2412.) Psalm 144

July 31, 2018

Psalm 144   (ESV)

My Rock and My Fortress

Of David.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
    and my fingers for battle;

Ps144 playing-piano

David was probably thinking of a sword, a battle-axe, or a spear. But I once had a piano teacher who would quote this verse for training our hands and fingers at difficult musical passages!

he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues peoples under me.

O Lord, what is man that you regard him,
    or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
    his days are like a passing shadow.

Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down!
    Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
    send out your arrows and rout them!

“David wants God to be as present in his day as he was when he revealed himself at Sinai.”

–James Montgomery Boice

Stretch out your hand from on high;
    rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
    from the hand of foreigners,

When David spoke against these foreigners, it was not because of their nationality. By their actions they proved that they were truly foreigners from the people of God and rejected Yahweh, the God of Israel. Some of them may have even been of his own nation!

–David Guzik

whose mouths speak lies
    and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

I will sing a new song to you, O God;
    upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,

Ps144 bird-singing

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Nehemiah 11:22 — Of the sons of Asaph, the singers were over the business of the house of God.

Psalm 144:9 — I will sing a new song unto Thee, O God.

Ephesians 5:19 — Speaking to yourselves in songs and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

Colossians 3:16 — Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Singing people do practical work. The singers were over the business of the house of God. You who are being busy all day long about common things for love of Him, isn’t it good to know that you are singers and He is listening to your song? Your new song?

There is always something new to sing about. God’s singers are the happiest people in all the world. Even when they can’t sing so that others hear, it doesn’t matter. We can be happy just to sing and make melody in our heart to the Lord.

The Lord give us grace in our hearts so that we may be His singers today.

10 who gives victory to kings,
    who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.
11 Rescue me and deliver me
    from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
    and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

12 May our sons in their youth
    be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
    cut for the structure of a palace;

I could talk to you for a long time about our children! David and I each came into our marriage with three, a total of three sons and three daughters. Now we have four additional in-laws and seven grandchildren. And hoping for more! It is cause for daily prayers of rejoicing and thanksgiving — for all of us who are loving the adults that our children have grown up to be, and who are grateful for the opportunity to bring each one of them before the Lord.

13 may our granaries be full,
    providing all kinds of produce;
may our sheep bring forth thousands
    and ten thousands in our fields;
14 may our cattle be heavy with young,
    suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;
may there be no cry of distress in our streets!
15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
    Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

“The prayer ends at the source of the harmony it has visualized. For while it treasures the gifts, it reserves its final beatitude for the relationship behind them: that of being the people who know the Lord as their own.” 

–Derek Kidner

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Music:

I am in the mood for piano music, having spent my own countless hours over the years struggling with difficult passages!  HERE  is Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2. The pianist is Valentina Lisitsa, a Ukrainian-born and trained classical pianist who resides in North Carolina. Her hands and fingers have been wonderfully trained!

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Psalm 144:3.   http://unjournaled.com/2017/10/25/psalm-144/
playing piano.    http://piano-lessons-online0.blogspot.com/
Mount Sinai.   http://dustoffthebible.com/Blog-archive/2017/02/26/daily-bible-reading-devotional-exodus-24_12-18-february-26-2017/
bird singing.    http://psalmslife.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/bird-singing.jpg
paper doll family.   https://growcounseling.com/tips-merging-two-families/
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2411.) Psalm 140

July 30, 2018
See the evildoers, the serpent's tongue, the Lord's hand on behalf of his servant!

See the evildoers, the serpent’s tongue, the Lord’s hand on behalf of his servant!

Psalm 140    (NRSV)

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

This psalm is a complaint, which characteristically turns to the Lord at the end with confidence.  (The Reformation Bible)

To the leader. A Psalm of David.

Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers;
    protect me from those who are violent,
who plan evil things in their minds
    and stir up wars continually.

“The singer was being slandered by evil and violent men, who were prepared if occasion offered to add actual violence to their lying speech.”

–J. Campbell Morgan

“The persecuted man turns to God in prayer; he could not do a wiser thing. Who can meet the evil man and defeat him save Jehovah himself, whose infinite goodness is more than a match for all the evil in the universe?”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s,
    and under their lips is the venom of vipers.  Selah

Ps140 snake

James 3:8  (NIV)

No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
    protect me from the violent
    who have planned my downfall.
The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,
    and with cords they have spread a net,
    along the road they have set snares for me.  Selah

I say to the Lord, “You are my God;
    give ear, O Lord, to the voice of my supplications.”
7 O Lord, my Lord, my strong deliverer,
    you have covered my head in the day of battle.

