Ezekiel 11-12

All Talk, No Action. All Bark, No Bite.

“Son of man, the people of Israel are saying, ‘He’s talking about the distant future. His visions won’t come true for a long, long time.’ Therefore, tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: No more delay! I will now do everything I have threatened. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!’” – Ezekiel 12:27-28 NLT

We all know Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried wolf. It seems that this young was bored with his job as a shepherd, so to add a little excitement to his day, he would suddenly cry out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!” The townspeople would run to his aid, only to find a grinning shepherd boy and no wolf. “Don’t cry ‘wolf’, shepherd boy,” said the villagers, “when there’s no wolf!” They went grumbling back down the hill. But the shepherd boy continued his little game, crying out “Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!” To his delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away. Then one day, the unexpected happened. A real wolf showed up. But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come. The next morning they found the shepherd boy weeping in the fields where his flocks once grazed. When they asked him what happened, he said, “There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, “Wolf!” Why didn’t you come?”

I can’t help but think of this story when I read these two chapters in Ezekiel. We have to remember that God had been warning His people about coming judgment for some time now. The prophets of God had consistently and persistently warned them about what God was going to do. But from their perspective, not much had happened. They had interpreted God’s delay as inaction. To them, the prophets had become like the boy who cried wolf. And their response? “Don’t cry ‘wolf’, shepherd boy, when there’s no wolf!” They even had a proverb in Israel that said, “The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing” (Ezekiel 12:22 NLT). As each day passed without judgment taking place, the people became increasingly complacent and callous to the message of the prophets. God was not going to act. Nothing was going to happen. These guys were all bark and no bite. Or were they? God commands Ezekiel to tell them, “I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it. Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: ‘The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled!’” (Ezekiel 12:23 NLT).

How many times do we discount the warnings of God because they don’t ever seem to come true? How often have we read these stories about the wrath of God and His hatred for sin, but simply discount them and assume that they’re just Old Testament stories about a God who was short-tempered and lacking in love. We prefer the God of the New Testament. The God of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. But we fail to recognize that God is unchanging. He still hates sin. He still warns His people about the dangers of unfaithfulness and idolatry. He constantly reminds us that there are consequences for our sins. But when we see nothing happen, when we appear to get away with our indiscretions and infidelity, we stop listening. Like the villagers in Aesop’s fable, we think God is just crying wolf. He isn’t going to do anything. He’s all talk, no action. He all bark, no bite. And that is a very dangerous assumption to make.

Father, You’ve given us these stories as a warning and a reminder. You have not changed. You still hate sin. You still plan to punish evil and deal with those who love injustice. Help us to see that You will do what You have said You will do. You will act. You are not just talking to hear Your own voice. Your words have meaning and significance. Your warnings carry weight. You deserve our undivided attention. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ezekiel 9-10

Elvis Has Left the Building.

“Then the Glory of GOD left the Temple entrance and hovered over the cherubim. And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the Lord’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them.” – Ezekiel 10:18-19 MSG

Ezekiel continues to see a vision given to him by God. He has been transported to the city of Jerusalem where he was witnessed the sins of the people of Judah committed against God. They have erected idols in the Temple. They are clandestinely worshiping false gods in hidden rooms within the Temple grounds. Their spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness has reached a whole new love – even for the people of Israel. And now Ezekiel has to witness  a scene that was devastating for him as a prophet of God. He was about to witness the glory of God departing the very Temple designed as His dwelling place. All the way back on the day when Solomon had dedicated the Temple upon its completion, God had given this unique structure His Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval by filling it with His glory. “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple” (1 Kings 8:10-11 NLT). God had taken up occupancy of the Temple. He had filled it with His glory. Now, hundreds of years later, God was about to leave the premises. He was making a not-so-subtle exit.

The glory of God made a methodical and obvious move from the courtyard to the main entrance. From there it moved to the east gate of the Temple grounds. God was no longer able to dwell in the house built for Him because it had been defiled by other gods and was not longer set aside for Him alone. The Temple of God was no longer the Temple of God. It had lost its distinctiveness and so God removed His presence. His glory departed. What a sad statement. What a chilling reality. The God of the universe was removing Himself from their midst. He was no longer willing to tolerate their rebellion and open rejection of His authority over their lives. This was a sad day for Israel. But it was not the first time the glory of God had left them. Back during the days before there were kings over Israel, the prophet Samuel witnessed another dark day in the life of the people of God. They were at war with the Philistines and things were not going well. So they decided to bring the Ark of God from where it was kept in the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They saw it as some kind of a magic talisman that could bring them victory over their enemies. They knew that God was enthroned above the cherubim that decorated the top of the Ark. So they reasoned that if they could bring the Ark to the battle, God would come along with it. They could somehow force God to do their will, their way. They didn’t ask God for permission or seek His advice about the war with the Philistines. They simply decided that they needed a quick fix for their problem. But it didn’t turn out well. The Ark was captured by the Philistines and more than 30,000 Jews were killed. The rest ran for their lives. Not only that, Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, the priest, were killed in the battle. When Eli received news that the battle had been lost, his sons were dead and the Ark was captured, he keeled over dead. When Phinehas’ pregnant wife got word that her husband was dead, she went into early labor and died. She stayed alive long enough to give birth to a son and she named him Ichabod, which means “the glory has departed.” Before she died, she described the sad state of affairs in Israel. “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured” (1 Samuel 4:22 NLT).

The glory had departed! God had left the building. All hope was lost. But wait. While these two stories are sad and leave us with a sense of impending doom, we can’t forget the fact that God has placed His Spirit within each of us who have placed our faith in the saving work of His Son Jesus Christ. Our bodies are now the temples of the Holy Spirit. We have been indwelt with His presence. We have been set apart for His use. We have been given His power. He has chosen to reside within us, and He has promised to never leave us. His glory will never depart from us. But you and I can quench the Spirit. We can determine to live our lives outside of His control and refuse to listen to His voice. We can live our lives in such a way that we obscure the glory of God that is present in our lives. So the apostle Paul exhorts us, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,e you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Romans 8:12-14 NLT).

We have the glory of God within us. But like the people of Israel, we must decide to allow our lives to be directed by God. It is not enough to have His indwelling presence. I must choose to obey His word and follow His will. I can’t treat the Holy Spirit of God as some magic talisman that I tap into when I need a quick spiritual fix and a fast solution to a problem. He is God and He is to be feared and obeyed as God. While He will never leave me, He can choose to leave me to myself, allowing me to walk in the flesh and suffer the consequences. He will continue speak to me and attempt to convict and direct me. But I must choose to listen and obey. To not do so is to run the risk of missing out on the glory of God in my life. I could fail to see His power lived out in the daily affairs of my life. And the sad truth is, many of us as believers live as if the glory of God has departed. Our story of our lives could be named “Ichabod,” when they should be called “Immanuel” – God with us.

Father, I know You want to reveal Your glory in and through My life, but I stifle it by my attitudes and actions. I want the story of my life to be named “Immanuel” and not “Ichabod.” Because Your glory is in me and with me every second of every day. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ezekiel 7-8

Detestable Sins.

“Son of man,” he said, “do you see what they are doing? Do you see the detestable sins the people of Israel are committing to drive me from my Temple? But come, and you will see even more detestable sins than these!” – Ezekiel 8:6 NLT

When God finally gave Ezekiel permission to speak, He didn’t exactly give him an easy message to deliver. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel was told to share some fairly disturbing news to the people of God. What Ezekiel had to say was not going to help him win friends and influence enemies. God was telling them, “Soon I will pour out my fury on you and unleash my anger against you. I will call you to account for all your detestable sins” (Ezekiel 7:8 NLT). God was fed up. He had had enough. He saw that His chosen people had become proud, wealthy, self-sufficient and over-confident. They didn’t need God. They had their money and they had used their wealth to make their own gods. They no longer knew God or feared Him. And to prove to Ezekiel just how bad things were back home in Jerusalem, God gave him special “birds-eye” tour of the holy city that sounds like something straight out of Scrooge. In a vision from God, an angel picks up Ezekiel by his hair and transports him to Jerusalem. His first stop? The north gate of the inner courtyard of the Temple. And what does he see? A huge idol sitting smack-dab in the middle of the courtyard. We’re not told which god this was, but it could have been a statue of Asherah, the Canaanite godess of fertility, whose worship encouraged sexual immorality and self-gratification. Ezekiel had to be shocked by what he saw, but God assures them that this magical mystery tour of Judah’s sins was just getting started. Next the angel took him to the door of the Temple courtyard. Ezekiel is told to dig through the wall and he discovers a hidden door. When he goes through the door he discovers 70 leaders of Israel worshiping a variety of idols in secret. And their excuse for their actions? “The Lord doesn’t see us, he has deserted our land!” (Ezekiel 8:12b NLT). They blamed God. He had left them, so they were forced to worship other gods in hope of finding a solution to their problem. But they were the problem. Ezekiel had to be appalled. But there was more. The angel brought Ezekiel to the north gate of the Temple where he saw women weeping for the god Tammuz – the Babylonian god of spring. These women were mourning his death because he died at the beginning of every summer, only to return again in the spring. Finally, Ezekiel was taken by the angel to the inner courtyard of the Lord’s Temple. At the entrance to the sanctuary, Ezekiel saw 25 men standing with their backs to the sanctuary of God, facing east, worshiping the sun! They had turned their backs on God and were worshiping a false god – right in the Temple that was built to honor God.

