Bible reading for weekend September 10 -- 12
Sep 10 -- Ezekiel 13 and Psalms 52-54
Sep 11 -- Ezekiel 14 and Psalm 55
Sep 12 -- Ezekiel 15 and Psalms 56-57
"Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 13:22-23)
POPULAR RELIGION CONDEMNED (ch 13-14). Three groups are called out for condemnation: false prophets, and prophetesses, and some key leaders. They were all saying what the people wanted to hear -- things will be all right, peace and security is near, and your best life is arriving soon (cf Jer 6:14; Mic 3:5). It was a popular religion of the day (cf 1 Thess 5:3). All this originated in their own minds and imaginations, which they mistook for the Lord speaking. We have the same problems in the wider church today. How many evangelical prophets (so-called) said Donald Trump would win the last election? (And where are they now?) How many people say, and read books that say, "this is what the Lord is saying to you"? When separated from Scriptural authority, these kinds of sayings constitute false prophecy, lies, and vanity, being worthy of God's severest judgment. The repeated phrase, "you shall know that I am the LORD" (13:23), indicates there is a day coming when everyone will face Reality, that is, the true and living God. Vanity and lies will disappear, and truth and light will be seen and established forever.
A FRUITLESS VINE (ch 15). Read this chapter along with John 15:1-6. God's purpose for his people is that they abide in him with a living faith, and so bear the fruit of righteous living. If the vine is fruitless, or dies, it's wood is not good for anything, not even for use as a peg on the wall. It goes to the burn pile.
POPULAR RELIGION TODAY. And here the question is, whom do we really trust? There are many today who believe that our current political strife is the battle between God and evil today, and whom you identify as which, tends to fall along party lines. Yet, we are not called to put our trust in any political leader (right or left) or party, or even in the government itself. We are not called to trust the media or podcasters or entertainers or popular speakers. Follow the money trail: powerful people are making money from the uncritical support we give them. Our lavish attention to influencers gives them even greater influence. There is a spiritual crisis in our nation today, but it's more than the strife of political parties. There are voices and movements that claim to give us the answers to what we really need. Spiritual warfare today is what it's always been throughout history: fallen, sinful, selfish Man versus God's appointed Messiah (Ps 2). It is the innate opposition to the gospel, whether from people who name God (evangelicals, religionists), or multiple gods (animists, polytheists), or no God at all (atheists, secularists), who are opposed to the good news of Jesus Christ (read Eph 6:10-20 carefully). Does that mean all political parties and social movements are all the same? Certainly not, I believe certain parties and candidates are better, often much better, than others, both in morals and competence. But that does not mean that the tension we feel in political America these days is understood in the same way our Lord sees it.
FULL DISCLOSURE. Just for the record. No, I don't think the election was stolen. No, I don't think the vaccination is the mark of the beast. No, I don't think this country is racist. No, I don't think "love is love" and you can be any gender you want. In my opinion Satan is fishing very well on both sides of the river now, on the right and on the left. Here's a succinct summary of what I'm holding on to these days: "Christ made the one all-sufficient sacrifice for sin. Nothing, from the point of view of the Bible, can possibly be more important for mankind than that" (J. Gresham Machen). What amazes me is that many Christians are more agitated about social theories and political conspiracies than they are about people, people who are conservative or progressive or whatever, who are hell-bound without Christ. Btw, please don't send me links or videos or anything that begins with "actually...". Just read what I wrote (if you wish) and think about it (if you wish), but don't try to engage me on this in social media. Thanks.
"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever." (Psalm 52:8)
FLOURISHING (Ps 52). David calls out and gives warning to a betrayer, one whose trust was in wealth, position, and power. The Lord's judgment will come! David himself, though in exile at the time, puts his trust in the Lord and is like a a green olive tree [flourishing, thriving, full of leaves] planted in the house of the Lord, even as he awaits the Lord's deliverance. Though considered by many an outlaw on the run, his heart is in God's house on Mount Zion, and by faith he knows that he has been, and is, firmly planted there. Just like David, we too know and think about our eternal dwelling with the Father through Christ (Col 3:1-4)!
ATHEISM (Ps 53-54). In this psalm we are given a view of the human heart. The Apostle Paul cites this psalm in describing human depravity (Rom 3:11-12). "There is no God" is not merely describing philosophical atheism, but more, the practical atheism that infects every human heart to some degree -- we prefer to live and plan and prosper without God. We want to live by our own moral standards. We reject God as he has revealed himself in the Bible, and so, we feel safe from any future judgment. We need new hearts, that say, "Yes, you are God!" (Ezek 36:26) Even as followers of Christ we should be praying, "Lord, give me eyes to see what are the real intentions, motives, and values of my heart!" In Psalm 54 David prays for vindication against his enemies and expresses his trust in the Lord.
THREE LAMENTS (Ps 55-57). These three psalms are called "individual laments", that is, King David is praying to God about the opposition he is receiving from others toward his reign in Israel. We shouldn't think of these as people who merely disagreed with David on some matter, but they were those who were working toward his downfall, even violently. Two of the psalms (56, 57) regard such opponents, and one (55) concerns a friend who has become a betrayer. There are many beautiful expressions of trust that we too can echo... "Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you" (55:22); "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you" (56:3); "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" (56:8); "...in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by" (57:1).
OUR REAL ENEMIES are not human, or "flesh and blood" (Eph 6:12), but we do face opposition as members of Christ's kingdom. Our salvation is a working of God's power, and there are spiritual forces that actively work against us growing in righteousness and holiness. Psalms such as these are wonderful guides for prayer. Read a verse at a time. Ask the Holy Spirit to illumine you in the way to pray these words back to the Lord.
Image credit: photo of olive tree by Nazar Hrabovyi 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.
Bible reading for weekend September 10 -- 12