Ps140 when-your-power-ends

The CEV (Contemporary English Version) puts it:  You have the power to save me, and you keep me safe in every battle. What is it that faces you as an enemy today? Finances? Loneliness? Problems with a child? A tough boss? Uncertainty about your future? Health issues? Do not try to handle it by yourself! Go to the Lord, who is your strength and your ever-present help! Pour out your heart to Jesus! Remind God of this very verse and his promise to fight for you and deliver you! Your Savior is faithful to his word and faithful to you. In his power he will keep you safe and bring you through.

Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
    do not further their evil plot.  Selah

Those who surround me lift up their heads;
    let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall on them!
    Let them be flung into pits, no more to rise!
11 Do not let the slanderer be established in the land;
    let evil speedily hunt down the violent!

12 I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy,
    and executes justice for the poor.

Willem A. VanGemeren remarked that the verb form of I know is “expressive of a present condition… a victory cry.”

13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
    the upright shall live in your presence.

This is true thanksgiving, even thanks-living; and this use we should make of all our deliverance, that we should serve God the more closely and cheerfully.

–Matthew Henry

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Music:

Released in 2011, this contemporary Christian song has been hugely popular.  HERE  is “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.

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New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
evildoers and serpent tongue.    http://kulturserver-nds.de/home/uleive/bibel-altes-testament-144-psalmen-psalm-140-gebet-um-hilfe.jpg
snake.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/0458b-snake.jpg
When your power ends.    http://pics.lordsplan.com/images/when-your-power-ends-343.JPG

2410.) Ezekiel 48

July 27, 2018

Ezekiel 48   (CEV)

The Division of Land among Tribes in the North

The Lord said:

1-7 Each tribe will receive a section of land that runs from the eastern border of Israel west to the Mediterranean Sea. The northern border of Israel will run along the towns of Hethlon and Lebo-Hamath, and will end at Hazar-Enon, which is on the border between the kingdoms of Damascus and Hamath. The tribes will receive their share of land in the following order, from north to south: Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah.

Here God listed the seven tribes of Israel that had a share of the northern portion of land in the coming kingdom period. It seems that the land was apportioned from north to south in bands or layers. (See one interpretation of a map below.)  

For Dan: Curiously, Dan is omitted in a listing of the tribes regarding the 144,000 in Revelation 7. Many think it was because Dan was the first tribe to embrace idolatry (Genesis 49:16-17 and Judges 17-18). Now, as a demonstration of God’s great grace, not only is Dan included, they are listed first.

For Judah: “It is immediately evident that Judah and Benjamin, the tribes which remained faithful to the Davidic dynasty, will be honored by proximity to the center of the millennial kingdom.” (Feinberg)

–David Guzik

The Special Section of Land

The Lord said:

South of Judah’s territory will be a special section of land. Its length will be eight miles, and its width will run from the eastern border of Israel west to the Mediterranean Sea. My temple will be located in this section of land.

An area in the center of this land will belong to me. It will be eight miles long and six miles wide.

10 I, the Lord, will give half of my sacred land to the priests. Their share will be eight miles long and three miles wide, and my temple will be right in the middle. 11 Only priests who are descendants of Zadok will receive a share of this sacred land, because they remained faithful to me when the Levites and the rest of the Israelites started sinning. 12 The land belonging to the priests will be the most sacred area and will lie south of the area that belongs to the Levites.

As previously described in Ezekiel 45:1-6, this was an area that Israel gave back unto the LORD. It contained the temple described in Ezekiel 40-43, with the sanctuary of the LORD in the center.  This was a district set aside for the LORD, that He in turn provided for His priests.

13 I will give the other half of my sacred land to the Levites. Their share will also be eight miles long and three miles wide, 14 and they must never sell or trade any of this land—it is the best land and belongs to me.

15 South of my sacred land will be a section eight miles long and two miles wide. It will not be sacred, but will belong to the people of Israel and will include the city of Jerusalem, together with its houses and pastureland. 16 The city will be a square: Each side will be a mile and a half long, 17 and an open area four hundred twenty feet wide will surround the city. 18 The land on the east and west sides of the city limits will be farmland for the people of Jerusalem; both sections will be three miles long and two miles wide. 19 People from the city will farm the land, no matter which tribe they belong to.

20 And so the center of this special section of land will be for my sacred land, as well as for the city and its property. The land will be a square, eight miles on each side.

21 The regions east and west of this square of land will belong to the ruler of Israel. His property will run east to the Jordan River and west to the Mediterranean Sea. In the very center of his property will be my sacred land, as well as the temple, 22 together with the share belonging to the Levites and the city of Jerusalem. The northern border of the ruler’s property will be the land that belongs to Judah, and the southern border will be the land that belongs to Benjamin.