They had replaced God. They had turned their backs on Him and were placing their hopes elsewhere. Rather than trust God for their future and return to Him in repentance over their sins, they were searching high and low for a solution to their problem. They didn’t want to admit their own culpability. They didn’t want to own their sins. Rather than repent, they looked for another way to resolve their issues. They searched for another savior. They prayed for another deliverer. As we look around the world today and see all that is going on, where do we turn. When we experience the physical and spiritual drought taking place in our country, do we turn to God in repentance, or do we look elsewhere for solutions? Do we put our hope in politicians? Do we turn to science? Do we rely on our own wealth and distract ourselves with entertainment and affluence? God is the solution to ALL of our problems and the answer to ALL of our needs. But are we guilty of looking elsewhere? Are we placing our hopes in something other than Him? If we are, God finds our behavior detestable and unacceptable. He will not tolerate rivals.

Father, You are so patient with us. When You look down from Your throne and see us worshiping the various gods we have made, it must anger You just like it did in Ezekiel’s day. You know that our hearts stray from You regularly, but rather than destroy us, You patiently call us back to You. Open our eyes and let us see that we are just as guilty as the people of Judah were. We are just as unfaithful and prone to wander. Call us back to You so that we might truly know You – intimately and personally. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ezekiel 5-6

Knowing God.

“They will know that I alone am the Lord and that I was serious when I said I would bring this calamity on them.” ­– Ezekiel 6:10 NLT

It’s as if God is saying, “We can do this the hard way or we can do this the easy way.” God is a relational God. He chose the people of Israel to have a relationship with Him and to get to know Him – intimately and personally. He chose to dwell among them. He gave them His law to follow. He led them, directed them, protected them, and even spoke to them. He revealed Himself to them through miracles and divine intervention. He won battles for them. He rescued and rewarded them. All so that they might know Him. But the people of Israel decided to reject this personal God for a litany of impersonal, impotent, man-made gods. Instead of recognizing and appreciating the power and presence of Yahweh, they turned their attention and affections elsewhere. So God decided to reveal Himself to them in a slightly different way. They were going to get to know Him the hard way. They were going to get to experience the power of God in a whole new way. They were going to witness the hand hand of God moving in their midst – bringing destruction, not blessing. He was going to smash their pagan shrines, demolish their altars, and destroy the places of worship where they pursued other gods. A third of them would die from disease and famine in the city. A third would die by the sword, killed by their enemies. And a third would end up in exile. And God says, “Then at last my anger will be spent, and I will be satisfied. And when my fury against them has subsided, all Israel will know that I, the Lord, have spoken to them in my jealous anger” (Ezekiel 5:13 NLT). When all the dust had settled, they were going to know that God had been in their midst. They were going to know that God had spoken and what He says, He does. They were going to know that God was powerful and dead serious about His people living lives that were set apart and distinctive from those of the other nations. “You people have behaved worse than your neighbors and have refused to obey my decrees and regulations. You have not even lived up to the standards of the nations around you” (Ezekiel 5:7 NLT).

Over and over again, God says, “They will know that I am the Lord.” One way or the other, the people of God were going to get to know their God. But they were choosing the hard way. They were making it difficult on themselves. God had wanted to reveal Himself through blessing and abundance. He had wanted to have an intimate relationship with them that was characterized by care and compassion. In His grace and mercy, He had chosen them from among all the nations, not because they were different or deserved it, but because He wanted to reveal Himself in a special way to a specific people. He was going to use them as a showcase of His love. They were going to be His living illustration to the world. But they refused to accept His love and obey His commands. He pursued them, but they rejected Him. Just like Gomer rejected Hosea. So now they were going to get to know God the hard way. Why do we make it so hard on ourselves so often? Why do we force God to reveal Himself to us through discipline and prove Himself to us by rebuking us? God has given us His Son. He has chosen us for a personal, intimate relationship with Him. He wants us to know Him closely and deeply, and we can choose the easy way or we can choose the hard way.

Father, You are always revealing Yourself to me. But sometimes I just don’t listen. Sometimes I hear, but refuse to obey. And sometimes I choose other relationships over You. But You keep revealing Yourself. Help me to choose the easy way over the hard way. But either way, thank You for not giving up on me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ezekiel 4

Do What?!

“Prepare and eat this food as you would barley cakes. While all the people are watching, bake it over a fire using dried human dung as fuel and then eat the bread.” ­– Ezekiel 4:12 NLT

Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed difficult or even impossible to do? Have you ever questioned His will for your life? Sometimes God asks His people to do things that appear ridiculous from a human perspective. It just doesn’t make sense. But God is not asking us to obey once we understand or it all finally makes sense to us. He just wants us to obey – no questions asked. He is sovereign, all-knowing and in complete control. He knows what is best and His instructions to us are to be obeyed, not because they make sense, but because He gave them. Ezekiel is a prophet who was given some very strange duties to perform by God. Remember, God had struck him dumb. He couldn’t speak unless God gave him a message to share and loosened his tongue so he could present it to the people. But while Ezekiel was unable to speak, he was able to act – literally. In fact, God gave Ezekiel some very strange visual lessons to act out in front of the people. God commanded him to take a common clay brick and draw on it an image of the city of Jerusalem. He was to set up the brick outside his house, in full view of the people, then build siege walls, ramps and an enemy camp around it. Like a little boy playing with toy soldiers, Ezekiel was to make this model of the siege of Jerusalem. But that’s not all. It gets worse. God commanded Ezekiel to erect an iron plate, the to lie down on his left side for a period of 390 days, with the iron plate between himself and the “city” of Jerusalem. When the 390 days was up, he was to turn over and lie on his right side for another 40 days. All the while he was doing this, his daily meals were to consist of grain cakes baked over a fire made with human feces. Of all the strange things God had asked him to do, it was the last part that got Ezekiel’s attention. Not wanting to defile himself by using human feces, he appealed to God, who allowed him to use cow dung instead. Amazingly, that was the only part of God’s plan at which Ezekiel balked. He was willing to do everything God had commanded him to do – without question – even though it all appeared strange, made no sense, and would probably result in his own humiliation in the eyes of the people.

The amazing thing about this story is not the mysterious symbolism of the brick, the number of days, or the content of Ezekiel’s diet. It is the faithful obedience of Ezekiel in the face of a very strange request from God. None of this made sense. Ezekiel was being asked to do the ridiculous. He was being asked to make a fool of himself. And he knew that nothing he did or said was going to make any impact on the people. God had already told him that they would not listen or repent. But Ezekiel obeyed anyway. He did what God asked him to do. Over and over again in this book, we’ll see Ezekiel respond obediently to the commands of God. He does what he is told to do, regardless of its difficulty or credibility. He just obeys. What about us? How do we respond to the Word of God in our lives? Do we obey or do we rationalize, argue, debate or simply disobey? Does it all have to make sense before we will do what God is asking us to do? If it requires us to humble ourselves or get out of our comfort zone, do we balk and bail? God is looking for men and women who will faithfully obey and do what He is calling them to do – no questions asked. It may not make sense, but it will make a difference, because God is behind it all. He has a plan. He knows what is best. There is always a method to His seeming madness. We just need to trust and obey.

Father, thanks for the reminder that You do not always explain Yourself or give us the reasons behind Your requests. You simply tell us what to do and expect us to obey. Help me to learn from the life of Ezekiel so that I might obey first and ask questions later. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ezekiel 3

Well, Shut My Mouth!

