Day 190: Inside the Mind of an Exile

Ezekiel 24-25; Acts 11

Key Verses

Ezekiel 24:21-23
Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. And you shall do as I have done; […] you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another.

Acts 11:17-18
If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Imagine being captured and sent to a foreign land. You would be separated from your family – your sons, your daughters, your friends. And if you were one of the first exiles to leave Jerusalem, the only news of your homeland would come from a man named, Ezekiel.

You knew He was one of the Lord’s true prophets because he only spoke when God opened his mouth to speak. Otherwise… he was mute (Ezekiel 3:26-27). So each time he spoke, you listened, and hoped for good news – but he only had messages of judgment.

So you ignored him and went about your relatively free existence in a foreign land. You settled down in your own house and built a new family. But one day, in the 9th year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month of king Zedekiah’s reign, God opened Ezekiel’s mouth and he spoke a parable that was so terrifying, so horrible that you couldn’t ignore it. God’s last words would stay with you. And shake you…

I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God (Ezekiel 24:14).

And you knew, your beloved nation and city and people would be destroyed. And then, something unexpected and strange happened…

Ezekiel’s beloved wife died, the delight of his eyes, and he refused to mourn for her. So you wondered and you asked, “Why are you acting so strangely Ezekiel? Does this have meaning for us exiles?”

And Ezekiel confirmed your worst fears – that Jerusalem and the temple and the people would fall by the sword. And that God commanded that you, too, would not mourn – that you were to not show any outward signs of grief.

And you might wonder your whole life why… Why so much suffering, Lord? Why were we not allowed to grieve? 

Now imagine that after you died, and hundreds of years passed by, you were able to see the Son of God squeeze into human form and show God’s glory to your people. But in a horrible twist, He received an even more severe judgment than that of Jerusalem. Then you would know… that you shared in the sufferings of God.

God suffered as he watched his beloved Jerusalem burn to ashes – and he suffered as he watched his Son endure the shame and agony of a criminal’s cross. And Ezekiel suffered as his wife died and the exiles suffered in a foreign land knowing that their home was lost.

Have you ever wondered… “Why? Why so much suffering Lord?” In many ways, knowing that you share in the sufferings of God – answers the question “Why?” There is purpose for the pain. There always is.

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Day 347: The Throne Room

Hosea 12-14; Revelation 4

The last chapters of Hosea are heart-breaking as Hosea describes the inevitable destruction that will come because of the nation’s refusal to repent. But the book ends with the hopeful promise that God would restore and build His Kingdom…

They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon (Hosea 14:7).

His judgment is revealed in the context of His faithfulness to redeem his people. This is actually a summary statement for God’s work through all of history and according to the book of Revelation, this is how He will work in the future as well.

This is why John is transported “in the Spirit” to God’s throne room. John is shown God’s glory and Protection of the Saints before he is shown God’s judgment on the earth. This is so important that I will write it again…God’s judgment is revealed in the context of His faithfulness to redeem his people!!!

So what does John see in the throne room of God???

The images that John describes harken back to the opening chapter of Ezekiel – when Ezekiel was also shown a vision of the Glory of God.

And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald (Revelation 4:3).

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. […]Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around (Ezekiel 1:26-28).

I get the sense that both John and Ezekiel tried to find words to adequately describe the scene and found themselves limited by the use of only words. For words cannot possibly sum up the Glory of God!

Then John sees 24 elders sitting on thrones, dressed in white and wearing crowns. Their presence fulfills the promises given to the seven churches of the ones who overcome…”clothed in white, ruling with him, sharing his throne” (2:10; 2:27; 3:5, 3:113:21). The number 24 could represent both 12 tribes of Israel + 12 apostles – most likely representing all of those who are redeemed in Christ. This represents us, if we are redeemed in Christ!

From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal (Revelation 4:5-6).

This passage reveals God as judge. “The sea of glass, of the perfection of crystal, separates God in his holiness from everything else. It is this sea which will disappear later (21:1). In other words, there will come a time when sin and sinful people have been judged and God’s people will no longer experience this sea which separates them from their God” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 72).

John then observes four creatures that were around the throne (4:6). John’s description recalls images from both Ezekiel and Isaiah’s visions of God’s throne room (Ezekiel 1:10, 18 & Isaiah 6:2-3). These creatures represent all of God’s creation: wild & domestic animals, birds and humans all “looking this way and that way in order to serve him and worship him” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 73).

This amazing scene which our human minds can not fully comprehend culminates in worship. For God is holy, almighty and eternal. In addition to John’s vision, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Daniel were also given visions of God’s throne room, and all four men, when faced with the Glory of God, joined the members of the throne room in WORSHIP.

This should be our response as well…As we consider that we are His redeemed; He has clothed us with the righteousness of His Son and will remove the sea of separation to dwell with us forever…we should cast our crowns before Him and cry with all creation…

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:11).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book,Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 329: An Imperishable Story

Psalms 111-113; 1 Peter 1

Psalms 111 & 112 are both acrostic poems that are meant to be read together. Psalm 111 presents the overarching “big story” of God’s character and salvation plan. While Psalm 112 presents the effects of God’s saving power on the individual – resulting in a “little story” that brings glory and honor to Him.

This is the same pattern that Peter uses in his opening chapter of his letter to the dispersed Gentile Christians.

Peter uses beautiful, graphic language to paint the glorious big picture of salvation for the believer…

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

With the larger story in mind, Peter then encourages these suffering Christians to live out a “smaller story” in a manner that will bring glory to God!

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (1 Peter 1:13-15).

Likewise, we are to keep the sweeping  big story of redemption – from creation to our heavenly future – always before us as we struggle as spiritual exiles in this dark and difficult world. This eternal perspective enables us to live our individual stories with passion and zeal for our Savior!

Day 190: Inside the mind of an exile

Ezekiel 24-25; Acts 11

Imagine being captured and sent to a foreign land. You would be separated from your family – your sons, your daughters, your friends. And if you were one of the first exiles to leave Jerusalem, the only news of your homeland would come from a man named, Ezekiel.

You knew He was one of the Lord’s true prophets because he only spoke when God opened his mouth to speak. Otherwise… he was mute (Ezekiel 3:26-27). So each time he spoke, you listened, and hoped for good news – but he only had messages of judgment.

So you ignored him, and went about your relatively free existence in a foreign land. You settled down in your own house and built a new family. But one day, in the 9th year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month of king Zedekiah’s reign, God opened Ezekiel’s mouth and he spoke a parable that was so terrifying, so horrible that you couldn’t ignore it. God’s last words would stay with you. And shake you…

I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God (Ezekiel 24:14).

And you knew, your beloved nation and city and people would be destroyed. And then, something unexpected and strange happened…

Ezekiel’s beloved wife died, the delight of his eyes, and he refused to mourn for her. So you wondered and you asked, “Why are you acting so strangely Ezekiel? Does this have meaning for us exiles?”

And Ezekiel confirmed your worst fears – that Jerusalem and the temple and the people would fall by the sword. And that God commanded that you, too, would not mourn – that you were to not show any outward signs of grief.

And you might wonder your whole life why… Why so much suffering, Lord? Why were we not allowed to grieve? 

Now imagine that after you died, and hundreds of years passed by, you were able to see the Son of God squeeze into human form and show God’s glory to your people. But in a horrible twist, He received an even more severe judgment than that of Jerusalem. Then you would know… that you shared in the sufferings of God.

God suffered as he watched his beloved Jerusalem burn to ashes – and he suffered as he watched his Son endure the shame and agony of a criminal’s cross. And Ezekiel suffered as his wife died and the exiles suffered in a foreign land knowing that their home was lost.

Have you ever wondered… “Why? Why so much suffering Lord?” In many ways, knowing that you share in the sufferings of God – answers the question “Why?” There is purpose for the pain. There always is.