The Division of Land among Tribes in the South

After listing the land allotments for the seven tribes north of the LORD’s district in the first 8 verses of this chapter, now the list continues with the land allotments for the tribes to the south of the LORD’s district.

The Lord God said:

23-27 South of this special section will be the land that belongs to the rest of Israel’s tribes. Each tribe will receive a section of land that runs from the eastern border of Israel west to the Mediterranean Sea. The tribes will receive their share of land in the following order, from north to south: Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad.

28 Gad’s southern border is also the southern border of Israel. It will begin at the town of Tamar, then run southwest to the springs near Meribath-Kadesh. It will continue along the Egyptian Gorge and end at the Mediterranean Sea.

29 That’s how the land of Israel will be divided among the twelve tribes. I, the Lord God, have spoken.

Each of the tribes would be restored to the land and none of them will be forgotten before God.

The Gates of Jerusalem

The Lord said:

30-34 The city of Jerusalem will have twelve gates, three on each of the four sides of the city wall. These gates will be named after the twelve tribes of Israel. The gates of Reuben, Judah, and Levi will be in the north; Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan will be in the east; Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun will be in the south; Gad, Asher, and Naphtali will be in the west. Each side of the city wall will be a mile and a half long, 35 and so the total length of the wall will be six miles. The new name of the city will be “The-Lord-Is-There!”

Throughout the larger section of Ezekiel 40-48, the name of the city of Jerusalem is never specifically mentioned. Here we discover why; God will give the city a new name. It will be known as Yahweh Shammah, “Yahweh is There.” In that day, the overwhelming character and idea of Jerusalem would be that God was there.

Ezekiel experienced the horror of seeing the glory of God departing from the temple in a vision (Ezekiel 11). Then he saw it return (Ezekiel 43:5). Now, in the new name for the city, he received the assurance that God would remain.

–David Guzik

“We bethink us of the truth that there is to be a millennial age — a time of glory, and peace, and joy, and truth, and righteousness. But what is to be the glory of it? Why this, ‘Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there!’”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The principle will carry on into the eternal state.  “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3). 

Warren W. Wiersbe explains: “This is one of seven compound names of Jehovah found in the Old Testament.”

· Jehovah Jireh—’the Lord will provide’  (Genesis 22:13-14)
· Jehovah Rapha—’the Lord who heals’  (Exodus 15:26)
· Jehovah Shalom—’the Lord our peace’  (Judges 6:24)
· Jehovah Tsidkenu—’the Lord our righteousness’  (Jeremiah 23:6) 
· Jehovah Shammah—’the Lord is present’  (Ezekiel 48:35) 
· Jehovah Nissi—’the Lord our banner’  (Exodus 17:8-15) 
· Jehovah Ra’ah—’the Lord our shepherd’  (Psalm 23:1) 

“The name tells of complete satisfaction; that of God, and that of man. God is at rest among His people, His original purpose realized. Man is seen at rest in God, his true destiny reached.” 

–J. Campbell Morgan

THE END OF THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL

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Music:

As we read these chapters about plans for a temple, a place to worship the Most High God, I want us to hear some of the hymns that have been sung for many generations in many different countries and denominations. These are some of a Christian’s most precious treasures!

HERE  is one of my most favorites, by Charles Wesley, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”

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2409.) Ezekiel 47

July 26, 2018

Ezekiel 47   (CEV)

The Stream Flowing from the Temple

The man took me back to the temple, where I saw a stream flowing from under the entrance. It began in the south part of the temple, where it ran past the altar and continued east through the courtyard.

We walked out of the temple area through the north gate and went around to the east gate. I saw the small stream of water flowing east from the south side of the gate.

In all of its recorded history, Jerusalem never had such a river. There were streams and springs, but never a rich, mighty river, and never one flowing from this part of the city. In the semi-arid geography of Israel a river like this was both a blessing and a miracle. It brought life, growth, vitality, refreshment, hope, and security.

–David Guzik

The man walked east, then took out his measuring stick and measured five hundred sixty yards downstream. He told me to wade through the stream there, and the water came up to my ankles. Then he measured another five hundred sixty yards downstream, and told me to wade through it there. The water came up to my knees. Another five hundred sixty yards downstream the water came up to my waist. Another five hundred sixty yards downstream, the stream had become a river that could be crossed only by swimming. 

“We need the ankle-depths of walking to be exchanged for the knee-depths of praying; and these for the loin-depths of perfect purity; and these for the length, depth, breadth, and height of the love of Christ.”