“I’ll make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so you won’t be able to talk and tell the people what they’re doing wrong, even though they are a bunch of rebels. But then when the time is ripe, I’ll free your tongue and you’ll say, ‘This is what GOD, the Master, says: …’From then on it’s up to them. They can listen or not listen, whichever they like. They are a bunch of rebels!” ­– Ezekiel 3:26-27 MSG

Ezekiel was God’s spokesman, His prophet. That means he had the distinct privilege and responsibility of delivering God’s message to His people. And Ezekiel had been warned that the message God had to give him was far from good news, and the reception he was going to get from the people was going to be far from enthusiastic. But he had a job to do. Ezekiel went from meeting with God and seeing His glory back to the people of Judah living in exile by the River Kebar. He was thrust back into the reality of their rebellion. He was reminded of the difficulty of his job. And then God did an interesting thing. He told Ezekiel to go home and close the door behind him. He was commanded to lock himself away. The text even says that he was going to bound with ropes in his own home. It isn’t clear whether God was going to bind him, the people would bind him in an attempt to shut him up, or if God is speaking metaphorically. In other words, God could have been saying that Ezekiel is going to be “bound up” in his own home as if he was tied up with ropes, until… God gave him something to say. Regardless of whether we are dealing with real or metaphorical ropes here, Ezekiel was going to be under house arrest by God, unable to speak and prevented from doing his job until God had something for him to say.

I think this was a protection for Ezekiel. We’re told in verse 14, that when Ezekiel was forced to leave the presence of God and return to his people, he went “in bitterness and turmoil.” He say among the people for seven days, overwhelmed by what he saw and the message he had to give. Ezekiel was angry about the sins of the people. He shared God’s anger over their sin. And if God had not prevented him from speaking, Ezekiel would probably have had plenty to say to them and about them, without any help from God. He would have been more than happy to give the people a piece of his mind, read them the riot act, and chew them out for their sinful lifestyles and rebellion against God. After all, he was God’s spokesman. But God was not going to allow Ezekiel to say anything at all until He had something for Ezekiel to say. Ezekiel was going to have to shut up until God spoke up. Any words that came out of his mouth were going to have to be God’s and not his own. What if we approached our relationships with others the same way? What if we decided to keep our mouths shut until we knew we had heard from God? Too often, we decide that we have something that others need to hear and the content of our message isn’t from God, it’s from us. We attribute it to God, but we never heard it from Him. We give God credit for a message that we came up with. But God wants us to speak at His command, not on His behalf. In other words, as His messengers, we don’t get to make up the message, we simply get to carry it. But too often, we end up giving our version of His message. We give it our slant. We put our words in God’s mouth. God knew Ezekiel was going to be prone to the same problem, so He did him a favor and made him mute – until God had something for him to say. For some of us, that might be the best thing that ever happened to us. But in the meantime, let’s see if we can’t learn to speak less and listen more. So that when we do speak, we are confident that what we say is from Him and not us.

Father, most of us don’t struggle with having anything to say, but too often what we have to say is not from You. Help us to learn how to listen for a word from You. May we learn to shut up and open up our ears to hear what You have to say to us and those around us. There are far too many voices speaking on Your behalf who haven’t heard from You. Don’t let us me be one of them. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ezekiel 2

Called To Fail.

“You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious!” ­– Ezekiel 2:7 NLT

What would you do if God called you to a task that He knew you were going to fail at? What if He even told you your efforts would be fruitless and non-productive? Most of us would bail. We would give up long before we got going. Because we’re wired with one thing in mind – success – and failure is not an acceptable alternative. But when Ezekiel got his marching orders from God, he was also given the not-so-great news that his ministry would be unsuccessful because his audience was going to be unresponsive.  God told him, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me” (Ezekiel 2:3 NLT). But not only were they rebellious, they were stubborn and hard-hearted. God even told Ezekiel to expect threats and animosity. This was going to be one difficult job assignment. God was guaranteeing failure, but demanding obedience. Ezekiel’s success would not be measured by the number of callous, carnal Israelites he converted. His success would be based on his willingness to carry out God’s assignment faithfully, even in the face of rejection, ridicule and no results.

Even the message God gave Ezekiel to share was anything but good news. In his vision, Ezekiel was given a scroll that was covered with writing front and back, from edge to edge. It’s content? “Funeral songs, words of sorrows, and pronouncements of doom” (Ezekiel 2:9b NLT). It was a veritable compendium of bad news. So not only did Ezekiel have a non-responsive audience, he had an unattractive message. But God said, “Do not fear them or their words. Don’t be afraid even though their threats surround you like nettles and briars and stinging scorpions. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels” (Ezekiel 2:6 NLT). God was telling Ezekiel, “don’t be frightened or made fearful by the things they to you, about you, or in reaction to you. Don’t let the looks they give you cause you to doubt and fear. You’re going to get some angry reactions and threatening looks. Don’t let them get to you. Don’t scare you into shutting up or giving up.” God warned Ezekiel to not follow their example and fall into the trap of rebelling just like them by disobeying God’s command and call on his life. Instead, he was to listen, obey and leave the results up to God. Which is what every one of us as Christ-followers have been called to do. We have a calling and it is not an easy one. We are called to live lives that are set apart and distinctive from the world around us. We have been given a message that we are commanded to share with those who are in rebellion against God. And while our message is the Good News of Jesus Christ, not everyone wants to hear it. Most will reject it. We will hear threats, endure ridicule and experience hostility. But we are called to remain faithful and leave the results up to God.

Father, we are called. It is not an easy assignment. In many ways we face potential failure and a non-responsive audience. Help us to be faithful to Your calling, regardless of the results or the response. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Ezekiel 1

A Vision of God.

“The Lord gave this message to Ezekiel son of Buzi, a priest, beside the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians, and he felt the hand of the Lord take hold of him.” ­– Ezekiel 1:3 NLT

In 605 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar began the first of three deportations of captives from Judah to Babylon. Daniel would have been in this first group. In 598 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah again, and this time he took King Jeoiachin, along with other leaders from Judah, as well as young Ezekiel, to Babylon. Then in 586 BC, the final deportation took place. Nebuchadnezzar put King Zedekiah on the throne as his puppet king. But Zedekiah would rebel against the Babylonians, forcing them to lay siege to the city, eventually destroying it two years later. Zedekiah would be taken to Babylon, the Temple would be ransacked and destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem left in a shambles. Ezekiel would find himself living in a refugee camp along with the other exiles from Judah  on the banks of the Kebar River in Babylon.

Yet, there in that most desperate of conditions, God came to meet with Ezekiel. While He had brought destruction on the people of Judah for their sin and rebellion, He had not abandoned them. He would not leave them completely isolated and alone. God would call on Ezekiel to be His spokesperson there among the exiles in Babylon. There on the banks of the Kebar River, God appeared to Ezekiel. This young prophet received a remarkable vision of God in the midst of the doom and gloom of Babylonian captivity. When things seemed to be at their worst, God showed up. He revealed Himself to Ezekiel and gave him a message for the people of Judah. And the vision, while somewhat fantastical and hard to understand, seemed to illustrate the power and majestic presence of God. It accentuated His holiness and stressed His otherness. The vision that Ezekiel saw left no doubt just how great and powerful God was. He got a glimpse of God in the midst of his darkest moments. And when Ezekiel saw Him, he fell down and worshiped. “Above this surface was something that looked like a throne made of blue lapis lazuli. And on this throne high above was a figure whose appearance resembled a man. From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me. When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground, and I heard someone’s voice speaking to me” (Ezekiel 1:26-28 NLT).

Even in our darkest days, God is there. Regardless of what is going on around us, He never ceases to be God. He does not change. His status does not diminish. His power does not decrease or wain. He remains holy, powerful, distinct, and worthy of our worship. God wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants us to see Him for who He is. He wants us to get our focus off of our circumstances and back on to Him. He is our help and hope. He wants to remind us of His presence and power. There on the banks of the Kebar River living with the dejected and devastated exiles from Judah, Ezekiel needed a vision of God. He needed a reminder that His God was great and was still on His throne, reigning in power. He had not forgotten Ezekiel or the people of Judah. Could you use a vision of God today? Look for Him in His Word. You’ll find Him.

Father, no matter how bad things get, You are there and You never change. You are on Your throne and You are in complete control. Give me a vision of You today. Let me see Your power. Let me sense Your presence. Help me get my eyes off my circumstances and back on to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Lamentations 3:37-5:22

When You Find Yourself In the Pits.

