Bible reading for weekend September 17 -- 19
Sep 17 -- Ezekiel 20 and Psalms 66-67
Sep 18 -- Ezekiel 21 and Psalm 68
Sep 19 -- Ezekiel 22 and Psalm 69
"But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt." (Ezekiel 20:9)
FOR THE SAKE OF HIS NAME (ch 20). The elders come to Ezekiel to inquire from the Lord. But surely one cannot legitimately pray to God -- the only God -- while also looking to other gods for help (Ex 19:4-6; 20:3-6). God alone is the Source of all life and blessing. This chapter gives an historical recap of Israel's continued rejection of the Lord. He judged them in righteousness, but also in mercy spared them (vv 13, 17). God's redemption, then as now, has the purpose of revealing God's glory, making his name known -- "for the sake of my name." Whether in judgment or mercy we shall all know that the Lord is God, and that there is no other. Being God's people means not only that we take on certain virtues but also put off sin and evil (Eph 4:20-24; Titus 2:14). The weakness of the Mosaic covenant lay in its dependence upon human obedience for blessing (vv 13, 21). In the New Testament we learn that Christ is the one who makes God known (Jn 1:18; 17:6), who glorifies his Father (Jn 17:4), and who by his Spirit writes God's law upon our hearts (2 Cor 3:17-18; Heb 10:12-18).
THE SWORD (ch 21). The theme of this chapter is the approaching siege upon Jerusalem by the Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem would fall in 586 BC. A truth repeated throughout Scripture is that the Lord humbles the proud and raises up the humble (Isa 57:14-15; Luke 1:52; 3:5-6; Jas 4:6, 10). An interesting fact here is that the king chose to lay siege to Jerusalem rather than to Rabbah (an Ammonite city) by divination (vv 18-23). Divination is a false means of guidance, but God as Sovereign can use seemingly random, even pagan, events to further his purpose. God guides history for the revelation of his name and glory, whether through people's good decisions, or their evil choices. (People are still responsible for their choices!) Not all things are good in themselves, but God works all things for his glory and for the ultimate good of his people (Rom 8:28).
THE BLOOD (ch 22). The theme of this chapter is the unjust shedding of blood -- whether in child sacrifice, sexual impurity, violence against the weak, or perjury that results in the death of innocent persons. For an example of the latter, see the account of King Ahab seizing Naboth's vineyard (1 Kgs 21). It seems the guiding principle of Judean life at that time was, "destroying lives to get dishonest gain" (v 27). This recalls to us the words of Jesus: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). God said there was no man, that is, no righteous leader, who would stand in the gap (a breach in the wall) to protect God's city from judgment (v 30). But that leader was coming: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn 10:11). Our Lord was not merely using a quaint, pastoral metaphor, but was speaking of his divine role as the anointed descendant of the shepherd-king David. He is the One who by his death and resurrection has stood in the gap for us.
"Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul." (Psalm 66:16)
A GLOBAL FAITH (Ps 66-67). Both of these psalms have an international scope: "All the earth worships you and sings praises to you..." (66:4). These words are addressed to "all the peoples" and "nations" (Ps 66:5, 7; 67:2,3). The psalmist calls them all to worship: "Let the nations be glad and sing for joy..." (67:4). God has blessed the earth, and so, "Let all the ends of the earth fear him" (67:7). Yahweh was not, and is not, a tribal deity. His praise is not limited to one culture or ethnicity. His authority is over all the nations (66:7) and he invites all to know and worship him. Israel was to bless the surrounding nations by making the Lord known to them. One vital part of that was reciting Scripture and speaking testimony in the temple in Jerusalem. There was a court in the temple specifically for seekers from other nations (the court of the Gentiles). So, an Israelite believer might be healed or blessed by God, and then he or she would come and present offerings and fulfill vows in the temple. This would include giving a verbal declaration of what God has done and offering praise in his name. "I will tell what he has done for my soul" (66:16). In this way, by hearing Scripture, testimonies, songs, and observing the offerings, a visitor to the temple might come to believe in the Lord.
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Where Israel failed, our Lord Jesus has shone forth! When Jesus came to the court of the Gentiles it was a noisy, crowded commercial district, and not a place of prayer and reflection. Jesus himself has become the light for the nations (Isa 42:6; 49:6; 60:3; Jn 8:12). And now, as his followers we worship and proclaim the true God: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9). Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matt 5:14). We must ask, are we speaking freely of what Christ has done for our souls? And not just in church -- there is a watching world around us. We must live well and not discredit his name. We must also speak clearly that it is the Lord who has blessed us and redeemed us (Ps 107:2; Heb 13:15).
ENTHRONED (Ps 68). Scholars are divided on the meaning, setting, and use of this psalm in the life of Israel. There are many historical and geographical references, some obscure. But overall we can see it is a celebration of the reign of the Lord (Yahweh). He has redeemed his people from Egypt, brought them through the wilderness (he "rides through the deserts"), and is now enthroned among his people in Jerusalem. God's people no longer worship at Mount Sinai but at Mount Zion (see Heb 12:18-29). There are other rival mountains, so to speak, most notably Bashan (vv 15-16; where king Og was defeated, Num 21) but God chose to manifest his presence in Zion. The Lord's reign includes care for the poor (vv 5, 10; he is "Father of the fatherless..") and daily bearing the burden of his people (v 19; Isa 46:3) By his power we also help bear the burdens of others, thus fulfilling the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). We serve a King who himself shoulders our burdens, and so we should do so for others, as well.
ZEAL FOR GOD'S HOUSE (Ps 69). This is a psalm of lament by King David, who is suffering reproach from his fellow Israelites, but not because of his own wrong-doing (although he is aware of his own sin, v 5). Rather, he is looked down upon because he loves the Lord and has such zeal for God's worship at the temple (69:9). The disciples recognized this truth also about Jesus, that he loved his Father supremely and was zealous for his worship and honor (Jn 2:17). So, the rejection of Jesus reflected a rejection of God. As well, David's pronouncement of judgment (vv 22-23) is echoed by the Apostle Paul in his epistle (Rom 11:9-10). Not everyone who claims to be a part of the family of God is actually a true child of God, but rather, it is those who have zeal for worship which truly honors God their Father.
Image credit: photo from above the nation of Turkey looks out across the Aegean Sea, over Greece and onto the Ionian Sea where Sicily and the boot of Italy are barely visible. Taken from the International Space Station, courtesy nasa.gov. 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.
Bible reading for weekend September 17 -- 19