–F. B. Meyer

The man said, “Ezekiel, son of man, pay attention to what you’ve seen.”

We walked to the riverbank, where I saw dozens of trees on each side. The man said:

This water flows eastward to the Jordan River valley and empties into the Dead Sea, where it turns the salt water into fresh water. Wherever this water flows, there will be all kinds of animals and fish, because it will bring life and fresh water to the Dead Sea. 10 From En-Gedi to Eneglaim, people will fish in the sea and dry their nets along the coast. There will be as many kinds of fish in the Dead Sea as there are in the Mediterranean Sea. 11 But the marshes along the shore will remain salty, so that people can use the salt from them.

12 Fruit trees will grow all along this river and produce fresh fruit every month. The leaves will never dry out, because they will always have water from the stream that flows from the temple, and they will be used for healing people.

from This Day with the Master
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

LIVING WATER

We should never despise small things if God is in them. Ezekiel 47 illustrates this for us. The prophet stood before the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and saw a small trickle of water seeping out from under the threshold. The small stream flowed eastward.

The prophet was led out some 1,500 feet and found that the trickle had now become a stream that was ankle deep. He was led out another 1,500 feet, and the water was up to his knees. Another 1,500 feet and it reached to his waist. When he was led another 1,500 feet, he found that it was a river to swim in, a river no one could cross.

He noticed then that the stream was flowing down into the Dead Sea. To his delight he observed the waters of the Dead Sea being turned into waters moving with life. The salt water had become fresh. Animals came to drink. Fish leaped into the sea. Trees sprang up on the shore, bearing fruit of all kinds, and their leaves had power to heal. A scene of sterility, barrenness, and death was now a scene of healthy, productive life.

The final picture of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22 picks up this scene. There the stream flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. The tree of life stands on each side, bearing a different fruit for each month. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. The darkness is past. Mourning, pain, and death are no more. Everything is new. The thirsty are invited to come and drink of the water of life. The Lamb and his bride reign with the Father through the Spirit. And everything started with what appeared to be a trickle.

Someone has said, “Find where God is at work and join in.” That work may be small, as the time-bound eyes of humans see it. But if God is in it, its future is as large as the promises of God.

The Borders of the Land

13-14 The Lord God said to the people of Israel:

When the land is divided among the twelve tribes of Israel,

 “Although the nation had been divided politically for nearly four hundred years, as in the case of all his prophetic colleagues Ezekiel’s vision of Israel’s future is based on the tradition of a united nation consisting of twelve tribes of Israel descended from Jacob’s twelve sons.”

–Daniel I. Block

the Joseph tribe (that is, the two tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph’s sons) will receive two shares. Divide the land equally, because I promised your ancestors that this land would someday belong to their descendants. These are the borders of the land:

15 The northern border will begin at the Mediterranean Sea, then continue eastward to Hethlon, to Lebo-Hamath, then across to Zedad, 16 Berothah, and Sibraim, which is on the border between the two kingdoms of Damascus and Hamath. The border will end at Hazer-Hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran. 17 So the northern border will run between the Mediterranean Sea and Hazar-Enon, which is on the border between Damascus and Hamath.

18 The eastern border will begin on the border between the two kingdoms of Hauran and Damascus. It will run south along the Jordan River, which separates the territories of Gilead and Israel, and it will end at the Dead Sea near the town of Tamar.

19 The southern border will begin at Tamar, then run southwest to the springs near Meribath-Kadesh. It will continue along the Egyptian Gorge and will end at the Mediterranean Sea.

20 The western border will run north along the Mediterranean Sea to a point just west of Lebo-Hamath.

Using landmarks on the north, east, south, and west, God described the borders of Israel in the period of Ezekiel’s temple, a period regarded by some as the millennial reign of Jesus Messiah.

–David Guzik

21 That is the land to be divided among the tribes of Israel. 22 It will belong to the Israelites and to any foreigners living among them whose children were born in Israel. These foreigners must be treated like any other Israelite citizen, and they will receive 23 a share of the land given to the tribe where they live. I, the Lord God, have spoken.

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Music:

As we read these chapters about plans for a temple, a place to worship the Most High God, I want us to hear some of the hymns that have been sung for many generations in many different countries and denominations. These are some of a Christian’s most precious treasures!

HERE  is a song I sing to myself almost every day — “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The line that I love most —

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
  Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
  Seal it for Thy courts above.

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2408.) Ezekiel 46

July 25, 2018

Ezekiel 46   (CEV)

Various Laws for the Ruler and the People

As Ezekiel sets out the proper way to worship in this temple, I have included quotes about worship by people who have thought deeply about it. I hope you will find your idea of worship enhanced as you read this post today!

