Daily Reflections September 29, 2017
Ezekiel gives his final oracle against the nations. The purpose of these oracles are abundantly clear by the repeated phrase, “know I am the Lord.” The nations have rebelled against God and His people, revealing their willful ignorance of the Almighty. These chapters record how God makes it very plain to the nations that he is the only true God. As Judah heard these oracles, they were intensely reminded about the impotence of the gods that they had been trifling with by intermingling among these nations.
In this chapter, Ezekiel gives his oracle against the Pharaoh and Egypt. Interestingly, the first thing he does is expose the self-deception of Pharaoh in a graphic picture. He thinks that he is a lion, the king of the jungle. He sees himself as being able to roam as he pleases and making a vast kingdom. But, in reality, God says that he is a dragon or crocodile just frivolously thrashing in the water. Instead of a kingdom, he is just making a muddy mess.
God then proceeds to say that he will bring him out and graphicly make him nothing. Pharaoh is not unlike most people, however. Naturally, we tend to be deceived into thinking that we are something that we are not. It started in the Garden of Eden when Satan deceived Adam and Eve into thinking that they could be God. Even today, we listen to the fervent whispers of the enemy telling us that we are the king of our jungle. But the Word of God exposes the reality of our condition. It stands as a mirror that shows us who we really are. James tells us this:
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:23-25).
Those who are not justified by faith in Jesus Christ and devoid of the Spirit are bound to hear God’s Word, see their condition, but leave to be deceived and forget again. The result is no true change. That’s exactly what Pharaoh did throughout the life of Egypt. And that is exactly what many people do in church today. Sadly, the same fate will befall them both as they will be taken by God, brought to nothing, and spend eternity facing God’s wrath.
But thankfully, when we are redeemed by Christ and given the Holy Spirit, we are able not only to see our natural face revealed by God’s Word but we are also able by God’s grace to change. We can, one degree at a time, conform to the image of our Jesus Christ. We are not doomed to stay a crocodile. God has so designed it so that we are able to become a king of a forest!
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
Psalm 80 is written in a time of turmoil. Scholars have suggested that this Psalm was written after the Assyrian capture of the northern kingdom. It is clear from this psalm that God’s people are in deep need of God’s restorative touch. This is, after all, the thrice repeated plea of the psalmist found in verses 3, 7, and 19.
“Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”
These words probably ring familiar to many of you. Often used as a benediction to close the Sunday worship service, they are originally found in Number 6:24-26.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
In their original context these are the words that the Lord instructs Aaron and his sons to bless God’s people with. They are symbolic of God’s love, favour, and protection. In Psalm 80 it is clear that this blessing has been taken away from Israel, and now that the people are without it, they cry out in desperate need for God to restore their fortunes. Without the blessing of God the people have become objects of contentions and a laughing stock to the nations (v.6).
Beginning in verse 8 the psalmist begins reflecting on the history of Israel. He remembers the way the Lord brought them out of Egypt and drove out the nations before them. He remembers how God’s people prospered and filled the land under the Lord’s protection. This protection, however, had now been removed (v.12). Elsewhere in Scripture we learn that God used the Assyrians as a way to punish Israel for their unfaithfulness to God’s covenant (Isaiah 10:5-6). As one who has learnt his lesson quickly, Asaph cries out to God and asks for restoration.
In their season of prosperity Israel was quick to forget that the Lord was the Giver of their many blessings. Rather than maintaining covenant fidelity, the people grew self-confident and began seeking other gods. It took a great disaster for the people to remember again the Shepherd of Israel and the covenant He made with them. In verse 17 we find an allusion to God’s Davidic promises. Asaph is asking that the Lord be faithful to His promises to establish the Davidic throne forever (cf. 2 Samuel 7:14-16, Psalm 110:1).
This side of history it is impossible to not see Jesus in this text. Jesus is presented in the Gospels not only as the Son of Man, but also as the true vine (John 15:1). God ultimately answered the requests of Asaph by means of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It is through Christ that God has shone His face upon the people and restored them to Himself.
Director of Youth Ministries Ryan Shevalier