EZEKIEL 39:1-40:27 | JAMES 2:18-3:18 | PSALM 118:1-18 | PROVERBS 28:2
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Ezekiel’s prophecies for the nations of Gog and Magog continue.
Scholars interpret these in various and sundry ways, and while I am unable to understand in full the meaning and timing of these events, I take it that these are generally considered end-time events. Ezekiel is given these words of warning and promise by the Lord God Almighty.
Referencing the defeat and decimation of the armies of Gog in their homeland, the Lord says:
22 From that day forward the people of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God. 23 And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their offenses, and I hid my face from them. 25 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. 26 They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. 27 When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. 29 I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
And following this, there is the first sign of renewal and restoration. Ezekiel sees a vision of a man who leads him to the ruins of the temple, only to begin measuring each section and gate with a view to rebuilding it. Ezekiel is led by the man in bronze who tells him this:
4“Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see.”
We turn now to our reading of James, and find James making a case for the necessity of faith to be supported by good works– not the other way around, mind you. It is only natural that your faith will indeed produce good works, and James is taking great pains to make an argument to this effect, and cites in support the history of the Jewish forefathers.
He says: 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”and he was called God’s friend.
And next, we find one of the most memorable and oft-quoted passages in Scripture that speak to the power of the tongue, and the need for us to learn how to tame it.
James says: 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
He goes on to explain this more fully in these following verses:
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James was a man who was thoughtful about the subtleties of human nature, and surely must have been a most self-possessed individual. After offering exhortations on the best use of one’s tongue, he goes on to offer some thoughts on the concept of wisdom.
He asks: 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
We turn now to our reading of the Psalms, and find David offering up a most humble offering of praise and thanksgiving for the mercies of the Lord. It would behoove us to repeat these very words as well:
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
May it be that like David, we might also be able to say like him:
5 When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD;
he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.
And in times of doubt as to whom one might be better off trusting, here’s David’s advice:
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, has these words to offer as food for thought:
2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers,
but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.