The Lord said:

The east gate of the inner courtyard must remain closed during the six working days of each week. But on the Sabbath and on the first day of the month, this gate will be opened. Israel’s ruler will go from the outer courtyard into the entrance room of this gate and stand in the doorway while the priest offers sacrifices to ask my blessing and sacrifices to please me. The ruler will bow with his face to the ground to show that he has worshiped me. Then he will leave, and the gate will remain open until evening.

“In general rejoice in him and make a fool of yourself for him the way lovers have always made fools of themselves for the one they love.” – Frederick Buechner

Each Sabbath and on the first day of each month, the people of Israel must also come to the east gate and worship me. On the Sabbath, the ruler will bring six lambs and one ram to be offered as sacrifices to please me. There must be nothing wrong with any of these animals. With the ram, he is to offer twenty pounds of grain, and with each of the lambs, he can offer as much as he wants. He must also offer four quarts of olive oil with every twenty pounds of grain.

In the process of being worshiped… God communicates his presence to men. – C. S. Lewis

The ruler is to bring six lambs, a bull, and a ram to be offered as sacrifices at the New Moon Festival. There must be nothing wrong with any of these animals. With the bull and the ram, he is to offer twenty pounds of grain, and with each of the lambs, he can offer as much as he wants. He must also offer four quarts of olive oil with every twenty pounds of grain. The ruler must come through the entrance room of the east gate and leave the same way.

Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God – it whets our appetite. – Eugene Peterson

When my people come to worship me during any festival, they must always leave by the opposite gate from which they came: Those who come in the north gate must leave by the south gate, and those who come in the south gate must leave by the north gate. 10 Their ruler will come in at the same time they do and leave at the same time they leave.

For years, the church has emphasized evangelism, teaching, fellowship, missions, and service to society to the neglect of the very source of its power – worship. – Robert E. Webber

11 At all other festivals and celebrations, twenty pounds of grain will be offered with a bull, and twenty pounds will be offered with a ram. The worshipers can offer as much grain as they want with each lamb. Four quarts of olive oil must be offered with every twenty pounds of grain.

12 If the ruler voluntarily offers a sacrifice to please me or to ask my blessing, the east gate of the inner courtyard will be opened for him. He will offer his sacrifices just as he does on each Sabbath; then he will leave, and the gate will be closed.

Oswald Chambers put it this way: “Worship is giving God the best that he has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to him in a deliberate act of worship.”

13 Each morning a year-old lamb that has nothing wrong with it must be offered as a sacrifice to please me. 14 Along with it, three pounds of fine flour mixed with a quart of olive oil must be offered as a grain sacrifice. This law will never change— 15 the lamb, the flour, and the olive oil will be offered to me every morning for all time.

Laws about the Ruler’s Land

16 The Lord God said:

If the ruler of Israel gives some of his land to one of his children, it will belong to the ruler’s child as part of the family property. 17 But if the ruler gives some of his land to one of his servants, the land will belong to the servant until the Year of Celebration, when it will be returned to the ruler. Only the ruler’s children can keep what is given to them.

God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. – A. W. Tozer

18 The ruler must never abuse my people by taking land from them. Any land he gives his children must already belong to him.

from Psalm 57

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.
 Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.

 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

The Sacred Kitchens

19 The man who was showing me the temple then took me back to the inner courtyard. We walked to the south side of the courtyard and stopped at the door to the sacred rooms that belonged to the priests. He showed me more rooms at the western edge of the courtyard 20 and said, “These are the kitchens where the priests must boil the meat to be offered as sacrifices to make things right and as sacrifices for sin. They will also bake the grain for sacrifices in these kitchens. That way, these sacred offerings won’t have to be carried through the outer courtyard, where someone could accidentally touch them and be harmed.”

Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped. – Jack Hayford

21 We went back to the outer courtyard and walked past the four corners. 22 At each corner I saw a smaller courtyard, sixty-eight feet long and fifty feet wide. 23 Around the inside of these smaller courtyards was a low wall of stones, and against the wall were places to build fires.24 The man said, “These are the kitchens where the temple workers will boil the meat that worshipers offer as sacrifices.”

Bible commentator William Barclay wrote: “When men worship Jesus Christ, they do not fall at his feet in broken submission, but in wondering love. A man does not say, ‘I cannot resist a might like that.’ He says, ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.’ A man does not say, ‘I am battered into surrender.’ He says, ‘I am lost in wonder, love, and praise.’”

_________________________

Music:

As we read these chapters about plans for a temple, a place to worship the Most High God, I want us to hear some of the hymns that have been sung for many generations in many different countries and denominations. These are some of a Christian’s most precious treasures!

