Bible reading for September 8 -- 9
Sep 8 -- Ezekiel 11 and Psalm 50
Sep 9 -- Ezekiel 12 and Psalm 51
"And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God." (Ezekiel 10:18)
BAD LEADERS, BRIGHT PROMISE (ch 11). Israel was chronically plagued by bad leadership (vv 1-12). In the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the rulers of Judah and their advisors, along with the popular prophets, urged the people of Jerusalem to hold out against the Babylonian siege. God had plainly told them through Jeremiah to not fight the Babylonians but to peacefully surrender. But in their pride and zeal they resisted and faced a long siege, starvation, disease, and finally, violence and enslavement by the Babylonians. But there's a bright ray of hope (vv 16-20), which will be further explained in chapters 36 and 37, that is, the promise of God to the people -- he would be with them in exile, he would bring them back to the land, and one day he would change their hearts and make them humbly obedient. Meanwhile, the vision of Ezekiel concludes with the glory of God departing from the temple at Jerusalem (vv 22-25).
CERTAIN AND SOON FULFILLMENT (ch 12). Ezekiel, in his ministry of drama (so to speak), demonstrates the state of flight and fear which will characterize the people of Jerusalem at the end of the siege. There will be no escape. Zedekiah the king would be blinded and sent in chains to Babylon to die in exile. Meanwhile, the people are murmuring that the words of God's prophets (e.g., Jeremiah and Ezekiel) were empty because there was not a quick fulfillment of them. God's answer is, "I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed..." (v 25). The length of time for God's promises to be fulfilled is no proof against the certainty of their fulfillment (cf 2 Pet 3:4-10). As the Lord says, "None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord GOD" (v 28).
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." (Psalm 51:10-11)
KNOWING GOD (Ps 50). We tend to make God into the image we want, someone we can get along with, which often is just a version of ourselves. So, what does it mean to know God? And what does he desire from us? Read more about this psalm here.
SINS AGAINST GOD (Ps 51). Like Psalm 32 and Psalm 38 this is a penitential psalm (see 2 Sam 11-12 for the background). "Against you, you only, have I sinned" (v 4) does not mean that David didn't sin against Bathsheba, and Uriah her husband, and his family and the nation, and his office as upholder of justice. All of these are true. What David means is that he realizes that he has sinned against the God who is Creator, and who rules personally over his creation in righteousness and holiness. All sin ultimately is against God, and is therefore personal. Today most people think of sin, or wrong-doing, only in terms only of that which hurts somebody else, a fellow creature. But the Bible teaches that when we sin, it is God's creation, his honor, his creatures, his children, his possessions, his design, and his will that we sin against, and so we sin against him. (Verse 5 tells us that we have this sinful inclination from our very conception.) David seeks cleansing from his guilt: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow... Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (vv, 7, 10). He does not say something foolish like, "I need to forgive myself", for he knows that it is only the Lord who gives forgiveness and cleansing.
TAKE NOT YOUR HOLY SPIRIT AWAY. If we sin today, will God remove his Holy Spirit from us (v 11)? The ministry of the Spirit in the OT was not as permanent (or as universal) as his work in the NT (John 14:16; Eph 4:30). The believer can certainly grieve the Holy Spirit, but we have his promise that he has sealed us for the day of redemption and that he will be with us forever. In the OT the Holy Spirit was given to judges, kings, and prophets in order to strengthen them for service to the Lord. For David, God's presence through the Holy Spirit was too precious to lose. He had personally experienced the decline of King Saul after the Spirit had departed from him. The prophet Joel later foretold of the coming day when the Holy Spirit would be given to all who believe (Joel 2:28-29; cf Eph 1:13).
THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the greatest blessing from God that we receive through the work of Christ (Gal 3:14)! Though he has many ministries, perhaps the greatest work that he does is to give us a new birth, turning our indifferent, darkened, fearful, God-avoiding hearts to the Lord, giving us a new desire and will to trust and obey God (Ezek 36:26-27). This new desire (and will) is not the same thing as merely being afraid of punishment, or giving a begrudging, superficial obedience to God. It is a new heart, a new desire, and a new will that delights in the Lord. This is the ongoing work of God down through the ages, as John Hannah writes, "God through Christ, by means of the Spirit, is gathering a people who will one day collectively, and in holiness of character, dwell in God’s presence fulfilling the purpose of their creation." (Intimacy With God; Christian Focus, 2020)
Image credit. Photo above by Nathan Dumlao 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 September 8 -- 9