The Weak Made Strong

OPENING PRAYER

Spirit of God, breathe new life in me today. Fill me with vision, courage to follow and boldness.

 

Read: PSALM 8:1-9

[1] For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. [2] Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. [3] When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, [4] what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? [5] You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. [6] You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: [7] all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, [8] the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. [9] LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! 

 

Reflect: WHERE IS GOD’S POWER SEEN?

Our world is often a place of conflict, where enemies emerge to threaten us (2). How do we respond to such threats? With counter-threats of our own? Even children praising God can, in God’s wisdom, silence the foe. There is awesome power in weakness.   Looking forward with a prophet’s vision, the writer captures how the demonstration of such “weak-power” will be for our ultimate good (3-5). Hebrews 2:5-9 interprets these verses as referring directly to Jesus, and specifically to his death on the cross. Jesus “taste[d] death for everyone” and in this becoming “lower than the [sinless] angels” silenced the foe of human sinfulness. Rising from the tomb, he is crowned with glory and honor. There is awesome power in weakness.  This psalm gives confidence to all of us, made in God’s image, of our generous place in his world. In Christ, everything is under our feet (6-8), because we have been raised up to reign with Christ (Eph. 2:6). Others may imagine they are powerful, but the Lord alone is majestic (1,9).

 

APPLY

Bow before God today, whether prostrate or on your knees. Trust him to meet you where you are weak.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, teach me the skill of allowing Your strength to invade my weakness.

 

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Hallowed Be Your Name

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, let me honor Your name in words and actions, at home and at work, and in every circumstance of life.

 

Read: EZEKIEL 36:16-38

[16] Again the word of the LORD came to me: [17] “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. [18] So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. [19] I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. [20] And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ [21] I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. [22]“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. [23] I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. [24] “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. [25] I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. [26] I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. [28] Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. [29] I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. [30] I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. [31] Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.[32] I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel! [33] “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. [34] The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. [35] They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” [36] Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.’ [37] “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, [38] as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” 

 

Reflect: WHAT IS GOD SEEKING?

God’s holiness lies at the heart of this passage. God’s people were supposed to bear witness to God’s holy nature before the nations. Instead, they had dishonored God’s name and his nature through their actions. Their exile was a direct consequence of their breaking the covenant with God (17,18; see also Deut. 28:36,37,41). We might think God’s prime concern is for people to be saved, but this passage suggests that God longs for his true nature (his holiness) to be understood and honored by all nations (21-23,32). The numerous sentences beginning “I. . .” in this passage reveal God’s holy nature to his Jewish people in exile, but God’s holy nature has not changed. His holiness is still revealed in right judgment (18), in his grace and generosity in rescuing, restoring and providing for his people (23,24,30,35-37), and in his power to cleanse us from sin (25) and transform us inwardly. He still pours out his own Spirit to guide us and enable us to worship and serve him as we should (26,27). 

 

APPLY

Take one of these aspects of God’s holy nature and make it the focus of your thoughts today.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, let me reflect Your holy nature in a world that has gone its own way.

 

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The Seeker

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, thank You for being the faithful Shepherd willing to lay down Your very life for us.

 

Read: EZEKIEL 34:1-31

[1] The word of the LORD came to me: [2] “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? [3] You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. [4] You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. [5] So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. [6] My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. [7] “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: [8] As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, [9] therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: [10]This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. [11] “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. [12] As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. [13] I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. [14]I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. [15] I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. [16] I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. [17] “‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. [18] Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? [19] Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? [20] “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. [21] Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, [22] I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. [23] I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. [24] I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken. [25] “‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. [26] I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. [27] The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. [28] They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. [29] I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. [30] Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD. [31] You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.'” 

 

Reflect: WHAT PROMISES DOES GOD MAKE?

