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Ezekiel 31: Who Does the Blessing?


God does bless us. He does give us a variety of great things for our benefit. In Ezekiel 31, a prophecy is given to the Pharaoh, and it compares the people of Egypt to the Assyrian kingdom. Both of them were incredibly powerful, and they knew that they were.

Eze 31:10  Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height;

Eze 31:11  I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness.

Eze 31:12  And strangers, the terrible of the nations, have cut him off, and have left him: upon the mountains and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, and his boughs are broken by all the rivers of the land; and all the people of the earth are gone down from his shadow, and have left him.

Eze 31:13  Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, and all the beasts of the field shall be upon his branches:

Notice that the problem was that each of these kingdoms had promoted themselves. God had made them powerful, but they did not recognize that. They had thought that it was their own doing and lifted up their hearts in their arrogance.

It amazes me how often we can fall into this trap. For example, I know that God has blessed me by giving me a job. He gave me the ability to fulfill the responsibilities required of me and do a good job at it. However, it is incredibly tempting to think that I have a job simply because of my own intelligence, determination or whatever other characteristics you want to throw in there.

Despite this temptation, I think that there is a solid way to consider it to keep the right perspective. When I was born, I made up of a combination of DNA. That DNA certainly determined a lot of things about me, and I had no say in that. Anything that is in me right now did not come about because I thought that it would be wise to put it in there before I was born. The great Architect of the entire universe is also the Architect of each individual person.

If we ever wanted to begin taking credit for gifts that we have given, maybe it helps to look back at where the gifts came from in the first place.

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Ezekiel 29: The Master Architect


It is interesting to see how God orchestrates history. Nebuchadnezzar was not a nice man whatsoever, but as we see in Ezekiel 29 and as we have seen through this entire book, that did not mean that God could not use Babylon to accomplish certain tasks on earth.

In this chapter, he is going to take over Egypt.

Eze 29:19  Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army.

Eze 29:20  I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord GOD.

Eze 29:21  In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

Egypt was being punished because of offending God, but it was interesting that God was using someone imperfect to punish someone who was also imperfect.

I think that we can think about this in a more positive direction. First of all, God does have a plan. He is in charge of the universe, and He is orchestrating everything that is happening.

Second, God is the type of God who is able to use imperfect people to do great things. Every person documented in the Bible outside of Jesus Christ was imperfect. Moses had faults, David stumbled and there are countless other examples. I am not saying this to provide some kind of free license to sin, but I am bringing it up because it is true. God does use imperfect people to accomplish His will, and this ought to be some comfort to us on some level.

To bring this all together, God is the master organizer. We can even see this in our own lives. When you look back at certain situations, it is amazing how everything worked out in just the way it needed to. God is good.

Jeremiah 44: Wrongfully Attributed


In Jeremiah 44, the people of Judah are already in trouble because they disobeyed the word of God and ran away to Egypt. Then, once they got there, they picked up idolatry with some of the Egyptian gods, and when Jeremiah called them out on it, here is how they responded:

Jer 44:16  As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.

Jer 44:17  But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.

Jer 44:18  But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.

Jer 44:19  And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?

Just for the sake of completeness, I give you Jeremiah’s response as well.

Jer 44:21  The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it not into his mind?

Jer 44:22  So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.

Jer 44:23  Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day.

The basic argument was that worshiping the idol worked before, so why should we stop? When we were doing it in Jerusalem, there were no consequences. In fact, everything seemed to be going well, so why not worship the goddess?

Jeremiah must have been mind-blown. The people were attributing the previous blessings to someone other than God, but where did the evidence point? The God of the Bible had been right about everything so far in regards to both the good and the bad. It was obvious that He knew what He was talking about when He spoke to Jeremiah. Wouldn’t that seem to imply that maybe He was the one in charge of everything, including the previous blessings, if every time He said something, it came to be?

I think that the biggest problem here was that the people were simply opposed to God as an explanation. We see that today in the natural sciences. It isn’t that there is a lack of evidence for the existence of some kind of intelligent designer behind the universe, but ideologically, many people are opposed to the supernatural by default. It is a presuppositional bias that obviously colors the way you interpret the results because you disqualify certain possibilities based on philosophy.

I hope that this never happens to us. I hope that we can recognize God for who He is and are not actively trying to attribute what He does to ourselves or anyone else.

Jeremiah 42: Actually Listening to God


After all that went down with the assassination in Judah, the people were afraid and came back to Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 42, they asked him to talk to God on their behalf because they wanted to have some type of sense of direction. On one hand, they didn’t want the rage of Nebuchadnezzar coming down on them because of the actions of Ishmael, but they also wanted to stay in their homeland.

Jer 42:19  The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day.

Jer 42:20  For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.

