Tuesday, August 23, 2016

THE WATCHMEN



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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.”

Ezekiel 33:1-9

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Are you familiar with the word “watchman” as it relates to biblical times?

Many cities were fortified and protected by high walls topped with towers where soldiers would be on the lookout for enemies who might advance with the idea of attacking. Because of their unique vantage point, elevated above the landscape, the watchmen were able to see for a great distance and thus be able to provide advance warning about any forces that might be in the city’s vicinity.

Why the discussion about watchmen?

Because it is central to our scriptures today as we look at the opening verses of Ezekiel 33. Look again at these words again here:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.”  Ezekiel 33:1-9

In the first half of this passage, we find the Lord speaking about watchmen in hypothetical terms. Specifically, his words are centered on the duties of the watchmen and the consequences attached to whether or not he fulfills his duties correctly.

If the watchmen does his job and sounds the alarm, blowing his trumpet to warn the people of impending danger, then any harm someone might suffer as a result of not heeding the watchmen’s warning would be their own fault. God states the obvious that if they had listened to the warning and reacted properly, then they would have survived, saved by the prompt action of the person tasked with keeping an eye out for danger.

But note if the watchmen failed in his duties and people perished as a result of his negligence, then God would hold the watchmen accountable for his failure to protect His people, even if the people died as a result of the sins they had committed. The watchmen would not be excused from not fulfilling his responsibilities.

Why did the Lord lead with this?

Because He wanted Ezekiel to firmly understand what He was about to say next, that He was appointing His prophet to be a “watchmen for the people of Israel.” What this meant was that God was using Ezekiel to sound a warning to His people, a warning of pending judgment if they did not turn away from their wicked ways and return to the righteousness God expected.

If Ezekiel warned the people properly and they failed to heed the warning, then the wicked person who died from their sins would have no one else to blame but themselves. God would not hold Ezekiel accountable for their blood because he would have done as he was supposed to do.

But note what would happen if Ezekiel did not do as God commanded, refusing to speak out on behalf of the Lord to dissuade a wicked person from their wicked ways. In that instance, God would not only bring judgment on the sinful person but also on Ezekiel, the watchman who did not carry out his obligations.

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As you can see, a lot was at stake when it came to the watchman and whether or not he did what he was supposed to do.

So what does that have to do with us here in the 21st century, more than 2,000 years after these words were written?

Well, I believe the Lord is reminding us of one very important truth:

If you are a Christian, you are called to be a watchman.

Don’t believe that?

Maybe you need to be reminded of these words of Jesus, the Savior we believe and trust in before He ascended to sit at the right hand of God the Father:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Friends, judgment is coming on the world and it will be the end of everything as we know it, a judgment that will come when Jesus returns to judge the earth and everything in it. There’s no arguing this will happen because the scriptures make it clear that it will and on that day, there will be a sorting of the people of God. Those who placed their belief, hope, and trust in Jesus as Savior will be counted in one number (referred to as the sheep in the Bible) while those who rejected Him and the offer of His salvation will be placed in the other group (the goats). The sheep will go on to eternal life while the goats will be thrown into eternal damnation, the fiery lake of judgment, never to be seen again (Matthew 25:31-46).

This is where we come in, carrying out the Great Commission of Jesus. We are the watchmen of the Lord, tasked with sounding the warning to all who need to hear about the judgment ahead. If we warn someone and they ignore the warning, then we would have fulfilled our duties and the judgment that the person suffers will be their own fault. But if we fail to warn someone, if we balk at our responsibility to sound the alarm of judgment to someone, making them aware of Jesus and the eternal life found in Him, then we will be held accountable for our incompetence and the blood of the person at judgment might be on our head.

With this, perhaps we had better ask ourselves the following questions:

How well am I doing in my calling to warn others of the destructive judgment that awaits them if they do not accept Jesus as Savior?

Am I succeeding in making disciples of all nations, leading others to their salvation through Jesus Christ?

In sum, to help others know their Savior and the opportunity through Him is really our life’s calling as Christians and it’s not optional.

Every day is a chance to change someone’s life forever. We just need to be good and vigilant watchmen, following the lead of Jesus who promised to be with us even until the end of the age.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

AN ASSOCIATED JUDGMENT (PART 7)



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

In the tenth year, in the tenth month on the twelfth day, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:’”

“‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.” But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. I will leave you in the desert, you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky. Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the Lord.’”

