearts to Him and serve Him only, the Israelites were obsessed with vile images and refused to rid themselves of the idols they had begun worshipping in Egypt. They clung to their old life, often wishing that they could back. They never fully got the vision for what God had prepared for them. We often lack vision for what God's plan for us is today, therefore, we wish for how things were in the past instead of anticipating what lies ahead.
God continues speaking through Ezekiel saying, "I threatened to pour out my fury on them to satisfy my anger while they were still in Egypt. But I didn't do it, for I acted to protect the honor of my name. I would not allow shame to be brought on my name among the surrounding nations who saw Me reveal Myself by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. So I brought them out of Egypt and led them into the wilderness."
While in the wilderness, God gave them His decrees and regulations so they could find life by keeping them. He was speaking about when Moses was given the Ten Commandments.
What was the reason in God giving the Israelites these commandments? So that by keeping them, they could find life!
The Lord says in verse 13b: "They wouldn't obey My regulations (commandments) even though obedience would have given them life."
Back to verse 12, "I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the Lord, who had set them apart to be holy."
However, (back to verse 13b), "They also violated my Sabbath days. So I threatened to pour out my fury on them, and I made plans to utterly consume them in the wilderness. (14) But again I held back in order to protect the honor of My name before the nations who had seen My power in bringing Israel out of Egypt."
Because of the Israelites disobedience and failure to honor God, they never thoroughly enjoyed and experienced the promises of God. They never completely realized the greatness of God's plan, nor were able to fully enjoy it.
It makes me wonder how many times we miss out on fully enjoying the place that God has scouted out and found for us to enjoy, because we never completely get rid of our "slave" mentality. We never feel quite worthy, hold onto past hurts and mistakes, and sometimes the journey feels too difficult. God gives us promises and plans our lives in detail, yet we fail to completely trust God, therefore, we never enter the land that He prepared for us; or else we enter it much later than God ever intended.
Verse 15 describes Canaan as "a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful place on earth". This was a hand-picked land that God had found for them to dwell in, yet they spent forty years wandering in the wilderness, instead of going into their rightful place.
The Lord continues speaking through Ezekiel that He then warned their children not to follow in their parents' footsteps, defiling themselves with their idols. But their children rebelled, also. They refused to keep God's commandments and follow what God had told them to do, "though obedience would have given them life."
Finally, God said that He let them pollute themselves with the very gifts that He had given them. Why? So that He might devastate them and remind them that He alone was the Lord.
It took the Israelites 40 years to make an 11 day journey. Think about that! Yes, they had to go through the wilderness to get to their final destination, but God never ever intended on them taking up residence there for forty years. His original plan was for them to pass through the wilderness, not live there.
The truth is, they could have entered the promised land much, much more quickly than they did. There were scouts sent out to look over the land and bring a report back to the people. Most of those scouts came back with a report of fear. There are giants in the land and they will overpower and destroy us. Only Joshua and Caleb came back encouraging the people to go forward and take the land that God had given them. They knew if God had led them there, He would protect and keep them from harm. God wouldn't have led them to this choice, hand-picked land only to have them be destroyed.
Sometimes in order to reach our God-given promise, we may encounter what looks like giants. We can either trust that God led us there, so He will also keep and protect us; or we can look at the situation with fear and live in the wilderness for most of our lives, while God's best is lying nearby.
Last week I wrote from Psalm 139 that God writes our life story while we are in our mother's womb. He plans every day of our life. But He cannot force us to follow His plan. If we choose a life of disobedience and hold onto the past, then we will take up residence in places that He only meant for us to pass through.
The Israelites had been in slavery for 430 years. When you have been in slavery for generations, you will think, act, talk, and look like a slave. I heard Evangelist Christine Caine say, "Even though they came out of Egypt, God needed to get Egypt out of them."
It's the same for those who come out of a life of sin and become a believer. At first they may think, act, talk, and look like the world. The same principle can be applied: Even though they came out of the world, God needs to get the world out of them.
In verse 31, the question is once again asked, "'Should I allow you to ask for a message from me, O people of Israel? As surely as I live,' says the Sovereign Lord, 'I will tell you nothing.'"
Many want a word from the Lord, but don't want to fully commit themselves to Him in order to receive it. They remain shackled to their past, or hold stubbornly to present sins while crying out for a message from God. "Just give me a word, Lord! Tell me what to do. Show me Your plan. Give me direction." Yet when God speaks, we fail to respond and obey; even though His words and commands would bring us life.
After reminding the Israel leaders of the past and present rebellion of their people, God then said these words: "You will know that I am the Lord, O people of Israel, when I have honored My name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!"
Thankfully, God doesn't give us what we deserve, or we would all be in big trouble. When we deserve punishment, He gives us mercy. When we rebel, He keeps pursuing us and wooing us to return back to Him. Why? To honor His name by not giving us what we deserve, but by treating us with mercy. He does so so that we will know that He is the Lord.
I know it can be hard to let go of the past. Sometimes, it takes quite a bit of a push. A nephew of ours recently lost his job in a lay-off. But before his severance pay ran out, he was able to get what I'm sure will be a better job.
It's much easier to look at the Israelites, and say it should have been obvious that they just needed to get rid of the idols, and obey God. But that's because we know how the history ended. When you're in the middle, it's harder to see.
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups fresh or frozen corn
Melt butter in heavy saucepan; add flour and salt, stirring to blend. Slowly add whipping cream, stirring constantly until thickened. Add sugar and corn; heat thoroughly.
Let me preface this story by saying that I really am a competent babysitter and take good care of each kid that I watch. I normally don't nap while babysitting a child, unless they are also napping at the same time. In this incident, Owen was sitting on top of me and talking, so I knew exactly where he was and what he was doing the entire time!
I was watching my great-nephew, Owen (age 4), a few days ago. He was playing Minecraft (which I totally do not understand!) on PlayStation, which is one of his favorite things to do. I became very sleepy! I laid down on the couch, and Owen was sitting on my legs. I knew that if he got up it would wake me up, should I fall asleep, so I closed my eyes for a few minutes. Plus, he tends to talk -- a lot -- while playing, giving me a running commentary on everything that is happening in the game; so occasionally I grunt or say "really" or "yeah". Apparently I did doze off for a few minutes, because I woke up to Owen (sounding very puzzled) asking, "Why are you sleeping?!" I'm sure it seemed very odd to him that anyone would want to nap during the day, because he certainly never wants to! He then proceeded to wallow all over me, while talking non-stop. He laid down beside me, laid down on top of me, sat on me.... the entire time wriggling and chatting. Needless to say, it didn't take me long to become wide awake!
Don't get stuck somewhere you should only be passing through. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon