OT: Ezekiel 37:1-38:23
Today, we read what is by far the most famous passage in Ezekiel: the valley of the dry bones. It's weird, b/c as prominent a place as we've given it, it is not even the biggest section of the chapter. That award goes to the second part (15-28), which was dedicated to a strange metaphor about joining two sticks together, Ephraim and Judah.
The fourteen verses that told of the valley of the dry bones described yet another of Ezekiel's visions. God took him to a valley of bones and proceeded to bring the bones back to life. For Ezekiel's purposes, the metaphor related to how God was going to resuscitate the dying nation of Judah. I think the illustration has since been more widely applied to the idea that God can breathe life into the dead, as shown both in Jesus' miracles (and His resurrection) and, spiritually speaking, in our lives today.
Chapter 38 contains a prophecy against Gog, which foretells of a day when Gog will attack the restored Israel and be destroyed.
NT: James 1:19-2:17
Today's reading was hard-hitting for me, coming as it did after a day in which I lived less than gloriously. James reminded me that I should hold my tongue and be slow to anger (19), and that it is useless for me to simply listen to the Bible without applying it (22-25).
One verse that has had a recurring impact on me lately is 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." That idea has influenced a lot of my actions of late.
In chapter 2, James reminds us not to show favoritism, especially based on wealth. I don't think that I tend to show favoritism strictly b/c of money, but I do see how I can gravitate toward the effects of money. For example, I would rather hang out with a well educated person than a poorly educated person. I would rather spend time with people who have a certain amount of social graces than someone who has never learned those graces. I would rather spend time with people who are well spoken and have had a variety of interesting experiences than someone with limited experience and limited ability to articulate. And not always, but often, there is a correlation between wealth and education, wealth and social graces, wealth and richness of experience. And so, generally, the people I gravitate toward are not usually very poor. They also aren't generally extremely wealthy, but you get the idea. These verses remind me that I need to make a point to reach out to all people, not just the ones who have something to offer me personally.
Near the end of the section, James hits the "faith and works" discussion, in which he boldly declares that "faith by itself...is dead" (17). I know that is a strong sentiment, but it makes perfect sense to me, and I think James' discussion provides a nice counterpart to the Pauline thought in Romans. To me, both ideas are meant to be understood in light of each other.
Wow, that was a really short psalm.
Contrasts the cowardliness of the wicked with the boldness of the righteous.