Peter Brown • December 07, 2022
Habakkuk pleaded with God for a shift in the direction he saw the nation of Israel heading. He wanted his people to return to holy living, towards righteousness and to turn away from evil, idolatrous practices. Today, we find ourselves in a similar situation. We live in a sinful world full of political unrest, division, materialism, and idolatry. What can we learn from this Old Testament Prophet?
Habakkuk is one of the 12 minor prophets in the Old Testament. Most of the minor prophets preached to the nation of Israel, rebuking them and pleading with them to turn from their sin and idolatry and to turn back to God.
Habakkuk is unique as he does not address the people of Israel, but speaks directly to God. In Chapter 1 Habakkuk laments to God asking Him, “how can you be good when there is so much evil in the world?” (1:3-4)
God responds to Habakkuk, that in his sovereignty, he will use these evil nations, particularly the Chaldeans, to bring justice to the nation of Israel. Habakkuk then brings his second lament to God; the Chaldeans are no more righteous than the Israelites! (1:12-2:1)
Chapter 2 begins with God telling Habakkuk to write this prophecy down on tablets. He tells him that the judgment is coming but gives no timeline, just the command to wait. God then pronounces judgement on the Chaldeans in the form of five woes, because of their unjust economics of the rich profiting from the poor, the use of slave-labour, irresponsible leaders, and rampant idolatry. (2:6-20)
God then assures Habakkuk that righteousness will prevail, and eventually all of the sinful nations will be destroyed.
Later on in chapter 3, the book of Habakkuk closes with God’s assurance that the righteous will prevail and a hopeful future awaits those who trust in God, and his plan for the salvation of the world. The book of Habakkuk closes with him bringing praise to the God of his salvation who brings him hope in light of all the dark circumstances around him. (3:1-19)
I don’t know about you, but I have felt a real shift in the way I view the world in light of the events of the last few years. I must confess many times over the years I have put my hope in the comforts of the North American lifestyle. My sense of safety and trust that I put in our government and the nations around us has shifted in light of our current events. Whether it was the pandemic, the war in Ukraine or any other of the many stories in our 24-hour news cycle, I have found myself reflecting on the sinfulness and brokenness of the world. There is no hope here in this world. It will not be found in a change in government, education, medicine, technology, or anything else this world has to offer. The postmodern world with all its bells and whistles, is still the same broken world Habakkuk pleaded with God to change all those years ago. Our hope now, can only be found in the Gospel! But as we wait on God, just as Habakkuk did, we fix our eyes and hearts on God and His Son, Jesus that he sent to save us and give us real hope; we can only have peace in this life as we eagerly anticipate the one to come.
Heavenly Father, Lord we come to you in our brokenness, our sinfulness, our selfishness and ask for your forgiveness. Help us to meditate on your word and set our minds on you and not the current situation. Help us to let go of our idols and put our hope in you and the future you have planned for us. Give us strength to lift our eyes to you and trust in your promises as we put our hope in you.
In Jesus name, Amen.
Southshore Bible Church • November 30, 2022
The Saviour at Supper on the Sabbath
The beloved physician’s record of our saviour in this social setting of Luke 14 takes us through a 5-course meal. In these five sections of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is going to unfold to us the true cost of following Him. He is going to challenge us as He challenges the customs of the Pharisees and in doing so will give us a seemingly impossible picture of what it looks like to be a part of the kingdom of God.
Jesus starts with an appetizer of supernatural proportions (Luke 14:1-6), when he is attending a dinner at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. In front of him is a man with dropsy, (edema) in modern medical terms. According to an article by J. Worth Estes entitled “Major Human Diseases Past and Present” published online by Cambridge University Press, “Dropsy is an accumulation of fluid throughout the body, a sign of underlying disease of the heart, liver, or kidneys, or of malnutrition. Untreated dropsy was, eventually, always fatal.” In the midst of the Pharisee's glaring, silent judgementalism, He pushes aside his plate, takes the man, heals him and sends him away whole.
A man so filled with fluid that he was near death, in the company of men so full of themselves, that it took a man so full of compassion that he would stare straight down the barrel of their hypocrisy and give this man life. What fearless resolve in the face of adversity! First course, am I watching to judge or watching to serve?
The second course (Luke 14:7-11) is by no means lighter fare. How am I doing with humility? The Lord now has had a turn at watching how the guests have arrived and given themselves the best seats in the house. He admonishes them that when they are invited to a wedding feast, to “go and sit in the lowest place so that when your host comes (A reference to the return of Christ) He may say to you ‘friend, move up higher.’ For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
The third course (Luke 14:12-24) is the largest portion of this meal, the entree so to speak. Jesus is now boldly instructing his host on invitational etiquette in kingdom terms.
The who’s who of who not to invite. Did we read it right? Friends? Don’t invite them. Brothers and relatives? Don’t invite them. Really? Rich neighbours? Don’t invite them. Who then? The poor! The handicapped and the blind! How am I digesting the kingdom agenda for dinner invitations?
The gospel invitation is clear: “Come, for everything is now ready.” There is nothing anyone can bring. It’s not a potluck, God has provided a full and free salvation! Forgiveness of sin and peace with God is offered. Christ has died, the just one for the unjust, and the work is finished! Sadly, the excuses given as to why the invitation cannot be accepted, as lawful and legitimate as they may seem, cannot be recognized as having any value by the host, and the excuse-makers are forever barred from the feast.
The fourth course (Luke 14:25-33) is probably the least appetizing and most difficult to stomach and yet holds the greatest reward. How am I doing with the cost of discipleship? Have I really weighed up the cost of this meal? Do I realize the price that was paid to be a guest? Jesus' words leave little room for the imagination in verse 33, ‘So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’ How many people have stood at the entrance to the kingdom, looked back at their possessions, friendships and families and like Lot’s wife, looking longingly back to the burning city Sodom of Gomorrah, chosen to turn back and reject the invitation
The final course (Luke 14:34-35) is dessert and the only item on the menu is salt. One item, one ingredient so important that if it has lost its essence, it is useless. If something loses its essence it turns into something it was never created to be. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” That’s our ‘essence.’
From the very onset of this meal, the Lord is letting us know that in this kingdom life that we have so graciously been invited and welcomed into, we will have adversity, we will be afflicted by pride, we will make errors in judgement and we will be tempted to turn back. But, like the man who Jesus sent away healed, let us remember the touch of the master’s hand, the wounds in His side that He bore for us at Calvary and in doing so, be encouraged as we keep our eyes on Him.
Our heavenly Father, thank You for the feast You have prepared for us in the life-giving message of the gospel. We have been redeemed and reconciled to You. We have been raised to walk in newness of life. Help us to walk with You Lord through adversity, in humility with our eyes fixed on Christ and our hearts in tune with You and Your will for us so that we can run the race that is set before us with confidence. We don’t want to lose the essence of who we are meant to be in Christ. For it is in His name we ask Lord Jesus Christ amen.
Peter Brown • November 25, 2022
In this chapter, we see Jonah is at the lowest point in his life that we know of. Having just been thrown into the sea to be killed, he is instead swallowed by a fish. All of this comes after his disobedience to God. Jonah is well aware of what has got him to this point, as chapter one explains why Jonah is making this prayer in the first place.
Jonah was supposed to be a prophet for God, his whole goal was the be the mouthpiece for God on earth, to prophesy to the word of the Lord. We know Jonah was a prophet before this one story, as he is mentioned briefly in 2 Kings 14. When Jonah is given the words of God to share with Nineveh this is his time to be used by God, this is his time to be a prophet. So when Jonah rejects God's call to Nineveh and chooses to go in the opposite direction this is not a light decision he is making, this is a full rejection of God and his word and this act goes against all that Jonah should be as a prophet.
Jonah was cast into the sea for his rebellion, his sin was clear to God. He had to face the consequences of his rebellion. But yet Jonah prays in verse 2:
“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried.”
Jonah was facing certain death as the penalty for his rebellion, so he cried out to God, and he was heard. Later in his prayer, Jonah states that God brought his life up from the pit. He was saved from death by God who sent the fish. This prophet of God who disobeyed God was saved and given a second chance at life.
