On Sunday 30th August Moneydig Presbyterian Church will re-open after 23 being closed because of Covid-19. While the church re-opening is a cause of celebration it is also a matter of caution.
We will be maintaining strict 2m social distancing and encouraging the wearing of face-masks whilst in the church. The social distancing means there will be limited space in the church. Everyone hoping to attend will have to book their place between Monday and Wednesday each week. Bookings can be made by contacting Steven Torrens (Clerk of Session) using text or WhatsApp messaging. If you do not have access to text or WhatsApp then phone Steven.
The number which Steven can be contacted on 07740585946
This morning we finish our daily reflections in the book of Ezekiel. I hope you have enjoyed your time with Ezekiel and been able to get a flavour for what this incredible book teaches us. Ezekiel has taken us on an incredible journey. The book began near the Kebar river where Ezekiel was sitting with other exiles from Jerusalem.
It was there that Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord, but it was also there he saw the glory of the Lord departing the temple; the destruction of Jeruslaem and all the sins of the people that led to God’s anger.
Ezekiel has shown us the depth of pain our betrayal and rejection of God has caused. If there is anything to learn from Ezekiel it is the incredible seriousness of our sin. The cost of it to ourselves and others. It is worth noting how God’s wrath was poured out on the community – my sin affects those around me, as does yours. Ezekiel teaches us that sin is no trifling matter.
But notice also how Ezekiel does not leave us languishing in our sin. He does not leave us in the horror of exile or the pain of separation to God. The book of Ezekiel brings us full circle. We are given an incredibly detailed description of a new city and temple replacing the city and temple destroyed in God’s wrath. The wonder of this new city is in the final words of Ezekiel.
The Lord is There
Is this not the story of the gospel? Is the story of the gospel not the story of a group of exiles, you and me, separated from the holy city God created for us, Eden? In that exile we see the glory of the Lord departing from our lives. With each further descent into sin that glory of God appears more and more distant resulting in the inevitable death we all must face.
Yet we are not left in despair, death or separation from God. Jesus Christ has come into our world; he has atoned for our sin and through him we are returned to that place our sin sent us into exile from. We see again the glory of God as we are promised not just a new city, but a new heaven and a new earth.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
How do we take hold of this promise? The answer lies in Ezekiel’s words to the people of Judah & Jerusalem.
Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!
Prayer Father, I thank you for the new life I find in Jesus Christ. Forgive me for all I have done that caused my separation and alienation from you. Forgive me for everything I have done that placed Jesus on the cross. Yet I thank you it is because Jesus went to the cross that I can have this new life; the promise of being part of that new heaven and earth where you dwell with me. Lord, may I never lose sight of this incredible prize, privilege and promise. Amen
Do you ever feel as though life is a long tunnel with no sign of light at the other end? Does God ever seem so distant that we wonder if he will ever make his face to shine upon us again? Does life ever feel as though it has become so difficult that we will never laugh or smile again? Do we ever wonder if someone will deliver good news instead of the constant crushing weight of bad news and disappointment?
Life exiled in Babylon must surely have felt like this. Certainly, those who were left in Jeruslaem after all the slaughter, siege, starvation and poverty must have wondered if life would ever return to normal. We hear the despair, panic even in Ezekiel’s cry of 9:8 ‘
Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?’
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
The purpose of God’s anger is not to simply that he would have satisfaction, it is not to inflict punishment. The purpose of God’s anger, his wrath is to turn us away from those things that cause us harm. To turn our hearts back to him. God’s anger, his wrath, his punishment; it is not vindictiveness; it is grace and love.
In chapter 39: 21-29 God makes clear his punishment was because of how Israel rebelled against him, it was to make clear his holiness, that everyone would know that he is God. Crucially though God also talks of how he will restore Israel, of how he will teach them a lesson and that they will learn that lesson.
In Romans 1:24 Paul echo’s this thought when he talks of God handing people over to their sinful desires. In 1 Corinthians 5:5 Paul instructs the immoral brother to be handed over to Satan, not for punishment but ‘that his spirit might be saved on the day of the Lord.’ God punishes us in order that we would learn our lesson, but he also holds out the promise of redemption and renewal.
How is life showing you what it would be like to live without God? Has God been speaking to us about the extent of our sin, the consequences of our sin? Have we begun to understand the severity of God’s hand upon us because of who we are and what we have said and done?
The good news is that in Jesus Christ there is redemption. In Jesus we can be sure that God’s anger will last only a moment because Jesus has borne all of it for us. Jesus wept through the night in order that we would rejoice in the morning. In the darkness there is light at the end of the tunnel and that light is Jesus Christ. Will we walk towards the light or remain in the darkness? Will we walk towards God’s favour or remain in his anger? Walk towards the dawn of hope and rejoicing or remain in the night of weeping?
Jesus came to give us the hope of a new heaven and a new earth. Are we prepared to leave this earth behind?
