This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant. And in the midst of our study, I asked some important questions:
What do the visions have to do with me? What does this story have to do with me? I am not a part of Israel, nor am I a part of the Old Covenant, with all its stipulations and requirements. I live in the age of Jesus. I live in the age of grace. I live under the New Covenant!
That’s true. Hallelujah, that’s true. But this is also true—while the covenant we live under is a new covenant, it is still a covenant. And while that covenant may be new, the metaphor of marriage has remained the same. The Apostle Paul used it when he described what it means to be a part of the New Covenant people of God, when he was teaching about marriage. He says in Ephesians that this great thing, marriage between a man and a wife is a great mystery, and “I am saying it refers to Christ and the church.”
Do you see? We are still a bride, and God is still a bridegroom. And being a disciple means we have made a covenant, and there are stipulations, and we have to keep them. Our great Bridegroom himself said that to keep his commandments was a sign of and how we would abide in his love (John 15). And his closest friend and disciple, John, would later write that to love God was to keep his commandments, and they they were not burdensome (1 John).
And just like those to whom Ezekiel spoke, there are consequences when we break the covenant, when we stray from our vows, and sin against our heavenly spouse. In other words, when we willingly enter our own “graves of exile” (Ezekiel 37:12) from which we need to be rescued and reanimated by the Spirit of Grace.
As God’s people through belief in Jesus, this identity as a bride unites us all as one. And yet, at any given moment, we find ourselves in varying places on the spectrum of obedience to our covenant vows, as disciples of our great Bridegroom. It may be that you are a Delighted Disciple, or a Dry Disciple, or a Denying Disciple, or a Deceptive Disciple, or a Despairing Disciple. And Ezekiel and his prophetic pronouncements hold out answers and hope to each and every one of those disciples.
Maybe you can identify with one (or a few) of those categories of disciple. If you’d like to know more about how Ezekiel functions as a source of hope for such disciples seeking to remain faithful to Jesus, I invite you to watch or listen to the sermon on Ezekiel. And if you’d like to study the book beyond merely the sermon, head on over to the Ezekiel page at the Bible Project, where they have videos, blog posts, and suggested resources to assist you in your quest.
See you Sunday!
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)
Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.
Day Twenty-Six: A Morning Conversation With King Solomon
A conversation that happened this morning as I came upon a visitor in our fireplace room….
Day Nineteen: God Chose Her, Not You
The doctrine of God’s rule and reign in and over all things comes crashing into the human conception of the self-made man. We are tempted to think we have so much to do with our happinesses. But the wisdom found from James speaks a wakefulness into the pondering of our circumstances—the good gifts we have come not from our own hands, but by the grace and providence of our heavenly Father. And the wisdom of Solomon makes clear—one of man’s greatest gifts is something only God can give, an understanding wife.