Sometimes in our own life, we can feel a lot like Jonah. Drowning in the consequences of our sin and rebellion. And like Jonah, we deserve everything that our sin brings us. But thankfully the same God who heard Jonah’s cry for salvation hears our cry for it as well. We were in desperate need of salvation due to the consequences of our sins. We had no way to save ourselves from the pit of death we found ourselves in. But God, being great in mercy and because of his great love, saves us from death through the son of God, Jesus Christ.
So how does Jonah respond to this salvation? He responds with a prayer of thanksgiving. As we read in verse 9:
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
Like Jonah, our response to God when we think of the salvation given to us should be a response of thanksgiving. Not because we have to but because we know the depths of sin and darkness we have been saved from and can't help but be thankful. It can be easy at times to forget just how much we have been given in salvation through Christ, but we need to remember the depths of where we started without God. Because without God, we would be like Jonah, drowning in a sea of sin brought on by our own rebellion.
Dear Lord and heavenly Father, we thank you for your salvation. Lord, we thank you that even when we are rebellious sinners you send salvation. We pray that we would be reminded of how lost we were before you, that you saved us out of the grave, and would that lead us to a continuous response of thankfulness.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
Southshore Bible Church • November 16, 2022
God compelled Luke to write down a thorough account of the life of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in the early Church. Like an investigative journalist who compiles stories from eyewitnesses on the field, Luke was present on many of Paul’s journeys and heard firsthand accounts of Jesus’ life from the Apostles. We can have great confidence in the veracity of the Word of God.
Luke begins by introducing us to John the Baptist. Before we get to meet John however, we meet his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. In their story, we should notice that God has his own timing and this is well beyond our understanding. Rarely will we understand in our present moments, the ways and working of God.
When prayer seems to go unanswered, let’s not be too quick to assume that God is NOT working. To be clear, he is ALWAYS active and very loving towards his children. With the help of the lens of Scripture we can trust God with what we cannot see.
Second, we notice that the blessing of children is a mystery kept in the heart of God. This couple was faithful; they were both righteous and served God. Yet, well into old age their prayers went unanswered. They were childless.
Infertility is a common theme in the Bible. We read of godly women who failed to conceive; women like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Ruth and Hannah. In his mercy, God opened the wombs of these previously barren women. We don’t always understand God’s way or timing, but we do trust his heart and know he is always good, powerful and faithful.
Here’s what we know about the “delay” in John’s arrival: He had to be born at a specific time because he was a forerunner of Jesus, who according to Galatians 4:4, had to be born at God’s exact and perfect timing. We read,
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law… (Galatians 4:4 ESV)
In other words, Zechariah and Elizabeth’s long anticipated son had a calling on his life far greater than simply being their pride and joy. He was part of God’s much grander storyline as one who would make the way for the coming of Jesus.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard… (Luke 1:13 ESV)
I am encouraged by verse 13. I am encouraged to know that prayers are effective. God hears them and knows our heart’s cry. He receives our requests and in his wisdom, he answers them in a way that is good, and wise. We can rest in that!
As exciting as all this is, it is not the main storyline. These are simply supporting actors in the main narrative of the coming of God incarnate. The Old Testament and the lives of an old priest and his wife set the stage for the grand arrival of the promised Son of God.
All of heaven watches as God chooses a virgin named Mary to be the mother of His Son Jesus. This young servant of the Lord yields her life and womb to the purposes of God.
Do the old priestly couple or the young betrothed couple understand the cosmic, eternal scope of what God is up to? They didn’t, but we do. Two babies will be born: a prophet who will welcome the Messiah and a Saviour who will save the world! Thanks be to God.
Father, good always and faithful to the end, Your name be praised. In all the details, in all things, and at all times You are working out Your sovereign and eternal plans. Teach us to pray and not give up. Teach us to trust when Your answer is “no”, or “not yet”. Help us to see Your purposes are far higher than we can grasp. We are caught up in the story of salvation, Your Son come for us, and for the world. We are glad to serve You and Your will in our days. Your kingdom come and Your will be done. For Jesus’ sake we pray. Amen.