HERE  is a modern great hymn, “In Christ Alone.” “In Christ Alone” was written  in 2001 by Keith Getty (Northern Ireland) and Stuart Townend (England), both songwriters of Christian hymns and contemporary worship music.

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2407.) Ezekiel 45

July 24, 2018

Ezekiel 45   (CEV)

The Lord’s Sacred Land

The Lord said:

When the land of Israel is divided among the twelve tribes, you must set aside an area that will belong to me. This sacred area will be eight miles long and six miles wide. The temple will be on a piece of land eight hundred forty feet square, and the temple will be completely surrounded by an open space eighty-four feet wide.

3-4 I will give half of my sacred land, a section eight miles long and three miles wide, to the priests who serve in the temple. Their houses will be in this half, as well as my temple, which is the most sacred place of all.

I will give the other half of my land to the Levites who work in my temple, and the towns where they will live will be there.

Next to my sacred land will be an area eight miles long and two miles wide. This will belong to the people of Israel and will include the city of Jerusalem.

“The land belonging to God directly is approximately 64 square miles. Three parts comprise this area. The northernmost portion comprising some 25 square miles belonged to the Levites. Next came a strip of the same size that was available to the priests. It also was the site of the sanctuary. The last strip, which was about 13 square miles, was for the city itself. The land to the east and west of this sacral land was for the prince. The rest of the land of Israel belonged to the tribes.”

–Bruce Vawter and Leslie J. Hoppe

The city of Jerusalem would have an appointed portion and would be the heritage of all Israel, not any one particular tribe.

Land for Israel’s Ruler

The Lord said:

7-8 The regions west and east of my sacred land and the city of Jerusalem will belong to the ruler of Israel. He will be given the region between the western edge of my land and the Mediterranean Sea, and between the eastern edge of my land and the Jordan River. This will mean that the length of his property will be the same as the sections of land given to the tribes.

This property will belong to every ruler of Israel, so they will always be fair to my people and will let them live peacefully in the land given to their tribes.

No more Ahab and Naboth stories!  (see 1 Kings 21)

“The princes of Israel abandon the sins which their privileged position of influence makes possible and give their attention to their real duty, the promotion of righteousness in the land.”

–John B. Taylor

Israel’s Rulers Must Be Honest

The Lord God said:

You leaders of Israel have robbed and cheated my people long enough! I want you to stop sinning and start doing what is right and fair. You must never again force my people off their own land. I, the Lord, have spoken.

10 So from now on, you must use honest weights and measures. 

11 The ephah will be the standard dry measure, and the bath will be the standard liquid measure. Their size will be based on the homer, which will equal ten ephahs or ten baths.

12 The standard unit of weight will be the shekel. One shekel will equal twenty gerahs, and sixty shekels will equal one mina.

13 Leaders of Israel, the people must bring you one sixtieth of their grain harvests as offerings to me. 14 They will also bring one percent of their olive oil. These things will be measured according to the bath, and ten baths is the same as one homer or one cor. 15 Finally, they must bring one sheep out of every two hundred from their flocks.

These offerings will be used as grain sacrifices, as well as sacrifices to please me and those to ask my blessing. I, the Lord, will be pleased with these sacrifices and will forgive the sins of my people.

16 The people of Israel will bring you these offerings. 17 But during New Moon Festivals, Sabbath celebrations, and other religious feasts, you leaders will be responsible for providing animals for the sacrifices, as well as the grain and wine. All these will be used for the sacrifices for sin, the grain sacrifices, the sacrifices to please me, and those to ask my blessing. I will be pleased and will forgive the sins of my people.

The Festivals

18 The Lord God said:

On the first day of the first month, a young bull that has nothing wrong with it must be offered as a sacrifice to purify the temple. 19 The priest will take some blood from this sacrifice and smear it on the doorposts of the temple, as well as on the four corners of the altar and on the doorposts of the gates that lead into the inner courtyard.

20 The same ceremony must also be done on the seventh day of the month, so that anyone who sins accidentally or without knowing it will be forgiven, and so that my temple will remain holy.

“Even the temple needs to be ‘cleansed’ once a year because its ministers are human and sinful. Twice a year the sacred ceremony of cleansing the sanctuary was to be performed, on the first day of the first month, and on the first day of the seventh month.”

