Bible reading for Aug 30 -- 31
Aug 30 -- Ezekiel 2 and Psalm 38
Aug 31 -- Ezekiel 3 and Psalm 39
"But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.' He who will hear, let him hear; and he who will refuse to hear, let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house." (Ezekiel 3:27)
A COMMISSION (ch 2). Like Isaiah before him (Isa 6), and his contemporary Jeremiah in Jerusalem, Ezekiel is called to be God's prophet. Like the Apostle John (Rev 1:17) he is overwhelmed by the glory of God. The term "son of man" (v 1, 3, 6, 8) means a human, a man, someone with a human nature. When Jesus later uses that term for himself (Matt 24:30; 26:64) it is in reference to Daniel's use of the term of the being (human) who comes from heaven (Dan 7:13-14). Like many of the prophets Ezekiel will also find that people will be not receptive to his message. But he is not to be afraid, but rather to be obedient to God's word.
A WATCHMAN (ch 3). Ezekiel's role will be like a watchman upon the city wall who alerts the people to coming disaster. His ministry in Babylon will be among the exiles living on the Chebar river (or canal). He is responsible to take God's message to heart (for himself), as well as being faithful to proclaim it to the Jewish exiles. There may have been a period, however, where he was unable to do so (see Constable's notes).
THE BIG PICTURE. We may be puzzled by some things here which seem strange, but don't get lost in the details! Here's the big picture that applies for all time: 1) There is a supernatural world above and outside of what we see in the physical universe. 2) The sovereign and glorious God exists, and he takes the initiative to reveal himself. 3) God reveals his will to people through the prophets (and later, the apostles) in the form of human language (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21). 3) His servants are accountable to internalize that message and to speak those words to others. 4) People will be held morally accountable for their response to God's revelation. And 5) people are not by nature disposed to humbly receive God's revelation (John 3:19). Ezekiel may have some unusual imagery, but these truths are interwoven throughout the entire Bible.
WE BELIEVE, AND SO WE SPEAK. We too serve a glorious God and live in his universe, which is both natural and supernatural. We too have a message from God, a divine revelation, coming with absolute authority, and we speak eternal truths to people of our day. The gospel of our Lord Jesus is a word both of blessing and also of warning, and we too are responsible to believe it and to speak it to others (Acts 1:8; 1 Pet 3:15-16). We too will find many people to be uninterested or hostile toward it. We too, along with all people of all time, will stand accountable before God our Creator and Redeemer. As Paul wrote, "Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, 'I believed, and so I spoke,' we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus..." (2 Corinthians 4:13-14). And, "'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
"O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!" (Psalm 39:4)
SOCIAL DISTANCING (Ps 38). "My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off" (v 11). David's plague, and the distancing that resulted, was due not to a disease but to his personal sin. This is a penitential psalm by King David, a confession of sin, like Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. The circumstances around this psalm are not known, but David is acutely aware of the need to confess and deal with his own sin before God and before others. He feels in soul and body the pain of his guilt, his shame, and the avoidance of family and friends. Those whom he loves stand at a distance from him. In our day a pandemic has also created distance (political, as well as physical) and we too miss the blessing of human community. We were created to be in fellowship with God and others.
A MERE BREATH (Ps 39). In much the same spirit as the previous psalm, David laments how he has spoken to others, and perhaps to the Lord, too. How many times have we ourselves said something and then wished we could take it back! And merely being silent, not saying anything, doesn't necessarily help, either. David wisely (and painfully) becomes aware of his own frailty, limitation, and vanity before God (vv 4-6). His life is fleeting, a mere breath (v 11). He realizes that he stands before a God who is eternal, all-knowing, and infinitely wise. Language is a great gift, but like other wonderful gifts it can be used to cause great damage (James 1:19-20; 3:1-12). Our Lord Jesus warned, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak..." (Matt 12:36). Here is how we are to use our tongues: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph 4:29; cf Col 4:6).
PRAYING THE PSALMS. Many of the psalms we read are perfectly suitable for our own prayer time! Why not take each of these, a verse at a time, and make them your own prayer to the Lord?
Image credit: photo by neONBRAND on Unsplash. About this newsletter: I'm Sandy Young, and I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.