Prayer Father, I thank you for your loving kindness. I thank you that your discipline on my life is simply to correct me, to draw me back, to protect me from your anger. Lord help me to respond by clinging to Jesus. Lord, I trust in Jesus, help my lack of trust. Amen
One of the questions Christian’s face on a regular basis is ‘How can you prove there is God?’ It is also one of the most difficult questions to answer. The truth is that often people are looking for quantifiable answers. They are looking for something that can be measured, a result that can be expressed in mathematical fact.
The reason this is such a difficult question for Christians is that God cannot be quantified. God cannot be measured. This does not mean we cannot answer this question. We can point to the earth, the universe and how it all holds together and ask the question, ‘can we really say there is no intelligent design in what we see? Can we really argue the intricacy of the natural world, how the largest of mammals such as the humpback whale is dependant on the smallest of living organisms for food, is really just an accident of evolution.’
We can also point to what God has being doing in our lives and the change he has brought about in us. In Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones he is presented with a valley of skeletons. Ezekiel is told to prophecy to the bones and as he does so they begin to come to life. They take on sinew, muscle and flesh. Even as the bones are covered with skin, they still have no life. Ezekiel then prophecies to the breath. The breath of God is breathed into the bones and they come to life.
The whole point of this passage to is remind us that without Christ we are dead bones. We are dry and lifeless. It is only in Christ we come to life. Even in coming to Christ it is not us who brings about the change in our lives, we do not come to life because of what we have done.
I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
As we come to Christ it is God who breathes new life in us. It is God who covers our dry bones with flesh. How can we prove there is a God? We can prove there is a God because of what he has done in our lives. We know that no-one else can breathe the new life into us as God has. We can show there is a God because of the hope he not only brings but fulfils amidst the dry bones.
Prayer Father, this morning I thank you for the new life you have given me in Jesus Christ. Thank you for the hope of something better amidst the dry bones. Lord I ask that you come afresh by your Spirit and breathe once more, that I would be refreshed; reminded of hope; look forward to something better. In Jesus name, amen.
Ezekiel has made clear God’s anger at Jerusalem and Judah. He explained how God had been hurt and offended through their sin. Ezekiel likened Jerusalem’s sin to adultery and he called it idolatry. All of this explains why God was so angry; why he sent his people into exile; why so much pain was inflicted on the people.
God’s anger was not only against all of those who rebelled against him, he was also angry with the leaders, priests, Levites and kings who should have been acting as shepherds to the people. The role of the shepherd is protect and stop the sheep from wandering of. God is holding the leaders in Jerusalem and Judah responsible for not keeping his people on the straight and narrow.
I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.
It was because Jerusalem’s leaders failed so dramatically that God had to intervene himself. God said, ‘I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.’ It was because God’s shepherd failed so dramatically that God himself then promised to step into history and do what the religious leaders had not done.
I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…’ Ezekiel 34:15-16
We should never forget that God himself stepped down into history to seek us out and to heal us from the wounds our sin inflicted on our lives. We vividly see God making good on this promise through the life of Jesus. It was Jesus who said, ‘I am the good shepherd’. It was Jesus who told the parable of the lost sheep.
Jesus has come into the world to seek people like you and me. He has come to heal the deep wounds of lostness and bewilderment. The question we are faced with is will we turn to him and accept the outstretched hand waiting to bring us back into the fold.
Prayer Father, thank you for sending Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to find me. Father, thank you that Jesus brings me back into your fold, your family. Lord help me to reach out and allow Jesus to take hold of my life. Help me to surrender, to allow myself to rest in your security, to lie down in peace. Amen.
Throughout the book of Ezekiel, we have been reading about Jerusalem’s sins and God’s anger against Jerusalem. In chapters 22 & 23 we read about the depth of those sins and the pain they heaped on God. In these chapters Jerusalem is presented as two adulterous sisters.
There can be no question Jerusalem deserved everything that happened to them.
Alongside the judgement of God Jerusalem and her people also had to face the derision, laughter and mocking of her close neighbours. The nations around Jerusalem rejoiced and celebrated in her fall.
Things haven’t really changed. Today the world around the church still rejoices in her downfall and disgrace. When the church makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons people laugh. When the church sins and rightly faces prosecution people rejoice, not in justice being served, but the downfall of the church. When individual Christians fall into sin and face disgrace – the world around does not rush to help but shuns and alienates.
To be clear there is no excuse for the church bringing the name of the Lord into disrepute and every crime committed by, or in the name of the church or associated with the church should be punished for to the full extent of the law. Being the church should not bring any immunity from justice.
But… the God of the church is also the God of the nations. If the nations celebrate the fall of the church God will bring judgement on those nations just as he did in the book of Ezekiel.
If you do not yet know the Lord as Saviour or if you currently refuse to acknowledge the Lord even if you deny the existence of the Lord. This does not mean you are beyond the jurisdiction of the Lord. God is the Lord of all, he is Lord of the church, the believer as well as the nations and the unbeliever.
Ezekiel’s warning is clear to those who delight in the downfall of the church. God will act.
This is also a clear warning to the church. Our attitude to others must be filled with compassion. We cannot celebrate the downfall of anyone. Why did Jesus say we should visit the prisoner, if not to care for them? Why are we to search for the lost sheep if not to restore them. In Galatians 6:1 Paul said this.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
God did not show us the judgement we deserved, he does not celebrate punishment, his desire is for mercy and grace, forgiveness and new life. Our view of the world should be the same. God expects non-believers to show his church that same grace.
