Let Someone Else Praise You, and Not Your Own Mouth

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EZEKIEL 10:1-11:25 | HEBREWS 6:1-20 | PSALM 105:16-36 | PROVERBS 27:1-2

While still in exile, Ezekiel has been having a most fantastic vision within which he has received his commission to go to his people in Judea, the “remnant of Israel”, to warn them against further sacrilege, and to turn from their ways of idol-worship.  Among the “remnant” is only a small remnant that will be spared because the majority of the people have committed the most abominable acts of worshiping images and idols inside the very heart of the Temple.  Yet, God is merciful to a few who refrain from participating in these detestable acts.  Furthermore, those who remain in exile receive a new promise.  The wrath of God seems to relent somewhat, and this is what Ezekiel is commanded to convey to them:

16 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’ 17 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’  18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

Turning now to our reading of the book of Hebrews, we find the writer continuing with his exhortation to his Jewish readers to mature in this newly found Christian faith.  We’ve covered all the basics, he seems to say, and it is time to move on to more substantial fare.  Let us not keep returning to the rudimentary points of our faith, because that is like crucifying Christ all over again. Once you’ve understood these truths, you cannot go back, as with the act of repentance, but must move forward.

The writer puts it like this4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

This call to maturity continues in these next verses as well:  9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

The writer is yet again appealing to the Jewish identities of his readers in assuring them of the everlasting covenant that God has made with their forefather, Abraham.  And after having provided this assurance of how the promise to establish Abraham descendants on this earth has been duly fulfilled, the writer once again brings it back to this one new fundamental truth:  Jesus Christ is the “forerunner” of their faith, and is also their essential High Priest who invites them into the Temple of their hearts to worship and commune with God Almighty.

This is how the author of Hebrews puts it:  16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

We turn now to our reading of the psalms, and find that we are still continuing in Psalm 105, a very long one that essentially outlines the incredible history of the Jewish people.  The purpose of presenting a chronological account of their history is to offer up praise and thanksgiving to God Almighty for the provisions and protections over generations.

Finally, we turn to the book of Proverbs, and find two excellent verses worthy of record and rumination.  In both, Solomon, the wise king of Israel, cautions against the ills of empty pride:

1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
   for you do not know what a day may bring.

2 Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth;
   an outsider, and not your own lips.

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