OT: Ezekiel 39:1-40:27
In chapter 39, Ezekiel continues his prophecy against Gog of Magog. I'm still unsure of who they are, so I turned to my "trusty" Google. One of the first sites I clicked on referenced Gen. 10:2, which listed Magog as a son of Japheth. The site went on to say that Magog was associated with the ancient people known as the Scythians. Keep in mind, though, that it said all this in large, bright blue, comic sans font, so take it with a grain of salt:).
Anyhow, that doesn't help me know who they were, and frankly, I'm not really motivated to pursue the issue further right now. Regardless of who they are, the prophecy says that they will one day attack Israel and be slaughtered by them. Animals will feast on their bodies (17-20), and then the Israelites will bury their many, many bones (11-16).
In chapter 40, God gives Ezekiel a vision of the temple in the land of Israel (apparently, a restored land). The entire chapter is then taken up with detailed measurements of the temple. Hopefully, we will see the point of this vision in tomorrow's reading. Today's was just the set up.
NT: James 2:18-3:18
Well, Ezekiel didn't do much for me today, but it's okay b/c James was wonderful!
First, James wraps up the discussion on faith and deeds. His main point in verses 18-26 seems to be that you cannot separate faith from deeds. In verse 18, he rhetorically quotes someone who separates the two, and then he counters, "I will show you my faith by what I do." He then gives three examples to show that faith without works is dead. The first example is of the demons, who do have faith in God and even fear of God, even though they obviously don't follow Him (19). The second example is Abraham, whose faith in God was supported by his active willingness to sacrifice his only son (21-23). His third example is Rahab, whose faith was shown in her aid to the spies (25). His point is that, as with Abraham, our faith and actions work together (22). It is funny, though, that the verse James quotes to make his point (Gen 15:6, quoted in verse 23), is also used by Paul to make a completely different point. At least I think it is. If I recall correctly, Paul is making the point that righteousness comes by faith and not through the law. He cites Abraham b/c Abraham came before the law. And I don't think James is disputing that. He is just making the broader point that our faith and our actions are meant to coincide.
In chapter 3, we get another famous passage: the section on taming the tongue. James colorfully compares the tongue to a bit in a horses' mouth, a rudder of a ship, and a spark that starts a forest fire. The point is that, as small as our tongue is, it controls us more easily than we control it. I personally have found this to be very true. In verses 9-11, James makes the point that it is ironic (and, I might add, hypocritical) that we use the same tongue to "praise our Lord and Father, and curse men, who have been made in God's likeness." Thinking of that view of man reminded me of something C.S. Lewis said. I don't have the exact quote, or even where he said it, but he made the obvious-if-you-think-about-it point that all the people we deal with on a daily basis--including the people we snub and judge and ignore--are eternal souls. When you think about people that way, as beings made in the image of God, it becomes much harder to treat them dismissively.
I also liked verses 13-18, which speaks of truly wise people as those who live good lives, filled with good deeds and humility. I especially love the description of wisdom in verse 17:
"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."
I very much want to be wise by these standards.
Psalm 118: 1-18
A praise psalm.
On the nature of a good king.