ISRAEL, THEN AND NOW
Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 21-22
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Key Verses: Ezekiel 22:29-30
The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.
What did the people of Jerusalem do wrong? According to these two chapters, nearly everything! The leaders and many of the people consistently broke God’s laws for moral and social conduct, for religious practices and economic systems. Ezekiel, the prophet, had already been taken by King Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon in the second wave of captives. Life in Jerusalem continued. As Ezekiel writes in 21:21, the King of Babylon was at the crossroads of decision as to what he should do regarding the latest rebellion of King Zedekiah in Jerusalem. Zedekiah was in the process of making an alliance with Babylon’s arch enemy, Egypt. In contrast to the clear words of God’s prophets, Nebuchadnezzar was making his decisions based on divination practices such as described in the words, “He looks at the liver.” They would dissect a liver from an animal and look there for guidance. It sounds ridiculous to us, but what about the astrological charts in today’s newspaper? Ezekiel would’ve been willing to stand “in the gap” for Israel, but he was unable to return to Jerusalem. All he could do was obey God, and “sigh…with a breaking heart” (21:6), and speak his prophetic word from a distance.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Lord God, I pray for grace to do my best to “stand in the gap” for others. Grant me the empathy to “sigh…with a breaking heart” for people whose lives are broken because of economic circumstances (the poor and needy) and because of deliberate sin against You. Lead me, guide me, direct my ways in the ways of righteousness, I pray. Help me to speak up against those things that destroy people and to realize that actions speak louder than words. In the Name of Jesus, who wept over the needs of the people and took action to establish righteousness, I pray. Amen!!!
100 PERSONAL WORDS:
Yesterday, I promised to continue the “Make You Think” emphasis. Why would God call for a prophet’s word from human lips? Was it really necessary? Could He not have gone ahead and done what ever He wanted to do without someone speaking out His Word in advance? For His own reasons He involved free-will people in His decisions. I think that those words “free will” are the key to understanding the reason for prophecy. When a word of prophecy is spoken, God, who made man in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-30) and gave humanity “dominion” over the earth, waits for the permission of a spoken prophecy before taking “dominion” over human affairs. I have found it hard to get my mind around this.
There was one time only in my life that I believe I experienced the kind of Biblical prophecy experienced by Ezekiel. It was in Jerusalem. I was a member of the press corps covering President Carter’s last-ditch stand to conclude the treaty between Egypt and Israel known as the “Camp David Accords.” I won’t take the space to tell the story here, but it is in my latest book, This Far By Faith. It was a live statement on government radio stations, broadcasting with immediate translations into Hebrew and Arabic languages, covering the entire Middle East, including Iraq (Babylon) and Egypt (click here for a copy of my book). This is a very subjective judgment, but I believe that “word” rendered the ruler of the darkness of this world powerless to mess up God’s will for Israel and Egypt at that time.
Yours for the purpose of understanding a little bit more of the reason why God called prophets to speak out in advance of events,
P.S. Tomorrow, God willing, I want to write about the difference between New Testament prophecy and that of Ezekiel’s time. We must be very careful in this area. False doctrines have been taught and religious cults established by what has been called “prophecy.”