“‘You have been a staff of reed for the people of Israel. When they grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched.’”

“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will bring a sword against you and kill both man and beast. Egypt will become a desolate wasteland. Then they will know that I am the Lord.’”

“‘Because you said, “The Nile is mine; I made it,” therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. The foot of neither man nor beast will pass through it; no one will live there for forty years. I will make the land of Egypt desolate among devastated lands, and her cities will lie desolate forty years among ruined cities. And I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries.’”

“‘Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered. I will bring them back from captivity and return them to Upper Egypt, the land of their ancestry. There they will be a lowly kingdom. It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it will never again rule over the nations. Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’”

In the twenty-seventh year, in the first month on the first day, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon drove his army in a hard campaign against Tyre; every head was rubbed bare and every shoulder made raw. Yet he and his army got no reward from the campaign he led against Tyre. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and he will carry off its wealth. He will loot and plunder the land as pay for his army. I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

“On that day I will make a horn grow for the Israelites, and I will open your mouth among them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:’”

“‘Wail and say, “Alas for that day!” For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near—a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. A sword will come against Egypt, and anguish will come upon Cush. When the slain fall in Egypt, her wealth will be carried away and her foundations torn down. Cush and Libya, Lydia and all Arabia, Kub and the people of the covenant land will fall by the sword along with Egypt.’”

“‘This is what the Lord says:’”

“‘The allies of Egypt will fall and her proud strength will fail. From Migdol to Aswan they will fall by the sword within her, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

“‘They will be desolate among desolate lands, and their cities will lie among ruined cities. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I set fire to Egypt and all her helpers are crushed.’”

“‘On that day messengers will go out from me in ships to frighten Cush out of her complacency. Anguish will take hold of them on the day of Egypt’s doom, for it is sure to come.’”

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:’”

“‘I will put an end to the hordes of Egypt by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He and his army—the most ruthless of nations—will be brought in to destroy the land. They will draw their swords against Egypt and fill the land with the slain. I will dry up the waters of the Nile and sell the land to an evil nation; by the hand of foreigners I will lay waste the land and everything in it. I the Lord have spoken.’”

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:’”

“‘I will destroy the idols and put an end to the images in Memphis. No longer will there be a prince in Egypt, and I will spread fear throughout the land. I will lay waste Upper Egypt, set fire to Zoan and inflict punishment on Thebes. I will pour out my wrath on Pelusium, the stronghold of Egypt, and wipe out the hordes of Thebes. I will set fire to Egypt; Pelusium will writhe in agony. Thebes will be taken by storm; Memphis will be in constant distress. The young men of Heliopolis and Bubastis will fall by the sword, and the cities themselves will go into captivity. Dark will be the day at Tahpanhes when I break the yoke of Egypt; there her proud strength will come to an end. She will be covered with clouds, and her villages will go into captivity. So I will inflict punishment on Egypt, and they will know that I am the Lord.’”

In the eleventh year, in the first month on the seventh day, the word of the Lord came to me:

“Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt. It has not been bound up to be healed or put in a splint so that it may become strong enough to hold a sword. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt. I will break both his arms, the good arm as well as the broken one, and make the sword fall from his hand. I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries. I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh, and he will groan before him like a mortally wounded man. I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh will fall limp. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he brandishes it against Egypt. I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

In the eleventh year, in the third month on the first day, the word of the Lord came to me:

“Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his hordes:”

“‘Who can be compared with you in majesty? Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; it towered on high, its top above the thick foliage. The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall; their streams flowed all around its base and sent their channels to all the trees of the field. So it towered higher than all the trees of the field; its boughs increased and its branches grew long, spreading because of abundant waters. All the birds of the sky nested in its boughs, all the animals of the wild gave birth under its branches; all the great nations lived in its shade. It was majestic in beauty, with its spreading boughs, for its roots went down to abundant  waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor could the junipers equal its boughs,
nor could the plane trees compare with its branches—no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty. I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God.’”

“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because the great cedar towered over the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height, I gave it into the hands of the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. I cast it aside, and the most ruthless of foreign nations cut it down and left it. Its boughs fell on the mountains and in all the valleys; its branches lay broken in all the ravines of the land. All the nations of the earth came out from under its shade and left it. All the birds settled on the fallen tree, and all the wild animals lived among its branches. Therefore no other trees by the waters are ever to tower proudly on high, lifting their tops above the thick foliage. No other trees so well-watered are ever to reach such a height; they are all destined for death, for the earth below, among mortals who go down to the realm of the dead.’”

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day it was brought down to the realm of the dead I covered the deep springs with mourning for it; I held back its streams, and its abundant waters were restrained. Because of it I clothed Lebanon with gloom, and all the trees of the field withered away. I made the nations tremble at the sound of its fall when I brought it down to the realm of the dead to be with those who go down to the pit. Then all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, the well-watered trees, were consoled in the earth below. They too, like the great cedar, had gone down to the realm of the dead, to those killed by the sword, along with the armed men who lived in its shade among the nations.”

“‘Which of the trees of Eden can be compared with you in splendor and majesty? Yet you, too, will be brought down with the trees of Eden to the earth below; you will lie among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.’”

“‘This is Pharaoh and all his hordes, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month on the first day, the word of the Lord came to me:

“Son of man, take up a lament concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt and say to him:”

“‘You are like a lion among the nations; you are like a monster in the seas thrashing about in your streams, churning the water with your feet and muddying the streams.’”

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:’”

“‘With a great throng of people I will cast my net over you, and they will haul you up in my net. I will throw you on the land and hurl you on the open field. I will let all the birds of the sky settle on you and all the animals of the wild gorge themselves on you. I will spread your flesh on the mountains and fill the valleys with your remains. I will drench the land with your flowing blood all the way to the mountains, and the ravines will be filled with your flesh. When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will trouble the hearts of many peoples when I bring about your destruction among the nations, among lands you have not known. I will cause many peoples to be appalled at you, and their kings will shudder with horror because of you when I brandish my sword before them. On the day of your downfall each of them will tremble every moment for his life.’”

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:’”

“‘The sword of the king of Babylon will come against you. I will cause your hordes to fall by the swords of mighty men—the most ruthless of all nations. They will shatter the pride of Egypt, and all her hordes will be overthrown. I will destroy all her cattle from beside abundant waters no longer to be stirred by the foot of man or muddied by the hooves of cattle. Then I will let her waters settle and make her streams flow like oil, declares the Sovereign Lord. When I make Egypt desolate and strip the land of everything in it, when I strike down all who live there, then they will know that I am the Lord.’”

“This is the lament they will chant for her. The daughters of the nations will chant it; for Egypt and all her hordes they will chant it, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

In the twelfth year, on the fifteenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me:

“Son of man, wail for the hordes of Egypt and consign to the earth below both her and the daughters of mighty nations, along with those who go down to the pit. Say to them, ‘Are you more favored than others? Go down and be laid among the uncircumcised.’ They will fall among those killed by the sword. The sword is drawn; let her be dragged off with all her hordes. From within the realm of the dead the mighty leaders will say of Egypt and her allies, ‘They have come down and they lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.’”

“Assyria is there with her whole army; she is surrounded by the graves of all her slain, all who have fallen by the sword. Their graves are in the depths of the pit and her army lies around her grave. All who had spread terror in the land of the living are slain, fallen by the sword.”

“Elam is there, with all her hordes around her grave. All of them are slain, fallen by the sword. All who had spread terror in the land of the living went down uncircumcised to the earth below. They bear their shame with those who go down to the pit. A bed is made for her among the slain, with all her hordes around her grave. All of them are uncircumcised, killed by the sword. Because their terror had spread in the land of the living, they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit; they are laid among the slain.”

“Meshek and Tubal are there, with all their hordes around their graves. All of them are uncircumcised, killed by the sword because they spread their terror in the land of the living. But they do not lie with the fallen warriors of old, who went down to the realm of the dead with their weapons of war—their swords placed under their heads and their shields resting on their bones—though these warriors also had terrorized the land of the living.”

“You too, Pharaoh, will be broken and will lie among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.”

“Edom is there, her kings and all her princes; despite their power, they are laid with those killed by the sword. They lie with the uncircumcised, with those who go down to the pit.”

“All the princes of the north and all the Sidonians are there; they went down with the slain in disgrace despite the terror caused by their power. They lie uncircumcised with those killed by the sword and bear their shame with those who go down to the pit.”

