God will not play spiritual pat-a-cake with us by allowing us to seek His help while we continue turning to our idols and self-efforts. If God doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers, maybe we need to ask ourselves, “Am I playing spiritual games with God?”
Ezekiel 19 & 20
Are You Playing Spiritual Games?
Ezekiel 19 & 20:
As you’re reading the book of Ezekiel, it might help to remember that this book does not follow Jeremiah chronologically. Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah, although Jeremiah was about 20 years older and began his prophetic ministry over 30 years earlier. Their prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem and the various deportations cover the same events, but while Jeremiah was prophesying to the people in Jerusalem and later in Egypt where he was forced to go late in his ministry, Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon to those who had been taken captive.
In chapter 20, some of the elders of Israel living in captivity came to Ezekiel and asked him to seek the Lord on their behalf. But it’s obvious from God’s response that, despite coming to the prophet, they continued with their idolatry.
Sometimes we forget that the events of the Old Testament are historically true. These were real people and real events.
And if we’re honest, at the heart level, they were not that much different from us. How many times have we prayed and asked God for help and wisdom while we continue to try to work things out in our own strength and in our own way? How often have we turned to our idols for help (something sweet to comfort ourselves, a drink to help us relax, buying something to lift our spirits …) or manipulation (getting angry, pouting, crying, withholding affection …) in order to control someone or something?
In response, God summarized the history of their nation. He reminded them of their captivity in Egypt where they had turned to the gods of their captors. Egypt is a type (think of the old tin-type photos in the 1800s) or a picture of sin.
Even after God brought them out of Egypt so they would have the freedom to worship Him as they had been commanded, they quickly turned back to false gods (remember the golden calf!).
Then after all the ways He demonstrated His provision and power, they refused to trust Him to help them take possession of the Promised Land. Of the 12 spies sent in, only Joshua and Caleb believed that their God was able! So God allowed them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. And even after God allowed them to go in and possess the land, they continued to get involved in idolatry and live life their own way.
How about you? What was your Egypt? Are you still tempted to turn back to false gods? Do you come to God and “inquire of Him”—pray for His answers—and then “work things out” your way because God doesn’t do what you want or doesn’t do it on your timetable?
God will not play spiritual games with us. He will not share His glory with the gods of our own design. Just as in Old Testament times God wants us to “know that He is God”! Let’s pray for His help in recognizing our own sin and idolatry.
Today’s Other Readings:
Those Who Trust in the Lord
On the other hand:
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever,” (v.1).
Quick Riches & Quick Poverty
“A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”
This man or woman has a sinful view of life, especially in the area of material gain. Their narrow self-focused view blinds them to the fact that all they work so hard to get can be taken from them suddenly! Remember Ezekiel 14—they have put the stumbling block of their iniquity right before their eyes and it blinds them to anything else!
Remember Them No More
Verse 16-17, “‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD. I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’”
Think about that, God chooses not to bring back those images of our past sins. And we are commanded to do the same for each other:
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4.32).
We are to forgive one another even as God has forgiven us and “remember” one another’s sins no more. And yet, we so often replay some video over and over in our minds, bringing it to our remembrance again and again!
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll discuss whether church is necessary or optional, trusting God in suffering, the key to the Christian life, and the question, “Where is God when life is hard?”
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Scripture says that offenses will happen. People will let us down and we will let others down, as well. Forgiveness is left up to us to pray about and then practice. Far from minimizing the hurt of the offense, readers are called to understand that offering forgiveness and letting go of bitterness is the only way to walk in faithfulness. Drawing on biblical teaching of our call to forgive, Nancy shows the reader that forgiveness is a choice and the only pathway to true freedom.
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