Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

Month: August 2018

Coming Back To Life

September 1 – Today’s Readings – Ezekiel 37-39 and Psalms 61

There is a section of Chapter 37 that is very significant to the Church in these last days. It is the account of a bunch of dead and decomposed men – “dry bones” coming back to life and assembling as an army through a sovereign act of God. These dry bones can symbolize several things but it seems one of the most appropriate interpretations is that of God’s people coming back to life spiritually – “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live,” – “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel”.

When there is a group of people who are “asleep” spiritually – just a bunch of dry bones – God will, under the right circumstances, blow The Breath of Life into that situation and bring forth a powerful army. People call it “revival”, “renewal” or some other spiritual term that refers to the same spiritual occurrence – the life of God.

Q. Is there anything we can do to “bring on” this breath of God? Well – yes and no – Yes because we understand Biblically that God responds to repentance, prayer, worship, a soft heart, etc. We can “position” ourselves to receive fresh anointing from the Spirit – and – NO because it is up to God and only God To “blow” on the people in a supernatural way. There are times and seasons for some of these occurances that only God knows and we don’t. When God moves in a miraculous way – overriding all “natural” law, we always are left in awe of His greatness and amazed at what He has accomplished in His divine plan.

I constantly yearn to see a “glorious” Church – an army of God – filled with the Spirit – united in Christ. We understand that this is already the case “theologically” but we need to continue to pray for the Church to “manifest” the Glory of God. There is also a place in our spiritual lives where, like Ezekiel, we too can begin to “prophecy” to the dry bones – maybe our own dry bones – maybe a project more group oriented like our home Church. This “prophesying” is nothing less than agreeing with the mind and heart of God concerning His purposes in a given situation. It requires of course that we hear His voice in our hearts, but then that we speak “prophetically” so that others (dry bones) can hear the word of the Lord and live. These might be unsaved people who need to hear the life of the Gospel – or they may be Christians who need freshness in their experience with God. One way or the other, I believe God loves to see dry bones come to life through the encouraging, life giving words of His saints.

“He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:2-5)

Questions:

1. Tell of another instance from Scripture were someone was called upon to “prophesy” to a situation in order to change it.
2. Have you ever had an experience in your life where you felt God telling you to “speak into” a dead or dying situation? Tell about it.

Shepherds

August 31 – Today’s Readings – Ezekiel 34-36 and Psalms 61

Ezekiel 34:1-10 reads, “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 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. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 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. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 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, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 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.”

Here is the Lord God, holding people accountable for the “flock” of God. His challenge is simple – you are not just supposed to look after yourselves or use your religious position and influence to improve your lot in life – you are supposed to care for others – people who could use your help. You should have compassion on people and treat them with respect. You should also be setting an example for others to follow!

Jesus spent much of His “sermon” time challenging us concerning loving one another – the good Samaritan style of spirituality – showing compassion – not using our “riches” for ourselves but following His example of giving His life for others.

There is a clear Messianic prophecy found in Ezekiel 34:11-16 – a picture of Christ and His ministry as “Shepherd”. This is also a picture of what our lives should look like if we are to be ambassadors of Christ. We are challenged to be “shepherds” of the Lord and your “flock” are those people who come in contact with you – those whom you influence. When we see all the spiritually confused people around us, we have no choice but to help them find the Good Shepherd and to become good shepherds in the flesh.

Questions:

1. Are you and I shepherds? Are we supposed to look after others?
2. What kind of “heart” is required to become a shepherd like Christ has called us to be?

Watch Over Them For Good

August 4 – Today’s Readings – Jeremiah 22-24 and Psalms 34

We see a shift happening in the book of Jeremiah right around Chapter 24. Just as soon as the people of God have gone into captivity as a result of their sin, God is already revealing His plan to get them out of there and back to where they belong. “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jeremiah 24:5-7)

70 years was the appointed time set for the nation to be in Babylon and as we continue to read we will see that God looked after His people there and revealed Himself to them there. The people who listened to God while in captivity prospered. God placed some of them (Daniel and friends – Esther and Mordecai – Ezekiel the prophet – Ezra – Nehemiah and all the other Governors and Prophets) in great positions of honor and authority in the nation of Babylon where they had been taken. God visited several ruthless Babylonian rulers like Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius who were reigning over Israel during those years. These men were all transformed by the power of the Lord and the people of God often prospered under them.

What brings great comfort to me is not so much that the sin was judged but that even in this sentencing to captivity, God’s purposes and plans were redemptive. The reason for the captivity and judgment was to save the people from the sinful lifestyles they had chosen. Sounds like the world today – held captive by sin and brought to our knees in “Babylon” so that we can come home to God. This corrective, redemptive heart of God is also seen in the Church – “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:5-11)

When God corrects, it is as a parent corrects – when God passed judgment on Israel and Judah it was in the hope that they would repent. Even Nineveh’s judgment (Jonah 4:11) was cancelled when they turned back to the Lord. No, even the judgments of God are loving and for our good!