“Pharaoh—he and all his army—will see them and he will be consoled for all his hordes that were killed by the sword, declares the Sovereign Lord. Although I had him spread terror in the land of the living, Pharaoh and all his hordes will be laid among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Ezekiel, Chapters 29 through 32

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Over the last six devotions, we have seen God pronounce judgments associated with the punishment He imposed on the Israelite kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Those judgments were on the nations of Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, and Sidon.

Today, we finish this series by heading back to the south after looking north at Tyre and Sidon and focusing on a nation who had quite a history with the people of God. Of course, I am speaking about the nation of Egypt.

You’ll recall that Egypt was where the Israelites were being held against their will by the Pharaoh in an oppressive captivity before God brought them deliverance and placed them on the path to the land He had promised them, the land of Israel. After this, the relations between Israel and Egypt ran hot and cold. King Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter during his reign (1 Kings 9) and was given an entire city by the Egyptian ruler as a wedding gift. But later, Rehoaboam, king of the southern kingdom Judah, was attacked by the Egyptian king Shisak who “attacked Jerusalem” and “carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace, taking “everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made” (1 Kings 14:25-26).

Then we have today’s scripture passage which encompasses four full chapters of Ezekiel, far more than any other nation God mentioned prior. So what got Pharaoh and Egypt in that kind of trouble with God? We find out from His words:

“‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.” But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. I will leave you in the desert, you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky. Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the Lord.’”

“‘Because you said, “The Nile is mine; I made it,” therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. The foot of neither man nor beast will pass through it; no one will live there for forty years. I will make the land of Egypt desolate among devastated lands, and her cities will lie desolate forty years among ruined cities. And I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries.’”

First of all, we need to know that the Nile was a jewel in the Egyptian national treasure. Outside of its nourishing waters, there wasn’t much else that could be used to support agriculture as a majority of Egypt was marked by the desert wilderness and its expanse of sand. And so the Egyptians constructed fertile lands around the Nile and used its water to the fullest advantage.

The second thing we need to keep in mind was that God created all things to include the Nile. All of creation was His and His alone, and accordingly, He was to get all the credit and glory for all He had made. As we see in our scriptures, that didn’t happen with Egypt who frankly didn’t even acknowledge or worship the God of Israel, opting instead to serve a bevy of gods within their polytheistic worship system. We see in our verses for today that the Pharaoh believed that he had made the Nile for himself and thus the river belonged to him and Egypt.

And so God would show him who was really in control and did so through judgment at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, the same forces who attacked and destroyed many other nations to include the mighty Assyrian empire. When the Babylonians were finished, many Egyptians would be dead and the nation would be left in ruin just as Assyria was, a desolate wasteland similar to other countries we have covered throughout this devotional series. Any Egyptians who were fortunate enough to survive the onslaught would end up dispersed to other nations for a forty year period, after which they would be allowed to return and rebuild much like the Israelites would be able to do after their seventy year exile in Babylon. But note that Egypt would never return to prominence again. God promised as much through these words:
“There they will be a lowly kingdom. It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it will never again rule over the nations. Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help.”

One other point I think is very interesting here is that God offered Egypt to the Babylonians as a reward after they had attacked and conquered Tyre. We know how rich Tyre was because of its place at the center of commerce and trade but yet the Lord provided the additional riches to their haul. Babylon had done a lot of the Lord’s judgment work and He in turn compensated them nicely for their work.

So what do we take away from this?

I think there are two main things as we conclude this devotion.

First, we need to realize that when it comes to matters of creation, all of it belongs to the Lord. He is the Master and Maker of all of us, the Author of all living things, and so He warrants all the glory, honor, and praise. Even when we accomplish something significant using a gift He has given us, He deserves all the prestige and credit for we could have never accomplished anything noteworthy without His blessing.

The second thing I believe we need to remember is that no nation, no matter how powerful it seems, will stand a chance against God’s judgment. The Egyptian empire was vast and prosperous and powerful. It had few rivals in the world during biblical times. But its national pride and refusal to recognize and worship the God who blessed it with its prominence was its downfall because the Lord God Almighty will never stand by and allow Himself to be disrespected, disregarded, or dishonored. Not in the times of Ezekiel, not ever.