Southshore Bible Church • November 09, 2022
In the previous Psalms leading up to this one, Psalms 134,135 and 136, the Psalmist has been calling God’s people to join him in worshipping the Lord. Then in Psalm 137, there is a pivotal shift of focus from these prayers of adoration and thanksgiving, to reflecting on a time of national crisis and captivity. How can we forget the powerful lament of a broken-hearted nation, “By the waters of Babylon where we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion…How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4).
In Psalms 140 and 141, both attributed to David, we find another shift from a national focus to a very personal focus. In 140:1 he cries “Deliver me” and “preserve me.” In 140:4, “Guard me,” and in 141:1, David’s urgency is clearly stated, “O Lord I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you!” To paraphrase, “Hurry to me” and “Hear me.” It would seem that while David was in a spiritual condition that enabled him to worship God, he felt the weakness of his flesh, the inclination of his heart towards sin and the weight of the world pressing around him.
David is no stranger to pouring out his heart before the Lord. In Psalm 51, he prays, “Have mercy upon me, oh God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:1-2). Then, as he has grown in his relationship with God, and in his appreciation of the grace and forgiveness he has received for sins past, he says with almost shocking confidence in Psalm 138:23: “Search me oh God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
Now, in Psalm 141, it seems that he is gravely determined not to slip out of the way everlasting, the pleasant path of righteousness and fellowship with the Father onto the thorny shoulder of sin. It’s possible David was far away from the tabernacle, but even so he wants his prayer to be counted as incense and the lifting of his hands as the evening sacrifice. The sacrifices that were consumed upon the old testament altars had to be examined and found to be without blemish, and in the same way, David wanted his worship to be from a pure heart.
We love to gather and worship the Lord. Does the time we share with our eyes on Christ, meditating on his cross and consecrated life, lead us to a place of self-examination and dependence upon God? While a well-rounded prayer life would include prayers of adoration, thanksgiving, confession and intercession for others, David demonstrates for us a heart attitude and posture of humility and dependence, and as he approaches the Lord in this prayer of supplication (which means "to plead humbly”), we are reminded that we should follow his example. This truth is emphasized for us in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Father, thank you for giving us your word. Thank you for the grace of forgiveness.
We have, like David, been forgiven of our sins through the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross. Because of your love for us, we can lift up our hearts and voices and offer to you the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His perfect name. We can also draw near to you in times of trouble, sickness, and weakness. Deliver us. Preserve us. Guard us. Hear us.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Southshore Bible Church • November 01, 2022
Hosea was a minor prophet, during the age that was leading up to the imminent exile of the northern kingdom. The book of Hosea covers the adulterous and idolatrous ways of Israel when they left God to worship Baal. Hosea writes that Israel had committed spiritual adultery, as God and Israel had entered into an intimate covenant with each other, that Israel had turned their back on. Israel’s unfaithfulness is displayed for us, as justification for the punishment God will bring. However God, in his grace, is using punishment as a way to bring his bride back to Him, and begin reconciliation.
In our chapter, Hosea 8, The Lord is trying to get Israel and Judah’s attention. He calls for a trumpet to sound out in warning that Israel’s enemies are near.
“Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a Vulture is over the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law.” (8:1)
God’s anger is no small thing in this chapter. He describes how Israel and Judah have turned against Him and paid him lip service claiming to know Him, while their actions speak louder than their words ever could.
“To me they cry ‘My God, we-Israel-know you’.” (8:2)
However, throughout the chapter, God puts on full display how far Israel and Judah are from knowing Him at all. They have made golden and silver idols, and disrespected God by eating the meat of their sacrifice (8:8, 13) and have become useless for the Lord:
“Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel.” (8:8)
Israel has stopped being the servants of God, and have become the servants of themselves.Near the end of the chapter, God says this:
“As for my sacrificial offerings, they sacrifice meat and eat it, but the Lord does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt.” (8:13)
The last line of this verse scares me, as it was meant to scare Israel and Judah. What “They shall return to Egypt” really means, is the imminent threat of being enslaved once more. This refers back to Exodus, when Israel, having just been brought out of Egypt by God, built and worshipped the golden calf; an idol.
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” (Exodus 32:7-10)
And not only did they worship an idol in the wilderness, but sought to return to their slavery in Egypt:
“They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17)
Through Israel’s actions, they themselves have returned to slavery. Not of the body, but of the spirit. The whole nation of Israel has developed a cycle of sin that has blinded themselves to God, and that forged the spiritual separation that didn’t bring them anything but shackles. Israel went out and found other gods to be in covenant with, effectively damaging their marriage with God, by breaking the first commandment.:
“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Idolatry is too often a cause of destruction in the Bible. It speaks to our very sin nature as humans to want to place ourselves above God. One thing I especially have learned is that we are not so different from the people in Hosea, or Exodus, or any other book in the Bible, except for one thing: Jesus Christ.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin”. (Romans 6: 6)
God has found Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross sufficient for our sins to be forgiven, and has brought about a supreme reconciliation that Israel desperately needed, but never had. This is how precious the gift of Christ is, and why it is so important to understand what that gift means for us.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
The gift of life, freely given to us. The gift of freedom from being a slave to our own sin. Praise the Lord! We’ve been set free.
Holy Lord, God almighty. You are worthy. You are great and just. I pray that we remember you as our God and our Saviour. Remind us when we forget, call us when we are distant. Open our hearts to you, and please be patient with us. Thank you for forgiving this insurmountable debt, and calling us your own. Lord, we need you. Amen.
Southshore Bible Church • October 26, 2022
For this week’s Insight, rather than following the schedule of the RMM reading plan, we’ll take the opportunity to dwell on another portion of our most recent preaching text, in particular the prophecy quoted by Jesus in 14:27.
As Jesus leads his disciples to the Mount of Olives after their Passover meal, he quotes from the prophet Zechariah:
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ (Mark 14:27)
Often when we read a passage like this, we probably think: “Oh cool, Jesus is fulfilling another prophecy again. I should really check that out sometime.” Let’s take a few minutes to do that together, by going to Zechariah 13.
This is part of the final recorded prophecy of Zechariah, which extends from Ch. 12-15. Here the Lord speaks judgement against Israel, with imagery of total destruction and devastation, with much mourning and weeping to come. This is describing the “Day of the Lord”, the ultimate and final judgment.
In 12:7-9, the Lord describes Israel as a flock of sheep cared for by a shepherd. In the judgement that would come, their shepherd would be struck and the sheep would be scattered. As a result, two thirds of the flock would be destroyed, and only one third preserved, as the flock is refined, like gold by fire.
Bring that image from Zechariah 12 back to Mark 14. When Jesus quotes a prophecy, he is usually calling to our minds the whole of that prophecy. He’s not just pointing us to that one verse about sheep scattering, but to the entire image.
Let’s notice three things that this shows us about Mark 14:
1. The Day of the Lord
Since Jesus is the shepherd of Zechariah 12, the moment of his death is in a real way the “Day of the Lord,” the ultimate judgement that the prophets anticipated. And although there is more judgement to come when Christ returns, in his death, the Lord poured out his wrath. That was indeed the “Day of the Lord.”
2. The Refining of the Flock
When the shepherd is struck, the flock is refined. In Zechariah, only a third remained. After Jesus died, we know only 120 people or so awaited the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, from the crowds of thousands that listened to his teaching, and watched him die. The flock was refined, and the church was born as through fire.
3. The Sovereignty of God
In Zechariah, the actor who “strikes the shepherd” is not identified. We only read:
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;” (Zechariah 12:7a)
Yet when Jesus quotes it, what does he say?
“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Mark 14:27)
As only Jesus can do when quoting Scripture, he identifies the one who strikes the Shepherd, as the one who speaks the prophecy – God himself. Ultimately God is the one who “strikes” the Shepherd Jesus Christ, afflicting suffering and death upon His Son, for our sake.
Praise be to God, that Jesus our Good Shepherd faced the wrath of the Day of the Lord on our behalf, preserves his Church as the faithful remnant, and is sovereign over all things, even his own death.
Jesus we thank you for the many prophecies you fulfilled, demonstrating your divinity, and identity as the Messiah, and Saviour of the world. We praise you as our Good Shepherd, the one who cares for us more than any other, and will never leave us or forsake us. Lord would you give us strength and faith to endure when we go through trials of various kinds, that at the end we may be found faithful.
