TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- EZEKIEL 23:1-49
Perhaps you can see the relationship of Chapter 23 with the love story parable of Chapter 16. Chapter 16 describes the orphan who becomes a queen and then a harlot, picturing Judah seduced by Canaanite worship. Chapter 23 picture shows how both Judah (the southern kingdom) and Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel) are seduced into political alliances with ungodly nations.
The two sisters who became prostitutes are Oholah (representing the northern kingdom Israel), and Oholibah (the southern kingdom of Judah).
The eldest daughter Oholah is seduced by the Assyrians who lead her into idolatry, then turn on her, strip her of all worth, and destroy her and her children.
A record on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, dated as written in 840 BC, shows King Jehu of Israel prostrating himself before the Assyrian king.
The sins of Judah are referred to in the parable of the second sister, Oholibah, in verses 11 to 21. She witnessed the perversions of her older sister, Oholah (Israel), and her destruction, but did not learn from her example of infidelity to the Lord. Instead, she engaged in the same practices as her sister and became even more depraved.
She saw the decorated bas-relief figures of Babylonian military officers carved on a wall (23:14) and it aroused a desire within her to be allied with them. Messengers were sent, an alliance was made, and the adulterous relationship began. “After she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust” (23:17).
The Lord says that He Himself turned from Judah in disgust, even as He had turned from Israel. Therefore, the Lord will call those with whom she engaged in illicit relationships to rise up and attack her- the Babylonians, Chaldeans and Assyrians.
The lusts of these daughters lure them into relationships with lovers that not only bring them into the snare of idolatry, but turn on them and destroy them.
The Lord will use this stern chastisement to cure Judah of her idolatries and unholy alliances. He will cure her of her trust in Egypt and her gods.
Ezekiel 23:27 27 ‘Thus I will make your lewdness and your harlotry brought from the land of Egypt to cease from you, so that you will not lift up your eyes to them or remember Egypt anymore.’
He reminds His people that they have brought this judgment upon themselves (v.30).
When Judah could not travel to neighboring countries to partake of their pagan idolatries, she ordered ‘home delivery’, summoning priests from distant lands to come to Jerusalem to officiate idol worship in the Temple.
Ezekiel warns that those who are right with God will tell it like it is and expose their national idolatries (23:45).
The Lord promises to put an end to their lewdness by handing them over to the Babylonians. The reading ends with the familiar phrase found in the Book of Ezekiel: “thus you will know that I am the Lord GOD”.
Ezekiel 23:49 49 ‘Your lewdness will be requited upon you, and you will bear the penalty of worshiping your idols; thus you will know that I am the Lord GOD.'”
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – HEBREWS 10:18-39
Consider all that Christ has done to fulfill the demands of righteousness on our behalf! The Old Testament priesthood and sanctuary were just placeholders for that which was to come, a shadow anticipating the arrival of the shadow’s substance. Because Jesus has opened the way into the Holiest of all by His perfect once and for all sacrifice, let us draw near. Let us enjoy the privilege of access and come to know Him as He is.
Hebrews 10:19-22 19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us encourage each other to experience the ‘good’ of the gospel, and all the privileges that Jesus won for us.
How do we do that? By not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.
Let us hold fast to the gospel. Be sure to go beyond just investigating it. Go beyond an experimental taste of it. Swallow it. Cleave to it. Why? Because there is nothing else that compares. There is no better news than what has been offered to us in Christ. There is no alternative. God has not provided any other Name under heaven whereby we can be saved (Acts 4:12). If we reject Christ, opting for Judaism, or any other religion, having understood Christ’s atoning work, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. There is no other option. To turn your back on Christ and His perfect sacrifice leaves you no way to be saved.
Hebrews 10:26-27 26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.
This is a strong warning against apostacy. To reject the atoning work of Jesus Christ is to trample the Son of God underfoot, treating the shed blood of Jesus as an unholy thing, and blaspheming the Spirit of Grace.
What awaits someone who willfully rejects Christ, knowing the facts of the gospel, (that Jesus is a better and truer mediator than the angels, a better and truer deliverer than Moses, a better priest than Aaron and offers a better sacrifice), can only look forward to the kind of severe judgment of raging fire that consumed those who rejected the Law of Moses.
Hebrews 10:31 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
These Hebrews appreciated the value of the finished work of Christ to the degree that they withstood much persecution and hardship. The writer of this letter reminds them-
Hebrews 10:35 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
The writer has great confidence in these believers. In this final verse of the chapter we can see the contrast between the way of faith that leads to life, and willful unbelief that leads to death.
Hebrews 10:39 39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALMS 109:1-31
I love these words, “But I am a man of prayer” (Psalm 109:4, NIV) or “I am in prayer” (NASB) “I give myself to prayer” (ESV).