Perhaps nations today should take note of this and change the focus of their thanksgiving, adoration, and devotion on the God who made them what they are, the God who can also take it all away.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Sunday, August 21, 2016

AN ASSOCIATED JUDGMENT (PART 6)



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Sidon; prophesy against her and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:’”

“‘I am against you, Sidon, and among you I will display My glory. You will know that I am the Lord, when I inflict punishment on you and within you am proved to be holy. I will send a plague upon you and make blood flow in your streets. The slain will fall within you, with the sword against you on every side. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

“‘No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’”

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.’”

Ezekiel 28:20-26

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Yesterday, we saw the scriptures investing a lot of time in the judgment that befell Tyre, a nation to the north of Israel on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea known for its trade and the subsequent wealth it brought. It wasn’t this reputation as a key center of commerce that got Tyre in trouble with God but as we saw in yesterday’s devotion, it was three specific sins the country committed while in the midst of that commerce. You’ll recall they had rejoiced over Jerusalem’s downfall, seeing it as their gain. They had also engaged in dishonest trade practices and their ruler believed he was a god himself, the prestige his nation had gained going to his head. As a result of these transgressions, God sent the Babylonians to deliver His punishment.

That brings us to today’s passage and the closing verses of Ezekiel 28 as we find the Lord turning His attention to the nation of Sidon. Look again at His words here:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Sidon; prophesy against her and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:’”

“‘I am against you, Sidon, and among you I will display My glory. You will know that I am the Lord, when I inflict punishment on you and within you am proved to be holy. I will send a plague upon you and make blood flow in your streets. The slain will fall within you, with the sword against you on every side. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

“‘No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’”

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.’”  Ezekiel 28:20-26

Here’s a note of interest for you. There is only one place in the Old Testament where Tyre and Sidon are not listed together and that is here. Look at the location of the two countries and you will see that they are neighbors north of Israel thus why they are often grouped together. But the judgments spelled out in Ezekiel, judgments associated with God’s punishment of Israel and Judah, are not collective penalties but rather each nation suffers consequences based on their own actions.

So what was Sidon guilty of?

God’s word in Ezekiel tells us they were among the “malicious neighbors” of Israel, referred to as “painful briers and sharp thorns” because of the painful nuisance they were.

It didn’t have to end up that way. In fact, the Israelites were commanded by God to drive out all the peoples who were within the land He was giving them. If they failed, this Old Testament scripture from the Book of Numbers serve as a prophecy that became fulfilled through Sidon and other nations:

If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. Numbers 33:55

The Israelites allowed the Sidonians to remain in the land and as a result, they had been one of those countries who became a thorn in the side of God’s people.

And so God took action, sending judgment in the following ways:

1. He would send a fatal plague on the Sidonians.

“I will send a plague upon you.”

2. There would be bloodshed in the midst of judgment.

“I will make blood flow in your streets.”

3. The Lord would bring a sword against the Sidonians.

“The slain will fall within you, with the sword against you on every side.”

Doesn’t paint a rosy picture for Sidon, wouldn’t you agree?

But note that there was a lot more to gain for the Lord than just eliminating one of His people’s nemeses. For through sending His judgment on Sidon and other malicious neighbors like her, the Lord promised that His glory would be displayed and the peoples would see Him as holy. Order and peace would not have been established otherwise and there would be no doubt that every nation would know God was the Lord God Almighty, the Master and Maker of all.

As for the people of Israel, our passage ends with good news for the exiled Israelites who were serving a seventy year penalty imposed by God for their sinful idolatry among other sins. For God assures Sidon through the message He gave through Ezekiel that Israel would one day return to the homeland where they would get to rebuild their home, replant their vineyards, and do all of this in safety because the Lord would have removed the danger of “their neighbors who maligned them.” Through His associated judgments, God was systematically doing away with the Israelites’ enemies.

All this would present us with a few questions:

Have we become a thorn in the side of someone in life? In other words, has someone else experienced difficulty in living life, possibly losing the joy the Lord wants them to have, because of our actions?

If so, then perhaps we had better step back and reassess what we are doing, recommitting ourselves to treating others as the Lord would want us to. For if we adopt His attitude in our hearts and seek His guidance and direction, then we can avoid being labeled a malicious neighbor in regard to someone else and escape the associated punishment that can come with that label, the kind of punishment the Sidonians suffered in Old Testament times.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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