July 16, 2016

Ezekiel 12-14 - 
 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, you’re living with a bunch of rebellious people. They have eyes but don’t see a thing, they have ears but don’t hear a thing. They’re rebels all. So, son of man, pack up your exile duffel bags. Leave in broad daylight with everyone watching and go off, as if into exile. Maybe then they’ll understand what’s going on, rebels though they are....Cover your face so you won’t have to look at what you’ll never see again. I’m using you as a sign for the family of Israel.”

The next morning God spoke to me: “Son of man, when anyone in Israel, that bunch of rebels, asks you, ‘What are you doing?’ Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says that this Message especially concerns the prince in Jerusalem—Zedekiah—but includes all the people of Israel.’ “Also tell them, ‘I am drawing a picture for you. As I am now doing, it will be done to all the people of Israel. They will go into exile as captives.’...

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, preach against the prophets of Israel who are making things up out of their own heads and calling it ‘prophesying.’  “Preach to them the real thing....  All they do is fantasize comforting illusions and preach lying sermons. They say ‘God says . . .’ when God hasn’t so much as breathed in their direction. And yet they stand around thinking that something they said is going to happen.... The fact is that they’ve lied to my people. They’ve said, ‘No problem; everything’s just fine,’ when things are not at all fine.... Say, ‘Will you kill the souls of my people, use living souls to make yourselves rich and popular? You have profaned me among my people just to get ahead yourselves, used me to make yourselves look good—killing souls who should never have died and coddling souls who shouldn’t live. You’ve lied to people who love listening to lies.’...

Some of the leaders of Israel approached me and sat down with me. God’s Message came to me: “Son of Man, these people have installed idols in their hearts. They have embraced the wickedness that will ruin them. Why should I even bother with their prayers? Therefore tell them, ‘The Message of God, the Master: All in Israel who install idols in their hearts and embrace the wickedness that will ruin them and still have the gall to come to a prophet, be on notice: I, God, will step in and personally answer them as they come dragging along their mob of idols. I am ready to go to work on the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom have left me for their idols.’...

When a country sins agains me by living faithlessly and I reach out and destroy its food supply by bringing on a famine, wiping out humans and animals alike    even if Noah, Daniel and Job - the big three - were alive at the same time, it wouldn’t do the population any good.  Their righteousness would only save their own lives....    
                        
Acts 15:1-15:21 - 
It wasn’t long before some Jews showed up from Jerusalem insisting that everyone be circumcised. “If you’re not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can’t be saved.”  Paul and Barnabas were up on their feet at once in fierce protest so the church decided to send them & a few others to Jerusalem to put it before the apostles and leaders there....  

When they got to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were graciously received by the whole church, including the apostles and leaders. They reported on their recent journey and how God had used them to open things up to the outsiders. Some Pharisees stood up to say their piece. They had become believers, but continued to hold to the hard party line of the Pharisees. “You have to circumcise the pagan converts,” they said. “You must make them keep the Law of Moses.” 

The apostles and leaders called a special meeting to consider the matter. The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. 

Then Peter took the floor: “Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that he wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it—and not in any secondhand or roundabout way, but firsthand, straight from my mouth. And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him.
 
“So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”

There was dead silence.  No one said a word.

With the room quiet, Paul & Barnabas reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done through their ministry.  The silence deepened you could hear a pin drop.  

James broke the     silence - friends, listen!!  Peter has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that outsiders were included.  This is in perfect agreement with the words of the prophets... “So outsiders who seek will find, so they’ll have a place to come to.  All pagan peoples r included in what I am doing”.... 

So here is my decision:  We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We’ll write them a letter and tell them, ‘Be careful to not get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, to not serve food offensive to Jewish Christians—blood, for instance.’ This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.”