July 11, 2016

Ezekiel - 
Catastrophe strikes and a person’s world falls apart.  People respond variously, but two of the more common responses are denial and despair.  Denial refuses to acknowledge the catastrophe....despair is paralyzed by the catastrophe and accepts it as the end of the world...

Ezekiel is our master at dealing with catastrophe...Ezekiel found himself living among a people of God who (astonishingly similar to us!) stubbornly refuse to see what was right before their eyes (denial crowd).  There were also some who were unwilling to see anything other than what was right before their eyes (despair crowd).  But Ezekiel saw.  He saw what the people with whom he lived either couldn’t or wouldn’t see.  He saw in wild and unforgettable images, elaborated in exuberant detail - God at work in catastrophic era...Ezekiel showed them that God was and would be at work in the wreckage and rubble, sovereignly using the disaster to create a new people of God.... God’s people emerged from that catastrophic century robust and whole.  And the reason, in large part, was Ezekiel.
 

Ezekiel 1-3 - 
At the age of 30, on the 5th day of the 4th month in the 5th year in exile, God’s word came to Ezekiel in a vision....
When I saw all this, I fell to my knees, my face to the ground. Then I heard a voice. It said, “Son of man, stand up. I have something to say to you.”The moment I heard the voice, the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet. As he spoke to me, I listened.  

He said, “Son of man, I’m sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They’re a hard case, these people to whom I’m sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, ‘This is the Message of God, the Master.’ They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they’ll know that a prophet’s been here. But don’t be afraid of them, son of man, and don’t be afraid of anything they say. Don’t be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don’t be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They’re a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They’re hardened rebels.

“Only take care, son of man, that you don’t rebel like these rebels. Open your mouth and eat what I give you.”When I looked he had his hand stretched out to me, and in the hand a book, a scroll. He unrolled the scroll. On both sides, front and back, were written lamentations and mourning and doom.

The Spirit lifted me and took me away.  I went bitterly and angrily.  I didn’t want to go.  But God had me in his grip so I came to live where the exiles    were living and sat there 7 days appalled... God grabbed me by the shoulder and said Get up. Go out to the plain.  I want to talk with you... I couldn’t believe my eyes, the Glory of God right there. Then the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet.  He said - Go home and shut the door behind you.  They’ll tie your hand and foot with ropes so you can’t leave the house.  I’ll make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so you won’t be able to talk and tell people what they are doing wrong, but when the time is ripe, I’ll free your tongue and you’ll say  This is what God, the master says. 

He told me, “Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel.”  As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat, saying, “Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!”
So I ate it. It tasted so good—just like honey.... Then the Spirit picked me up. Behind me I heard a great commotion—“Blessed be the Glory of God in his Sanctuary!”—the wings of the living creatures beating against each other, the whirling wheels, the rumble of a great earthquake.  The Spirit lifted me and took me away. I went bitterly and angrily. I didn’t want to go. 

But God had me in his grip. I arrived among the exiles who lived near the Kebar River at Tel Aviv. I came to where they were living and sat there for seven days, appalled.  At the end of the seven days, I received this Message from God:
“Son of man, I’ve made you a watchman for the family of Israel. Whenever you hear me say something, warn them for me.... 

God grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Get up. Go out on the plain. I want to talk with you.” So I got up and went out on the plain. I couldn’t believe my eyes: the Glory of God! Right there! It was like the Glory I had seen at the Kebar River. I fell to the ground, prostrate.  Then the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet. He said, “Go home and shut the door behind you.” And then something odd: “Son of man: They’ll tie you hand and foot with ropes so you can’t leave the house. I’ll make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so you won’t be able to talk and tell the people what they’re doing wrong, even though they are a bunch of rebels.  “But then when the time is ripe, I’ll free your tongue and you’ll say, ‘This is what God, the Master, says: . . .’ From then on it’s up to them. They can listen or not listen, whichever they like. They are a bunch of rebels!”

Acts 12 - 
That’s when King Herod got it into his head to go after some of the church members. He murdered James, John’s brother. When he saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews, he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week, mind you—and had him thrown in jail, putting four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. He was planning a public lynching after Passover.

 All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.  Then the time came for Herod to bring him out for the kill. That night, even though shackled to two soldiers, one on either side, Peter slept like a baby. And there were guards at the door keeping their eyes on the place. Herod was taking no chances!

Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. The angel shook Peter and got him up: “Hurry!” The handcuffs fell off his wrists. The angel said, “Get dressed. Put on your shoes.” Peter did it. Then, “Grab your coat and let’s get out of here.” Peter followed him, but didn’t believe it was really an angel—he thought he was dreaming....
At the first intersection the angel left him, going his own way. That’s when Peter realized it was no dream. “I can’t believe it—this really happened! The Master sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s vicious little production and the spectacle the Jewish mob was looking forward to.”

Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice—Peter’s voice!—she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street....

But they wouldn’t believe Rhoda, dismissing her, dismissing her report. “You’re crazy,” they said.....  All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away. Finally they opened up and saw him—and went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, “Tell James and the brothers what’s happened.” He left them and went off to another place.

At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. “Where is Peter? What’s happened to Peter?” When Herod sent for him and they could neither produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution: “Off with their heads!” Fed up with Judea and Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.

But things went from bad to worse for Herod.... God had had enough of Herod’s arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if there ever was one, he died.

Meanwhile, the ministry of God’s Word grew by leaps and bounds.  Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John with them, the one they called Mark.