EZEKIEL 14:12-16:41; HEBREWS 7:18-28; PSALM 106:1-12; PROVERBS 27:4-6
Ezekiel’s commission from the Lord continues, and we learn that Jerusalem’s judgement is inescapable. This is what the Lord says to Ezekiel: 21 “…How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments—sword and famine and wild beasts and plague—to kill its men and their animals! 22 Yet there will be some survivors—sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought on Jerusalem—every disaster I have brought on it. 23 You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign LORD.”The wrath of God burns strong against Jerusalem, and she is described as a useless vine. This is what the Lord says: 6 “…As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem. 7 I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the LORD. 8 I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful, declares the Sovereign LORD.” If this sounds terrible, the next analogy of Jerusalem as the adulterous wife and prostitute is no better. The wrath of God is unabated, and these are the words of the Lord: 35 “‘Therefore, you prostitute, hear the word of the LORD! 36 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you poured out your lust and exposed your naked body in your promiscuity with your lovers, and because of all your detestable idols, and because you gave them your children’s blood, 37 therefore I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you found pleasure, those you loved as well as those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around and will strip you in front of them, and they will see you stark naked. 38 I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring on you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger. 39 Then I will deliver you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you stark naked. 40 They will bring a mob against you, who will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords. 41 They will burn down your houses and inflict punishment on you in the sight of many women. I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer pay your lovers. Turning now to our reading of the book of Hebrews, we find the writer speaking of a “better hope” and a “better covenant” that is made available to all in the person of Jesus Christ. While the old covenant through the Mosaic Law was entirely unattainable, the new covenant through this new plan of salvation was completely attainable, and in full measure– to both Jew and non-Jew, at that. The writer has been quite detailed so far in offering up an argument for the more perfect and permanent nature of the priesthood in Christ Jesus, and he does so yet again in these lines: 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. The writer goes on to make the case for this supernatural priest in the person of Jesus in this way: 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. This was indeed a radical concept for the Jews of the day to reconcile themselves to. Having been accustomed to approaching a priest in the Temple who would offer up a sacrifice on their behalf for an atonement of sins, here was something entirely different. The writer of Hebrews was pointing to Jesus as being both the priest and the sacrifice all in one. This was a new covenant between God and man that allowed for anyone at all to approach the Almighty so long as they entered through the intercession of Jesus Christ. This is most certainly a more abstract concept to wrap one’s mind around. There’s no physical priest, alright. There’s no physical sacrifice, okay. And if you take it one step further, there’s really no need for a physical temple, even. Paul has already openly written about the body being the temple of God, and now the writer of this book, Hebrews, is writing about the ultimate priest and the ultimate sacrifice. All this is a new faith, a new construct, a new way of life. And the newly-made believers, i.e., the Jews of the day who have embraced the idea of Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah to also be the savior of this world are being urged to to accept these new truths, and live them out– day in and day out. What a concept! If I were a first-century Jew, I know I might have also struggled with these new views! We turn now to our reading of the psalms, and find in Psalm 106, the psalmist reminiscing about his ancestors and their rebellious ways. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate a contriteness, and to offer up thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty for his many mercies over generations. David, the psalmist, says: 6 We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
7 When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise. Finally, a few verses from the book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, the wise king of Israel, offers food for thought on certain key qualities within human relationships. Anger, jealousy, love, loyalty, and betrayal all have a place under the sun, and reside within each individual. What sets one person apart from the other is the manner in which each of these qualities is contained and developed. Solomon says:
4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
5 Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.