TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- EZEKIEL 29:1-30:26
In the next three chapters of Ezekiel (Chapters 29-32) there are seven prophecies dealing with the judgment upon Egypt. It is estimated that the first prophecy was given in 587 B.C. You will remember that Hezekiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah all turned to Egypt for help despite God’s many warnings from the prophets. Remember Isaiah’s prophecy:
Isaiah 30:1-2 1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the LORD, “who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin; 2 who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!”
When Ezekiel communicates the Word of the Lord to Egypt’s Pharaoh, saying, “I am against you…” (Ezekiel 29:3) it makes you appreciate God’s grace extended towards us who are “in Christ Jesus”. Because of our faith-union with Christ, we can rest knowing God is for us.
Romans 8:3131 If God is for us, who is against us?
Recognizing the reality that God will once again judge the nations in the future, magnifies the grace of God that has been delivered to us in the gospel. We are rescued from the death we deserve. He has made us a holy nation in Christ, beneficiaries of the New Covenant. What an undeserved privilege!
For those who turn their back on their Creator and God’s plan of salvation, there is nothing to look forward to but judgment. This is made plain in the judgment that God brought to the Pharaoh of Egypt who pompously imagined himself to be the god who created the river Nile and is in charge of it (29:3).
Israel has continually been caught between countries striving for world domination.
In Chapter 29, Egypt’s sins are exposed (29:1-6a) and judged (29:6b-16). Ezekiel lets Egypt know that it will suffer the same fate as Tyre (29:17-21), and be given over to Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon’s armies would be God’s servants in bringing judgment upon Egypt.
There is a Messianic promise in verse 21.
Ezekiel 29:21 21 “On that day I will make a horn sprout for the house of Israel, and I will open your mouth in their midst. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
The ‘horn’ speaks of a ‘strong leader’ and the sprouting of the horn reflects the supernatural appearance, the resurrection life, of ‘the righteous branch’. Christ is the ‘branch’, ‘the root and offspring of Jesse’ (Isaiah 11:1-5); ‘the beautiful and glorious branch’ (Isaiah 4:2-6), ‘the righteous branch’, ‘the Lord our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:5-6), and ‘the servant branch’ (Zechariah 3:8-10) who will come as a servant of both God and mankind.
The Messianic theme in the Scriptures is that the Lord’s enemies must first be dealt with, and then He shall reign forever.
In Chapter 30 we read of Egypt’s allies being destroyed: Cush and Put, Lydia and all Arabia, Libya and the ‘people of the covenant land’ (possibly referring to the people of the covenant who fled to Egypt in the wake of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion). They all are pictured as falling by the sword.
Ezekiel 30:10 10 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “I will also make the hordes of Egypt cease by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.”
Nebuchadnezzar would dry the ‘streams of the Nile’ by destroying the canal system for irrigation (30:12). He also would destroy the idols of Egypt. (The gods of Egypt at one point numbered more than 1200 according to E.A.W. Bulge, the author of “The Gods of the Egyptians”.)
Ezekiel prophesies that the arms of Pharaoh will be broken, and the arms of Nebuchadnezzar strengthened (30:20-22). Pharaoh Hophra came to Jerusalem’s assistance when Nebuchadnezzar attacked in 588 B.C, but his armies were defeated and returned to Egypt. Hophra’s powerful arms were broken further when he was defeated by his Egyptian rival, Ahmose, in a civil war, making it easy for Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Egypt. In fulfillment of this prophecy, Egypt was never again a prominent world power. The Egyptians, like the Hebrews, would be dispersed as exiles among the nations (30:23,26).
Dr. Lamar Cooper, author of the New American Commentary on Ezekiel writes:
“Egypt’s devastation and its loss of standing in the family of nations is a constant testimony to the truth of God’s word” (Ezek 30:1-19).
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – HEBREWS 11:32-12:13
“And what more shall I say?” The writer is making a point that the list of those who have heard the Word, believed, and obeyed, goes on. The people listed in this chapter experienced God because they trusted His promise and moved forward in His plan. These were men and women with feet of clay who trusted a God who was able to use them to advance His purposes.
They paid a price for their obedience to the call, some being tortured, imprisoned and killed. But they died in faith, that they might obtain a better resurrection (11:35).
Faith sees the eternal reward, and therefore these heroes demonstrated a walk with God that reproved the world of its lost condition. They proved that they served a better king and sought a better country. Truly the world was not worthy of them.
What is the purpose of reviewing the stories of these people who pressed on in obedience to God? Chapter 12 tells us that this great collection of witnesses inspires us to ‘run with perseverance’ the race that is set before us.
We are to fix our eyes upon Jesus. Who else is there to look to? He is the substance. You cannot embrace a shadow! For the joy that was set before Him, bringing glory to the Father and bringing many sons into glory, He endured the cross. These Hebrew Christians, therefore, could endure the persecution and not turn away from identifying with Jesus.
