EZEKIEL 23:1-49 | HEBREWS 10:18-39 | PSALM 109:1-31 | PROVERBS 27:13
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It is a woeful account that the Lord presents to Ezekiel concerning the reason for the judgment upon the land of Israel. Using an analogy of two sisters who engage in intentionally flagrant acts of prostitution, Ezekiel is made aware of the reasons for Jerusalem and Samaria’s fall.
The Lord says of Israel: 35 “… since you have forgotten me and turned your back on me, you must bear the consequences of your lewdness and prostitution.”
Willfully, they have turned their back on their God, and now Israel is on the brink of bearing the disastrous consequences of her actions.
We’ll turn now to our reading in the book of Hebrews, and continue with the theme of dismantling several Jewish theological institutions such as the priesthood, the temple, and the sacrifice.
This one verse is the final affirmation of everything that has been said earlier. Concerning the futility of repeated animal sacrifices in light of the perfect sacrifice in the person of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the writer states: 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
That’s all, folks! It’s a done deal, once and for all!
That is what the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for all mankind means. The price for the sin of the world has been paid in full and forever. Repeated payments are no longer required.
And so, having made the case for a new way of approaching God the Father, thanks to the new covenant that has been forged by the shedding of the blood of this divine sacrifice on the cross, the writer of this epistle now proceeds to recommend a new way of thinking and living.
He says: 19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The knowledge of grace and its amazing power to offer forgiveness ought not to be a license for us to continue in sin, the writer reminds. Rather, it ought to be taken with the utmost gravitas in the full knowledge of the fact that this is an incredible gift that ought be cherished, not abused.
The writer explains it like this: 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The writer wishes to encourage his readers to continue and grow strong in their personal faith in Christ. He hearkens back to the early memories of their moments of conviction and dedication of their hearts and their possessions, all in the name of their new faith in Christ, and encourages them to not lose heart and hope.
He says: 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Finally, he says, 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
We turn now to our reading of the Psalms, and cannot help but wonder if David must have written this in one of his darkest hours. Feeling persecuted and desolate, he turns to God to offer up a litany of grievances against his oppressors. If there is ever a choice mix of curses to be heaped upon an enemies’ head, David’s words from this psalm provide a template!
But after getting all that out of his system, David turns to the Lord, and says what he says best– words of supplication couched in humility:
21 But you, Sovereign LORD,
help me for your name’s sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
22 For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.
And there’s more where that came from:
26 Help me, LORD my God;
save me according to your unfailing love.
27 Let them know that it is your hand,
that you, LORD, have done it.
May it be that like David, we are also quick to offer up similar words of praise and thanksgiving:
30 With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them.
Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, gives some practical advice about taking a surety from a stranger. Trust, but verfiy, that old adage rings true!
13 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.