What do you do when you are surrounded by those who slander and mistreat you? The Psalmist’s first resort is prayer.
Psalm 109:4 4 In return for my love they act as my accusers; But I am in prayer.
David endured many verbal attacks. He endured false accusations (1 Samuel 22:7-13; 2 Samuel 15:3-4). So did Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:59-61; 27::33-44).
Psalm 109 is one of those imprecatory prayers where the intercessor calls down curses on his enemies. Although it sounds mean-spirited, it provides an insight into David’s feelings of deep hurt, spiritual poverty and weakness at this time. Some commentators believe that these curses are actually the curses that David’s enemies have put upon him and he is repeating them back to the Lord. David’s enemies are misjudging his soul. He is asking God to turn the tables to vindicate His Name.
The Psalmist is calling upon God to intervene and take vengeance (verses 6-20). The Lord hears his complaints, as He does ours. Yet vengeance is His department.
Notice the contrast between David’s vindictiveness in prayer, and the prayer of Jesus from the Cross.
Luke 23:34 34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
It is from the cross that we can see God’s justice administering justice by punishing sin. It is also from the cross that He will magnify His mercy and offer forgiveness.
David’s prayer ends with thanksgiving for the Lord’s intercession on His behalf.
Psalm 109:30-31 30 With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD; And in the midst of many I will praise Him. 31 For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who judge his soul.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 27:13
Proverbs 27:13 13 Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger; and for an adulterous woman hold him in pledge.
This is a repetition of Proverbs 20:16. Matthew Henry comments: Those who entangle themselves in rash suretyship ruin themselves. So do those who are in league with adulterous women. Place no confidence in either.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – SWAZILAND
(from “Operation World” Prayer Guide and Prayer cast website)
Kingdom of Swaziland
Area: 17,364 sq. km
Small, landlocked enclave between Mozambique and South Africa.
Population: 1,201,904 Annual Growth: 1.34%
Official language: siSwati, English Languages: 8 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
Swaziland is one of Africa’s smallest nations and one of the world’s last absolute monarchies. It is a landlocked country completely surrounded by South Africa. This nation is filled with natural beauty shown through its people, diverse landscapes, and cultural traditions. Despite western influences, Swaziland’s culture has remained intact. The Swazi people often wear colorful traditional clothing — men with battle axes and women with beehive hairstyles. The distinct shape of a person’s hut reveals their tribal identity. The two main languages are English and siSwati, and most of the population live in rural areas as subsistence farmers.
Swaziland gained its independence from Britain in 1968 under Sobhuza who reigned from 1921 to 1982. Mswati became king four years later, and continues to rule today. The HIV/AIDS infection rate in Swaziland is one of the highest in the world, inflicting 26% of those ages 15 to 49. Roughly 100,000 children have been orphaned as a result. Children often live together, with the older ones caring for the younger, and about one in ten are malnourished. Swaziland also has the world’s highest number of Tuberculosis cases, and 80% of those treated are also infected with HIV/AIDS. Because of these health crises, life expectancy for males is only 52 and females is 51. Drought, overgrazing, and soil depletion combine to trap much of this nation in poverty (63%); roughly 40% are unemployed.
Challenges for Prayer
The impact of HIV/AIDS cannot be overstated – it has devastated the population. Life expectancy plummeted to age 32 in 2008 (according to some reports), and 26% of adults (up to 40% in other reports) are HIV-positive. Sixty-one percent of all deaths could be attributed to HIV/AIDS. The pandemic has denuded society of a young adult workforce, and many households are orphaned and led by the oldest sibling. All talk about ministry and evangelism is irrelevant if this issue is not addressed. Pray for:
- a) Treatment of those afflicted. Anti-retrovirals are available for free, but there is a severe shortage of adequate care facilities. Widespread poverty exacerbates the suffering.
- b) Sexual morality must be restored. Until purity and fidelity are practiced as a social norm, this scourge will never be defeated. Polygamy and a lack of holiness among Christians contribute to the problem. Pray for marriages and families to function as God intended; that in itself will be a great victory against AIDS.
- c) Christian response. Genuine Christian love, demonstrated in practical and gracious ways, has the potential to win many to the Lord. No church trying to be relevant can afford to ignore the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of AIDS sufferers. Training pastors to address this challenge is a strategic key.
PRAYER: You are a faithful God. We recognize how our fickle hearts can easily be turned to idolatry, seduced by covetousness and a love for false comforts. We ask that You would be sanctified in our hearts as God. May You be the supreme authority governing our thoughts, captivating our affections, stirring our emotions and ruling our wills. Help us to make decisions that will demonstrate that You are our Supreme Commander. And may all we do and say be in accordance with Your choice purposes for our lives. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.