Such inspiration should encourage us to endure hardship (12:7). We can be assured that whatever discipline God brings our way, (12:10) He will use it to conform us to Christ’s image and further His purposes.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALMS 112:1-10
Here are some promises to those who delight in the Lord and His Word: He finds that his children are blessed, and his household provided for. He is conformed to the image of righteousness. In the Lord’s light, he shall see light. He becomes generous and finds that people are generous with him. He will make good decisions and pursue justice. He will be resilient and persevere in times of emergencies.
Psalm 112:7-8 7 He will not fear evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. 8 His heart is upheld, he will not fear, until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries.
He will be in a position to bless the poor and his honorable testimony (horn) will be lifted up.
His righteousness will provoke jealousy and resentment, as the righteousness of Abel provoked Cain.
2 Timothy 3:12 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 27:17
Proverbs 27:17 17 Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
There is an obvious benefit when like-minded believers fellowship together. We are sharpened by the mutual counsel, encouragement and accountability fellowship provides.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – SYRIA
Syrian Arab Republic
Area: 185,180 sq. km
Fertile plain on Mediterranean coast; 60% desert in center and east but crossed by the Euphrates River.
Population: 22,505,091 Annual Growth: 3.31%
Official language: Arabic Languages: 22 All languages
Largest Religion: Muslim
When most people think of Syria, they think of the devastation of war, leveled buildings, and masses of refugees. But Syria is home to historical cities that predate the broken buildings and refugees by millennia. In fact, its capital city, Damascus, is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world. Syria’s location on the fertile Mediterranean coast has historically made agriculture and tourism a critical part of its struggling economy. But in 2011 this country descended into a seemingly unending civil war that has resulted in record numbers of displaced peoples and an ever-increasing death toll too high to even count.
War, violence, and terrorism have shattered and decimated this nation. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives. Millions have been forced from their homes, leading to a mass humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. What started as a civil war has become a much more complex and multifaceted conflict. With many sides and factions – armed opposition groups, rebels, the Islamic State, the Kurds – the battle lines in this war are largely unclear. War crimes, such as chemical warfare, have been reported on all sides, leading to unspeakable horrors among Syrian civilians. Capitalizing on Syria’s instability and chaos, the Islamic State (IS) has started a “war within a war” – taking control of huge areas across northern and eastern Syria. IS has brought nothing but terror and suffering to an already terrorized people. These complex conflicts and the resulting humanitarian crisis have led to one of the largest recently recorded refugee exoduses. These millions have sought refuge in neighboring countries and around the world: 2.7 million in Turkey, about 1 million in Lebanon, and over 655,000 in Jordan. Additionally, the war has caused the displacement of over six million people within Syria.
Syria stands in desperate need of the peace that only Christ can bring. Islam is the religion of the majority (87%). Before the infiltration of the Islamic State and this bloody civil war, Syrian Christians enjoyed more freedom and stability than many of the surrounding nations. But today it is one of the top ten most persecuted nations on earth as IS has kidnapped, tortured, and killed followers of Jesus in the regions they claim. Approximately half the Christian population have fled for their lives, leaving only about 200,000 to 250,000 believers in Syria – many of which are displaced. But out of these ashes of death, new life is rising. Though many believers have fled, God continues drawing Syrians to Himself. Like the faith-filled New Testament church of Antioch before them, may today’s small and persecuted Syrian body of believers rediscover the zeal and faith of their fathers to cause Christ’s love and hope to be poured out on a nation in great turmoil. He is their only hope.
Challenges for Prayer
Syrian Christian minorities enjoy freedom and stability, possibly unparalleled through the Middle East. The Orthodox and Catholic churches existed since before Islam and endure still with many godly members. The majority are Arab, but there is also a large Armenian community. Christians are concentrated in the cities, but finding housing and employment is increasingly challenging due to discrimination. Their proportion steadily declines through continual emigration. Pray against this trend. Thank God for their longstanding presence and the wise leadership of the Christian communities, and pray that these communities might flower again. Pray for renewal in these ancient traditions.
The Protestant presence is small but growing. Most Protestant converts come from Orthodox and Catholic backgrounds. There is an evangelical presence in most cities, but rarely in smaller towns. Growth can only occur if more leaders (ordained and lay) receive theological and leadership training; the signs are that many are willing. TEE is very helpful in this area – pray for more TEE tutors. Pray that all believers might gain a deep desire to grow in godliness and outreach.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, You are gracious, compassionate and righteous. We thank You for the perfect rescue that secured the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins for those who believe. Through the gracious work of Your Son, our sin-bearing Substitute and Savior, we have been delivered from fear, guilt, aloneness, emptiness and from Your wrathful judgment upon Sin. Your mercy has triumphed over judgment, and You have made us a holy nation. You have given us the gift of Your presence through the Holy Spirit. Because You are with us, we have nothing to fear. May we continue to delight in Your Word and in Your ways as we seek to magnify Your Name. We ask this in the Name of the One Who purchased us by His blood. Amen.