Daily Reflections September 6, 2017
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 ESV)
Today’s text in Ezekiel sheds light on the weightiness of Hebrews 10:31. Have we lost sight of the awful holiness of God? There are popular Christian scholars writing books about the “death of the warrior God” with much fanfare and acclaim. Our generation desperately wants to believe that God is somehow misrepresented in texts like Ezekiel 9. We fear a God who would punish the unrighteous.
Christian, I want to urge you to leave behind the reinvented god of our modern scholars and to love wholeheartedly the true God who has revealed himself in the word and through His Son Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-4). Don’t make excuses for challenging passages. Lean into the text and invite God to use it to teach, correct, rebuke and train up in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
In today’s passage, Ezekiel receives a vision in which God calls the guards of Jerusalem to march through the city with a specific task. They are to put a mark on all those who have remained faithful to God. Everyone without a mark – those who succumbed to the idolatry that had made its way into the city – were destroyed at God’s command; old men, young men, women and children. This account is strikingly similar to the tenth plague in the Exodus narrative where God struck down the firstborn of every family that did not have the lamb’s blood spread across their door frames. These stories are sobering and they teach us some valuable lessons about God.
First and foremost, they teach us that God is holy and that He cannot turn a blind eye to sin. Every sin will be accounted for, Old Testament and New. This is why the Apostle Paul could write:
“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a ESV)
If we lose sight of that reality, we will lose all zeal for evangelism. If we buy the line that these modern scholars are selling, we and the world around us will pay the price. Softening God and trying to reframe Him in our own image is foolish, dangerous and sinful. False teachers have been whispering, “Did God really say?” for as long as God’s commands have existed. Look down at your Bible and read Ezekiel 9 once again. Yes, God did say, and unlike our parents Adam and Eve before us, we would be wise to listen.
And as we listen, we hear a sweet Gospel sound in this terrible warning. Mirroring the tenth plague, there is a mark that is placed on God’s people; this mark on the forehead is a guarantee of life and salvation. Consider the blood of Christ that speaks a better word (Heb. 12:24). Consider the Holy Spirit that seals believers as children of God who will inherit eternal life (Eph. 1:13). Look at the familiar imagery in Revelation:
“Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (Rev. 7:2-3 ESV)
Our God is a God who punishes sin with death. He is perfectly holy and He does not change. He brings salvation to those who are His and He puts a mark on them that cannot be removed. Those with His mark are set apart for salvation. Our God shows a holy love, Old Testament and New. We would do well to throw away the books that try to make apologies and excuses for God’s holiness. They titillate and fascinate, but they speak a message that is in complete contradiction to the only book on your shelf with a Divine Author. Don’t give them your time.
Pastor Levi denBok
The Sons of Korah, worship leaders in the tabernacle and temple, composed Psalm 48. This Psalm is a Song of Zion, a sub-category of Psalms (see also Psalms 84 and 87 as other examples). On the surface, this Song of Zion extols the glory of the Temple Mount, Mount Zion in Jerusalem. At its deepest level however, it praises Jerusalem’s great God. It is his presence, power and protection that are symbolized by the awe-inspiring beauty of the holy mountain.
In this Psalm, we see first (vv. 1-3) the praise of God and the praise of Zion, God’s dwelling place. Second (vv. 4-8), we read of the defeat of God and the city’s enemies. Third (vv. 9-11), we see the reason for the praise of Jerusalem. Finally (vv. 12-14), we are called to praise the unfailing God.
The Psalm is framed (vv. 1, 14) with the praiseworthiness of God.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain…this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever. (Psalm 48:1,14 ESV)
What was so beautiful about this mountain, Mount Zion, that it was the source of such human awe? While astounding in its architectural beauty, its praise was derived from its significance as the city of the great King, where God may be known and worshiped on earth.
The people of God see differently from people of the world. Verses 4–8 provide a striking contrast of two types of vision. The world saw Jerusalem through mere human eyes, and the worshipers of God saw it with spiritual eyes. When kings and armies saw Jerusalem, they were terrified by its sheer physical impregnability and the fear that arose from the presence of God surrounding Mount Zion. In Old Testament history, God preserved the holy city when it was under great threat from imposing armies. We might remember the defeat of allied armies in Jehoshaphat’s time (2 Chronicles 20:1-30), or the defeat of Sennacherib’s 185,000 person Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35-36). The sight that terrified kings saw was the same sight that caused the hearts of pilgrim worshipers to rejoice as they approached Jerusalem and God their protector.
Verses 9-11 turn our attention from the holy place to the holy presence in that place. Mount Zion itself, the object of praise, praises God for his covenant faithfulness, righteousness, victory and judgments.
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. (Psalm 48:9 ESV)
Security in the face of threats ultimately rests upon God’s lovingkindness. God is totally reliable and completely worthy of trust and worship. God’s name is his honour.
As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. (Psalm 48:10 ESV)
Believers, we await the time when the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be the highest of mountains, and all the nations will stream to it to worship him (Isaiah 2:1-3). We await the arrival of the beautifully prepared New Jerusalem, where God will judge all nations and live with all believers.
In that place God’s glory will be experienced, and all suffering and evil will be removed (Revelation 21:1-5). In Christ our Saviour and intercessor who has made us right with God, who has made us new and who makes all things new, we have confident hope in his present help and future glory.
…this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever. (Psalm 48:14 ESV)
Associate Pastor Jody Cross