Southshore Bible Church • October 19, 2022
Today's passage in Daniel chapter 4 speaks to our selfish pride as humans, and how it can lead to destruction. Yet, this passage also offers hope - hope that our joy and fulfillment is found in God alone. After witnessing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego endure the fiery furnace (Ch. 3), King Nebuchadnezzar is immediately brought to his knees and brings praise to the One God, the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In Daniel 4:1-2 he says “Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the most High God has done for me”. It’s hard to believe that the same king who built a massive gold statue demanding its worship, and the same king who used magicians and sorcerers to attempt to interpret his strange dreams - this same pagan, powerful king is now worshiping God? It seems like he has experienced peace from God after witnessing God save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace.
As Nebuchadnezzar’s story progresses in Ch. 4, he has yet another strange dream that troubles him. He first consults all the “Wise Men '' of the times, his astrologers and magicians, then finally Daniel. God reveals the meaning to Daniel, and he interprets this second dream for Nebuchadnezzar.
It’s apparent here that Nebuchadnezzar had quickly returned to other gods. Rather than truly worshiping God, as it first appears in the first couple of verses, he merely added God - Yahweh - to his pantheon of other gods. God would need to humble him further. He would be brought down and humiliated (4:31), thrown out of his kingdom and made to eat grass like an ox. Only at the end of this time of humiliation, once again Nebuchadnezzar “blessed the Most High and praised and honored him, who lives forever” (4:34).
This chapter is not just about the ancient king, Nebuchadnezzar; it is about all of us. How quickly do we lose hold of the peace that God offers us and forget God? In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, it only took one verse! We have such short memories and are such selfish creatures. We falter from walking with the Lord to look for satisfaction in things of this world - often minute to minute. We forget the trials God has brought us through and look to the ways of this world for help as we try to fulfill our needs apart from God.
This is true for those who belong to Christ, and for non-believers as well. People are often heard giving God glory for amazing things in creation, or miracles they may see, or their own accomplishments, yet they don’t truly know God. Thankfully as believers we have truth of the Gospel and eternal hope in Christ, and evidence of his work in our lives. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God with his lips, but did he truly know Yahweh? It is only God’s work in our hearts that can bring salvation. God alone can save - let us be reminded that it is by God’s grace we are saved. Nebuchadnezzar ruled one of the largest civilizations in human history, which has since disappeared. How quickly will the small kingdoms we are building for ourselves here also one day fade away? But what has been done for the Lord will remain forever. As believers we can be reminded by this passage to seek the kingdom of God and not of this world.
Lord, you are good and gracious. Full of mercy and love. We thank you for your word and the lessons we can gain studying your scriptures. Lord help us to have an eternal perspective, as we go through our days. Give us grace to examine our hearts and minds and set our focus on you and your will for our lives. Help us to seek you and remember that the things of this world will one day pass but what is done for you will remain forever. Remind us of the joy and fulfillment that we find in you through praise to your name. Give us wisdom as we study your word and apply your truth to our lives.
Southshore Bible Church • October 12, 2022
There are few books of the Bible more daunting than the looong prophetic books. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Ezekiel.
And that’s where we find ourselves today, right near at the end of Ezekiel, in Chapter 45 of 47. Reading these big books is especially challenging if we are missing a broad understanding, or overview, of what’s happening in the book. Who is the prophet? When does this take place in Israel’s history? Has the prophecy been fulfilled yet? If so, when, and how? These are all key questions that can help us better understand the prophets in particular.
First then, let's locate ourselves within this particular book. Ezekiel was a prophet both before and after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 BC. He prophesied to the people that Jerusalem would fall, he watched it happen, and was exiled with the people to Babylon. Once there, he continued to prophecy with hope for the redemption and return of the people of Israel to the land of promise.
The chapter where we find ourselves (Ch 45) is part of a longer vision of the new temple, and new Jerusalem (Ch. 40-47). Our chapter isn’t particularly riveting (unless you really like blueprints and instruction for sacrifices), but it’s part of an extremely important part of the Bible. This vision is overflowing with expectation and hope that the presence of God would return to the temple in Jerusalem, and God would once again dwell with his people.
As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple … I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. (43:4-7)
“And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” (48:35)
Here’s what’s amazing:
Years later, the people were indeed redeemed from Babylon.
