OT: Ezekiel 29:1-30:26
Today's prophecies focus on the destruction of Egypt. In the first half of chapter 29, the Nile River figures prominently and in interesting ways. First of all, it is mentioned twice in statements explaining the reason for God's wrath against Pharoah: "You say, 'The Nile is mine; I made it for myself" (29:3, 9). Pharoah's declaration indicates that he has placed himself in the place of God and has refused to acknowledge God's presence. That arrogance borders on an idolatrous worship of self, and God plans on bringing that to an end. In speaking of that end, the prophecy again uses the Nile to paint a figurative image. Pharoah is described as the "great monster" of the Nile, whom God is going to fish out. Pharoah will not be alone, though, as God is going to "make the fish of your streams stick to your scales" (4). Thus, the reader gets a crazy image of this big sea monster, with all these fish stuck to him, being fished out of the Nile and thrown into the desert to die. I've got to say, that's a memorable image. Brutal, but memorable.
The rest of the reading discusses the fall of Egypt in more detail, adding other reasons for their fall (Egypt's failure to save Israel and their use of idols), the means of their fall (Babylon), and the reason for Babylon's victory (b/c God felt sorry for them for not defeating Tyre???).
Today, I was struck yet again by the overall theme of the prophets that God is in direct control of the fate of all nations.
NT: Hebrews 11:32-12:13
We wrap up the hall of faith chapter today, with the author switching from a chronology to a collection of generalities. I actually think I like the generalities better; they are very well written. I love the list that stretches from verses 32-34:
"And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies."
I'm a sucker for good parallel structure.
The way that the writer goes on to speak triumphantly of the horrific deaths of various martyrs (36-38) reminds me that the Bible's view of life is very, very different than our typical view. These verses reinforce some of the thoughts I've had about Ezekiel in the past couple of blogs. I also like the reminder that many of these people died without having "received what had been promised" (39). The grand narrative of God's work in history is bigger than any one life, and there is no guarantee that we will understand all the reasons behind and meanings of the events of our lives at any point during our lifetimes. Like those martyrs, we play only small roles in a very large play. And yet, those roles are glorious. Regarding those players, the Hebrew writer declares, "the world was not worthy of them" (38).
In light of those ideas, the writer then urges us to play our little roles to the fullest:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
What resonated most with me today was the idea of keeping our eyes on Jesus. Right now, my life is full of wonderful opportunities that God has given me to glorify Him. And I am determined to make the most of them. I have been determined to "run with perseverance the race marked out for" me. And yet, in my determination, I have begun to take my eyes off Jesus. Instead, my eyes have been focused on myself, on getting done what I have to do, and persevering through the busyness and stress of it all. I have been relying on myself, and not on God's strength. And honestly, my actions have stopped being a form of worship to Him. Now, I know that I can't always keep the perfect mindset in everything I do, but in this case, I know that my faulty mindset has come from my lack of reliance on God, especially through prayer. And after trying to handle everything on my own for the past couple of days, I am more than ready to fix my eyes back on Jesus!
Psalm 112: 1-10
A lovely little psalm of blessing to those who fear God. My favorite verses are 4-5:
"Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.
Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice."
I also like the idea of his heart being secure and of his act of scattering "abroad his gifts to the poor" (8,9).
One of my favorite proverbs. I am so thankful to have several friends (including my husband) who sharpen me "as iron sharpens iron."