Prayer Father, thank you for the mercy you have shown me in Jesus Christ. Forgive me when instead of showing mercy to others I celebrate their downfall. Give me a new outlook on life. A new compassion. A new ability to see the possible change that you can bring about in people’s lives. Amen
In yesterday’s blog we talked about the hope we have in Christ and how we are set free from not only our past sins but the expectations, good or bad, which others place upon us. As we come to chapter 20 it appears at first glance as though Ezekiel is saying something contradictory.
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Chapter 20 begins by telling us how the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel to enquire of the Lord. We might think this is a good thing. They have learnt their lesson; understood why they are in exile and so they have come before the Lord. The shock comes when we realise that God will not answer them.
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: have you come to enquire of me? As surely as I live, I will not let you enquire of me, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Ezekiel reminds the elders of all Israel did in their past, how they rebelled against God time and time again. He describes in detail the terrible lengths Israel wen to in their rebellion. The depth and extent of their rebellion. The question we should be asking at this point is why? Why if our hope in Christ frees us from the sins of our fathers did God refuse to let Israel enquire of him?
It appears that Israel had failed to repent. By repent we mean they had failed to turn away from what they were doing. There was no sign of remorse. When they came before God there was no sense of acknowledging the hurt they’d caused, or the damage they’d inflicted on the world around them.
It was because of this lack of contrition; integrity or honesty in coming before God that he turned his face away and would not let them enquire of him. How do we come before God? Are we two faced in our dealings with God? Do we say one thing, but our actions say another.
In Ezekiel 24:15 a strange real-life drama is played out to show the seriousness of Israel’s situation. Ezekiel’s wife dies and Ezekiel is not allowed to openly mourn her death. The reason for this drama was to show how God was going to take away everything that was precious to Israel, everything they loved. Their city; temple; land – everything God had blessed them with and set them apart as being special.
We cannot expect God to hear and respond to us when we are still engaging in sinful rebellion. Sin always has and always will separate us from God. There is good news in Ezekiel’s message from God. He whole reason God turns his face away from Israel is to draw them back.
But afterwards you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols.
We need to be clear; our sin may separate us from God, but God does everything to overcome that gap – even turning his face away from us. Has God gone silent? Does God seem distant? Could it be that God is saying quite clearly there is something he wants us to repent of, to turn away from and actually it is not that he is punishing us, or turning away from us but he wants us to turn back to him?
Prayer Father forgive my two-faced approach to you. Forgive my prayers of confession and cries for deliverance when I still look to those things that come between us. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace. Amen
I wonder do we ever stop to think why there’s so much division in the world over differences none of us have had any control over. Nations look down on nations when none of us had any say where we were born. Protestant is set against Catholic when we had no say into what family we were born. The poor are separated from the rich when we had no say into what economic circumstances we were born. In so many ways we are the product of our parents. So many things cannot be changed or are difficult to change, all because of the situation or location into which we were born. (It makes all the division more than a little pointless)
Yet Ezekiel is telling us when it comes to God our heritage; family lineage; parents’ choices do not define who we are. (Read Ezekiel 18: 19-25)
Our relationship with God is entirely personal. (Personal in the sense that it is our relationship; not personal in the sense that it should not be shared with others.) We should remember that Ezekiel was speaking to a people who had already been taken into captivity in Babylon because of their rebellion against God and the remainder of the people were about to be taken into captivity and their precious city and temple destroyed. He was speaking to a people whose relationship with God certainly looked as though it lay in tatters.
Ezekiel, therefore, was saying to a new generation you are not bound or defined by your father’s actions. God will not abandon you because of what your father did. This is good news for anyone who might be reading this who does not have a family history that has taught a love for God – or has a family history of crime; unfaithfulness; or wickedness. Equally for a godly parent who faces the heartache of a child who departs from the faith, this does not bring into question your relationship with God.
The child will not share the guilt of the parent nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is about cleansing from individual sin. It is the message that Christ’s death is for me and that I receive his grace through my faith, not the faith of my parents or my children. This is good news because the gospel then becomes something that can set us free from our family history. Like the children of the exiles in Babylon we do not have to become like our parents.
The gospel goes further because not only does it free us from historical family sin, but our own historical sin. The cross of Jesus Christ sets me free from my past. Whatever shameful thing we hide from others, whatever shameful thing we believe has shattered our relationship with God. The cross atones for and restores that relationship.
Rather am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Jesus sets us free from everything the world tells us we should be. It doesn’t matter if that is because of the place we were born; the family we were born into; or what we may have become through our life choices. In Christ we are set free.
Prayer Father I thank you for the cross of Jesus Christ. I thank you that he sets me free from the labels people use about me because of where I come from, how my family has lived and the choices I have made in life. Father forgive me for who I am. This morning Lord I echo the words of Ezekiel 18:31, ‘Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit…’ Father create in me that new heart and renew that right spirit in me (Psalm 51:10). Amen.
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