They returned to Israel. They rebuilt Jerusalem. They rebuilt the temple. (See Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).
This is how Ezra recounts the completion of the temple:
They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. (Ezra 6:14b-15)
But what didn’t happen?
Where was the glory of God? Where was the booming voice of God from the temple?
Where was his presence among his people?
It wasn’t there. And it wouldn’t be until Jesus himself walked in the temple courts centuries later. And the prophecy of Ezekiel, of the permanent glorious presence of God dwelling with his people, has yet to be fulfilled. That has not yet come. And we live in hope for the day when Christ will return, the earth will be renewed and redeemed, the kingdom of God will be fully established, and we will live in a City called “The Lord is There.” Thanks be to God!
Lord would we always remember that you are a glorious, eternal, and long-suffering God. Prophecy given by your servants more than two millennia ago, has yet to come to pass. And still you wait, extending grace and mercy to your creation, to your people, before bringing your kingdom. We pray that we would have the patience to wait, to recognize that you are still active and at work, although we cannot always see it. We have faith that you will ever be faithful to your promises.
Southshore Bible Church • October 05, 2022
In this Psalm, we see the Psalmist Ethan the Ezrahite make a plea to God for his faithfulness. The Psalmist first declares God’s power and faithfulness, followed by an account of God’s promise, and ends with confusion based on the current situation for the writer.
In the first section, we see the writer argue that God is powerful and worthy of all praise, but most importantly, God is Faithful. Just in this Psalm alone the reasons given for God's worthiness are that nobody can compare to him, he is above all and mighty in faithfulness, he has power over the creation to calm the raging seas, he crushes his enemies, everything is his in heaven and earth, he created north and south, and righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Ethan understands who God is, and his might. It is this realization that leads him to praise God. A strong understanding of God’s power makes it easier for the psalmist to trust and believe his promises. In this psalm alone, the psalmist uses the word faithfulness 8 times. Ethan wants us to know that God is faithful.
In the next section, we see the promise of the Lord to his people, that he will establish a ruler in the line of David. Ethan prophesies that this ruler will be anointed, the firstborn and highest king of the earth, and will call God his Father. This is a depiction of the coming king, the Saviour of the nation of Israel, the king over the people of God. We see this fulfilment in Jesus, but when Ethan was writing this, it was still just a promise.
In the last section of this psalm, Ethan is dismayed. He knows and has spoken about the power of the Lord, and he knows the promise that has been made. But as Ethan writes, the Lord is full of wrath against the lineage of David. The Lord is sending punishment by making the enemies of the Israelites successful in battle. We read that the walls and strongholds are in ruins. This reality seems to fly in the face of the expectation that God is sending a king to rule over all kings.
In his desperation, Ethan implores God “where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” It is very intentional that God’s faithfulness is mentioned over and over in this psalm, as it is the attribute that Ethan wants to highlight, but there is confusion and concern in the heart of the writer at this moment, as God’s faithfulness seems to be in question.
The cry “How long God?” is something that many of us can understand. There are times when we don't understand what God is doing. There are times when all we can do is ask God “Where is your steadfast love?” and trust that he will be faithful even when things are hard. Even in our questioning, we can and should hold to the fact that God is loving and faithful. Because, unlike Ethan, we are not left with a cliff-hanger, waiting for God to fulfil his promises and show his faithfulness. God showed his faithfulness when he sent his son Jesus Christ who was the promised Messiah, the Saviour for all of God’s people. He is the king over all kings from the line of David, and who will rule forever over all. God is faithful to his promises, and his people who are faithful to him will be saved. The outcome of God’s plan may not always be clear to us as we wait on God, but his faithfulness should never be doubted. In our life when things are hard, and it doesn't feel like God is hearing us, or that he is with us, God is still sovereign, though his plans are not ours.
He is faithful, and will provide for us our needs.
Thank you, Lord God, for your faithfulness to us. Even when we can't see what you are doing in our lives in the moment, we trust that you are working things out to completion. Lord help us to trust in your faithfulness when we are in need of you.
Help us remember the gift of your son Jesus who fulfilled your promises, and who will reign forever as the king of all.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.