–G. Campbell Morgan

21 Beginning on the fourteenth day of the first month, and continuing for seven days, everyone will celebrate Passover and eat bread made without yeast. 22 On the first day, the ruler will bring a bull to offer as a sacrifice for his sins and for the sins of the people. 23 Each day of the festival he is to bring seven bulls and seven rams as sacrifices to please me, and he must bring a goat as a sacrifice for sin. These animals must have nothing wrong with them. 24 He will also provide twenty pounds of grain and four quarts of olive oil to be offered with each bull and each ram.

Among the feasts celebrated at Ezekiel’s future temple will be Passover. God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt and His greater redemption through the work of Jesus on the cross will always be remembered.

25 The Festival of Shelters will begin on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and will continue for seven days. On each day of this festival, the ruler will provide the same number of animals that he did each day during Passover, as well as the same amount of grain and olive oil for the sacrifices.

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Music:

As we read these chapters about plans for a temple, a place to worship the Most High God, I want us to hear some of the hymns that have been sung for many generations in many different countries and denominations. These are some of a Christian’s most precious treasures!

HERE  is “When I survey the wondrous cross,” written by Isaac Watts and published in Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707. Charles Wesley re­port­ed­ly said he would give up all his other hymns to have writ­ten this one. May I suggest that if you do not now know this hymn by heart, you learn it! It is so rich!

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2406.) Ezekiel 44

July 23, 2018

Instructions for the priests.

Ezekiel 44   (CEV)

The East Gate Must Remain Closed

The man took me back to the outer courtyard, near the east gate of the temple area. I saw that the doors to this gate were closed. The Lord said:

I, the Lord God of Israel, came through this gate, so it must remain closed forever! No one must ever use it. 

“The closure of the gate then is not a menacing symbol but an encouraging one… Since Yahweh entered the temple through this gate, it is unseemly that others should use it. Since God will never leave the temple again, the gate will remain closed.”

–Bruce Vawter and Leslie J. Hoppe

The ruler of Israel may come here to eat a sacrificial meal that has been offered to me, but he must use only the entrance room of this gate.

The identity of this leader is a matter of much discussion among Bible commentators and teachers. A few take it to be Jesus the Messiah, and some that he is a civil leader or a high priest. The fact that he must offer a sin offering (Ezekiel 45:22) and has sons Ezekiel 46:16)  means it is unlikely that he is Jesus Messiah.

–David Guzik

People Who Are Not Allowed in the Temple

Then the man took me through the north gate to the front of the temple. I saw that the brightness of the Lord’s glory had filled the temple, and I immediately bowed with my face to the ground.

The Lord said:

Ezekiel, son of man, I am going to give you the laws for my temple. So pay attention and listen carefully to what kind of people are allowed to come in the temple, and what kind are not. Tell those rebellious people of Israel:

I, the Lord God, command you to stop your evil ways! My temple has been disgraced, because you have let godless, stubborn foreigners come here when sacrifices are being offered to me. You have sinned and have broken our solemn agreement. Instead of following the proper ways to worship me, you have put foreigners in charge of worship at my temple.

And so I, the Lord God, say that no godless foreigner who disobeys me will be allowed in my temple. This includes any foreigner living in Israel.

“Under no circumstances should aliens or the uncircumcised in the heart or flesh serve in the sanctuary of Jehovah. This had been the sin of the past, and must not be repeated.”

–James Campbell Morgan

“It is clear from vs. 5-8 that in the last days of Solomon’s Temple the priests had allowed anyone, even uncovenanted pagans, to act as priests and temple servants. Either they had been lazy or busy with their own affairs, and had hired others to do their work; or they had taken bribes from pagans who wanted to serve in the Temple, perhaps for the offerings that they were able to take home and resell.”

–Christopher J. H. Wright

The Levites Are Punished

The Lord said:

10 Some of the Levites turned their backs on me and joined the other people of Israel in worshiping idols. So these Levites must be punished! 11 They will still be allowed to serve me as temple workers by guarding the gates and by killing the animals to be sacrificed and by helping the worshipers. 12 But because these Levites served the people of Israel when they worshiped idols, I, the Lord God, promise that the Levites will be punished. They did not stop the Israelites from sinning, 13 and now I will no longer let the Levites serve as my priests or come near anything sacred to me. They must suffer shame and disgrace for their disgusting sins. 14 They will be responsible for all the hard work that must be done in the temple.

The Levites would not be excluded from all service relevant to the temple, only the work of priestly sacrifice.

“Yet mercy is not lacking, for they will not be excluded from all types of priestly ministry. It is only that they will lose the dignity of the higher services of the priesthood, such as were performed in the holy place or the first compartment of the tabernacle and temple.”