Jer 42:21  And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.

Jer 42:22  Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.

God was pretty clear with Jeremiah. If the people went Egypt, it would be really bad news. Previously in this chapter, God told Jeremiah that if they remained in Judah, He would protect them from Nebuchadnezzar, and all would be well. Even with the political upheaval, there would not be the revenge that it seems the people were anticipating.

As these verses point out, God knew that the people really wanted to run away to Egypt, so on one hand you kind of have to wonder why they bothered asking Jeremiah in the first place. If the decision was basically made, why ask for an opinion that you won’t even acknowledge?

Part of me wonders if the people were looking for God as a complement to their own will. It seems like they were saying that we are going to do what we want to do, but it would be nice if God agrees with us. Obviously, that last part was not necessary, but it reduces the power of God to an unacceptable level.

When we are making these decisions and are searching for guidance from God, His opinion needs to come first. That people should have come to Jeremiah with a mind prepared to listen to God. Then, they would have been welcome to either outcome. However, it seems as if their lack of trust ended up being their downfall.

Isaiah 20: Remarkable Accuracy


Again, it is important to remember the time that Isaiah was written. Traditionally, it was written in the eighth century BC. As we enter chapter 20, we hear about the people of Egypt and Ethiopia being invaded and led away in slavery. This must have been a ridiculous prophecy at the time since Egypt had traditionally been one of the most dominant empires of the ancient world.

Isa 20:3  And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia;

Isa 20:4  So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

Isa 20:5  And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.

Isa 20:6  And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?

That is exactly what happened. Near the middle of the seventh century BC, Esarhaddon was the King of Assyria, and he expanded the empire to include both Egypt and Ethiopia. This prophecy was approximately 50 years ahead of its time, and that is pretty remarkable to say the least.

I find these prophetic passages to be fascinating. We live in a time where you end up with a lot of people making a lot of predictions about a variety of things. I generally laugh at them. We can certainly predict what might happen, but we all do that with the understanding that we very well might be wrong. No one can predict everything correctly.

I take that last sentence back. Isaiah was able to. His predictions were eventually fulfilled. Even ones like this that must have seemed ridiculous were fulfilled. Humans don’t normally do that. People are not able to have this kind of accuracy as a general rule. Is it possible that the best explanation would be a supernatural one?

Unless you have a presuppositional bias that the supernatural is not possible, doesn’t it at least make sense to consider that perhaps Isaiah had some kind of supernatural experience? Maybe he didn’t, but it at least deserves to be in the conversation, and I think that when you look at the evidence, there is no natural way that Isaiah would have had this remarkable accuracy.

Deuteronomy 26: Give with the Right Attitude


Deuteronomy 26 is a chapter based around tithing. However, it is not just about giving our money to the church. It should be done with a certain attitude as well.

Deu 26:5  And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:

Deu 26:6  And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:

Deu 26:7  And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression:

Deu 26:8  And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:

Deu 26:9  And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.

Deu 26:10  And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God:

We need to understand why we are worshiping God in this way but also in general. The people of Israel understood that they would have been in Egypt forever if God had not intervened and helped them. Also, everything that had been given to them since was a direct gift from God.

They realized that because of all the great things that God had done in their lives, it was appropriate to offer a portion of it back.

Now, I know that some of you are probably thinking that your life is not so great. Maybe things are not going quite as well as they went for the Israelites. Maybe you do not feel particularly blessed right now.

Keep in mind that even though this passage highlights some great things that happened to the Israelites, they also had their own share of difficulties. After all, they wandered around in the desert for 40 years. It was because of their stubbornness, but it still must have been a challenging time.

I hope that we can persevere through as this passage suggests. I hope that we are always cheerful and thankful as we give to God. It could be about tithing, but it could be about giving our time or anything else

Numbers 8: We Are in the Hands of God


Numbers chapter 8 gives us a very interesting perspective on the final plague in Egypt.

Num 8:16  For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me.

Num 8:17  For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.

Num 8:18  And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel.

Basically, God is telling us that instead of taking the firstborn child of every family in Israel, the tribe of Levi is His.

I thought that it was a very interesting to mention both the tribe of Levi and those that died in Egypt. Obviously, all the children in Israel did not physically die because their families did what they had to. You can remember all of this from everything we talked about in Exodus. However, on that day, God said that He sanctified the firstborn of Israel to be His.

This is a lot like salvation. When we are saved, we are dead to our old sins and slaves to righteousness.

Rom 6:17  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

Rom 6:18  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

After this process, we have been claimed by God as His own children. We are no longer bound to our sinful past, and we can move forward into a future that involves a greater relationship with God.

We are claimed by God as His property, and it is a great place to be. He will keep us safe and secure for all of eternity.