 Day in, day out, God is bringing people home to himself, which is why he was so angry with the leaders of Israel (2,10). They were meant to be his deputies: caring for the people, ensuring they kept close to God. However, their failure (2-4) resulted in God’s astounding promise (11-16,22- 24) to be the perfect Shepherd who never fails his flock.The gospels relate how Jesus fulfilled this promise (see John 10:14-16). Where other leaders fail, Jesus is faithful: he seeks the lost, rounds up the strays, heals the sick,strengthens the weary (see Isa. 40:10,11,29-31; 42:1-4).He is still bringing people home to God. Yesterday I heard of a couple, taking Bibles to Afghanistan, who had run out of gas. A Taliban soldier stood by the pump. The Spirit prompted the couple to give the soldier a Bible. He then explained how, in a dream, he was told to wait by this pump for a book that would change his life. Our perfect Shepherd Jesus is rounding up the strays and the lost!Day in, day out, God is bringing people home to himself, which is why he was so angry
with the leaders of Israel (2,10). They were meant to be his deputies: caring for the
people, ensuring they kept close to God. However, their failure (2-4) resulted in God’s
astounding promise (11-16,22- 24) to be the perfect Shepherd who never fails his flock.
The gospels relate how Jesus fulfilled this promise (see John 10:14-16). Where other
leaders fail, Jesus is faithful: he seeks the lost, rounds up the strays, heals the sick,
strengthens the weary (see Isa. 40:10,11,29-31; 42:1-4).
He is still bringing people home to God. Yesterday I heard of a couple, taking Bibles to
Afghanistan, who had run out of gas. A Taliban soldier stood by the pump. The Spirit
prompted the couple to give the soldier a Bible. He then explained how, in a dream, he
was told to wait by this pump for a book that would change his life. Our perfect Shepherd
Jesus is rounding up the strays and the lost! 

 

APPLY

Evaluate if you truly care about those who are far from God. If there is need for change, seek God and take action.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Precious Savior, thank You for seeking me when I was lost and for saving me at such cost to Yourself.

 

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Whirling Wheels

OPENING PRAYER

God, open my eyes to see You in new ways and open my heart to trust You more.

 

Read: EZEKIEL 10:1-22

[1] I looked, and I saw the likeness of a throne of lapis lazuli above the vault that was over the heads of the cherubim.[2] The LORD said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.” And as I watched, he went in. [3] Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. [4]Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD. [5] The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks. [6] When the LORD commanded the man in linen, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” the man went in and stood beside a wheel. [7] Then one of the cherubim reached out his hand to the fire that was among them. He took up some of it and put it into the hands of the man in linen, who took it and went out. [8] (Under the wings of the cherubim could be seen what looked like human hands.) [9] I looked, and I saw beside the cherubim four wheels, one beside each of the cherubim; the wheels sparkled like topaz. [10] As for their appearance, the four of them looked alike; each was like a wheel intersecting a wheel. [11] As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the cherubim faced; the wheels did not turn about as the cherubim went. The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went. [12] Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. [13] I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” [14] Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a human being, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. [15] Then the cherubim rose upward. These were the living creatures I had seen by the Kebar River. [16] When the cherubim moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the cherubim spread their wings to rise from the ground, the wheels did not leave their side.[17] When the cherubim stood still, they also stood still; and when the cherubim rose, they rose with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in them. [18] Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. [19] While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. [20] These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim. [21] Each had four faces and four wings, and under their wings was what looked like human hands. [22] Their faces had the same appearance as those I had seen by the Kebar River. Each one went straight ahead.

 

Reflect: WHAT DOES EZEKIEL SEE?

