EZEKIEL 37:1-38:23 | JAMES 1:19-2:17 | PSALM 117:1-2 | PROVERBS 28:1
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We continue with Ezekiel’s story, and learn of the vision that he receives concerning the valley of dry bones. This is a surreal image indeed of a graveyard come back to life. It is a stark symbolism that God uses to assert his promise of restoration to the children of Israel.
These are the words Ezekiel receives from God:
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”
Furthermore, there is another promise to unite the two nations under one king — no more will there be a king of Judah and another king of Israel. Having descended from the same twelve tribes of Jacob, i.e., Israel, the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel will be united into one whole. These are the words of the Lord to Ezekiel concerning this:
20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
And then, there is a specific prophecy for the advent of David, the shepherd-boy who will be appointed king.
The Lord tells Ezekiel this: 24 “‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
Next there is another prophecy, but this is supposedly an end-times prophecy, not unlike the time of Armageddon. The identity of the nation of Gog remains uncertain, but scholars attribute it to modern Russia. And as terrifying as it all seems and sounds, these are the words that Ezekiel receives and records for posterity concerning his people, the nation of Israel.
He delivers this message:
18 This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. 19 In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’
We turn now to the book of James, and find many an exhortation offered to the reader. The very first one is:
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Then, he goes on to encourage his readers to grow strong in their faith. James is exhorting his readers in this way:
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
Next, James speaks to the importance of being fair in all our speech and action, and offers as an illustration these words:
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Also, on the matter of judging a person, he says:
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.
Mercy triumphs over judgment. The law is good only to condemn, but mercy rises above the law, i.e., mercy triumphs over judgment.
James, the ever-practical believer has a thing or two to say about the importance, nay, the requirement of good works to be accompanied by one’s faith. However, make no mistake as to which ought to come first. It is good works that follow faith, and not the other way around.
James says: 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Next, turning to our reading of the Psalms, we find a couple of simple opening verses in which David, the great king of Israel, offers up these words of thanksgiving and praise:
1 Praise the LORD, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
2 For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD.
And finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, speaks to the valued quality of courage in these lines:
1 The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.