–Charles L. Feinberg

“These were menial tasks. Nevertheless, they were tasks which had to be done and the ordinary people were not permitted to do them, so we must beware of denigrating the duties of the Levites in Ezekiel’s temple. They have their counterparts today in all aspects of church life and doubtless then, as now, many reckoned it a privilege to be attending on the people of God in the more mundane details of their religion. After all, they were doing their duties by divine appointment.”

–John B. Taylor

Rules for Priests

The Lord said:

15 The priests of the Levi tribe who are descendants of Zadok the priest were faithful to me, even when the rest of the Israelites turned away.

The sons of Zadok were of the tribe of Levi and were of the family of Aaron (the priests). Zadok received the right to the priesthood in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 2:35). They were not like the other Levites in general, being noted for their faithfulness.

And so, these priests will continue to serve as my priests and to offer the fat and the blood of sacrifices. 16 They will come into my temple, where they will offer sacrifices at my altar and lead others in worship.

17 When they come to the inner courtyard, they must wear their linen priestly clothes. My priests must never wear anything made of wool when they are on duty in this courtyard or in the temple. 18 Even their turbans and underwear must be made of linen to keep my priests from sweating when they work. 

“The linen not only depicted purity by its whiteness, but its coolness kept the priests from perspiring and thereby becoming unclean.”

–Ralph H. Alexander

19 And before they leave to join the other people in the outer courtyard, they must take off their priestly clothes, then place them in the sacred rooms and put on their regular clothes. That way, no one will touch their sacred clothes and be harmed.

20 Priests must never shave their heads when they are mourning. But they must keep their hair properly trimmed and not let it grow too long. 

“Like scarred skin, both the shaved head and long, unkempt hair were considered signs of disfigurement (cf. Leviticus 19:27). If the sacrificial animals were to be without defect or blemish, how much more those functionaries who stand before the holy God in service?”

–Daniel I. Block

21 They must not drink wine before going to the inner courtyard.

22 A priest must not marry a divorced woman; he can marry only a virgin from Israel or the widow of another priest.

23 Priests must teach my people the difference between what is sacred and what is ordinary, and between what is clean and what is unclean. 24 They will make decisions in difficult legal cases, according to my own laws. They must also observe the religious festivals my Law requires and must always respect the Sabbath.

This was one of fundamental duties of the priests of Israel. They were by both instruction and example to teach Israel the difference between the unclean and the clean. The priests of ancient Israel could also serve as judges or mediators. This was because they were supposed to be well versed in the laws and statutes of God, and able to apply them in given situations.

“Ezra provides an outstanding example of such leadership, with the added observation that he made the law a matter of personal study as well. An admirable example to all who minister God’s word, Ezra’s triple commitment to the law was to study it, to do it and to teach it. If only leaders in the Christian church had the same depth and breadth of commitment to the Scriptures! For it hardly needs to be said that these same duties belong to the task of pastoral leadership in the church and are strongly commended in the New Testament. Not only did Paul impress on Timothy and Titus the importance of teaching, careful handling of disputes, and setting an example of personal godliness and integrity; he modelled all three in his own ministry.”

–Christopher J. H. Wright

25 Touching a dead body will make a person unclean. So a priest must not go near a dead body, unless it is one of his parents or children, or his brother or unmarried sister. 26 If a priest touches a dead body, he is unclean and must go through a ceremony to make himself clean. Then seven days later, 27 he must go to the inner courtyard of the temple and offer a sacrifice for sin. After that, he may once again serve as my priest. I, the Lord God, have spoken.

28 I myself will provide for my priests, and so they won’t receive any land of their own. 29 Instead, they will receive part of the grain sacrifices, as well as part of the sacrifices for sin and sacrifices to make things right. They will also be given everything in Israel that has been completely dedicated to me. 30 The first part of every harvest will belong to the priests. They will also receive part of all special gifts and offerings the Israelites bring to me. And whenever any of my people bake bread, they will give their first loaf as an offering to the priests, and I will bless the homes of the people when they do this.

“Like the Old Testament priests, the kingdom priests will not have an inheritance of land but will have the Lord as their inheritance and be able to live from the temple offerings.”

–Warren W. Wiersbe

31 Priests must not eat any bird or animal that dies a natural death or that has been killed by a wild animal.

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Music:

As we read these chapters about plans for a temple, a place to worship the Most High God and the people who lead the congregation, I want us to hear some of the hymns that have been sung for many generations in many different countries and denominations. These are some of a Christian’s most precious treasures!  HERE  is “Holy, Holy, Holy,” written by Reginald Heber (1783–1826), an English Anglican priest who was for the last few years of his life the Bishop of Calcutta

Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, Holy, Holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man, Thy glory may not see:
Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise Thy name in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, Holy, Holy! merciful and mighty,
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!

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