July 13, 2015

Ezekiel 7-8
God’s Word came to me, saying, “You, son of man—God, the Master, has this Message for the land of Israel: “‘Endtime.  The end of business as usual for everyone.  It’s all over. The end is upon you. I’ve launched my anger against you.  I’ve issued my verdict on the way you live. I’ll make you pay for your disgusting obscenities.  I won’t look the other way, I won’t feel sorry for you....

The country is bankrupt because of its sins and it’s not going to get any better... they tripped on money and fell into sin.  Proud and pretentious with their jewels, they deck out their vile and vulgar no-gods in finery... I’ll put a end to the boasting and strutting of the high and mighty.  They clamor for the prophet to tell them what’s up but nobody knows anything.  Priests don’t have a clue, the elders don’t know what to say...the common people are paralyzed.  Gripped by fear, they can’t move.
                                
In the 6th year in the 6th month of the fifth day,... the Spirit swept Ezekiel high int the air and carried him in visions of God to Jerusalem to the entrance of the north gate where the images of the sex goddess that makes God so angry had set up....

I entered and looked. I couldn’t believe my eyes: Painted all over the walls were...—the whole pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses—being worshiped by Israel. In the middle of the room were seventy of the leaders of Israel,... Each held his censer with the incense rising in a fragrant cloud.

The Spirit said, “Son of man, do you see what the elders are doing here in the dark, each one before his favorite god-picture? They tell themselves, ‘God doesn’t see us. God has forsaken the country.’” Then he said, “You’re going to see worse yet.”...

He took me to the entrance at the north gate of the Temple of God. I saw women sitting there, weeping for Tammuz, the Babylonian fertility god. He said, “Have you gotten an eyeful, son of man? You’re going to see worse yet.”

Finally, he took me to the inside court of the Temple of God. There between the porch and the altar were about twenty-five men. Their backs were to God’s Temple. They were facing east, bowing in worship to the sun.

The Spirit said, “Have you seen enough, son of man? Isn’t it bad enough that Judah engages in these outrageous obscenities? They fill the country with violence and now provoke me even further with their obscene gestures. That’s it. They have an angry God on their hands! From now on, no mercy. They can shout all they want, but I’m not listening.”

Acts 13:14 -13:52 -
In Antioch, on the Sabbath, they went to the meeting place and took their places. After the reading of the Scriptures—God’s Law and the Prophets—the president of the meeting asked them, “Friends, do you have anything you want to say? A word of encouragement, perhaps?” Paul stood up, paused and took a deep breath, then said,

“Fellow Israelites and friends of God, listen. God took a special interest in our ancestors, pulled our people who were beaten down in Egyptian exile to their feet, and led them out of there in grand style.... 

Up to the time of Samuel the prophet, God provided judges to lead them. But then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul out of the tribe of Benjamin. After Saul had ruled forty years, God removed him from office and put King David in his place, with this commendation: ‘I’ve searched the land and found this David, son of Jesse. He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him.’

From out of David’s descendants God produced a Savior for Israel, Jesus, exactly as he promised—but only after John had thoroughly alerted the people to his arrival by preparing them for a total life-change.... “Dear brothers and sisters, children of Abraham, and friends of God, this message of salvation has been precisely targeted to you.  The citizens and rulers in Jerusalem didn’t recognize who he was.... They couldn’t find a good reason, but demanded that Pilate execute him anyway. They did just what the prophets said they would do, but had no idea they were following to the letter the script of the prophets, even though those same prophets are read every Sabbath in their meeting places.

After they had done everything the prophets said they would do, they took him down from the cross and buried him. And then God raised him from death. There is no disputing that—he appeared over and over again many times and places to those who had known him well in the Galilean years, and these same people continue to give witness that he is alive. “And we’re here today bringing you good news: the Message that what God promised the fathers has come true for the children—for us! He raised Jesus, exactly as described in the second Psalm: My Son! My very own Son! Today I celebrate you!...“Don’t take this lightly. You don’t want the prophet’s sermon to describe you:  Watch out, cynics; Look hard—watch your world fall to pieces. I’m doing something right before your eyes.  That you won’t believe, though it’s staring you in the face.”

When the service was over, Paul and Barnabas were invited back to preach again the next Sabbath. As the meeting broke up, a good many Jews and converts to Judaism went along with Paul and Barnabas, who urged them in long conversations to stick with what they’d started, this living in and by God’s grace.  When the next Sabbath came around, practically the whole city showed up to hear the Word of God. Some of the Jews, seeing the crowds, went wild with jealousy and tore into Paul, contradicting everything he was saying, making an ugly scene. 

But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they said, “It was required that God’s Word be spoken first of all to you, the Jews. But seeing that you want no part of it—you’ve made it quite clear that you have no taste or inclination for eternal life—the door is open to all the outsiders. And we’re on our way through it, following orders, doing what God commanded...

When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune. All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.

Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave. Paul and Barnabas shrugged their shoulders and went on to the next town brimming with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples.