July 25, 2015

Ezekiel 35-37
God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, confront Mount Seir. Prophesy against it! Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: “‘I’m coming down hard on you, Mount Seir... “‘I’m doing this because you’ve kept this age-old grudge going against Israel: You viciously attacked them when they were already down, looking their final punishment in the face....

 “And now, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel. Say, ‘Mountains of Israel, listen to God’s Message. God, the Master, says, Because the enemy crowed over you, “Good! Those old hills are now ours!” now here is a prophecy in the name of God, the Master:... Mountains of Israel, listen to the Message of God, the Master. My Message to mountains and hills, to ditches and valleys, to the heaps of rubble and the emptied towns that are looted for plunder and turned into jokes by all the surrounding nations:...

“‘But you, Mountains of Israel, will burst with new growth, putting out branches and bearing fruit for my people Israel. My people are coming home! Do you see? I’m back again. I’m on your side.... The country will burst into life, life, and more life, your towns and villages full of people just as in the old days. I’ll treat you better than I ever have. And you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll put people over you—my own people Israel! They’ll take care of you and you’ll be their inheritance....

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, when the people of Israel lived in their land, they polluted it by the way they lived... Wherever they went, they gave me a bad name. People said, ‘These are God’s people, but they got kicked off his land.’ I suffered much pain over my holy reputation, which the people of Israel blackened in every country they entered. “Therefore, tell Israel, ‘Message of God, the Master: I’m not doing this for you, Israel. I’m doing it for me, to save my character, my holy name, which you’ve blackened in every country where you’ve gone...

“‘For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!... “‘I’m not doing this for you. Get this through your thick heads! Shame on you. What a mess you made of things, Israel!...

God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them..He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  I said, “Master God, only you know that.”... So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.  Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’... When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it....

God’s Message came to me: “You, son of man: Take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, with his Israelite companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph—Ephraim’s stick, together with all his Israelite companions.’ Then tie the two sticks together so that you’re holding one stick... I’ll save them out of all their old sinful haunts. I’ll clean them up. They’ll be my people! I’ll be their God! My servant David will be king over them. They’ll all be under one shepherd....

Never again will they be divided into two nations, two kingdoms. Never again will they pollute their lives with their no-god idols and all those vile obscenities and rebellions. “‘They’ll follow my laws and keep my statutes. They’ll live in the same land I gave my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their grandchildren will live there forever, and my servant David will be their prince forever. I’ll make a covenant of peace with them that will hold everything together, an everlasting covenant. I’ll make them secure and place my holy place of worship at the center of their lives forever. I’ll live right there with them. I’ll be their God! They’ll be my people!

“‘The nations will realize that I, God, make Israel holy when my holy place of worship is established at the center of their lives forever.’”

Acts 19:21-19:41
After all this had come to a head, Paul decided it was time to move on to Macedonia and Achaia provinces, and from there to Jerusalem. “Then,” he said, “I’m off to Rome. I’ve got to see Rome!” He sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, on to Macedonia and then stayed for a while and wrapped things up in Asia.

But before he got away, a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as “the Way.” A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business...“Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter—the whole world worships our Artemis!”... 

That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling,...  They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium, and grabbing two of Paul’s associates on the way, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus.   Paul wanted to go in, too, but the disciples wouldn’t let him. Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred: “By no means go near that mob!”

Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there. As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamored to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms. But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down: “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!”—on and on and on, for over two hours.... 38-41 “So if Demetrius and his guild of artisans have a complaint, they can take it to court and make all the accusations they want.

Finally, the town clerk got the mob quieted down and said,... “These men you’ve dragged in here have done nothing to harm either our temple or our goddess.... Since this is beyond contradiction, you had better get hold of yourselves. This is conduct unworthy of Artemis....There is no excuse for what’s happened today. We’re putting our city in serious danger. Rome, remember, does not look kindly on rioters.” With that, he sent them home.