“But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, ‘Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!’  Yes, you came when I called; you told me, ‘Do not fear.’” ­– Lamentations 3:55-57 NLT

What do you do when everything seems to be going wrong? Where do you turn when life seems to be falling apart? Some of us complain. Others of us get angry. Or maybe we become immobilized with fear and depression. And then there are those of us who just get busy, attempting to get themselves out of whatever situation they find themselves in. But what do you do when nothing seems to work and you find yourself in a deep pit of despair? For Jeremiah, the answer was simple: Call out to God. He had learned this lesson from experience. There was a time when he found himself in a pit – literally. He had been thrown there by those who were tired of hearing his message of God’s pending judgment. They tossed him in a pit and left him there to die. Jeremiah describes the scene: “My enemies, whom I have never harmed, hunted me down like a bird. They threw me into a pit and dropped stones on me. The water rose over my head, and I cried out, ‘This is the end!’” (Lamentations 3:52-54 NLT). But those were not the only words that Jeremiah cried out. He called out to God as well. He pleaded with God. He cried out for God’s help. From the bottom of a pit. And God heard his cries. Not only that, God answered his pleas for help and provided him with rescue. It came in the form of an Ethiopian named Ebed-Melech, who happened to be on the court of King Zedekiah. When he heard about Jeremiah’s plight, he appealed to the king and got permission to rescue him from the pit. God heard Jeremiah’s cries and sent a savior. Jeremiah was redeemed from the pit. He was rescued from his life-threatening circumstances.

So when Jeremiah found himself living in the midst of the sin and sorrow of Judah, surrounded by scenes of starvation, devastation, and hopelessness, he called out to God once again. He had learned that there was only source of hope and help in times of trouble. Jeremiah’s heart was broken over the spiritual and physical condition of Judah. He cried, “My tears flow endlessly; they will not stop until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees” (Lamentations 3:49-50 NLT). He knew that God was the only one who could help them, so he cried out to Him. Just as he did that day in the bottom of the pit, Jeremiah cried out to God, “Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had! (Lamentations 5:21 NLT). Jeremiah knew that the nation of Judah needed more than just rescue, they needed restoration. Restoration to a right relationship with God Almighty. Then there joy would be restored. To be rescued, but not experience true restoration would never result in joy. To see their problems solved, but without their relationship with God restored, would only end up in a short-lived sense of peace. So Jeremiah cried out, called out, and held out for salvation and restoration from the hands of God. So where do you turn when life is in the pits?

Father, we need restoration, not just rescue. We need You more than we need a solution to our problems. We need You more than we need an answer to our prayers. Help us to understand that a right relationship with You means more than rescue from trouble. We need to learn to cry out to You because we long for You more than we long for Your rescue. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Lamentations 1:1-3:36

Great Is His Faithfulness.

“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” ­– Lamentations 3:23 NLT

The great city of Jerusalem has fallen. The Temple has been destroyed. The people have been taken captive. And only a handful of the poorest have been left to occupy the land. Jeremiah is one of them, and he writes the words of Lamentations as he considers the sad state of affairs in the former land of promise. Everywhere he looks he is surrounded by scenes of devastation. The economy is in shatters. People are starving everywhere, causing mothers to even eat their own children. There is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Because the Temple has been destroyed, there are no more festivals and feasts, no more sacrificial system. The people show signs of remorse, but no real signs of repentance. They admit that they have sinned, but seem to blame God for their condition. From their perspective, He has abandoned them. He has broken down His own Temple and rejected His own altar. And He has done it all without mercy.

But Jeremiah knows that God has not abandoned them forever. He understands that God has had to punish them for their sins, but has not fallen out of love with them. He says, “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this” (Lamentations 3:19-21 NLT). What follows is a wonderful reminder to all of us of the reality of God’s never-ending love and faithfulness to us – even when we sin against Him.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.– Lamentations 3:22-26 NLT

For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow. – Lamentations 3:31-33 NLT

Even in the midst of our darkest moments, we must remind ourselves of the faithful, unfailing love of God. As Jeremiah looked around at all the devastation in Jerusalem, He had to refocus his attention on the reality of God’s goodness and grace. God was still there. God still cared. God was going to restore His people. His love had not run out, just His patience with their sin. He had punished them, but had not abandoned them. He had disciplined them, but not deserted them. So Jeremiah was willing to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Am I? Are you?

Father, it is so easy to lose hope in the midst of troubles and trials. We can take our eyes off of You and focus on our surroundings. We can lose sight of the reality of Your unfailing love and compassion. Keep us focused on Your faithfulness. Great is Your faithfulness! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org