TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- EZEKIEL 37:1-38:23
There are two parts to Ezekiel Chapter 37.
The first part (Ezekiel 37:1-14) speaks of what God is going to do in the future to restore Israel spiritually and physically. He was to prophesy to dry dead bones and call them to “Hear the Word of the Lord”. He was to prophesy to the wind, the breath, the ‘ruach’ (Spirit), and call the Spirit to bring resurrection life to those who were dead. It is a picture of a redemptive work of full restoration.
The second part (Ezekiel 37:15-28) speaks of the unification of the northern and southern kingdom (Israel under Ephraim, and Judah) under One King in the land in the mountains of Israel. This was a command for Ezekiel to prophesy with another visual parable. He was to take two separate sticks, one labeled as “Ephraim/Israel” (what was once the northern kingdom) and the other labeled “Judah” (the southern kingdom), and they will be joined as one stick. The word for ‘one’ here is ‘echad’, meaning a composite oneness, rather than ‘yachid’ meaning a singularity. This is the word that mirrors the community of oneness in the Trinity (Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is ‘one God’ (‘echad’- community of oneness- Deuteronomy 6:4), the community of oneness in marriage (‘the two shall be one’, Genesis 2:24) and the organic oneness of the Vine, branches and grapes as one cluster (Numbers 13:23).
These visions have yet to be fulfilled. Ezekiel, like many preachers, felt like he was prophesying to a dead audience. The exiles in Babylon rarely responded to his message. Even when remnants return to the land of Israel in the post-exilic period, or in the restoration of the nation in 1948, the conditions of a spiritual restoration have yet to occur. Nor has the time come when the nation of Israel has become subject to the prophesied Messiah-King, whom the Lord calls ‘my servant David’ (David means ‘beloved’ in Hebrew) who will reign forever (Ezekiel 37:15). The chapter ends with promises that echo Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31).
This is evidence that God has a future plan for a restored Israel and a physical and spiritual kingdom reign of the Messiah on the earth. These prophecies speak also of the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, the promise of a physical resurrection of the body, and the restoration of the people of God as a great spiritual army.
These visions take us to the end of the time of the Gentiles, when the branches that were broken off (Israel- Roman 11:17) will be grafted back in (Romans 11:23). God’s plan is that the prayer of Jesus be fulfilled, ‘that they may be one’ as He is One with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
John 17:22 22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.”
Ezekiel 38 pictures a time when God’s people, Israel, are gathered from the nations to which they had been scattered and return to their land which is called ‘the center of the world’. (Ezekiel 38:12). This expression in the original Hebrew reads literally as ‘the belly-button (navel) of the world’. They will then find themselves under attack by a confederacy of nations from the north, led by Gog, referring to a prince or a country.
Gog is also referred to in the Book of Revelation. There are many differences in what is described in Ezekiel 38 and Revelation 20 concerning Gog. However, it is significant, and should not be discounted, that ‘Gog’ is explicitly referred to in that chapter describing what will happen at the end of the millennium.
Revelation 20:7-8 7 When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.
According to Ezekiel 38, Gog will come from the north and Gog’s allies will come from the areas surrounding Israel, specifically from what is now central Turkey, the mountainous area southeast of the Black Sea and southwest of the Caspian Sea, Iran, Ethiopia, Libya and possibly the Soviet Union.
Commentators conjecture that Gog could also be a symbol of evil in the world, but that is not consistent with the nature of all the other prophecies in Ezekiel. What is clear is that Gog brings a military force that is opposed to God.
Ezekiel 38:16 16 “And you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog.”
What is also clear is that Gog will be present in the terrible day of God’s wrath, such as described in the Book of Revelation.
Ezekiel 38:22 22 “With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – JAMES 1:19- 2:17
There is much needed practical instruction in this reading. It is reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount in that it deals with attitudinal sins, as well as sinful actions.
We need to have James 1:19 bridle our tongues and focus our hearts so we are both God-centered and other-focused.
James 1:19 19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;
Let us receive the word implanted which is able to save our souls (James 1:21). This speaks of the Word of God performing (see 1 Thessalonians 2:13) a sanctifying work as well as bringing the good news of a sinner’s justification by faith in Christ.
James 1:22-25 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
The mirror we look to is the gospel of the Lord Jesus, the perfect law of liberty. When we look in the mirror of the Word, we see that we are sinners in need of God’s grace. Because we see that Jesus, the Law-Giver, has also become the Law-keeper in our hearts, we can have the courage to trust His indwelling presence to cause us to walk in his statutes and to do them (Ezekiel 36:26-27). This is the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25)
To run and work the law commands
But gives me neither feet or hands
Better news the gospel brings
It bids me fly and gives me wings. – John Berridge (1716-1793)
James Chapter 1 warns us of the many dangers of self-deception. True faith will be evident, not in our perfection of our walk, but in the direction of our walk. True faith will be evident in our true love for God and the desire that Christ will have the preeminence as Lord in every aspect of our lives. If our faith is truly alive, we will love the Lord, His people, and His commands. We will recognize sin as something to be turned away from, and we will recognize that God’s Word is to be obeyed. A person who cannot bridle his tongue gives evidence of the emptiness of his profession of faith. A person who shows partiality (James 2:1-13), shows that he or she does not recognize that we are all equally sinners who have been brought to salvation by the same means of deliverance, the cross of Christ.
