Bible reading for Sept 1 -- 2
Sep 1 -- Ezekiel 4 and Psalm 40-41
Sep 2 -- Ezekiel 5 and Psalm 42-43
"And you, son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and engrave on it a city, even Jerusalem. And put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it. Set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around." (Ezekiel 4:1-2)
TWO SERMON ILLUSTRATIONS (ch 4-5). Most all of us have seen, at one time or another, preachers use object illustrations in the pulpit. Some may have been helpful,and others not so. Ezekiel's hearers were meeting publicly -- outdoors, since they hadn't built a synagogue yet -- and the Lord directs Ezekiel to act out these dramas. The siege drama would last over a year. Now, these illustrations were not meant to be amusing but to reinforce the deadly seriousness of what was taking place in Jerusalem.
"He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD." (Psalm 40:3)
SWEET SONG OF SALVATION (Ps 40). This psalm is another personal favorite of mine. In the early days of my Christian life I would often sing a chorus from the first three verses. I was deeply aware that God had taken me from the miry clay of sin and death, and put my feet upon the Rock (himself), and put a new song in my mouth. Hebrews 10:5-7 tells us that verses 6-8 here are the words of our Lord Jesus, coming into the world, as spoken prophetically by King David. The truth revealed is this: that animal sacrifices could never take away human sin. Only a perfect human mediator could do that. Jesus himself accomplished the Lord's will (Luke 22:42; John 17:4). And the blessing of the new covenant is that, as believers united to Christ, we also will have his heart: "I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart" (v 8; Jer 31:33).
CONSIDER THE POOR (Ps 41). This psalm concludes the first division of the Psalms. There are five books (collections) of psalms just as there are five books of Moses. In this psalm David is sick in bed, and feeling helpless, while some of his powerful associates are wishing that he'd just die. He describes himself as poor, but the issue is not money. He is feeling helpless and vulnerable, with no friend but God. Being "poor and needy" is not merely about lack of money. The Bible does not consider financial poverty in itself a virtue. But faith and hope in God are like poverty in many ways: it is to feel helpless and to have nothing left but God's mercy. Socially, believers in God (like poor people) can be viewed by others with embarrassment. It is to be without worldly pride, resources, and respect. To be a follower of Christ in this world often means to be without rich and powerful friends, being spurned, neglected, and taken advantage of. For the "poor in spirit" (as Jesus calls them, Matt 5:3), their security and joy is not in the things they own in this world, but in the Lord himself.
TALK TO YOURSELF (Ps 42-43). "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation" (42:5). Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, "Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?" Read more here on these two psalms.
IN OTHER NEWS.
-- "Keep me, O God, for I know I can't keep myself." (Bethany Dillon Barnard) from "A Feast of Your Faithfulness". I'm thankful that Bethany Dillon, who is married to Shane Bernard (of Shane and Shane), after four children and some difficult trials, is back to writing and singing. Listen to her newly-released album, All My Questions (2021).
-- Pray for the people of Afghanistan. Pray especially for protection of Christians, for bold witness, and many conversions to Christ. Pray for the resettlement of Afghan refugees into new homelands, that many would seek out churches and so hear the gospel.
-- What I'm reading...
Intimacy with God: A Practical Guide in Our Struggles, by John D. Hannah (Christian Focus Publications, 2020). Excerpt: "Walking with God means, as a fundamental starting-point and basic assumption, coming to grips with the utter goodness of God, the splendor and congruity of all His attributes, and His unquestioned prerogative to govern, direct, and shape our lives."
Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control, by Stuart Russell (Penguin Books, 2019). Excerpt: "Typically, such algorithms are designed to maximize click-through, that is, the probability that the user clicks on presented items. The solution is simply to present items that the user likes to click on, right? Wrong. The solution is to change the user’s preferences so that they become more predictable."
The Two Towers, by J. R. R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, 1955); audiobook narrated by Rob Inglis (2012). Excerpt: “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
Image credit: Photo by Mert Kahveci 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.