Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-19:14; Hebrews 9:1-10; Psalm 106:32-48; Proverbs 27:10
I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating why it can be so difficult sometimes, especially as I am getting ready to encourage the ladies at our church to join me once again in reading through their Bibles in the coming year. I can’t say that I have the answer for everyone, but for me it boils down to how I view this time. I have always loved the story of Mary and Martha, that time when Martha gets upset at Jesus and Mary because He is letting Mary just sit at His feet and listen to His Word. That is actually where the name for my blog came from, Sitting at His Feet. If I found myself in a room with Jesus, I can only imagine my reaction to being in His presence, but I think that nothing else would matter. Anything else that might have been on my to-do list would fade in importance, because there He is, my Savior, my Redeemer, the One whose body was broken and blood poured out for me. My relationship with Jesus would be the consuming passion of that moment-oh, just to be near Him. And I think that for me, that is the key to coming to God’s word with joy and delight. Do I view this time as a chance to be in His presence in a tangible way-to really experience sitting at His feet and listening to His word. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone you cannot see, but thank God He has given us a way to spend time with Him, to hear from His heart, and so learn of Him and know Him more. When I come with the attitude of relationship instead of duty my time with the Word becomes more precious to me. I pray this morning that it becomes more precious to you as well, dear reader.
So when I came across Ezekiel 18:30-32 my heart rejoiced in God my Savior. He truly is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. How often I have heard even believers say that the God of the Old Testament is so different from the God of the New Testament. The Old Testament God is the angry old man children fear to be near. And this again, is why I encourage you to spend time in God’s word, in all of it, for we see today that God’s love was not something new that appeared in the New Testament. We do not have to struggle to reconcile the two when we look at Ezekiel 18. Here God is responding to Israel’s cry that He is not fair, that His ways are not right. (I have heard that from people in our day as well.) But God has an answer to their charge and I want you to listen to it.
Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right?
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord God. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”
Now listen to it from the New Living Translation:
“Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!
God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, righteous or not. God’s response here may sound very familiar for we read in 2 Peter 3:10, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
This is the God I met when I opened up my Bible this morning. As I continued my reading into Hebrews 9 God spoke to me about the past and the present once again-the Old and the New covenants.
This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them. For that old system deals only with food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies—physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established. (Hebrews 9:9-10, NLT)
Here we learn that the old system with priests and sacrifices could do nothing to change one’s conscience. In that passage I shared above from Ezekiel the people are told to “make for yourselves a new heart and new spirit.” Make for yourselves. And there we see the problem. All of our effort will never be able to do that.
That leaves me looking forward to tomorrow when the writer of Hebrews will share how Jesus can indeed solve the problem of our consciences being made clean. Which brings me back to my attitude and my love of God’s grace. His grace is sufficient not only in that moment of salvation, but in all of my moments because He is always at work in me, His grace is working in me from the inside out. When I am struggling it is because I am relying on my own strength, I too often still find myself trying to win God’s favor with my works or to make for myself a new heart. But I already have His favor-nothing I ever do can change that. And as for my heart-He has taken care of that as well. God’s great grace has given me a new heart that is so much better than anything I could make of it.
So, grace, peace, and mercy from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ be upon you dear reader.