James 1:14 reminds us that true faith is not dead or empty, but alive to a living Savior. That living faith will produce good works. Faith will give evidence to others, justifying our claim to be Christians. They will know we are Christian by our love, our genuine concern for others.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALMS 117:1-2
This Psalm, the shortest in the Book of Psalms, is composed of only two small verses, and yet they address the whole world! They call every inhabitant on earth to action!
This Psalm reminds us of FOUR PRIVILEGES that belong to God’s people:
- Worshiping God (v.1a). “Praise the Lord, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples.” Verse one uses two words for praise- The first, ‘hallel’ which means celebratory praise. Here is the phrase, ‘hallelujah’ (praise to God). The second word for praise is- ‘shavah’ which means to ‘brag on’, ‘to boast’, ‘make much of’, or as some translate it, ‘laud’.
- Sharing the gospel (v.1b)- The call is for all nations and all peoples to praise Him.
- Depending on God’s love (v. 2a)- “For His lovingkindness is great toward us.” This reminds us that we have been saved by grace, not by any works or merit of our own. This verse reminds me of God’s love shown toward us in His sovereign work of saving us.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the LORD loved you .”
- Resting on the Divine Authority of His Word (v.2b).
Psalm 117:2b And the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD!
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 28:1
Proverbs 28:1 1 The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.
Those who are in a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ need not fear! We should be as bold as a lion. Those who are not in a right relationship with God, do not know Him. They have many reasons to be fearful and a distorted view of reality.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – THAILAND
(from “Operation World Prayer Guide”)
Kingdom of Thailand
Area: 513,115 sq km
A fertile and well-watered land bordering on Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Population: 68,139,238 Annual Growth: 0.66%
Official language: Thai Languages: 85 All languages
Largest Religion: Buddhist
Challenges for Prayer
Thailand has been an island of stability and freedom in a troubled region, but “The Land of Smiles” is also awash with difficulties. Pray for these pressing issues and for the wise leadership and reform needed to address them:
- a) The political upheaval of 2006-2008 revealed deep fault lines among various political parties, the military and the royalty. Protests brought the country to a standstill.
- b) The violent insurgency in the southern areas near Malaysia has claimed thousands of lives. It is a result of some discrimination against the predominantly Malay Muslim minority and the radicalization of the same.
- c) Tensions with other neighbors, including disputes with Cambodia and more notably Myanmar, from which over a million have fled disaster and persecution into Thailand.
- d) Structures of sin and vice continue to prosper, despite increasing efforts to combat them. Corruption allows unscrupulous men – in business, politics, the military and police – to enrich themselves while oppressing others. The moral blights of the sex trade, drug networks, crime syndicates and ecological degradation will remain as long as they are profitable and tolerated. Pray for the breaking of these structures of sin by God’s power.
Christian help ministries are well developed in Thailand and bearing fruit.
- a) Bible translation is still a major target for prayer. Work is in progress in several languages – main agencies being Thailand Bible Society, Biblica, SIL, NTM and OMF. Of 29 languages without Scriptures, 10 definitely need translation programs. Of the four versions of the Thai Bible in circulation, a new version from 2007 is an effective study version.
- b) Christian radio remains very effective. Many Thai stations daily air Christian programs. FEBC, Full Gospel Radio (The Way) and The Voice of Peace Studio prepare a wide range of programs. Response is gratifying – from both Buddhists and Muslims – from FEBC programs broadcast over 27 different Thai stations.
- c) Christian literature is increasing. Over 1,000 Thai books have been published. Several Christian publishers (such as CLC, OMF [Kanok], CMA and Mittam) play crucial roles in providing appropriate materials for both evangelism and teaching. There are more than 20 Christian bookstores in the land, three of which are run by CLC. Interest is high in FEBC’s Bible Correspondence Courses. EHC has distributed over 20 million pieces of gospel literature.
- d) The JESUS film, in 25 languages, has been viewed by millions.
- e) Audio resources for unevangelized mission fields were pioneered in Thailand. The Voice of Peace Studio pioneered the use of evangelistic and teaching cassettes; now they digitally record Christian materials for the same purposes. GRN has materials in 79 languages and a key base in Chiang Mai.
- f) Digital resources. MAF created a digital library of over 4,000 resources in Thai – an invaluable and portable collection of materials for Christian workers and pastors. These materials for evangelism, discipleship and leadership development are also available on the Internet.
PRAYER: Father, You have called us from death to life. The wind of Your Spirit has ministered the life-giving breath of the gospel, awakening our souls with the promises of The Resurrection and The Life in Christ Jesus. We are so grateful for the New Covenant promises of forgiveness of sins and the power of Your Indwelling Spirit enabling us to heed Your commands and walk in Your ways. You have given us the assurance of solid eternal realities, making us as bold as lions. Our prayer is that all the earth would hear your Word and come to worship You in spirit and in truth. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.