Isa 41:10  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Exodus 14: God Won’t Leave Us Even in the Tough Times


When you really think about it, the events in Exodus chapter 14 must have taken a lot of bravery.  After all, the people of Israel were being pursued by the people of Egypt, and they must have felt like they had their backs against the wall.

On one side, they had an army of 600 chariots following them and the Red Sea in front of them. The people became pretty upset at Moses for leading them to almost certain doom.

Exo 14:11  And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?

Exo 14:12  Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

While slavery must have been awful, the people of Israel were willing to say that they would rather go back then be slaughtered in the wilderness.

However, God knew that He had something much better in store for them if they would only keep the faith.  He told Moses that if he lifted up his staff, the Red Sea would divide and the people could safely cross on dry land.  It must have seemed impossible, but it happened.

I think that happens to all of us at times. We end up in situations where it seems like there are two equally unpleasant yet inevitable alternatives. It is kind of like the old cliché that talks about going out of the frying pan and into the fire. Neither one is pleasant, but one or the other will happen.

When we see all of this uncertainty and perhaps terror, God sees an opportunity.  He can do a lot of things that we could never even fathom. Our obstacles are not a problem for God.  He can make things happen in our lives to help us when we end up in these situations.  Think about Psalm 23.

Psa 23:4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psa 23:5  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Both of those images should be comforting.  After all, we can go to the most terrifying place on earth and we do not need to fear because God is with us.  Not only that, but even when all of our enemies are around, God will prepare a table before us.

Remember this type of thing when you end up in a less than desirable situation.  Even if it seems like there’s no escape, God is always with us, and it is better to have Him with us in the absolute worst of times than to have anyone else with us even in the best of times.

Exodus 13: God Will Make a Way


Exodus chapter 13 is obviously significant because the Israelites are now free to leave Egypt and are beginning the journey.

However, they didn’t just wander without a plan. God actually had a plan for this.

Exo 13:17  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:

Exo 13:18  But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.

Exo 13:19  And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.

Exo 13:20  And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.

Exo 13:21  And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:

Exo 13:22  He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Look at all of these verses as a coherent thought. First, God led them the way He wanted them to go, but He was also present with them. He didn’t just say go this way and I hope you make it all right.

He led them exactly where and how He wanted them to go.

This totally happens in all of our lives as well.

Pro 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Pro 3:6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Notice that this is a promise. If we trust in God rather than ourselves and acknowledge Him in everything we do, He will direct us where we should go.

What does that mean?

Well, if God is directing us, we will do things that will honor and glorify Him which makes me think of the fruit of the Spirit that Christians will display when we are following God like we should.

Gal 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Gal 5:23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

So, if we follow God like we should, He will direct our paths like He did with the Israelites. Then, when we follow Him and begin to display the fruit of the Spirit, that is definitely positive for our spiritual development.

Exodus 1: The Bible As Our Ethical Guide


First of all, welcome to Exodus. For just a little bit of context, Exodus was written by Moses and is generally the story of how the Israelites ended up multiplying and then finally leaving Egypt.

While Joseph was alive, the Israelites were welcome to live in Egypt because they knew that the original Israelites were his brothers.

However, another Pharaoh arose and didn’t know who Joseph was. He was worried about the Israelites and the fact that there were so many of them.

Exo 1:7  And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

Exo 1:8  Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

Exo 1:9  And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:

Exo 1:10  Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.

Exo 1:11  Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.

Of course, even though the Egyptians were trying to slow down the Israelites, nothing was working, so the Pharaoh came up with another plan.

Exo 1:15  And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:

Exo 1:16  And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.

Doesn’t this feel an awful lot like what Herod did when he heard about Jesus? Because he saw Jesus as a potential threat to his power, he decided that the only thing to do was to kill all of the baby boys. That didn’t work out too well for him though.

Although the method was a little bit different in Egypt, the motivation was similar. The Pharaoh was worried that the Israelites would eventually threaten his power, so he decided that he needed to murder all of the baby boys as well. Just like Herod, this plan didn’t work out too well either.

Exo 1:17  But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

The midwives were incredibly courageous. They openly defied Pharaoh because they knew that they should not be instruments used simply to murder. They decided that they didn’t want to do the dirty work that Pharaoh had assigned to them.

While I doubt that many of us have been in this type of dilemma methods, we all run into ethical conflicts. Should we over report our earnings just a little bit so we can get that bonus? After all, all of those earnings would eventually be reported anyway, so why not cash in on the bonus?

It may seem like a small ethical conflict comparably, and it really is since money doesn’t even compare to the value of a human life. However, any ethical corner cutting is wrong. We need to be bold like the midwives and hold our conduct to Biblical standards. It is the ultimate bottom line when they find ourselves in these types of dilemmas.