Return to Your Rest, My Soul, for the Lord Has Been Good to You

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EZEKIEL 35:1-36:38 | JAMES 1:1-18 | PSALM 116:1-19 | PROVERBS 27:23-27

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The promises of restoration to the people of Israel and to their land are being made by the Lord Almighty through the voice of his prophet, Ezekiel. 

Concerning the mountains of Israel, this is what the Lord says: 

8 “‘But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. 9 I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, 10 and I will cause many people to live on you—yes, all of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. 11 I will increase the number of people and animals living on you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the LORD. 12 I will cause people, my people Israel, to live on you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of their children.

The promises extend to both people and place, and these are the further promises of God that Ezekiel is told to convey to his people: 

24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.

And if there is any doubt at all, here is another affirmation that Ezekiel offers: 

33 “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.’

We turn now to our New Testament reading, and enter a new book titled The Epistle of James, or simply, James. 

The identity of James, the author, is uncertain, but most scholars attribute it to be James, the brother of Jesus.  [Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ earthly parents had children together] 

James starts out with an exhortation on exercising a strong faith.  He says: 

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

And he has these words of encouragement for those who persevere in their faith: 

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 

We’ll turn now to our Psalm of the day, and in this one, we find a timeless template for praise.  Like David, may we also offer up words like these in complete abandon:

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
   he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
   I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me,
   the anguish of the grave came over me;
   I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
   “LORD, save me!”

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
   our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the unwary;
   when I was brought low, he saved me.

7 Return to your rest, my soul,
   for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
   my eyes from tears,
   my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
   in the land of the living.

Finally, a couple verses from the book of Proverbs authored by Solomon, wise king of Israel, who cautions against complacency:

 23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
   give careful attention to your herds;
24 for riches do not endure forever,
   and a crown is not secure for all generations.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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