OT: Ezekiel 33:1-34:31
In chapter 33, Ezekiel hears that Jerusalem has fallen and shares a prophecy that he claims to receive the night before. I believe him, of course, but I can see how skeptics would think, "Suuuuuure." Although, honestly, he has been prophesying the fall of Jerusalem for awhile now, and the actual content of the prophecy is not all about the fall of Jerusalem. Instead, it is another reminder that people will be judged individually, according to their actions. People who turn from their wickedness will be saved, and people who turn from their righteousness will not. Past actions do not matter; it is what the people are doing right now that counts.
In chapter 34, I noticed many themes that continue in the New Testament. Verses 1-10 describe the leaders of Judah as "shepherds," and these shepherds are condemned in an elaborate metaphor. Similarly, the leaders of the New Testament church are called elders, or shepherds (1 Peter 5). The condemnation of these leaders is also echoed in some of Jesus' accusations against the Pharisees, such as when he accuses them of placing heavy burdens on the people.
In verses 11-16, God says that because the earthly shepherds are doing such a lousy job, that He Himself will be their shepherd. This metaphor is, of course, continued by Jesus, who calls Himself the "good Shepherd," and provides his own lengthy metaphor contrasting Himself with hired hands and sheep thieves (John 10).
In verses 17-24, God says that, in His role as shepherd, He will judge "between one sheep and another, between rams and goats" (17). The figurative language here is very similar to Jesus' description of judgment in Matthew 25.
In verse 25, God says that He will "make a covenant of peace" with His people, which reminded me of the talk of reconciliation b/t man and God in Ephesians 2 and 2 Cor. 5.
I always like seeing how themes of the OT inform the language of the NT. It is a helpful reminder that the two testaments are not disjointed, conflicting documents, but rather one story of God's relationship with man. The one flows naturally into the other.
NT: Hebrews 13:1-25
The Hebrew writer concludes today with the usual potpourri of instructions. He urges the church to keep loving each other (1), to keep showing hospitality (2), to remember those in prison (3), to honor marriage (4), to be content and free of the love of money (5), to continue to imitate their leaders (7), to stay grounded in the face of "strange teachings" (9), to obey their leaders (17), and to pray for the author (18-19).
I like the idea of entertaining angels. I'm not sure what to make of it, but I like it. I also like how verses 9-10 urge the people to continue to rely on grace for justification, rather than falling into the trap of relying on outward rules. I personally can always use that reminder. It continues to amaze me how people (such as myself) have this innate need for rules. If the rules aren't there, we make them up. Sometimes I think we do that with the Bible. Freedom in Christ is a big, nebulous, almost scary concept, and too often, we run back to the shelter and definition of rules. The problem is that we often then make these rules universal, instead of viewing them as what they are: man-made props to help us stay on the right path. To the degree that they do their job, they are good. But to the degree that they distract us from the truth of the gospel (that we are saved by grace through faith), they are harmful.
This psalm seems like a real song that people would sing in an assembly. Maybe all the psalms are "real songs that people would sing," but I guess that, in terms of form, this one looks more like a psalm that we would sing today.
Prov. 27: 21-22
Verse 21 is fascinating. It compares the praise a man receives to a crucible and furnace that test silver and gold, respectively. I guess it is saying that the reaction we have to praise shows the state of our heart. I know that often, my heart swells with pride when I am praised, even if I am praised for a spiritual quality. I'm thinking that that reaction shows that my heart, deep down, is prideful. There are also times when I feel humbled by praise, so I guess in those times, my heart is in a better state.