 We’re back in Jerusalem, where Ezekiel has been transported in a vision. This must have been a slack time in the life of the Jerusalem Temple. With the absence of the regular priesthood, including the trainees like Ezekiel, one wonders what kind of worship was going on there. Who was in charge? What services and sacrifices were taking place?Were the people of Jerusalem totally starved of priestly ministry? Ezekiel appears to have had no idea. His only reference (in the vision of chapter 8) speaks of a series of detestable deeds that are being allowed to take place under cover of the Temple to add to its defilement. Ezekiel has no doubt that the day of the Temple’s complete destruction is getting nearer,though he does not report it until late in his book (33:21). Meanwhile he offers hints,predictions and warnings that the end will soon come (11:7-10)- -as he does here by enlarging on his initial vision, adding to its detail and describing the moment when “the glory of the Lord” will begin to leave the Temple and depart (18). It will be a defining moment in Israel’s history.We’re back in Jerusalem, where Ezekiel has been transported in a vision. This must have been a slack time in the life of the Jerusalem Temple. With the absence of the regular priesthood, including the trainees like Ezekiel, one wonders what kind of worship was going on there. Who was in charge? What services and sacrifices were taking place?
Were the people of Jerusalem totally starved of priestly ministry? Ezekiel appears to have
had no idea. His only reference (in the vision of chapter 8) speaks of a series of detestable
deeds that are being allowed to take place under cover of the Temple to add to its
defilement.Ezekiel has no doubt that the day of the Temple’s complete destruction is getting nearer, though he does not report it until late in his book (33:21). Meanwhile he offers hints,
predictions and warnings that the end will soon come (11:7-10)- -as he does here by
enlarging on his initial vision, adding to its detail and describing the moment when “the
glory of the Lord” will begin to leave the Temple and depart (18). It will be a defining
moment in Israel’s history.

 

APPLY

Make yourself available to God so that he can use you to bless someone today. And then follow through practically.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, I am Your temple. May You find my heart to be a place in which Your Spirit is free to express Your glory.

 

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Dumb Show

OPENING PRAYER

God, I want to bring hope to those in this world, but in truth.

 

Read: EZEKIEL 4:1-8; 5:1-13

[1] “Now, son of man, take a block of clay, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. [2] Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it. [3] Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the people of Israel. [4] “Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. [5] I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel. [6] “After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. [7] Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her. [8] I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege.

 

Reflect: WHAT IS THE MESSAGE EZEKIEL IS BRINGING?

We know that at this time the city of Jerusalem was still standing with its walls, Templeand fine buildings intact. That is why the outline of the city can be drawn on a clay tablet(4:1). But that is not the end of the matter– much worse is to come. There will be aprolonged siege (4:1-8), famine (4:16,17), and many violent deaths by sword and fire(5:1-6). This is to be the judgment on a city which has abused its privileges and turnedaway from its God. And Ezekiel’s task is not merely to tell the people of this comingjudgment, but to act it all out– for 430 days (4:4-8)!The destruction of God’s holy city is disaster enough, but “the fire will spread from thereto all Israel” (5:4). As with a forest fire, it is almost impossible to contain the flames– agraphic image of the all-destructive power of evil in the life of a community. Today, asthen, the church has the awesome task of being a kind of Fire Service committed toquenching the flames of evil and unbelief, so that they do not get the better of us.We know that at this time the city of Jerusalem was still standing with its walls, Temple
and fine buildings intact. That is why the outline of the city can be drawn on a clay tablet
(4:1). But that is not the end of the matter– much worse is to come. There will be a
prolonged siege (4:1-8), famine (4:16,17), and many violent deaths by sword and fire
(5:1-6). This is to be the judgment on a city which has abused its privileges and turned
away from its God. And Ezekiel’s task is not merely to tell the people of this coming
judgment, but to act it all out– for 430 days (4:4-8)!The destruction of God’s holy city is disaster enough, but “the fire will spread from there
to all Israel” (5:4). As with a forest fire, it is almost impossible to contain the flames– a
graphic image of the all-destructive power of evil in the life of a community. Today, as
then, the church has the awesome task of being a kind of Fire Service committed to
quenching the flames of evil and unbelief, so that they do not get the better of us.

 

APPLY

Take a walk with the Lord. Talk with him as you would talk to a friend.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Help me, holy Lord, to be a calming and a purifying influence in my part of Your world.

 

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Just watch out

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, help me not believe the lie that giving comfort is always what it means to show love.