Questions:

1. Give another example from Scripture where God showed His “love” by passing judgment on a given situation.
2. Give an example from your own life where the “discipline” of God saved you from yourself.

Day After Day, Month After Month

August 3 – Today’s Readings – Jeremiah 19-21 and Psalms 33

Day after day – week after week – month after month – year after year – this man, Jeremiah, repeated his message using slightly different phrasing and somewhat different illustrations. THE MESSAGE, HOWEVER, REMAINED THE SAME:

· “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.” (Jeremiah 19:3)
· “I will devastate this city and make it an object of scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds.” (Jeremiah 19:8)
· – “and say to them, This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.” (Jeremiah 19:11)
Here then was a simple monotonous constant message – God is against you because of your sin and rebellion. He is going to bring destruction on you and take you into exile. REPENT!

The response of the people was just as predictable – “When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the LORD’s temple.” (Jeremiah 20:1-2)) Month after month and year after year, the people and leaders of the people ignored this one-track-mind negative orator. Yet destruction WAS coming. It was rather like the days of Noah. It was somewhat like the days of Lot. It was much like the years when God was judging the inhabitants of the land of Canaan and was leading Joshua to take that land away from the people who had desecrated it. This time however, the tables were turned. It was the people of God – those who had built their nation on the principles of God that were in rebellion and about to be judged.

I know that the judgments of God for this earth have only just begun and that He is still in the business of watching over the earth and wanting to bless the nations that do right, live right and judge righteously. God LOVES “rightness” in the moral sense. He is of course also interested in His Church and his individual sons and daughters doing what is right. This however is no hardship for us. We know His burden – it is easy. We know His cross – it is light. God so fills us with grace that when we are living “RIGHT”, we are speaking our native language and are doing what our born-again nature leads us into. Praise God for His unspeakable grace.

Questions:

1. Give another Scriptural example of God giving people plenty of warning before taking action to judge their sin.
2. Give an example of the grace of God in action – helping someone to be “holy” in the midst of a wicked situation.

God’s Emotions

August 2 – Today’s Readings – Jeremiah 16-18 and Psalms 32

Notice at the end of these verses how Jeremiah lashes out against the people who have not listened to him and have threatened him. “Listen to me, O LORD; hear what my accusers are saying! Should good be repaid with evil? Yet they have dug a pit for me. Remember that I stood before you and spoke in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them. So give their children over to famine; hand them over to the power of the sword. Let their wives be made childless and widows; let their men be put to death, their young men slain by the sword in battle. Let a cry be heard from their houses when you suddenly bring invaders against them, for they have dug a pit to capture me and have hidden snares for my feet. But you know, O LORD, all their plots to kill me. Do not forgive their crimes or blot out their sins from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger.” (Jeremiah 18:19-23)

These are very harsh and vindictive statements from the lips of Jeremiah, the man of God, but they do illustrate something. If a servant of God like Jeremiah can have such strong feelings of judgment when the people reject him, then maybe this can help us understand the strong emotions expressed by the Lord Himself. Why should the Lord not have emotion when His people continually turn their backs on Him? When the Lord was trying to describe His own hurt feelings to Jeremiah – the anger He felt – judgment the people deserved – Jeremiah probably never really connected emotionally. However, when he too was rejected and threatened by the same people, he lashed out violently. Interesting how it’s sometimes only when we connect with God through human experience that we fully begin to understand His heart. Fast forward to the New Testament and we find a new and better way to deal with rejection – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43-44) These kinds of attitudes can only be obtained through the power of the Holy Spirit.

On an unrelated note, Psalms 32 gives us understanding concerning the intimate relationship we have with the Lord. The “me in them and them in me” relationship we share with Jesus is described by the Psalmist as he talks about “aching bones” and the hand of the Lord being “heavy upon” him because he had sinned. It’s only because of God’s intense love relationship with us that we would ever have a spiritual experience of this kind. Your conscience won’t give you a moment’s rest till you “confess your transgressions to the Lord”. Then forgiveness comes with “songs of deliverance”. The ultimate lesson learned here however is that we were not meant to “be controlled by bit and bridle” but by the glance of His eye – by the nudge of the Spirit of God. Re-read this Psalm if you have a moment and see the beauty of this love relationship we share with Christ.

Questions:

1. Give another Scriptural example of God showing intense emotion.
2. Have you ever experienced a “bit and bridle” kind of discipline from the Lord? – How about a “glance of the eye” kind of correction? Tell about it.

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