 

Read: EZEKIEL 3:16-27

[16] At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me: [17] “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. [18] When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. [19] But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself. [20] “Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. [21] But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.” [22] The hand of the LORD was on me there, and he said to me, “Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.” [23] So I got up and went out to the plain. And the glory of the LORD was standing there, like the glory I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. [24] Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet. He spoke to me and said: “Go, shut yourself inside your house. [25] And you, son of man, they will tie with ropes; you will be bound so that you cannot go out among the people. [26] I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious people.[27] But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.

 

Reflect: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A “WATCHMAN”?

I am sure that none of us wants to be a “wet blanket,” spoiling everyone’s fun and casting a pall over proceedings. That would be a strange kind of Christian witness and would hardly commend the Gospel or draw people to Jesus. But in public ministry, to which Ezekiel was called, there has to be an honest call that sin not be brushed under the carpet and the holiness of God’s requirements remain central. Thank God for those who have the courage to stand for truth and to speak “as a dying man to dying men.” Only the Ezekiels of this world are entitled to thunder, and he would pay the price for it (25). We may not be “thunderers,” but at the same time we must resist the temptation to stay silent when an opportunity comes our way. We may be the only ones who can put in a word for the Lord at just the right time and in just the right way. Our words may be clumsy and we may feel embarrassed, but God will honor us. Silence is not always golden.

 

APPLY

Speak the truth in the situations in your life where sin is being brushed under the carpet.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Help me, Lord, to rise above my fears and to speak for You and for Your Gospel.

 

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Put things right, Lord!

OPENING PRAYER

God, let us not seek to make You in our image, which is twisted and broken, but let us seek to reflect Yours.

 

Read: PSALM 7:1-17

[1] A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning Cush, a Benjamite. LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, [2] or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me. [3] LORD my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands- [4] if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe- [5] then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust. [6] Arise, LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. [7] Let the assembled peoples gather around you, while you sit enthroned over them on high. [8] Let the LORD judge the peoples. Vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. [9] Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure- you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts. [10] My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. [11] God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day. [12] If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. [13] He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows. [14] Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment. [15] Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made. [16] The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads. [17] I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High. 

 

Reflect: IN WHAT WAY DOES THIS PSALM REFLECT JUSTICE?

There are psalms I tend to hurry through as I seek to minimize the impact of the violence they describe upon my spirit. I guess I am not alone: one commentator described this psalm as “one of the least inspiring.” When life is comfortable and I am at peace with the world it is hard to identify with David’s troubles, and the psalm sounds an awkward note. But, when I find myself in conflict with others, this psalm fits me like a glove. O my fickle soul! Whoever Cush was, he was making David’s life a misery, and David wonders if the cause of this opposition was his own fault (“If I have done this. . .”; 3). We are wise to search our own soul first before blaming others when life becomes conflicted, but, as David does, we can also turn to God, praying that his justice will vindicate us and end the conflict (5,6). Indeed, those who wish us harm often end up only destroying themselves (14-16). The result for David will be praise for deliverance (17), to which I might want to add a cry to God for mercy toward those who pursue us

 

APPLY

Take some time with the Lord, asking your part in any conflict you are in.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

God, thank You that You are not conflicted: You love mercy and You do what is right.

 

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Change of direction

OPENING PRAYER

God, help me hear from You in these Scriptures and respond to Your Spirit.

 

Read: EZEKIEL 2:1--3:15

[1] He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” [2] As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. [3] He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. [4] The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ [5] And whether they listen or fail to listen-for they are a rebellious people-they will know that a prophet has been among them. [6] And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. [7] You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. [8] But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” [9] Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, [10] which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe. [1] And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” [2] So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. [3] Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. [4] He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. [5] You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel- [6] not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. [7] But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. [8] But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. [9] I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.” [10] And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. [11] Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” [12] Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the LORD rose from the place where it was standing. [13] It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound. [14] The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD on me. [15] I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days-deeply distressed. 

 

Reflect: WHY DID EZEKIEL REACT AS HE DID?

All was not lost. God has many alternative plans for our lives even when we are dead set on Plan A. But Plan B turned out to be just right for Ezekiel, with a clear call from God, a personal commissioning, a message for him to deliver and reassuring words to help him in those periods of doubt and inadequacy which often accompany a new ministry. From now on Ezekiel was a prophet of the Lord. Why do you think he “went in bitterness and in the anger of. . . spirit” (3:14)? Was it because of disappointment? Or because of the readjustments that would be needed? Saul of Tarsus took necessary time off when he had to “recover” from his vision on the Damascus Road (see Acts 9:9). Major changes cannot be rushed. This was a new boy learning a new job, and Ezekiel took his time. Note the seven days when he did nothing but sit, “deeply distressed” (3:15). It does not surprise me at all, and I am sure he was all the better for it.

 

APPLY

Consider that God may not be calling you to do something different, but to do what you are doing differently.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, I want to come to You with sincerity of heart and hear whatever it is You have to speak to me.

 

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Manifesto

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, help me to do what You have called me to and support those who are giving themselves for the Gospel.

 

Read: ACTS 28:17-31

[17] Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. [18] They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. [19] The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. [20] For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” [21] They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. [22] But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” [23] They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. [24] Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. [25] They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: [26] “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” [27] For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ [28] “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29] [30] For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. [31] He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ-with all boldness and without hindrance! 

 

Reflect: WHAT DOORS ARE OPENED FOR PAUL?

In this last reading, the scene moves back to what Paul does best–preaching about Jesus. He’s still in chains (20), but he has the freedom to call people together and explain his situation, and is able to continue doing what he does best. Some people are persuaded (24), but the controversy about what he declares to be true continues amongst the Jews, and Paul’s feelings about their reluctance to believe spill over (25-28). Verse 31 could be Paul’s mission statement. It typifies his attitude to what he was called to do: although he encountered much opposition he let no situation shut him up. The heart of the matter was the person and work of Christ and the kingdom we are all called to belong to. From the time Paul met Jesus, his whole life was dedicated to spreading the Good News, and our last glimpse of him tells us much about the kind of man he was. 

 

APPLY

Pray that your life would reflect to others how wonderful a relationship with Jesus is.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, regardless of circumstances, let me be part of seeing Your kingdom purposes move forward.

 

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Strangers on the shore

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, bring me near to Your heart and let me go out into the world with a deep knowledge of Your love for me.

 

Read: ACTS 28:1-16

[1] Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. [2] The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. [3] Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. [4] When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” [5] But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. [6] The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. [7] There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. [8] His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. [9] When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. [10] They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed. [11] After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island-it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. [12] We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. [13] From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. [14] There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. [15] The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. [16] When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. 

 

Reflect: HOW DID THE PEOPLE RESPOND TO WHAT THEY SAW?

Paul’s experiences on Malta and on the latter part of his journey to Rome are punctuated with the kindness and generosity of strangers. The warmth of the help given to the ship’s company by the locals is much appreciated (2). Paul’s stock goes up when he doesn’t die after being bitten by the viper (6), and then, after he prays for Publius’s father, others come in droves and are healed–another sign that God continues to be with Paul and his companions. The islanders clearly hold them in high regard (10), as do the believers in Puteoli and Rome (13,14). It’s easy, in this passage, to forget that Paul is a prisoner, under guard, and on his way to defend himself before Caesar. Even verse 16, which reminds us of his status, shows how highly he is regarded. Being on the receiving end of this kind of thing is an enriching, encouraging and humbling experience; and strangely, its absence, and a lack of appreciation of someone’s circumstances, can be considerably unsettling. It’s a reminder to us to be ready to exercise the gifts of encouragement and generosity (Rom. 12:8) when we meet those who need them.

 

APPLY

To whom could you extend kindness this week? Make a practical plan to do so.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

My Loving Friend, let my life in You be one of action and not mere words.

 

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